30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in 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 Australian Traderto the Tasmanian service.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Martin, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That since the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, thereby ensuring best possible use of limited Government resources, as shown by the fact that over 200 community projects have been initiated or funded through the AAP in the Outer Eastern Region
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament will take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the Report tabled by the Honourable the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle in Parliament on 4 March 1976 and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Jarman and Dr Jenkins.
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 Dr Klugman, 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 Cass and Mr Keith Johnson.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr James and Dr Jenkins.
To the honourable the 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 considertion be given to:
Both of the above being without 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 Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Whereas the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act was passed in contravention of a 1968 agreement;
Whereas this Act conflicts seriously with Commonwealth Government policy on Aboriginal Affairs and on Australian equity in multinational corporations working in Australia;
Your petitioners therefore note with appreciation the statements already made on the matter by Government members but humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will also:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Staley.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned members of the Hospital Employees Federation respectfully showeth:
That we wish to protest about the Government’s decision to change the Medibank system. In the interests of the community we have not taken industrial action but nevertheless we support the actions of the ACTU.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government not to change the Medibank scheme and to set the levy at 1 . 6 per cent of income.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier.
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 S300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure: That as Mr Salemi fulfils all the publicly announced criteria for amnesty he is permitted to remain in Australia as a resident.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the Victorian Aquarium Traders Association respectfully showeth:
We are opposed to the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Imports of Live Aquarium Fish regarding the proposed ban on goldfish and tropical marines and the limitation of importing tropical fish species below those already allowed.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government not to further ban the import of tropical fish.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas uranium found in vast quantities in Australia is the raw material for the nuclear fission reaction,
And whereas presently assured reserves of uranium in Australia represent a potential production of over540 000 kilograms of Plutonium 239 if utilised in light water reactors overseas,
And whereas the maximum permissible inhalation of Plutonium 239 is 0.000 000 25 gram,
And whereas Plutonium 239 is one of the most dangerous substances human society has ever created, causing mutations and cancers,
And whereas there are no methods of safely and absolutely confining Plutonium from the biosphere for the requisite quarter of a million years,
And whereas Plutonium coming in contact with the air forms an aerosol cloud of micron-sized particles, its most dangerous form,
And whereas the export of uranium may return to us an import of Plutonium particles dispersed in the global environment via the circulation of the atmosphere,
And whereas there are no sure safeguards against the military use of nuclear fission, and the nuclear proliferation represents a prime environmental threat to all forms of life on the only earth available to us,
And that it is therefore an act of self-preservation to demand a halt to all exports of uranium except for bio-medical uses.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in the House assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Government to introduce a 2.5 per cent levy on incomes to finance Medibank and to offer private health insurance as an alternative to Medibank.
Your petitioners call upon the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Jenkins.
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 Klugman.
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.
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 are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in d uty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
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 per cent. Your petitioners therefore humble pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wallis.
-I give notice that on General Business Thursday No. 9,I shall move:
That this House recalls with regret that those who became unemployed between 1972 and 1975 rose from 136 769 to 328 705, and believes that the Labor Government stands condemned for failing to provide special help for the young school leaver; but now notes with approval that the Liberal Government has taken the initiatives and has extended the National Employment and Training scheme, offered special help for in-plant training, as well as a relocation allowance for those moving to a new job, and therefore expresses its confidence in these policies and those contained in the Budget; and therefore expects there will be a reduction in the numbers of those unemployed during the course of 1977, as well as a general reduction in direct and indirect taxation on the people.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That in the opinion of this House the proper adviser of the Governor-General in relation to the discharge of his duties under section 56 of the Constitution insofar as they relate to the appropriation of revenue or moneys for the services of this House is not a Minister but Mr Speaker.
That Mr Speaker should wait upon the Governor-General to acquaint him with this resolution.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question. Will the Minister confirm, reject or correct the confident assertion made by a former Liberal Minister for Labour, Treasurer and Prime Minister that by February next it is expected that registered unemployment will be more that 375 000?
– In replying to the Leader of the Opposition I shall confirm in very emphatic terms the strategy for economic recovery outlined in the Budget introduced by the Treasurer in August. The Government believes that the long term solution of Australia’s unemployment problems is increased revival of economic activity, particularly in the private sector. We recognise that this is the solution in the long term to the unemployment situation. We recognise that there are within the unemployment problem certain special areas of disadvantage, such as those alluded to in the initiatives announced by the Government yesterday. We believe that they deserve special treatment. We are giving them special treatment. But in the long run there is no avoiding the fact that we will not have revived employment prospects in this country unless the private sector is able to make profits and unless there are incentives to invest. I am very pleased to mention to the House, as all honourable gentlemen would be aware, the announcement of the $600m investment project in Western Australia, which shows that investment is on the move again in Australia as a result of the conditions of confidence created by the responsible economic management that this Government has brought to the affairs of the country.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. What steps will the Government take to publicise the Government’s important proposal for a significant subsidy to employers to take on and train unemployed school leavers as part of the National Employment and Training scheme and thus encourage employers to avail themselves of it?
-The Government, as the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has indicated, has taken a considerable initiative in assisting those who left school at the end of last year and who, unfortunately, are still without jobs. But it depends, of course, upon the co-operation of employers. The Government urges employers, especially larger employers who have a greater capacity and therefore a greater responsibility, to take advantage of the Government proposal. It urges them actively to seek additional employees and take advantage of the subsidies they will thereby get. I think it needs to be emphasised that it is not only Government that must play its role in the private enterprise system. Employers, management and business also have a responsible role to play. They can work constructively in partnership with the Government and assist many school leavers from last year by taking advantage of the Government’s new policy.
-The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will be aware that the Industries Assistance Commission in its report on shipbuilding admits it is recommending the sacking of 26 per cent of the work force of Whyalla and 2.5 per cent of the work force of Newcastle. It further admits there are no alternative jobs in either region, especially for young apprentices. I ask the Minister what measures the Government will take to maintain the economies of these 2 important decentralised regions.
-The Prime Minister indicated yesterday the timetable, in general terms, for the Government’s consideration of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. The honourable gentleman will be aware that we await a submission from the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the subject. I understand, as a result of a discussion with the President of the ACTU yesterday, that that submission will in fact be delivered to the Government shortly. In the light of that submission and any further submission that the governments of New South Wales and South Australia care to make on the subject the Government will take decisions. I do not intend to speculate about those decisions or to anticipate those decisions in answer to questions similar to that asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Naturally the Government will take into account the social and employment consequences related to the shipbuilding industry. It was because of that that the Government included in the reference to the Industries Assistance Commission a specific injunction that the Commission in its report deal with the locational and employment consequences. All those matters will be taken into account when the Government makes its decision.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Recent reports attributed to Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen and Western Australian mining magnate Lang Hancock outline proposals for a rail link from Mount Isa to Western Australia. As such a rail link would traverse Commonwealth territory, has the Government been informed officially of the proposal? If so, have any detailed discussions taken place with the Government and has any request been made for the Commonwealth Government’s financial participation in the scheme?
-This is an interesting proposal. I have heard reports about it. I know that Lang Hancock has visited the Premier of Queensland on a number of occasions at his farm, and I understand they both went overseas together for certain purposes. I am not aware of those particular purposes. We have not been informed officially of this proposal. As the honourable gentleman pointed out, the railway would have to go through Commonwealth territory and therefore the Commonwealth clearly would have an interest in it. But no basis for the proposal or supporting arguments have been put to us. We really know nothing about it. I would be slightly sceptical whether the proposal would stand a cost-benefit analysis.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Foreign Minister visited Jakarta in April 1976? During that visit did he hold discussions with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, Mr Malik? Will the Prime Minister confirm, as Mr Malik has now stated publicly, that the Foreign Minister told Mr Malik that the Australian Government understands that East Timor should be incorporated into Indonesia? Finally, is that the basis on which the Prime Minister’s talks will be held in Indonesia in October?
-The Foreign Minister’s visits to Indonesia are on public record, and the honourable gentleman can determine the dates for himself by looking up that public record. There has been no secret about it. The Foreign Minister has had discussions with Indonesian leaders on more than one occasion throughout the course of this year. He has stated the views and the policy of this Government in clear and unequivocal terms. He has not sought to depict to Indonesia a different policy internally, as the present Leader of the Opposition did on an earlier occasion.
-Mr Speaker, I find that reference offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn. It is inaccurate, and the right honourable gentleman should know it. It is offensive and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– It may be offensive in the sense that the honourable gentleman protests the accuracy of it but it is not unparliamentary and therefore would not be required to be withdrawn. If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation after question time then I shall call him.
– That is not good enough, Mr Speaker. I put it to you seriously that the Prime Minister has volunteered a reflection. It was an inaccuracy and it was not required in any sense by the question that was asked.
– It is untrue.
– Moreover it is untrue. It is no satisfactory solution to say that if reflections are cast during question time a member can always make an explanation afterwards. That just protracts and disrupts the proceedings of the House. This situation would not happen if Ministers were to confine their answers to the relevant matters.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– Order! There is no point of order. I ask the Leader of the House to resume his seat.
– I am raising a point of order, Mr Speaker.
– I call the Leader of the House.
– There is a procedure whereby a personal explanation can be made at the conclusion of question time. I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is abusing the liberties of this House by intruding in the way he is and in seeking a withdrawal of the statement made by the Prime Minister. I suggest that a personal explanation is the correct procedure, and I therefore ask that the Leader of the Opposition be requested to make his personal explanation at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place in the procedures.
-I am not prepared to allow this matter to proceed any further. I have ruled that what the Prime Minister said was not in terms which I would require to be withdrawn. I will give the Leader of the Opposition adequate opportunity to make it clear by way of personal explanation that he contests the accuracy of the statement. It is not practicable in any circumstances for the Chair continually to make judgments as to whether a statement is true or untrue. Therefore the Chair cannot enter into the matter.
- Mr Speaker, I submit that it is possible for you to determine whether something is offensive or disorderly. I quote standing order 76:
AU imputations of improper motives . . . shall be considered highly disorderly.
The Prime Minister deliberately and voluntarily made an imputation of an improper motive against me and I think it should be withdrawn. It is disorderly.
-According to the way I heard the Prime Minister, he indicated that on an earlier occasion the Leader of the Opposition had stated 2 aspects of policy, one for internal consumption and one for external consumption. As I understood it, that was the meat of what the Prime Minister alleged against the Leader of the Opposition, who found it offensive. I am saying to the Leader of the Opposition that if he contests the truth of that statement he can do so by way of personal explanation. I might point out that the question asked of the Prime Minister contained exactly the same imputation and the response by the Prime Minister was that the implication in the question was not true. In a political sense, he turned the barb the other way and responded. This House is a place in which politics actually do occur.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that under the new health insurance arrangements a wife who has sufficient income to prevent her husband from claiming any tax rebate but insufficient income to make her subject to the Medibank levy will not be entitled to Medibank benefits? Is it also true that under the tax rules a husband who cannot claim his wife as a dependant is forced to pay health insurance for her if he takes out private insurance?
– The first thing I want to make clear to the honourable member for Wide Bay, and to the House, is that universal insurance will remain after 1 October so that every person in Australia will be covered by one means or another for medical and hospital care. The Government has taken decisions to modify Medibank because of the very high incidence of increases in health costs in this country. We anticipate that health costs in Australia in this year will be of the order of $5,400m. Quite clearly the health costs in this country have to be paid for by the community by one means or another- either by taxation or by distributing the costs by some means. The modifications to Medibank, as I said earlier, have retained the universal insurance concept but they have spread the costs, in our view, in a more equitable manner. Pensioners and people on the lowest incomes will be able to receive standard Medibank benefits free of any cost to them, and the chronically ill people who privately insure will benefit from the $50m subsidy that we have made available to health insurance.
Under our proposals, estimated hospital and medical benefit costs in Australia are expected to be $3, 320m, and it is expected that the cost will be met in the following manner: Firstly, Consolidated Revenue will provide $1,1 20m, the States will meet about $840m by way of contributing towards hospital costs, and those people who we anticipate will privately insure will, through their premiums, contribute about $985m, whilst levy payers will contribute about $375m. That means that people who pay the levy will on average be contributing about 1 8 per cent towards meeting the total health care cost in that group. Those who pay the levy and take out private insurance for hospital cover only will be contributing about 40 per cent towards the cost of their health care, whilst those in the higher income level who might choose to insure privately for medical and hospital cover, with the right to choose their own doctor, will be meeting somewhere near 70 per cent of their total health care costs. I give that information as an introduction to the other matters to which the honourable member has referred.
– I suggest to the Minister that if what he has said up to now is an introduction to his answer then the answer is going to take the Minister an immense amount of time and will thus reduce the opportunity for further questions.
– The Government has decided to use the family situation in applying a ceiling levy amount payable in an effort to protect family incomes from excessive levy payments. That applies to those people who choose to pay the 2.5 per cent levy. The Government has also decided that exemption from the levy will be available in the family situation only if the whole family is privately insured for medical cover. The honourable member puts the case of a married couple where the wife’s income debars her husband from receiving a tax rebate for her but is not enough to bring her within the levy provisions; the husband insures himself privately but not his wife. The consequence is that he must pay the levy as a family man. It is said that his action infringes his wife’s right to free Medibank treatment. If she were single earning the same income, standard Medibank for her would be free. The intention of the legislation is that for a family -
– I rise to order.
-Order! The Minister for Health will resume his seat.
– My point of order is that if it takes the Minister for Health so much time explaining the health scheme -
-Order! There is no point of order.
– He ought to defer the introduction of Medibank.
-Order! If the honourable member for Port Adelaide persists in continuing to speak after I ask him to resume his seat, I will have to deal with him.
– My point of order is that the Minister is disobeying a direction from the Chair. You have already indicated to the Minister that his reply is too long and he is continuing to disobey your ruling.
– I call on the Minister for Health. I draw his attention to the fact that the purpose of question time is not for the making of a ministerial statement.
– In fairness to the House and to the honourable member for Wide Bay I must conclude by answering the point that he raised in his question.
– I rise on a point of order. I put the point that the Minister has admitted that his answer has been out of order because he has been speaking not relevantly to the question and is only now going to address himself to the point.
-There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The Minister has been relevant at all times. He has not, however, answered the question as yet. I hope he will do so forthwith.
– In answer to the question, the intention of the legislation is that for a family person to be exempt from levy and outside standard Medibank, the whole family must be privately insured. So a man who takes out basic private cover for himself but not for his wife, whatever the level of her income, and not for his children if he has any, has to pay the levy. It seems appropriate in this context that there be such a family rule. On the other side of the coin, a wife who has a more substantial income may, unlike a single woman, with the same income -
-Order! I ask the Minister to conclude.
-be free from the levy.
– I refer to the Medibank question asked of the Treasurer yesterday by the honourable member for Scullin, to which the Treasurer answered: ‘If honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen, I will put the answer in writing. ‘ Since he has not sent the letter and has, in fact, changed the Hansard I ask him -
-Order! Perhaps I did not hear correctly what the honourable gentleman said.
– I said: Since the Treasurer has not sent the letter he promised, and has, in fact, changed the Hansard -
-That is a statement which I would require the honourable gentleman to withdraw.
– Will you let me substantiate it?
– I will not allow you to do it at question time. I ask you to withdraw.
-And substantiate it afterwards?
– Proceed with the question without the allegation. Afterwards, I would be very glad if you would make such substantiation as you choose.
– I will do that immediately I can get your attention. I ask the Treasurer 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 it a fact that where a working wife’s income is too great for her husband to claim her as a dependant, but too small to make her subject to the Medibank levy, he is forced to pay health insurance for her as if she were a dependant? Will the Treasurer suggest to the Commissioner of Taxation that the levy exemption forms be amended to remove anomalies which are causing distress and confusion to tens of thousands of working wives.
– This matter was subject to a detailed letter which I sent to the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald on 20 September. It was published by the Sydney Morning Herald the following day. I believe that the letter in fact answers the questions posed by the honourable member. I will look at the letter in the context of the details which he has sought and, having regard to your earlier ruling, Mr Speaker, if there are other matters which I need to add to that I will certainly do so, and I will do so in writing. Apart from that, I mention to the House that a leaflet concerning the question of taxation and Medibank will be the subject of a publication by the Government in the course of the next 7 days.
– My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister say whether the Government’s secret postal ballot legislation for trade union elections, proclaimed in August, has gained acceptance by the trade union movement as a whole or by sections of it? Can he advise how the implementation of the new procedures has been carried out?
– I am advised that the new procedures are being carried out in conformity with the legislation which, as honourable gentlemen will recall, requires unions to conduct secret postal ballots. They may do so either on their own account, in which case they pay for them themselves, or alternatively they can ask the Australian Electoral Office to conduct the ballot for them, in which case the Commonwealth conducts the ballot and pays for it. The information I have is that in 1 974 only 20 unions availed themselves of the provision that was then in the Act, but not as a mandatory requirement, which allowed the Electoral Office to conduct secret postal ballots on their behalf. In 1976, 39 ballots have already been held and 77 ballots are already scheduled and in the pipeline- 1 16 so far this year. That shows quite clearly that the rank and file members of the trade union movement are moving towards the Electoral Office conducting secret postal ballots; that they are in favour of the system and obviously believe it gives them a fairer go in determining who should run their union affairs.
I have in fact had requests from unionists the the dates of forthcoming ballots for trade unions be notified publicly as far as possible in advance of the elections actually being held. Therefore the Government will be putting down a regulation which will enable the Industrial Registrar to require trade unions to notify the Registrar of their next forthcoming ballot. Under those provisions there would be a continuing record held by the Industrial Registrar of ballots for all union elections and, therefore, anyone would be able to find out what ballots were to be held in the next few months. I believe this would achieve greater publicity for the Commonwealth’s proposals and for the general purposes of the legislation, which is being implemented successfully.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Defence. Is the Minister aware that yesterday the National Congress of the Returned Services League adopted unanimously a resolution advocating nuclear weapons for the Australian defence forces? Does the Minister support such a policy? Further, does he consider that statements he has been making around the country depicting Australia as the potential victim of Soviet aggression have caused considerable alarm and near hysteria in sections of the community?
– Yes, I am aware of the decision made by the National Congress of the RSL. This country is a signatory to the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. As a consequence of that, clear obligations flow. The Government proposes to respect those obligations immaculately. As to the third question put by the honourable member, I congratulate him on his sense of hysteria.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: How much is this year’s total Australian wheat crop estimated to be down on crops of recent years? Are some growers in areas of Australia suffering from cash-flow problems following a purchase of equipment, which has stimulated business and employment opportunities throughout Australia? If so, is the cash flow problem likely to be accentuated by loss of income through strikes, estimated average rail freight increases of 15 per cent to 20 per cent and provisional tax payments in a drought year, all matters over which the farmer has no control? Would an increase in the first payment of $66 per tonne to growers for wheat produced this year, as submitted by Mr D. R. Eather of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation to the Government, stimulate the private sector during the traditional slack afterChristmas period? Finally, will the Minister advise whether a first payment of $66 per tonne can be made?
– There is no doubt that the cash flow from the first payment in past years has made a tremendous difference to the general affluence, not just of the wheat grower but of whole sectors of the rural community. Indeed, it is only because of relatively high cash payments for grains that many of our rural communities have survived. The Government is aware of the tragic reduction in the overall expectation of the wheat crop this year which, at the moment, may well not exceed 8 500 000 tonnes. If that should take place and we find that the size of the crop is down to that degree, there will be many communities, irrespective of the amount of the first payment, that will not be able to benefit from the grain income.
The Government has before it a submission from the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. That submission is now under examination. In due and proper time an announcement will be made. However, I can assure the honourable member that all those factors that he mentioned- - significantly those relating to stimulus to communities which flow from a high first paymentwill be taken into account by the Government. At the same time it is necessary also to consider that unfortunately world prices for wheat have been declining in recent weeks. I do not believe that that will be a long term trend. The overall expectation of Northern Hemisphere wheat crops is better than had been originally expected. Overall, we would think that grain prices might still recover in spite of the present downturn in the market. These factors will be taken into account most sympathetically in consideration of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation submission.
– My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, concerns his claim in answer to questions last week and this week that the national accounts for the June quarter demonstrate that economic recovery is under way. Is he aware that those accounts show that the real rate of growth of gross domestic product, seasonally adjusted, was only 0.6 per cent in the June quarter compared with a growth of 3.6 per cent in the March quarter? Similarly, is he aware that the real rate of growth of non-farm gross product, seasonally adjusted, was only 0.5 per cent in the June quarter compared with a growth of 3.2 per cent in the March quarter? In view of these figures, will he now admit that the latest national accounts, contrary to demonstrating economic recovery, in fact display an alarming deterioration in the state of the economy.
– I regret to say that, in fact, that is exactly what the honourable gentleman would like to see.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Honourable members opposite can laugh at that if they like. The leaders of the doomsday group are certainly in this Parliament. So far as the national account figures are concerned, let me illustrate the point that I have been making in the House in recent days. Gross domestic product, at constant prices and seasonally adjusted, rose by 3.4 per cent in the half year to June after a fall of 1.4 per cent in the December half year. If the honourable gentleman wants to make a general judgment about what is happening in the economy in relation to those national accounts, I believe that it can be sustained that the recovery has been consolidating. So far as non-farm product is concerned, whereas in the March quarter increase in nonfarm product stemmed largely from a turnabout in stocks, the June quarter increase reflected strengthening private final demand.
Let me go further because the honourable gentleman ought to be interested in this. Company profits increased by 1 8.9 per cent in the half year to June after a small decline in the previous half year. No one could say that that very significant increase in company profits augurs badly for the economy during the period ahead. I have mentioned before in this House that the profit share is up and the savings ratio is down, that exports are strong, that lending by finance companies has been strong and that new capital raisings of companies, especially mining companies, showed a substantial uplift during the June quarter.
I have said before and I say here again that of course the indicators are mixed. If one wants to assert some proposition that gloom is before us, one could find an indicator which is not moving in a way which would be consistent with an overall judgment of economic recovery. My colleague, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, this morning correctly drew attention to the fact that the Premier of Western Australia has just announced a major investment program of $600m. The number of announcements of major expansion and new investment programs at the present time run into billions of dollars. I instance these as areas of confidence. The Government’s view is that its strategy is right and it is determined to stick to it.
-Has the Minister for Transport seen a report claiming that the Prime Minister of Bahrain has stated that his Government would examine the possibility of a joint shipping company involving Bahrain, Australia and New Zealand? Was the question of a joint shipping company raised during the Minister’s talks with the Prime Minister of Bahrain yesterday? If so, what is the Government’s view on this matter?
– During the course of discussions with the Prime Minister of Bahrain yesterday he indicated an interest in the operations of the roll on-roll off ships that operate on the Australian coast and also internationally. He pointed out to me the difficulties that Bahrain has in providing shipping facilities for conventional ships or the liner trade. He went on to say that the difficulty extended not only to Bahrain but to a number of other Gulf countries. During the course of the discussion it emerged that he was interested in more than the ro-ro ships; he was interested in providing a shipping service to Bahrain and into the Gulf countries to try to take up some of the prospective trade that could develop between the Gulf countries and Australia. I agreed with him to join with New Zealand in looking at a feasibility study to see whether a shipping service could be started in that area. I think it is a development that ought to be welcomed. There have long been difficulties in servicing the trade between the Gulf countries and Australia. During the visit of the Prime Minister of Bahrain to New Zealand in the next couple of days, he will be putting this matter to the New Zealand Government. Hopefully, something will come out of that.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that Dr Neville Norman whom he appointed on the twelfth of this month as a member of the panel of economists to advise him is the author of the case for devaluation which the Australian Mining Industry Council has been circulating? If so, did the Treasurer know of this document and its authorship when he appointed Dr Norman as one of his advisers? Since Dr Norman’s views may be given added weight by the Treasurer’s appointing him to his advisory panel, will the Treasurer consider relieving him of his duties, or will he at least take this opportunity -
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order. While the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he drew attention to a practice in this
House that where the name of an individual was mentioned in a question, the question should be put on notice. I suggest that the name of an individual has been included in this question. The proper procedure by which the matter should be submitted to the House is by a question on notice rather than a question without notice.
– I reject the point of order. If the name of a person is included in a question and it casts aspersions or inferences or is opprobrious of the person, then it most certainly should go on notice. But if a question contains a name for the purposes of identification, then it need not go on notice. I do not hold that the reference to Dr Norman so far used would be discourteous or opprobrious to that gentleman.
- Mr Speaker, again speaking on the point of order, there is a suggestion that this individual should be removed from office. There are obviously overtones in this question, and it was for that reason that I raised the point of order. It is that aspect of the question which concerns me. There are imputations in the question which I know nothing about but which it seemed to me might more appropriately be considered if the question were on notice.
-As I interpret the question, it is suggested that Dr Norman has certain views. The question asks whether it is appropriate for him, while having those publicised views, to serve as an adviser. I do not regard that as being in any way opprobrious of the person mentioned. I call the Leader of the Opposition.
-Since Dr Norman’s views may be given added weight by the Treasurer’s having appointed him as an adviser, will the Treasurer at least take this opportunity to repudiate Dr Norman ‘s views?
– The question is quite disgraceful. I say quite frankly to the honourable gentleman that it is typical of the standards of his behaviour and of that of some of his colleagues. If we are speaking about the removal of people from offices to which they have been appointed by various governments, I remind the honourable gentleman of his extreme reluctance to remove from office two of his most senior colleagues following last year’s loans scandal. The honourable gentleman ought to look at the standards of his own conduct during his period of office as Prime Minister. I have known Dr Neville Norman over a long period. I have respect for his general economic views. That does not mean that I agree with his views on this subject or other subjects. The honourable gentleman ought to be very much aware that the members of the panel were chosen for their capacity to contribute in matters economic. This does not relate, of course, to a specific matter upon which any member of the panel might be said to hold a particular view.
– Just tell us who paid your fares overseas?
-That interjection is absolutely typical of the standards of conduct of the honourable member for Shortland. With regard to the question which has been raised, I am aware of Dr Norman’s views on the matter mentioned in the question, the same way as I am aware of the views of other members of the panel. As for the subject matter to which the honourable gentleman seeks to advert in a very curious and inferential way, he ought to be the first to know that the Government’s views on that matter have been made perfectly clear. He ought equally to know that, as I have said in this House before and as the Prime Minster has said, it is not a matter which should be the subject of argument or dialogue in the House or outside it. The Government’s views have been made quite clear and it adheres to them.
– I ask my question of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer the Minister to a statement he made in the House yesterday that he would bring to the attention of the Australian Broadcasting Commission the desire of the Australian people to view the forthcoming debates between President Ford and Mr Carter in the United States. I ask: Has the Minister communicated the wishes of this House and of the Australian people to the ABC? If so, has any decision been made as to whether these debates will be telecast?
– My information is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, prior to the question being asked yesterday, had commenced negotiations to ensure that these debates will be shown to Australians. I am further informed that without any prompting at least two of the commercial television networks are making similar arrangements.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to legislation passed earlier this year titled the Customs Amendment Bill, which adopted the Brussels definition of value, following High Court decisions which the Minister said eroded values. Is the Minister aware that a number of chemical plants have closed because of dumping? I think that six plants have closed in the last few months. Accordingly, will he take a look at this situation on the basis that where the value under the Brussels definition is in excess of the value in the country of origin, anti-dumping legislation should be implemented forthwith?
– I will investigate the complaints made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith about chemical factories allegedly having closed as a result of dumping. He mentioned the period of the last 6 months. The new Brussels definition has been in operation only since 1 July. So it is not immediately apparent from the honourable gentleman’s allegations that the legislation and the new definition are responsible. The Government is concerned and made it clear at the time the new valuation system was introduced that there should be no effects upon existing protection arrangements so far as Australian industry is concerned. I understand the concern of the honourable gentleman in this matter. I will have it investigated. I will let him know the results of my investigations and further advise the House.
-Has the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs noted the predicament of Bishop Lamont in Rhodesia? Is the Australian Government in a position to express a view on the circumstances leading to his predicament, especially in view of Dr Kissinger’s current initiatives regarding Rhodesia?
-Bishop Lamont ‘s current trial was a matter of some comment on the AM program this morning. I think all of us would be appalled by the circumstances that were outlined by Hamish Robertson in the course of that program. I shall quote what was said during that program, which emphasises the plight in which the Bishop now finds himself. Speaking of Bishop Lamont, Hamish Robertson said:
He has explained the dilemma of the missionaries in remote areas near the Mozambique border with no help from anyone, no telephone lines to the outside world and the difficulties they face if the guerillas come and ask for medicine, because should they say ‘no you can’t have anything’, then they -
The missionaries- are liable to be shot or mutilated by the guerillas and if they say ‘yes’ and then fail to inform the authorities they could be gaoled for up to 1 5 years for this offence.
Tragically, the circumstances in Rhodesia are such that a good deal of trauma is being experienced. One can but feel most sympathetic for the plight in which Bishop Lamont now finds himself. At the same time, I think there is hope for a settlement of the conflict in southern Africa at this time. Indeed, Secretary of State Kissinger deserves to be complimented by the world for the efforts he is making to resolve what seems to be an intractable situation. There are many within this House who have friends, associates and connections in southern Africa. We are all concerned about the relationship between the blacks and the whites in both South Africa and Rhodesia. If, as a result of the initiatives now being taken by Dr Kissinger, there can be some resolution of the difficulties, then one would hope that, other than by a bloodbath, there may be a resolution of what seem to be circumstances in which individuals such as Bishop Lamont are forced into the position of being martyrs in a cause in relation to which they are so obviously in an impossible quandary. One can only hope in relation to Bishop Lamont ‘s present circumstances that some added weight may be given to the initiatives now being taken by Dr Kissinger that could lead ultimately to some resolution of this appalling problem.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it true that the Government dropped its proposal to have union elections conducted by compulsion by the Commonwealth Electoral Office as a result of being warned that it would be reported in accordance with the Freedom of Association Convention operating under the International Labour Organisation, thus provoking massive international labour retaliation? Irrespective of whether it is true, in future will the Government submit, in accordance with the Freedom of Association Convention operating under the ILO, all proposals it has in regard to trade unions in order to ensure that such a conflict is avoided?
– The proposals as finally enacted were enacted after proper consultation by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations with the trade union movement. The proposals as enacted have enabled secret ballot legislation to be introduced more quickly and to be accepted widely by the great bulk of the trade union movement. Therefore the modifications were sensible and wise on that account. I think this House should be prepared to make up its own mind about what is just and what is fair. It does so in a proper manner, certainly while this Government is in power, and it will conduct its business accordingly.
– The Minister for Primary Industry would be aware that one of the beef industry’s most disturbing problems is the increasing debt burden brought about by high interest rates on loans. This specifically applies where interest rates were low at the time the debts were incurred but have significantly increased in the subsequent years. Many of these commitments are with the Commonwealth Development Bank. Can the Minister say whether the Government has any plans to assist graziers by reducing interest rates on their loans?
– I know that the honourable gentleman’s concern is both general and specific. He has spoken to me on a number of occasions about the appalling plight in which many of the producers in the brigalow development regions of Central Queensland now find themselves. As I think all of us realise, interest rates have been one of the reasons for many people finding it impossible to operate profitably with rural investments today. Indeed, the returns from most rural investments, given the present level of interest rates, are unprofitable. If one were to look at rural investment in only an ordinary commercial sense, it would be more reasonable and rational to withdraw that investment and place it in almost any other form of investment. But of course that would not be the answer either to Australia’s problem or to the recovery of the rural sector. The Government feels quite strongly that inflation must be brought under control before interest rates generally can be reduced. We see that the economic measures that we have undertaken in the Budget and in the 2 economic statements before then- the one in February and the other in May- are directed towards that end. There are currently in the economy quite marked signs that inflation is being controlled. As a result we believe that interest rates in general will soon begin to go down. Of course, with that there will be a beneficial flow on to people in the rural sector.
There are for certain areas in the rural sector financial assistance measures available through rural reconstruction. Rural reconstruction provides concessional interest rates. Concessional rates apply also to funds provided by way of carry on loans for the beef industry, dairy adjustment and so on. Of course, the specific areas about which the honourable gentleman talks are not necessarily only those within rural reconstruction. I understand his concern. I recognise that if assistance could be provided to lessen the cost of money to those involved, for example, in the brigalow areas it would be of significant help and might stop some farmers going into rural reconstruction. The Government is aware of the problem. It is concerned to reduce interest rates generally, but at this stage, other than perhaps in the development of a rural bank, there is no specific proposal immediately before us to alleviate the plight of farmers. Nonetheless I am confident that with the general reduction in inflation interest rates will go down and the plight of those with whom the honourable gentleman is concerned will be reduced.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Yesterday the right honourable gentleman, in reply to a question by the honourable member for Higgins, gave a most provocative answer.
-Order! The honourable member will not make that comment in the course of a question. I ask him to pursue his question.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Is it true that the Commonwealth-State working party on the shipbuilding industry had a meeting on 15 September at which the New South Wales and South Australian governments were represented? Was it decided by that group that it should await the outcome of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the industry on 20 September, 5 days later? Further, did the right honourable gentleman send a copy of that report together with a telex to the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, on 2 1 September? Did the Premier reply that day by telex, indicating to the right honourable gentleman that he was prepared to meet him and his government at any time at the Prime Minister’s convenience? Did he also ask the Prime Minister to clarify his Government’s attitude towards the offer of the New South Wales State Government to meet the difference between the Australian price and the Japanese price on a dollar for dollar basis? I further ask the right honourable gentleman: On the question of the calling of tenders for a new floating dock for Newcastle -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is now making a statement.
– I am asking a question, Sir.
-No, the honourable gentleman is dressing up a statement as a question. I have allowed a series of at least 8 individual questions up until now. The honourable member is now changing the subject, and I call the Prime Minister to answer the first part of the question.
-I beg your pardon, Mr Speaker, but this is all related to the question of shipbuilding, ship repair and the dockyard. I want to ask the Prime Minister whether he is aware that the State Dockyard has prepared estimates and that, in reality, the inquiries made in Germany and Japan were to compare the Australian price with the world price.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister to answer the first part of the question which I have ruled to be in order.
– I am advised that the working party did meet on 15 December and that, basically, it agreed to wait until the Industries Assistance Commission report had been published. Of course I sent a copy of the IAC report to the 2 Premiers concerned as soon as it was available. I have not received replies on some aspects of that matter. However, that does not explain the situation in which both Premiers indicated that they did not want the working party to visit Newcastle on the one hand and Whyalla on the other hand. It does not explain the circumstances in which -
– Why don’t you tell the truth?
-The Premier of New South -
– Why don’t you tell the truth?
– called tenders in Germany and Japan for a floating dock and was unwilling to call tenders from his own State dockyard.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was the Liberal-Country Party Government which made inquiries for prices in Germany and Japan. Why does the Prime Minister not tell the truth?
-Order! On 3 separate occasions the honourable member for Newcastle has pursued a line of unparliamentary conduct and I have had to persuade him to withdraw. I warn the honourable member for Newcastle that I will not permit him to abuse the procedures of the House on this issue in the way that he seems determined to do. I will not warn him again; I will have to deal with him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Has the Minister received reports of alleged breaches of the new Air Navigation Regulations and, if so, has any legal action been taken by the Department? Was Qantas Airways Ltd named in any of the alleged breaches?
– Yes, the Department has received allegations of breaches under the Air Navigation Regulations and the reports have been referred to the industry committee for study. One allegation is of a breach by Pakistan International Airlines in regard to fare conditions on the Australian-Europe routes- a matter which also involves a travel agency called the Golemif agency. That matter is currently being investigated by the Commonwealth Police. The second allegation involves Thai International Airways and the Australian Union of Students, and the normal preliminary departmental inquiry has been directed to Thai Airways International, from whom information is expected shortly. The inquiries are at a very early stage and the alleged breaches will be investigated thoroughly. I will be in a better position to give further information to the honourable member when the results of the inquiries come to hand.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Does he agree that there was an Indonesian invasion of East Timor and that Indonesians killed and wounded thousands of the population of that area? Does he agree that there cannot be any self-determination in East Timor without Fretilin and its supporters taking part? If he agrees with that, will he clearly say so to General Suharto when he is in Indonesia shortly?
– I have no wish to add to the firm and clear policy statements made on this particular matter by the Minister for Foreign Affairs over a long period of time. I should say that the Government parties, and I believe all Australians, are concerned for humanitarian reasons at what has happened. That is a significant reason- the major reason- why the Government has made what I believe to be a wise decision to enable aid to people in East Timor to go through the Indonesian Red Cross. The Foreign Minister announced that particular decision some weeks ago. I should like to thank the honourable gentleman for his question and take this opportunity to remind the House that it was advice given by the previous Administration, which cannot be absolved entirely from responsibility in these matters. Mr Gregory Clark, who was a consultant to the Government at one time and an ambassador under the previous administration, has indicated -
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Gregory Clark has never been an ambassador under any Australian government, and, as I understand it, he has not been an adviser to any government in Australia either.
-Order! The honourable gentleman does not raise a point of order. It is an issue of fact, and the point that the honourable gentleman wants to make has now been made. There is no point of order.
-The honourable gentleman should not be so quick to come in. But it does underline the important point that the gentleman was a consultant -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked of the Prime Minister was this: Does he agree that there cannot be any self-determination -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
-The important point is that he was a consultant. I accept the point made by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the question of ambassador. The Leader of the Opposition, of course, is right, and when he is right I will always freely admit it. When he is wrong, I will continue to assert it. Mr Gregory Clark, in writing on 1 9 March, made it plain that at meetings the previous Prime Minister had had with Indonesian leaders- and as I understand it he mentioned President Suharto- he said that he believed it would be best for all concerned if East Timor were incorporated in Indonesia.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to make it plain that Mr Gregory Clark was never at any consultations which I or my Ministers had with any Indonesian Ministers or officials. Mr Gregory Clark was not a consultant to me or any of my Ministers and he never accompanied us.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has not raised a point of order at all.
- Mr Speaker, I recognise that this has been a long problem in the Parliament, but standing order 145 states:
An answer shall be relevant to the question.
The question asked for 3 precise points to be answered. Firstly: Does the Prime Minister agree that there was an invasion of East Timor?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now repeating the question he has already asked. The House is very well aware of the question that was asked. The House is also very well aware that under the Standing Orders a Minister is entitled to answer a question as he chooses, provided his answer is relevant. The Prime Minister’s answer to the question is relevant. The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat.
– I do have a genuine point of order, Mr Speaker.
– I will judge whether it is a genuine point of order.
– I am sure you will judge my way, Mr Speaker. On at least 4 occasions this morning the Leader of the Opposition has risen and claimed a point of order when there was no point of order whatsoever. He was putting an argument contrary to what the Prime Minister had put.
-Order! There is no point of order in what the honourable gentleman is raising either.
-The Canberra Times of 19 March claimed- this is my authority in relation to this matter- that that person was a former consultant to the Prime Minister’s Department and a former Australian diplomat. If that is wrong, then the Canberra Times is wrong. But that gentleman does claim -
-Mr Speaker -
– I will stand and both you gentlemen will sit. I am not prepared to allow so much parliamentary time to be occupied on the issue whether Mr Gregory Clark was or was not an adviser to the Opposition.
-Or a diplomat.
-Or a diplomat. I call upon the right honourable gentleman to answer the question and leave to the Leader of the Opposition as a matter of personal explanation the question whether or not Gregory Clark was whatever he was at any given time. I call the Prime Minister.
-The substantive point, of course, is that Mr Clark had claimed that- there is a good deal of evidence to this effect- the former Prime Minister had made it plain that he believed that it would be best for all concerned if East Timor were incorporated with Indonesia. That view is supported by a report in the National Times of 19 July by Mr Michael Richardson writing from Singapore.
– I rise on a point of order. My point of order is that the Prime Minister is aware that when 2 heads of state meet there is an agreed notes of conversation on the discussions which transpire between those 2 heads of state. The Prime Minister knows that what he is saying is false. I have seen the agreed notes of conversation, and I can assure the House that what the Prime Minister is saying is a deliberate lie.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not making a point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
-Knowing the honourable member as I do, in spite of what he said, it is not worth asking him to withdraw it. I would like to read to the House what Mr Michael Richardson has written in a most authoritative fashion. He wrote:
On September 6, 1974, the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam -
– I rise on a point of order. I make the point -
- Mr Speaker -
– The honourable member for Wills will sit down.
– I am just practising.
- Mr Michael Richardson is not a consultant; he has not even been a diplomat. The Prime Minister said last week that he would -
- Mr Speaker, as the honourable gentleman is not raising a point of order, I raise the point of order that he is not in a position in which he can constantly interrupt the procedures of this House. I suggest that the Prime Minister has the call and he should be allowed to proceed.
– I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I take this point of order, Mr Speaker, because earlier today you admonished a Minister by saying that he was not entitled to make a ministerial statement in the course of answering a question without notice. Last week the Prime Minister refused to make a ministerial statement before he went to Indonesia.
-Order! There is no point of order, and the honourable gentleman knows that there is no point of order. I call the Prime Minister.
– I wish to move dissent from Mr Speaker’s ruling.
– I have not given the honourable member the call. I call the Prime Minister.
-As reported in the National Times on 19 July, Mr Michael Richardson writes:
On September 6, 1974, the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. I again ask you to rule on whether or not the Prime Minister can use as evidence in this Parliament that which transpired at that conference between 2 heads of state when in fact the Prime Minister is aware that there are agreed notes of conversation by the 2 governments -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not raising a point of order; he is raising a point of argument, and he is not entitled to the call to raise a point of argument.
– I am genuinely not trying to make it a point of argument. What I am asking you to do is to rule that the Prime Minister has no right to bring into this House evidence that is supposed to appear in a newspaper when he knows that there is true evidence on the file about what really transpired between the 2 heads of state. He knows that what he said is false.
-There is no point of order involved. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Wills will cease practising standing up for points of order. The honourable member will resume his seat. The mere fact that he has had a haircut does not mean that he is entitled to take liberties. The ruling I give to the point of order taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that the Prime Minister, or any other honourable member, can introduce into the House any argument he wishes provided it is within the Standing Orders. It is not for the Chair to judge whether the argument is correct or incorrect. That is for the House itself and it is for the rapporteurs of the Parliament to make their own comments. The Prime Minister is entitled to proceed in the course in which he has been proceeding. I call upon the Prime Minister to complete his answer, and I ask the House not to continue with points of order which have no foundation, because it does no good for the status of the House. I call the Prime Minister.
-Before continuing with -
– I draw your attention to standing order 145, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
-Before continuing with Mr Richardson’s report, I point out that Mr Gregory Clark was employed on a basis equivalent to a level 1 in the policy co-ordination unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. That was when the Leader of the Opposition happened to be Prime Minister. He was a consultant. Mr Richardson writes:
On September 6, 1974, the then Prime Minister Gough Whitlam arrived in Central Java to talk with President Soeharto of Indonesia. It was at these talks that Whitlam made his first and most fundamental mistake in dealing with the Indonesians on the critical matter of Portuguese East Timor.
The meeting was secret, but a record of conversation taken by the Australian side at the time quotes Whitlam as opening his comments on Timor by saying that, in his opinion, the territory should become part of Indonesia.
- Mr Speaker, I claim the right -
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I rise on a point of order. The statement by the Prime Minister is completely false. I have seen the notes of conversation between the 2 heads of state. What the Prime Minister has said is completely false.
-Order! The honourable member does not have the call. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the Life Insurance Act 1945 I present the annual report of the Life Insurance Commissioner for the year ended December 1975.
– Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947, 1 present the annual report of the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the calendar year 1975.
– For the information of honourable members I present the text of treaties to which Australia has become a party by signature or acceptance between 3 March 1976 and 31 August 1976, together with the text of those treaties to which Australia proposes to become a party by ratification. Because of its particular importance, I have arranged for copies of the basic treaty of friendship and co-operation between Australia and Japan, signed by the Prime Minister at Tokyo on 16 June 1976, to be made available to all members. Copies of the text of the other treaties are available for inspection in the Bills and Papers Office and at the Parliamentary Library.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of Qantas Airways Limited for the year ended 31 June 1976.
-(Gippsland- Minister for Transport)- For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: ‘ Towns ville airport: economic evaluation of proposed international facilities’.
Mr ELLICOTT ( WentworthAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 37 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973 I present a report by the Law Reform Commission entitled ‘Alcohol, Drugs and Driving’.
For the information of honourable members I present a report prepared by the Chairman of the Working Party on the Organisation of Clinical Services in Canberra Hospitals dated 1 September 1976.
Pursuant to section 6 of the Darwin Cyclone Damage Compensation Act 1975 I present the report on the operations of that Act for the year ended 30 June 1976. Copies of this report are expected from the printers during the course of the next few days. They will be distributed as they become available.
For the information of honourable members I present the text of a statement made by the Minister for Repatriation relating to the Toose Report on the Repatriation System.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1964 1 present the Annual Report on the Operations of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 3 1 March 1976.
– During question time -
-Is this a personal explanation?
-Yes. During question time -
-Does it relate to the Hansard report?
– Might I raise a point of order? It is true that during question time in a discussion with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Speaker, you suggested some statement might be made.
– Is this a point of order?
– It is; it is relating to the procedure to be followed in the House. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to make a statement, in accordance with Standing Orders it must be by leave. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to make a personal explanation there is a procedure to be followed. I would suggest that there is no other way by which the matter can be raised. On the other hand, if it is to be with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition ask for your indulgence before he rises.
– The order of events, as I recall it, is that the Leader of the Opposition in the course of asking a question used words which I found offensive, if untrue, in relation to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). They related to the alteration of Hansard. I have the responsibility of determining what should be in Hansard. All of us know that the Hansard ‘greens’ are quite substantially altered to our benefit by the Hansard reporters. We then receive the Hansard ‘ greens’ in that altered form and it is up to each member to make changes if he chooses to do so. Those proposed changes can be discussed with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter and he will or will not accept an alteration. If there is any dispute as to the matter, it has to be settled by the Speaker. Apparently there is some disputation in the issue raised by the Leader of the Opposition.
As I regard the alteration of Hansard as a significant matter and as it has already been alluded to in the House, I think it ought to be pursued in the House, whereas normally it would be pursued in private with me in my office. But as it has been alluded to in the House, I think it ought to be proceeded with here.
– During question time at your request as you have just recalled, Mr Speaker, I withdrew the statement that the Treasurer had altered in Hansard the answer which he had given in the House yesterday afternoon. The ‘greens’ of the question to the Treasurer by the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) and of the Treasurer’s reply had an interjection by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) in these terms: ‘Read your letter in the paper’. Thereupon the Treasurer said: ‘If honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen, I will put the answer in writing’. That was my very clear recollection of what the Treasurer had said yesterday. I was proposing to ask a question of him. I asked the honourable member for Scullin and it was also his very clear recollection that that is what the Treasurer had said in answer to his question yesterday. This morning I checked yesterday’s Hansard and it has in it:
– Read your letter in yesterday’s newspaper.
Not ‘Read your letter in the paper’. It then had:
– If honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen, they can read my written statement of last Thursday.
The ‘green’ had:
If honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen, I will put the answer in writing.
I am entitled to have access to the Hansard ‘greens’ and it was because my recollection and that of the honourable member for Scullin were so different from what appeared in Hansard that I sought the ‘greens’. I have now quoted from the ‘greens’. I do not know whether I am entitled to table them, but I gather I am entitled to have access to the tapes. I do not want to go to them. I withdrew what I said during question time because you asked me to, Mr Speaker. I have now stated in the House the basis for my having said in question time that the Treasurer had changed his Hansard.
– I do not really think I need to hear from the Leader of the House unless he has a specific point.
– I would make a personal explanation on behalf of the Treasurer who cannot be in the House. It is relating to the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. If he does not wish to hear it, no matter. I intended to acknowledge that an alteration had been made in the Hansard ‘green’.
– I rise on a point of order.
-Order! I will not call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I am not going to allow interruptions to continue. The Leader of the House has the floor.
-In the ‘greens’ forwarded to me from the Treasurer’s office there is an alteration in that words have been added to the first part of the response given by my colleague, the Treasurer. The report Hansard originally submitted to the Treasurer, read:
The position certainly is contrary to what the honourable member has suggested in the final . . .
To that the following words were added: . . . pan of his question . . .
Presumably that was done to complete the sense, for it was at that point that the honourable member for Shortland is shown in the transcript which has been forwarded without alteration as saying:
Read your letter in the paper . . .
That is in accord with the form as originally suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. The second part, it is true, is in accord with the alteration referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. The original form of words was:
I will put the answer in writing . . .
That was altered not by the Treasurer but by his office- he assures me that he was not aware of it- to read:
They can read my written statement of last Thursday.
So the alteration of the second part in the response by the Treasurer is as the honourable gentleman suggested. There was no alteration made by the Treasurer or by his office to the interjection by the honourable member for Shortland. For the information of honourable members I table the paper.
-May I see it? Is this a photocopy of the ‘ green ‘?
– As I understand it, yes.
– I have listened to the explanations. I see in handwriting -
– I wish to take a point of order. I realise you are here to -
– I ask the honourable gentleman to resume his seat. I am making an explanation of what I see. I see in handwriting the words ‘part of his question’ which makes the whole read: ‘The position certainly is contrary to what the honourable member has suggested in the final part of his question’. Mr Morris interjects: ‘Read your letter in the paper’. To this Mr Lynch replied:
If the honourable gentlemen do not wish to listen I will put the answer in writing.
The words ‘I will put the answer in writing’ have been crossed out in ink and substituted in ink are the words: . . . they can read my written statement of last Thursday.
That is the document tabled which I read for the benefit of all honourable members.
– I raise a point of order. I think it is time we came out and behaved in this Parliament in a manner that is appropriate to it. You know, Mr Speaker, that on this matter you gave a ruling as to the alteration of Hansard. In cases where there has been no alteration of substance in cases where there has been better phraseology to explain the facts completely, the alteration has always been allowed. I have not known in the lifetime I have been a member of this place -
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is not making a point of order. He is arguing the issue.
– I am trying to get clarity as to what has happened. I believe it is time this sort of thing was stopped and it is within your jurisdiction to stop it.
– Speaking to the point of order on the personal explanation, my recollection is quite clear that I said: ‘Read it in the paper’. I take grievance at the fact that without my permissionno one consulted me about it- my interjection has been substantially altered. The interjection was: ‘Read it in the paper’. What has been recorded in the Hansard that is ‘Read your letter in yesterday’s newspaper’ is substantially different. It specifies a time, a date and it specifies a type of publication. No one consulted me. I did not approve the alteration. I think if that is to happen without the permission of or even consultation with the honourable member concerned it is a substantial and I think very serious interference with the member’s rights.
-The honourable member has made his point. Interjections are out of order. When there are many interjections it is very difficult for Hansard to pick them up. As a matter of courtesy, Hansard records an interjection when it is responded to. If nobody had interjectedand if the honourable member had not interjected- there would not have been a problem.
– A point of order. May I ask for clarification?
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– How do I get justice? How do I get an explanation of what happened?
-The honourable member will resume his seat. I have looked at the tabled document, which is quite clearly a photocopy, and it is perfectly obvious that there have been alterations. Everybody will make their own -
– Who altered mine?
– If the honourable member interjects again I shall have to warn him. The Hansard obviously has been altered. I would be very concerned and alarmed if there had been any alteration which served the interests of one person or was against the interests of another. I am quite satisfied that this alteration was for the purposes of clarity and it was done without any intention to falsify a record.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, S October next, at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day of meeting.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
-I do. On 1 1 September last the Four Corners television program featured the visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to Wilcannia in connection with an Aboriginal housing association project. In the program a Mr Paul Lyneham of the Australian Broadcasting Commission said: … in March last year, the Department had given the impression that it supported the housing scheme. However, in July, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Johnson, visited the town and offered the people caravans. The Aborigines were dismayed and confused.
I want to correct the false impression that has been left. In fact, what I said was the subject of a Press release number 1 4/75 in which I said:
Nobody should have to live in conditions such as these, which would cause a national outcry in any civilised country.
That is why I have directed, after full consultation with the Aboriginal people involved, that about 20 large caravans and adjoining steel sheds be provided as soon as possible as an emergency measure only until decent houses are built.
The people affected have told me that such housing arrangements would best suit their needs until proper housing is erected.
I am not happy with the necessity of housing them, even temporarily in caravans, but this is what they want until new houses are built.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, I do, by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) who claimed in a speech in the adjournment debate last night that I had in the adjournment debate on 1 5 September attacked the parents in my electorate who were trying to send their children to the kindergarten and that I supported a Government that is not prepared to help people to send their children to pre-schools. That is patently untrue. It is evident from what I said that I clearly supported payments, subsidies and support to pre-school kindergartens and day care centres on a basis of need. It was clear and unequivocal in the statements I made and, with your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to read what I said on that occasion. I said: a letter I received from the Kindergarten Union of New South Wales telling me that 30 per cent of the children attending kindergartens and pre-schools in my electorate were in need. The Union asked what I was going to do about this … I wrote back to the Union thanking it for its statistics which, I said, demonstrated quite clearly that 70 per cent of the children attending pre-schools in my electorate were not in need -
Under the classification of need-
But nontheless were in receipt of a 75 per cent subsidy.
The whole burden of everything I said was that there should be support for people whose children are attending pre-schools and day care centres in my electorate when they were in need. To suggest the contrary, is I submit, mischievous.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s inconsistent attitudes towards the regulation of incomes and prices.
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-
-Mr Speaker -
- Mr Speaker, in accordance with the customary practice of this House, which permits that there should be about 2 hours discussion for matters of public importance, dealt with normally in 2 motions, under the Standing Orders I move:
That the business of the day be called on.
– That is not the custom.
– It is the customary practice of this House and it has been for 10 years.
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a contribution by Australia of $A30.73m towards the first replenishment of the Asian Development Fund established within the Asian Development Bank. Honourable members will know that the Asian Development Bank is a regional development finance institution established in 1966 with headquarters in Manila. Its task is to assist in the economic development of its developing member countries and to foster economic growth and cooperation in the Asian and Pacific regions. It does this by lending funds, promoting investment and providing technical assistance.
Since its establishment the Bank has lent about US$3 billion for projects covering all the major sectors of economic development with emphasis on the development of infrastructure facilities in the transport and communications industry and electric power sectors as well as projects for agriculture, education, water supply and urban development. The Bank’s lending activities are divided into ordinary and special operations. Ordinary operations are financed on the basis of the Bank’s capital resources on commercial or nearcommercial terms. Special operations involve loans made on highly concessional terms to the Bank’s poorest and least developed member countries. Special operations were initially largely financed from voluntary contributions to the Bank’s Multi-Purpose Special Fund but are now financed from the Asian Development Fund which came into operation during 1974. Australia contributed the equivalent of US$27m, or about 5 per cent, towards the mobilisation of the initial resources of the Fund totalling some US$500m.
When the Fund was set up, it was intended that the funds required by the Bank in future for its concessional lending operations would be mobilised on an organised multi-lateral basis and should be regularly replenished with uniform terms and conditions for all contributors. Accordingly, when funds available to the Bank from the initial mobilisation were running out discussions commenced in 1975 with the Bank’s developed member countries on a first replenishment of the Fund’s resources to enable the Bank to carry on its concessional lending operations in 1976 and the years beyond. Agreement was reached earlier this year, subject to ratification by the Governments concerned, on a first replenishment totalling US$809m to finance the Bank’s concessional lending operations in the 3 years ending 31 December 1978. Specific amounts have been proposed for each development member country. Proposed contributions are set out in the attached table which I ask leave of the House to have incorporated in the Hansard record.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The amounts specified are payable in the national currency of each member country up to the equivalent of the amounts in United States dollars shown and fixed in terms of the exchange rate applying in September 1975. This was when broad agreement on the replenishment was first reached among donor countries. Australia’s share of US$4 1.6m is equivalent to $A30.73m and is in line with our percentage share in the initial mobilisation of resources for the Fund. Australia again has the option of paying its contribution either in cash or by lodging non-negotiable, non-interest bearing promissory notes encashable on demand as and when funds are actually required by the ADB for loan disbursements. In accordance with past practice with respect to similar contributions to both the ADB and the International Development Association we proposed to lodge promissory notes. This will limit the impact on the Budget in the next couple of years as encashment of these notes is unlikely to begin before 1978-79.
Australia is the fourth largest shareholder of the ADB after Japan, India and the United States and has played a leading role in the Bank since its inception. It is Government policy to give high priority to the Asian and Pacific region in its foreign policies and to co-operate fully with multi-lateral agencies in the region such as the ADB. We regard the Bank as an efficient organisation capable of effectively disbursing aid funds by undertaking a large variety of often complex development projects in a technically proficient way. The needs of countries in the region served by the Bank are great. It is vital, therefore, that the Bank should be able to continue and expand its soft loan activities in order to help countries in our region achieve economic and social development. I believe that it is clearly in Australia’s national interest that we should play our part by continuing our active support of the Bank by contributing $30. 73m to the Asian Development Fund. I commend this Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Malcolm Fraser, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the establishment of an Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations. The formation of the Advisory Council is a further step in the implementation of our program of reform to improve the functioning of Australia’s political institutions. Honourable members will by now be familiar with the main thrust of that program. It is designed to strengthen the federal system by giving the
States and local government an assured source of revenue; by matching revenue to responsibilities and by a more appropriate allocation of functions among governments.
The Advisory Council gives life to the Government’s commitment as outlined in our federalism policy statement of September 1975. The Council should be looked at in the context of our overall federalism reforms. These reforms attempt to restore a proper balance between responsibilities and finances in Australia. The work of the Council will supplement other reforms, such as our tax sharing proposals which will be the subject of separate legislation soon to be put before this House. The Advisory Council is intended to bring together representatives of the Commonwealth, State and local governments and private citizens to review and consider matters relating to the improvement of co-operation between different spheres of government. The Council will operate under the Premiers Conference. By reference from the Premiers Conference, the Advisory Council will examine problems which emerge between various spheres of government. Under the Premiers Conference the Council will give continuing attention to the range of intergovernmental problems in the federal, state and local government spheres. It will be a most important source of advice on the most desirable allocation of government functions, responsibilities and revenues.
The Bill provides for a Council of 22 members: Five representatives of the Commonwealth (3 Government members and 2 Opposition members); 6 State representatives- one from each State Parliament; 6 local government representatives; and 5 citizen representatives. Three Commonwealth Government representatives will be nominated by the Prime Minister; 2 will be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. So far as the local government membership is concerned, the States agreed to 3 local government representatives. We regret having to increase that number without the prior agreement of the States but we have come to the conclusion that 6 representatives of local government are necessary for the effective operation of the Council and for the reasonable representation of local government.
So far as is practicable, the 6 local government members should be persons associated with local government in different states. Citizen representatives to the Council will be selected by the Commonwealth Government in consultation with the States. The Chairman of the Council will be one of the 5 citizen members. Members will normally have a 3-year term. Provision is also made in the Bill for the appointment of deputy members, and attendance by one observer from each of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory Assemblies.
The body will be distinctly bipartisan and the Government wishes to make sure that its independence is preserved. The Council is clearly not dominated by numbers of Commonwealth representatives. The Council will fulfil its function best if its members approach their tasks with a broad perspective, considering Australian Government as a whole system. The body which this Bill proposes to establish has been modelled on the United States Advisory Commission on Inter-governmental relations. The United States Advisory Commission is a 17-year-old bipartisan body in which prepresentatives of national, state and local governments and private citizens study the operations of the federal system in the United States. The American Commission conducts studies and investigations of specific intergovernmental conflict points and drafts proposed legislation and administrative orders to carry out its recommendations. The Commission is a successful and highly respected body which has done much to improve the American Federation. It is our intention that the Australian counterpart also establish itself as an independent and highly respected body.
The Bill to establish the Council provides that the Premiers Conference, or a majority of governments participating may request the Council to institute inquiries. Local government, through their state Premiers will be able to have matters brought to the Premiers Conference for reference to the Council for examination and report. This Bill makes provision for the Advisory Council to furnish reports of its inquiries and investigations to the Prime Minister, to the Premier of each participating State and to the Australian Council of Local Government Associations. The Advisory Council is also required to make an annual report on its activities. This report will be made public by being laid before both Houses of this Parliament within 15 sitting days after the Prime Minister has received a copy.
This Bill is the result of a great deal of consultation and thought. All State Premiers, as well as the Australian Council of Local Government As.sociations, have had an opportunity to comment on the proposed Council which has been modified in the light of their comments. The Charter of the Advisory Council was approved at the April Premiers Conference. And before that Senator Carrick discussed details of the Council with State Ministers. The costs of the Council will be shared by agreement among the 3 spheres of government. At present it is intended that the Commonwealth and the States each meet 45 per cent of the Council’s cost, the remaining 10 per cent being contributed by local government. Since this arrangement may be subject to change or re-negotiation as the Council develops it has not been written into the Bill.
Honourable members will also note that the Bill contains no reference to staffing. This is to ensure maximum flexibility and to provide the opportunity for participation by officers drawn from all spheres of government. A secretariat to service the Council will be based in Hobart. The staff will be small in number but of a calibre which will assist the Council to achieve the status and prestige which we envisage for it. Where necessary, it is hoped that other people and institutions can be used to research proposals. The secretariat will be based in Hobart. While the initial meetings will be in Hobart, when the Council is well established it is expected that it will feel free to meet in other centres around Australia at its own wish.
An important role of the Council will be to promote discussion and disseminate ideas, to reach a wide audience, and to present to that audience an independent view on possible solutions to problems of inter-government relations. Such a role should do much to dispel the notion, so prevalent in recent years, that all wisdom resides at the centre.
The Council possesses only advisory powers. The Council does not exist to pre-emp the decisions of governments. It exists to provide an effective vehicle to encourage public debate on the practical resolution of problems facing Governments in Australia. It exists to make Governments fully aware of the options which face them. The Governments concerned will be solely responsible for the decisions they make. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fetilisers subsidy scheme for a further year until 31 December 1977, but at a rate of subsidy reduced from $78.74 per tonne of nitrogen content to $60 per tonne of such content. Honourable members will recall that this measure was foreshadowed by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his Budget Speech on 1 7 August 1 976.
The Government has considered the report of the Industries Assistance Commission which recommended the phasing out of the subsidy over 3 years and agrees in principle that the subsidy should be phased out. As a first step in this direction the Bill proposes that from 1 January 1977 to 31 December 1977 subsidy will be payable at the reduced rate I have mentioned in respect of nitrogenous fertilisers of local production which are sold for use in Australia as fertilisers and also in respect of imported nitrogenous fertilisers which, during that calendar year, are either so used by the importer or are sold by the importer for such use in Australia. The level of subsidy to apply after 31 December 1977 will be considered by the Government in the light of economic circumstances prevailing nearer to that time. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Eric Robinson, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to exempt companies authorised to carry on insurance business under the Insurance Act 1973 from the necessity of having to lodge deposits with the Treasurer under the Insurance (Deposits) Act 1932 and to provide for the return of deposits in appropriate cases. Until the passing of the Insurance Act 1973, the deposit provisions of the Insurance (Deposits) Act were the only protection policy owners had against the insolvency of an insurer. Deposits were held by the Treasurer to pay policy owners with claims against companies that became insolvent. However, the far more extensive and effective supervisory provisions of the Insurance Act have superseded the Insurance (Deposits) Act and, when a company has received an authority under the Insurance Act, it is no longer necessary to retain the very limited protection given previously by the deposit provisions.
The operation of the deposits system has recently been extended by regulation until 3 1 July 1979 in order to continue the protection of policy owners of companies that have either not applied for or may be refused an authority to carry on insurance business under the Insurance Act. Companies that have not been granted an authority will still be required to maintain a deposit with the Treasurer until granted an authority or, if not granted an authority, until they have demonstrated that they have adequately discharged their commitments under policies. It is emphasised that a deposit will not be released to a company in liquidation until such time as it can be used to pay claims lodged by policy owners.
When the Insurance Act was passed it was envisaged that the deposit requirement would be terminated after the new system of supervision of insurers was fully effective. The proposal to relieve authorised insurers from the obligation to lodge deposits is in accordance with that intention. Accordingly, the Bill will enable the deposit requirement to be continued in appropriate cases while exempting authorised insurers from its application. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 22 September.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure. $83,429,000.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure. $239,997,000.
– I direct the attention of the Committee to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services, which is responsible for administering the electoral laws of this country. At this time in every mainland State the distribution of electoral divisions is in breach of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act. In the last 2 Parliaments members of the Liberal and National Country Parties constantly resisted electoral reform. They even resisted the application of the existing electoral laws. They defeated distribution proposals: they defeated distribution Bills which were meant to carry out the provisions of the Electoral Act. It is now seen, of course, that they were also resisting distributions which would have been in accordance with the Constitution. The only plausible argument that was ever advanced against the distribution proposals and Bills which my Government introduced was that the last census in June 1 97 1 might be outdated and, therefore, the Parliament should wait to make a distribution until the results of the census due in June 1976 were at hand. On 1 December 1975, however, in Attorney-General for Australia (at the relation of McKinlay) v. Commonwealth of Australia the High Court held that the census was usually irrelevant to the calculation of the number of seats in this House. The only occasion when the census is relevant is where it provides the latest statistics of the Commonwealth.
The Constitution provides that the number of members of this House who are chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people and shall be determined with regard to the latest statistics of the Commonwealth. The High Court pointed out on 1 December that the Constitution does not mention the census, and that the reference to the census is contained in an Act which states that the holding of the census will be on a date fixed by regulation. There is no requirement for a census to be held at all. Accordingly, the High Court pointed out that the latest statistics of the Commonwealth must be adopted. These statistics show that there arc 3 States which do not at present have the constitutional numbers in this House to which they are entitled. The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) wrote to me on 8 April last. His letter appears in Hansard of 14 September at page 1032 as follows:
Based on the latest available statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician (estimated population us at 30 September 1975) and using the formula provided by section 10 of the Representation Act. New South Wales would be entitled to 44 Members of the House of Representatives. Victoria 34. Queensland 19. South Australia 12 and Western Australia 1 1 Members.
It will be seen that New South Wales should have one fewer member and that Queensland and Western Australia should each have one more member.
The High Court also ruled on I December last that there should be a redistribution in any State where the latest statistics of the Commonwealth show that there should be a variation of the number of members representing that State in this House, and that that distribution should take place in the ordinary life of a Parliament. It is scandalous that the Government has taken no steps whatever to institute a distribution of the seats in this House in accordance with the numbers to which the States are entitled as shown by statistics for September last year.
There is, however, another ground. It is one of which we have all been aware for years. Even if one accepts the Act as it stands, there must be a distribution because there are so many seats which exceed or fall short of the permissible quota under the Act. One can only assume, as my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said yesterday, that the Government has been stalling the statutory distribution because it wants to restore the old variation from the quota, the old margin of one-fifth in place of the one-tenth margin which the people made plain that they wanted at the double dissolution election in May 1974 and which became law as part of one of the very few Acts which has been enacted at a joint sitting.
It is plain from that Act that there is a great number of seats in every mainland State which exceed the variation of one-tenth permitted by the Act. The Act says that there shall be a distribution in a State whenever in one-fourth on the divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from the quota to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. Of the present 45 divisions in New South Wales there are 20 divisions in which, to use the terms of the Act, the number of electors differs by more than onetenth above or below the quota. If one-quarter of the divisions differ there has to be a distribution. In New South Wales 20 of the 45 divisions differ too far. In Victoria 19 of the 34 divisions differ too far. In Queensland 12 of the 18 Divisions differ too far. In South Australia 4 of the 12 divisions differ too far. In Western Australia 3 of the 10 divisions differ too far.
For those who believe that the’ margin should be restored to the one-fifth where it used to stand before the double dissolution and the joint sitting which followed it, one should point out that 10 of the 34 divisions in Victoria differ by more than one-fifth and 5 of the 18 divisions in Queensland differ by more than one-fifth. So even if the margin were restored to one-fifth there would have to be a distribution in Victoria. Also under the Constitution- quite apart from the statute- there has to be a distribution in Queensland. Under the Constitution there has to be a distribution in New South Wales and Western Australia as well. Whether one looks at the Constitution as interpreted as recently as 1 December or at the statute as it stands and has not been invalidated by the High Court there must be a distribution in the 5 mainland States. Even if the statute were varied and the will of the people as expressed in May 1 974 were set aside there would still have to be a distribution under the Constitution and the amended statute in four of those States, in all except South Australia. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list showing those electorates in the mainland States which differ from the quota, that is 67 000 electors on average, by more than one-tenth above or below and the figures of their enrolments as at 14 September. I have compiled the tables from an answer which the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services gave to me on 14 September. It appears at page 1034 of Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– It is quite clear that we should not now tolerate a situation where, say, in Queensland there is one division which has much more than twice the number of people on the rolls than there is in another and where, in the other mainland States, there are some seats which have 40 000 people more enrolled than in some other seats. There are seats which are well below- excessively below- the quota in the city as well as in the country.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The Leader of the Opposition ‘s time has expired.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $25 1,644,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $1 10,000,000.
– I move:
That the proposed expenditure for the Department of the Treasury be reduced by $10, as an assertion of the view of the Committee:
1 ) that the reduction in the real level of government outlays is inducing renewed economic recession, so retarding economic growth and reducing the level of employment below possible levels, and
(a) that the independence of the Australian Bureau of Statistics should be demonstrated by making it responsible to a Minister other than the Treasurer;
that the appropriation for the Australian Bureau of Statistics is inadequate for the provision of information necessary for effective policy formation, and
that the decision to delay processing of census data causes both waste of government funds by leaving unused data on which there has already been a large investment of funds, and reduced effectiveness in policy making through the unavailability of contemporary statistics on many subjects.
The central error of the Government’s fiscal policy is that real public sector demand is decreasing. I am now, of course, speaking to that section of my amendment concerning the assertion that this Government’s economic policies are wrong. In the second half of the last financial yearnamely, since the Liberal and National Country Parties took over the government of this countryBudget outlays increased at an annual rate of 9 per cent while public sector prices increased by 16.4 per cent. So real outlays fell at an annual rate of 7.4 per cent between January and June, which is when this Government had taken over, in comparison with the first half of 1 975-76.
It is not possible to be quite as precise about the current year, but the picture is the same. The approximate situation is that money outlays are expected to increase by 7.8 per cent, excluding the family allowances, which are, of course, completely offset by the increased tax receipts from the abolishing of child rebates. Public sector prices have increased by 3 per cent to 5 per cent faster than the consumer price index in recent years. Since the consumer price index is expected to increase by at least 12 per cent during 1976-77, as is shown in the Budget Papers, public sector prices could be expected to rise by something like 16 per cent. Therefore one has to arrive at the conclusion that real Budget outlays are likely to fall by about 8 per cent during this financial year. Let me repeat this because it is the core of the mistaken approach to economic policy being taken by the Liberal-National Country Party Government. Real Budget outlays are likely to fall by about 8 per cent during this financial year.
That is an enormous reduction. It can be put in perspective by making a comparison with the position in other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) argues that the Australian policy is consistent with the fiscal policy in the other OECD countries, but, apart from the fact that they are in a different place in the recovery curve, being much higher than this country, the Australian Government has a quite different approach to that of the 4 major OECD countries. In the United States of America real government expenditure increased by 1.3 per cent in 1975 and is forecast to increase by 2.5 per cent in 1 976. In Japan the picture is the same. As the Reserve Bank’s annual report for 1975-76 says at page 9, the Japanese recovery was heavily dependent on public sector funding. Public consumption increased by 3.3 per cent in real terms in West Germany in 1975 and is forecast to increase by 2 per cent in 1 976. If I had time I could give figures about the United Kingdom with the same force as I have given them about those other countries.
The Fraser Government persistently misrepresents this situation. A recent example was the Prime Minister’s speech to the Committee of Economic Development of Australia on 6 September in which he gave figures for reductions in Government spending in recent years in some OECD countries. This is quite irrelevant to the central question of economic recovery. Only real changes in outlays matter, and outlays are being reduced. The Government is deliberately and unnecessarily using this major policy instrument, namely, public spending, to depress the Australian economy.
The results of this approach are becoming better known. The indicators of the level of economic activity are indeed uneven, as the Treasurer said in answer to questions yesterday and today. But in pointing to a supposed recovery, the Treasurer compared the national income figures for the second half of 1975-76 with those for the first half. He did not mention the more relevant figures which compare the fourth quarter of 1975-76, namely, from April to June, with the third quarter. This was brought out by my friend and colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) today in a question that he put to the Treasurer. These figures show that the quarterly real seasonally adjusted rate of growth of gross domestic product fell from 3.6 per cent in the March quarter- that is from January to the end of March when the policies of the Australian Labor Government were applying in this country- to 0.6 per cent in the June quarter after the wrong policies of the Liberal and National Country Parties had come to bear on the economy of this country. That is, the rate of economic growth, which began to pick up as a result of Labor’s policies in the latter part of last year, has fallen off again. The rate of economic growth collapsed in the June quarter.
Of course this has led to the tragic unemployment we are suffering. Seasonally adjusted unemployment is 328 000, 5.4 per cent of the labour force. This is the worst level of unemployment since the Depression. This worst level is directly attributable to the Liberal-National Country Party Government. There are alternatives. I have been putting them time and again both in my speech on the Budget and since. I am delighted now to have the support of the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Macphee), the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon), and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for some of the alternative Budget strategy which we in the Australian Labor Party Opposition have been putting. Of course, central to that is our belief that we can increase the Budget deficit markedly by about another $500m without increasing interest rates and without adding to the money supply. We can increase it by that amount and spend in selective areas which will stimulate the economy, unlock that lock which is consumer confidence and bring about a quicker recovery than is being allowed by the present Government.
I must very hurriedly move on to the second part of the Opposition amendment. It relates to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The apparent independence of the Bureau has been reduced by the Fraser Government’s decision to place it under the Treasury. The charge that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been dominated by the Treasury was repeated only this week in the Australian Financial Review. Whether or not this is justified it is nevertheless important to show clearly that the Bureau is independent and innovative. This could be done by transferring responsibility for the Bureau to another Minister. One possibility under the present Government’s administration could be for it to go where the Industries Assistance Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal rest, namely, with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. In a Labor administration, I believe more naturally, all those statutory authorities would rest under the administration of our Minister for economic planning.
The Opposition and I assert that the staff and the funds allocated to the Bureau are quite inadequate for it to collect and analyse all the data which are essential for the proper economic management of this country. I just give a few quick examples. There is no income and expenditure survey for 1976-77. How on earth are we to know what is causing the squirrelling away of funds into deposits when we want these funds spent in the community if we do not have the necessary raw material to make these decisions, namely the material coming from the Bureau of Statistics? In addition there is inadequate coverage of the service industries. Furthermore there are long delays in the processing of some data relating to manufacturing industry, and there is too little research into statistical methods. The staff of most sections, other than those sections concerned with the census, has been reduced at a time when the staff should be increased. I draw the attention of the Committee to 2 recent articles in the Press about the inadequacy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian . Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to reject the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), to support the proposed expenditure for the Treasury and to outline the policy that the Government is pursuing. The honourable member for Adelaide said that the Government is doing things to depress the Australian economy. That is a real joke. It was 3 years of Labor misrule that depressed the economy. It is not my purpose to spend the short time available to me to go over that ground, but let me make the point that in 1973 unemployment in this country was less than 100 000. It continued that way for a little time, but by the latter part of 1974 and during 1975 the level of unemployment increased to some 300 000 Australians. That is the situation which it took the Australian Labor Party some time to bring about- it will take us some time to cure it. The policy proposed by the Government is not designed to effect an instant cure. There is no way that the deeply damaged economy that we took over can be restored quickly. It will be a long haul, and the Australian people realise that.
The honourable member for Adelaide made play with certain recent statistics. I should think he waits with bated breath for the appearance of every statistic in the hope that it will provide a stick with which to beat the Government. He will win some; he will lose others. We do not question the fact that at this stage the indicators can be equivocal. That is inevitable at this stage of the recovery, but the recovery is under way. Of course, what is of genuine concern is the continuing high level of unemployment. I would like in the short time available to me to review our strategy in our approach to that problem.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
-Before the luncheon adjournment reference had been made to the continuing high level of unemployment. Opposition members sometimes speak as though that was of no concern to the Government. It is of very real concern- nay, of paramount concernto the Government.
– The Opposition caused it.
– It did, as I pointed out before the adjournment. But the essence of the Government’s economic strategy is this: Firstly, the number one priority, to reduce inflation by means of incomes restraint and by taking hold of the public spending deficit situation; secondly, through reducing inflation and by other means, notably the investment allowance and other incentives, to foster sound economic recovery and restore full employment and a climate of expansion. Full employment is the objective of the whole exercise. The principal point now is that inflation, which is the prime target because it is inflation which is the main cause of unemployment, is coming down. In the March quarter of this year the CPI index increase was 3 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent in the corresponding quarter in 1975. The latest figure for the June quarter is 2.5 per cent, compared with 3.5 per cent in the corresponding quarter last year.
I want to stress to the Australian people that the key factor in getting this result has been the moderation achieved in the wages-prices merrygoround, the futile process of wages up and then prices up, prices up and then wages up, in a futile attempt to get ahead, and in the process weakening the economy and creating- or, as things are now, maintaining- the high and totally unacceptable level of unemployment. I suggest that the majority of the Australian people support the Government in its view of the futility of pushing for big wage and salary increases which result only in higher prices. The majority of the Australian people, along with a former Treasurer in this place, perceive this truth that the big wage increases for people in employment are what cost the unemployed jobs. What the Government and the majority of the Australian people can see, but not the Opposition and some union leaders, as distinct from rank and file unionists, is that we need a breathing space, a brake to the futile wage- price spiral in order to set the stage for renewed growth.
This Government has pursued an active policy to achieve that aim. It has sought, in lieu of too large wage increases, to assist employees by introducing tax indexation, a measure which has had the effect initially of reducing taxes and which will prevent an undue rise in taxes during the course of this year. In fact, as a result of this measure, during 1976-77 taxpayers will not pay $ 1060m in taxes which they would otherwise have paid. The Government has introduced a system of family allowances which gives the greatest assistance to people on low incomes. It has sought to persuade the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in the face of opposition from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Opposition spokesmen, that the adjustment of wages and salaries ought to be in a form which assists the low income earner. For instance, if prices rise by 3 per cent then there should be an increase of the order of $3 for the low income earner, but the increase should taper so that a person with an income as high as $30,000 per annum, for whom a 3 per cent increase represents nearly $20 a week, should receive a much lower increase than that in the national interest and in the interest of containing inflation and getting the economy moving again. So the Government has argued, and the Commission has made a judgment in that sort of form. That has been the Government’s policy.
I conclude by saying that yesterday Mr Justice Moore of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission met with representatives of employers and employees and the Government to consider the future of the income fixing procedures to which I have just referred. It is a matter of the gravest import that there should be a continuation of the moderation of money income rises and hence costs that has been achieved so far. A big bump in the price index is coming up in December and all 3 parties involved- the Government, employees and employers- will have to play their part and, in a spirit of give and take and genuine national concern, arrive at a solution, an arrangement which is equitable and also sets the stage for the strengthening of economic recovery, for the resurgence of employment and economic growth that we all want.
– I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). In doing so, I will deal with some of the points made in the amendment. However, before doing that, I wish to say that without doubt the .whole thrust and strategy of this Budget is completely wrongly directed. I think that is because the Government does not understand the basic causes of the recession we are going through, and particularly what is going to happen in the long term. For example, the Government does not realise that Australian industry, because of its need to compete with industry overseas, is being completely altered in its character. Unless there is a quite massive increase in consumption of secondary goods manufactured in Australia, it is very likely that there will be a continuing decline in the percentage of people employed in secondary industry, brought about by the fact that in an endeavour to make industry more efficient- something which will happen; it cannot be stopped- there is a greater and greater movement towards automation. In an earlier debate in the House I gave an example of a factory moving out into my area, where there is low cost industrial land. The factory operators flog their land in the inner city, use the profit made out of that sale to build a new factory, put in automated equipment and pay for it in the long term largely because they have to employ fewer people. In other words, where they were employing 300 people formerly, they go out to the western suburbs and employ 75 people on automated equipment. Added to that, a large section of industry today is going off-shore to the Philippines, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore and so on. They have factories in those places and are manufacturing there, and every time an organisation moves in that way it means less jobs for Australians.
That brings me to why I say that the thrust of the Budget is basically wrong. The Government has cut expenditure in employment-giving areas. In its mad desire to say: ‘Let us get out of public investment’, it has cut expenditure in the main areas, and I will quote some of them. Sewerage expenditure is down by 56. 1 per cent, migrant education expenditure by 50 per cent, old people’s homes by 29.1 per cent, area improvement programs by 96 per cent, shipping by 49.5 per cent, pipelines by 36. 1 per cent, shipbuilding by 37.4 per cent, the stevedoring industry by 33 per cent and Commonwealth offices by 16.4 per cent. Those figures indicate the percentage of reduction in government expenditure in areas all of which are employment-giving areas.
So we come to what I think is one of the major issues that we have to face up to here in Australia today, and that is the issue of medium and long term planning in the economy. It should not be thought that business is going to object to it. That is what enlightened business and commerce want for the future, because they will know where they are going. No longer will they have to suffer the stops and starts of the past. Such people as Gordon Jackson of CSR Ltd would welcome the opportunity to plan ahead. That is exactly what they want. It is time that the Government started to think about this matter. It is proposed to make it part of Australian Labor Party platform- this is going to be a very important matter for discussion at our future Federal conference- that a department of economic planning or department of industry and economic planning should be established with the object of introducing medium and long term planning in the economy, with special emphasis on indicative planning and context planning. In other words, its purpose will be to foretell what is likely to happen in future in industry and in the economy generally, as well as to endeavour to set guidelines on the direction in which industry and the economy generally should move in the future.
I think that when such an organisation is established it should recruit not only Public Service personnel into its medium and long term economic planning section but also personnel from outside industry, personnel who have a more practical knowledge and understanding of what is happening in industry and commerce. I think it is not an unreasonable criticism of the Treasury that far too often such organisations are established here in Canberra and far too often they are unable to understand the situation. That is only natural that they are not moving all the time with industry, and it is very difficult for the people involved to get the feel and the knowledge and the understanding of the trends and developments in industry and commerce outside.
I am not one who is hypercritical of Treasury; I want to make that clear, but I think it would be of great advantage to government if that economic planning organisation were to recruit, as well as public servants, people from outside industry employed on a contract basis. Such people could be given an undertaking that they will not lose any of the benefits which would have accrued to them when they return to their usual employment at the end of the contract. By the same token, I think it would be equally advisable if many public servants were to be contracted out into private industry for specific periods of, say, 3 years and once again be guaranteed that their normal expectations in their ordinary employment would be maintained upon resuming their occupations in the Public Service. I think that is a very important aspect indeed. I believe that the Government and the Treasury should set about giving far greater attention to that matter. I can assure honourable members that the Australian Labor Party will be concentrating on the question of long term and medium term economic planning. Without a doubt the enlightened sections of the business community, industrial and commercial, agree with such a proposition. We find organisation after organisation agreeing that it would be to the long term benefit of private industry.
I turn now to the very important aspect of the amendment which deals with the Bureau of Statistics. It would play a very important role in context planning, provided that it is removed from the control of Treasury. Far too often the information which it obtains and provides to Treasury does not go to the Government. During our term of government we were not always given the necessary information in regard to trends in the economy. Of course, we must realise that there was once in the Bureau of Statistics a section which one might call a special research bureau which was making forward estimates in regard to the trends in the economy. However, when Sir Roland Wilson transferred from that Bureau to become Secretary of the Treasury he took that section of the Bureau of Statistics with him. From that time on its ability to make public the trends it believed were occurring in the economy was completely lost. That is a very important aspect because if, first of all, the Bureau of Statistics is funded sufficiently to ensure that it can maintain such a research bureau, and, secondly, its forward estimates in regard to what is going to occur in the future are given not only to Treasury but also to our proposed department of planning and to the public generally, we will have a far more healthy economy as a whole.
I strongly support the proposals contained in the amendment. Firstly, I support the proposal for the establishment of a department of economic planning; secondly, I suggest that forward estimates be provided, possibly for up to 3 years ahead; thirdly, I believe that the Bureau of Statistics should be given more finance to establish a separate section which will have the function of researching future trends, with those forecasts being made available to the public generally and not merely to Treasury. That, of course, means removing the Bureau of Statistics from the control of Treasury and the Treasurer.
– I want to commence by gently chiding the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) for one or two of the remarks that he made.
– Not too gently.
– I will be gentle. If, as the honourable member said, it was the case during the term of office of the Labor Government that statistics were not put in the hands of Ministers, and the Treasurer in particular, of course the responsibility falls foursquare on the Treasurer himself to insist on receiving that information. There is not any doubt about that; that is where the responsibility lies. So it is really quite unnecessary to endeavour to make a case that it is the fault of Treasury or of the Bureau of Statistics or any other body. Personally I doubt that the honourable member has the knowledge he claims to have about what Treasurers have asked for and what they insist upon. However, I do think it is wrong to make some sort of an attack on these sections of the Government bureaucracy in the way in which he has.
The honourable member also went to some lengths to tell us of the great need for planning in this country. I must say that I would not disagree with his view that forward estimates should be compiled by Treasury. The honourable member mentioned a period of 3 years in relation to those forward estimates. He went much further than that, of course, and put great emphasis on the need for economic planning, and that is a view which I read was recently put by the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). Indeed, recently he went on to suggest- one might see a reason for this suggestionthat there should be 2 Treasurers. That was published in the Australian newspaper, and I shall give honourable members opposite the reference later if they do not agree with what I am saying. The point I want to make is that it seems to be in the minds of a number of people in our community that somehow or other you can set down a rigorous economic plan for a number of years, that everything will happen, that everybody will know where they are, and that there will not be -
– Like the Soviet 5-year plan.
-Like the Soviet 5-year plan, I am reminded, but, of course, that is an endeavour by a government to control an economy rigidly from the centre. It seems to rest oh a number of assumptions. I suggest to the honourable member that one of the major assumptions is this: All the extraordinary events happened in the past; nothing unforeseeable is going to happen; nothing will come along which needs what he referred to as stop-go policies. Of course, every government has indulged in stop-go policies for a very simple reason: The economy and the influences on it are extremely complex. As was once said by a British Prime Minister, it is necessary to stop-go when you are driving in busy traffic. So really I do wish we would remember the complexities involved and not try to think that somehow an economic order can be assauged which will overcome all our problems, tell everyone where he is going, and take all the judgments out of the situation.
– It is called indicative planning.
– You can give it various labels like ‘indicative planning* and it all sounds great as long as you do not get into too much detail.
In debating the Treasury estimates I want to say a little about one or two things that seem to me to be of importance in the general economic situation in which Australia finds itself. I ask myself, what is the major problem this country faces in achieving a strength and a growth of the Australian economy? I take it for granted that we all want to see it strengthened. I take it that we regard it as a desirable objective because it is the only means by which the Australian people can increase their purchasing power, their standard of living. It is the only way by which we can really achieve an improvement in the environmentnot only a protection but a restoration. It is the only way in which we can make significant payments for foreign aid, for assistance to Aborigines and a number of other groups in the community. We find, of course, that at this point, as far as production is concerned, Australia is at a disadvantage compared with other countries. We are at the stage where, for instance, average weekly earnings in Australia are no less than $30 per week greater than average weekly earnings in the United States.
– It is unbelievable, yet that is the state which we are in at present. There are a great number of production problems. That means it is going to be increasingly desirable for us to import manufactured goods and other goods from overseas. It is going to be increasingly difficult for us to sell overseas and, in a word, this relates to productivity which I know is regarded by many people as an esoteric term, and it is all a rather boring subject. The productivity, the cost per unit of what we makethe cost of our services- is really our central problem. Australians are just not working hard enough or efficiently enough. That is harming their own interests. As I have said, our imports more and more are going to be attractive because of that price differential.
There are in our community, quite rightly, pressures to reduce tariffs and yet with relative inefficiency it is going to be more and more necessary to provide protection if we are to keep a significant number of our population employed. It is no wonder that in the shipbuilding industry and other industries we have such structural and fundamental problems. Of course it will go on in the whole area of manufactured goods.
Clearly and obviously we have enormous national assets and advantages, so how is it that we are in this difficult situation?
Certainly, there was much will to work in this country in the past and I think there still is in important areas. As far as I can see in many trade union areas- certainly not all of them- there is no desire to improve our productivity or our efficiency. I do not want to criticise the unions unreasonably. I do think many, not all, trade union leaders are clearly acting against the interests of their own members, and certainly against the interests of Australia. Many Australians are so keen to find an easy life that they are doing less than they could easily do. When one looks at the number of useless stoppages and slow-downs, at demands for more leisure time, whether it be shorter working weeks or more holidays, it amounts in many cases to less efficiency although it is often claimed that it will lead to more efficiency. What it does basically is to add to the costs of ordinary goods to Australians. I think that is our central economic problem. The others can be solved relatively simply. We have many social problems that must be tackled, but those social problems are made harder if we have high inflation, high unemployment, high interest rates and other evils in our economy. Indeed, high unemployment in Australia I believe is very largely the result of the high inflation which we have at present. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) said on one important occasion to some people ‘your wage rise is another man’s job’. It is not a universal assertion but it was right in the context in which he used it and it is largely right today.
It is hard in a 10 minute speech to more than outline and state the obvious but I do hope that thinking people will more and more influence others to face up to this central problem and endeavour to encourage productivity. In many cases Australians could increase work effectiveness by 10 per cent without significant increase in their effort or to their inconvenience. In fact, the Government has little power in this area, nor does anyone else. My attempt today is to draw attention to what I believe is the central problem and I hope many other members of the community will see it more and endeavour to improve the situation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), namely that this item be reduced by $10 which is the standard pattern to show your root and branch objection to something in these estimates. I have even heard my name quoted in support of the doctrine- it was repeated by my friend, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards)- that inflation is the main cause of unemployment. I think one can only say that inflation can be a contributing factor to unemployment but I think it is quite wrong to suggest that inflation is the main cause of unemployment.
Part of the shadow Minister’s amendment deals with the functioning of the Bureau of Census and Statistics. I sometimes think that rather than having too few statistics, we have far too many. Perhaps we do not analyse them as critically as we should. I briefly want to point to the most recent figures of unemployment in Australia. They show that at the end of August the number of unemployed persons registered was 267 886. Nearly half of that total number who were unemployed were in 2 categories described as semi-skilled- there were 70 282 in that area- and unskilled manual where there were 62 314. For the number of unfilled vacancies requiring semi-skilled workers from the 70 000 seeking jobs, there were less than 5000 jobs available. Similarly, in the unskilled manual category for the 62 000 people seeking work there were slightly over 1000 jobs available. I submit that there is not enough analysis done on the nature of unemployment in Australia. It is easy to say that the Labor Government started it all. I bring to the memory of people that the Labor Government won the election in December 1972 because members of the public in Australia thought at that time that unemployment was higher than it ought to be. Unemployment had reached over 100 000. What has happened since that time- this happened under our Government and it has continued under the present Government- is that the total number of unemployed has continued to rise. Government supporters claim that the Government is doing something to reduce inflation. If inflation is reducing and unemployment is still rising I think it throws a little bit of suspicion on the thesis that inflation is the main cause of unemployment. I submit that it is time that we looked a little more closely at these tilings.
Part of the thesis of the Budget, it seems to me, is that the Treasurer is looking for a lift in consumption. The main bulk of consuming units in Australia are the families with a male breadwinner and the families where the wage is the source of consumption expenditure. At least there is some kind of a dilemma between wanting the rate at which wages increase to lessen and at the same time wanting consumer expenditure to rise. I think what is curiously mixed up in this thesis is that somehow the Government is looking for the lift in consumer expenditure not to come out of wages but to come out of savings. I must say that I am a little intrigued by the fact that this year in the Treasury estimates there is no provision for what used to be called in other years the ‘national savings campaign’. It is cut out altogether. Apparently it has been so successful that instead of teaching thrift we now have to encourage people to be spendthrifts. Apparently the Government is saying to the people: ‘The money that we wanted you to save, we now want youtodis-save’.
With all respect to the Treasurer and to the Government, I think there needs to be much more examination in Australia about this item which is rather intriguingly called ‘Saving’. One of the very important documents published each year with the Budget is headed National Income and Expenditure 1975-76. Table 3 in that document shows that the total saving by the Australian community for the period ended June 1976 was $ 10,971m. One can see from Table 5, headed the National Capital Account, where the main sources of this saving are set out, that the biggest single item- something like threequarters of the total- is an amount of $7,546m under the heading ‘Household saving’. That is a very substantial sum. In looking at the description of how the item ‘Saving’ is made up, much of it, I am sure, is not what people would like to regard as ‘Saving’. If the mortgage payment goes up, according to the statistics so does ‘Saving’ go up. In my view it is a rather peculiar definition of Saving’, particularly if it is in this area that the Treasurer is looking for a boost in consumer expenditure. If the mortgage payment goes up I suggest there is less left over for the consumer to spend. I think it is about time that we did a bit more study in this country of this vast item Saving’.
I believe that the patterns of expenditure change and that they will continue to change, that people do not save because they are frightened that tomorrow they are not going to have a job. That is quite often said, but candidly I do not believe it to be the explanation in Australia. Savings have increased in Australia over the years. They grew quite spectacularly in the first 2 years of the Labor Government when the levels of unemployment were not as high as they are now. Savings rose because increasingly people get long service leave and can have anything up to 3 months to 6 months holiday. Increasingly they go on caravanning journeys within Australia or take trips overseas and so on, and of course they have to build up their savings to meet the cost involved. I think the old consumption patterns are changing, that less is expended on the sorts of consumptions that perhaps were popular 10 years ago and that new forms of consumption spending are coming in. I think it is about time that we did a little more analysis of the sons of statistics that do exist, rather than quibble about the ones that we do not have and ultimately whose responsibility it is. I happen to be one of the people who are defenders of the Treasury. I was with Treasury for quite a while. I was an admirer of its capacities and I certainly do not knock it here today, but I think often too much is expected of it, and too little real thinking comes from people like ourselves who, after all, are the ones who are chosen by the people of Australia to solve these great problems.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It has been most interesting to hear the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) talking on inflation, unemployment, the role of the Treasury and the incapacity to determine what is ‘saving’ and what is not. I am reminded- I hope I have the wording right- of a statement by the honourable member some years ago in which he said that an increase in one man’s wage was costing another man his job. I think if we care to look at that a little further we would be looking perhaps at what inflation and unemployment are all about and how they are connected. But I do agree with the honourable member very strongly that much more time should be given to an analysis of the unemployment figures. I think for years now we have had to look at the unemployment figures completely in the blind. We do not know really who is unemployed. I am sure we all have studied our local figures and the national figures, but it is very hard to determine what the situation is. The only hope I have is that I am pleased to be able to say that in my own area of Sydney the unemployment figure has dropped drastically since we came into office last December.
– A credit to you.
– My friend interjects and says that it is a credit to me. I wish that were the case. There are problems. The whole point of the amendment which has been brought in today by the Opposition is a total and complete farce. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) wants to reduce the proposed expenditure for the Treasury by $10. What does he want to reduce? Does he want the $8,265,300 reimbursement to Government departments and payments to agents for statistical services reduced by $10? Obviously not, because he now wants the Australian Bureau of Statistics to have more money. Does he want the proposed appropriation for Treasury salaries reduced by $10? Does he want overtime reduced? Does he want the proposed appropriation for computer services reduced? No, he does not. He does not say why he wants the proposed appropriation reduced. He wants it reduced yet he goes on to talk about increasing the amount of money the Commonwealth should be appropriating under every other item relating to the Commonwealth Statistician.
Let me deal with what has really happened with the Bureau of Statistics. In respect of the appropriation for postages, telegram and telephone services, although no increase in the rates were announced in the Budget- not one increase- the proposed estimate for the Bureau of Statistics for these items has been increased by 14.8 per cent or something like $300,000. The proposed appropriation for computer services within the Bureau of Statistics has increased by something like $900,000. There is a 42 per cent increase in this year’s Budget for the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Yet the shadow Treasurer has moved this amendment. I am sure that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who is sitting at the table, would not agree with what the honourable member for Adelaide is saying because he has too great a knowledge of statistics. But imagine saying that the appropriation for the Australian Bureau of Statistics is inadequate. There is a 42 per cent increase in the appropriation for services. There is a 15 per cent increase in the appropriation for other services including the collection of data. Also, there are the other ordinary increases in allocations. I think that the whole thrust of this amendment is total and complete stupidity. It is nonsense and represents an insult to this House.
However, there are areas in which the Statistician should be improving his position. Although I would not go quite so far as my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) went in his statement on the Budget the other day, I believe that all governments suffer through a lack of current statistics from the Bureau. I hope that the new Statistician, Mr Cole, will be spending some of this large increase in funds in assessing new ways of collecting data. I believe that one of the areas to which the staff of the Bureau could very usefully direct their minds and efforts would be to the use of sampling techniques in the collection of current economic data. Surely, there is no other area in which staleness is so expensive than in the collection of economic data to study the current trends and to make forecasts for economic policy. My remarks in this respect apply to both sides of the chamber. I hope that we will see a movement in the office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics towards the greater use of computers. As I have said, with a 42 per cent increase in the appropriation for computer services, I hope that we will see a greater use of the sampling techniques.
I would mention to the Committee by way of aside that I was involved in the creation of the Bank of New South Wales and Associated
Chamber of Manufactures business survey some ten or fifteen years ago. This proved to be a most useful tool for all assessors of economic affairs. I hope that the Australian Government Statistician will start moving more into this area of activity instead of just the mere collection of data. Anyone connected with the collection of data realises that it is not the statistician who is at fault; it is the people who supply the information. The time involved in collecting data is of necessity time consuming. When that data has to be collected from throughout Australia, difficulties arise. My hope is that the increase of 14.8 per cent in the item for postage, telegrams and telephone services will be directed towards achieving greater speed in the collection of data and, as I have said, moving into new areas of activity.
I think it is interesting to note also that in the appropriation for the Department of the Treasury which involves an increased appropriation of some $48m over last year, some $22m of that amount relates to increases in salaries and allowances. Thus, I have difficulty in accepting the comments of the previous speaker that inflation is not affecting employment. Although there has been no increase in staff for this Department, we have a $22m increase in the item for salaries and allowances. Surely some sanity has to be brought into the whole field of wages, salaries and allowances.
I would like to use the last few moments of this short speech to reiterate what I said in my Budget speech. I ask the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to consider strongly changing the interest rate imposed on the statutory reserve deposits held on behalf of the trading banks. I mentioned it then and I mention it again briefly today. The interest rate has been .75 per cent since 1941. It was related then to the level of the Treasury bill rate and to the controlling of profits by the trading banks in Australia. I believe that that interest rate is now enshrined in some archaic attitude held by the Reserve Bank of Australia as something that cannot be changed. I think that we have had enough of this traditional nonmovement of enshrined ideas. I am pleased to see that I am entertaining the honourable member for Mackellar.
– An honest tribute.
– It is a very honest tribute. However, I hope that the Treasurer will confer not only with the Reserve Bank but also that he will take the trouble to talk with the trading banks as well to see what effect action in this area will have on all interest rates. It may be decided that a more viable interest rate could be paid on funds held on statutory reserve deposit. I believe that if this were done, it could provide the start that the Government is seeking in respect of a downward movement of interest rates. There can be no doubting that if changes were made in this interest rate we could see a greater downward mobility by the trading banks m all their lending rates to the community. I commend to the Treasurer that he takes urgent action on this matter because it is important. It would provide the opportunity to start reducing interest rates all round. In conclusion, I say that I reject completely the amendment put forward by the honourable member for Adelaide. It is a total exercise in farce and futility.
-In the popularity stakes it would be safe to say that the Department of the Treasury would finish a bad last. The Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration makes mention of this in its report. For example, it is stated in chapter 11.3.12:
It would be surprising if Treasury were a popular department. The task of drawing attention to the reality of constraints on what ministers, departments, parliamentarians and groups and individuals in the community would like to do or have done is not one which easily wins friends for those who perform it. Too much therefore should not be made of the frequency with which criticism of Treasury and its procedures recurred in statements made to the Commission.
That is a left handed compliment. The report of the Royal Commission goes on to state further in chapter 11.3.13:
However, some criticisms go much deeper and are directed at the whole style and authority of Treasury. In brief they express the belief that Treasury is too privileged, too powerful, and too prone to substitute its own judgments, its own values and its own priorities for those of other departments, ministers and the government itself.
The report continues further with quite heavy criticism of Treasury and its officers. I have had the experience of being Minister assisting the Treasurer for 3 years during the reign of the Labor Government. I have heard all the criticisms about the Treasurer and the Treasury that have been ever been written or stated. I agree with some of them. But mostly, those criticisms that I do agree with are exaggerated. I have found most of the officers in Treasury to be capable, efficient and hard working and very pleasant company. I admit that some of them approached every request with a mind made up- do not confuse me with facts attitude. Others thought that the nature of the beast of being an officer in Treasury was to play the part of the abominable no-man. What I found over the 3 years in which I assisted the Treasurer was that if a department had prepared its case well and was prepared to argue it strongly, the Treasury officials were prepared to compromise. I found the same thing with the Treasurer in Cabinet discussions.
It seems to me that there is one person in Treasury who is singled out for major criticism. I mention this man only because he is the one who is singled out. Other officers in Treasury have come in for a great deal of criticism, but the one who most of us have heard criticised is the Deputy Secretary, John Stone. I found him a most efficient officer; I found him an exceedingly hard worker; I found him strong-willed and determined; on occasions I found nun abrasive; but above all, I found him to be a man of opinion. He would express it and was always prepared to make a recommendation. I merely say that some of the critics of John Stone and other officers of the Treasury have never made and never will make a decision in the whole of their lives. I make these remarks because public servants generally do not have the right to defend themselves. I know that people in the Public Service could defend themselves much more efficiently and effectively than I have done in the case of John Stone. I place on record my pleasure and appreciation for the opportunity of working with the officers in Treasury.
In the 3 Budgets I helped to frame while the Labor Government was in office, I was never satisfied with the procedures adopted either in the making up of the Estimates or in the formation of the Budget when it eventually came to Cabinet. Amongst other things, I found- these are only some of the criticisms I make- that there was too much haste in the preparation of the Estimates. The departments did not start producing anything to Treasury until March or even later. There was too much hit or miss in the departmental estimates. There was an overlapping of departmental activity. Pet policies quite often overrode priorities. The longer established and numerically stronger departments seemed to have an ‘in ‘-some permanent heads having far greater influence than others in comparison with the importance of their department The ongoing expenditure of the policies being produced by the Minister and supported by the department was rarely taken into consideration to the extent necessary. Government priorities were not known to people in the Ministry or to decisionmakers in the Public Service. I am suggesting that the Budget Estimates and Budget formation must be very much improved. For that reason, I recommend as compulsory reading for all Ministers, departmental heads and senior public servants, chapter 3 and chapter 1 1 of the report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. I do not suggest that this report has the right recommendations, but I suggest that chapter 3 and chapter 1 1 at least demand immediate consideration by the officers and the Ministers in government at the moment. I feel that it is a pity that the Labor Government did not have this report before it prior to the whole 3 of its Budgets. Chapter 3 is headed ‘The Efficient Use of Resources’. Chapter 11 is headed ‘Co-ordination and Control’. One recommendation in chapter 1 1 is that of giving independence to the Bureau of Statistics. This recommendation also forms part of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) on behalf of the Opposition. Until such time as governments know how much they are going to spend, in which direction they are going to spend, I do not think we can expect the Treasurer or Treasury to be able to manage the finances of the country as well as they should be managed.
I conclude with a quote again from the Royal Commission report which is directed at Treasury because I feel that it is the linen-pin between ail the departments and all the Ministers. Paragraph 11.3.14 states:
The Treasury has much to gain if it can, by involving other ministers and their departmental advisers, achieve a wider sharing of responsibility and a weakening of the adversary relationship which frequently exists between them.
– I rise to speak in the estimates for the Department of the Treasury on the subject of natural disasters and the relief that is available to assist with natural disasters. I wish to make specific reference to the area of drought that is so prevalent in so much of southern Australia. In my electorate of Hume, in virtually all of the electorate of the Riverina, in much of Farrer and Darling in New South Wales, through most of the areas of Victoria and, as the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) would know, in South Australia, there is a continuing and serious situation as a result of the failure of the rain. In my part of New South Wales there has been no significant rain since early this year. There was no rain to speak of in the autumn. A little spring rain has come in the last couple of weeks. Those honourable members who know about the country and understand the cycles that operate in that part of Australia will understand that even a couple of inches of rain in the spring does not solve the problem if people have been undergoing a drought for a period of 6 or 8 months.
I think it is a point of some satisfaction that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in particular are all men who have had experience on the land and who do understand the problems that are faced by people in these circumstances when drought is causing them so much of a problem. I think the Federal Government is doing what it can to react to the circumstance which exists. I for one am very grateful for the fact that the Government has been so prepared to commit itself to the support of people who are affected by these conditions.
For the benefit of those who do not understand from first-hand knowledge and experience what drought means, I think it is worth expanding on this a little. A period of drought is a very depressing situation and one which people ought to understand better. This drought is exacerbated by the fact that prices are also low and that markets are not easy. It is further exacerbated by the fact that whereas in previous years those who were affected by the drought might be able to take a job in the local town, now find they are unable to do so because of the employment prospects that exist, particularly in country areas. But it is a very soul-destroying exercise to own or to operate a farm or a property and to go on week after week after week right through the autumn, right through the winter and into the spring in the knowledge that there has been no rain and having no idea of when that rain will come. All during this time one has to make decisions as to whether crops will or will not be planted, whether stock will be fed, or whether they will be sold or allowed to die. I think most of us have seen some of the television coverage that has been given to the very sad business of having to destroy stock for humanitarian reasons.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! I do not want to inhibit the honourable member but I would remind him that the appropriation before the House relates to the Department of the Treasury. I should like him to relate his remarks to that Department.
-With respect, Mr Deputy Chairman, I think the Treasurer is responsible for payments under natural disaster arrangements and I am speaking about that. The effect of drought is something which is not easily or quickly recovered from. It may be well into 1977 before there is recovery from the damage which has been done to pasture and stock, even if we are fortunate enough to get good solid, lasting and soaking rains immediately. However, if we are to believe the meteorologists that is not on the cards. That is the serious position which faces so many people in southern New South Wales at this time.
My colleague the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) organised a meeting in Deniliquin on Monday of this week. The Minister for Primary Industry attended that meeting. A couple of hundred people from southern New South Wales and northern Victoria came to Deniliquin to put their views to the Minister for Primary Industry, to relate their problems to him at first hand and to see what the Government was prepared to do about the position. I think it is of great credit to the honourable member for Riverina that he was able to organise such a meeting, and I am pleased that the Minister for Primary Industry was able to attend it. I believe that the Commonwealth is doing its bit in the area of drought relief. The Commonwealth is faced with a complicated position in this area because of the traditional arrangements which operate with State governments in the field of natural disasters.
Most honourable members would know that the arrangement with the New South Wales Government is that that Government has to spend $5m from its own resources and that after that sum has been expended the Commonwealth Government picks up the tab for any further expenditure that may be incurred under the natural disasters scheme in a 12-months period. The difficulty that we are experiencing in New South Wales is that that State Government is not prepared to make a commitment. It is not prepared to acknowledge the fact that this drought which has continued virtually for all of this year is serious. It is not prepared to acknowledge the fact that every day producers are going out of business. It is not prepared to acknowledge the fact that a great deal more needs to be done to assist these people who are so tragically affected by the drought.
The Commonwealth has made several offers to New South Wales and to the other States. It has offered to pay compensation of $10 a head for livestock that are killed. Also it has offered to pay $1 a head to local government authorities for disposing of the carcasses. I think that, marginally to its credit, the New South Wales Government appears to have accepted that offer. The Commonwealth Government also has offered to provide low interest loans to enable drought affected producers to carry on. The New South Wales Government has not taken up this offer. If there is one thing that must be understood in regard to this question of drought and of natural disaster payments it is that the New
South Wales Government must be prepared to accept its responsibilities, to acknowledge the fact that a problem exists in this part of Australia and to make a commitment up to an amount of $Sm which it is required to do under the arrangements. If the New South Wales Government does not want to do that, it can accept the offer which was made by the Prime Minister only a week or two ago under which the Commonwealth Government would provide assistance under the national disasters scheme on the basis of $1 for every $1 spent by the State governments, with the Commonwealth contributing as soon as the first $1 of assistance is provided. Of course, that is a matter which has to be determined by the States in line with their own priorities.
The producers in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia who are so stricken by drought cannot continue in their present position where they are being totally ignored by the State governments and are being subject to politicking backwards and forwards between Sydney and Canberra in an endeavour to satisfy the whims of the individual State governments. Something must be done about this matter. I believe the Commonwealth is accepting the challenge. It is up to the States to do the same.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I rise to speak on these estimates, to support the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and to refer to what I believe to be the essence of the difficulties that parliamentarians, Ministers in particular, and governments specifically encounter when dealing with Treasury. I support the comments made yesterday by the honourable member for Adelaide when he referred to the need to broaden the responsibility for economic decision making in Australia. With all due respect to the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) who spoke so glowingly of John Stone, I believe that not all previous Ministers who have dealt with the people in Treasury would share the same opinion of Treasury. In fact, some Ministers would have shuddered at the mention of the name ‘Treasury’. Other Ministers had made up their minds to oppose anything put up by Treasury, so low was their opinion of that Department.
One of the difficulties that we encounter is that sooner or later the line taken by Treasury is easily identified. For instance, Treasury has bitterly opposed indexation. It has never wanted indexation. It opposed the introduction of indexation on the basis that it would lock in inflation at the rate obtaining at the time of its introduction. That may be an argument. It is an argument that was rejected by the Labor Government at the time when indexation was introduced, but it seems to be gaining support among members of the present Government. It seems to me that there is a missing link between Treasury and the Ministry, and Cabinet in particular, in reaching decisions on matters such as indexation. If the advice of Treasury were accepted on the question of indexation the breakdown in indexation would thrust upon Australia great conflict in industrial relations and perhaps would have a far greater impact on consumer demand than Treasury readily recognises or is prepared to accept.
It seems to me that some advice should be obtained other than the narrow advice that Treasury gives to the Government. I speak not only of indexation. There is also the question of Medibank. The new Mark II Medibank, as the Government now likes to call it, is about to be introduced into Australia. I have no first hand knowledge of this matter, but I would have thought that Treasury would have taken the position that we had to offset the cost of health care in Australia. The primary target for Treasury then is to raise funds. The mechanism by which that is done becomes a problem for the Government. We have seen demonstrated in the Parliament today, in answers to questions asked of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) by honourable members on his own side of the Parliament, the fact that the Government is still not clear on how people will be affected by Medibank when it is introduced tomorrow week. Honourable members who are not prepared to admit that constituents have been coming to see them, as late as today in the case of some honourable members, seeking information about what they should or should not do on Medibank perhaps are not attending their electorate offices. This is a problem that I do not think Treasury can understand.
This matter probably raises the very real question whether the national Parliament should have been established in Canberra, so far away from the real life. Perhaps we would not be guilty of all the charges about centralism that are made against us if the national Parliament had been established in one of our great cities of Melbourne or Sydney. But be that as it may, it seems to me that there is a missing link between Treasury and the Government. Treasury is the most important Department and it ought to be respected as such. But there is always a great deal of bitterness, not only between Ministers and Treasury but also between many back-benchers and Treasury, concerning the way in which governments readily accept Treasury advice. In regard to the question of indexation there can be no doubt that the advice which has been coming from Treasury to the Government and which is being accepted by the Government is proving to be a disaster because there is no economic miracle on the horizon. All the talk about what will occur as a result of the moves that have been taken by the Government, acting on the advice of Treasury, is not bearing up. An article on consumer demands in today’s Australian Financial Review exposes what the Government is saying.
Another important issue in regard to what may be called the missing link between Treasury and the Government is the report the day before yesterday on the shipbuilding industry. I should expect the Treasury to take the economic position that it is not in the best interests of Australia to continue to build ships when it is costing so much money- I emphasise the words ‘costing so much money’- for Australia to do so. If it was not costing Australia anything- if we could compete fairly and squarely with all the low labour cost nations overseas- the Treasury probably would be quite happy with the shipbuilding industry in Australia. But as it is delving into some of the Treasury’s reserves it takes the stand that it is not correct to continue with what it determines as being an inefficient and costly industry.
But who else is on hand when such determinations are made? Is there an adjunct to the Treasury which tells it about the social scar involved in closing down the shipbuilding industry? Who is on hand? It may even be just the person who wrote the last pamphlet of the Liberal Party of Australia on defence, who considered the shipbuilding industry to be so important to Australia. Where is the additional advice that ought to come with Treasury advice on such important matters? How do we fill the vacuum that comes about with the straight out economic advice that comes from Treasury to government, whether it be a conservative government or a Labor government? I think that if honourable members think of those matters they will have to agree that the initiative taken by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) is a correct and proper way of getting a debate on this matter of the way in which governments submit themselves to the Treasury.
In the case of the shipbuilding industry, for instance, it is no mean feat for any politician- be he a supporter of the Government or a member of the Opposition- to have to do as has to be done by my colleague the honourable member for Grey, Mr Walks, whose electorate encompasses Whyalla, that is, attend a meeting tomorrow night and announce that the Government looks to be hell bent on putting 26 per cent of the work force in Whyalla out of work. According to the Industries Assistance Commission and separate from the advice that may have come from the Treasury, there is very little likelihood of any of the 2500 people involved finding work in Whyalla. The only other manufacturing industry in Whyalla is basically an unskilled industry. The shipbuilding industry is basically a skilled industry. So we are talking about the shifting of 2500 or 2600 men and women and their families from the industry in Whyalla to another area where we hope that they can find jobs. We all know now if we are honest with ourselves that there are no jobs available for those people in Australia at the present moment.
Those who have read the most recent World News report- an American magazine that has just arrived in the Parliamentary Library- can see the difference between what the Americans are doing on this score and what we are doing. The Department of Commerce in the United States is paying a subsidy of 49.6 per cent of the total cost in relation to the latest contract let for the building of two 27 000-ton ships in America. A subsidy of something like $US78m is involved. The Americans are not going to allow their shipbuilding industry to be dismantled. Of course, if it were just a matter for the American Treasury perhaps a different line would have been taken. The mechanisms of other governments that are adopting different attitudes from the attitude adopted by our Government seem to imply that there are different infrastructures between government decision making and direct economic advice that would be of benefit to this country. It certainly would provoke far greater debate, perhaps far greater debate of a more educational nature. So my contribution to the debate on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury is one of support for the broadening of the economic advice, taking into account the social consequences of that advice. I also think that if that sort of advice were made known it would mean that we would have a more compatible relationship between parliamentarians, the Ministry, the Parliament, and the Department of the Treasury.
-There is nothing more craven or cowardly than for a member of the Opposition who finds that things are not going satisfactorily to stand in this House and blame the Treasury, especially when the Party of which that honourable member is a member accepted the advice of the Treasury when that Party was in power and had the authority to govern. It is the members of this chamber who ultimately take responsibility for policy decisions and not the Public Service. I very sincerely draw a distinction between the attitude of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the attitude of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). The honourable member for Mackellar has stated his position openly and publicly and has not sought to find fault for its own sake. He has put forward propositions. There is a distinction between the craven and cowardly propositions that have come from the Opposition this afternoon and the propositions that have come from the Government.
It was said by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer that that portfolio can be one of two things: It can be either dull or dangerous. During the years in which honourable members opposite were in government they certainly indicated that it was not dull. They struck fear into the heart and they stuck a skewer into the body of every Australian as far as the economic welfare of this nation is concerned. We are still recovering from those darts and from the maladministration that occurred during that period of time. I will take one or two moments to rid ourselves of one of the propositions put forward by the Opposition. It has been fondly asserted over and over again that the Government says that inflation is the cause of everything that is occurring, that inflation is the only cause. The Government has never said that. That would be a stupid and silly statement to make. It is like the story about why the cat killed the canary. The cat killed the canary for a whole host of reasons. The cat got into the room with the canary. The cat was hungry. The canary could not hop around quickly enough. The cat was given its first pail of milk to invite it into its home. So the canary was killed for a whole host of reasons which came together and resulted in its demise. There was a concatenation of events.
So it is with the economy. There has been a whole concatenation of events and those events are events which occurred during the past 3 years. What the Government says- it is a piece of sound, commonsense thinking- is that inflation has been the principal cause but not the only cause. It accompanies a number of other causes. I want to spend one or two minutes this afternoonthat is basically all one has in which to speak in these debates- on having a look at what is called structural employment and structural unemployment. It is quite clear that the nature of the Australian work force altered in a crisis way during the past 3 years. In crises the nature of the work force always changes. It changed more during the last 3 years than at any time in Australia ‘s history, even including in many ways the Depression and even including the period from 1944-1946- the period at the end of the last war and the beginning of the reign of peace. The crises, the structural imbalances, the distortions that occurred in the Australian work forceunemployment is a function of that- are greater than those that occurred in the transition from war to peace at the end of World War II. I am not going to take the opportunity to scarify the Commonwealth Statistician. I intend simply to refer to some of the data which the Statistician publishes. That data makes it quite clear that the seeds of those difficulties with respect to unemployment today were sown between 1972 and 1975. The question to be asked by a country that is concerned with unemployment is an important one. It is: To what extent is that unemployment due to structural faults or, in the more precise language of these days, to what extent is an increase in demand for labour in Australia sticky with respect to demand or to what extent will an increase in demand continue to reflect itself in increased productivity instead of an increase in demand for labour? They are the questions that have to be answered. The germ of the answers to those questions can be found in the crisis that developed in the Australian work force during the past 3 years.
So I ask this question, which I believe to be an important question to ask: What is structural unemployment? That is what we are dealing with. It is simply unemployment which occurs when the work force experiences an inability to respond to an increase in the gross domestic product or to an increase in total production within the Australian community. There is another kind of structural unemployment which occurs when labour cannot be satisfied because of its unavailability. That is the structural unemployment that occurred in Europe after World War II. Because Germany and other countries in Europe were able to overcome this second type of difficulty quite early they were able to get their economic development under way quite quickly. It is obvious on the most rudimentary analysis that there are severe structural problems in
Australia which have developed during the last 3 years. Nobody with any common sense looking at an historic development or a trend development can draw a line across the page and say: ‘There is 13 December 1975. Everything that occurred before then we will forget. It is in the
East. It has had no effect on the events which ave occurred subsequent to 13 December’. That would be a stupid proposition; yet that is the unstated assumption of what the Opposition has been saying over and over again this afternoon.
Let me look at what that crisis situation is that developed in the nature of the Australian work force. It is the allocation of workers in the work force that determines its capacity to generate full employment. I refer to a very excellent work by Dr Keating based upon public data published by the much maligned Australian Statistician. From inormation on the work force between 1910 and 1961 and further data on the period after 1961 the position is quite obvious. In the period of the great depression from 1929 to 1931 the decline in the total manufacturing work force was 90 000. In the transition period subsequent to World War II, from 1944 to 1946, the decline in the manufacturing work force- it is a very important part of the total work force- was only 35 000. During the last 18 months, a period during which the Australian Labor Party was in power, the decline in the manufacturing work force was nearly 3 times that which occurred during the transition at the end of World War II. It was an absolute decline of 100,000. So a very severe structural imbalance developed in the work force which the country is still trying to get out of. I demonstrate it in one other way.
– Where did they go?
– They went on the dole. The Labor Government was the one that put them on the dole. Let me illustrate what I am saying. A misallocation of resources is reflected ultimately in unemployment. During the 18 months before the present Government came to power, of all the sections of private enterprise only one expanded its capacity to create employment. I refer to the Statistician’s bulletin No. 6.12. The only private enterprise sector that expanded during the last 18 months or so of the Labor Government was that sector engaged in hotels, amusements, personal services and so on. Every other production sector of the community declined. That is an illustration of the structural difficulties with which the Labor Government left the present Government. It would be foolish in the extreme to fail to acknowldge that position. There are signs that those misallocations which are reflected in the work force have been altered. The distorted growth, for example, in terms of hotels and amusements has altered. The decline in the work force has stopped. It has plateaued. and I hope that we move quickly to a very quick rise. At least the work force has ceased decreasing.
So during the period ahead one would like there to be a quicker demand for labour than is being demonstrated now, but I hope it is remembered that because of tariff distortions and inflation distortions there has been a basic misallocation of resources which has made it difficult to generate full employment again. Let it be quite clear that unless the production and service sectors of the work force came into balance it would be impossible to gain full employment again. The Labor Government left us with the position in which it was quite clear from both the nature of the work force and the nature of the economy which that work force reflected that full employment just could not have been a possibility under Labor’s own administration.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) simply to thank those who took part in this debate. I have no comments to make about the first part of the Opposition amendment. There has been plenty of opportunity to debate the Budget. The facts of life are that the Australian Labor Party in office had an opportunity of steering the Australian economy. The result is on record. The nation has had an opportunity to decide its attitude to that record. The Liberal and National Country Parties now have an opportunity. The Budget strategy is fixed and we are determined that it will proceed. We will be more than happy for the people to be the judge of our stewardship of the economy at the appropriate time.
I take the opportunity to say one or two words about the Australian Bureau of Statistics because it is not very often that the Bureau is the matter of substantial comment as it was today. I am a bit surprised by that section of the amendment dealing with the Bureau, because if I remember correctly it was the Labor Government that established the Bureau as a statutory authority. That having been done, I am not aware that there was any follow through process. Indeed, it was left to the present Government to take the initiative and to proclaim the legislation relating to the Bureau. Of course, the responsibilities of the Australian
Statistician are prescribed in the legislation. The Crisp committee set up by the Labor Administration to investigate the role of the Bureau reported in April 1974 that the Bureau should remain responsible to the Treasurer. The assertion that the Treasurer is compromising the independence of the Statistician is not backed by fact. The matter of expenditure restraints was raised by one or two speakers. The Bureau was treated like all other government instrumentalities and departments. There is no evidence that the Government is not giving appropriate recognition to the need for statistics. The Crisp committee recommended major re-equipment programs for the Bureau. Again for reasons best known to the Labor Administration these were not implemented; but there has been a positive decision by this Government. I therefore hope that we all give the Bureau the support it deserves. It has a tremendously significant role to play in assisting us in steering the economy. I believe it is discharging its responsibilities properly, effectively and efficiently.
May I tell all honourable members that their comments, claims and assertions will be studied closely by the Treasurer and the Treasury. Any valuable comments will be used. Any assertions or criticisms that are not backed by fact of course quite properly will be disregarded.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Debate resumed from 25 August, on motion by Mr Hunt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-In this debate I am standing in for the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who should be here, but who for reasons of which honourable members are all aware- a rather tragic incident- is unable to be here. It is unfortunate because this legislation deals with the commission established by him when he was a Minister in the last Labor Government. The Opposition of course is not opposing this legislation. In government we indicated that we were intending to abolish the Social Welfare Commission. The present Government is simply fulfilling our intentions in that field. I think it is proper at this stage to recall some of the points about the Commission, particularly the reasons why it was set up. It was set up in 1973 as an experiment, if you like, because we were not aware of a similar organisation having been set up anywhere else. One of the many reasons, and I shall not canvass them all, which prompted the Labor Government to establish the Commission was that we felt that for far too long the community’s attitude to social welfare had been determined in large measure by politicians and bureaucrats, prompted perhaps by pressures arising for support or assistance for a particular group in the community which was perceived to be suffering some severe disadvantage. But rarely, if ever, do we seek the opinions or advice of the community itself. Advances in social welfare usually arise because during election campaigns politicians decide that it might be a good thing for the purpose of winning votes to make this, that or the other promise in terms of social welfare. I cannot complain too much about that because perhaps I, as much as many other members, am in this place due to the social welfare promises made over many years by the Labor Party. But I still do not have to accept it as the best or ideal way to ascertain what are the real social welfare requirements of the community.
It was for that reason that Labor established the Commission. Its purpose was to look more closely at the whole network of social welfare in the country, a network which, if I might continue the image, had a hell of a lot of holes which allowed a lot of people who were in real need to fall through and not be supported in the way a modern community such as ours should support people like that. The Commission was allowed a lot of independence. We did not calculate it in this way when we set it up, but it was soon perceived that in the course of its investigations the Commission appeared to intrude on many other areas. It rubbed a lot of government departments at both Federal and State level the wrong way and it rubbed a lot of local government bodies the wrong way because it intruded into areas which until then had been considered the property of particular departments at whatever level of government one likes to look. That is terribly easy to do. When a government, and then a department on the direction of the government, establishes some form of social welfare support, no one in the bureaucracy or even the politicians in the Government likes to acknowledge that there may be deficiencies. One tends to turn a blind eye to inadequacies. One tends to talk as fulsomely as one can about the positive achievements. That is fair enough, but it often proves to be insensitive to the needs of many people who slip through, who are not in fact caught in the protective device that was the point of the exercise of setting up the particular welfare service in the first place.
Another facet of the Commission’s activity in the process of trying to better understand the social welfare needs of ordinary members of the community, apart from the pressures of politics, was to get more local community involvement, to seek the active co-operation of the various voluntary welfare agencies which are set up by concerned citizens because they recognise that governments are not looking after a particular area. Far too often, if something is being done in that area, it is too easy for politicians and the bureaucrats advising them to say: ‘It is being dealt with by some nice social welfare group, religious organisation, or what you will. Keep out of it. It will only cost you money if you stick your nose into it. Leave it for charity and these well-intentioned members of the community.’ But that is imposing a burden both on the charity workers, who have to get the money from somewhere and who usually bleed themselves financially, and others who are actively engaged in terms of their active participation and effort. They contribute more than their fair share in trying to provide for the deficiencies they perceive which ought to be the responsibility of the community as a whole.
I suppose that the fundamental point the Labor Party perceived, and I like to think accepted, was that social welfare is not a privilege. Welfare services provided to the underprivileged members of a community are not a form of charity. In a modern society such as we like to pride ourselves to have, those things should be rights that people are entitled to have simply because they are members of the community. By and large, people do not choose to be failures. There may be lots of reasons why they fail to succeed in maintaining themselves physically or socially, lots of reasons why they are unable to get jobs or suffer because of personality problems and goodness knows what. I do not want to stand in judgment. Sadly, using those words often implies a judgment I am not trying to impose even that much of a judgment. The fact is that there are large numbers of people in the community who for a variety of reasons are unable to look after themselves. They have not always been like that and there is no law which says that they must stay like that. They may need some help and, given the appropriate help, they could subsequently make a valuable and positive contribution to society and be again the sort of people that they might have been in the past.
For those reasons we adhered very firmly to the view that these services should be provided and that the Commission should look into these areas to see whether more positive and constructive help could be offered. The Labor Government was doing all this not because it wanted to be generous and look good and be kind to those who were unfortunate but because we perceived it as being the right of those people. When we do have unfortunate members of the community who are unable to sustain themselves- and the Social Welfare Commission investigated a whole range of things- we are all the poorer for their suffering and misery. They are not the only ones who suffer. Ultimately we have to pay also. So Labor established the Australian Assistance Plan, which I sometimes mix up with another of our endeavours to improve living conditions for various people- the Area Improvement Program. The Australian Assistance Plan was positively geared towards drawing in interested sections of the community to give the Government an indication of what those people perceived to be the needs in various areas and then providing the funds to enable them to do the job. It was, in a way, taking power away from the central government. Despite all the accusations levelled at Labor that it was an over-centralist government while it was in power, the truth is that we attempted to get away from that. We were seeking to decentralise power.
We were seeking to involve more people at the local level even more intimately than the local government involved them because local government in many parts of Australia often is very remote from ordinary people. There is too much cynicism and disinterest. We were seeking to set up organisations in which everyone could participate. Ironically, although the Liberal Opposition often accused us of wasting money, it is significant that in those local groups Liberal Party supporters often were actively involved in presenting their point of view on the needs of the local community. Often they were people who, quite apart from moves made by the Government, were actively engaged in helping the voluntary social welfare groups in their local areas. So the actions of the Labor Government positively helped even its political enemies to better express their views on how we might better cater for the social needs of the community.
Inevitably, because of the nature of its actions, the Social Welfare Commission was going to come into conflict with the bureaucracy at all levels and whatever political persuasion. That is sad, because we all get proprietary rights, irrespective of our political tag, and we resent criticism. I have mentioned before that, unfortunately, the Commission met with a lot of criticism from all sides. Yet with the abolition of the Commission and the dropping of the Australian Assistance Plan the community on all sides has risen up and shown its deep concern, its appreciation for what we were doing, perhaps in a very inadequate way. We made lots of mistakes, but you do not make mistakes if you do nothing. You make mistakes only when you are trying to do something, particularly if it is something new. That is what we were trying to do. So the mistakes were inevitable. There was no shame attached to our failures, because overall what we did was a success because of the mere fact that so many people were involved. Even the Liberal Government has conceded that the system ought to be maintained, albeit under the direct responsibility of the States, because of its federalism policy. It has not been prepared to say that it was a total waste of time. Sadly I fear that the practical outcome of the Government’s step will be to destroy the whole system.
We support the Bill because the legislation was doing what we had foreseen or indicated that we would do. But in no way do we want to imply that the effort was not worth while or that the scheme was a failure. It taught us a lot of lessons. Many of the initiatives which were started must be pursued even by this Government. The matter must not be left just to the States, because the time has come when we must acknowledge that everybody is responsible to everybody else. We are all responsible for the unfortunate members of society, and it is no good leaving their care to charity. We must, if needs be, legislate to cater for all citizens of this country.
-In joining in this debate I want, first of all, to take up one point that was made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). He mentioned that social welfare benefits in this country were the rights of certain people. The question that I think that any government has to ask itself is just how far we go with these rights. I would agree with the honourable member’s comment that in an affluent society we do have a responsibility to look after the disadvantaged, the aged, the sick and the underprivileged. I think it is also incumbent on any society, regardless of whether it is affluent or not, to sharpen up in the provision of its social welfare benefits, because otherwise we are in danger of creating a welfare state. I think Australia has slipped in that direction during the last five or six to ten years. We must ask ourselves the question: Are we creating disadvantaged people? Are we encouraging people to be less industrious?
I want to look particularly today in speaking to the Social Welfare Commission (Repeal) Bill at the role of the Commission and its association with government and also its association with the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). I want also to look at where the Social Welfare Commission went wrong. The honourable member for Maribyrnong mentioned some of the background to the Social Welfare Commission. He said that it was established in 1973 by the Labor Government and that is correct. It was a statutory body. Some of its activities in the social welfare context were referred to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. A little later I would like to refer to the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration in the context of the Social Welfare Commission.
I remind the House that it was the decision of the Labor Government to abolish the Social Welfare Commission. That decision was announced by the then Prime Minister, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), on 5 June 1975. The establishment of the Commission was in line with the Labor Party’s admirable policy of having available to the Public Service alternative sources of information. I say it was an admirable policy because I believe it is necessary for every government to look on occasions outside the Public Service and, outside the capabilities of its own members for people to provide information. So other commissions were established, such as the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Children’s Commission, the Cities Commission. A great deal was expected of commissions and other statutory authorities as ad hoc committees. The Leader of the Opposition placed great emphasis on these sorts of bodies in his 1972 policy speech. In that speech he made reference to the Preschool Commission, the Schools Commission and the Fuel and Energy Commission. In that policy speech he said:
These bodies will not merely be exercises in more efficient, more expert administration of public affairs. They will be an expression of our determination to keep the public involved in the public debate on the great national affairs and the great national decisions.
Importantly, they also represent the externalisation of a great fear in the minds of many Labor Party people- the fear that because the Public Service had been under a LiberalNational Country Party government for so long there could be some conspiracy by public servants to impede a Labor government at every turn. This should not be underestimated in understanding the rationalisation of establishing bodies such as the Social Welfare Commission. Significantly, although the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the Australian Assistance Plan which was generally associated with the Social Welfare Commission, he made no mention of the Commission at that stage. The Leader of the Opposition’s rationalisation for utilising commissions is best summed up in his statement on the establishment of the Children’s Commission, when he said:
There were not enough qualified people in the Public Service to provide such advice.
The present Leader of the Opposition is reported in the Australian of 1 November 1974 as having said this:
The whole idea of the commissions is to get expert people to express their views publicly and make a report to the Government, which publishes it.
It should be noted also that the Social Welfare Commission was established as a statutory body, and it must be differentiated from the numerous other advisory committees or task forces.
I turn now to the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973 which outlines the basic functions of the Commission. I shall summarise those functions by citing a few of them. They are as follows:
To make recommendations for the establishment of a nationally integrated social welfare plan including:
It is significant to note in the Social Welfare Commission report covering the period to 30 June 197S that the Commission chairman, Marie Coleman, said at page 10:
Traditionally, the function of a statutory body has been specifically service-delivery with policy formulation remaining with the Minister and Department. The Commission is one of a number of statutory bodies set up under both Liberal and Labor governments which have policy functions. Examples of this new type are the Universities Commission, the Schools Commission and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission.
However, unlike the Universities Commission and the Schools Commission, the Social Welfare Commission has only advisory powers and cannot exercise executive powers. The Social Welfare Commission was directly responsible to the Minister for Social Security. On page 13 of the Commission’s report is set out quite adequately the philosophy of the Commission. The report reads: … the Social Welfare Commission regards social welfare as a basic integrated institution in society ensuring not only the provision to all of primary material needs, but also genuine opportunities for social and cultural satisfaction.
Social policy is therefore intended to bring about improvement in the standard and quality of life for all individuals and to ensure a redistribution of resources within the society.
I think the key words are ‘a redistribution of resources within the society.’ If one looks at the Commission and the then Federal Labor Government, I think it will be seen that philosophically it was in line with the Labor Party’s policy. I think it is quite pertinent to quote from page 21 of the report of the Social Welfare Commission:
The Australian Government has made a considerable number of moves to improve its income support to disadvantaged groups and to low income earners generally, and has initiated inquiries to recommend further action within the next 12 months.
It talks then about amending the income tax scale and continues:
The Government has attempted to affect wages and salaries, the main instrument of income distribution . . .
It states also:
Considerable increases in pensions and benefits have been made in the last 12 months so that at the time of the last increase the basic pension was very close to the target of 25 per cent of average earnings.
I want to point out now to the House that that target of the Labor Government did change from 25 per cent of average earnings in relation to the pension rate, to be in line with the present Government’s policy of increasing the pension rate twice a year in accordance with movements in the consumer price index.
If one looks at the reasons for the abolition of the Commission I think they can be pin-pointed to two main areas: Firstly, the Minister for Social Security may have found the Social Welfare Commission dysfunctional and duplicating work done by the Minister’s department, and may have found its reports contributing little to the area of social welfare. Indeed, the Commission instead of rationalising social welfare, only contributed further to the fragmented nature of social welfare. Although the Commission talked a great deal about regionalisation of social welfare, it was the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration which conducted practical experiments into this procedure, which were done at Ringwood, Victoria. It was not the Social Welfare Commission which did them. Secondly, the abolition of the Commission may be seen in the broad context of Mr Whitlam ‘s realisation that the usefulness of such bodies did not measure up to original expectation.
I want to turn to the report of the Coombs Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. I believe that two or three paragraphs I shall quote bear out that point. The report reads:
Governments have been aware of these problems for years, and a series of partial inquiries has been conducted here and overseas to illuminate them. The Whitlam Government, for instance, set up a series of statutory commissions which it hoped would progressively invoke order in this confusion. Thus, the Social Welfare Commission received a charter which apparently was intended to give it authority to review the whole field of welfare programs and to advise on their rationalisation both from the point of view of policy content and administration. Others, such as the Children’s Commission, were to be concerned with the impact of the programs on an important section of the community. The work of these agencies, as well as that of other more ad hoc bodies of inquiry, has thrown valuable light on parts of the problems. However, before the Whitlam Government came to an end it had become less optimistic about statutory commissions as effective instruments of change.
Certainly, too much had been expected of them. They were intended not merely to evolve a general foundation for a multiplicity of programs, bringing greater understanding and expertise to the work of the bureaucracy, but also to be the instruments of greater participation by non-government experts, by other levels of government, by voluntary agencies and by the clientele itself. In some instances the statutory commission was itself to be involved in administration, sometimes replacing, sometimes paralleling bodies already in existence.
Furthermore, it seems that on occasions at least, the statutory commissions failed to establish satisfactory working relations with the existing bureaucracies. How far this was due to their failure to see this relationship as critical to their work and their future, and how far to passive, possibly active, resistance to their ideas and ambitions, is impossible to judge, and indeed judgment would be purposeless.
The Commission’s response to the announcement of the abolition was that it believed there still ought to be an independent and efficient apparatus to assist in the development of social policies. It proposed an amalgamation of the Social Welfare Commission and the Health Services Commission.
I now go back to 1965 when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, made a statement in this House on the Australian economy. There had been a committee set up called the Vernon Committee of Economic Inquiry. I want to quote part of a speech made on 2 1 September 1 965, reported in Hansard at page 1079, because the problem of commissions of inquiry and commissions to assist governments is obviously not a new one. This will be clearly understood from this speech by Sir Robert Menzies. He said:
Secondly, it follows that, when it deals with statistical or technical or objectively economic matters, this report is entitled to and will be studied with profound respect. My own
Government will derive great value and assistance from it. But where the report makes what will doubtless be regarded as advices on political policies, such advices must be regarded, in the well-known legal phrase, as obiter dicta, and not as possessing some binding authority. No government, from whatever side of the House it may come, and indeed no parliament, can abdicate its own authority and responsibility for national policy. It will welcome the assistance of experts, but its tasks will take it far beyond the limits of economic expertise. Political policy in a democratic community does not depend upon purely economic considerations.
I think that the quotation from Sir Robert Menzies’ speech is very pertinent to this debate today for the repeal of the Social Welfare Commission Act.
I conclude by saying, as I commenced, with comments in relation to governments employing experts. Politicians in the final run must make the decisions. It is important that we have staff at all levels of government. It is important that ministers and governments sift the information that is put before them by these experts. But it is the Minister and government that finally make the decision. I think we must bear this in mind always in the consideration of advice that comes to governments from any outside body that is set up.
-The Social Welfare Commission (Repeal) Bill entices one to engage in the kind of philosophical discussion that we have been listening to and I would like to proceed along those lines for a short time. This Commission, which was established by this Parliament 3 years ago, was a concept that was related to the need to evaluate social welfare provisions in Australia. It was part of the Labor Parry’s enterprise and interest in upgrading the whole emphasis on social welfare and maybe it has proved to be other than the best structure or the best way to approach this problem, but it was a most laudable objective indeed.
The Commission noted in its last publication which was entitled An Idea before its Time six main objectives which characterised its work. They were:
Firstly, the identification of social goals, the understanding of social attitudes and expectations and encouragement of public response.
Secondly, the identification and measurement of social needs.
Thirdly, the ordering of priorities.
Fourthly, the evolvement of alternative approaches with particular emphasis on developmental and preventive measures.
Fifthly, the evaluation of the effectiveness and efficiency of existing programs and new options, and
Finally, the encouragement of wide participation by consumers and the public in decision making.
That seems to typify the general objectivity of the Commission. They were very great hopes and were held not only by the Commission but also by wide-ranging groups of organisations and individuals involved in social welfare programs throughout Australia. There was a need for this kind of approach but unfortunately the key element of the Commission- its independencewas, as the Commission lamented, largely illusory. There were problems and the Commission’s problems began, in my view, with inadequate finance. These problems were aggravated by staffing problems which forced the Commission to rely on its executive officers and part-time commissioners for much of the research that was needed. This resulted primarily from bureaucratic breakdown that left the Commission cut off from the significant on-going research, statistical and policy analysis, and administrative support from the Department of Social Security. There were very real problems in interdepartmental relationships.
If the House accepts, as it did in 1973 when the enabling legislation was passed, that there does exist a need for an independent body to examine critically on a continuing basis social welfare requirements of government, we should note that the Budget allocation of a mere $75,000 to establish a policy research unit at the University of New South Wales is just not enough. It is not enough because it is not accompanied by an explanation of what research the unit will conduct this year, nor is it enough simply to announce a pilot grant without a specific commitment to funding in future years. No organisation can gear up to an on-going program in these circumstances and fulfil the expectations that will be attributed to it. While not reflecting on the magnificent work undertaken by universities throughout Australia, it must be recognised that the job which is being asked of this new policy unit is simply too great a task for an isolated group of academic researchers and their assistants, lacking as they do the complete knowledge that is available through the massive resources of Federal and State bureaucracies, and of course not all these avenues of information and knowledge are automatically going to be opened to the new unit.
No one questions the effectiveness and efficiency of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, for example, in its independent research and analysis capacities, and I suggest no one could question the establishment of a similar bureau to oversee social welfare programs. Clearly in times of economic constraints the wide and ambitious plans of the Social Welfare Commission would have to be modified in the short term, but what must be retained, whatever the cost, is the capacity for such a bureau to offer the Government and the public independent analysis of Government programs and areas of need of a high quality and standard. Unfortunately the commitment this Government has given makes no assurances on either independence or capacity, and in fact the national State consultative committees which were to be the basis of the Government’s approach have not as yet been announced. The implication from this must be that such committees, when and if they are formed, are to have no real and lasting status. In addition, the membership of such committees is to be hand picked by the Minister rather than made up of delegates representing the organisations involved in social welfare undertakingsorganisations which have national, State and regional status.
Moving briefly onto a matter that was raised by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), that is the Australian Assistance Plan, let me say that I personally regard this as one of the very ambitious projects undertaken by the previous Labor Government. I am disappointed that the Fraser Government has committed itself to the abolition of this program because rather than accept responsibility for the demise of the program, which has served so many communities so magnificently, the Government has announced that the States are to be asked to take it over- an impossibility within the confinements of the State’s Budget allocations. It might have been better to make a quick clean job of it than to let it die because many people are going to be extremely disappointed and will be led up the political garden path and end up against a brick wall. I think there was a way of going about this other than the way we have been proceeding up to now. The AAP can become excessively expensive. There was possibly a tendency in that direction in the pre capita funding concept. But there is a way of encouraging and facilitating organisations and individuals to pursue objectivity in social planning, anticipating and meeting the social needs of communities. In the same way that we like to think governments can plan, we like to think that we plan our own family affairs. Obviously there is a need to have such a counterpart in planning objectivity in respect of social welfare, in respect of the social needs of communities.
It is most unlikely that, fortuitously, regions are going to have all the elements of community aid and assistance without any planning. It is just not going to happen. If it is just not going to happen automatically and with spontaneity you have to cause it to happen and you have to have something that will facilitate its happening. You can call it what you like, such as a council of social service. There are many other names for such an organisation, but I put it to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who takes an intelligent interest in these matters, that in every region there are groups of organisations which can be brought together. I have had an experience of this in my own region in the Hughes electorate, which has incorporated the Sutherland Shire and the northern suburbs of Wollongong, with the Council of Social Service of which I became the foundation chairman. It had associated with it some 74 affiliated organisations, service clubs, welfare agencies and sporting organisations.
Together these groups were able to apply themselves to community needs in a very effective way. They broke up into sub-groups concerned with the care of the aged, concerned with the care of young people and family problems. There were half a dozen cabinet groups, or groups of that nature. That organisation did not utilise a great deal of money. It was assisted by the local council which made available several thousand dollars a year. The affiliated bodies themselves were encouraged to raise money, and so on. As a result the Sutherland Shire Council of Social Service, with its 74 affiliated bodies, had a permanent office in the centre of the region. It had a full-time secretary and a number of voluntary people. It conducted training courses and supported a referral centre. It organised the preparation of the regional social welfare directory and in general terms it rendered a very great community service.
I am simply saying for the benefit of the Minister that from my personal experience there is an alternative way of running the Australian Assistance Plan. The per capita funding scheme had a tendency to get out of hand and if it had gone on in that way it would have involved probably more money than the Government at this stage is prepared to expend. I strongly commend to the Government a consideration of the proposal that on a regional basis some funding could take place which would enable those groups to get together and ease the burden of office expenses and what could be called basic entrepreneurial costs. At the moment the AAP is on the skids. This gloomy outlook is having an impact on the morale of hundreds of voluntary workers and professional workers too whose enthusiasm has been stimulated in the past and whose expectations have been raised by the very operation of the AAP. Valuable human and social resources are in danger of being lost. I refer honourable gentlemen to an excellent article in the Melbourne Age of 15 July which talks very effectively about this matter.
Finally, mention must be made of Government attempts to kill the Social Welfare Commission before the repealing legislation was even drafted. This attempt failed because administrative action to overcome the statutory foundation of the Commission was successfully resisted by the Commission. As my colleague in the Senate, the shadow Minister for Social Security, mentioned when he spoke on the Bill in that place, the advisability of allowing officers of any department or any officer of a statutory body to treat the passage of a repealing Bill as a mere formality must be questioned by members on both sides of this House.
In concluding, might I add my compliments to the superlative job undertaken in difficult circumstances by the Commissioners and their staff. The results of their labours, not only in terms of publications, but also in terms of the success achieved through their programs will I hope, be a lasting tribute to their efforts. I look forward sincerely to the success of the new unit which the Government has contemplated and mentioned. I believe that in the short term at least it will provide some kind of on-going program- a link to what might be another Social Welfare Commission in a different form, a more effective organisation than the one contemplated at the moment. The idea is not yet dead. I hope that the unit that has been proposed will have a successful period of operation until something more desirable and more useful to the Australian community emerges.
-I believe that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who just spoke in the debate would have been far wiser to have adopted the lower profile approach of the previous Opposition speaker, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). Rather than criticise some of the aspects of this Government’s alternative initiatives to the Social Welfare Commission, he should remember that, after all, it was the Labor Government that abolished the Commission. It abolished the Commission in an abrupt and petulant way and created considerable uncertainty for its members between the period of the first announcement of abolition in June 1 975 and November 1975 when the Parliament was dissolved. The honourable member referred to a quotation that is set out in the final report of the
Commission to the effect that it was an idea before its time. This is how the Commission describes itself. However, I wonder whether it was an idea before its time or an experiment that will not be repeated because government does not like what it saw in operation as distinct from what it thought in theory. By ‘ government’ I am referring to both sides of the House. I mean the bureaucracy, the Federal departments and the governing party or parties.
The stated reasons for the abolition of the Commission differ between the Liberal and National Country Parties on the one hand and the Australian Labor Party on the other hand. It was stated by the Labor Government when the Commission was established that it was to be a bold step in policy formulation, evaluation and accountability of social welfare programs. It was established as a statutory body to give it the independence necessary for this role. But what happened? Firstly, I believe that there were problems of liaison with the Department of Social Security. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) referred to this problem when he was quoting from the report of the Coombs Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration. That report does not allocate blame in the sense of the failure of liaison but notes only that it was an important element in these bodies and that that element was missing. I want to quote another reason that was given by the Social Welfare Commission in its final report. The report states:
In relation to the coordination and evaluation functions of the Commission, it was not kept informed of policy program initiatives with social welfare implications prior to government decisions; it was never given the power to enforce co-ordination nor was it given an automatic right of access to Cabinet submissions on policy proposals affecting social policy, thus placing the Commission’s independent review role at serious risk.
In other words, it was probably expecting too much of itself wanting to become too independent. Because of that- this is a second reason for abandonment- the Commission embarrassed the entrenched bureaucracy, it embarrassed the government that established it and which was paying for it and keeping it in existence. I believe that this was particularly the case in respect to the national compensation proposals- the grand scheme of national compensation so favoured by the then Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam. The Social Welfare Commission’s criticisms of those grandiose proposals, to my way of thinking, brought about its abrupt and untimely end.
The third reason for the abandonment of the Commission I believe rested with the fact that it became too abrasive and too intrusive. If one compares its activities with the activities of the Hospital and Health Services Commission, one can see the distinctions. The latter body adopted a lower profile. It established better relations with its Department- the Department of Health. It also adopted, and perhaps was able to do so, a less evaluative role and a more innovative role because it was given the financial resources through the Department of Health. This enabled these innovations which could bypass the slower movement of the Department of Health. Of course, in the various inquiries that took place the general recommendation was at the time that these 2 bodies should be amalgamated. This Government has continued the Labor Government decision for abolition. As I see the stated reasons for this advanced by the Government, they are as follows: Firstly, it reduces the expenditure of government; secondly, this Government see the role of departments and advice of senior officers in a slightly different light to what the Labor Party itself originally thought it would see them, although eventually it came to the same conclusion in respect to abolition; thirdly, although it is not stated I believe it is true- I include myself in this criticism as much as anybody else- we do not like any more than the Labor Party criticism of ourselves or of the departments responsible to us by a body which we finance. This Government, to its credit, has accepted the need for evaluation and criticism of social welfare programs. I compliment the Minister and the Government on the speed with which they have moved in this direction. The first step has been to establish a social welfare research unit at the University of New South Wales. An amount of $75,000 has been allocated for its establishment this year. I understand that there are the necessary guarantees for a useful life and role for this body. Secondly, the Government is to establish national consultative groups on social welfare so that people with special interest at the consumer level or in the private sector generally have an ability to get through to the Minister and senior officials their opinions, views and criticisms. This will be the case not only at the national level. Because of the operations in the different States there will be State groups also. This Government is also supporting financially 3 outside voluntary bodies. I mention ACRODThe Australian Council for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, ACOSS-The Australian Council of Social Services and the Council for the Aging, all of which play an important role in policy formulation, evaluation and criticism of Government welfare programs. Fourthly, the Government will continue and hopefully upgrade some of the existing evaluation arrangements within the Department and research projects already commenced will continue. I say that hopefully this will be the case. However, I believe that the reason for the bipartisan attitude to the repeal of this Act is that we as bureaucrats and politicians cannot accept the body established and supported as a part of the Government bureaucracy for the purpose of independent and critical evaluation of government and bureaucratic programs. That saddens me.
-I shall be brief. The Social Welfare Commission (Repeal) Bill before the House repeals the Social Welfare Commission Act 1973. As the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) and the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said, the Opposition does not oppose that. I should like to look very briefly at one of the more important tasks of the Social Welfare Commission which was the evaluation of the Australian Assistance Plan. The Plan was an experimental program under which the Government funded community welfare projects and the employment of community development officers who were quite often used in projects themselves funded under the Plan. The costs of such projects and the salary costs of persons involved full time in them are no longer funded by the Government. The Social Welfare Commission evaluated these projects and the effectiveness of Federal funding for local initiatives by them through a variety of voluntary bodies and local government authorities. Funding under the Australian Assistance Plan was challenged by the Victorian, New South Wales and Western Australian governments, all of which at that time were under Tory administrations. The Fraser Government now wishes to absolve itself of any Federal responsibility for these kinds of projects. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) says that such projects are more amenable to administration and funding at State and local government levels. The evaluations carried out by the Social Welfare Commission have shown the hollowness of that kind of statement.
All programs under the Australian Assistance Plan were of course administered locally. Perhaps regional social development councils were not the ideal vehicles for social planning, but after all, the Australian Assistance Plan was experimental. But the clear message of the Social Welfare Commission’s work is that Federal funding is essential to the continuing viability of the community welfare projects initiated. Seed money is not enough. Even the Minister for Social Security acknowledges this. The reports of the Social Welfare Commission established in my own area the need for many of the projects. The assessment was funded under the Australian Assistance Plan. Now that the need has been established, the project will not be able to get funds under that Plan because the grants are no longer to be made available by the Fraser Government. One particular crying instance of this relates to the Dulwich Hill community centre. I attended a festival organised by the people who initiated this project with the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel), whose electorate adjoins my electorate. At that time I made the point that the grants available under this program were in grave jeopardy. Now that the need has been shown, the funds will not be available.
The use of expressions like ‘proper’ and ‘appropriate’ to describe Federal areas of responsibility are mere smokescreens thrown up by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Social Security. Many projects funded by the Federal Government under the Australian Assistance Plan and evaluated by the Social Welfare Commission obtained a large part of their costs from other Federal programs some of which are still on foot even though the appropriations for them have been cut considerably. Two examples that spring to mind are the grants to community agencies administered by the Migrant Community Services Branch of the Department of Social Security and the Community Arts Program of the Australia Council. Does the Federal Government say that that kind of expenditure is not appropriate for a Federal Government? Of course it is appropriate and so was the kind of expenditure under the Australian Assistance Plan. Those kinds of grants were essential; the work of the Social Welfare Commission clearly established that. The grants made available under the Australian Assistance Plan were also available in more flexible circumstances. The instance I have just cited- the Migrant Social Worker Grant in Aid scheme- has quite inflexible rules and yet grants of the same sort as are available under that scheme were made available to local government authorities. So local government authorities- popularly elected bodies- were able to discharge the duties they should be able to discharge.
The reports of the Social Welfare Commission established that the worthwhile local initiatives and locally administered projects which were encouraged as a result of the grants from the Whitlam Labor Government are now in grave jeopardy. The Australian Assistance Plan and the grants made available under it provide flexibility in funding gaps in the existing sources of revenue. The absence of such grants will now be severely felt in my electorate, particularly amongst ethnic communities. The reports of the Social Welfare Commission established quite clearly the overlap in indentifying low income families in old, established inner city areas and new settlers in this country. It is no accident that these 2 groups quite often overlap.
In my own electorate, many projects which were funded to try to help these kinds of persons are now about to be wound down because funds are no longer available. I give the House just one instance- a particularly novel one. We are talking here about tens of thousands of dollars in total. We are not talking about the millions which are given away for projects of very dubious economic value: we are talking about tens of thousands of dollars no longer available. One of the projects involved was the media bus. Instead of taking an information centre in a main street- it may be a set, physical facility quite intimidating to people- it took the information available out into the streets and moved it around. One day it would be in this shopping centre and another day it might be outside a local school. These kinds of projects cost in total tens of thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands, not millions. They will now be curtailed as a result of grants for programs which were administered under the Australian Assistance Plan not being available. The work of the Social Welfare Commission which is now to be abolished clearly established this.
The other speakers in this debate have talked about the need for continuing evaluation of social research and thinking about social planning. That will simply not be good enough if the grants that have been made available within the last couple of years, if the expectations that have been around, are now to be crushed. In my electorate, the Bailey Committee is a hollow joke. The idea that there is a massive duplication of sources of funding available for welfare projects is just not true. In fact the grants that were made available should be made available. The Government ought to think about the ways in which those kinds of flexible grants are again made available to worthwhile local community projects. The planning of such local community projects, and the funding of such local community projects should remain the goal of Federal Parliament and the Federal Government.
– in reply-I thank honourable members for the contribution they made to the debate on this Social Welfare Commission (Repeal) Bill. I should just like to respond to a couple of points that were raised by several honourable members in the course of the debate. I join honourable members in paying a tribute to the members of the Social Welfare Commission for the work they have already done. I believe it has not been time wasted. I believe there has been great value to the Parliament and to all those interested in social welfare from the research work and the organisational work that members of the Commission have done to date. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) indicated that he felt that there was an alternative way of running and administering the concept of the Australian Assistance Plan. He shared with other speakers the view that there were great advantages in the concept. The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) and the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) made constructive comments. The honourable member for Murray drew attention to the Government’s decision to set up the research unit at the New South Wales University and also the Government’s intention to establish consultative committees on social welfare.
The Government is taking steps to fulfil its commitment to provide effective mechanisms for co-operation and interchange of ideas with interested groups in the social welfare field. A national consultative group on social welfare is being established to advise the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on current issues in social welfare which come within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. In the next 2 or 3 weeks the membership of that group will be announced. Matters such as gaps and deficiencies in programs, arrangements for service delivery, assessment and review of priorities and the modification of programs in the light of research findings, changing needs and social and economic conditions will be among those subjects on which the Minister will consult the group.
Membership of the group will consist of about 12 people including academics from relevant disciplines and other suitably qualified people active in the social welfare field, together with representatives of national welfare bodies and voluntary social welfare agencies. Of course in each State and Territory a small consultative committee on social welfare will be established to advise the Director-General of the Department of Social Security, through the appropriate State Director of the Department, on administration at the State level. Undoubtedly the consultative committees will perform a very important role in meeting some of the aspirations that have been spoken of here today.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) referred to the value of the Australian Assistance Plan, and I think other speakers also expressed great support for the general concept. As I understand it, after the Minister for Social Security and the Government had studied the report of the Commission the Minister met with her respective State Ministers, had discussions with them about the future of the AAP and suggested that the future administration of the scheme may be better vested in the various State governments and in local government itself. I am informed that the Minister is still awaiting a response from the various State Ministers on this matter. I think most of us would agree that in the regional areas where the AAP program has got off the ground it has in fact brought together a great number of people who certainly have improved the quality of life of the less advantaged people in the community. I know that in my own region we have had a very active organisation. It has done a tremendous amount to overcome some of the difficulties facing the disadvantaged and the Aborigines in particular. One of the difficulties was that in 1975-76 a grant of $3.6m was provided under the AAP program, but I am told that it cost about $2. 8m to administer the grant. That seems to have been a rather heavy administrative cost compared with the amount of money that was allocated. These sorts of problems are under review at present.
The Government will be proceeding along the lines of setting up the research unit at the University of New South Wales, and also the consultative groups, and it will undoubtedly not lose sight of the general concept of marshalling the best resources and manpower that are available to try to overcome some of the deficiencies that exist in the AAP program. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) made the very important point that in today’s society the Government and the community should be turning their attention to the rights of the less privileged people in the community. I think that the community as a whole has accepted the fact that there is a great responsibility on all our shoulders to ensure that the less advantaged people in the community are given their rights by both governments and the community. I conclude by thanking honourable members for the contributions that they have made to this debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $432,127,000.
-Mr Chairman, if I appear to be straining at the leash, that is exactly the situation. I thank the Opposition for the courtesy of allowing me to speak first in this debate. The estimates this year for the Department of Foreign Affairs total $432,127,000. It is interesting to note that of that amount, a special allocation of $238m is being made to Papua New Guinea. Perhaps we can put that allocation in the category of overseas aid, although I think we would agree that it comes into a very special category. Honourable members will note the significance of the contribution that is being made to Papua New Guinea, and I will return to that shortly.
Before proceeding any further I should like to pay a tribute to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). I think that he has done an outstanding job in the short time that he has had the responsibility for this portfolio. He has at all times examined the pressures which have arisen, particularly in relation to the Indonesian situation. He has tried to develop with the United States of America a relationship which would revive the splendid understanding that we had with that country in past years. He has examined the position in relation to the various other activities which have been undertaken during what have been extremely difficult times. As I say, I pay a tribute to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I think that he has done an impeccable job.
I think that when we examine international relations generally we can say that they are at present almost in a state of suspended animation, if I might put it that way. I think the people of most nations, particularly we people in the South East Asian area, appreciate the fact that there could be some change in international relations as a result of the Presidential election in the United States. I think that we who have the responsibility to examine these matters perhaps a little more closely than other people might do and to analyse the situation- I speak as chairman of the Government parties’ foreign affairs committeerather feel that there will not be a very significant difference in international relations whatever the result of the Presidential election. I say this although it has been reported that Jimmy Carter has indicated that if he wins the election the allocations for overseas aid, if I may call it that although I would prefer to call it United States overseas involvement, will possibly be reduced by some billions of dollars. Immediately we wonder whether that would involve the South East Asian area. We might well ask ourselves whether it would mean that the United States would perhaps consider taking less of an interest in this part of the world. By that I do not mean so much Australia itself, because I rather feel that all the indications suggest that our relationship with the United States, our understanding with the United States and- let us face it, let us not beat about the bush- our dependence on the United States, will not be affected greatly, no matter who wins the Presidential election. However, it is something which we will watch and which will cause us a little apprehension.
In observing the general situation as it more particularly affects Australia, we look at areas such as southern Africa and the Indian Ocean. There have been what might be called conflicting opinions about Russian intrusion into this area. Some people like to call it a threat. Some people like to refer to the possibilities of additional pressures being aroused. This is not a new thing. I can remember speaking in this chamber 5 years ago when the Russians were beginning to make their influence felt more particularly in the Malaysian Peninsula by establishing formal relationships and doing the sorts of things that could well be done by one country or another in Papua New Guinea. That was the beginning. There was infiltration through trade, closer diplomatic relations and so on. Then gradually came the hardware. How does one evaluate such things? It is a matter of some opinion, but the cold, hard fact is that there is a very substantial and significant Russian influence in the Indian Ocean area.
Let us return to the subject of Papua New Guinea. Here we have something that could have far more effect upon the future of this nation. I say again that we are contributing $228m in the 1976-77 financial year to the assistance of the maintenance of Papua New Guinea as an independent nation. One might well ask: What is being contributed in one way or another by other nations? It would be interesting to examine that question. There is one very obvious fact relating to Papua New Guinea and that is that if Bougainville should secede a very precarious and sensitive situation would arise because the only real and substantial source of income of that nation would suddenly disappear. It is becoming more of a possibility every day.
I do not think that the Bougainvillians will ever adopt in their hearts and minds the general attitude towards Papua New Guinea that they are part of it. They have never been a part of it ethnically and I doubt very much whether they will ever be a part of it in a patriotic allegiance sense. In fact, I believe that the situation will be quite the reverse. We who have visited the area and have talked with the people for hour after hour, gone into their villages and inspected the mining areas have come away with the impression that they consider themselves to be a people apart. I doubt whether that situation will ever change.
Should their feelings grow to the point where they secede from Papua New Guinea a very sensitive and delicate situation would arise in Papua New Guinea because that nation would quite suddenly find that it has been deprived of its only source of economic vitality, that is, the income that it derives from the huge copper project on Bougainville. What would happen then? It would be open season for any nation which cared to pressurise that country through monetary influence. I suggest that this is already being done by a number of countries.
During my term as Minister for the Army I had cause to have a series of discussions with the man who is now Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea. At that time no-one expected independence to come about in Papua New Guinea as early as it did. One might well question just what were the genuine reactions of people like Michael Somare when that independence was almost thrust upon them. There was one thought that he never failed to express and that was that should independence come about he would hope that in matters of defence and foreign affairs we would still be considerably involved in that country.
I often wonder whether his attitude is still the same. Perhaps it is. I am inclined to think that that is the case because it would appear that he and our very splendid Minister for Foreign Affairs seem to have an understanding and seem to get along famously. That goes for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as well. We should face up to the fact not with apprehension but with at least some realistic understanding of the possibilities that should the rather grim situation arise where Papua New Guinea is deprived of its only form of financial vitality it could become the base for people who might like to buy in. So therein lies a very clear threat.
I have but a minute of speaking time left. I would like to dwell very briefly on the situation in the Middle East. I consider that the situation in the Lebanon has been greatly underestimated by the United Nations and the world generally. The Lebanon is the meeting place of the east and west. Regardless of whether it is admitted, it is one area in which there could be consultation, and in which there was a shading of one opinion into another. I think this conflict was created by design.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This Government is refusing to act in the true interests of Australia and Australians. Nowhere is that more true than in the sphere of foreign affairs. Ever since the public rejection of the recent pronouncements by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the Government has realised its weakness in foreign affairs. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has no control over Australia’s foreign relations. The Government, notwithstanding the attempts of the Minister, is pursuing reactionary policies.
The control of the Prime Minister is reflected in this Government’s policies. We have returned to the covert encouragement of the racist South African regime. Official contacts are secretly being resumed. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has been directed to resume contacts with the Bureau of State Securityknown as BOSS- which is the South African secret police organisation. Are we to co-operate in the oppression of South Africa’s blacks? Are we to co-operate in the spying on Australian residents to aid the racist government of South Africa? There have been revelations about the activities of BOSS in Britain that should make one extremely wary about its potential for dirty tricks and interference in our domestic politics. ASIO may be delighted, but the decision is a disgraceful one for Australia, particularly at this stage of the historical development of southern African politics.
But it is not more disgraceful than the general thrust of this Government’s foreign policies. Today in Australia we have an attempt at an only slightly modified return to the past. Under previous conservative governments we had the fear psychology of the downward thrust and the ‘where do we draw the line’ mentality. It has now been transferred to the Indian Ocean with the build up of the Russian involvement phobia. We now have the bogy of the Russian Navy.
For the enlightened, humanitarian internationalism of the Whitlam Labor years we now have a narrow, secretive, suspicious view of the world. We have the emphasis on military perceptions of the world. We have a return to the view of the world as exclusively composed of competing armed camps. The Third World, which is where the mass of the people on this planet live, is ignored. The Labor Government’s genuine sympathy with and concern for the less fortunate has been replaced by a government of platitudes.
The Third World leaders are not stupid. They have penetrated the facade that this Government presents to the world. That is why the conference of non-aligned nations in Colombo recently did not invite Australia to assume an observer status. Yet last year, under Labor, Australia was invited to be an observer. That is why the Association of South East Asian Nations refused Australia’s overtures for an ASEAN-Australia trade committee. They were major and deserved diplomatic rebuffs. They indicate considerable suspicion of this Government’s policy by the Third World governments. For example, the Indian Ocean littoral states correctly see the Prime Minister’s encouragement of the United States base at Diego Garcia as a dangerous provocation. They share the attitude of the Australian Labor Party and Senator Sim- a senator from the Government’s own benches- that there is no reason to be particularly alarmed about the Soviet Union’s activities in the Indian Ocean.
One has only to examine the Government’s overseas aid policy to see why the Third World ‘s suspicion of Australia’s international position is so justified. This policy typifies the Government’s double standards. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has said that aid spending has been increased by 1 5 per cent in the Budget. What is the reality behind that statement? It is, of course, difficult to pick through the Treasury’s clever accounting to get to the facts. But even on the figures for official development assistance it is clear that the whole truth is not being told. In the 1975-76 Budget we allocated $3 76.9m for official development assistance. The Government’s expenditure cutbacks on 20 May meant that expenditure for 1975-76 was reduced to $346m.
It was this reduced expenditure figure, when contrasted with the 1976-77 Budget allocation, that was the basis of the Government’s false claim of a 1 5 per cent increase in development aid. In actual fact it would have needed to allocate $422. 1m to maintain the level of official development assistance in real terms. So the 1976-77 Budget allocation implies a reduction of 5.6 per cent in real terms for official development assistance. In short, the Government expects to spend 0.49 per cent of gross national product on official development assistance. By the Government’s own figures- I refer to Budget Paper No. 8, page 8- in 1975 the spending on overseas aid was 0.61 per cent of gross national product. These figures tell the true story of this Government ‘s duplicity. These figures reveal the difference between the Fraser Government’s policies and the policies of the Labor Government, particularly on the Third World.
The Fraser Government has eroded Australia’s new-found standing with the majority of mankind- and that is those people living in the Third World. East Timor is another illustration of its duplicity. The Government, especially the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), has made much of its high-sounding principles in this chamber. But what is behind these declarations of principle? It is a sordid betrayal of a gallant people for misguided so-called strategic interests. The Government, we are told, had held firmly to a 4 points policy on East Timor. Yet its policy was in reality a secret policy- secretly ignoring its public position. Regrettably, it appears that the United States of America is a strong, if secret, supporter of Indonesia’s brutal and illegal annexation of East Timor. It feels that the freedom of 600 000 Timorese should be sacrificed for the strategic advantage of unhindered access to Indonesian Straits for United States submarines travelling from Pacific bases to their proposed Indian Ocean bases. Our Government has been an accomplice in this United States policy.
The Government has been guided on the question of Timor by a non-public clique of bureaucrats. These bureaucrats have been very busy trying to prepare Australian public opinion for the betrayal of the East Timorese people’s future. We have seen leaks planted in the media that the Portuguese Government was about to recognise the Indonesian attempted annexation of the Republic of East Timor. We see that the appeasing Australian Government meekly accepts that we cannot insist upon the International Red Cross relief operations. We have to direct our relief efforts through the Indonesian Red Cross. We have to ignore the fact that the Indonesian Red Cross has had a blatantly partisan role in East Timor. The mass of East Timorese who need aid will not get any real aid from the Indonesian Red Cross, and the Fraser Government will not protest. It ignores our moral obligations to the East Timorese people.
Publicly the Government has said that it is maintaining pressure on Indonesia to allow an internationally supervised act of selfdetermination in East Timor. Privately Foreign Affairs bureaucrats leak to the Press a story that the Prime Minister will recognise the Indonesian annexation of East Timor. These bureaucrats are trying to manoeuvre the Government into abandonment of Australian principles. The Government is bowing to the pressure for the sake of so-called good relations with Indonesia. The Australian people have good relations with the Indonesian people. We supported their struggle for national independence just as we support the East Timorese in achieving self-determination and independence. It is shameful that the Government now chooses to contradict its publicly stated principles and that it collaborates with the Indonesian generals’ unprovoked aggression against the people of East Timor. I was a prisoner of war in East Timor during World War II. I know the debt we owe to East Timor. It is about time the Australian Government honoured its obligation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support absolutely the remarks made by my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) in his commentary upon what passes for a foreign policy with the Government. I particularly support the remarks he made about Timor. I think it is important that people realise that when we are debating foreign affairs we are debating matters which have a fundamental effect upon the future and security of the community and the nation at large. I do not believe that there should be so much secrecy in foreign affairs. I believe that the people’s security and the permanence of the nation are matters for continuing public debate and matters on which there should be continuing public information. Of course so many things have to be done confidentially. So it is a useful thing, if only for a few minutes on occasions such as this, for the Parliament to talk about these matters.
With what are we inflicted? For a start I think Australia is inflicted with a deffident psychology in world affairs. What is our function? Are we too small? In the 20 years since I first became a member of this Parliament we have associated ourselves with some of the most reactionary attitudes of the geat powers of the world. We have always looked overseas to find ourselves some involvement, if possible, with other people’s affairs. I can remember the disputes about Berlin long ago. People considered that we should commit ourselves to the protection of Berlin. I used to ask: ‘How many Germans would come and defend Australia?’ The same applied to the islands off China. How many Taiwanese would come to defend Australia? I am not an isolationist in these matters. I recognise though that it will be a matter of influence rather than a commitment of military personnel.
What I want to say to the Parliament and to those listening is that unfortunately over many years, possibly from the departure of Dr Evatt from the scene as Foreign Minister until Labor took office again in 1972, Australia has recognised itself as being totally ineffective in world affairs. I do not think that is the pattern of history. I do not think it has been only the big battalions in history that have made their impact upon it. The England of the Elizabethan times and the 17th century was a small country, but its influence did not come just from its navy; it came from its drive and the dynamics of its attitude to the world at large. So I do not believe we are living in a power world. I do not believe we need to be obsessed with threats of Russian ships sailing around the Indian Ocean. Of course that is what navies do all the time. I instance British navies in the eastern Mediterranean. Australian ships sail into the South East Asian area. I hope nobody there regards them as a threat. The first thing we have to do is understand that the world has changed so much, that the Russian navy in the Indian Ocean means nothing in that sense. The other thing to which the community ought to start to apply itself is the utter hypocrisy of this Government. Less than 4 years ago it would not even recognise that China existed.
– You know that is not true.
– It is true. I am absolutely astonished that the people of Australia place any credence in any judgement of this Government in foreign affairs. I appreciated honourable members opposite standing in this Parliament and paying their respects to Chairman Mao, a man whom they refused to recognise existed less than 4 years ago. If it is not hypocrisy I do not know what it is. But of course I can understand why the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) cheers for that sort of thing. Honourable members opposite cheered to send other people away to wars they could not win. They have never looked at the facts of life in the world at large. We have reduced our commitment to the world of hunger and all the rest. Now of course we have on our hands the shameful episode of East Timor and our desertion of the people there.
– The honourable member for Swan was cheering you.
– It is time he did. Indonesia is our closest neighbour. As my colleague from Reid pointed out, we have a long and friendly association with Indonesia, but I can think of no reason why we should back down in the face of Indonesian claims to East Timor. It is true that Indonesia is a big neighbour. Whether it is powerful in the sense in which my friends opposite think of power in the world at large is open to question. 1 have just been reading a book The Diplomatic Diaries of Oliver Harvey 1937-1940, written by the private secretary to Anthony Eden. Every page I read made me more angry than ever about what has gone on in Timor. There was the appeasement of big power in 1937 because people were afraid of it. What is the situation in Indonesia?
– Your Government supported it.
– I will deal with that in a moment. It will not take more than 30 seconds to deal with any contribution the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) is likely to make to foreign affairs. In 1945 I was in Indonesia with the Australian forces and I can remember the appeals on the radio by the people for support for their independence. In visits to Indonesia in subsequent years one was touched by the gratitude they expressed for the fact that the Australian Government at the time- and it was a Labor government- gave them adequate support in their fight for independence. I am bothered. 1 cannot understand how the government of a country such as that could so forget its own origins as to behave in such a disgraceful fashion to East Timor.
– You went to Cambodia.
– Yes, and I have always stood up, without fear or favour and with malice to none, for the right of people to look alter themselves, come what may. I was right on Cambodia and I am right on Timor, or correct on Cambodia and correct on Timor. The honourable member who interjected is right on everything.
– Incorrect, not right.
– Yes, right wing, as Tar right as one can go. Let us look at Timor. First of all. there is the question of self-determination for Timor. The Minister interjected something about our Government. I am firm in the conviction that while we were in office the pressures that we kept up, inadequate as they were in their total public expression, retained a reasonable independence for the people there and kept the Indonesian forces from overt action. I am certain that that was the case. It was not until our Government was removed that the Indonesians moved in. So I am for self-determination; honourable members opposite say they are for self-determination too. Of course, the realists will say that the place will never be viable. What country is viable? Is Indonesia viable? There are a handful of nations in the world which, using viability as selfsufficiency, are viable. Are Switzerland, Sweden or Britain viable in the sense in which I am talking of it? Of course they are not. Timor, with its 600 000 people, could be as significant as Iceland, Singapore or anywhere else.
There can be no future for the world if we tolerate what has gone on in East Timor. I do not blame only this Government. Its public expressions have been weak enough, but they have been better than those of most of the rest of the world. One of the significant features of this operation is that probably for the first time in its history Australia has had to stand on its own feet, stand on its own judgments in a foreign policy decision, and I think it has gone to water. There has been a shameful turning away by the rest of the world. Henry Kissinger is buzzing around Africa, I hope doing a good job, wringing his hands about the troubles there when 600 000 people have been imprisoned by an imperialist aggressor in Timor. Indications are that perhaps 60 000 people have been killed, but there is dead silence. I think it is a shame for the world, and it is to our shame that we have not stirred them up more about it.
Some of us on this side of the House sent telegrams to the Prime Minister of Portugal and to the Chairman of the Committee of Twenty-Four. Our appeal now to the Portuguese Government is not to give way. Our appeal to this Government is to use what influence it has upon the other nations of the world to convince them of the mischief that is going on in Timor and to take whatever steps we can to ensure that the people of Timor have an opportunity to make their own decisions. I believe that when the United Nations delegate was out here and the Indonesian Government said it could not guarantee his safety we should have said: ‘We will see him safely ashore’. I would not mind betting that the Indonesian Government would have accepted the facts of life and recognised that if we said that and meant it we would see it through. That is the kind of record we have to get in the world at large. I do not believe in resort to arms, I hope for a world of persuasion, but there comes a time when we have to stand and be counted. In the case of the people of Timor, I think that when they called for help, basically this country sat down.
-Mr Chairman, it is with great pleasure that I rise to support the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs, and in particular the bilateral aid estimates for Papua New Guinea. Having been fortunate enough to have served in the Papua New Guinea Administration for 2 years during the fascinating period immediately prior to self-government and independence, I can assure the Committee that our continuing assistance to Papua New Guinea undoubtedly is one of the most significant and useful aspects of our foreign aid program. Our expenditure for Papua New Guinea in 1976-77 will be more than $22 8m. That is more than $14m more than the amount spent in 1975-76. The most important single item of expenditure is now the direct grant in aid, which for this financial year is to be $190m. Our current aid to Papua New Guinea forms part of the commitment this Government made in March this year to provide $930m to Papua New Guinea over the 5 years commencing from 1976-77. This commitment ensures that the Government of Papua New Guinea will receive at least $180m in direct social and economic aid for each of the 5 financial years commencing from 1 July this year. Such a definite guarantee of a certain minimum level of assistance will be of enormous advantage to Papua New Guinea in planning its own Budgets and general financial arrangements. That is important to a new government finding its feet in an increasingly uncertain world.
As the Committee will be aware, on 16 September this year Papua New Guinea celebrated its first birthday as an independent nation. It was just over a year ago that Australia voluntarily relinquished control over Papua New Guinea after 9 1 years of rule in Papua and some 6 1 years of rule in New Guinea. That period of Australian administration of Papua New Guinea is, by and large, a period that this country can look upon with reasonable satisfaction. That we made some mistakes in Papua New Guinea there is no doubt. Upon reflection, perhaps there were some things we might have handled rather differently. However, on balance, the record of Australian governments of all political persuasions and of the officers of our administration on the spot in Papua New Guinea is both competent and just. Our record is particularly commendable when compared with that of some other colonial powers.
I think we have left Papua New Guinea with 3 notable legacies which our continuing aid should help to maintain. Firstly, we have handed over a well organised system of district administration. We commenced building that system from the time of our annexation of Papua in 1884 and our capture of New Guinea from the Germans in 1914. The difficult terrain of Papua New Guinea, coupled with its 600 or so tribal groupings, meant that a highly decentralised system of district administration was in fact the only viable means of running the country. It is a measure of the effectiveness of the administrative system which we left behind that the new Government of Papua New Guinea has seen fit to more or less leave it intact. Only the personnel have changed. Secondly, we have established a tradition of maintaining law and order through the civil courts and the civil police. Only during the Japanese occupation of part of Papua New Guinea during the Second World War did we temporarily place the people of Papua New Guinea under military authority. The present Prime Minister of New Guinea, Mr Michael Somare, has repeatedly made it clear that the supremacy of the civil over the military authority will be absolutely maintained in the keeping of law and order. Thirdly, we properly prepared Papua New Guinea for a workable system of parliamentary government. This dated from the election of the first House of Assembly in 1964, through various stages of increased local responsibility, until the final granting of independence in late 1975.
This systematic approach compares markedly with the performance of some of the colonial powers, who let the local leadership out of gaol shortly before independence and then expected them to set up a parliamentary government and all it involves at 9 a.m. on the first day of independence. It is little wonder that in most cases such governments quickly gave way to military dictatorship, one party rule, or some other authoritarian system of government. Each of these 3 legacies I have mentioned of Australian rule- a sound administration, the maintenance of law and order through civil courts and the civil police, and a workable, democratic Parliament- will, with our continued support of Papua New Guinea, help guarantee her stability and that of the surrounding region until well into the future. What a future Papua New Guinea has ahead of her if her current performance is any guide. Effective economic policies implemented by Mr Somare ‘s Government, including a firm policy of wage restraint agreed on with the trade unions, have cut the inflation rate in Papua New
Guinea to 1.5 per cent in the last quarter. It is regrettable that some Australian trade unions have not shown the same common sense for their own long term good and that of the community.
Papua New Guinea’s main export productscopper, copra, coffee, cocoa and tea- continue to hold their position firmly in international markets. At the same time, the establishment of local light manufacturing industries continues steadily to expand. But overshadowing all these favourable developments is Papua New Guinea’s immense potential for the development and export of her vast mineral wealth. Current exploration work by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Ok Tedi is but one of several projects that will eventually make Papua New Guinea one of the wealthiest nations in the South East Asian and the South West Pacific areas. It is worth noting that faith in Papua New Guinea’s future is obviously shared by that nation’s white population as the vast majority of the permanent residents of that section of the population have remained there since self-government and independence and seem to be content to remain for the years to come.
Before concluding I would like to refer briefly to one other specific item in our aid estimates for Papua New Guinea. That item is the $5m allocated for construction work on the Port Moresby and Nadzab airports. That expenditure is indicative of the enormous importance of an efficient civil aviation network to Papua New Guinea, for without it the interior of Papua New Guinea would still be an unexplored and undeveloped wilderness. It is therefore commendable that our aid program has recognised the importance of the necessary support facilities for aviation in Papua New Guinea.
I conclude by saying how appropriate it is that the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) still has as his responsibility Papua New Guinea affairs. During his time as Minister for External Territories and in the period since then he has been in large measure responsible for the excellent relations Australia now enjoys with independent Papua New Guinea. Our aid program to Papua New Guinea is a reflection of the continuing goodwill between our 2 nations, and without hesitation I warmly commend it to the House.
– It is time to deflate the pretentions and expose the nauseating hypocrisy of the Fraser Government on the question of East Timor. At question time this morning the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) evaded legitimate questions about the behaviour of his Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) and sought to make personal reflections on me. His aspersions against me and my Government were utterly without foundation, as the records will show. It is the Fraser Government which has spoken with 2 voices on this issue. It is the Foreign Minister who has engaged in double talk and double dealing. I regret that he is not in the House this afternoon- not that it would have made any difference. He parades like a show pony and struts like a peacock at question time but has nothing to say in debates. There have been 5 discussions on matters of public importance in this House this year on matters of foreign policy. He has spoken on none of them. The Prime Minister is worse. He will not answer questions on Timor. On the seventh of this month, despite the plea of his follower, the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer), he brazenly proclaimed: ‘No statement about major matters concerning Australia and Indonesia will be released before I leave for Indonesia on 7 October’.
I discussed Timor, among other matters, with President Suharto in Jogjakarta in September 1974 and in Townsville in April 1975. Mr Gregory Clark and Mr Michael Richardson were not present at either place. If the Prime Minister relies on such authorities he might have at least quoted the following from Mr Richardson’s article:
The secret record shows that Mr Whitlam stressed 3 times how essential it was that the political future of the colony be decided by the people. It is clear from the record that President Suharto understood this proviso.
Journalistic speculation aside, it is a matter of record that the President and I agreed that decolonisation should proceed on the basis of self-determination, that is, in accordance with the wishes of the people. That understanding was formalised in subsequent diplomatic exchanges. I have no reason to doubt that President Suharto sought earnestly to keep his undertakings that Indonesia would not contemplate unilateral military action to determine the future of the territory. Clearly, however, he was under great pressure to resort to such action. The pressures were partly internal to Indonesia, partly external. They turned on Indonesia’s fear of communism and dismemberment and efforts to exploit that fear by the conservative parties in Australia.
On 28 August last year the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) asked me in the House of Representatives this question: ‘Does the Government feel concerned in any way that Timor might become communist controlled?’
The next question came from the Leader of the Opposition, now the present Prime Minister, who asked me whether I was ‘concerned at all at the possible establishment of communist control in Portuguese Timor so close to Australia’- and he twice named Fretilin in his question. They had pulled the rug from under their shadow Foreign Minister. I forthwith warned: . . . If there is a reaction by Indonesia, then Australians can thank the Leader of the Liberal Party and the Leader of the National Country Party for branding any incoming administration in Timor as communist. I cannot imagine anything more irresponsible, more against Australia’s interests, more against the interests of other countries in the region and more against the interests of the people of Timor themselves.
The last support for President Suharto’s policy of moderation was removed by the events in Australia on 1 1 November. It is now well known that President Suharto had resisted growing pressures in Jakarta towards military action. His position had been based substantially on the agreement he had reached with me in Jogjakarta and confirmed in Townsville. The removal of my Government removed these foundations. After 11 November Australia had a government which, in Indonesian eyes, shared its suspicions of communist insurgency and would plainly welcome any action to suppress it. Furthermore, the new Prime Minister wrote to the President in encouraging terms in November. That letter, of course, remains confidential.
For all the ranting and preening of the Foreign Minister, what was he saying to the Indonesians themselves? The Sydney Morning Herald carried this report on 26 August:
The Australian Government will give tacit approval to Indonesia’s takeover of East Timor when the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, visits Jakarta in October. Senior Government sources said today that the visit could be seen as the last formal step towards Australia’s acceptance of Indonesia’s territorial claims on the former Portuguese colony.
Later that morning the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in answer to the first question asked from the Government side of the House that day, confirmed the interpretation of the Sydney Morning Herald by announcing that the Government had abandoned its principle of giving humanitarian aid through the International Red Cross and would now do so through the Indonesian Red Cross. Last Monday the Melbourne Herald published an interview with Mr Malik. He was asked:
On Timor, do you think the damage in relations between Australia and Indonesia has now been repaired?
He replied: … I am sure, after Mr Fraser ‘s visit, it will be cleared. You remember during the second visit of Peacock, even Peacock explained the difficulty there. ‘My position in the Parliament is like this and maybe, Mr Malik, you feel unhappy but I must wait. But in the long run we understand that this is the only way for Indonesia. ‘ That ‘s why, I am sure (we should) give them time.
The pronoun ‘them’ referred to the Australian Government.
Liberal hypocrisy and double standards have been obvious from the beginning. On 22 December the Security Council passed a resolution calling on governments to co-operate fully with the Secretary-General’s special representative in establishing contact with all the parties in Timor. This Government failed to implement that resolution. The Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the then PostmasterGeneral, the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), made clandestine efforts to detect and silence the Fretilin radio while failing to offer the special representative official contacts with the territory, as the United Nations resolution required. Despite the specific terms of the United Nations resolution the Fraser Government failed to make available to the special representative any transport and communications equipment which would have enabled him to make the fullest and earliest recommendations to the Security Council, it failed to make available to international aid agencies any transport, medical and food supplies required to succour or evacuate persons in the Territory and it failed to offer a venue for talks between all the parties in East Timor.
What was the view of Fretilin? In Canberra on 29 April Mr Chris Santos, the official spokesman of Fretilin in Australia, issued a statement in which he said:
We believe the Australian Labor Government did its utmost to prevent the invasion of our country by the armed forces of Indonesia. Mr Whitlam and the Australian Labor Party cannot be blamed for the invasion, which occurred during the caretaker government of Mr Fraser. Fretilin believes that the invasion would not have occurred if the Labor Party was still the Government then.
After the presumed deaths of Australian journalists in Timor I wrote to President Suharto expressing the anxiety of my Government. I gave the letter to the Indonesian Ambassador who was on the way home on 7 November. It was delivered 2 days after the Fraser Government was installed. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister did not follow up my letter when they took office, and it was several months after the election before they showed any concern about what had happened to the Australian representatives. This Government has never had an ounce of concern or compassion for the people of Timor or anyone else.
The Liberals had been so farsighted about Timor that they closed down the Australian Consulate in 1971, 30 years after we had established it. The Foreign Minister’s sole contribution to a settlement when he was Opposition spokesman in foreign affairs last year was to call for resistance to Indonesia by her partners in the Association of South East Asian Nations. It was made clear to me when I visited the Prime Minister of Singapore on 8 August last year and when the Prime Minister of Malaysia was in Canberra in mid-October last year that ASEAN would not become involved.
The Indonesians no longer take the slightest notice of Australia’s Foreign Minister. They know that he has misrepresented them and double crossed them. He was made well aware, when they briefed him in Bali with his wife a year ago, that Indonesia would never accept ASEAN intervention. Yet the Foreign Minister wanted Australia to persuade four of the ASEAN nations to gang up against the largest ASEAN nation. He said of ASEAN: ‘It is not there for decoration’. Of course not, but does he think it is there for armed intervention against Indonesia? That was the policy of the Foreign Minister- to split the ASEAN partners and incite them to turn against their largest and most powerful member. That was the Foreign Minister’s recipe for a settlement of the Timor question, for the stability and security of our region. It is typical of the confusion, the expediency, the irresponsibility and utter lack of principle which have marked the Liberal Party’s policies in both government and opposition. When the Dutch had to quit West Irian and when the British had to dispose of Borneo and now that the Portuguese have abandoned Timor they have bungled every question of decolonisation in our region.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Here it is again, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) running away from the boiling pot. It was he who fuelled it last year and everyone in this House knows that is true. Why should the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or anybody else come into this chamber to listen to the Leader of the Opposition. We have heard it all before. He sold out last year whatever hopes the East Timorese ever had of a free independent existence. Now he comes in here with a sheaf of excuses which are almost exactly the same as his economic policy or the shards of it. Our Government is doing the best it can to hold stable our friendship with Indonesia while supporting the rights of the anti-communist East Timorese to a fair and equitable recognition. That is the best we can do in the circumstances. The former Labor Government left us with this pot boiled over like a lot of other things it left us with. We are trying to do the best we can. Nothing the Leader of the Opposition has said in this House today will in any way change the fundamental facts.
It was the Leader of the Opposition who failed last year to recognise the fundamental problem and failed to do something about it. I see he is leaving the chamber and that is the best thing for him to do. I support the appropriations. Certainly, I have many reservations and I am sure some of the reservations are shared by many people in this chamber and outside it about individual items. I will come to some of those before I close. However, before anything else comes one essential principle: Without adequate military strength, foreign affairs is nothing and is this not the problem that we have had and is this not the problem that the Leader of the Opposition left us with? There is still enough left -
– What do you mean by that?
-Listen for a little while and you might learn something. When the honourable member for Wills came back from Cambodia he exhibited a streak of honesty, a streak of touching and compassionate honesty which I have not seen exhibited by him since. He condemned the real problem in Cambodia, the communist problem as he itemised it, and he did not run away from it. Why has he been running away from that since? The essential problem of foreign affairs is that without military strength, foreign affairs is nothing. There is still enough left in the world today of the Germany of Bismarck and it was he, I think, who gave us the realities. These realities he gave us are still the realities of this world in terms of foreign affairs and military strength. He said that the realities were blood and iron. Even the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) would be aware that those realities have not changed.
I do not underestimate spiritual and moral force, but they are not physical. Communism, which so many knaves and, I suppose, half wits, still claim is basically an idea which must be fought with a better one, are at least half right. They either conveniently forget in the case of knaves or they do not know in the case of the others, that without blood and iron communism would be just an idea. I am basing my support for some of the appropriation on the assumption that at least we are going to commence the long haul to self-reliance in defence.
Perhaps surprisingly I do not attach all the blame for our present state of defencelessness on the Opposition- only 95 per cent of it. All defence and foreign policy is based, I believe, on the sound doctrine of a nation’s permanent interests. Was it not Palmerston who said that there is no such thing as permanent friendships, only permanent interests. This apparently pragmatic doctrine is also a statement of principle which should be a cornerstone of policy for this country. I cannot understand how our permanent interests are helped in any way by some of the aid that we give to countries like Mozambique and Laos. Mozambique at the moment has a Marxist communist government. I quote from the Pacific Defence Reporter of September this year which states:
The Intelligence Service of Frelimo . . . which is the Government of Mozambique- has been taken over and is now run by the Soviet KGB. An East German military Mission has recently arrived in Mozambique to control and organise the logistical system and services of the Frelimo military forces. There is no doubt that the Organisation of African Unity and the other forces that work with them consider that Rhodesia will be the next plum that will fall into their hands.
At present the ANC have a ‘trained’ force of not more than 4000 terrorists based in camps in Mozambique, that are reasonably equipped for terrorist operations against Rhodesia . . .
Frelimo sent a fully equipped force of some 2000 men to help the MPLA in Angola and this contingent should now have returned to Mozambique.
We have a Marxist government in Mozambique. It is a problem. The problem as I see it is: What real good are we trying to do in sending any aid to a country which obviously has sufficient resources to be able to engage in aggressive terrorism like that? As for Laos, the other country I have mentioned, even the Department of Foreign Affairs must be aware that it is now under communist control. Anything at all that we do to assist Laos will be under the complete control of the Communist Government and could have no possible beneficial effect on Australia’s permanent interests. That is what foreign affairs is supposed to be about. It will of course help to prove what Lenin said so long ago and so effectively, that capitalist countries are only too anxious to provide rope with which to hang themselves.
I attach a great deal more importance to the brilliant analysis by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) last week of the problem of China than I do to much of the advice given by the Department of Foreign Affairs on China specifically and on communism generally. In a nutshell, the honourable member for Mackellar said something that none of us ought ever to forget. It is of course difficult to sum it up because his speech was of such brilliance that it is hard to put it in a nutshell. If it said anything else it said essentially that the cause of the Sino-Soviet split is simply a dispute about the best method of cutting our throats. That is something I think none of us should ever forget. We ignore the advice of the honourable member for Mackellar at our peril.
I wonder sometimes too- I suppose this sort of advice comes from Foreign Affairs to the Government- about our diplomatic recognition criteria. We recognise such places as Mozambique, North Vietnam, Uganda and many others.
-That is included in the IndoChina recognition. I wonder why we do not recognise Rhodesia. Why do we not trade with Rhodesia? One does not have to support everything about Rhodesia to see that there is a basic inconsistency in recognising regimes such as those I have outlined and failing to recognise Rhodesia. I understand that in matters of trade the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries have goods for sale in Rhodesia, so of what use is all the moralising by these countries on these matters. They are profiting by the sale of their goods in Rhodesia. The only country- and it may be to Australia’s credit, but it seems to me to be totally unrealistic- that has no goods on sale in Rhodesia, the only country that is suffering desperately from the Rhodesian boycott is Australia. My friends who sit in the Country Party corner in this place know about this because they cannot sell wheat, dairy produce etc to Rhodesia. This seems to me to be a most magnificent inconsistency. I have heard it suggested that we ought to abolish the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am not going to go along with that. I know I am regarded as a bit of an extremist in this place, but I do not go along with that suggestion. It has been suggested to me that perhaps we are providing jobs for overeducated dilettantes and sophisticates, some of whom actually do us harm at home and also throughout the world. Of course this is a generalisation, but it has happened elsewhere. It certainly happened in Europe before the last war, and we must never forget that poor Neville Chamberlain, the object of so much abuse, would have been advised by the Foreign Affairs Department or whatever it was called then -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has just set the record straight on Timor. The shallow contribution we have just heard from the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr), the former secretary of the Democratic Labor Party in Western Australia, who now sits in this place as a Liberal, a self-appointed extremistalthough I must confess that I think there are many sitting around him who are in the same camp- with his emphasis on force, on blood and iron I think was one of the expressions he used, changes nothing. It merely exposes the outofdate thinking of so many conservatives in this country who are unable to bring themselves screaming into the twentieth century.
I want to spend my time on a subject which in this day and age, if we can bring ourselves up to date, is a greater influence on peace than force about which the honourable member for Swan loves to talk. My subject is aid. The Government’s lack of commitment to development aid is shown by the following facts. Official development aid for 1 976-77 will be only 0.49 per cent of the gross national product- the lowest percentage of GNP since 1963-64 when it was also 0.49 per cent. The second fact is that the Government has refused to nominate a time by which it will increase the percentage of GNP devoted to aid to the internationally accepted target of 0.7 per cent. I want to compare this with Labor’s performance. For the calendar year 1975 aid reached 0.6 1 per cent of GNP, its highest ever level.
The second point I want to make is the Government’s lack of concern for the quality of aid. This is closely interrelated to its unwillingness to guarantee a particular level of funding for aid. Without adequate time for preliminary investigation and consultation with recipients, aid will be haphazard in its effects and it is likely that it will be wasted. It is increasingly recognised that long-run planning is crucial to the success of many sorts of aid. Major aid programs may require funding over a period of several years and there needs to be some certainty, some commitment, that adequate funding will continue before programs can be gone ahead with. Imagine the difficulty aid planners face when governments, on the one hand, pledge to increase aid to 0.7 per cent of GNP and, on the other hand, make arbitrary cuts in the expected level of funding. It was with these considerations in mind that a group of the leaders of the major non-government aid agencies, at a meeting in Canberra in April, moved a resolution calling upon the Government to: . . . make a public commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNP on development assistance by 1980.
The second part of the resolution called upon the Government ‘as a first step’ to allocate 0.55 per cent of GNP in 1976-77 financial year ‘increasing by 0.05 per cent per year until the 0.7 per cent target is reached ‘. Perhaps the most devastating action of the Government in respect of the quality of aid is the abolition of the Australian Development Assistance Agency and the reintegration of its staff into the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the associated staff cuts that went along with it. Imagine the demoralisation and dislocation of staff implied by a reduction in Third Division staffing from 484 in 1 976-77 to an estimated 272 as shown on page 118 of Budget Paper No. 4. This represents a cut of 212 or about 42 per cent. The ADAA was established by Labor in order to provide development assistance with some degree of independence from considerations of day to day diplomacy and foreign policy decisions, and in order to create an opportunity for public servants concerned about developments to make a career in it rather than leaving aid to be administered in an ad hoc manner by diplomats for whom aid was not necessarily their main interest. I pay tribute to many diplomats who do see aid- as I see it- not only as a very important part of diplomacy but also as a humanitarian object of policy. At the end of 1 975 the ADAA had got over many of its teething problems. It had begun to develop a systematic philosophy of aid in which the needs of the poorest 40 per cent of people in the Third World were given priority. It had begun systematically to evaluate aid programs and monitor their progress. It was beginning to develop a professionalism which might in time have matched that of the Canadian International Development Agency. It had even become aware of the possibility that aid programs aimed at helping a whole community might unintentionally worsen the position of women. After all, tractors mean less digging for the men but can mean twice as much weeding for the women in these poorer parts of the world. The ADAA was examining the social aspects of its programs more carefully.
However, I must add that I support the general approach of the Government of aid to Papua New Guinea. This was mentioned by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Aldred) earlier in this debate. Both the level and the forward commitment are well tailored to Papua New Guinea ‘s needs, for the level of aid is such that the growth of Papua New Guinea Government spending will have to be financed internally while the forward commitment encourages the planning that will make for effective development. Also, by giving untied rather than project aid, Australia is encouraging Papua New Guinea to take full responsibility for its own affairs. The cuts in staff and the reorganisation have jeopardised all this, as good staff have been forced to leave and the status of past policies has become unclear.
My next subject does relate aid with foreign policy. Overseas aid cannot be divorced from international politics and foreign policy. After all, a major motivation for aid, at least for Labor people, is a perception of international social and economic inequalities and a desire for a more just distribution of global resources. What could be more political? What should be more central to our foreign policy at a time of increasing international inter-dependency? What I fear is that the reintegration of the Australian Development Assistance Agency into the Department of Foreign Affairs may lead to aid being used to further more narrow and more dubious political aims. For instance, I do not count this Government as being one of the most sympathetic to the idea of a new and more just international economic order. Indeed, I seem to recollect one senior member of the Government who promised that Australia would have no friends in the Third World. An indicator of how aid policy is likely to be determined from now on, can be found in the sudden generosity of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) towards the South Pacific. It has been announced that bilateral project aid will increase substantially to a level of more than $1 lm, all because a group of Soviet aid officials visited an aid project in that part of the world. Let us hope that Soviet aid officials visit all areas of need soon. The Australian Labor Party is committed to increasing aid for the South Pacific but for right and humanitarian reasons.
I want to make 2 points in conclusion and outline several steps which I would like to see taken to improve the Government’s aid program. Firstly, we should increase the funding for projects run by non-government aid agencies, presently set at $650,000. This represents only about .16 per cent of total aid. In 1974, the average funding by these non-government agencies- by members of the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development- was 3 per cent of the aid. Millions of Australians contribute to non-government agencies. They send over $2 6m overseas from this country each year. Their programs have a flexibility and an ability to get down to the community level in recipient countries which it is hard for governmenttogovernment aid to match. So I think that we ought to be monitoring what they are doing far more closely. Where we see that they are very worth while projects, because of their flexibility, we should be ensuring that we give them help.
The second point which I make in conclusion is that we should be preparing a middle term strategy for international development cooperation comparable to that produced by Canada for the period of 1975-80. I have already given credit to the Canadians for the sort of aid agencies which they possess. I think that we ought to be looking much more closely at their long term planning in this field. I repeat that ad hocism is not in the best interests either of Australia or of the recipient countries. I hope that these suggestions will be taken up, that we will be looking at this in a longer term perspective and, indeed, that we will be over that longer term lifting our aid to .7 per cent of our gross national product, the percentage laid down by international bodies such as the United Nations Organisation.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr Anthony and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is designed to give legislative effect to the Government’s decision to establish a new basis for funding the export finance facility operated by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. The new arrangements which I announced in July, transfer to the trading banks the responsibility of providing funds for the facility. They have the effect of reducing calls on the Budget whilst at the same time enhancing the opportunities for Australian exporters to win additional business. The Government believes that these new arrangements will provide a sound basis for co-operation between the banks and the Government in supporting Australian capital goods exporters. They are consistent with our intention of ensuring that initiative and responsibility are in appropriate cases, restored to the private sector.
Honourable members will recall that the export finance facility was established in EFIC in February 1975 to facilitate the provision of export finance on internationally competitive terms in support of medium and long term credit sales of Australian machinery and capital equipment. The facility was designed to supplement the medium and long-term credit facilities available to exporters through the Australian banking system and funds were provided from the Budget by way of long term loans to EFIC at a concessional rate of interest of VA per cent. These funds were then blended with finance provided by the banks, usually on a 50/50 basis to produce a finance package which is broadly comparable with those available from overseas competitor countries. This arrangement worked quite satisfactorily and enabled EFIC to provide finance in support of a number of important export tenders amounting to some $30m over the last 12 months. But the need for the Government to restrain calls on the Budget limited the volume of funds that could be made available to EFIC. This in turn limited the extent of EFIC ‘s support for this category of business.
The Government’s overriding objective is to attack inflation by substantially reducing the rate of growth of government spending. At the same time we seek to do what we can to assist Australian exporters to maintain and indeed expand their overseas trade. It was in this context that the Government took up with the banks the possibility of their broadening their involvement in the export finance facility. Our talks with the banks were both positive and constructive. They resulted in their agreement to provide up to $100m in support of new export finance business undertaken by EFIC in addition to financing some $50m of existing EFIC commitments. These arrangements will substantially increase the amount of funds available to EFIC for use in supporting capital goods export tenders. Indeed since their implementation EFIC has been able to offer financial support in respect of tender bids amounting to some $120m. Under the new arrangements the banks will provide loan funds to EFIC at commercial rates of interest applicable to this category of business. The Government, for its part, will provide an interest rate subsidy which will enable EFIC to on-lend these funds on internationally competitive terms. The savings in the 1976-77 Budget are estimated to be some $20m.
This expansion of EFIC’s finance facility will be welcomed by exporters. However, we can not lose sight of the fact that the success of our exporters in this field will depend very much on basic competitiveness as regards price, quality and delivery. The facility will certainly enable our exporters to match the credit terms being offered by their competitors, but at the end of the day whether or not they win the business will depend on the basic competitive factors to which I have referred. At the root of our relative competitive position is the question of costs. In this connection Australia’s record of inflation in the last few years has meant that we have lost ground severely; hence the Government’s clearly expressed and overriding objective to contain inflation. There are signs that we are already meeting with success in this but we have some way to go yet and a backlog of lost competitiveness which must be made up.
As a consequence of the change in the funding arrangements for EFIC, the Bill also proposes amendments to the national interest provisions of the EFIC Act. Previously in high risk transactions referred by EFIC for consideration in the national interest the Government made available the funds required to finance the transactions. It is now intended that EFIC should provide the finance involved from loan moneys advanced by the banking system. The Government’s role will be limited to underwriting the contingent liabilities involved. This measure will provide the same benefits to exporters, but will have the effect oflimiting the Government’s financial commitment to that of guarantor rather than primary lender. Opportunity has also been taken to make a number of housekeeping amendments to the Act mainly in regard to superannuation and terms and conditions of employment of officers of the Corporation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Uren) adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate:
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.
Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.
– Pursuant to sub-section 12D (5) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973, I present a copy of the Academic Salaries Tribunal 1976 Review containing one determination and 3 Reports. The Government does not intend to move for disapproval.
– by leave- The Government has today taken decisions to enable more expeditious handling of Lebanese migration to Australia. The Government has taken its decisions in circumstances where there is no immediate prospect of an end to the conflict within the Lebanon and there is thus a long-time migration situation of probably increasing dimensions. After it became necessary to evacuate the Australian Embassy in Beirut late in March 1976, special arrangements were introduced to facilitate processing of applications from Lebanese at Australian posts in nearby countries. The normal immigration criteria were relaxed for Lebanese who had suffered hardship as a result of the conflict within the Lebanon.
As from the end of June our Lebanese migration operations were centred in Nicosia in Cyprus, and there are now 3 Australia-based migration officers and 7 locally engaged staff operating through our Nicosia office. They have to handle the large volume of Lebanese migration as well as a work load in relation to Cypriot migration. The numbers of applications and nominations for Lebanese to come to Australia have continued to increase. By way of example, applications received in Nicosia totalled 247 in June, 1076 in July and 1149 in August. In the first 3 weeks of September 579 applications were received in Nicosia at a time when the inflow of Lebanese had been regulated by the Cypriot authorities and there had been bad weather in the area restricting entrance to Cyprus by sea.
On 9 September 1976 I announced initiatives to speed up the processing of nominations submitted in Australia for close relatives from the Lebanon of Australian residents to come to Australia. Special projects have been undertaken in close and continuing association with the Lebanese communities in Sydney and Melbourne for representatives to travel overseas to arrange for group movements to Australia of those accepted. Those initiatives were in line with the Government’s continuing concern to effect the reunion of close family relatives overseas with Lebanese residents in Australia. The scale of Lebanese migration is demonstrated by the fact that under the special project up to 22 September 1976 nominations received in Sydney and Melbourne covered totals of 2129 and 392 persons respectively. It is anticipated that another 1000 persons will be nominated in Sydney.
It is likely, therefore, that there will be a substantial increase in the numbers of Lebanese arriving in Australia in the near future. In the period from 1 January to 17 September 1976 more than 2600 Lebanese have been issued with visas for entry to Australia. In the period 1 January to 30 August 1976, 1324 persons showing Lebanon as their country of last residence arrived in Australia. In view of the escalating work load associated with processing applications and nominations in Nicosia, a senior officer of the central office of my Department was sent to Nicosia on 4 September 1976 to report on the most effective way of organising our operation in Cyprus. The decisions taken by the Government today were based in part on the recommendations in his reports.
An important consideration affecting the decisions taken has been the increasing problems caused by the large number of Lebanese within Cyprus. There are at present some 8000 persons from the Lebanon in Cyprus and this situation is causing a range of problems for both the Lebanese people themselves and the people and authorities of Cyprus. It is important that delays in processing potential Lebanese migrants from Cyprus be kept to a minimum. Accordingly, the Government today has approved the sending of a task force of experienced officers to Cyprus as a matter of urgency to handle nominations and applications for migration to Australia. With the arrival of the task force there will be 9 Australiabased officers in Cyprus, including a medical officer, so that medical examinations can be completed quickly on the spot. The Australiabased officers will be supplemented by locally engaged staff, including interpreters. The task force will remain in Cyprus for 3 months and the special immigration operation in Nicosia will then be reviewed. My Department’s officers on the spot have been making a Herculean effort to cope with the situation. They have been working more than 12 hours a day but the number of unresolved applications and nominations has continued to mount. The task force will enable the backlog to be cleared quickly.
The Government has also decided to define more clearly those persons normally resident in the Lebanon who are eligible to migrate to Australia under the present circumstances. This will assist Australian residents in deciding whether to nominate their close relatives overseas and will also enable the Cypriot authorities to determine whether individual Lebanese should be allowed to enter Cyprus for the purpose of migration to Australia. As from 1 October 1976 the following persons normally resident in the Lebanon will be eligible to come to Australia, after meeting normal health and character requirements: Spouses and dependent children of Australian residents; parents, both aged and dependent and those who are nondependent and of working age, of Australian residents; nominated brothers and sisters of Australian residents; and persons eligible under the normal acceptable occupations list. The dependants of persons in the above groups, where appropriate, will also be eligible. These criteria will apply until the end of this year and then be reviewed. In order to ensure that those Lebanese accepted move quickly from Cyprus, thus allowing others to enter Cyprus for processing without causing increasing pressures in that country, it has been decided that visas issued to Lebanese from 1 October 1976 be valid for 3 months.
A new requirement is to be introduced to apply generally- that is, to persons of any nationality- that persons must be permanent residents for a minimum of one year before being eligible to nominate persons overseas for migration to Australia. This requirement will not apply to nominations of spouses and dependent children. In the current circumstances of high levels of unemployment in Australia there may be employment difficulties for Lebanese migrants, many of whom are unskilled or semiskilled. I shall be conferring with the Lebanese communities to enlist their support in ensuring the successful resettlement of their relatives in Australia. This consultation will cover means whereby the Lebanese communities themselves can assume wider responsibilities for post-arrival resettlement of their relatives.
The action I have announced tonight is a clear testimony to the desire of the Government to deal humanely and effectively with the unfortunate circumstances in which so many Lebanese relatives of Australian residents now find themselves. It will mean added pressures on Australian services in the short term but the inconvenience and difficulties this involves must be seen against the situation of continuing despair and personal hardship which these people face.
– by leave- Ordinarily the statement of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) would have been followed by a statement from my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) who is the spokesman for the Australian Labor
Party on immigration and ethnic affairs. He has, as many honourable members will know, been away for the last week and will be away next week investigating this matter of Lebanese refugees. He is visiting Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Syria and Turkey as they are countries where from time to time Australian posts have had to process applications by refugees from the Lebanon. But there are some points which I wish to make at this moment and which my deputy would also seek to make. As the Minister and honourable members generally would know, this is a matter of very great concern. Not only have the honourable member for Melbourne, my deputy, the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) and I asked questions about this matter, but also I believe that Government supporters also have asked questions. I suppose I have more correspondence with the Minister on this matter than I have at the moment on any other migrant group. I try to keep my submissions to the Minister on these matters succinct, but at the same time I try to bring out the special features of any case.
I know that there must be a very heavy load on the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Minister in processing the hundreds of applications that honourable members make on this matter. I realise that the Minister may wish to respond now to the comments I am about to make. I would be very happy, of course, if he were to do so. I realise that he may prefer, as he has done in the case of many questions without notice put to him by my colleagues and me, to write to me afterwards. But I speak at this stage because I hope that before we come to the debate on the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the week after next it may be possible to clear up some matters. I applaud the statement the Minister has made as a case of ‘so far so good’. There is a particular problem for Lebanese who have been able to leave Lebanon and go to Cyprus and also for the Cypriot Government, because next to the Lebanese Government the Cypriot Government has the largest refugee problem in the world at the moment. A very great number of residents of Australia are concerned about having their relatives in Cyprus come to Australia, just as there are a great number of people resident in Australia who wish to have their relatives in the Lebanon, or who have fled from the Lebanon to Cyprus and other places, come here too. I am concerned to ascertain what arrangements still obtain for processing applications by Lebanese who have fled to countries other than Cyprus or applications lodged on behalf of such persons by residents in Australia. On 1 April the Minister made a statement about the processing of such applications by Australian embassies in Cairo, Ankara or Athens. At a later stage in the same statement he mentioned that there are Australian missions in Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Turkey and Egypt. I quote one passage from his ministerial statement of 1 April. The Minister said:
I have been informed this morning that there is a significant movement of Lebanese into Syria. At this stage it is not known what the composition of this movement is and hence whether they would be eligible for migration to Australia. I have already given instructions that an immigration officer of the former Beirut staff, who is now in Athens, should proceed immediately to Damascus to process those people who would be eligible to come to Australia. The Australian Government does not officially have resident representation in Syria. Migration inquiries are handled for us by the Netherlands Embassy. The Australian officer will work in association with that Embassy during his stay in Syria.
Also relevant to what the Minister has just stated this evening is this statement:
There is an Australian High Commission in Cyprus and those people from the Lebanon eligible for migration to Australia can apply there.
I want to know whether there are the arrangements in Damascus that did obtain after April by courtesy of the Netherlands Embassy in Damascus. I have particularly in mind the fact that Damascus is the most accessible point in other countries to the Lebanon. I have not been able to look up my files in the time since I received a copy of the Minister’s statement this evening, but I do recall cases of persons who are living in the eastern part of the Lebanon- in the Beqa’a Valley- and who have taken refuge there in Ba’albek, Chtaura and other places from the coastal part of the Lebanon. I can think of places on the coast where their houses have been destroyedTripoli, Beirut, Saida and Tyr- and they have had to go to relatives or to emergency accommodation in the Beqa’a- in the inland, in the eastern part of the Lebanon. It is very easy for them to go across the border with Syria to Damascus. At the same time they can pursue some occupation in their homeland pending a summons to Damascus.
I believe that in the Lebanese situation we have to face the fact that there are Lebanese refugees not only outside the Lebanon, such as in Cyprus, but also within the Lebanon itself and it is just as difficult and precarious to get from one part of the Lebanon to another pan these days as it is to get from the Lebanon to another country. The Minister has acknowledged the difficulties that there are, particularly in certain seasons of the year, in going by sea from the Lebanon to
Cyprus. But we cannot be content with just looking at the position of Lebanese refugees in Cyprus. We have also to consider the position of Lebanese refugees within the Lebanon and we have to consider the possibility of their going to other points. While some in fact do get to Turkey, Egypt or Israel- contrary to what many people might think to be possible- the easiest place for them to go is Syria. We did have arrangements in Syria. So I ask specifically: Are those arrangements in Syria still applicable?
– No, they stopped in June. That was announced some time ago.
– On 24 June.
-The House was in recess and I was not sure that that had been notified in the House. I do not believe that the Minister has so informed me in replying to letters which I have written on that point. I ask him at least to consider restoring those arrangements in Damascus. The position is just as serious for those in the parts of the Lebanon to which Damascus is most convenient as it was on 1 April when the Minister announced the arrangements which we had been able to make in Damascus because of the courtesy of the Netherlands Embassy. The Minister has said that the arrangements in Damascus were discontinued on 24 June. I should hope that he would consider restoring those arrangements.
On the occasion of his statement on 1 April the Minister also said:
I must emphasise that currently the normal migration criteria will apply to people from the Lebanon applying in other countries.
He had previously mentioned Greece, Syria, Israel, Turkey and Egypt. He has stated, of course, that there would be a relaxation of the criteria, particularly in relation to parents who are not dependent wholly or partly but who are able to work for themselves. He said that those people can be processed if they get to Cyprus. I ask: Are they eligible now- they were not on 1 April- if they go to any of those other points which the honourable gentleman mentioned?
– Yes, they are, if they can get to any Australian post.
– I am glad to have that reassurance. It will be of great solace to a very large number of Australian residents who are worried about their relatives in or from the Lebanon. I am reminded by an earlier interjection that I had asked a question without notice about why information about the extended categories, particularly the working nondependent parents, which the Minister had notified in his Press statement of 2 1 May, had not been sent to some of our posts overseas; in particular, why it had not been sent to the Lebanon and to Cyprus.
– It had.
-He did write to me later. He did not in fact say that it had been sent to Damascus- another place I mentioned. He said that it would have been sent. He said that an acknowledgment was sent from Nicosia. His letter to me was dated 24 August. I would have thought that at least it might have been candid to state that there were now no processing arrangements in Damascus. There is not much point in his telling me that the circular would have been sent to Damascus if in fact it would have been quite irrelevant for it to have been sent there, that is, there is no arrangement for processing people who get to Damascus because we have no resident status there and we no longer have the arrangement with the Netherlands Embassy.
I appreciate the answers which the Minister has given to me in the course of my raising these matters, but I do urge him at least to investigate whether it is now possible to do what he quite rightly was able to announce that he had done on 1 April, that is, to make arrangements for people in the Lebanon who had been nominated to come to Australia to be interviewed in Damascus, which is the most accessible place for anybody who lives in the Lebanon, particularly those who are refugees in other parts of the Lebanon. I know that there are some difficulties. The position of the Lebanese Government- any Lebanese government- is such that it would be reluctant to ask the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to declare refugee status. It is an admission of failure. It is an expression of shame on the part of any nation to admit that it has a refugee problem with which it cannot cope. But we have to face the fact that formerly in Jordan and now in the Lebanon we are reaping the whirlwind of the world’s failure to establish a Palestinian national home as the world created a Jewish national home.
There will be no peace in the Middle East until there is not only a Jewish but also a Palestinian national home- separate national homes- and there will be no security and there will be no safety for people in the Lebanon until that happens. Meantime through no fault of their own, they are refugees not only in Cyprus but also in neighbouring countries and in their own country. There will be a very great number of Australian residents not just of 12 months standing but of many years standing who will be disappointed that the refugees in the Lebanon, the people who have lost their houses and their jobs, could not go to the cheapest place, the most accessible place, Damascus, or other neighbouring mainland places to have their applications processed to come to Australia.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member must seek leave if he wishes to make a statement. There is no motion before the House.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
-The Government has restored responsibility to the conduct of Australia’s foreign affairs. It has reduced the level of hysteria and at times open hostility towards the United States of America which we had under the last Administration and has provided a sound basis for our continuing place in the world. The Opposition has promoted 2 matters which have destroyed any hope of a bipartisan policy for foreign affairs in this country. The first was the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in reply to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) earlier this year when he made it plain that there was no hope of a reasonable and sensible foreign policy being adopted by the Australian Labor Party. The second was the appendage of a signature by the President of the Australian Labor Party to an advertisement in the National Times recently calling upon Australia to remove itself from all military alliances or arrangements. That was a prescription for subjugation. It was in fact a prescription in the long run for national suicide.
We have had a further example today in the issue of Timor. The Leader of the Opposition has attempted to extricate himself from a bed of his own making. There is a clear issue before the Australian people and it can only be resolved one way or the other. Did the former Prime Minister give the blind eye to the Indonesians to take over East Timor? There is an abundance of evidence to suggest that this was so. He and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) have sought to turn the attack upon the Government in a despicable fashion knowing full well the facts of the situation. They have attempted to employ a device to obtain privilege or protection from having to disclose the documents which will disclose the truth about this matter. There have been claims by the Leader of the Opposition that he had been maligned because criticisms have been made of him and he is unable to defend himself because, he says, the documents that would prove his innocence on this matter cannot be disclosed for 20 years. He has a clear way open to him to agree to have those documents placed before the people. He extricates himself in a fashion that is totally discreditable. As has been said in this House before in answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s claims in the Parliament today and on television tonight, there was evidence of a likely invasion of East Timor as far back as late 1974. Throughout 1975 there was further evidence.
The spokesman for foreign affairs in the former Opposition, now the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), in 1975 raised this matter in the Parliament on behalf of the then Opposition and it was dismissed out of hand by the then Government. At no stage did the former Government seek to raise this matter in the United Nations. It could have sought a voice in the Security Council. It refused to do so. At no stage, as I understand it, has any explanation been made to the Labor Caucus about the state of duplicity over this matter. There has been allegation after allegation in the newspapers and again in this Parliament today and none of these allegations have been satisfactorily answered.
Some members of the Opposition claim to know what happened. One of them is the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). On 18 February this year- it can be seen in Hansard-he stated that he knew what had occurred because he claimed that something said by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) on this point was not true. We know also that the former Government must have known in October 1975 that the Indonesian so-called volunteers, presumably with their volunteer force of warships and their volunteer force of Mitchell bombers, had crossed into East Timor long before 1 1 November, which is the date behind which the Leader of the Opposition tries to hide. On 7 October there was an attack by several hundred Indonesian regular troops under the Kostrad unit command. There was a further attack on 16 October at Batugade. There were the attacks that resulted in the Australian journalists being killed. Why should the former
Prime Minister write a letter to President Suharto on 7 November to set out his view of the situation if in fact he did not have concern about it?
There is an abundance of evidence. Do not let us think that the Joint Intelligence Organisation or other information-gathering groups known to have information would not have reported the true situation to the Labor Government in office. It is absolutely undeniable that the Indonesians were arranging and were carrying out military operations in East Timor. It is almost inconceivable that the former Government did not know what was going on. The Opposition claim that the Government has turned a blind eye since 1 1 November is absolutely spurious.
On 7 November the Leader of the Opposition wrote to President Suharto. The Leader of the Opposition has disclosed to this Parliament 2 matters relating to that document. The first is that there was a letter on 7 November. The second is that on a previous occasion the Indonesian President gave him guarantees that no force would be used. Honourable members see what I am getting to. He is hiding behind a convention that documents should not be produced and information should not be given about the acts of the former Government, but he is selectively and deceitfully, I put to the Committee, drawing out some of that information which suits him and not the rest. He expects the country to accept his parts of the evidence and to be blind as to the remainder. He has told the people about the letter of 7 November. He has told the people about the alleged guarantees from President Suharto. He has attacked the Government for not reopening the consulate in East Timor, but he fails to say that constituents of mine pleaded with the former Minister for Defence, my predecessor as the honourable member for St George, and the former Government on a number of occasions to re-open the consulate and they were turned down flat.
– Refused entirely. The Leader of the Opposition has also said that in 1975 he wrote a letter to President Suharto and in 1972 he wrote a letter to President Nixon on the matter. The facts are that a great body of confidential material has now been brought out into the open by the Leader of the Opposition. But is he scared to have the remainder come out? Why will he not bring it out? There are only 2 courses open. Either he agrees to have all these documents and information disclosed, or alternatively the present Foreign Minister and the Government in the public interest disclose the documents and break the convention. The convention that documents should not be disclosed has in fact been waived by the Leader of the Opposition on the points that I have mentioned- and on more than one occasion. There is one even more important fact. In this House today the Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave the whole game away because he said that he had seen the communique between the 2 Heads of State. Although I was not close enough to the table to hear, I am told that he was then prompted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not want even to say it himself, but he let the cat out of the bag. He was prompted about the notes and he said: ‘I have seen not only the communique but also the notes of the discussion’.
-Who said that?
– That was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. What right has this man to see those confidential notes as against the right of every Australian citizen, who has been defrauded in this matter by the former Government, who has been told one thing as against another thing which has been told to the Indonesian Government. Does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition claim to have seen these notes as a member of the Labor Cabinet, or are there 27 other former Cabinet members walking around guilty who will not explain their innocence and will not call for the documents to be exposed? Of course not. In my opinion, this Government ought to stop pussy-footing around with the people who have waived the convention and the documents should be released to the public by the Government. Either they will clear the Leader of the Opposition or completely destroy his political career, and that is what he is deadly scared to see happen. Last year, every time he said something about overseas loans or cables, the truth eventually came out. He is completely and utterly worried about the truth. Was the document bandied around in the Labor Party Caucus, where the honourable member for Reid saw it, or did he see it in the street? It is a public document. There is no warrant for this convention to be kept now. It has been broken, flouted and flaunted by the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Chairman, in speaking -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 , 803,485,000.
Department of Repatriation
Proposed expenditure, $249,437,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $2 15,404,000.
-That this Budget makes inadequate provision for health services is well evidenced by a comparison of last year’s expenditure with this year’s estimates. The long list of areas in which there has been an actual decrease in funding is categorical proof that health care is a low priority for this Government. Although the cynical and elitist provisions of the Budget will have the effect of forcing approximately half the population into private health insurance and closing the door on equality of access to health service, the slashing of Medibank is only the start. Let us push aside all the empty rhetoric about the private sector leading us to economic prosperity and look with some humanity at the health care needs of our society. To make every area of Government expenditure a political football is heartless in the extreme, but to do that in relation to people’s medical well-being is the last gasp.
Let me refer to the figures for a moment. They are contained on page 38 of Budget Statement No. 1. General medical benefits are to be slashed by $79.7m; pensioners’ medical benefits will be down by $5.3m; Medibank hospital benefits will be down by a vast $ 117.6m; and hospital benefits will be down by $76. 8m- a total reduction in hospital services and benefits of an astronomical $ 144.4m. Then, of course, there are cuts in pharmaceutical benefits to the extent of $6.6m. Expenditure on the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis does not escape either; it will be down by $5.3m. The constantly maligned Aborigines are squeezed even further by a reduction in their health services. True, it is only $1m, but given inflation it will make their cross impossible to bear. It is effectively a 15 per cent decrease in expenditure. In addition to that vast list, the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories and the anti-smoking campaign have to tighten their belts also. This Budget spells the end of Federal funds for the anti-smoking campaign in particular.
They are the actual cuts, but they do not paint the picture as gloomily as it really is. Firstly, they are cuts in allocation relative to what was spent last year and not, as would be more meaningful, relative to what was allocated and therefore would have been spent if the present Government did not pursue its misguided preoccupation with budgetary frugality. Further, the figures I have given represent only the cutbacks. Almost every area has been effectively frozen. Any increases are either insufficient to cover increased costs or totally inadequate to finance much needed expansion. Total expenditure is down by $44m, but in real terms, after allowing for inflation, the picture is horrendous.
Let me look at just a few such areas in more detail. What is important to note is that while funding continues, even though at constant or lower levels, what was actually needed in this Budget was extended spending. We find ourselves in a situation in which not only has the cost of health care increased for every Australian but also the availability of health services has been effectively reduced. What else can be made of the facts I shall now recite. Under the Labor Government spending on the hospitals’ development program was increased to $108m. The present Government has allocated not one cent more than that. The result is that no account has been taken of inflation and, in fact, no money is allocated for programs that are not already in action. Almost all of the $108m in this year’s Budget is already committed. What about health services for Aborigines? The Budget allocates $20. 5m for that purpose. That represents not just a reduction of last year’s allocation; in real terms it is the castration of funding for hospital facilities, clinics, health centres and health education programs for our Aboriginal community. Surely that is not an area in which any humane government would start slashing, especially considering the immensity of the problems in that field.
Let me turn finally to community health facilities. That is an area in which the 3 main deficiencies in the health estimates are well evidenced. Firstly, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his Budget Speech:
A further $70m- compared with $S4.3m last year- has been provided for payment of grants to States, local government authorities, and other eligible organisations under the community health program.
In fact, that is most misleading. I suggest that it is deliberately and cynically designed to indicate, wrongly, that the Fraser Government is actually increasing community health facilities. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Treasurer suggests that this year’s allocation has been increased by $ 16.2m to $70m, when in 1975-76 the allocation was almost the same. Although it is true that $70. 7m was allocated, only $54.3m of the allocation was spent. But the Treasurer should not suggest that this year’s estimates show a relative increase. That only 77 per cent of the allocation was used cannot be blamed on anyone but the present Government. If it did not indulge itself in the mad chase to cut Federal spending then much more of the 1975-76 Budget allocations would now be serving the Australian people. Put baldly, this year’s allocation is the same as that of last year. The Treasurer should not use figures of expenditure as opposed to allocated amounts just because it is politically expedient to do so. Honesty would make a nice change. If it were not for this Government’s reining in of last year’s Budget allocations one project that could have gone ahead is the muchneeded community health centre in Northcote. However, be that as it may.
Given the fact that the estimates for community health facilities have not increased at all, let me look at a second important element. The situation simply is that 15 per cent of the Australian public are without adequate health services. I know that only too well because my electorate of Batman is as poorly serviced as any other area. Despite that, the Budget allocates not even enough money to maintain current commitments. When inflation is taken into account, $88m and not $70m is needed just to keep abreast of current plans. Therefore, existing facilities, although inadequate, will have to do, and much needed new ones will be ignored completely. What do the Liberals say to the people of Northcote who have planned and worked hard for such a community health centre for more than 12 months? In a letter addressed to me on this matter the Minister said:
You will be aware that an amount of $70m will be appropriated for the continuation of the community health program in 1976-77. This is a substantial contribution to the continuation of community health services but is available only to permit the maintenance of currently approved projects at previously approved levels of activity. Necessary restrictions on Commonwealth expenditure have meant that, at this stage, it has not been possible to provide community health program funds for new projects such as the Northcote proposal.
That is what the Minister says to the people of Northcote. In effect, it means: ‘Damn you, the worker can suffer while we court big business’. The last fault that I want to mention with this year’s health budget is the form that the limited funding is to take. In his letter the Minister went on to say:
I should add that future Commonwealth financial assistance for community health projects will take the form of annual block grants for State programs as a whole, and it will be primarily a matter for the State authorities to decide allocations to individual projects from the block grants. Organisations such as the Northcote Community Health centre society are therefore being advised that they should keep in touch with their State health authorities concerning the further consideration of their proposals in the event that community health program funds become available for new projects.
So on top of the Budget allocation being too small, the Government is turning its back on responsibilities and passing a hot potato to the States. Meanwhile, it is unconcerned that community health programs administrators, such as those in West Heidelberg in Victoria, do not know what their allocation will be. Worse still, the planners of new facilities will have to mark time indefinitely. There you have it, a health Budget which is miserly and in the final analysis shirks the rightful responsibilities of a Federal Government. Like so many other areas, this part of the Budget Estimates is to be roundly condemned.
-Firstly, when speaking to these estimates I would sincerely like to congratulate the Government on its decision to place all those affairs related to the ex-service communities under the one administration which will be the new Department of Veterans Affairs.
– You will suffer for it.
– I must correct that-not all ex-servicemen’s affairs but most of them. This is something I have wanted for a long time and it has come to pass. The Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits scheme still remains in the Defence Department and I am hopeful that in the near future it, too, will be administered by the new Department. I am speaking to the Repatriation estimates. In the near future there will be a new department, and in answer to the interjection from the honourable member, this has been a long desire of mine. I know I can speak on behalf of the Returned Services League of Australia and the Australian Services Council in offering congratulations to the Government on its decision.
The establishment of the new Department of Veterans’ Affairs will make no difference to future estimates of expenditure for repatriation, defence service homes or the Australian War Graves Commission. In fact, I have no doubt it could mean less cost in future expenditure because of the streamlining of the administration which must occur under the one command structure. I would like to pay tribute to the administrative staff of the Repatriation Department which is an efficient and dedicated team, as are members of other departments handling exservicemen’s affairs. This is without question and I know that the staff can be welded into the one great team which will be of benefit to exservicemen. The establishment of the new department of Veterans’ Affairs is of historical significance and again I congratulate the Government on its decision.
In the Repatriation estimates I notice that finance has been allocated for expenditure on medical and hospital benefits. But looking at the amount that is allocated, I feel that no provision has been made to include hospital and medical benefits for all ex-servicemen and women. I say this because this is Government policy. It was also the Labor Government’s policy, although it did nothing about it. I realise perfectly well that the implementation of this policy would require additional finance. At the present time we are undergoing an economic recession and the necessary finance is not available. However, to assist in implementing this policy affecting these ex-servicemen and women, I suggest that this policy could be introduced at regular intervals on a priority basis as finance became available. The priorities I suggest, and which the RSL has researched and agreed upon, are as follows: Firstly, ex-servicemen and women suffering from vascular disease; secondly, ex-servicemen and women suffering from arthritic disease; thirdly the dependent wife and children of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner who is also in receipt of a part service pension; fourthly general rate pensioners of 70 per cent or more; fifthly, ex-servicemen and women suffering from other chronic complaints; sixthly, all returned exservicemen of World War II over 60 years of age- and that is a bit of a plug for me; seventhly, all other returned ex-servicemen and women from World War II; eighthly, all ex-servicemen of 70 years of age or more -
- Mr Chairman, I draw attention to the state of the Chamber.
– I will remember you next time I am sitting in the chair.
– I draw the attention of the Chair to the threat by the honourable member a moment ago when he said: ‘I will remember you next time I am sitting in the Chair’.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to both sides of the chamber that members cease interjecting and commenting across the chamber. It is not helping as far as the quorum is concerned. It is not helping the Committee. (Quorum formed)
– Finally, the ninth matter in the list of priorities is ex-servicemen and women in receipt of a tapered service pension. If this policy was progressively introduced according to the priorities I have suggested, and as finances permitted, this Government would have honoured its promise to extend hospital and medical benefits to all ex-servicemen and women at a rate it could afford and to the satisfaction of everybody. Nowhere in the estimates could I find a specific amount allocated to nursing homes subsidy. It may well be that there is one and I have missed it, but I still believe that this is one of the most critical areas of need in social welfare.
A recent survey of nursing home charges indicates that in New South Wales, which I use specifically as an example, the average cost of nursing home accommodation is approximately $120 per week. In the case of the ex-service community this creates excessive hardship for the service pensioner as well as the age pensioner. The veteran, of course, who needs nursing home accommodation as a result of war caused disabilities, has his charges met by the Repatriation Department, but should a service pensioner, or for that matter an age pensioner have occasion to be accommodated at a nursing home, that person is in real strife. The pensioner under the new Budget arrangements receives a weekly amount of $43.50 a week. If he is entitled to receive fringe benefits, the Health Department pays $64.40 a week by way of subsidy. To relate this to the average cost of $120 a week means that a sum of $12.20 must be found from some other source. It either comes from relatives, from some welfare organisation, or, as in the majority of instances, it comes from the pension of the patient’s spouse.
Not only does it leave the pensioner patient with no income at all; it leaves the pensioner’s spouse with $12.10 less in the weekly pension on which to live. I feel most strongly that this creates an unacceptable level of hardship. I know that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) is well aware of the situation and that at the present moment a committee of review is considering this matter to attempt to rectify the situation. May I suggest that the circumstances of each nursing home be reviewed independently. Some circumstances differ. I know this is so in north Queensland. I would ask that the committee produce its findings and recommendations as soon as possible because each week that passes sees a continuation of this unnecessary hardship for the Service pensioner and the age pensioner.
Thanks to my friend the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), who drew attention to the state of the House, I have run out of time, but in the very near future -
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In speaking to this section of the Estimates I would firstly express regret, as I suggested recently, that the Opposition does not have a chance as of right to nominate an area in which its supporters may ask for substantial debate on these Estimates. These are the major Estimates, yet the time for the debate is rather limited. It is also in this area that some of the greatest initiatives were shown in the last 3 years. In the discussion that has followed the dismantling of the original Medibank, other aspects of initiatives in health have been forgotten. I refer particularly to the community health centre program and to the hospital improvement program. It is in regard to the community health centres that I wish to speak because my electorate is one that is quite markedly affected in this way.
The West Heidelberg Community Health and Welfare Centre has been operating for some time in temporary premises. Recently the Committee of Management of the Centre postponed its annual general meeting because of the demand by residents for an opportunity to express their support for the Centre and their opposition to the State Government’s instructions that construction of a building to house the Centre be deferred, that no new staff be employed and that staff who leave are not to be replaced. Of course, the last of those directions is the one that most concerns the Management Committee in the immediate future because it seems to imply that the community health program is to be allowed to wither away in Victoria. This is bad for morale of the staff and the residents who are involved with the Centre. The long term concern of the residents is that the Commonwealth Government should continue to fund the community health program.
It is interesting that at this public meeting that was held on 24 August over 400 people attended on a cold winter night. The comment is made in the report on the meeting that in that area an attendance of 100 at a public meeting is considered to be exceptionally high. It was said that this was the largest meeting in West Heidelberg since the area was first occupied after the Olympic Games in 1956. At the meeting the feeling was almost unanimous. The interesting part was that a lot of the argument was put by Mr Bruce Skeggs, Liberal M.L.A. for Ivanhoe, and Councillor Jean Baker, who was the endorsed Liberal candidate for Bundoora in the last State election. These 2 persons espoused the new federalism that is put forward by this Government and the altered relationship between the Commonwealth and State governments. Unfortunately, when the new federalism does not suit them, they say that the State Government will meet the necessary percentageafter all, 10 per cent of nothing is nothing- and they then suddenly find that the new federalism is not so good, so they assure the people that they will be asking for extra grants. Be that as it may, the tone of the meeting of residents was such that it ended up with the following resolution which was proposed by the defeated Liberal candidate for the State seat of Bundoora, Councillor Jean Baker, in the following terms.
This meeting expresses its wholehearted support for the Committee of Management of the West Heidelberg Community Centre and for the work of the Centre in West Heidelberg and demands that the State Minister of Health:
So much for the new federalism. The other thing about the State Government attitude to this Centre -
– Be consistent. What was it for?
-I realise that the honourable member has difficulty in hearing, but if he listens he will recognise the inconsistency of the attitude to the new federalism and the assurance that there will be a request for extra Commonwealth finance. The other point I wish to make is the Government’s failure to appreciate that these community health centres are not just treatment centres but are out-reaching organisations for the community that deal with many social welfare aspects as well. The same problem is occurring with the East Preston Health Centre for which a $lm building is under construction. Recently the staff for that Centre, which is in temporary premises, was frozen at an administrator a typist, 2 social workers and a nurse. Permission to advertise for a salaried doctor was withdrawn because, under the changed agreement between the Commonwealth and the State, the Centres request for a salaried doctor was not approved. It was insisted that health care must be on a feeforservice basis.
There are other things that I want to talk about so I will have to move off the community health program. I want to refer briefly to a social service matter. In the West Heidelberg area of the Scullin electorate a project for unemployed selfhelp PUSH- has been established. The focus of the project is on unemployed school leavers because there are many in the area. In January 1976, of the 3055 registered unemployed in the
Heidelberg zone, 1018 males and 732 females were under 2 1 years of age. The West Heidelberg Community Centre has given permission for the establishment of a voluntary ‘drop in’ centre in an attempt to institute a job creation program to cover community jobs such as small household repairs and actively assist the unemployed to find work in the community. There is no Government finance to assist an effort such as this. An outlay of probably less than $4,000-say, $3,000 to allow salary payment for a coordinator and a certain amount for furnishings, telephones and sundries such as stationerywould allow this voluntary group which is already operating in this area to do a very effective job in working for these unemployed persons who are under 2 1 years of age.
In another area in my electorate, the PrestonReservoir area, in January of this year 1800 people were receiving the unemployment benefit, according to Department of Social Security figures. A Preston-Reservoir employment action group has been formed with the support of such organisations as the Intra-Church Council, a whole range of welfare organisations in the area, the unemployed themselves and local service clubs. The group desires to establish a centre with focus on community action against unemployment. The centre would be used, firstly, to inform people of their rights and to ensure that they are protected; secondly, to provide ways in which unemployed can be meaningfully involved in using their skills, irrespective of whether the inter-industry market requires them; thirdly, to act as a local pressure group on the labour market; and fourthly, to encourage the unemployed to be involved in implementing these aims. The Department of Social Security ought to encourage such voluntary action by providing financial assistance for such centres.
In the time remaining to me in this debate I wish to protest against the decision of the Department of Social Security to cease giving financial assistance to FILEF- the Federation of Italian Labourers, Emigrants and Familieswhich does so much work among migrants of Italian origin in my own area. FILEF is to be deprived as from 1 January 1977 of financial assistance given to it by the Department. This will inhibit the very great work that FILEF is doing.
-I never cease to be amazed, when I listen to the speeches of Opposition members in the Budget debate, at how they always criticise the Government for making expenditure cuts. It is my experience that most people in this nation agree that there should be expenditure cuts. Yet, when one talks to them about their interest area they say: ‘Oh, but please do not cut the funds in that area; cut them elswhere but not in my interest area’. This Government has followed the disastrous government that we saw in power for 3 years. That government plunged this nation into great debt. It could not budget and, as I say, plunged the nation into debt. Thus, I fail to understand how Opposition members can rise in this debate and suggest to this Government how to run the finances of the nation. In speaking to these setimates which deal with social security, welfare and health, I want to remind the Committee and the people of the nation that of the $24,32 lm estimated total Budget outlay, social security and welfare will account for $6, 187m or 25 per cent of the amount. If we add to that the health budget of $2,909m or 12 per cent, we find that in total these amounts represent some 37 per cent of the total outlays or a little over $9,000m. That is a tremendous amount of money for any nation to spend on social welfare and health, particularly when we compare it with the education expenditure of $2, 204m and the defence expenditure of $2, 178m both of which represent approximately 9.6 per cent of the gross national product.
I want to direct attention to the multitude of programs that are undertaken by the Commonwealth through the States. We tend to forget these. Some are small programs and some are large programs. Firstly, I will deal with school dental services. This financial year, $2 5. 4m is being provided to the States, this amount representing an increase of $lm over the amount provided last financial year. These services will be provided to all primary school children. I have made an inspection of one of these clinics in my electorate of Petrie and I must say that they are exremely good installations. What is not recognised by the States- I take them to task for this- is the fact that 90 per cent of the capital cost of these clinics is being provided by the Commonwealth, in addition to 90 per cent of the operating costs of training facilities and 65 per cent of the actual operating costs of the clinics. I am appalled when I see that in many cases little or no recognition is given by the States to the Commonwealth for providing these funds. I wonder how many of the people who go to these centres know that they are Commonwealth funded? I wonder how many children or parents of children who receive attention at these clinics realise that the bulk of the funds is provided by the Commonwealth. Of course, what is worse is that when the centres are opened by State Ministers, they frequently and conveniently omit to tell the people that the Commonwealth is funding these projects. In short, the States are hiding the fact that the Commonwealth is generously funding such projects. They want to hog all the kudos for themselves.
I direct my remarks also to community health centres. The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who preceded me in the debate mentioned community health centres. This year, $70. 8m is being provided, an increase of $ 16.2m over the 1975-76 figure. I wonder whether the people who are treated in these centres know that they are Commonwealth funded. I wonder whether the disabled or aged person who is treated and given advice by the social worker from one of these centres knows that these projects are funded by the Commonwealth? The States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act that came into force in 1974 provided an amount of $30m over a period of 3 years. In this financial year, an amount of $ 10.8m remains for expenditure at the end of the 3-year period. These grants go towards the provision of self-contained dwellings for pensioners, units that are rented out at a reasonable cost. Once again, these are funded largely from the Commonwealth. I wonder whether, when the State governments make announcements in the Press about these schemes, they give due recognition to the Commonwealth for the provision of these funds. In my electorate of Petrie there are a number of these aged persons ‘units.
In addition, there are the States Grants (Home Care) Act of 1969 and the States (Paramedical Services) Act of 1969 which provide services for aged persons and senior citizens centres on a $2 for $1 subsidy basis with the States. I wonder whether the State governments and the Ministers give recognition to the Commonwealth when these projects are being announced. I can only say to the Committee that in my State of Queensland little or no kudos goes to the Commonwealth when these projects are being announced or opened by State Ministers. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jul!) is extremely interested in a public nursing home at Wynnum in his electorate. Recently there was an announcement in the Brisbane Courier-Mail-l think on 3 September this year- that a contract was to be let for a further stage in the construction of this nursing home. An amount of $652,000 is being provided by the Commonwealth. Of course, there was no mention in the article of the Commonwealth government providing those funds.
I realise that we are debating the health and social welfare areas. But this happens in all areas in which State grants or section 96 grants are provided. It is the people’s money and I do not want to haggle over the matter of from where it comes. The fact is that the Commonwealth is providing these valuable funds to the States . The States have a great propensity to erect edifices to themselves and usually to adorn them with plaques. It is my guess that, as has happened in Queensland, little or no recognition is given to the Federal members. I urge my Federal colleagues to monitor carefully these programs which are funded by the Commonwealth and demand that due recognition is given to that fact. Some State Ministers even see fit to exclude Federal members from the official parties when some of these projects are being opened. I find this extremely embarrassing. It is rude on the part of the States. Indeed, it shows a lack of respect, a lack of protocol and a lack of common courtesy. It is my view that Federal members represent people. Regardless of whether they be Labor State governments or Liberal-National Country Party State governments or whether the member concerned happens to come from this side of the chamber or the other, he should be entitled to due recognition.
I cite to the Committee an example which took place recently in my electorate and which was followed a few weeks later by a similar example. The Minister for Local Government and Main Roads opened a section of freeway, followed by another section of roadway, almost completely funded with Commonwealth funds. He did not extend the courtesy of inviting me to join the official party. I believe that this is the sort of thing that is occurring in most States. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) told me of a case in which a school building funded completely from the Commonwealth was to be opened in his electorate. Because it was erected on State government ground, he was unable to perform the official opening. These sorts of things should not be condoned by any government. I suggest to honourable members that although the Canberra bashing will continue probably unabated and unrestrained, they take careful note of all of these programs in the Budget for which Commonwealth funds are provided and ensure that they- the members- are included in the official parties and that the Commonwealth is given due recognition when these projects are being opened or announced.
-I was not surprised to hear the speech made by the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges). He comes from the State of the great diplomat, Joh
Bjelke-Petersen- a Premier of a State government which never ceased bashing the Labor Government when it was in office. Hearing the honourable member’s speech tonight, I thought that I was at one of the joint Party meetings because what he is telling this House is the sort of thing he ought to be telling his own Ministers and his colleagues of his political ilk in the State Parliament of Queensland. Unlike the honourable member, I do not agree that too much of the Commonwealth purse, too much of the federal funds is being spent on social security. Many areas are neglected. In fact, the direction of the community’s request for its needs is changing. I do not expect the conservatives on the other side of the chamber to fully understand this. But contrary to what they and their Treasurer (Mr Lynch) have been telling us for a long time, the pursuit of the community in Australia is not for manufactured goods but for services that can be provided only by government. It is in pursuit of better community health facilities that can be provided only by government. It is in pursuit of better schools that can be provided only by government. It is in pursuit of a more amenable environment which can be provided only by government. These are the areas where the unemployed in our community will more likely be employed rather than in manufacturing industry.
Having said that, we come to the area that was covered, I thought very well, by the excellent and honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) when he spoke about community health centres. The honourable member for Petrie complained that when people are being treated in community health centres they ought to be told that those centres are provided by Commonwealth funds. Clearly the honourable member for Petrie does not live in Victoria. If he did live in Victoria it is apparent that he is not living in either Scullin or Burke because we do not have any community health centres in those 2 divisions. There is no community health treatment for the people. The community health centres are just not there. Two are being planned- one at Broadmeadows and one at Sunbury. They are in Burke. These are apart from those which have been mentioned by the honourable member for Scullin. Both are in the planning stage; both are ready to be built; both are operating from temporary premises; both have a nucleus of staff; both have been told by the Hospitals and Charities Commission in Victoria that no funds are available to continue the project, and no funds are available to pay any more staff than they have at present. In fact both of the community health centres have been told by the Hospitals and Charities Commission that with the present staff ceilings they have one person too many.
– Who got the nation into debt?
-The people in the area are prepared to continue with the projects and are prepared to provide a service to the people. A rather inane comment was made from my geographical left- certainly not from my political left- about who got the nation into debt. That argument can be debated for a much longer time than the 10 minutes that is available to me to speak. If the honourable member is so silly as to make such a statement, and even so much sillier as to believe it, then that gives a pretty good explanation of why these projects have been chopped off. When I made a submission to the Federal Minister for Health I got back a very courteous letter in which the Minister said he deeply regretted that the Hospitals and Charities Commission in Victoria had told the Broadmeadows Community Health Centre that its existing staff exceeded the ceiling placed on it by the Hospitals and Charities Commission. He further regretted- the poor chap- he must stay awake all night worrying his soul out about these things- that no funds were available for capital works. The Government should be honest about this matter. I am not suggesting that the Minister is not honest; I believe he is and I believe he would genuinely like to do something about it. But he is a captive of the ultra-conservative Fraser regime which denied him the funds to perform these services that are so urgently and vitally needed in the community as was very clearly spelled out by my colleague, the honourable member for Scullin.
Division 325 of the estimates for the Department of Health, a curious vote, relates to antismoking education. It shows that $75,000 was appropriated in 1975-76 and that $64,080 of that amount was spent. We know that recently the advertising of cigarettes and the like on television has been banned.
– Hear, hear!
-I heard some Government supporter say ‘hear, hear!’ I thought that the Government was going to take an active interest in this matter. I am not antismoker; I am a very heavy smoker. I should like to see an anti-smoking campaign conducted. I read through the estimates and found that for the year 1 976-77 not one cent had been allocated for an anti-smoking campaign. So the Government believes it has solved the problem simply by taking the advertisements off television. Of course what happened is that the tobacco companies are now taking full page spreads in the newspapers. So the Government has solved nothing.
– Let us hope they do not start on alcohol.
– They ought to put a ban on contraceptives for the DLP.
-It is too late for that. It should have happened years ago to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). Any one of these estimates for the Department of Health, the Department of Repatriation and the Department of Social Security with which we are dealing gives no consideration to a very significant group in our community and they are the people who are deaf. I mean the totally deaf who are generally deaf from birth. Some people, such as Boilermakers, become deaf through their work situation. I wonder whether many honourable members in this chamber have stopped to think of the very great disadvantage suffered by these deaf people. They cannot use a simple instrument such as a telephone. They are not in the position that I am in if I want to contact anybody in Australia who has a telephone in his home or office. I simply pick up the telephone and keep on dialing until I get the correct number of digits. I am then able to speak with the person on the other end of the telephone. We are able to have immediate communication. If people ring my home I hear the telephone ringing. This attracts my attention so I answer the telephone. People can communicate with me. How can this happen with people who are deaf?
I suppose it is true that one could put a light on the telephone to attract their attention but what is the good of that if they cannot hear what is being said over the telephone? If they are mute as well as deaf, then it seems to me that the problem is compounded. As I understand it, in Australia no attention is being given to providing an instrument whereby people who are deaf can communicate with one another at distance as we who have our hearing and speaking faculties do with a telephone.
I have been led to believe, and I have read advertisements in newspapers to this effect, that in the United States of America an instrument similar to a typewriter- just like the instrument we see at the airports when we book our seats- is available. I brought this to the attention of the Minister and I received a reply that said: ‘Yes, there is some sort of work being done on this’. I think that work ought to be stepped up. I think that installation ought to be supplied at no cost to the person who was born deaf or born deaf and mute through no wish of his or her own. I think it is incumbent on the rest of the community to bear the cost of providing this instrument to people irrespective of the cost. I understand that the cost of such an addition to the telephone is not all that great anyhow; it is not out of proportion. I do not find any specific mention of this matter as I do not find specific mention of a number of things in the Estimates. Nor have I heard the matter spoken about until tonight. I think it is a matter that ought to attract the attention of the Minister, or, for that matter, any one of the 3 Ministers involved with the estimates for these 3 Departments. If this does add to the amount of money spent on social security, and that in turn incurs the wrath of the honourable member for Petrie, I make no apology. I think this expense is justified and worthwhile. It is one that I am sure any reasonable person in the Australian community- any person without afflictionwould cheerfully bear.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In dealing with the estimates for the Department of Social Security I would like to spend some time discussing the problems of lone fathers in Australia. Lone fathers and their children have been discriminated against in welfare legislation for many years by all governments. It has not been a wilful omission; rather has it been caused through the sheer inertia of long-held customs, prejudices and attitudes. One of these prejudices has been a broad social stigma attached to single parent families. This was well stated in the submission to the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty by the South Australian Parents without Partners Organisation. But in relation to lone fathers these broad prejudices have been particularised and are almost sexist in thenimpact. For example, the opening sentence of Budget Statement No. 3, in introducing the outlays for the Department of Social Security, states:
The Australian Social Security System is intended to protect people from economic hardship caused by events such as loss of earnings through age, invalidity, sickness, unemployment or the loss or absence of a supporting male as a result of death, desertion or long-term separation.
The last part of that sentence is very significant. It does not recognise the position of families where the mother is lost from the family. This prejudice is reflected in the way welfare benefits are provided automatically for fatherless families but not for motherless families.
There is no pension automatically available for men comparable to a widow’s pension or a supporting mother’s benefit, yet the family’s needs are exactly the same. Lone fathers are therefore forced to work and have less chance of keeping the family together. This is a very serious anomaly which is against the spirit of one of the main principles of the Henderson Commission of Inquiry, that is the principle of a right to income according to need and not according to any moral judgment as to the cause of such needy circumstances. The principle supports the standardisation of benefits and pensions between people in similar or like circumstances. Discrimination based on the sex of the parent requiring assistance is against the spirit of this fundamental and quite proper principle. There should simply be a sole parent allowance without reference to either mother or father.
The lone father is placed in a very difficult position, both financially and emotionally. On the financial side, recent developments have enabled lone fathers to receive special benefits on the grounds of hardship. But this does not offer the security of a pension, nor does it offer the opportunity for lone fathers to work limited hours and receive a part pension, as lone mothers are able to do. Further, the special benefit allowances cut out when the lone father’s children start school. This is not the case with supporting mothers. The supporting father does not receive supplementary assistance, nor does he receive travel and telephone concessions. Supporting mothers are entitled to these benefits under certain conditions. The lone father is financially discriminated against, and I agree with the proposition that if the community is prepared to take the responsibility of breadwinner for a single mother, it should also take responsibility for the provision of a substitute mother.
Another aspect of the lone father’s income problem is that because he has no automatic pension entitlement he has almost no choice as to whether or not he works. He must work and this creates further expensive problems for him due to the shortage of child care facilities for preschool, after school and holiday care. Further, a special benefit is disbursed under the same restrictive conditions as sickness and unemployment benefits. Professor Henderson’s research has shown that a very significant percentage of motherless families had incomes below the poverty line. The financial problems of the single father include the payment of child minding fees during the day for the very young and baby sitting fees at night. The single father seldom has the chance to shop for bargains, to cook economically or to supplement his income with a second job. It is essential that the lone father be given a pension in order that he has a greater option to work or not to work so that he can get by with part time work which will allow him to spend more time at home with his children. This, of course, is very important.
Recently in Perth I asked a social worker of the Department of Social Security to provide case study reports on 2 lone fathers who had visited me. The reports emphasised the problems created by the father not being home after school or by pre-school children being left totally in the hands of a mother substitute. Who can judge the emotional impact on a young child who has lost his or her mother? A 4-year old son of a lone father who came to see me recently and who was the subject of one of these case studies has been constantly ill since birth. This 4-year old boy has had 45 mother substitutes to care for him. Most of these housekeepers are motivated by money and not by compassion. What happens to a 4-year old child who experiences this kind of constant change of significant persons in his or her life? What happens to a 14-year old girlalso the subject of one of these case studies- who is required to look after her younger brothers and sisters after school, to prepare meals and to do many of the chores which many adult females can barely cope with? These are terrible problems. The father must be given an option to spend more time at home in order to keep his family together and to be able to provide adequately from part time work only. An automatic pension would help in this regard. But money will not solve all the problems, although it is an important first step.
Lone fathers in Australia require more child minding facilities, with such faculties having more flexible hours. More domiciliary assistance is required because fathers are not equipped for a sudden role transition- the buying of clothes for children, cooking, house cleaning, clothes mending, and weekly shopping for the house. These are all tasks foreign to him, quite apart from the emotional problem a lone father has in being required to relate to his children in a way which he has never done before. Many of the housekeepers are most unsuited to the sensitive role of motherhood, and because the fathers have little income they cannot afford to employ the most suitable people. The sick 4-year old boy, to whom I referred earlier, who has had 45 different mother substitutes, was once administered a lethal dose of tranquilizers by one of these housekeepers. One can imagine the pressures that this boy’s father faces when he has to go to work and leave his child in the care of others.
I suggest that an organised registered housekeeper service is required to ensure good service and to facilitate the location of suitably qualified housekeepers when they are needed. Lone fathers are often very poor and cannot afford their own transport They need mobility to take their children to child minding centres and to places that children normally want to visit. I suggest that the Government investigate the possibility of providing additional tax concessions for people in these circumstances, not only for housekeeping fees and child minding fees but also for motor vehicle insurance and registration fees.
I have been stressing the financial plight of lone fathers and their children. I am not qualified to comment on the impact of their circumstances on their emotional and psychological conditions. This has been well documented elsewhere. But it is a fact that these fathers are socially ostracised. They are isolated, by force of circumstances, from the rest of society. There is always enormous pressure on them, and the saddest aspect of all is that children raised in these circumstances must suffer irreparable emotional and psychological harm. These less tangible problems are probably the most significant and, sadly, might even be impossible to solve. But there is no question that improved income support, improved domiciliary care, improved child minding facilities and a more equitable disbursement of welfare funds between lone fathers and lone mothers would go a long way towards relieving some of the pressures on these families. I know that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Giulfoyle) is aware of this problem and is very concerned about these families. I implore the Government to take decisive action in this area of welfare as soon as possible.
In conclusion, I would like to depart from the normal practice of many members in this chamber and pay tribute to some of the public servants in the Department of Social Security in Perth. Because I work in a capital city electorate I have many constituents with problems in the area of social welfare. Many of my representations go to the Minister for Social Security or the office of her Department located in Perth. Officers of that Department have always been most courteous and most helpful.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I support the remarks of the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) about deserted husbands. It is a subject which I have raised in this House on many occasions in the past.
– It will not happen to you.
– No, it will not happen to me. The honourable member for Hughes should speak for himself. Quite seriously, I have raised the subject in this chamber on a number of occasions in the past. It is becoming a very serious problem indeed. I agree with the statement by the honourable member for Perth that it has a dreadful psychological impact upon not only the father but also the family. It is a very bad start in life for children. It is a very complex problem to overcome, but without a doubt it has not been tackled effectively by government. I hope that the honourable member for Perth will continue to press his colleagues in the Government very hard to get something done about this very difficult matter.
I was rather intrigued by the announcement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that he is going to change the name of the Repatriation Department to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The honourable member for Hughes and I will be known as veterans in the future. I do not know how that makes him feel. I cannot help but wonder what is the real motivation behind the change in name. Is it some type of camouflage for the commencement of the dismantling of the repatriation legislation of this country which has been built up to assist those who have served their country? One cannot help but wonder what is really behind this move. I ask the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is at the table, to put forward the proposition to the Government that it release and make public the whole of the Bland report on the Repatriation Department so that we can find out for ourselves just what is behind this sudden change in name. It appears to be just window-dressing, but one cannot help but wonder whether there is something much deeper behind it and one cannot help but wonder whether Sir Henry Bland may have had a great deal to do with it. This is a very important issue now. We have already had quite a few reports filtering through from various sources that there is an intention on the part of the Government to increase interest rates on war service home loans. If that is to be done, what else is involved in the
Bland report? I think it is imperative so far as repatriation benefits are concerned that the Bland report be made public so that we can find out for ourselves whether this change in name is mere camouflage and what is really the intention of the Government as to our repatriation framework.
I also want to deal with another matter concerning repatriation. I have been approached by British ex-servicemen concerning repatriation benefits. When the Labor Government was in office it introduced a very important reform, that is, it made British ex-servicemen eligible for Service pensions. At that point in time that was to be our first move. We intended to move on from there towards entitling them to free medical treatment. Unfortunately this Government has not proceeded with the original plan. Accordingly British ex-servicemen are naturally a bit uptight about this matter. This is something that they had anticipated would be introduced and now it seems as far away as ever. I ask the Minister for Health once again to put this matter to the appropriate Minister and make sure that this particular reform, which is a very important reform, is introduced.
I am also concerned about the Medibank muddle, which everybody is deeply worried about.
– So is the Minister.
– I know that the Minister is certainly worried about it. In fact at one stage it was suggested that he did not understand the situation himself. I am sure that that is not the case. He has been studying the situation very hard recently because he has had to make up his own mind which fund he will join.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Is it in order for an honourable member who is speaking in this chamber to turn around and address his remarks to a colleague, which is completely in defiance of your very honourable position in this chamber? I seek your ruling on that point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-I uphold the point of order. It is the duty of the honourable member who has the call to address the chair.
– I was addressing the chair. I must admit that I did find the honourable member for Lang to be someone well worthy of addressing. I would not have turned around towards the honourable member who took the point of order. However, I am concerned about something which came to my notice as late as today with regard to Medibank. I think that the Minister for Health, who is responsible for Medibank and the Medibank muddle, ought to look into this matter. Perhaps I should have said that the Prime Minister is the one who is responsible and that the Minister for Health has to carry out his dictates when it really comes down to the point. It came to my notice today that multinational companies- I will not nominate the particular case because a fight occurred today in regard to it and my pin-pointing of it might get the individual concerned dismissed or something of that nature- are refusing to deduct contributions to Medibank Private from the pay of individuals.
– What compulsion is there for them to do that?
– There have been cases in the past where they have deducted contributions to private funds.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. I think that is an incorrect statement and that it should be corrected. I do not think there is any compulsion upon any organisation to deduct such amounts from salaries.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)That is not grounds for raising a point of order and the honourable member knows it.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I suggest that you be a bit firmer in the chair in that those were frivolous points of order which were taken deliberately to interrupt the debate.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is that meant as a reflection upon the chair?
– No, I did not mean it in that way, Mr Deputy Chairman. I had better put it in another way. I do think that those points of order were frivolous.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that the honourable member for Chifley is casting aspersions upon your ability to control the chamber from the Chair, Mr Deputy Chairman.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I think that I am quite capable of protecting myself in the Chair.
– I am sure that you are, Mr Deputy Chairman. The point that I am making is that these multinational companies have in the past allowed deductions to be made from the pay of employees for contributions to private funds and that they will continue to make those deductions for the private funds but they have refused to do so for contributors to Medibank Private.
– Face the Chair.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I think the honourable member for Bendigo is being provocative.
– In other words, prejudice is deliberately being shown against Medibank. I do not think the Minister for Health should be smiling. I think he should be very deeply concerned. He says that he is going to join Medibank.
– I have already joined Medibank.
– So has Bob Hawke.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! I will not permit such crossfire across the chamber. I am prepared to allow honourable members to make the normal types of interjections, but if a crossfire occurs between the member speaking and the interjector I shall intervene. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– I cannot understand it, Mr Deputy Chairman. I am a very easy-going bloke but I seem to excite certain people in this chamber. I wish to deal as well with the hospitals development program. I notice that the allocation in this Budget has increased to $108m from the $ 107.2m which was allocated last year, which represents an increase of less than 0.8 per cent. That means that it does not account for inflation, which means that the expenditure on the overall hospitals development program is going to be less in real terms than it was last financial year. We should keep in mind that the program has only just got off the ground. It is a very important program that was introduced by the Labor Government. It is of particular importance as far as the outer western suburbs of Sydney are concerned, where it was estimated in 1969 that there would be a 1200 bed shortage by 1980. The Westmead hospital is now under way, but we do not want to see the situation arise where the Westmead project is further delayed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-An analysis of the estimates for the Department of Health, the Department of Repatriation and the Department of Social Security will prove that the harnessing of modern scientific techniques has resulted in the shifting of economic resources from areas which were considered of great significance some years ago to these 3 vital areas.
We find in the Budget papers dealing with these departments that the number of pensioners in Australia last year increased by 151 000 to a total of 1 858 000. We are obviously becoming a nation of aging people. We find that the proportion of pensioners aged 16 or more rose during the past 12 months from 18 per cent to 19.2 per cent. Quite obviously the Liberal-National Country Party Government, aware of its responsibilities to ensure justice and charity in the distribution of our economic resources, has seen fit to commit 25 per cent of its total Budget outlays, that is $6 187m, to this area. It is up from the 23.5 per cent of Budget outlays last year, when the amount of expenditure was $50 12m under the Whitlam Administration.
I believe it is absolutely essential in Estimates debates dealing with social security, repatriation and health to indicate to the Australian people that this Government is a government of concern for the elderly and the unfortunates in our society. The average amount of pension is estimated to rise from $35 a week in 1975-76 to $39.50 a week in 1976-77. That is an increase of 12.9 per cent in one year. It proves beyond all doubt, I submit, that this Government is a socially progressive and economically rational Government. It is a government of concern. It is a government not only of promises; but also it is a government of performance.
I want to highlight 3 very important initiatives which I believe have been greatly accepted by the Australian people. They are a first in their field and they are obviously the product of a government that cares. (Quorum formed.) I am extremely disappointed that the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) by calling a quorum is denying the people of Australia the opportunity of finding out what benefits have been made available to them by the FraserAnthony Government. Family allowances have been substantially increased and rebates for dependent children abolished. There are 300 000 low income families with 800 000 children. Their incomes are such that they previously derived no benefit or less than full benefit from the dependent children’s rebate. These poor families will benefit most. They are the poor families who the honourable member for Chifley was denying the opportunity of finding out what benefits were available to them.
The second initiative is the abolition of the property component from 11 November and replacement of the existing means test by a test on income only, including income from property. There will be a transitional savings clause which will ensure that no existing pensioner will suffer a reduction in pension as a result of the change. The third initiative is to tie the standard and married rate pensions in November 1976 and May 1977 to the percentage increase in the consumer price index between the December quarter 1975 and the June quarter 1976 and between June 1976 and December 1976 respectively. The cost of these measures will be $1 14.7m in 1976-77 and $308.8m in a full year. I particularly applaud the introduction of the second initiative. The abolition of the property component will allow a new emerging class of poor to have some relief from the great burden that has been placed on them.
Our policies are straight and clear. We are giving these benefits at once. We are not talking about it; we are doing it. Justice and charity are the hub and core of our policy, not the idle chatter that we have heard over the last 3 years. Poverty, we submit, is not just a personal attribute. People are victims of circumstance. Poverty arises out of the organisation of society. It is true that the Labor Administration during its 3 years did introduce some reforms, but most of them were what we might term off target. They were misdirected. Suffice to say that society in general has failed to adapt to the housing, information and language difficulties of migrants, Aborigines and locals and the shifting geographical pattern of demand for labour changing emphasis in rural production and outlets. Large concrete housing jungles, time lost in travelling long distances to work, and time and wages lost through irresponsible strikes are indicative of the failure of society to iron out some of the intricacies of its problems.
The Budget seeks to overcome some of these failures of society. It seeks to include social policy as part of the Budget strategy. This strategy, of course, needs to be continually monitored and researched. We believe that the individual is a dignified being. He demands respect from government. He has the right to independence and dignity. All of us should have an equal opportunity for personal development and we should have the right to participate as good members of the community. Need and degree of need should be the primary test by which help is given to a person, group or community.
I believe that much can be done for pensioners. We need more pensioner units. I would like the Government to consider the adoption of a policy of home maintenance payments similar to the supplementary rental assistance that is given. This would help those people who want to remain in their homes to have a sufficient sum of money over and above their normal pension to be able to have done the running repairs about the place which they are incapable of doing and which involve a high cost when a tradesman is employed. This would be a positive initiative in overcoming some of the great and pressing problems of pensioners and the elderly people in our society. Why put people in hostels and why put people in pensioner units when financial encouragement from the Government will enable them to stay in their own homes? I believe it would be an excellent initiative for the Liberal-National Country Party Government to give a home maintenance subsidy to people similar to the rental allowance so they can stay in their own homes.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to address myself to the estimates for both the Department of Social Security and the Department of Health. It is very difficult in 10 minutes to deal with such large departments, but I will start with the Department of Health and deal specifically with community health. Articles appeared recently in the Sydney Sun and the Sun-Herald stating that half the population of the outer western suburbs- St Marys- is chronically ill and implying that that was terribly unusual. The article in the Sydney Sun referred to ‘the ills of St Marys- Sydney ‘s sickest suburb ‘. The reason that St Marys has been called Sydney’s sickest suburb is that it is the only suburb where chronic illness has been investigated. A health survey was conducted in St Marys in June 1975 by the New South Wales Health Commission. One of the questions in the survey on which the articles were based asked: ‘Do you have any illness or health problem which you have had for more than 6 months?’ There were 906 adults and children involved in the survey and only the 522 adults were asked that question. Of the 522 adults, 263 or 50.4 per cent stated that they had suffered from a chronic condition during the previous 6 months. That was treated by the Sydney newspapers as being quite exceptional. If it is remembered that over 50 per cent of people applying to join the Army who believe that they are healthy are in fact rejected as unfit by medical officers the matter can be seen in a different perspective.
I think one of the other important points made by the survey is that many of the people were not unable to work but had a disability. The whole aim of the survey was to find out how people saw themselves and whether medical services were adequate. I will give some examples. There were 49 people who claimed that they had bad backs, 43 people had nervousness, 34 had heart trouble, 34 had high blood pressure. It is interesting to note that only 3 people had varicose veins and 3 people had gout- about one-half per cent. That is a remarkably small number of people. I suppose the important point is that St Marys is not significantly different, as far as we know, from other suburbs. The only other place in New South Wales where a similar survey has been carried out is Gosford, where about 3 per cent more people saw themselves as being chronically ill. That can probably be explained by the higher average age of the people in the Gosford area.
Nonetheless, it is important that there are many people in the community who see themselves as being chronically ill, who see themselves as not being as active as they would like to be, and in a smaller proportion of cases being unable to work. Obviously they need all kinds of health services, and those health services are at least partially being provided by the community health services which Labor introduced over the last two or three years while it was in Government. I am proud that the people of my electorate have a pilot scheme which involves many community nurses. Each primary public school in the electorate of Prospect and in some of the surrounding electorates has one or two community nurses attached to it to try to prevent people from going into hospital.
One of the difficulties about which we must all be concerned is the high cost of health care, and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has emphasised that in relation to Medibank. There is a continuing increase in the cost of health care. The average cost of a hospital bed in a public hospital in New South Wales now is over $70 a day, which amounts to something of the order of $500 a week. If each nurse keeps only half a patient out of hospital then we are in front on a strict cost benefit analysis. I know that the problem is not as simple as that. There are all kinds of other complications, and I hope that much work will be done to see just how beneficial community health services are, both from the point of view of benefits to the population, which I suppose is the most important point, and from the point of view of economics. One aspect which concerns me is that many of the young women who have gone into community nursing, certainly many I have met in my area, are exceptionally bright girls with much more go in them, I think, than many others in the nursing profession. Perhaps some of the best nurses are leaving the hospitals and going into community nursing. That might have some disadvantages which we will not become aware of for some time. I am sorry that I do not have more time to deal with these matters, but I wanted to refute the newspaper articles which implied that St Marys was in some way worse off than any other area.
Dealing now with the Department of Social Security, page 88 of the explanatory notes indicate that the pension will go up to $43.50 a week and, being geared to the consumer price index, the Department predicts that from autumn of 1977 the amount will go up to $46.50. The interesting point is that the Government has been talking a lot about curbing inflation, but we note that an increase of $3 a week has been proposed for all pensions from autumn 1977. That compares with the 6-monthly increase of $2.25 at the present time. In other words, the Government expects a 33 per cent increase in inflation. I am not suggesting that inflation will rise to 33 per cent, but the rate of inflation is estimated to increase by 33 per cent during the next 6 months. That is a depressing thought. I am not surprised at that estimate because in the December CPI we will get a large increase associated with Medibank. While pensioners will be better off in some ways because they will get the extra money, I hope that those honourable members opposite who are intelligent enough to be able to follow the figures can see that the figures on page 88 of the explanatory notes imply a very significant increase in inflation. There has been no increase in pensions for children, in guardian’s allowances or in supplementary assistance. Those payments are not geared to the CPI increase, and I think that is a bit depressing.
Regarding unemployment, one of the interesting points is that there is an estimated drop in expenditure on unemployment benefits, even though unemployment benefits will go up by exactly the same amount as the other pensions. That is appropriate, of course, but it is interesting to see that a decrease of $55m in unemployment benefits payments has been estimated. If one checks with the Department one finds that this is an estimate from the Treasury and not from the Department. I suppose that the Department has no specific way of finding out how many unemployed people there will be. I hope the Government is correct in its estimates. I do not believe that there will be such a huge decrease because that implies a decrease in unemployment of about 1 5 per cent in the coming year.
Let me deal with one other percentage which I have found interesting, and I would be grateful if the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is able to give any figures. On page 93 of the explanatory notes under the heading ‘Supporting Mothers Benefits’, which deals to a large extent with single mothers, the additional cost from the increase in the number of beneficiaries due to an estimated increase in the numbers during the current year is 26 per cent. I do not know whether the Government expects to have 26 per cent more single mothers this year. If it does expect that rate of increase, I do not know how it is calculated.
– It is because of inflation.
– No, this is an increase in numbers, not an increase in amount. An increase of 26 per cent has been predicted in the number of single mothers. The only explanation I can think of is that some women will be transferred from unemployment benefits to supporting mothers benefits and thus hide the unemployment figures. But when the Minister replies, I will be interested to know how the Department calculates that the number of single mothers for the year 1976-77 will increase by 26 per cent. It would be an interesting exercise in statistics from the Department of Social Security.
-Mr Chairman, it gives me great pleasure to support Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and the estimates for the Department of Health and Department of Social Services. In this Budget the Government has proved most generous to the people who are most in need. I do not think we could choose any better field than that of health and social welfare in which to put so much money. Each of these areas, of course, takes a massive amount of money out of the total Budget outlay. The health appropriation works out at just on 12 per cent of the total Budget outlay; social welfare expenditure represents a massive 23.5 per cent of the total Budget outlay. It is rather interesting to look through the Budget documents and realise the generosity of this Government. We all know, of course, of the new Medibank program which is being introduced by this Government. It is a new program that gives the public of Australia a great amount of choice. But a further look at the Budget documents reveals the generosity of the Government. For instance, the World Health Organisation is being allocated $1,700,000, medical research is to be allocated $9,100,000 and the Royal Flying Doctor Service will get $2m. One sees throughout the Budget papers examples of the Government’s generosity.
I would like to make one important point with regard to Medibank. This point was made by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) during question time this morning. I notice that the Minister is sitting at the table at the moment. It is most important to point out that the modifications to
Medibank which are being introduced by this Government clearly favour those people most in need. Considering the 3 main options now available to the Australian public, as I said, those people most in need are favoured when a comparison is made of the estimated cost of health care and the levy paid. Those Australians who pay the basic 2Vi per cent levy will contribute only an estimated 18 per cent of the total cost of their health care. Those people who move up the scale and pay the basic levy plus the fee for private hospital cover will pay only 40 per cent of the total estimated cost of their medical care. Of course, as you move futher up the scale, the people who choose to take out private health insurance, the people on the higher incomes, will have to pay a greater percentage, and rightly so. They will pay 70 per cent of the total estimated cost of their health care.
In the short time available to me I would like to deal quickly with social security. I have spoken of the Government’s generosity in the social security area. Its allocation represents 23.S per cent of the total Budget outlay. But let us look at what might be called the smaller allocations in the context of the total Budget outlay. I refer to such items as the allocation of $ 12m for telephone rental and postal concessions to pensioners. That is a very significant allocation and it is one that certainly should go to those people. We could look at other items, such as the grants to eligible organisations under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act to the extent of $20m, which is a lot of money; grants to eligible organisations under the Aged Persons Hostel Act to the extent of $25m. That is very generous. It is almost as much as my overdraft.
There is another matter which I wish to mention. I am sure many other honourable members have had experiences similar to mine in recent times, because this is the time when many people in Australia are filling in their tax returns. How many honourable members have been approached recently by pensioners who have received a small additional income, or by people who have received superannuation payments, and who are in the terrible situation of having to pay tax for the first time in their lives. That situation was brought about by the Hayden Budget which was introduced last year, in which concessions which were previously granted were taken away from the Australian people. Of course we all claim the tax rebate of $540. Only now the pensioners of Australia are realising the disaster of that provision in the Hayden Budget. I have some good news for some of those pensioners who have found themselves in the embarrassing situation of having to pay recently a small amount of tax. Many of them have come to my office and I have filled in their tax returns for them. I know that the same thing has happened to many of my colleagues.
– Are you a tax agent?
– No, I do it on a no-charge basis. There is a difference between the scale worked out by the present Opposition when in government and brought down in the Hayden Budget and the new scale introduced in the Budget that we are discussing tonight. This year people having an income of up to $5,000 a yearthere are many pensioners in that low income bracket- will be gratified to hear that they will pay $88 less in tax. Many of the pensioners who came to my office and other offices, having found that they had to pay some small amount of tax that they could not afford, fell into that category. When a person with a taxable income of $5,000 or less fills out his tax form next year he will find that he is $88 better off. People in the taxable income bracket of $5,000 to $10,000 a year are going to save $ 1 40 in tax.
– That is ignoring the Medibank levy.
– That is calculated on the basis of a comparison between this year’s tax scales and those of last year. What I am doing is comparing the 2 sets of figures. Let us look a little closer at the Government’s generosity. I wish to refer to some figures which have come out only today. I know that my colleagues are elated because once again the figures will please many pensioners. I refer to the new scale which will be applicable as from 1 November and which is also quite generous in the amount of additional income that pensioners may earn before their rate of pension is affected. The new rate of pension for a single pensioner will be $43.50 a week and that single pensioner will be able to earn an additional $20 a week before his rate of pension starts to be affected. Then the concessions scale down in a generous manner. In fact, a single pensioner is able to earn as much as $ 107 a week before he actually loses all pension entitlement. That will help many pensioners.
The new combined rate of pension for a married couple will be $72.50 a week. That married couple can earn an additional income of $34.50 a week without their rate of pension being affected. I do not know that many pensioners will get down to the bottom end of the scale, but at least the new rates show the generosity of the Government. A married couple can have a combined income of $179.50 a week before they actually lose their pension entitlement. They are the sorts of generous provisions in the Budget which has been introduced by this Government. It is a government that cares for the people of Australia. We realise our responsibility to the Australian people, and we accept the challenge of that responsibility we have to the people. This Government will continue in that manner to the extent that it can afford to do so. It will continue to provide larger pensions and greater benefits for people. We realise, and the people of Australia are going to realise, that we have the welfare of all the people at heart.
– I want to reply to some matters that have been raised. I thank all those honourable members who took part in the debate, even those members of the Opposition who exaggerated the situation in respect of the estimates for the Department of Health. I want to make it very clear that although this year’s Budget showed an overall reduction in expenditure on health of l.5 per cent, after adjustment for the payment of $2 16m to the States in June for hospital operation costs, the Budget allocation in fact represents an increase of 14 per cent. So let us not get carried away and say that there has been a substantial reduction in health expenditure. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the actual appropriations.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– This 14 per cent increase has taken place at a time of great economic stringency. This Government has inherited a situation where the Whitlam Government spent money as if it was going out of fashion. We saw an irresponsible spending spree and clearly there was a time when there had to be a slow-down in the rate of government expenditure.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I shall report progress.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! In accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1976 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– It became very evident that money does not grow on trees and that the Government had to take some responsible decisions to try to overcome the serious economic plight which it inherited from the former Government. I do not think I need dwell on that because most of the Australian people understand the problem, even if the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) does not.
I want to devote some time to the community health program. This program is still being maintained in spite of the fact that honourable members from Victoria on the Opposition benches are inclined to give the impression that it has been cut very badly. A total of $70.7m has been provided for the payment of grants to the States, local government authorities and other eligible organisations under the community health program, as well as assisting major national voluntary organisations in the family medicine program. This compares with $54.3m last year and will allow committed projects- I emphasise ‘committed projects’- in this important co-operative program with the States. That program will be maintained at a viable level.
The Commonwealth Government’s grant to Victoria for this financial year has increased from $ 10.5m to $ 15.2m and we understand that that should maintain the community program at a viable level in Victoria. There have been some protest meetings and representations by members on both sides of the chamber, and officers of my Department will be talking to Victorian officers to see what can be done to ensure that the program is maintained at a viable rate. I understand that these discussions should be getting under way very shortly.
Under the program itself it is expected that the Commonwealth will contribute 75 per cent of the capital cost, the States 25 per cent and we will be contributing 90 per cent towards the operating costs of the various programs or projects. So it is up to the States under the new arrangement, under our new federalism policy, to sort out their own priorities. We would expect the States to establish priorities in accordance with community health programs as we are continuing the hospitals development program.
In answer to the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) who raised the question of the problem being faced by patients and relatives of patients in nursing homes, we are of course now awaiting a report from a committee that was established to inquire into the problem of caring for the aged and the sick aged. I hope that in the next two or three weeks there will be a report in our hands so that the Government can take a decision on this very complex matter. It is a program that involves not only nursing homes but also nursing care, and so on. The honourable member for Perth (Mr Mclean) also raised a matter in respect to lone fathers. This is a matter which I know the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) is very much aware of and is concerned about. She has expressed her wish to improve their position as soon as the Government is able to do so.
The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) raised a point about the Department of Repatriation. I want him to be assured, as he should have been assured when the Prime Minister answered a question on the matter, that the Government has no intention of dismantling the Department of Repatriation, now to be known as the Department of Veterans Affairs. There is no intention whatsoever of restructuring the Department. Indeed, it will be strengthened and the Department and the Commission will be retained. I do not think returned servicemen are unhappy with the name change. The honourable member for Herbert, who is probably one of the recognised spokesmen for returned servicemen in this Chamber, has indicated that he is fully in favour of it in spite of the honourable member’s objection.
The final matter that I want to reply to was raised by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman)- the matter of the single mothers’ benefit. He was somewhat amazed by the increase in the amount that is appropriated for benefits in this area. I will ask the Minister for Social Security to provide him with the answer to that matter. As for the other matter that he raised about unemployment benfits, should the Budget estimate prove to be inadequate, additional funds will automatically be made available to make payments to those qualified by reason of the automatic appropriation provisions in the Social Services Act and the National Welfare Fund Act. The Government is hopeful, of course, that with the measures that are now being taken we will see a diminishing level of unemployment in this country. The Budget itself is designed to try to stimulate the private sector of the economy which employs 75 per cent of the work force. There was a change of government just in time, otherwise we would have seen a much greater level of unemployment in this country.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Health Insurance Levy Assessment Bill ( No. 2 ) 1976.
Health Insurance Levy Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
Motion (by Mr Hunt) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight on quite a serious matter, concerning the attack in the Senate upon one of the most distinguished Australians that we have in our midst. I refer to Professor Manning Clark. A question was asked yesterday by Senator Sim and Senator Carrick gave the reply. In posing the question Senator Sim used the words:
In view of the bigoted and fascist views expressed by Professor Manning Clark . . .
In his reply Senator Carrick said:
It is fair to say that Professor Manning Clark has a reputation of expertise in Australian history. It is quite clear from that article and from his presence in recent days-
-I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member to comment on quotations from the Senate Hansard?
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide is not in order in quoting completely what was said in a debate in the Senate. I suggest that the honourable member for Port Adelaide may quote from the Senate Hansard remarks which are relevant to the matter he is raising. I suggest that the honourable member should now show the relevance of the quotation.
– Those words prompted me to speak this evening. Senator Sim is famous for his remark: ‘Some of my best friends are Jews’. Senator Carrick is famous for just being an old Party hack. For peanut brained senators -
-Order! I suggest that the honourable member withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw. I say to those people serving in the Parliament who have less thinking capacity than Professor Manning Clark that Parliament is not the place to debate that capacity, nor should they take it upon themselves to use the privilege of Parliament to speak against a person who has served Australia so well. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the history of Professor Manning Clark as set out in Who’s Who in Australia.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
CLARK, Charles Manning Hope, M.A. Melb., F.A.H.A., Professor of Aust. History, Sch. of General Studies, Aust. Nat. Univ., Canberra, since 1949; son of late Rev. C. H. Clark, Melb.; b. Mar. 3,1915, Sydney; ed. Mont Albert Central Sch., Melb. Gram., Trinity Coll. Univ. Melb., Balliol Coll. Oxford; master Blundell’s Sch. Eng. 1939-40, Geelong Gram. 1940-44: lectr. in Political Science 1944-46, History Melb. Univ. 1946-48; publications, Select Documents in Australian History, 1788-1830, 1930, Settlers & Convicts 1953, Select Documents in Australian History 1851-1900, 1955, Sources of Australian History 1957, Meeting Soviet Man 1 960, A History of Australia; Earliest Times to the Age of Macquarie 1962, A Short History of Australia 1963, A History of Australia, Vol. 2. 1968, A History of Australia, Vol. 3, Disquiet and Other Stories, Moomba Book Award 1 969; Henry Lawson Arts Award 1 969, Aust. Lit. Socy. Gold Medal 1970; m. Jan. 31. 1939, Hilma D., d. late Prof. A.
Lodewyckx,5 s., 1 d.; recreations, fishing, music; address, A.N.U., Canberra, A.C.T., 2600.
-The question asked in the Senate arose out of an article headed ‘Are we a nation of bastards?’ in a magazine called the Meanjin Quarterly. I seek leave to have that article which was the subject of the question, incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
ARE WE A NATION OF BASTARDS?
Two days after the dismissal of the Whitlam Government by the Governor-General I decided to drive past Parliament House searching as usual for what my children affectionately call ‘Dad’s historical atmosphere’, and sometimes less affectionately ‘Dad’s excursions down memory lane’. This time two things caught my eye. One was the proclamation pinned on to the door of Parliament House proclaiming that the Governor-General had dissolved Parliament. The other was a booth on the lawns opposite Parliament House in which a man was selling souvenirs and post-cards. I wondered then whether the first portended the end not just of a particular parliament, but the end quite soon of parliamentary government, by which I mean the responsibility of the government to the group with a majority in the House of Representatives, the people’s house, and the responsibility of the House of Representatives to the people. I considered, too, whether the appearance of that small shop perhaps meant the return of the ‘money changers’ to our temple of politics- whether an age of the accountants and the book-keepers was going to have a final brief, stormy period in our history before the angry young men of the Left swept them all into the dust-bin of our history.
These were gloomy thoughts. But a few weeks later on 13 December, when I happened to be in Derby in England, a town where the meanness of the English governing class sank to an all-time low, as D. H. Lawrence was fond of pointing out, a fruity noncommittal English voice confirmed my worst fears. The Australian electors, bombarded for months by stories of the incompetence, the bungling, the corruption, the jobbery &c, &c, &c, of the Whitlam Government, had put back into government in our country a group of men who had the moral values of a troop of Boy Scouts, and the economic and social values which were rapidly disappearing off the face of the earth except in countries such as South Africa, New Zealand, Rhodesia, and possibly Spain. During the ensuing painful days I read, part in anger, part in agreement, editorials in the serious English, French and German papers which told their readers that ‘the ocker’, or the ‘Ugly Australian’ was still in charge ‘down under’- that the ‘ocker’ had destroyed the man who, like Prometheus, had been trying to teach Australians that they could steal fire from heaven, that they were capable of better things.
The one great consolation in this time of shame for our country, in this period when we threatened once again to pledge ourselves to the past and to defend the old order of society, when a Prime Minister should glory in an idea of resurrecting the past rather than leading us into the future was to know that other people were also shocked, bewildered, and even frightened about our prospects. They were fearful, that is, that we, too, like the other reactionary societies in South-East Asia and elsewhere, were about to be wiped off the face of the earth, that the peoples of the world, carried away as they were and are by a hope of better things for mankind, would not let us survive- that we always had been intruders here, and now, like the South Africans and the Rhodesians, and possibly much later, the white New Zealanders, we would either be eliminated and disappear off the face of the earth as though we had never been, or, mercifully, and with quite underserved charity, be given a chance to return to the place whence we came, that precious graveyard of the contemporary world, the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
The pity of it was that there were people in our society with ideas on what should be done. One was Charles Birch, who has been Challis Professor of Biology in the University of Sydney since 1960. In 1975, that year in which the moneychangers and accountants- the men with a passion for interest rates seemingly as dionysiacal as the passion of some men for ‘other things ‘-were to have their terrible day of triumph, a man dressed in the clothes of a bygone age, dismissed one of the greatest prime ministers this country has ever had, and then had the colossal effrontery later to tell the Australian people that history would vindicate his action. It was in that year that Charles Birch published his brilliant book on what mankind in general, and Australians in particular, had to do quite quickly if human life was to survive on this planet.
There was nothing startling or novel in what he had to say. The great distinction of the author, indeed his great gift, was that he combined within himself the mind of the scientist, the soul of the poet, and the gift of prophecy- by which I mean that power to see into the heart of what is wrong in any generation, and denounce that great evil with true moral passion. It was and is a magnificent book- a tract for the times, and a human appeal to all of us to ‘gird our loins’. Birch has both common sense and perception of the mystery at the heart of things. His book is all about how what we have generally understood by the term civilisation can survive.
The interesting thing, reading it down here on the far south coast of New South Wales where that other secular humanist, James Cook, first saw ..–’., in our country, and knew that the country was inhabited, is that no leader of either the Liberal or the National Country Party ever made one remark over the years during which Professor Birch was collecting his material to warrant inclusion in the book. The Labor Leaders, as Professor Birch points out, did have ideas. Gough Whitlam and Tom Uren appointed Mr Justice Hope to collect material and write a report on the ‘National Estate’. That document stands as a monument of what must be done. It is now threatened with becoming a museum piece, or one of those documents historians of future generations will point to as examples of what might have been done if Labor had been given a chance to preserve Old Australia, and marry it, as it were, to the Australia of 1 975.
But Labor was not given that chance- and hence Donald Home ‘s magnificent denunciation of the ‘ men in black ‘, men with the hearts of walnuts, who were quite determined to use every card in the pack to stop Gough Whitlam and his government helping Australia get to 1975 before the progressive and hopeful pan of the world took the next step forward. Gough Whitlam himself has called Home’s book the greatest philippic ever written in this country. Perhaps you can gauge the measure of its achievement, and the very high level of its performance, by the zeal with which the ‘hear dimmers’ and ‘head shrinkers’ have attempted either to belittle or to misrepresent what he has had to say.
It is a book about many things. It is a brilliant analysis of Kerr’s possible reasons and motives for dismissing Whitlam.
Donald Home does not doubt for one moment that the Australian Constitution confers on the Governor-General the power to dismiss a Ministry or a Minister. The Constitution does not mention the circumstances under which the Governor-General should exercise that power; that is to say the Constitution lays down no guide lines. Donald Home also points out that the Australian Constitution is based on an uneasy, clumsy union of two principles of governmentthe federal principle, and the responsible government principle.
As every student of our constitutional history knows, after somewhat tedious debates the Founding Fathers seemed to decide that wherever the federal principle collided with the responsible government principle, then the responsible government principle must take precedence. That was what Whitlam was arguing all through those agonising days in October and November after the ‘men in black’, and their much-bedizened women, went into their huddle at the Lakeside Hotel and answered, for themselves, Lenin’s great question for any seekers of power. ‘What’s To Be Done?’ I remember sitting on a sofa in the lobby at the Lakeside Hotel that Sunday afternoon, and sensing, my God, they are going to do it, they are going to use the powers (ill-defined as Donald Home so rightly insists) to get rid of Gough Whitlam. But how will they do it? I did not guess then, nor did any of those with whom I discussed the question, guess that the Liberals only had to follow the advice of the old evangelical hymn: ‘Ask the Governor-General to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you. He is willing to aid you. He will carry you through ‘.
It is just because the Governor-General used his constitutional powers- those powers most people thought belonged to the days of yesteryear- to serve the interests of the Liberals rather than Labor that the men of good-will, men who may have been bothered by all those errors human frailty and folly had caused Whitlam and Co. to fall prey to, were filled with a righteous indignation. Similarly, it was the Governor-General’s complete failure to let Whitlam, Hayden, Enderby and McClelland know the way in which his mind was moving which led to the charge of treachery against him. Those familiar with the human heart know that the memory of treachery lives on longer than any other human injury or evil.
Some cling to the hope that when passions die down history will be kinder to the Governor-General than his present attackers. Some even say that it is cowardly to criticise his action. So perhaps one should add that the history of mankind is written by the victors. As it seems now quite certain that 1975 was an aberration, a temporary halt in the people ‘s march to victory, the Governor-General and his beneficiaries can expect little mercy from the historians of the people. It may be that in one hundred years’ time some research worker in the early days of the ‘People’s Government’ will come across Kerr’s letter to Whitlam of 1 1 November, 1 975, and see that there was a teeny-weeny case for Kerr. But, if one may judge from what happens to historians in the People’s democracies of today, that historian would not be given the paper on which to write his defence, let alone the opportunity to publish it. The people’s historians judge their opponents harshly. So there is no hope for the GovernorGeneral from them: maybe God will judge him and all of us less harshly, but, according to Nietzsche, God is dead.
What is clear is that those historians of the future will find in Birch and Home men of genuine moral passion. Their works will live on as testimony that we are not all ‘bastards’, not all ‘ockers’ who were out for a ‘quick quid’, and not all driven by some mad hatred against intellectuals and dole bludgers- all those people Whitlam tried to help. Now we will see what terrible things are in store for the creatures when God seems to have forgotten. Now for a while the world here will belong again to the men of brawn, the men with the terrible delusion that they are the only ones who work. So if the boy from Balmain had really wanted to impress the historians of the future, he might have been wiser to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the moral of Great Expectations. The Joe Gargerys of his younger days would have proved that they, rather than Sir Garfield Barwick, are the children of light
The books discussed in this article are Charles Birch, Confronting the Future (Penguin, Melbourne 1975) pp. 360, $2.93; Donald Home, Death of the Lucky Country (Penguin, Melbourne 1976) pp. 115, $1.50.
– Not only is Professor Manning Clark one of our finest historians and a person whom parliamentarians ought to defend, but when he is attacked and criticised and castigated because he acted as a citizen of this country and when the whole profession which he represents is thrust into the gutter by these people who cannot stand to see citizens acting in the way that they do, someone has to rise in the Parliament and defend him. In this case Professor Manning Clark -
– I raise a point of order. Leave was sought to incorporate 2 documents in Hansard, to which I said ‘Object’. Have those 2 documents been incorporated or not?
-The normal course of events in regard to the incorporation of material in Hansard is that when the minister in charge of the House gives leave the material is incorporated.
– I made no objection.
-I find it astounding that one of the people associated with the attack on Professor Manning Clark happens to be the Minister for Education. Can honourable members understand the conservative forces of this country putting forward as Minister for Education a person who pulls upon his shoulders in the Senate an attack upon Professor Manning Clark. That was done yesterday, but what happened today? The Australian Broadcasting Commission announced that the person to present the five Boyer lectures in Australia in 1976 would be none other than Professor Manning Clark. Let us have a look at the group of people that he joins. They include Justice Roma Mitchell, Hugh Strettonall these left wing people -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Most honourable members would be aware that I had the honour to serve for 8 years as a member of the Tasmanian Parliament. During that period I found myself perpetually frustrated because of the fact that the Tasmanian State Parliament had no authority to deal with the question of pensions. I and many others on this side of the
House do have a commitment to pensions and to pensioners. I just want very briefly, because I am going to abbreviate my remarks in view of the lateness of the hour, to refer to 3 matters which I believe should be mentioned before the House rises tonight. Firstly I seek leave- and the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) has indicated his approval- to incorporate in Hansard the new pensioners’ income test which will come into operation on 25 November 1 976.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows:
The existing test for eligibility for pensions and pensioner concessions- called a means test and which takes into account both income and property- is to be replaced by a new easier-to-understand system from 25 November this year.
From November, applicants ‘ eligibility will be assessed on the value of their income only. People will no longer be assessed on the value of their assets, but only on any income they receive from those assets. Here ‘income’ means earnings, interest on bank savings or money in credit unions or building societies, interest on debentures, dividends from shares, rent, superannuation, war pension, compensation, overseas pension, maintenance and so on.
Applicants should state their gross income. In appropriate cases deductions will be made for expenses incurred in earning that income.
The new system is as simple as this. A single applicant having less than $107 a week in income, will get at least some money by way of pension.
A married couple having a combined income of less than $ 1 79.50 a week will still get some pension.
The ready reckoner on the reverse side of this card sets out the rate of pension at various levels of income.
-Secondly, I congratulate the Liberal Government on keeping its word to the pensioners, which I suggest is in marked contrast to the attitude of the previous Government which, as I said 2 nights ago, robbed the pensioners of Australia of millions and millions of dollars by permitting inflation to rise, at the same time eating away the true value of pensions, and permitting the number of pensioner medical service cards held at the commencement of Labor’s term of office by 91 per cent of pensioners in Australia to be reduced to 84 per cent. I congratulate the Government on honouring its commitment to automatic twice yearly indexation of pensions. I wish to be heard on this occasion to urge the Government at the earliest possible opportunity to introduce quarterly indexation. We did not promise quarterly indexation but I am sure that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) who is sitting at the table will be aware that a large number of supporters of this Government are hopeful that as soon as economic circumstances permit quarterly indexation of pensions will be brought in. I have confidence that the Government will do this as soon as it is able.
– I raise a point of order. I draw attention to the relevant Standing Order, the number of which I have forgotten, which refers to the fact that on the adjournment debate honourable members should not deal with Bills which are before the House. We have just been dealing with the proposed appropriation for the Department of Social Security. All that the honourable member for Denison has been speaking about is the question of social security.
-I point out that up until this moment the honourable member for Denison has not taken any further the debate that has just been concluded in Committee. At the present moment the honourable member for Denison is in order.
– I raise a point of order.
– I hope that the honourable member for Shortland has a point of order.
– I can only raise it in the belief that I think it is a responsible point of order. In the Budget documents reference is made to an alteration to the means test by the abolition of consideration of property. Documents have been tabled with the Budget Papers; documents have been circulated today; they relate specifically to pensions. The honourable member specifically referred at the beginning of his speech to this matter and has been granted leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard. I believe, and I submit responsibly to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that this matter is part of the Estimates now before the Committee.
-Order! I suggest in line with the comment I made on one previous occasion that during the Budget debate every subject under the sun can be covered. Therefore, if the Chair were to restrict the adjournment debate to matters not referred to in the Budget debate no member would speak on the adjournment debate, which may be handy from the point of view of the Chair. I also point out that this matter was raised earlier.
– I would like the pensioners of Australia to know that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) are preventing me from giving them the truth about the deal that they are getting from the Fraser Government. In view of the fact that I have only seconds left in this debate and I am interested in pensioners, I wish to appeal to the Government to increase the amount in the fringe means test to at least $60, if that can be done this year. I know that the matter is under review. I am sorry that I have to rush my words.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I want to support my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) in his defence of Professor Manning Clark. I am glad to see the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) here. I must say that I have never been a great one for performing on the adjournment debate, but one of the earliest speeches I ever made in my life on an adjournment debate was in the
Parliament of Victoria in 1947. I spoke in defence of this gentleman. He was not Professor Manning Clark then; he was Mr Manning Clark. I happen to have been a student of Mr Manning Clark. I understand that he came from a great school called Melbourne Grammar School. He was one of my tutors in the days when I was a student in a subject called British History D. The last term of British History D was devoted to all that was taught in Melbourne University of Australian history. The new boy who came out to be my tutor was Manning Clark. Since then he has produced not only these 2 volumes of Australian history that I hold in my hands but also a third one. In my view, he is one of the great Australian historians.
Speaking candidly, I do not know why there have been these moves in the last few days to try to denigrate him. I think that a great tribute has been paid to him in asking him to give the Boyer lecture for 1976. Sometimes, a lot of nonsense is talked about what people stand for and what they do not stand for. Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of Australian history by Manning Clark contain some of the best contributions made to Australian history. I do not know what the nonsense that went on in another place was about. I am pleased to see the Minister for the Capital Territory at the table. He at least knows the quality of the contributions that Manning Clark has made to Australian history. I think at times a lot of nonsense is talked. Some honourable members might not like the interpretation that he gives to history. But to suggest that this gentleman lacks intellectual integrity to my mind is a denigration of democracy in Australia. It is impossible for us all to agree with the views of people and their interpretations of history. But I think that Manning Clark has made a significant contribution to Australian history.
As I say, in my school days, all that was taught of Australian history was contained in the last 3 months tutoring on one subject. Now, at least there is a great literature about Australian history. A comprehensive course in Australian history can be undertaken now. In my view, one of the persons who contributed to that and made it possible is Manning Clark. We never all agree with the views of other people historically, but at least the integrity of other people should be acknowledged. This man, who is now retired from academic life, went to a meeting the other night. Surely, in all freedom he is entitled to go to that meeting. Honourable members opposite might not have liked the meeting, they might not have liked what he said, but surely they do not deny his right to go to the meeting and say what he said. Surely, if anybody wants to get up tonight and deny the integrity of these documents, he is entitled to do so.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Over the past 3 years there have been many strikes in the petroleum industry on the eastern seaboard paralysing industry and causing undue hardship to everyone in the community. One such strike, which occurred 18 months ago during the school holidays, left many parents and children stranded in country centres. They had great difficulty in getting back to their homes. Transport, industry and the farming community have been seriously affected by these strikesstrikes which seem always to occur at times when the most inconvenience will be caused to industry and members of the public. We have such a strike on our hands at the moment in New South Wales. This week more than 400 production employees walked off the job at 3 oil refineries in Sydney. They are the refinery of Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd at Kurnell, the Australian Oil Refining Pty Ltd lubricating oil refinery at Kurnell and the Total Refineries Australia Limited refinery at Matraville. AOR produces two-thirds of the petrol used in New South Wales. The other one-third is refined by the Shell Company of Australia at the Clyde refinery. So honourable members can see just what a paralysing effect this strike, which involves the members of the Australian Workers Union, will cause in New South Wales. The dispute concerns State and Federal awards. At the present time, the AWU workers at the refinery work under the State award. The employers are endeavouring to have them covered by a Federal award. There is no need for them to go on strike. Why do not they take the action to industrial arbitration and settle the matter there without causing inconvenience to the public, to industry and to the whole state of New South Wales?
Before leaving the refineries, the striking operators told the management that the only basis of settlement of the dispute would be for the oil companies to withdraw their application for a Federal award and to agree to a return to State jurisdiction. When will the unions connected with the petroleum industry get some sense and stop this irresponsible strike action which is paralysing industry in New South Wales? Secondary industries, transport industries and primary industries are all seriously affected. It is high time that some responsible people took hold of these unions and gave service to New South Wales to stop the paralysing effect of such strikes.
– I think that the House is grateful for the remarks of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe). No one in the House deplores the inconvenience that arises when a disputation of this nature occurs more than members of the Opposition. But it should be remembered that the issue involved here relates to State or Federal industrial jurisdiction. This is a matter that the LiberalNational Country Parties when in Government for 23 years refused to agree upon. In addition, when they had the numbers in the Senate between 1972 and 1975 on several occasions they rejected legislation that would have helped to prevent the present situation developing. I am pleased that the honourable member for Paterson has remained in the chamber because I think it reasonable to explain that as I understand the situation he is a principal of an oil distribution business. I think that it is only fair -
– Fancy you waiting in the chamber just to bring this up.
– I happened to be present in the chamber and I will speak about the matter. I think it is only fair to the union members concerned that when a member of Parliament rises in this chamber to be critical of the parties to a union dispute because of legislation that a government of which he was a member for many years would not do something about, he ought to declare all of his involvement. That is only fair and proper to the men and their families. If a member of Parliament raises an issue such as this under the guise of public interest, he also has a responsibility to the Parliament and to the community to say that he stands to be disadvantaged from that disputation or that he stands to benefit if such disputation does not occur.
The honourable member for Paterson can take my remarks whichever way he chooses. That is for him to decide. But he has a responsibility, as 1 have and as has every member of this Parliament. If we raise a matter for discussion in the national forum, we ought to be required to put all our cards on the table and disclose that we have an interest or that there could be a personal pecuniary interest on the part of the honourable member concerned. Between 1972 and 1975, the Labor Government tried on several occasions to introduce legislation that would force members of this Parliament to register and disclose to the community their pecuniary interests, investments and shareholdings. I would be very happy to do that. I think it is a very desirable action that ought to be taken. In my opinion, this is a glaring example of why such legislation ought to be enacted. If I recall the notice paper correctly, it contains a private member’s Bill dealing with this very subject. There was a Committee of the Parliament inquiring into the subject -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until Tuesday, 5 October 1976 at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House fix an alternative day of meeting.
The House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
What is the estimated gain to revenuefor the years 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78 to be derived from the additional estate duty which will accrue to the Commonwealth when the Queensland and New South Wales Governments implement proposals for the abolition or reduction of State probate duties.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The absence of precise information on the proposed New South Wales death duty legislation and of appropriate statistics and projections make it impracticable to provide the estimates sought by the Honourable Member. However, a broad estimate has been made on the basis of the New South Wales Government’s reported estimate of the net annual loss to New South Wales revenue of its proposals, together with the latest available Commonwealth estate duty statistics which relate to assessments issued during the 1 974-75 financial year. It is thought that the additional estate duty revenue that will accrue to the Commonwealth from the New South Wales proposals and from the proposal to abolish Queensland Succession and Probate Duty might be about $5 million per annum.
am asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is a follows:
The advertisements are appearing for an eleven week period from July to September in a ‘pilot’ campaign. A limited budget of $40,000 has been allocated for this purpose.
Austria- 1 967-68 to 1973-74;
Belgium- 1 967-68 to 1973-74;
Britain- 1 967-68 to 1974-75; ltaly-1967-68to 1973-74;
Malta-1967-68 to 1971-72;
Netherlands- 196 7-68 to 1974-75.
General advertising about Australia was carried out in the following countries:
Denmark- 1967-68 to 1973-74;
France- 1967-68 to 1973-74;
Switzerland- 1967-68 to 1973-74;
Sweden, Norway and Finland-1967-68 to 1973-74;
West Germany- 1967-68 to 1973-74.
Further details of past advertising were given in reply to the honourable member’s question No. 6387 placed on House of Representatives Notice Paper for 17 August 1972 (see Hansard dated 26 October 1972.)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Illegal Importation of Cheese (Question No. 960)
asked the Minister for Business and
Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Dumping complaints and by-law applications are dealt with by my Department
Any proposal to change rates of duty or prohibitions or restrictions on imports may be referred by the Minister to the Industries Assistance Commission, except where Government policy in relation to trade agreements are being implemented. Questions which arise on dumping, by-law, or on other matters of principle affecting the tariff may also be referred to the Commission.
If urgent action on protection from imports appeared to be necessary the Temporary Assistance Authority would be requested to inquire into the matter and report.
The Minister is advised on references to and reports by the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority by the Standing Committee on Industries Assistance which is chaired by the Department; other standing members are the relevant industry Department, Treasury, Overseas Trade, and Prime Minister and Cabinet.
If the industry believes that it is being injured by allegedly dumped imports and it can substantiate a prima facie case, my Department would initiate enquiries under the antidumping legislation.
If, following the departmental enquiries, it is found that no dumping is occurring, but the industry still claims it is being injured, then it would have to substantiate a case for possible reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority.
If the industry is uncertain as to which course of action it should take my Department would provide advice. The answer to question (2) supplies more detail on references to the Temporary Assistance Authority.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
What is the basis on which the present occupational categories are worked out.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The list of occupations approved for migration is drawn up by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations in consultation with my Department; that Department being the best informed Government agency on labour market matters. The list is prepared from a range of sources and includes an appraisal:
of recent trends, patterns and opinions in surveys of current and expected business and consumer demands published by such organisations as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, etc;
from information both written and verbal received from a wide range of employers and professional associations, trade unions, educational and training institutions, Government Departments, authorities and instrumentalities (both Commonwealth and State) and banking institutions;
from CES statistics and information obtained by the CES labour market intelligence network.
The list is kept under continuous review and is constantly amended, in accordance with labour market needs. It shows the employment situation on a State basis for all of the categories included and also includes additional comments in respect of job qualifications and required experience, where necessary.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
When will the request of the State Ministers at the Agricultural Council meeting for protection for Australian oilseed producers be implemented by an Industries Assistance Commission reference on the subject
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
At the 98th meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, State Ministers asked the Commonwealth to raise the levels of duty on imports of vegetable oils to protect Australian production. I agreed to look into the possibility of arranging an early reference to the Industries Assistance Commission. On 18 August 1976 the Minister for Industry and Commerce announced that a reference had been sent to the Commission asking for a report on whether assistance should be accorded the production in Australia of vegetable oils and fats. In the course of its enquiry, the Commission will take into account the circumstances of the seed-growing sector of the industry when assessing the assistance needs of vegetable oil production.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
Has he instigated studies into ways of alleviating the hardship suffered by certain pensioner, low-income and chronic illness groups who have to pay the $2 fee for pharmaceutical benefit items.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. However, the honourable member will appreciate that this is a complex matter and it may be some time before the studies are completed.
Environmental Impact Statement: AlburyWodonga (Question No. 1109)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
What environmental impact statement was prepared for the Albury-Wodonga growth centre before the Labor Government proceeded with its development.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Labor Government required that an environmental impact statement be prepared for the proposed first ten to fifteen years development of the Albury-Wodonga growth centre. This impact statement has been subject to public review and is currently being finalised.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 September 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19760923_reps_30_hor100/>.