30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2. IS p.m., and read prayers.
– I informed the House on 22 September that the Department of Repatriation would be renamed the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and would have certain additional functions. I now inform the House that the former Department of Repatriation has today been renamed the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and that Senator Durack has been sworn in as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) continues to represent Senator Durack in this House.
I take this opportunity to mention that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, with its additional responsibilities for defence service homes and war graves, is identified under its new name in an issue of the Administrative Arrangements Order approved today by the Executive Council. Various proposals, some with larger effect than others, have been put to the Government from the Administrative Review Committee, and from other sources, which have been accepted as part of the Government’s on-going objective of achieving economy and effectiveness in its administrative arrangements. Some areas are still subject to examination- for example, by the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health. Functions which are being transferred between departments are set out in tabular form in a brief document which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– In addition, Mr Speaker, I mention the following for the information of the House: The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs responsibility for advancing policies designed to secure integration of migrants for implementation by functional departments is endorsed, and steps are being taken to establish an ethnic affairs unit in that Department. The establishment of a bureau of industry economics in the Department of Industry and Commerce to carry out research work needed to assist the Government in the formation of industry policy has been in train for some time. I mention that the citation of the Acts listed in the Administrative Arrangements Order has been revised to accord with the Acts Citation Act 1976.
I inform the House that the Treasurer, (Mr Lynch) left Australia on 24 September to lead the Australian delegations to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting in Hong Kong and the 1976 annual meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group in Manila. He is expected to return on 8 October. During his absence the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) will act as Treasurer.
I also inform the House that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) left Australia on 2 October to attend the South Pacific Labour Ministers Conference in Nauru. He is expected to return on 7 October.
During his absence the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will act as Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and Minister assisting me in respect of Public Service matters and women’s affairs.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government;
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garrick, Mr Jacobi, Mr Les Johnson, Dr Klugman and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, we the undersigned, citizens of the Commonwealth by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That Medibank has proved to be the cheapest and most efficient means of bringing health care to Australian citizens and that the citizens of Australia have received Medibank as a great and valued social reform.
That Medibank has proved itself to be a far superior system of health care than was offered by the private funds prior to July 1975.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will observe the promise made by the Prime Minister in his policy speech that ‘We will maintain Medibank and ensure the standard of health care does not decline’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Beazley, Dr Cass, Mr Cotter and Mr Keith Johnson.
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 Trader to 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 electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your petitioners pray your honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony and Mr Chipp.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Government to introduce a 2.5 per cent levy on incomes to finance Medibank and to offer private health insurance as an alternative to Medibank.
Your petitioners call upon the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Garrick and Dr Jenkins.
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 all people should have the right to life, liberty, and political and religious freedom
And whereas there are increasing reports of human slaughter and repression by the Communist-led government in Cambodia;
Your petitioners humbly pray, that the members in Parliament assembled, will take steps to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem and Mr Lusher.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson and Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia and users of the New South Wales Environment Centre, an open, community resource and information facility with funds provided by federal government, respectfully showeth that:
There is a growing interest and concern in all sections of Australian society for the conservation of the environment, natural and man-made.
That there are also rapidly growing pressures by powerful forces tending towards the destruction of the Australian heritage.
That it is therefore urgent to appoint the Australian Heritage Commission, which was approved by both sides of this Parliament and to give the Commission sufficient independent staff, resources and funds.
That Technical Assistance Grants and Administrative Support Grants to community organisations are needed to partially redress the gross imbalance in technical expertise and resources suffered by community groups in pressing the community’s case against the exploiter.
That a proper balance between the government’s programme of public austerity and the need for action in conservation would be a modest increase in the budget allocations in these areas over that of 1 975-76.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
That we support the concept of the optional scheme of Health coverage for all Australians in which they can choose to participate in either Private Medical funds or the Medibank scheme.
We believe that if Australia’s private health funds are abolished a fundamental right of all Australians would be removed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Their dissatisfaction with the decision to re-introduce bus fares for students travelling to school in the ACT.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Members of the House reconsider the decision with the hope that the decision will be reversed or at least modified.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That the undersigned persons believe that:
The $300 limit on income tax deductibility in respect of personal residential land and water rates is unrealistic and is a discriminatory income tax penalty.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take steps to see that the aforesaid limitation is removed entirely or substantially increased.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
The undersigned persons are concerned that:
The proposed Government income equalisation deposit scheme will give substantial income tax concessions to those who are not genuine primary producers.
We call upon the Government to restrict the proposed scheme so that only genuine primary producers will benefit.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Groom.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many Australians are concerned at the implications for the Australian Apple and Pear Industry of recommendations to the Commonwealth Government by the Industries Assistance Commission:
That the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Scheme be phased out over a period of two years.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government
Reject the LAC proposals which if implemented will cause destruction and not reconstruction of the apple and pear industry.
Adopt the alternative proposals put forward by the industry to provide a means of restructuring the industry to meet the changes forced upon it by outside circumstances.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Groom.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully urge that:
The Government use the vacant places in the commercial day care centres by subsidising parents in need, giving them their democratic right to freedom of choice.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHaslam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That whereas an amnesty was announced for all illegal migrants and that whereas Mr Ignazio Salemi an applicant for amnesty has been denied amnesty.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members in the House assembled, will take 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. byMrInnes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that milk substitutes be restored to the schedule of Pharmaceutical Benefits for children up to the age of six years as soon as possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDrKlugman.
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 petitionersdo 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 doto help themselves. In this it is anti-beauracratic 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. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50.000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
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 humbly 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 Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of Christ College and State Colleges of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That the Immigration of teachers recruited from outside Australia be prevented while students with similar University qualifications are refused entry into Diploma of Education courses, and school leavers are refused entry into the State Colleges of Victoria.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Minister for Immigration, Mr MacKellar will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrShipton.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns the South African Airways tour of South Africa for members of Australian police forces and their families about which he wrote to the Premiers last Monday. Since the Foreign Minister had given the honourable member for Adelaide a written reply on 1 September- I quote the words from the Minister’s reply- ‘that such a visit would be a matter of serious concern to the Australian Government’, why did the Prime Minister wait until 27 September to write to the Premiers about the matter, that is, 3 days before the members of the tour were due to leave Australia?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. I am advised that the people concerned, in fact, had paid 60 days before the departure time. As the honourable gentleman knows, private citizens cannot be prevented from leaving the country for any particular purpose and there is no reason why they should be. That part of it has to be a decision for the individual concerned. What had been of concern to the Foreign Minister and what was of concern to me was any possible implication that there could be an official visit as a result of the advertisements that appeared in the Police Gazette and other publications.
There was a delay, which I agree was unfortunate, between the original receipt of the Foreign Minister’s letter and my letter to the Premiers. But my Department had been trying to find out how many people were in fact involved. We were not able to do that through normal administrative means. Therefore I wrote a letter to the Premiers, drawing the fact of the tour to their attention and indicating to them that we would not want to be in a position in which it could be construed as having any governmental support or in any sense be regarded as an official Australian delegation, especially in view of recent events- not the most recent events in Rhodesia but events before that- in relation to disturbances. The letter suggested to the Premiers that they would take any action that might be deemed appropriate and went no further than that. Mr Wran from
New South Wales, for example, I think has indicated that nobody from New South Wales was involved. I have seen some Press reports that only 3 policemen were involved. It obviously would have been a help if that information had been available earlier. But the letter, at least, has alerted Premiers and other people to the Commonwealth’s concern in these particular matters.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the fact that the present situation in Rhodesia is now in the process of being resolved, how soon may we expect a normalisation of foreign and trade relations between Australia and Rhodesia? Furthermore, as part of this normalisation, when will the right of Rhodesian passport holders to enter this country be restored?
– Every member of this House is delighted that at least there seems to have been some move in what apparently was quite an intransigent position on the part of the Government of Mr Ian Smith. How far this move will lead to an ultimate resolution of the problem still remains to be determined. The Australian Government, through the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Peacock, in his address to the United Nations in New York the other day, has expressed a general sympathy for the moves that are being made and indicated that we would welcome the steps providing that they can lead to ultimate majority rule and that the moves, as far as possible, do not result in the loss of life that seems to have been increasing in Rhodesia in recent months. In the meantime, until there is a settlement, the obligations of the sanctions provisions that have been laid down by the Security Council remain. Australia still accords with those sanctions and intends to maintain them.
However, a very real problem could flow if there were to be numbers of applications from people from Rhodesia or South Africa to come into this country. At this stage the Government has expressed its general position regarding refugees. Those general attitudes apply irrespective of where those refugees may be applying from. The attitude to entry into Australia of persons with Rhodesian passports remains in accordance with the restraints that flow from our obligations through the Security Council sanctions provisions. At this stage, until there is a change in that position I am afraid there is little likelihood of the Austraiian Government permitting those with Rhodesian passports to come into Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister Was the Fretilin radio at any time informed that the wave length upon which it was operating was identical with an Australian Government defence wave length? Does the suppression of this radio mean that the Government recognises Indonesia as the legitimate authority in East Timor and that the radio has been suppressed for inciting opposition to it?
-As I have said on a number of occasions, the policy in relation to Timor has been stated very clearly and unequivocally by the Foreign Minister. There is no need to repeat it. But let me say also that I should hope that honourable gentleman would not want to pursue the view that illegal radios ought to be used to broadcast from Australia and ought to be allowed to broadcast from Australia. No matter what the politics of the situation may be, I do not believe that anyone in this country ought to want Australian soil to be involved in the illegal use of a radio in connection with matters which are not of our direct concern, to which we are not a party principal and to which we cannot be a party principal. I can well understand why the honourable gentleman might feel aggrieved in relation to these matters; I am advised on good authority that over a long period the Leader of the Opposition did not inform either his own Cabinet or his own Caucus of the policy that he had been pursuing.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that, despite the assurances given by the Minister for Education that the level of financial assistance for students was being closely examined, a minority of tertiary students conducted a strike last week over allowances paid under the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of removing allowances from those students who went on strike and using those funds, in addition to other funds, to increase the allowances of those students who remained diligently at their studies last week?
-I am glad to see that the honourable member acknowledges that diligence is a virtue. A minority of students entered upon a strike last week. I recall looking in the local newspaper in Western Australia the day after the day on which the strike was supposed to have been held and noting that such was the significance of the strike that nothing about it was reported in that newspaper. It is correct that the Minister for Education has undertaken a review of student allowances, including the tertiary allowance. The Treasurer reported in August that when that review was completed the Government would consider the result of that review and the Minister for Education would report on it. The Treasurer also said it was expected that the review would be completed by October and that the Minister for Education would be reporting early in October. I expect that the Minister will be doing just that.
Dr J. F. CAIRNS Is the Prime Minister aware of the application for residency status of Mr Chris Santos, the representative in Australia of Fretilin? I remind the Prime Minister that the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Mr Malik, was reported in the Melbourne Herald of 2 1 September as saying that the Australian Government should not give Fretilin ‘the chance to agitate, to make their headquarters or activities’ in Australia. Can the Prime Minister give the House a clear assurance that the Australian Government will reject this gross interference by the Indonesian Foreign Minister in Australian internal affairs and foreign policy, and will he convey that to Mr Malik? Further, what steps are being taken to make it clear to the Indonesian Government that Australia will determine her own foreign policy in relation to East Timor? Finally, can the Prime Minister give an assurance that Mr Santos ‘ application will be treated expeditiously and favourably?
– I am not aware of an application by Mr Santos. I should have thought there is probably no reason why it could not be handled expeditiously, but the result would depend on all the circumstances. I doubt whether anyone in this House or outside it believes that Australia does not make her own foreign policy. At least under this Government she certainly does.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Northern Territory. In view of his recent statements concerning constitutional development in the Northern Territory, I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to calls by an independent member of the
Legislative Assembly in Darwin for a referendum to be held on the issue of Statehood for the Northern Territory? What action does the Minister propose to take on this matter? Is a referendum contemplated?
-Yes, my attention has been drawn to that call, which seems a somewhat lonely call. The Government believes at this stage that the electors of the Northern Territory seem to have voted very decisively on the issue of Statehood for the Northern Territory at 2 electionsthe Legislative Assembly election and the Federal election. That was a policy point which was put to the people of the Northern Territory. Also, the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory, on which all parties were represented, expressed most strongly the point of view that autonomy should devolve upon the Northern Territory Assembly. So I believe that the people of the Northern Territory have expressed themselves very clearly on this point. The Government has shown its integrity and its commitment, in a very practical way, by the recent transfer of substantial powers to the Assembly. In the last session during the debate on the Northern Territory (Administration) Amendment Bill, which provided Executive Members for the Northern Territory Assembly, I was pleased that all parties fully supported the Bill.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that the Minister for Health stated on 20 May that the Government had decided to eliminate the tax rebate for all health insurance premiums from 1 October to avoid the confusion that would inevitably result if some premiums were tax deductible and others were not? Can he assure the House that the Government will introduce amending legislation which will ensure that all health insurance premiums, including premiums for health insurance in excess of standard ward cover, paid before 1 October will not be tax deductible this financial year?
– I will have the matter put by the honourable gentleman in his question, examined and I will advise him in writing.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the Government’s announcement earlier in the year that it would accept for permanent residence up to 800 Indo-Chinese refugees who had some special relationship with Australia or with Australians. Can the Minister tell the House how many people have been approved for permanent residence under this program? Are any additional Indo-Chinese migrants being accepted? What criteria must additional applicants satisfy to be approved for permanent residence?
– During the last 2 years some 2000 Indo-Chinese refugees have been admitted to Australia. Since this Government came to power approximately 1000 have been admitted for permanent residence. A number of these people have nominated relatives to come to Australia. One of the problems associated with the movement of these nominated relatives to Australia is that many of these people are located in refugee camps, in Thailand particularly. These refugee camps are in remote areas. To process the application requires the establishment of an immigration team, including medical personnel, to travel to the camps and to assess the people on the spot. It is not possible to deal with the nominations received from people in Australia as one would deal with a normal immigration sponsorship. However, the Government is concerned about its responsibilities in relation to refugee applications. These nominations are being gathered together. I am hopeful that in the not too distant future we will be in a position to make a further announcement in relation to additional refugees, particularly from the Indo-China area.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. He will be aware that for the month of August new private dwelling approvals fell by 4.4 per cent, total approvals fell by 1 7 per cent, and other building approvals- for example, factories, offices, schools and hospitals- - fell by 8 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms. Will the Government take corrective action not only to stimulate this ailing industry but also to prevent a renewed recession, especially in New South Wales?
– I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for asking me this question. I think that people who are trying to talk down the economy of this country are doing it a great deal of harm. The honourable gentleman should look behind those figures. I have here some statistical information in which he may be interested.
– It is a Dorothy Dixer.
– It may be a Dorothy Dix question but I shall treat it as though it was not. Dealing with the non-residential approvals that the honourable gentleman mentioned, we find that in August 1975 the value of approvals was $ 128.8m and that in the same month this year the figure was $ 123.2m. Admittedly there has been a small drop of about 3 per cent. However I think it is significant to remind the House and the honourable gentleman that these figures should be broken down into the government and nongovernment sectors. In August 1975 the figure for the private sector was $5 8m and that for the government sector was $70.6m. This year the position has been reversed. Approvals for the private sector amount to $79.8m, a substantial increase, and the figure for the government sector is $43.4m, which represents a decrease. This illustrates precisely the purpose of the Government’s economic initiatives- to encourage the private sector and reduce the public sector. We believe that it is from the private sector that employment flows.
Admittedly it is early days yet but it is true to say that there are straws which indicate that the Government’s economic policies for the building industry are working. As for the views of people outside this place, I would like to quote for the benefit of the honourable gentleman the view of Mr Campbell, the Managing Director of the Hooker Corporation. I think honourable members would have to admit that he has some expertise in the building industry. Mr Campbell was reported on 4 October in an Australian newspaper as saying, amongst other things: ‘I am convinced that recovery is under way. The present Federal economic policies should not be altered’. That is a view with which I heartily agreee.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs a question concerning Rhodesia. Is the Minister aware that a member of the Department has announced that taxpayers’ money will be used to boost an international fund to pay for those people likely to have their properties in Rhodesia expropriated? Although many of us might agree or disagree with such a contribution, does the Minister agree that statements of this sort concerning taxpayers’ money should come from the dispatch box and not from a spokesman from the Department or the Ministry?
-I think all of us are aware that in the Kissinger proposals there were a number of elements, some of which have not yet been put into practice. One of them embraces a project of a sort to which the honourable member’s question referred. There has been no formal approach to the Australian Government regarding such a proposition. However, we have been advised informally that a number of governments may be requested to participate in some such assistance. If and when we receive such a request we will take a decision and act in the light of the then circumstances. In the meantime, any statement by an official or from the dispatch box would be premature.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is it a fact that the office of the Commissioner for Trade Practices advised the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria that many parts of its advertisement ‘Thank Goodness HBA is still HBA’, published on 1 September, contravened the Trade Practices Act, and did HBA subsequently give an undertaking to correct all future advertisements? Has HBA continued to run this misleading advertisement in defiance of the Commissioner, most recently as a supplement to the Victorian editions of the AMA Gazette of 16 September and on 1 October in the Age”! In view of this flagrant abuse of the Trade Practices Act will the Minister now seek an injunction to restrain HBA from publishing this misleading advertising pending a determination by the Commissioner?
-I do not know whether the statement contained in the first part of the honourable member’s question is correct. I think he will appreciate that the Trade Practices Commission is a statutory body. Within the charter laid down by the Trade Practices Act the Commission acts independently of the Government It has not been nor will it be my practice to superimpose personal views in those matters where it is properly the function of the Commission to make decisions. The question of the compliance by all health insurance funds, both public and private, with the provisions of the Trade Practices Act has been raised in the House before. I have made clear the attitude of the Government We hope that the Act is complied with. I think it would be inappropriate for me to make any other comment in relation to the matter the honourable member raised in the interests of a proper handling of that matter by the Commission.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Transport been drawn to newspaper reports that the Victorian Minister for Transport, Mr Rafferty, has agreed to his request that the additional $7.5m made available by the Commonwealth for roads in Victoria be spent on improving country roads and relieving local unemployment? Is the report correct? If so, has the Minister received confirmation from Mr Rafferty that he has agreed to the Minister’s request? Furthermore, what is the position in the other States?
-I am able to confirm that the Victorian Government has accepted the Federal Government’s request that the $7.5m be made available for local government councils in country areas. Of the $7.5m, $6m will go to local roads and $1.5m to rural arterial roads. The House will know that a previous program was approved by myself as Minister and it totalled $ 17.2m. Now, $23.2m will be available for local government roads with an extra $1.5m for rural arterial roads.
– Hear, hear.
– The Prime Minister interjects and says: ‘Hear, hear’. The House will know of his particular interest in this matter. I am waiting for confirmation from the Victorian Minister as to the allocations to the various councils. I shall notify honourable members when that comes to hand. As far as the other States are concerned, the only State which is now outstanding in terms of final agreement is New South Wales. I make it clear that I have been able to make satisfactory arrangements with the other States. New South Wales is in a different category because, as a government, it makes no provision for local government authorities. I have therefore asked the New South Wales Minister to have another look at the figures to see whether he cannot make $llm- I think that is the amount- available to local government councils. I am still awaiting that response.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Australian Government received approaches from the American Government in relation to which countries should be barred from being recipients of Australian uranium? Has the American Government advised of any country which should act in partnership with Australia in building enrichment plants in this country? Finally, will the Prime Minister tell the House of his Government’s reaction to this American intrusion?
– I am not aware of any such report or of any such approach. As the honourable gentleman well knows, the Government will make its decisions about uranium policy once it has the Fox report- after it has that report and not before it has that report.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the shipbuilding industry and its place in manufacturing industry. Has the Prime Minister seen Press reports today that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has an unbeatable plan to save the shipbuilding industry and that the leader of the ACTU is reported as saying that what is happening in Whyalla and Newcastle is indicative of what the Government will be facing in the whole of manufacturing industry? Does the Prime Minister agree with these reports? Is he able to say whether the ACTU has responded to his offer to build 2 Australian National Line ships in Australian yards on certain conditions?
-There have been various conversations with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. There have been various conversations with other people. As honourable gentlemen will know, the Commonwealth has established a working party of officials with New South Wales and South Australia to examine the impact of the Industries Assistance Commission report on the shipbuilding industry at Newcastle and Whyalla. When we have the officials’ report on the IAC recommendations the Government will come to its own decisions in relation to these matters.
We have said that we would be very happy to take into account any views that might be expressed by the ACTU and any views that will be expressed, obviously through the working party, by Mr Wran or Mr Dunstan- or directly if they wish to do so. I have noticed the newspapers reports but I have not noticed or heard or been advised of anything else up to this point. Mr Hawke on more than one occasion has indicated that he is going to put plans to us. We have not yet got them. We are waiting for them with great eagerness.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a question. The honourable gentleman will have noticed that the senior management of the Australian Broadcasting Commission has decided to vet the text of the Boyer Lectures to be recorded this week by Professor Manning Clark. I ask the Minister whether the ABC has previously taken the precaution of examining the texts to be recorded by earlier Boyer lecturers? Can he assure the House that the recent attack in the Senate by the Minister for Education on the Professor’s integrity, which preceded the ABC’s action, should not have been interpreted by the ABC as a declaration of the attitude of the Government as a whole?
-I am surprised at the Leader of the Opposition addressing such a question to me because he would well know that the administration of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is in the hands of the Commission and its executive. There is no suggestion at all from this Government in any way to interfere with that. The ABC enjoys independence and integrity. That integrity will be maintained.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the worsening position of dairy farmers all over Australia, with consequent declining production and a greater proportion of the total production being consumed in Australia at higher than export prices, will the Minister advise what action the Government contemplates to alleviate the serious financial and emotional position of dairy farmers, notwithstanding the Government’s already announced intention of underwriting dairy products at 50c per lb?
-Unfortunately many of the answers concerning the report that was tendered by Sir John Crawford and the Industries Assistance Commission will not be resolved until the meeting between me and State Ministers for Agriculture on Friday. However, the Government is most concerned not only that there is a marketing crisis in the dairying industry but also that the production downturn flowing from dry conditions across most of southern Australia has led to an even lower expectation of production this year than was earlier indicated. This means that there is both a downturn from the market depression and from the reduction in production. As a result producers are even worse off than had been originally thought
There are a number of problems that in the long term have to be faced. The Crawford report has suggested a 3-phase program. At this stage I , do not want to indicate the Government’s attitude towards that report. Indeed, the Government has not yet taken a firm attitude because it would like to see the response from both the industry and the States. But given the combination of circumstances, I hope that both the industry and the States will be prepared to look constructively at the recommendations that have come forward from Sir John Crawford, for it is only through the implementation of recommendations such as those of Sir John that there is any chance of again restoring the dairying industry to its proper place in the Australian economy. The Government is committed to maintaining an Australian dairying industry. We see that industry as having a role both in maintaining a supply to domestic consumers and in export. But it is not a role which we can play alone. We must have co-operation from the industry and from State governments. We look forward to having that co-operation before the final decisions are taken on the Crawford report.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Does the Minister intend to table the so-called Green Report on radio and television? Will it be tabled before consideration by the Government or will it be released after the Government has decided on its recommendations?
-I have the report. It is now the subject of a submission by me to the Government. The Government will take the appropriate decision as to the release of the report when it has been considered.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whether he is aware that the recent welcome announcement of the extension of the National Employment and Training scheme and the youth employment subsidy scheme has already had a most significant effect in focusing the community’s attention on this Government’s concern for the problem of employment of school leavers. Will the Minister now investigate the possibility of asking those States which have budgeted for a surplus for 1976-77, and in particular Tasmania, to apply some or all of their projected surpluses to funding complementary State schemes to combat youth unemployment?
-I will take on board the very constructive suggestion of the honourable member for Denison. I will discuss it with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations when he returns on Thursday. I think it is a sensible suggestion and State governments might also consider a suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales that State governments give payroll tax concessions to those employers who join the scheme.
-Has the Acting Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations noted that the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been able to update its seasonal adjustment process and has released figures indicating that unemployment in August was the highest on record? Is it true that this updated process could also be applied to the figures gathered by the Commonwealth Employment Service and that the process was available at the time of the release of the August employment figures? If this is so, will he arrange to have published the unemployment figures for the last 12 months which have been subjected to the new seasonal adjustment process?
-The figures released by the Bureau of Statistics were for a quarterly period. It is true that they contain an element for seasonal adjustment. It is also true the the ingredients of the formula used by the Bureau were different in kind from those of the formula previously used for the monthly releases by the Commonwealth Employment Service. The question of the future use of seasonally adjusted figures in monthly releases by the Commonwealth Employment Service continues under study by the Department and by the Minister. The request of the honourable member for Adelaide will be referred by me to the Minister when he returns.
-I ask the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs: Has the Government received any message or any ultimatum either from President Suharto or from any other senior Indonesian Minister calling for the closure of the Fretilin radio transmitter in northern Australia?
– The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia was in Australia recently. He had discussions with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, myself and a number of other Ministers. At no stage did he do anything other than consult in the normal way about developments in Indonesia and discuss the prospects of the Prime Minister’s visit to that country. I understand that this afternoon he has released a statement to the effect that he had no instructions from President Suharto, an Indonesian Cabinet Minister or any Indonesian official regarding the Fretilin radio. Certainly he did not pass such information on to me, the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Prime Minister. In fact, he had no such instructions and he has issued a statement to that effect.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to have taken a stance in public which I think needs to be identified for what it really represents. On other occasions in this place the Labor Party has supported the idea of Australia in some way actively participating in support of insurgents- in the past in Africa and now apparently in a neighbouring country. The action taken by the officers of the Department of Post and Telecommunications was in accordance with normal departmental practice. The Government in no way supports the maintenance of military action from within Australia by Australians against any other country or any other government. Certainly no request was made at any level by the Indonesian Government with respect to the closure of the Fretilin radio station.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Has the Minister seen a statement by the immediate past President of the Australian Institute of Credit Management, Mr Carey, that company failures in Australia are five or six times greater than in the United States and that a high proportion of such failures are deliberate; that the cost of company failures in Australia last financial year exceeded $600m and that much of that could be traced to white collar crime? Mr Carey further stated that in the United States when a company fails it is possible for the liquidator, when paying off creditors, to include the personal assets of a person who had set up the company. Will the Minister consider the statement made by Mr Carey, who obviously is an expert on the topic, when suggesting or drafting further company legislation?
– I have seen some reference to the statements made by Mr Carey. While I agree that some losses in respect of company failures during the period the honourable gentleman mentioned can be attributed to white collar crime, I think a great number of the losses can also be attributed to the poor economic policies of our predecessors in office. As to the specific question raised by the honourable gentleman, when the Commonwealth reaches agreement with the States in respect of a co-operative scheme for regulation of the securities market and companies generally, I will be happy to look at suggestions for amendments to the law. The suggestion made by the honourable gentleman is not without difficulty. Within the normal company laws there are already some provisions for recourse to company directors’ personal assets in certain circumstances.
– They set up a company and then they leave.
-I am not unaware of the device which is used, but I would point out to the honourable gentleman that a number of provisions exist at the moment in the companies legislation of the various States which provide some recourse against recalcitrant directors. Nonetheless, I will take into account what the honourable gentleman has said and study it at the appropriate time.
– I direct my question to my friend and colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is the Minister aware that from time to time unnecessary ill will is created in our society as a result of Aboriginal grants being made to persons who do not appear to be Aborigines? Does the Minister agree that this is a most regrettable but sometimes understandable happening? Will the Minister turn his attention to drawing up guidelines for a definition of those who unquestionably qualify for the grants, thus ensuring that those who really qualify for assistance are those who receive it, thereby removing a source of ill will in our society?
– I thank my friend and honourable colleague for his question. This has been a matter to which governments of the past, both State and Federal, have directed their attention. Of course, it is rather invidious to look at the precentage of blood of one race or another in a person’s veins and say whether that person is of one particular race or another. I wonder what the Irishman would say if he had a percentage of good Scottish Cameron blood coursing through his veins. Is he an Irishman or a Scotsman? For the purpose of a great number of our Aboriginal affairs programs, the definition of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is that he or she be a person of Aboriginal or Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Islander and who is accepted as such by the community with which he or she is associated. Having given that definition, I am reminded also of what is provided in the Queensland legislation, namely, that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a descendant of an indigenous inhabitant, with no degrees of blood as a matter of consideration.
For other purposes under the federal law, I will read the definitions for the information of the House. Under the Aboriginal Loans Commission Act 1974 and the Aboriginal Land Fund Act 1974, ‘Aboriginal’ means an indigenous inhabitant of Australia and includes an indigenous inhabitant of the Torres Strait
Islands. The honourable member will see the direct comparison there with the present provisions of the Queensland legislation. For the purposes of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1975, the definition of an Aboriginal is a person who is a member of the Aboriginal race of Australia. Some people would say that that definition is too broad and indefinite. But it is there for a very good legal reason, namely, to ensure that it comes within the provisions of the Australian Constitution. Therefore, for the purposes of the application of that Act, if anyone wants to dispute that a person is an Aboriginal it becomes a matter of law and of fact for the courts to determine. With those definitions being applied in specific cases to meet the nature of our programs and the nature of federal law, I do not think that the illwill which the honourable member thought might arise in fact will arise.
– I direct a question to the Acting Treasurer. Did his colleague, the Treasurer, a few days after announcing his Government’s foreign investment guidelines, give his approval to the use of US$36m by K Mart (Australia) Ltd to purchase properties in Australia? Is it a fact that the increase in value of these properties over the next 26 years will accrue to the overseas lenders who have lent this money to K Mart? Is this an example of the actions of the Government being in sharp contrast to its words, namely, that the Government is prepared to allow the unnecessary sellout of Australian assets to foreigners?
-I cannot give the honourable member a definite answer to each proposal that would come before the Treasurer or some that come to me in my role as the Minister assisting him. Each proposal is looked at by the Foreign Investment Review Board. Of course, some are announced and others are of a confidential nature and the confidentiality naturally is safeguarded until a public announcement is made. Therefore, I will see whether I can give more detailed information to the honourable gentleman in reply to his question. However, the policy of the Government is well known and understood. It is one in which the Board works under definite criteria. The members of that Board have had tremendous experience in finance and commerce. The criteria are designed in the national interest. The Treasurer and I, in looking at each and every proposal, ensure that the national interest is maintained.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House whether any studies are being undertaken into radiological services in Australia? Is the Government concerned about the overall costs of radiological services?
– The Hospitals and Health Services Commission has been commissioned to undertake a study of radiological services in Australia. There has been a great need to try to achieve a better rationalisation of the usage of resources and manpower in this area. The Medibank Review Committee, in the course of its inquiries, also detected areas of some concern in regard to the expense of radiological services. In due course the Government should have before it a report from the Hospitals and Health Services Commission which will assess whether or not some changes are necessary to improve the efficiency of radiological services and also to overcome any excessive expenditures in the area.
– Pursuant to section 90 of the Wool Industry Act 1972 I present the interim annual report of the Australian Wool Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the resolutions of the ninety-eighth meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held in Bundaberg, Queensland on 2 and 3 August 1976.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 1 present the interim Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorney.General) For the information of honourable members I present the text of an arrangement between the United States Department of Justice and the Australian Attorney-General’s Department dated 13 September 1976 intituled ‘Procedures for Mutual Assistance in Administration of Justice in Connection with the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation Matter’.
– Pursuant to section 35 of the Prices Justification Act 1973, 1 present the annual report of the Prices Justification Tribunal for the year ended 30 June 1976. Due to the limited numbers available at this time reference copies of this report have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and the Parliamentary Library. A normal distribution of the report will be made as soon as copies become available.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Australian Council on Awards in Advanced Education for 1975.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1 942 1 present the annual report on the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973, 1 present the annual report of the operations of the Consumer Affairs Council and the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1976.
-I seek leave to move a motion to authorise the publication and printing of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That this House, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Papers Act 1 908 authorises the publication of the report of the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Council and the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Bureau for the year 1975-76 and that the report be printed.
– by leave- The Government has decided to appoint an independent Committee of Inquiry to review the objectives, structure and programs of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Over the last 50 years, CSIRO has earned a high reputation within Australia and overseas. This has been achieved by conducting research programs which have been predominantly of high quality and sound practicality. During these years, the executive and staff of the CSIRO have made significant contributions to fundamental and applied sciences and sought to link the two together. They have helped us to increase our knowledge of the physical and biological environment through which we move and on which we depend. They have developed new technologies through the application of scientific principle to everyday problems.
The last major review of the CSIRO was held almost 30 years ago, in 1948-49. Since then, science has become increasingly diversified and the Government has come to support science and technology in a multiplicity of ways. Inevitably, the role of the Organisation has changed. It is appropriate at this time to engage in a re-thinking of the objectives of the CSIRO for the future, to conduct an independent examination of the ways in which the Organisation’s vigor, its ethos, and its capacity to deal with the challenges of the future can be sustained.
The Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry is Professor A. J. Birch, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the Australian National University. Professor Birch was the foundation dean of the Research School of Chemistry at the National University. The other members of the Committee are Sir Cecil Looker, a former president of the Austraiian Associated Stock Exchanges- he has also held the position of chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange and director of the Papua New Guinea Development Bank- and Mr R. T. Madigan, chairman of Hamersley Holdings Ltd and of IOL Petroleum Ltd. He is also a director of CRA Ltd and RTZ Ltd.
The Committee of Inquiry shall examine, and report and make recommendations on:
Existing arrangements and procedures for meeting recommended objectives and discharging recommended functions, with particular emphasis on:
-by leave-The Opposition welcomes an independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has noted, it is some 30 years since there has been a review of its activities; but I must express some reservations about the appropriateness of the composition of the Committee of Inquiry. The CSIRO is essentially a scientific research unit. Its broad charter enables it to carry out wide-ranging programs of research, particularly in connection with Australian primary and secondary industries. In fact, the CSIRO was initially set up to provide research backing for Australian primary industry. Many of the CSIRO ‘s research programs are directly concerned with industry development, but its work has wider implications for the nation and the community as a whole. For example, it is concerned with the maintenance and enhancement of the environment, with the improvement of working conditions, and in contributing to basic scientific knowledge as a necessary background to applied research and development.
In this regard I hope honourable members can recall that some two or three years ago the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development sent a group of examiners to Australia to review our scientific efforts. It was made quite clear in their report that the CSIRO was held in very high regard as a research organisation; that it compared very favourably with the best research organisations anywhere else in the world. Emphasis was placed on the fact that the research of the CSIRO was not related solely to industry, that it was research in the broader sense of the word. As the CSIRO is therefore primarily a scientific body concerned with research which affects the whole community, why are there to be 2 businessmen on the Committee of Inquiry and only one scientist? Do those businessmen have special attributes which qualify them to conduct an inquiry into scientific research priorities, or is the main thrust of the inquiry to turn the CSIRO into a business, or into a support service for business?
I think we should be very careful to ensure that we do not concentrate our efforts on development rather than on the research side of research and development. I am not saying that development is not important; this is clearly a function which the CSIRO performs, and perhaps it should be helped to perform this function to a greater extent. But no development can be worth while unless there is basic research to back it. In seeking to provide developmental support for industry, primary or secondary, one can never know when it might be necessary to branch out into basic research. One can never tell what basic research may be relevant to subsequent developmental programs. For these reasons, whilst welcoming the holding of this inquiry, we have some anxieties about the composition of the Committee.
– by leave- This is a statement on the provision of additional funds for Aboriginal affairs programs and publication of the report to the Government of Mr D. O. Hay, C.B.E, D.S.O., of the effectiveness of the services financed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
When the Government brought down the Budget in August, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that additional funds would be provided for Aboriginal affairs programs in the light of reviews then in progress. They have now been completed. These responsible and necessary reviews were prompted by allegations from many quarters that inefficient procedures and lax administration in some programs had led to waste and denial of real benefits for those whom the programs were designed to help. The fears that excessive administration costs and other expenses associated with consultants and poor planning were siphoning off- some would say ripping off’- too much money were not new. This concern was expressed by the present Government when in Opposition, as well as by many Aboriginal groups and organisations interested in Aboriginal welfare.
Aboriginal assistance programs, as honourable members are aware, have in recent years received massive injections of funds, with each succeeding year showing ever increasing allocations in an attempt to relieve the very serious handicaps in housing, education, health and employment under which Australia’s Aboriginal people suffer. The provision of large sums of money alone, however, is no panacea for all the ills that beset people so disadvantaged. To think otherwise will cause people to speak of dollars only as the measure of performance when a real social value for money spent is what should be looked for.
When allegations of waste in governmentfunded programs are made it is the responsibility of government to respond and investigate them. Taking into account the importance this Government attaches to Aboriginal affairs, it was therefore vital that these investigations were carried out as soon as the Government came into office. I do not believe that the public, by and large, objects to the principle of channelling generous amounts of money into Aboriginal assistance programs. This support has in fact been clearly demonstrated by opinion polls. But in response to this principle and any government’s endeavours to uplift Aborigines we want neither overindulgent idealism nor the over-zealous pursuit of economic efficiency. The one saps Aboriginal motivation and public support, the other frustrates the will to achieve and fails to recognise the social dynamics of lifting up a down-trodden people. At the same time there is no substitute for clear direction in long term goals mutually agreed with Aboriginals, and basic planning and sound administration of programs and projects to fulfill those goals.
The public, whose money it is we are spending, is concerned that Aboriginal people are benefiting. Aborigines, also, are concerned that the funds available are being spent with greatest direct benefit to their people, and not lost along the way. It was this concern that led the Government to initiate a number of reviews into various aspects of Aboriginal affairs. The most farreaching of these reviews was that headed by Mr David Hay. Mr Hay was appointed by the Government last January to inquire into the effectiveness of the delivery of services to Aborigines by my Department.
When I announced Mr Hay’s appointment to conduct this inquiry I said that the purpose of the examination was to ensure that the funds being made available for the Aboriginal community were being spent for the maximum benefit of Aborigines. In view of much ill informed comment on the purpose and result of Mr Hay’s inquiry it is well to recall to the House the terms of reference which were publicly announced at the time of his appointment. They were to assess the effectiveness of the services financed, to recommend improvements in the delivery of services and their financial arrangements in the interest of Aborigines and the community at large, and to establish whether there were any areas of waste and inefficiency. The emphasis, it will be seen, is upon the effectiveness of services delivered and the interest of Aborigines, a conjunction which is of course deliberate and a reflection of the Government’s obligation towards the Aboriginal people.
Mr Hay completed his task and reported to the Prime Minister on 4 June. As a result of these inquiries, the Government has taken steps to tighten administration and has acted promptly to honour its promises, repeated many times, that more funds would be provided for Aboriginal affairs during the present financial year. It is now with satisfaction I can announce the Government has decided to provide an extra $2 5 m for Aboriginal programs this year, bringing the total available for expenditure to $ 177.6m during 1976-77. The additional money will be allocated to those programs where the greatest need has been established- in particular on urgently needed housing, through grants to the States and by direct grants to Aboriginal housing associations, and to stimulate employment opportunities. Although I have given emphasis to these 2 most crucial areas, the extra funds will be of benefit to all programs and will provide room for new initiatives which are under examination. When Aboriginal organisations and communities and the States have been advised, I will be in a position to provide details of the break up of the $25m.
It is no coincidence that the provision of funds for housing has come under the closest scrutiny by the Hay and other inquiries. It is understandable that the temporarily reduced funds for housing alarmed and worried many people, not least those Aborigines in need of housing, for without adequate housing there can be only limited improvements in health, limited opportunity for children to succeed at school and limited hope of gaining regular employment. There is also little chance for the foundation of family stability and the growth of self-respect. This is the poverty cycle. To break it, housing must be provided. As one travels around Australia the thing which bears down upon one so heavily is housing and the constant reminder by the voice of the people and the sight of intolerable living conditions of the great cost to the future of what should have been done by society in the past.
It is all the more important then for the Government to have the benefit of a report like Mr Hay’s to provide a sound administrative foundation on which to build its liberal reform and welfare policies. In relation to the additional funds available to the States for housing it is my intention to formalise agreements with the State governments on the terms and conditions applying to their grants for Aboriginal housing programs. I am currently looking very closely at proposals on such agreements, keeping in mind the desirability of directly involving Aboriginal people themselves in such programs. The decision to increase finance to Aboriginal housing associations bears directly on the progress being made by many associations and the faith which die Government has in these programs, started under an earlier Liberal-Country Party administration, reflecting as they do the principles of self-management and self-sufficiency expressed in our Aboriginal affairs policy. To assist Aboriginals in this matter, the Department of Construction has offered its professional and technical assistance in the field, particularly in remote areas, in a consultant and supervisory role to help further development of Aboriginal housing association programs.
In the field of employment and enterprisesother areas subjected to the closest scrutinyadditional funds will be made available to help alleviate the serious employment problems amongst Aboriginals and to support and stimulate realistic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprises which can lead to economic independence and self-reliance. In conjunction with my colleagues, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), I have been studying both short and long term measures which will be brought forward quickly for consideration by the Government including possible ways of converting the payment of unemployment benefits within communities into the funding of worthwhile work projects. These proposals will cover training for employment and the provision of job opportunities through suitable programs for Aboriginal communities especially in remote areas. The link between education and employment is possibly of greater importance to Aborigines than others as formal education is brought more within then- reach. It is a matter to which Senator Carrick and I are giving special attention. One of the recommendations of the Hay report in this field was the necessity to include training components in aid programs wherever possible in order to open up new opportunities for Aboriginals who might otherwise remain unskilled and unemployable.
Although, as I have said, the 2 areas most to benefit from the additional funds are housing and employment, other smaller but important programs which have very substantial social benefits will also gain from an injection of more money this year. One such field is culture and recreation which Mr Hay found offered, for a comparatively small outlay, significant benefits to a large number of people. This decision, I know, will be welcomed by Aboriginal people, whose lives in many cases centre around the community hall and whose social contact with other Aboriginal groups is largely through the performance of their sporting teams. The provision of funds for these purposes can be instrumental in forming the nucleus for community development and, through this, selfesteem. I have seen a number of examples of Aboriginal community spirit matched by government funds producing just such self-esteem and a new sense of social involvement where previously Aborigines were out on the fringe.
While speaking of community development, I would particularly mention the suggestion by Mr Hay of the compiling of community profiles. Such profiles will give the Government a better understanding of development through the totality of different programs meeting various needs in the one community. In this way, the task of assessment of success and particular requirements will be made much easier as well as contributing to the Government’s determination to improve the co-ordination of operations throughout Aboriginal affairs. In working out the contents of community profiles, the family allowances received by a community will be taken into account. I should mention here that the family allowance scheme, which is estimated to provide $16m directly to Aboriginal families, is not regarded as a substitute for special Aboriginal programs. It will however have special significance for Aboriginal families. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) pointed out to the House on 25 August the family allowance scheme involves funds which go directly to Aboriginal families and gives them an independence and capacity to spend those funds as they believe best in their own interests.
Another procedure which will contribute to the efficient and effective utilisation of funds is the Government’s intention to exercise its right to inspect books of account of organisations through which its programs are carried out. This recommendation, contained in the Hay report, in no way implies that the Government intends to interfere with the autonomy of Aboriginal organisations nor does its decision to exercise this right reflect on the competence of the Aboriginal recipients of government funds. The advantages of this practice will be twofold- to provide a better and faster information flow to the Government by providing a means through which difficulties will be detected as soon as they arise, and by aiding Aboriginal people to become more confident of themselves in managerial procedures and administration as they are given more freedom and responsibility in handling programs. It will also involve Aborigines in the budgetary process for mutual agreement on how funds are to be used.
The Government has accepted the further recommendation by Mr Hay that Aboriginal recipients of government finance should make a contribution by way of cash or by voluntary effort, as a normal condition of grants. In this way there will be a commitment on both sides in a co-operative effort geared to success. The close involvement of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in this way will also be reflected in our desire for a greater involvement by other specialised Government departments such as Social Security and Employment and Industrial Relations. I have already mentioned the willingness of the Department of Construction to act in a supervisory capacity to improve efficiency procedures in Aboriginal housing associations.
In addition to the reviews I have mentioned which have been completed or are in progress, I have now instructed my Department to conduct a number of in-depth investigations into almost all other areas where Government funds are being spent, to better define objectives and refine administrative procedures against the background of Mr Hay’s recommendations. These reviews will also ensure that funds allocated in this and future years will be used most effectively for direct benefit of Aborigines with as little administrative outlay as efficiency permits. In now allocating $25m more for Aboriginal assistance, the Government is honoring the Treasurer’s Budget undertaking. It is also sticking by its resolution to see that the money available is being wisely spent.
It is as well to remind ourselves that comparing the level of funding with that provided by a previous administration in past years is of little consequence. Comparisons of funding programs from one year to the next are not necessarily of greatest importance. What needs to be considered is whether the money available has been used to optimum effect, whether there has been a re-ordering of priorities or whether improved administrative re-arrangements have been achieved. An extra $3m was provided to the Aboriginal Loans Commission for housing because of the importance the Government places on home ownership. Grants-in-aid to the States for health and education programs were reduced and grants to Aboriginal organisations working in these fields increased because of our commitment to working through Aboriginal organisations. An extra $ 1.56m was provided for employment support programs which will enable funding support of a new initiative in placing Aborigines with private employers. The Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account was abolished in favour of normal line item appropriations and funding of some programs was transferred elsewhere, such as publications through the Aboriginal Arts Board now under the Arts Council. What is more important, I can assure you, is the intention of this Government to see that Aboriginal affairs programs directly relate to Aboriginal needs while increasing the involvement of Aborigines in the concept of selfmanagement.
Sound administration of any Government program requires on-going reviews and evaluations. The first and most extensive of these reviews has been that conducted by Mr David Hay. The Government was fortunate in securing the services of Mr Hay who has a distinguished record as a diplomat and as Administrator of the Territory of Papua New Guinea from 1967 to 1973. The Government is indebted to him for his diligence and for the sensitivity and understanding he displayed in his conduct of the inquiry.
I also wish to recognise, as Mr Hay has done in his report, the efficiency and dedication demonstrated by officers of my Department in assisting him during this period of intensive review. Also I would like to express my appreciation of the cooperation which Mr Hay also acknowledged of numerous other people involved in supplying information on which the report is based. Important among these are Aboriginal organisations and communities. Mr Hay s report and the reviews I have instituted are major steps towards fulfilling the commitment in the Government’s Aboriginal Affairs policy statement to ‘demolish unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between Aboriginals and the programs intended to assist them towards self management ‘.
On August 26 1 was bold enough to say that it was a time for optimism not gloom in Aboriginal affairs. So it is and so it will continue to be under the present Government. A firm foundation has been laid upon which to go forward. In August, the Prime Minister told this House that the Government would make a decision as to whether the Hay report should be published when reviews were complete and action had been taken on what additional funds would be provided on the basis of those reviews. Mr Speaker, I now table Mr Hay’s report on the review of the delivery of services financed by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
-by leaveMr Speaker, as a result of the prompting of the Aboriginal people and the Opposition the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has finally seen fit to table the Hay report. The principles of open government certainly do not apply, if the government has its way, to Aboriginal affairs. But it is important that this report has now been tabled, although belatedly, so that everyone interested in Aboriginal affairs can have access to the information revealed therein. The Australian Parliament and the people can now see the justification for the allegation by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of waste, extravagance, duplication and over utilisation in the expenditure of funds on Aboriginal welfare. Strangely the Minister, in the statement just read to the House, failed to make any specific mention of such misspending. The Parliament and the people can now see justification for the Prime Minister’s covert briefing of journalists in bis office on 18 May when he first made these allegations and leaked selected portions of the Hay report. This was done at a time when no member of this Parliament, with the possible exception of the Minister, had any knowledge of the report. If one wanted deliberately to contrive a method and a process whereby the Parliament could be brought into contempt that certainly would be the best way of going about it.
The people and the Parliament can now see the justification for the slashing of expenditure on Aboriginal welfare of $33m in the Budget and the abrogation of the election commitment given by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in December last year. The House has been treated to a detailed account of that long telegram on several occasions in which in a most unambiguous and unqualified way an assurance was given to the Aboriginal people that they would be better off and that there would be no curtailment of expenditure. Now we see that funds made available for these purposes are being expanded, bit by bit, as the wrath, indignation and hostility of the Aboriginal people and the people of Australia generally is brought to bear. So today we are able to see another $25m reluctantly released by the Government. The Prime Minister, the people and the Parliament have seen the justification for the Minister’s statement in August as follows:
The money spent by the Department is not getting through to the Aboriginal people but is going into the pockets of others or gobbled up in administration.
In what we have heard from the Minister so far the Hay report has failed to reveal any evidence along those lines.
Given the magnitude of these charges and the numerous assertions by Ministers one would have expected that the statement just delivered and the much leaked Hay report would be revealing and damning documents indeed. One would have expected that there would be numerous examples of extravagance, administrative incompetence, qualified and audited financial reports and detailed instances of duplication and waste, but where are they? The speech lacked any detail in that regard. One would also have expected that the statement would contain detailed proposals for the re-organisation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and details of various means in which public expenditure is to be monitored in the future but there has been no indication along those lines either. The Minister’s 12 page statement does not document one example of extravagance, waste or incompetence. Indeed, the Hay report itself provides no justification for the Prime Minister’s allegations. There has been much huffing and puffing but there is no meat on the bone in respect of all these insinuations and innuendoes. In fact, as early as 25 August this year, when journalists were able to see the full Hay report, the Australian Financial Review, in a banner headlined article, claimed:
The Hay Report provides no basis for Aboriginal cuts.
The article pointed out that the report, while critical of aspects of the Department’s capacity to digest, administer and properly evaluate large-scale funding programs, remained silent in the areas in which the Prime Minister made his allegations.
The report provides little justification for the wide-ranging cuts in such areas as cultural and sporting activities, Aboriginal enterprises and support for land councils. Indeed, the Hay report particularly pointed to the successes of housing associations, State housing authorities and the Loans Commission. There was no detailed criticism but there was considerable eulogy about the usefulness of the initiatives which were taken early in the life of the Labor Government. These are the same housing associations which the Prime Minister singled out in his campaign to undermine public support for Aboriginal expenditure. The statement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that an additional $25m is to be injected into the area of Aboriginal affairs is to be welcomed. Of course, anything in the way of additional funds for these deprived people will be welcomed. I see an honourable gentleman opposite nodding enthusiastically. If honourable members on the Government side go around places where Aboriginal people live as often as many of my colleagues do they will be able to see for themselves the product of some 200 years of indifference and neglect. They will see communities without almost any contact with the outside world, lacking completely in any kind of amenities at all.
– Whose fault is that?
-If the honourable gentleman had listened he would know I was talking about the product of 200 years of indifference and neglect. It is the fault of the Australian people, if he likes. Certainly, it is the fault of the Government which prevailed for 23 years in office before the Labor Government was elected in 1972. As all Aboriginal people will readily and enthusiastically acknowlege, in the 3 years of Labor Government more initiatives were taken than in the preceding 23 years. If the Labor Government had remained in office those initiatives would now be coming to fruition on a considerable scale and with real benefit accruing to the Aboriginal people.
I mentioned the housing associations which were the subject of criticism and which were instanced as the reason for the slashing of the budget for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Those associations have not been effectively criticised in the Hay report. The $2 5 m will help to redress the injustice which has been done to the whole cause of Aboriginal housing. However, the hardship and frustration caused by this delay is neither justified nor explained in the Minister’s statement or in the Hay report. As has been pointed out since the Budget, the undertaking given by the Attorney-General, who was the spokesman on Aboriginal affairs at the time of the last election, to maintain existing programs, has been breached. It is not fulfilled even through this new injection of funds. In fact, expenditure remains some $16m below that appropriated in the previous financial year, that is, in 1975-76. One has to add to that amount the effect of a 12 per cent inflation rate. So the amount of curtailment, even with the additional $25m, is much more than $ 16m. The Minister’s statement that a comparison of funding from year to year is of little consequence demonstrates the clear indifference which this Government showed in its previous 23 years in office. Once again this indifference is demonstrated.
Mr David Hay I was going to say the Hay Committee, but this is a one-man band- was commissioned by the Government on 16 February last. Effectively, he has had three and a half months to compile this report which runs to 172 pages. The report contains a lot more detail than did the speech of the Minister which we have just heard. That speech contains specious platitudes and little of substance. The extent to which the report has substance, shows that it must have been derived, to some considerable degree, from some distant contact with Aboriginal people. Earlier today I was speaking with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) who, like myself and other members of the House, went to northern parts of Australia to see the Aboriginal people during the week of the parliamentary recess. He mentioned to me that he did not find an Aboriginal community where the Aboriginal people were able to say: ‘We discussed the problems affecting the Aboriginal communities and the Department with Mr Hay’.
I have been to many communities and I have failed to hear any mention of Mr David Hay. Some people can go to the Northern Territory, spend a week there, and become instant experts on Aboriginal affairs and write a book. Mr Hay has written a 1 72-page report. No doubt, he has made some visitation. I am quite sure that as a conscientious officer and former administrator of Papua New Guinea he is skilled in administrative processes and is able to link into the report the views of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and some Aboriginal community leaders. I see the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) sitting opposite. I find it difficult to recall the number of occasions on which he has been to Aboriginal communities. I have just paid my 35 th visit to the Northern Territory. One cannot sit down in an ivory tower in Canberra, talk to an officer and get a thorough understanding about these matters. Mr Hay acknowledged that time was too short for him to do justice to this matter. I have not had time to read the Hay report. I am not sure that I had it before the Minister tabled it illegally. At least, I got it a short while ago and I see that on the front page Mr Hay states:
I have been unable to complete the consideration in depth of 2 main aspects, the effectiveness of the delivery of services to Aboriginals by State government departments receiving grants from the Commonwealth, and the coordination of capital works programs affecting Aboriginals. I have included some reference to expenditure by the States.
There are several more lines on that matter. That is an admission by Mr Hay that this report is not the be-all and end-all of everything in connection with the needs of Aboriginal people. There has been a great deal of talk about the poor planning in Aboriginal affairs and a lot of talk about consultants digging in deep to derive massive rip-offs. I was quite surprised as I cursorily nicked over these pages to see nothing that provided any evidence along those lines.
I take the opportunity to put into perspective the way in which added emphasis was given to Aboriginal affairs with the advent of the Labor Government. I mention the expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. I truly acknowledge that money alone will not solve the problems of these people. Nevertheless, it pays for a lot of services which are extremely significant in relation to their well being. I go back to 1971-72 when the coalition Government brought down its Budget. It provided for an expenditure of $30.9m on Aboriginal affairs. In 1972-73, the last Budget for which that Government was responsible, the amount went up to $6 1.1m. In 1973-74, which was the first Labor Party Budget when the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) presided over Aboriginal affairs, the government of the day recognised the deficiency in spending to the extent that it increased expenditure from $6 1 . 1 m to $ 1 17.4m. In the next year the amount went to $ 163.6m and in 1975-76 it increased to $193m. Then, of course, through the Fraser Government’s first Budget the amount was cut back by $33m. Now we have the additional allocation which the Minister has spoken of today. That expenditure is associated with many great initiatives which were taken by the Labor Government. A new momentum was established in Aboriginal affairs.
My colleague, the honourable member for Wills, was discussing these matters with me today. With him I have made many visits to Aboriginal communities and organisations. He said to me: ‘One can easily note the difference today as against a few years ago. As you go to Aboriginal communities today, at least you can find people willing and able to stand up and give an effective account of themselves’. The total paternalism which prevailed in many Aboriginal communities has changed. Aboriginal people have acquired self-respect. They are prepared to say what they think they need. A new democratisation characterises Aboriginal affairs. But it is now being pinned back, if I may use that expression. A despondency has settled over some of these Aboriginal communities as a result of the curtailment of funds and also because of the undermining of the most important matter concerning Aboriginal people, land rights.
With some of my colleagues who are members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which is currently engaged on an inquiry into alcoholism in Aboriginal communities, I went to the Mowanjum community near Derby just the other day. I think it is less than 12 months since I was there. I have never seen a community deteriorate so quickly in terms of responsiveness and enthusiasm. That community is quite unsure of the possible continuation of future projects. This is typical of many Aboriginal communities in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory.
There has been a great deal of talk today by the Minister and a lot has been said in Mr Hay’s report about Aboriginal housing. I know that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs speculates that some 8000 houses to 9000 houses are desperately needed by Aboriginal people. We have been spending a considerable amount in this area for several years. If we were to finance 8000 houses at $25,000 a piece, which would not be very much to spend on a dwelling in remote parts of the Northern Territory, Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and the other isolated parts of Australia, we would need $200m. Of course, that kind of money is just not available at the present time. But this situation indicates the need to sustain the level of spending. I understand from what the Minister saidthough his remarks are a bit vague- that most of the additional $25m might go to housing, and if that is the case I certainly welcome it.
The Aboriginal housing associations have been dealt a very serious blow. When we think of housing associations it is very important not just to think of the end product, which is a house. We should realise that housing associations and the houses they build just do not start overnight. The Labor Government’s attempt to democratise Aboriginal affairs was aimed at Aboriginal people speaking for themselves, engaging their own consultants, deciding what houses they needed and where they wanted them to be built. But the Aboriginal housing associations have been demoralised since the Fraser Government took office. There are many ways to build houses. One could wheel in some big project building concerns and perhaps supply 8000 houses or 9000 houses within a matter of months. But if we do that we have to look at what we are likely to leave behind or what we are not going to leave behind. Houses may be built in that way but Aboriginal people will be deprived of the opportunity of acquiring skills. If we do the job in that way and deprive Aboriginal people of the opportunity to acquire self-sufficiency in future employment through skills obtained in building their houses we will have failed.
Aboriginal people want to participate in these things and they are throwing paternalism overboard. We can still see paternalism in evidence around Australia, regardless of the attempt of the Labor Government to discourage it Last week some of my colleagues visited an Aboriginal community where all the pension cheques are received by the mission and the food is supplied to all the Aboriginal people from a little kitchen. Some of the money which is left from the pension cheques, the child endowment payments or unemployment benefits is handed back to the Aboriginal people. The Aborigines at this mission are very well fed and complacent. But when all is said and done they are being deprived of what most people would willingly go to war aboutthe right to have a say in the running of their affairs. There is a very big difference between wheeling in a building company with its own architects and laying down streets of houses for Aboriginal people, and allowing Aboriginal people to develop independence, autonomy and self-sufficiency by building the houses themselves.
I will curtail my remarks because I think one of my colleagues wants to speak on this matter. There are a number of subjects that I would like to talk about. One of the subjects mentioned by the Minister was employment. Before I talk about employment I just want to say how distressed I am to read a letter sent from the Appatula housing group at Finke. If there is one outstanding enterprise in Aboriginal housing, it is the Appatula housing system which embraces a prefabrication technique which Aboriginal people have thrown themselves into with great enthusiasm and which now, of course, has been grounded for want of funds. I hope the Minister will give serious consideration to resurrecting the Appatula housing project at Finke.
I am very concerned that wherever one goes these days in the Northern Territory in particular and Western Australia as well there is a great deal of complaint amongst Aboriginal people about the curtailment of special works projects. In 1975-76 special works projects were running at the rate of $4.6m. There is a lot to be said for
Aboriginal people working for their money. Aboriginal people are developing a contempt for what they call ‘sit down money’. They are developing concern about what they call increased baby money’ or ‘child endowment money’. Many of them are contending that that kind of money will find its way into the pubs to buy the flagons of grog which are destroying Aboriginal people.
The Minister has made some very vague mention of his intention to consider channelling unemployment benefit money into work projects. I am sure that the House will be listening with very keen anticipation to hear the Minister spell out what he means in this connection. If there is one thing that we should very carefully avoid in respect of Aboriginal people it is any discriminatory treatment. Many people say that generally people should be required to work for unemployment benefits. I am not a strong advocate of that because I think it is very demeaning to send out a person who has a higher school certificate or who might have several degrees to pick up papers for the local council. But I certainly cannot see why this sort of treatment should apply to Aboriginal people alone. So I would be very much opposed to any discrimination in that regard. One cannot just provide extra money to pay wages to Aboriginal people for special works projects or anything else. Obviously we have to look at the whole spectrum of Aboriginal needs, and that will call for a sustaining of the levels of expenditure even above the level achieved by the Labor Government. After all, Aboriginal people need money for pastoral projects. They need employment opportunities in pastoral projects and in market gardening. They will need advisers for some time to come. The Government can pull out their advisers far too quickly and leave these people in a state of limbo. But they need constant consultation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and I went to Wave Hill just a few weeks ago. I was very gratified to see the Gurindji people making a fist of things on their cattle station.
– They had a battle to get it.
– They had a great battle to get it and it was the Labor Government that made that huge area of land available to them. They will be able to sustain that effort, but only with the support of advisers. I think that the Government should be considering a preferred market for beef produced by Aboriginal people. Maybe they could supply beef for Commonwealth Hostels Ltd and Aboriginal Hostels Ltd.
Maybe their beef could be used in the aid program for other countries. The same thing would apply, of course, to market garden products and the sea foods which are gathered by Torres Strait Islanders.
I support the Minister’s contention that more funds, as recommended by Mr Hay, should be made available for culture and recreation because these activities have a great deal of benefit. I also support the contention that there needs to be a lot more support for Aboriginal people in respect of the keeping of accounts. Aboriginal communities and organisations all over Australia fall down on this particular aspect. While I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I had in mind setting up an instrumentality to assist them in these things. It seems to me that many hundreds of small companies- shopkeepers and the likearound Australia rely on a firm which sets up an accountancy system for them and which periodically supervises these matters for them. I believe that a very high level of autonomy can be maintained while still servicing them in such a way that their confidence will not be undermined.
I know that my colleague the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) wants to contribute to this debate, but let me say in conclusion that we find the Hay report disappointing, although I confess I have not had an opportunity to read it in full. It is a damp squib. Having in mind the contentions of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), we expected some sensational revelations. All we have is the clear revelation that there was no justification at all for the curtailment of Aboriginal expenditure and it is obviously time that the Minister got on with the job of effectively administering his Department and deploying his personnel, and preferably Aboriginal personnel, throughout the countryside so that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs can have a presence which it has not had until now, and so that Aboriginal people can be encouraged to develop their self-respect. The sooner this Government stops tipping the bucket over Aboriginal people and stops talking disparagingly about their inability to run housing associations and the like and about their susceptability to being robbed and ripped off, the sooner the Aboriginal people themselves will play their part in their emancipation and in the upliftment that has been denied to them for so long.
-I ask for leave to make a statement.
– How long?
– Five minutes.
– You have a short memory.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I want to take firstly the remarks of my friend, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), and remind the House that if it ceases its constant prating about the potential waste of money on Aboriginal affairs, we would get further. The constant innuendo, implication and inference in the attacks upon expenditure of public money on Aboriginal affairs has done great damage to the advancement of the Aboriginal people and to their morale. I hope it will cease. I am one of those who understands fully exactly how difficult it is to deliver competent services to the Aboriginal people of Australia across this continent. There are some 400 communities in which Aboriginal people live, two or three families in a country town, and townships of a thousand or thereabouts, scattered across northern Australia, or hundreds of famines in the heart of cities, and we still have not achieved the organisational structure to deliver services to these people. There is no doubt in my mind that the errors which we saw, even before we became the Government, still persist and none of the public authorities in Australia are competent to do things for Aboriginal people. We discovered to our dismay only last week that there were Aboriginal communities in northern Australia, in west and north-west Australia, who apparently had not even been adequately taken into the census. That is one of the challenges.
The records will show that when the Labor Party took over and I became the first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, one of the first things I asked for was a competent administrative system to do these things. Therefore, I hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), the Public Service Board and the whole apparatus will get to work to strengthen organisation from one end of Australia to die other. I think that the consistent leaking of the contents of the Hay report with a view to creating political atmospherics before the Budget was dangerous, damaging and irresponsible.
I do not like these cliches and I hope that the Minister will stop using them because after all he does not perform too badly at question time. When questions are hurled at him, he comes back succinctly, probably in great error often, but still with a proper appreciation of the English language. Why do we have to use these terms about the fears of excessive administrative costs and other expenses associated with consultants, poor planning, syphoning off, or some would say ripping off? Why do we have to use these terms continuously? The public, whose money it is we are spending, is concerned to see that Aboriginal people are benefiting from this expenditure, but we have consistent implications or inferences that the money is being wasted.
Obviously in a huge program scattered across a continent such as ours this expenditure will not all work effectively. I saw 3 Aboriginal housing projects last week- one in which the houses had been constructed pretty effectively by the State Housing Commission. This may have created new social problems. I saw another which was conducted by a mission and in it the people were perhaps getting more value for their money by constructing the projects on the spot and there was another in which the money had apparently vanished without much advantage. We saw this when the Labor Party became the Government. I have with me a document I wrote to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 29 August 1973. It asks:
What arrangements have been made to establish an Internal Audit’ or similar section to advise organisations on accounting methods and oversight financial procedures to ensure observation of the Treasury direction?
This was in line with what the Minister said. I will not detain the House any longer. I wanted to ask that honourable members cease using Aboriginal affairs as a stalking horse for politics. It is sad that it has taken 10 months for this Government to get back to where it was when it was elected and that it had to use these political opportunities to score off the most deprived and depressed people in Australia.
Honourable members in this House should travel. They should go to Broome, for instance, and look at the disgraceful and degrading conditions in which a hundred or so families live there. I could give them a list of dozens and dozens of these situations. Eventually, there is no solution unless it comes from the Aboriginal people themselves. As my colleague the honourable member for Hughes has pointed out, one of the great comforts to those of us who have taken a part in this operation for many years- the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has a distinguished record in this- is the remarkable increase in the articulate capacity and the eloquence in expression of the Aboriginal men and women. Twenty years ago we could not get any Aboriginal people on a platform to speak but now, to their great advantage, it is very difficult to get them to stay silent.
I believe strongly that it is the Aboriginal people who must be brought more effectively into administration. Somebody referred to short memories a while ago. I will remind them. I wrote this paper in 1967 after a referendum. It was entitled: ‘If I Were a Minister’. Inter alis, it says this:
I believe that very little will be achieved of a permanent effective nature until we have developed the self-reliance of the Aboriginal people themselves. That is that more of them are taking part in the administration of Aboriginal affairs and that their voice is continually heard and continually applied.
Honourable members will find that that was the effort I put in as Minister. I hope the present Minister will carry on the tradition established by the Labor Party when in Government.
-(by leave)- I think we would all agree that on both sides of this House there is goodwill towards the Aboriginal people. I think we should all agree that the problem of the Aboriginal people is not simple. There is not one problem. There are many problems because many Aboriginal people are differently situated and what is right for one is wrong for another. I think we would all agree also that the problems cannot be solved by money alone. We all support what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) has said, and we are all glad that an avenue has been found in which more money could be profitably expended. But there is also for some people the unfortunate fact that a flood of money for certain sections of the Aboriginal people does not do good; it does harm. One of the ways in which damage has been done to them is by spending too much money too easily.
Let me take 2 examples of what has occurred. It was referred to in this House a few moments ago. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was speaking of the Mowanjum community. He is quite right when he says the Mowanjum community in the last year or so has deteriorated beyond belief. This is true but it is not true to say that this is due to any lack of money or security. The Mowanjum community does have in Pantijan its own station. It has failed to develop it. It does have its station at Pantijan. It has had an opportunity there. In common with many other communities- most other communities unhappily in the Northern Territory- it has deteriorated immensely in the last two or three years because of a flood of money leading to a flood of drink. Unless something is done about it, the Aborigines in the Northern Territory and in the north of Australia will have no future at all. The honourable member for Hughes asked why the Government does not help them with a preferential market for their beef, for example. Let me remind him of what happened when he and his colleagues were Ministers. Haasts Bluff had an abattoir and a very great amount of beef was available. It is good country and there is plenty of cattle on it. The Aborigines wanted to slaughter the cattle to feed their own people at Yuendumu, Haasts Bluff and Papunya but were not allowed to do so because of some administrative bungle in the Northern Territory. When I went to Yuendumu this was in the time of the honourable member’s Government- we were given very second rate mutton chops which had been flown in over 1000 miles from the McArthur River, yet there was beef walking around the adjoining paddocks. That is the kind of thing that can happen when there is too much money and not enough thought.
I welcome this additional money, as we all welcome it, if it can be properly spent. At the same time, surely all of us on both sides of this House who have a good will towards the Aboriginal people and do not want to use them for political purposes must realise that money ill spent does not help Aboriginal people; it harms them. I ask honourable members to recognise that now, for heaven’s sake, because if it is not recognised they will do a disservice to the Aboriginal people. That is one of the reasons that the Aborigines in the Northern Territory and in the north of Australia are now going down hill at a rate which is without precedent.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Family Law Amendment Bill (No. 2 ) 1 976.
Social Welfare Commission (Repeal) Bill 1976.
Health Insurance Levy Bill (No. 2 ) 1 976.
Health Insurance Levy Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
National Health Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
Health Insurance Commission Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 976.
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 2 months be given to the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown ) on the ground of public business overseas and for one month to the honourable members for Canning (Mr Bungey), Hotham (Mr Chipp) and Bradfield (Mr Connolly) on the grounds of parliamentary business overseas.
Motion (by Mr E. G. Whitlam) agreed to:
That leave of absence for 2 months be given to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) on the ground of public business overseas and for one month to the honourable members for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), Fraser (Mr Fry) and the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) owing to his absence from Australia on the grounds of parliamentary business overseas.
-In the absence overseas of the Deputy Chairman, the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), I present on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory the report on proposals for variations in the plan of the lay-out of the city of Canberra and its environs, 60th and 6 1st series.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a short statement in connection with the report. I do this because the matters are particular and local but interesting.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
The report I have just tabled is the first on variations to the plan of lay-out of the city of Canberra to be presented to the 30th Parliament. The previous variations report was tabled on 7 October 1975. The proposed variations on this occasion consisted of 126 items. Three items were withdrawn and were not considered by the Committee. Because this is the first such report to the 30th Parliament from the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, and as there have been some adjustments to the matters dealt with by the Committee, it seems appropriate to refer briefly to the Committee ‘s responsibilities with respect to variations to the plan of Canberra.
Clause 1 (a) of the Committee’s resolution of appointment makes provision for the Minister for the Capital Territory to refer to the Committee proposed variations to the plan of lay-out of the city of Canberra and its environs, based upon the plan gazetted in November 1925 as subsequently modified or varied. Section 12A of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 provides that variations to the plan may be made by the responsible Minister at any time but that the variations are subject to publication in the Government gazette. Following publication, a 12-day period is provided for, during which no modification or variation can be made and when objections to the proposed variations can be lodged by the public.
Since its establishment on 8 November 1956, it has been the responsibility of the Committee to consider proposed variations to the plan and report to the Parliament upon them. Based upon the Committee’s report, the Minister for the Capital Territory then tables an instrument by which the report of the Committee is transferred into legislative authority. It is still possible for either House of the Parliament to pass a resolution within 6 sitting days of the tabling of the Minister’s instrument, disallowing the modification or variation made by the instrument. Should this happen, the variation ceases to have effect. This procedure provides the Federal Parliament with a continuing oversight of the development of the national capital. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory acts as the Federal Parliament’s agent in this regard.
The variations which are the subject of the present report are a combination of new developments, drafting adjustments and revisions to the plan. Both the present Committee and its immediate predecessors held discussions with the Department of the Capital Territory to determine a new format for the plan, following criticism by Mr Justice Fox in Kent v. Cavanagh (one of a series of cases concerning the construction of the Black Mountain telecommunications tower). His Honour was of the opinion that the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910 required a more meaningful and clearer notice of intention to be given. The Committee noted these comments and has made a recommendation to this effect.
Because the city has grown to the point where it has become impracticable for the plan of layout to be published as a single item a new format was devised, dividing the plan into several smaller units. This permits the inclusion of more information and greater accuracy. The Committee has requested the inclusion on the plan of-
The Committee has also asked to be informed of changes or proposed changes to service yards and parking areas. Because of these changes, the authorities who deal with the plan have undertaken a thorough check of all aspects of it as it has been varied since 1925. As a result, over 80 items included in the report I have just tabled involve additions to, or corrections of, the plan in respect of existing roads.
There are 3 particular variations which concerned the Committee during its inquiry and I shall make a short observation concerning each. The first variation involved the inclusion of the existing alignment, of Coppins Crossing Road which forms a link between the Belconnen and Weston Creek districts. An objection was made on the grounds that its inclusion suggested an intention to upgrade and develop the road as a formal connection between the two districts. Officers of the National Capital Development Commission assured the Committee that this was not the present intention. The purpose of the inclusion of the road on the plan was to conform with the Committee’s request that existing rural roads be included. The second variation sought the modification of the existing alignment of access roads at the summit of Black Mountain. The Committee was concerned that the proposed variation might involve destruction of, or otherwise adversely affect, part of the existing nature reserve. The Committee has been assured by the Department of the Capital Territory that there will not be any interference with the reserve. On this basis, the Committee has approved the variation. Should any encroachment upon the reserve subsequently become necessary during the course of construction of the road, that matter would necessarily require a proposed variation to the city plan, and would therefore be referred to the Committee for consideration. The Committee believes this requirement provides adequate protection for the nature reserve area.
The final variation to which I wish to refer involves the deletion of a section of Currong Street between Ainslie Avenue and Allambee Street in Reid to allow for medium density development and community facilities on this location. The effect of the deletion and closure of the street would be to provide a larger development site. Objections to this proposed variation were received indicating, in particular, concern at the possible effect on traffic flow that such a closure might cause. The Committee considered the objections and has included in its report each main point of objection and the response of the National Capital Development Commission to those points. While the Committee has agreed to recommend closure of Currong Street to allow the development to proceed, it has also recommended that public participation in planning should be broadened by the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory building up their liaison with community groups and individuals with respect to any variation which might affect those groups or individuals. The Committee believes this process is of benefit to the planners, the authorities and the local residents.
The Committee has also made some observations concerning problems for public involvement in proposed variations to the plan and in respect of drafting errors on the plan. To contribute to overcoming these difficulties, the Committee has recommended that a more detailed description of each item be provided in the Schedule A to all gazetted proposals, and that the Department publish a copy of that Schedule in full as an advertisement in the Canberra Times at the same time as the Australian Government Gazette dealing with the proposed variations is published. The Committee has also recommended that the Department of the Capital Territory give final approval to the drafting of all proposed variations prior to gazettal. The Committee believes this will help to ensure that incorrectly drafted proposed variations are not submitted to the Committee for its consideration. The Committee has, however, recommended to the Parliament the implementation of the 60th and 61st series of proposed variations to the plan of lay-out of the City of Canberra and its environs. I commend the report to the House.
– 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-
-No issue exposes the dishonesty, the deceit or the stupidity of this Government more than the question of its attitude to wages and prices. There are such things as wage and price justice, and this Government is completely ignoring them. The policies of this Government are dishonest because they are all thrust at wage and salary earners. They are deceitful because no mention was made of them prior to the 1975 election. They are stupid because they just cannot and will not work. The Government ought to be condemned for the manner in which it is provoking what I believe will be one of the major industrial confrontations to hit this country since the Second World War. If the period of the Labor Government’s term of office had not been interfered with in the way it was by the intervention of the Governor-General, I believe that the referendum put to the people in 1974 to give the Federal Government of Australia power over prices and wages would now be carried overwhelmingly. If it were put to the people by this Government it would be defeated overwhelmingly, and quite rightly so. The people have changed their minds on the powers that the Government ought to have but they have not changed their minds on the deceitful way in which this Government is trying to impose its policies.
The spin-off of wage justice brings 2 things. It brings good industrial relations and it brings healthy consumer demand, and on both those scores this Government has failed dismally. On both those scores it has failed completely. Can wage and salary earners look forward to wage justice? The Government’s announced firm commitment to reduce real wages to earlier levels implies a reduction of about 10 per cent in average weekly earnings. That is a reduction of nearly $17 a week in current money values. Plateau wage indexation has already clouted the skilled blue collar worker and middle class employees, putting them between $2 and $6 behind the cost of living. The Government is moving too clumsily and too impatiently and will provoke retaliation. It will cut back in consumer spending power too quickly and probably encourage an increase in the household savings ratio at a time when increased consumer spending and looser purse strings are wanted. Any policies in those areas should be ones of gradualism and aimed at maintaining a social compact with the unions, which have been remarkably restrained in wage claims in the last 18 months but are now becoming restive in the face of Government provocation.
On the question of eating into the wage packet, not only do we have the policies of the Government on indexation, but this week we are going to have the wage packet of every Australian savagely attacked by the cost of Medibank. The Metal Trades Industry Council, at a meeting with representatives of employers as well as members of Parliament, warned about the effect that Medibank charges, together with indexation, are going to have on consumer demand. For those people who do not believe it, last week the Australian Financial Review not only reported the slump in car sales shown by the August figures but also had this to say about consumer demand:
Motor vehicle registrations yesterday joined the unfavour able batch of recent monthly economic indicators with a slump for the second successive month.
After seasonal adjustment registrations fell 4279 or 9 per cent to 43 286.
The preliminary Statistics Bureau August figure also represents a decline of 22.2 per cent on the June peak.
Government officials yesterday reacted cautiously to the new round of figures, which, onthe surface at least, are bad news in the Government’s hopes for an improvement in the consumer demand.
As the unions and the employers have warned, consumer demand, instead of being encouraged, is being discouraged. Instead of money being spent, it is being put into banks. This is a result of the people- the wage and salary earners- not trusting the policies of this Government. Although consumer demand had been affected in the lead-up period to 1 October 1976, my prediction- the prediction of my Party- is that from October onwards, the effect on consumer demand of $800m that will come out of the wage packets of the wage and salary earners of this country in a full year to pay for Medibank will be nothing short of disastrous. The other side to the matter is the confused and mixed up views of this Government in relation to wage indexation. As we have said so many times before in the Parliament, the Government does not know what it wants as a wages policy. It has had no fewer than 5 different policies on wage indexation since last December. The representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions will be appearing before the Australian Arbitration Court at the next hearing for a national wage increase as the leading representatives of employees in Australia and will be still asking for full wage indexation. If the Court continues to give decisions allied with the submissions of the Government, one can predict also that many of the unions with sufficient industrial muscle will have to go outside the Court to protect the real wages of their members. They will not be able to protect those real wages by accepting the decisions which have been given by the Court. I agree with the unions and the representatives of employee organisations. Their views are completely in line with the views of the Opposition in this Parliament. There should not be any reduction in the real wages of the working people of this country.
We have seen continually the confused statements of various Ministers of this Government. They climaxed in the call by the Treasurer (Mr
Lynch) to freeze wages. I ask honourable members to look at the reaction of the trade union movement and people throughout Australia to this off- the cuff speech by the Treasurer in which he called for a pay freeze in Australia. No doubt, the Government would like it. No doubt, the Government would like to announce officially that that would happen. But let me quote what some of the people who represent employees in Australia have had to say about that attitude. It is reported in the Daily Telegraph:
Union leaders warned yesterday of massive industrial upheaval, if the Federal Government froze wages and not prices.
They reacted angrily to the suggestion by the Federal Treasurer, Mr Lynch, to a wage freeze over the next 12 months . . .
The ACTU President, Mr Hawke, said, ‘The Government can forget any thought of expecting us to co-operate if they conduct themselves in the manner exemplified by their approach to Medibank.
The ACTU will be pressing for the full wage indexation increase. I take no notice of Mr Lynch’.
The national president of the 170 000-strong Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, Mr Dick Scott, said:
While prices continue to soar, we have yet to hear one word from Lynch and company about price control or curbing of profits.
We see all the newspaper stories about the Government getting tough in regard to wages. We see the statements by the Treasurer, by the Leader of the Australian National Country Party (Mr Anthony) and by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). They have all joined the fray in attacking the wage and salary earners of this country. But where are the Government statements on prices? Where is the intention of the Government to deal with the increased prices that continually rage in Australia? What is the Government going to do about this? No doubt, Government supporters would say: ‘The unions must enter into a contract. There has to be some sort of social contract to bring down inflation in this country’. But the proposition being put to the wage and salary earners in Australia is a one-sided contract: Freeze wages and let prices go on increasing unabated; do not worry about them. The Treasurer has said, ‘Profits must return to the norm’. As has been asked before, what does he mean by this? Does he mean that profits must return to their level in the economy prior to 1 972? Does he want people- the average wage earners in Australiato take a reduction in their real wages of $ 1 7 a week? Are we to expect that a tradesman in Australia will have to take a reduction in his real wages of $10 a week? If the Government is pursuing this policy, which all its statements lead us to believe, it has to lead to a disaster. It has to lead to a failure. It has to lead to a major industrial confrontation. It has to lead to the end of wage indexation. The strong unions will go outside the Court and maintain their real wages with their industrial muscle. Perhaps that is what the Government wants. Perhaps the Government would prefer a few strong unions to go outside the Court to maintain the real wages of their members while all the others are left far behind. All the submissions of the Government in regard to wage indexation throughout 1976 have been made at the behest of the employers and have had as their intention the destruction of wage indexation. We have had no fewer than 5 different policies from the Government on wage indexation.
Let us look at the way in which the Government has treated the Prices Justification Tribunal, the only monitor of price-fixing in Australia. Whom do we see from the Government side of the chamber jumping up and saying that we must give the Prices Justification Tribunal more muscle? If we expect all the employees in Australia to be restrained in thenwage claims, we would expect one of the 91 members opposite to say something about prices. We would expect someone from the other side of the chamber to say that if there were to be a social contract, it must be a 2-sided contract and that the manufacturers and employers also must knuckle down in regard to their prices and profits. But let us look at what happened in the Budget. The increase in appropriations for the Trade Practices Commission, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal between 1975-76 and 1976-77 is about 1.5 per cent. Allowing for an inflation rate of about 12 per cent this year, in fact, there is a decline in real terms of about 10 per cent in the activities of these agencies.
The Prices Justification Tribunal has been the worst hit. Salary appropriations remained constant at 1.7 per cent which, in real money terms, represents a fall of 12 per cent. Administrative expenses have actually been cut by $90,000 or 20 per cent, a decline in real money terms of 32 per cent. This Government, as was its stated intention during the election campaign in December of last year, is out to destroy the Prices Justification Tribunal. The intention, as evidenced by the appropriations in the Budget, adds weight to the argument that the PJT is up for destruction. I noticed from the last annual report of the PJT tabled just a few minutes ago that the Tribunal has concern about continual controversy about its existence, what its role is to be, what companies are to be exempted from examination and who is to have power to exempt. Is it to be the Minister or the Tribunal? Will added powers be granted? Will the lifting of the ceiling presently set at a turnover of $30m at which the Tribunal examines the operations of companies exempt many companies which really ought to have their prices monitored? What are we talking about when we talk about the acute competitive position between companies? Is this a real position or are these companies just being let off the hook so that their prices cannot be monitored?
To sum up the position, the policies of this Government ought to be condemned by everybody in Australia. If employers throughout this country believe that the economy will be restored to normal by the policies of this Government in bringing about a confrontation with the working people of this country by trying to reduce their wages and increase prices, they are wrong. If the employers, the manufacturers, the banks and the insurance companies believe that the economy will be returned to normal- we read in the newspapers how profits have increased enormously in the last 12 months- when people can purchase less than they were able to purchase 12 months ago, they are wrong. All this will do is lead to disaster.
All we need to do to see this is to look at the summary of the latest Newsweek magazine. When we are talking about reducing wages to overcome our economic problems, we should look at the inflation rate of neighbouring countries. In South Korea, there is an inflation rate of over 20 per cent and the per capita income is $350 a year. Now are reduced wages- the miserable wages that are paid in Korea- overcoming the economic problems there? What we say on behalf of the Opposition is that there has to be a contract in this country, but the contract has to be an honest contract between those on both sides of the fence. We cannot expect the majority of people in this country who are wage and salary earners and/or their dependants to cop all the responsibility and to carry all the burden of the economic ills of this country. That will not happen and it would not be accepted if it did happen. At the same time as people were expected to accept this responsibility, prices would go on rising, unabated.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– One could be forgiven for not knowing, until the very late stage in the address of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), precisely what argument he was about today. He started off criticising the Government for what he alleged to be deceit prior to the general election. He said that in effect the Government’s standard stood indicted because we had pursued policies in the wages and prices area which we had totally disguised prior to the general election. He said that we had pursued policies which will provoke industrial unrest and industrial confrontation and that in so doing we had broken undertakings that were given prior to the election. Then towards the end of his address, he castigated the Government for what he said was its policy as promised before the election of dismantling the Prices Justification Tribunal.
I think today we have heard from the honourable member for Port Adelaide an extremely illprepared and rhetorical 1930s attack on people of our political persuasion. I thought that we had reached a stage where we might have had in this Parliament a rational discussion on the impact of wage increases on economic conditions in Australia. I would have thought that the honourable member for Port Adelaide would have recognised, as indeed did his own Leader, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in November of 1974, that unless companies make profits they cannot employ people and that unless companies make profits, there is no incentive to reinvest. For a few months I thought we had the chance of inducing in this country some kind of bipartisan support for the concept that there is no economic revival in our type of economy unless there is a revival of the private sector- a concept, incidentally, which has been endorsed as recently as last week by none other than the leader of a socialist government in the United Kingdom.
The honourable member talks about the wages policy of this Government. He ought to look at the wages policy of the United Kingdom Government. He ought to look at a situation in the United Kingdom where the Government has secured the support of the Trade Union Congress in that country for a level of wage increases which most people would have believed several years ago would have been quite impossible in the context of the industrial relations of that country. But what has been recognised in the United Kingdom and what I believe is recognised by the great majority of Australian people is simply this: There is a nexus between wage increases and company profitability. The real decline in the profitability of companies in Australia during the period that the Whitlam Government was in office and the real decline in employment that occurred during that period were in no small measure due to the unrestrained wage increases that occurred during that period.
I do not allege, nor has anybody on this side of the House ever alleged since we have been in office, that all of the economic ills of that 3 year period could be heaped upon wage increases. I think we ought to make a fair and sober comparison of the escalation of wage rates in Australia during that period with increases which occurred in comparable countries. I say to the honourable member: ‘Do not compare us with Korea; let us be compared with countries with which it is proper to make comparisons’. Let the honourable member for Port Adelaide look at the statistics for increases in male wages in the manufacturing area in Australia in 1974. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures show that in Australia the average increase was somewhere in the order of 36 per cent against an OECD average of 15 per cent The next worst country in that scale of comparison was Spain at 29 per cent. Yet there are still people on the Labor side of politics in Australia who say that there is absolutely no connection whatever between wage increases and economic recovery and between wage increases, investment and unemployment.
The fact of the matter is very simple. This Government, from the time it took office, never sought to hide its belief that there was a critical nexus between wage increases, investment and unemployment. It is a simple economic fact. It is not union bashing; it is not provocative industrial relations; it is a simple fact of economic life. It is a view which has won wider acceptance amongst responsible elements of the trade union movement than the honourable member for Port Adelaide wants to admit. Not only the Government, its representatives and its spokesmen have expressed support for something less than full wage indexation. In fact conspicuous trade union leaders in Australia, people who are active members of the Labor Party and people who have been leading spokesmen for the Labor Party have acknowledged in recent months the sanity and the virtue of some system of plateau indexation. In other words, they have not taken the provocative, 1930s, hard line attitude that has been taken by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I suggest to the honourable member that in some of the language he has used today he is a little out of step with what some of the people in his own ranks are saying. He is not only out of step with what they are saying, but he is also out of step with economic reality in Australia at the present time. We believe that unless the community recognises that there is this critical nexus between wage levels, unemployment and investment, then we are not going to have a revival of confidence in this country and we are not going to have the economic revival that I believe is the wish and the aspiration of all members of this House.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide of course was selective in the things he said about the wages policy of the Government. He did not mention tax indexation. He finds that uncomfortable. He finds it uncomfortable that prior to the last general election, tax indexation was adopted as a policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He finds it uncomfortable that it was not a Labor Government that introduced tax indexation. No, it was a Liberal-National Country Party Government. He finds it uncomfortable that the most dramatic reform in the taxation area introduced by any government in this country since the end of the Second World War was introduced by the Liberal-National Country Party Government.
– He is against it.
-He must be against it; he did not mention it. So, he is not only uncomfortable about that, but he is also uncomfrotable about the fact that we have introduced a family allowance scheme- a scheme which any honest, objective person would agree is of more direct benefit to the lower income earners in our community than to the higher income earners. He is also rather embarrassed about that. He knows, as well as every Austraiian knows, that that is a social reform of first magnitude; it is a social reform introduced, not by the Australian Labor Party when it was in office, but by the LiberalNational Country Party Government during its present term of office. So it is not surprising that the honourable member for Port Adelaide, in his gloomy call for industrial unrest, was a little embarrassed and therefore a little selective about the things that he said. One might be forgiven for giving some credence to what he said if he could point to a record of industrial tranquillity and industrial peace during the period that his party was in office- the period in which presumably the policies which he advocates we should now pursue were pursued by his colleagues. Yet the story is quite different. It is a matter of historical record that during the period 1972 to 1975 unemployment in Australia escalated to levels that we had not known since the Great Depression. It is also a matter of historical record that despite the so-called enlightened wages policies pursued by the previous Government when it was in office, we had a period of record unrest. When one looks at the record of the previous Government in these areas one finds that the policies which honourable members opposite so lovingly call into contrast with our policies today were not productive of the type of industrial harmony that they should have the House believe existed at that time.
The Government has decided to make some changes to the Prices Justification Tribunal, and I am very glad to be able at long last to say something in this House about those changes. It is very good that at long last the Opposition has deigned to concede that this is a matter which is fit for discussion in this Parliament. On the last occasion when the Government sought to say something about the changes it is making to the Prices Justification Tribunal the Opposition disrupted the proceedings of this House for a period of 4 hours to prevent that discussion from taking place. As I say, we have decided to make some changes to the Prices Justification Tribunal. The honourable member for Port Adelaide would have us believe- I think all honourable members should listen carefully to this because it is a classic piece of distortion- that the changes to the Prices Justification Act foreshadowed by the Government have drawn the criticism of the Tribunal. He implied that in the concluding remarks of his speech. I should like to draw to the attention of the House the letter addressed to me by the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal. It is dated 1 6 September 1 976 and it is set out in the beginning of the annual report of the Tribunal. The Chairman in that letter said to me:
Although a statement was tabled by you today in the House of Representatives-
That is, the day on which the report was transmitted to me- regarding the future of the Tribunal it has been decided not to revise the Report in the light of the statement as it was not made during the period under review in the Report.
In other words, the Chairman of the Tribunal has said very clearly: ‘We have not in our annual report considered the changes that you have announced’. Yet the honourable member for Port Adelaide, by some sleight of tongue, would have this House believe that the Prices Justification Tribunal and its Chairman were criticising or calling into question the changes that are to be made. It was a piece of transparent deceit of which I think all honourable members ought to be made aware.
The Government makes no apology for the wages policy that it is pursuing. It is not pursuing a policy which is designed to bring about a confrontation in the industrial area. I think it is irresponsible of any member of this House to talk glibly about industrial unrest, about industrial confrontation and about the greatest confrontation that we have seen in many years. I think that the remarks of the honourable member for Port Adelaide in this regard were irresponsible. I think that it behoves anybody in this House when dealing with the question of industrial relations to speak with some degree of restraint and with some understanding of the fact that the question of industrial relations in this country is a very difficult one. Industrial relations issues are not always black and white. Right is not always completely on one side and wrong on the other side, and I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide, more than most people, ought to have known that. He has not done the cause of engaging in a rational discussion of industrial relations in this country any service today by his prophecies of gloom. We do not believe that our wages policies will bring about the results that he has foretold. We believe that they are responsible policies and are tailored to the economic needs of Australia at present. We believe that they are day by day winning greater support and recognition by a larger number of the Australian people.
-The Opposition has raised for discussion in this Parliament as a matter of public importance the question of the Fraser Government’s inconsistent attitudes towards the regulation of incomes and prices because it believes it is of the utmost national importance that the community should become more aware of the slanting of the Government’s approach to economic management towards the expansion of the profit factor at the expense of the wages factor. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has made what can best be described as an ill-prepared and rhetorical response in an Alice in Wonderland kind of way.
– Are you the Fairy Godmother?
-The honourable member for LaTrobe would make a very good Fairy Godmother. The Minister tries to persuade us that the record level of unemployment in the communitythe highest rate of unemployment since World War II- the attack on and denigration of unemployed people by this Government, the vilification and persecution of the young unemployed people by this Government, and the increasing prices, are all matters of fantasy, that they are not really happening. He tries to make us believe that this is all conjecture, something which the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), has created in his comments. The fact is that the Government is continuing to try to perpetrate a confidence trick upon the Australian community. It has established the greatest record for repudiating promises that we have ever known.
The 2 matters about which the Government has been consistent since it came to office and which it did not put to the people at the last election are its deliberate policy of increasing unemployment and its determination to reduce living standards and real wages. In those 2 areas the Government has been absolutely consistent. The Minister talked about the relationship of wages to profits. It is true that there is a relationship between wages and profits, but the Minister neglected to mention productivity, price levels, the change in the market or the market size, exchange rates and the pending devaluation which has a sobering effect on any expansion in this country.
The Minister referred to the letter written to him by the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal, which is contained in the Tribunal’s annual report, but he neglected to mention what is contained on pages 121, 122 and 123 of that report.
– Have them incorporated.
-I seek leave to have these pages incorporated in Hansard as they are part of the report. I refer to the chapter titled ‘The Future of the Tribunal ‘.
– Seek leave later.
– Very well. I have not time to go through what is contained in that chapter, but rather I bring it to the attention of honourable members and to mention one sentence in it. That sentence reads:
However some of the criticisms did not go to the nature of the Tribunal’s operations but appeared to be mainly motivated by sectional considerations.
Further on page 12 1 the report deals with similar activities in other comparable nations and points out that in countries where organisations like the Prices Justification Tribunal have been disbanded they have been almost immediately reestablished. At page 123 the report concludes:
With a possible improvement in the economic position it is also necessary to watch that undue advantage is not taken of any expansion of demand, particularly against the background of inflation accounting techniques, alteration in exchange rates, Government charges and so on.
The Tribunal is really saying that there is a very strong case for an expansion of its powers and for its continued existence. On page 122 of the report the Tribunal rebuts the claim of the Minister regarding the letter written to him by the Chairman of the Tribunal. It says:
Although the future scope of the Tribunal’s operations is still under consideration, the Tribunal believes that it has a significant role to play in the Australian economic and industrial scene . . .
Quite clearly the Tribunal sees a role for an expansion, not a contraction, of its powers. The Minister sought to blame the Opposition for the fact that this House had not discussed the statement on the Prices Justification Tribunal. That was the Minister’s own responsibility; he created the situation which arose on that occasion. The movements of prices and wages are inseparably linked. A policy on wages cannot be developed at the exclusion of price movements in an economy such as ours. Almost all Western democracies have adopted a social compact style of formula in their approach to the twin problems of high inflation and record unemployment Even in New Zealand where a wage freeze has been instituted there has been a corresponding freeze on prices, profits and rents. The report to the Australian Government upon certain matters relating to power over prices and incomes by T. C. Winter noted:
The countries which have achieved most conspicuous successes have secured a consensus of the various economic and social groups within the community.
Since taking office the Fraser Government has directed itself to a policy of confrontation with the trade union movement. It is pursuing a deliberate policy of increased unemployment and reductions in real wages. It is attempting to force a reduction in real wages and living standards, at the same time removing the few measures that there are on price restraint. All the Government’s efforts to combat inflation have been directed to wage restraint, while the floodgates have been opened to price increases and profits. In fact, the increases are encouraged. This lopsided approach to economic policy is based on ideology, not on sound principles of economic management Pricing policies and income policies cannot be separated. One cannot be considered to the exclusion of the other. That is what this Government is doing. Almost daily the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) exhorts workers to spend more and to work for less, while the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) exhorts corporations to make greater profits. It is all part of the ‘earn less spend more’ syndrome of the Prime Minister. He is the man who last year said that people who are thriftless should not be the responsibility of the community. He now urges people to go out and spend their savings. What he does not recognise is that many people do not have that option, that most of their income is committed in advance to lenders.
Let us turn now to the nature of the Government’s attack on living standards and real wages. It took just 7 weeks after the election for the Government to begin its attack on wage and salary earners. On 31 January of this year it announced its opposition to full wage indexation. Now workers are being told to accept only partial wage indexation. At the same time they are being told to pay up to $12 a week for Medibank or for private health care. Australians will now have to pay more for services provided by the Government. All this is aimed at reducing the real purchasing power of Australian wage and salary earners. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has announced a stringent means test for legal aid services. He has introduced a filing fee of $60 for each document filed under the Family Law Act.
– Not on each document.
-On each application, I am sorry. Under federalism we look forward in the next income year to the introduction of a State income tax. The Minister made mention of tax indexation. Let us examine the old thimble and pea trick- the economic package that the Government brought forward. Firstly we should take into consideration the abolition of deductibility for taxation purposes of dependent children, which paid for the increase in child endowment. Secondly there is the abolition of tax deductibility of health fund contributions which wage earners have not yet realised. Thirdly there is the exclusion of SOO 000 taxpayers from the entitlement to deduct home loan interest. Fourthly, there is the introduction of a Medibank tax, a compulsory contribution which can be described only as the most wasteful and extravagant proposition based clearly on ideology and a collapse in favour of the Australian Medical Association and the private hospitals. On the plus side there is tax indexation, as the Minister mentioned, and an increase in child endowment. He should talk to a single income family with 2 dependent children and see what they think about the economic package. He should ask them how many dollars they are behind in family income. The net result, despite what the Government says about personal taxation, is in the Budget. The Budget Papers show that average weekly earnings are expected to increase by 12 per cent, but personal income tax collections will increase by 25 per cent.
-That is $l,100m less than under your calculations.
– It does not matter how you try to misrepresent the situation. Use your own figures. There is a 25 per cent increase in income tax collections and a 12 per cent increase in average weekly earnings. Looking at the area of unemployment, during the last election campaign the Prime Minister promised that there would be jobs for all those who wanted them. Where are the jobs? We have the highest number of jobless since World War II. The shipbuilding industry is about to be callously thrown aside. The Government wants more people outside the gate, back to the 1930s. The Minister does not want to recognise what his Government’s policy will bring. We have a denigration of unemployed people. A false assumption is promoted by the Government and by Government members that those people who are out of work are out of work simply because they will not look for it. That is the assumption they falsely put to people. They do not want to recognise that the work is not there to be had. The unemployed and those about to join them should remember the words of the Prime Minister ‘We need a rugged society. Life is not meant to be easy. Life is meant to be tough’. They are his words. Honourable members opposite must justify them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. During his speech he asked for leave to incorporate matter in Hansard. Leave is granted.
-I thank the House.
The document read as follows-
As mentioned in the Introduction quite a deal of comment was made during the year about the future of the Tribunal. The spectrum of these comments ranged from the complete abolition of the Tribunal, as forshadowed in the pre-election considerations of the present Government, to its retention in a changed form.
In the relatively short period of time that the Tribunal has been in existence there has been considerable speculation about its future and the nature of its operations. This was not altogether unexpected as similar bodies overseas have been also experienced similar pressures and uncertainties in the early years of their operations. There are various instances where prices mechanisms overseas were discontinued only to be hurriedly reassembled. For instance, in the United Kingdom the National Board for Prices and Incomes was abolished in 1971, but the Prices Commission and Pay Board were established within two years to deal with exactly the same problems.
In Canada, the Prices and Incomes Commission ceased operations some years ago, but was replaced by an Antiinflation Board about 3 years afterwards.
In the United States, the Cost of Living Council was abolished in 1974 but was soon followed by the establishment of the Council on Wage and Price Stability which covers not only the private enterprise areas but also actions of Government Instrumentalities which might be regarded as inflationary.
The fact that price surveillance can be viewed in different perspectives by different groups in the community also makes a prices body a natural target for criticism. However some of the criticisms did not go to the nature of the Tribunal ‘s operations but appeared to be mainly motivated by sectional considerations.
Although various State Governments have maintained price regulation programmes with varying coverages for many years, no similar initiative in the Federal jurisdiction took place between the end of the second World War and 1973. As such, the Prices Justification Tribunal represented something which was completely new to the modern generation of Australians. It is understandable, therefore, that the Tribunal’s operations have attracted great interest and have led to numerous suggestion (some constructive, others not) for improvement or change in the emphasis or direction of its work. It is not without interest, however, to note that price surveillance schemes of one kind or another are in operation in many other countries (no doubt, despite similar criticisms to those raised in Australia). For example, schemes are in operation in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, to name some.
At all times since its inception, the Tribunal has been monitoring the value of its work and appraising its procedures and operations with a view to developing, over the medium term, an approach which balances and gives due weight to its statutory responsibilities vis-a-vis important economic considerations, the costs associated with the prices justification system and the expectations of the community at large.
Although the future scope of the Tribunal’s operations is still under consideration, the Tribunal believes that it has a significant role to play in the Australian economic and industrial scene not only as a counterpart to the system of industrial arbitration but also, in the public interest, to examine prices so as to ensure that unreasonably high profits are not being made at the expense of consumers and that unnecessarily high costs either as a result of inefficiency or other unjustified reasons are not being passed into prices. Unjustified cost increases would include, amongst others, such items as excessive transfer prices between related companies, excessive royalty payments and the like to overseas parent companies, ‘sweetheart’ wages and salary increases, unnecessarily high interest payments, unnecessary advertising and packaging expenses, inefficient operations and refusal to make any allowance for productivity improvements. With a possible improvement in the economic position it is also necessary to watch that undue advantage is not taken of any expansion of demand, particularly against the background of inflation accounting techniques, alterations in exchange rates, Government charges and so on.
-I speak on this so-called matter of public importance with a feeling of bemusement. I cannot help but regard with some cynicism a topic such as this which has been raised by the Opposition. Let us not forget that this is the Opposition which, when in government, allowed prices and incomes to spiral out of control. Its inconsistent policies in government created the grave economic problems which this Government is moving to solve. Yet it accuses us of inconsistency. The Minister for Labour at the time, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), was busily using the Public Service as a pace setter and effectively forcing upwards wage levels in the community. He was generating inflation, bashing the private sector and the consumer. Then the previous Government set up the Prices Justification Tribunal in an effort to see that increased wages were not passed on to consumers. The Government wanted to squeeze company profits. What happened was the legitimisation of price increases. The previous Government was virtually giving its blessing to price rises that industry probably would not have sought if it had to suffer the slings and arrows of the consuming public.
The PJT gave industry something to hide behind, but this was not the intention of the previous Government. The intention of the Australian Labor Party originally was to squeeze industry and to divert wealth from the private sector to the public sector. What monumental inconsistency! One Minister was forcing wage costs up, and another was providing, in effect, industry with a justification for passing on those increased costs. Then the previous Government sought to control inflation it was creating by a referendum to control prices and incomes. On one hand it was pushing up prices and incomes; on the other it was seeking the means to control what it was doing. Of course it was not interested in achieving those controls from a control point of view. The referendum attempt was a cynical centralist exercise designed to appropriate powers which properly lie with the States. More inconsistency! Medibank did more to encourage an uncontrolled health care cost nightmare than any policy deliberately designed to accomplish such a result could have achieved. Where is the consistency in a Budget projecting a $2.6 billion deficit which was running headlong at $5 billion when the change of government took place?
Labor had, and continues to have, a great weakness in the field of economic management. It had 3 Treasurers in 3 years. Despite the fact that those 3 men still sit in the Parliament, the Opposition has appointed yet another man as shadow Treasurer. It has had 4 economic front men in four years. The fourth is no better than the others. This is perhaps reflected by the fact that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) led today on an economic matter. Perhaps he will be the fifth. The previous Government created confusion and inconsistency in this economy. On many occasions it was forced to turn tail, to adopt a different posture. It tried not only other policy options but other Treasurers- numbers of them- but not, I point out, to any avail. The present Government inherited from the former Administration a fully fledged and flourishing system of economic chaos. We inherited from the Labor Administration an economic melee which the former Government and its leaders created and to which they contributed nothing but further confusion by their internal Party backstabbing and contradictions, to say nothing of the publicly aired inconsistent statements, many of which could be described by the statistical term ‘mutually exclusive’. Those statements could be understood only if they were read in those terms.
So I repeat that I find it difficult to treat this topic with anything but cynical bemusement, considering its source. However the honourable member for Port Adelaide obviously considers that the Parliament of this country is a fitting place for an exercise in time wasting, similar to the exercise last Thursday week.
– When they gagged me.
– That is right. The matter has been raised as a matter of public importance. Consequently we, as a government, must explain in careful words, easily understood by our colleagues on the Opposition benches, the situation of the economy when it was handed into our care and the attitudes which this Government has adopted towards curing these ills since that time. The consistency of these attitudes is obvious even to the most unseeing eye. Above all, this government set out to re-establish the strong, stable economy which had always been a feature of the Australian scene and to cut back on the madly spiralling inflationary condition of the Australian economy. In that aim the Government has been unfailingly consistent. It has endeavoured in various ways to control wages and costs and continues to do so.
The need to curtail health expenditure was one of the very major tasks facing this Government when it came to office and that thrust has not changed. The whole area of health care costs was out of hand as a result of the Labor Government’s administration. Health care costs needed to be an identifiable cost to the taxpayer, not some nebulous open-ended scheme gloriously described as Medibank in terms that indicated a wondrous new scheme for curing all ills and which in fact proved to be one of the greatest scourges on the Australian economy for which the Labor Government was responsible. This Government has recognised the need to regulate this element of costs for the taxpayer personally and for the economy. It has revised the tax pool concept of funding public health care, adopted with such drastic results by the former administration, and replaced it with a system where health care costs are both identifiable and limited. The basic Medibank levy places an absolute ceiling on the cost of health care and relates it directly to the income of the taxpayer. In this way the Government is consistently applying its stated policy of curtailing inflation and of placing limits on the costs in our economy. This is sound business practice in any language. It seems a shame that the Opposition, when in Government, was so unable to adopt even this basic business principle- the regulation of expenditure.
Specialised treatment has been given to particular groups of consumers with the implementation of the levy system of funding health care. This Government has thus continued its policy of protecting the interests of those people least able to help themselves and those who suffer most from the escalation of costs we inherited. Pensioners and repatriation beneficiaries are both given concessional treatment under this Government’s Bills aimed at a rational, regulated system of public health care costing and benefits.
The gross escalation of wage costs in recent years is a factor which this Government has pledged to overcome, and to do so despite the strongest attacks by the Australian trade union movement- attacks which must surely be acknowledged as damaging to the progress of this nation’s economic growth. Wage indexation, at the time it was introduced, was beneficial in stopping the inflationary price spiral. However, it has now reached a stage where it has become an inbuilt part of this spiral. Therefore it is necessary at some stage to break into this inbuilt flow-on and this Government has been endeavouring to achieve this by arguing for part indexation and plateau payments. While this may result, in the short term, in a reduction in real wages for the consumer, it is essential in the long term regulation of the inflationary economic situation. It is too puerile to suggest that workers are entitled to continue for ever receiving full adjustments if these increases become part of an inflationary situation which continues to worsen.
To have economic recovery and a return of full employment we must have a policy of wage restraint. This Government is again consistent in its attitude on the matter of wages regulation and its relation to incomes and prices policy generally. Wages, as a cost element, cannot go unrestrained. In the 2 years to the December quarter of 1974 real male award wage rates rose so fast that what amounted to5 years of normal growth in real award wage rates was crammed into 2 years. As the Commonwealth submitted to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the June quarter wage indexation hearing, once the unwinding of excessive real wage gains has occurred there is no reason why real wages would not, once again, begin to increase in line with productivity increases, as has always been the case for long periods in a more or less fully employed economy. The Government feels that the short term reduction in real wages will be far outweighed by the benefits of a more rapid return to full employment and sustainable economic growth.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide came into this place today and issued threats, talking about what the union movement would be doing in this area and talking down the economy. If there is one thing which a responsible Opposition should not be taking on board it is the sort of behaviour indulged in this afternoon by the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Consideration resumed from 23 September.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $8 1,529,000.
-Many millions of dollars have been mentioned in respect of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and I would like to deal with them in some detail. In my view the estimates for this Department represent one of the most cynical and shamful aspects of this Government’s first 10 months in office and in particular of its first Budget. In no other area has the Government been so roundly and so deservedly condemned. After all, the estimates, in the form in which they came before the Committee, involved a 30 per cent cut in real terms amounting to some $33m. I know that as a result of agitation which emanated from the Aboriginal communities and from the Opposition there has been some redressing of that deficiency today and we were very gratified to see it. Throughout 3 years of perseverance by the Labor Government we saw new initiatives in so many areas, the involvement of new administrative machinery and the creation of a new departmental presence in various parts of Australia. We on this side of the House made our mistakes but I think it has now been accepted by everybody that those 3 years were years of great achievement. Aboriginal self-esteem and pride was emerging but as a result of the Budget these things took a great nose-dive. Much of what was gained through the efforts of the Labor Government has now been lost as a result of this Government’s diversion of funds to the mining giants and its overseas friends.
I want to speak briefly about the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. A very serious deterioration is taking place in that Service. In one State alone, New South Wales, in 1974 some 19 000 matters were dealt with by the Aboriginal Legal Service. I want to draw extensively on the report of Mr David Hay, a report which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) selectively quoted to justify their cutback in Aboriginal expenditure. Last year expenditure on legal aid amounted to a little more than $3. 745m. This year the appropriation is $3.746m. The appropriation in this area has been increased from the level of expenditure in 1975-76 by $221. 1 am not talking about millions of dollars; I am talking about $22 1 -a very paltry amount. That has happened despite an inflation rate of 12.4 per cent. Therefore the Committee can realise that the purchasing power, the spending power, of the Aboriginal Legal Service has declined. Mr David Hay has said eulogistic things about the effective delivery of legal advice to Aboriginals through the Aboriginal Legal Service. While this appropriation is close to that of last year’s amount, it is still not enough to do the job. Most Aboriginal legal services are at present undergoing an acute shortage of funds which, quite naturally, is affecting their capacity to provide the services necessary and, in many instance, vital to Aboriginals throughout the community.
Three weeks ago, on 14 September, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service was informed that from that day a firm of solicitors which had done a large amount of work for the Service would be unable to accept any additional work until the payment of its outstanding accounts was effected. This account was only one of many. In Victoria alone, as at today’s date, I understand that the outstanding amount or unpaid amount owing to legal firms is $63,000. The situation is also very serious in other States. Despite the fact that funds from 1975-76 were expended before a new Supply Bill was passed, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in an explanation presented to the Senate Estimates Committee, stated:
An extension of legal services to remote areas where the need for such services has not been met is expected.
I ask honourable members to look at this situation. We have the Department acknowledging that large areas are not serviced by legal aid but that they will be this year. I have documentation which shows that funds ran out earlier than the fiscal year. I ask: How can honourable members reconcile these 2 matters? What services will be cut back? Does the Minister expect that with Aboriginal unemployment now at over 70 per cent in some areas, legal services will not be required? I refer to a directive issued to regional directors in relation to Aboriginal Legal Services. This directive, which has gone around Australia and is dated 12 July 1976, states:
In consequence, and pending the issuing of more detailed operational guidelines in the next few weeks, legal services should not:
And so it goes on. I have already indicated the very serious nature of the directive and the fact that it will be an inhibiting factor for Aboriginal legal services around Australia. I quote from the Hay report in regard to the Aboriginal Legal Service. It states:
The result of the introduction of Aboriginal legal services has meant a dramatic decrease in the rate of convictions recorded, and severity of sentences against Aboriginals.
I ask honourable members to compare that statement with a statement made by Senator Bonner in another place when speaking a short time ago on the Aborigines and Islanders (Admissibility of Confessions) Bill. It is in sharp contrast. He stated:
It is an inescapable fact that the indigenous and islander people of Australia are the most incarcerated race in the world.
I leave the comparison of these statements to honourable members. I express an earnest hope that in this area additional funds can be allocated. I am not sure how many legal firms are sitting back, unable to take on any more work because of the unavailability of funds. I understand that funds have been bottlenecked in the Budget process. A process could have been contrived to overcome this problem. I have a letter from a firm of solicitors in Victoria. It states:
The partners meeting of this firm held last Monday and our letter of . . . was considered. It was decided that all accounts outstanding of 60 days or more will have to be paid no later than 14 September next
We reluctantly have to advise that if those accounts have not been paid by 14 September then we have no alternative than to cease acting for the Service.
All we can say, as we are most concerned, and have been for some time at those accounts outstanding for a lengthy period of time.
We await hearing from you.
One could talk about many matters but if the Aboriginal Legal Service is undermined through the inadequacy of funds or through the failure of this Government to introduce a process to facilitate the early payment of Budget funds it will be a disaster for the Aboriginal people. Already I have produced enough evidence to show that many Aboriginal people are being deprived under this heading.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Prior to discussing these estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs I shall dwell on some of the things the former Minister, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), has said. He stated that a further $25m advance, which was announced this afternoon, for further Aboriginal enterprises and housing was reluctantly released as a result of Opposition and Aboriginal pressure. That is sheer nonsense. Later I shall read from the Budget Speech where it states that money would be advanced in the future. The honourable member also spoke of the years 1972 to 1975 and about his many visits to the Northern Territory. I say that if he has been there 20, 30 or 40 times that that is a lot of times whether he was there as Minister or not. I do not want to detract from those visits. The honourable member spoke about finding a new self-respect and new democratisation- that is not my word- among the Aboriginal settlements and people.
He stated that now, owing to the curtailment of funds, there is despondency and deterioration of communities. I think he is observing his own handiwork and that of Ministers in the Labor
Government. In the times that I have been going to settlements and missions on and off over the past 30-odd years, I have noticed that from 1 972 onwards there has been a definite deterioration in the communities and there has been despondency and confusion. That despondency and confusion are a direct result of the policy of the Labor Party towards Aborigines. Admittedly, the Australian Labor Party Government spent a lot of money. It considered that money was the answer to everything with regard to Aboriginal affairs. This afternoon we heard another former Minister, the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- I support him utterly- state that too much money had tended to destroy Aboriginal communities because with increased funds came the increased lack of desire to work. A lot of Aborigines could receive plenty of money for doing nothing. With that followed the disastrous increase in the intake of alcohol, both by the Aboriginals themselves and on to the settlements and what were the missions, now townships. That is to be found in every community in the Northern Territory, almost without exception. The blame can be laid fairly at the feet of the Australian Labor Party. Members of that Party were the people who originally advocated this policy. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who will be speaking next in the debate, led the van in demanding that Aborigines have grog rights when he was the Deputy Chairman of the parliamentary committee concerned with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. This was a step that was taken far too soon. It was something that was pushed on to Aborigines far too soon, just as so many other things were pushed on Aborigines by the Labor Government far too soon. I think that such a policy is a disaster. The policy should have been one of moving forward slowly and allowing Aborigines to develop at their own rate. All of these things and all that money should not have been pushed on to the Aborigines before they could handle them. Almost all Aboriginal communities, especially those which speak for themselves and are not told what to say by outside advisers, admit that the changes have been too quick.
The expenditure on Aboriginal Affairs in 1975-76 was $193m. The total for 1976-77, made up of the Budget allocation and the $25m which was announced this afternoon, is $ 1 77.6m. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) spent much of his Budget speech criticising the Government’s attitude towards Aborigines. The Leader of the Opposition made a speech which included a section on Aborigines covering about 2Vi pages of Hansard, which is a passage of considerable size. I might add that the speech is being circulated by the Northern Land Councillors as a masterly address to the nation on the shortcomings of this Government with regard to Aboriginal expenditure. The Leader of the Opposition grasped at the figures and quoted the estimated expenditure of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for 1975-76 as $ 139.5m as against the appropriation this year of $1 13.3m. As the honourable gentleman said in his speech, this left a shortfall of $28m. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is at the table, knocked that to pieces this afternoon by announcing an expenditure of $25m. This means that if the Leader of the Opposition’s figures are correct there will be a shortfall this year of only $3m. Therefore, as usual, the Leader of the Opposition went off halfcocked on Territory affairs. Mention was made in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) of a shortfall of $33m but he stated:
In the case of some programs- such as grants to Aboriginal Housing Associations- the provisions in the Budget are to cover outstanding firm commitments, pending further reviews of the objectives, priorities and past administration of those programs.
In the light of those reviews additional funds will be provided.
That was said on 17 August and it was produced this afternoon. A further $25m is to be allocated as a result of inquiries to assess the effectiveness of services to be financed.
We have heard much abuse of the Hay report and even of Mr Hay himself who, as the House should know, is a very honourable and gallant gentleman. The Government has taken steps to tighten administration in this area. It has acted promptly to honour its promises, as the Minister at the table pointed out this afternoon. Additional funds will be allocated to programs about which we heard strong criticism. I refer to the allegations of shortage of money for housing and Aboriginal enterprises and so on. This Government realised that there was very much waste and loss of financial benefit to Aborigines and that Aborigines themselves want to work rather than receive ‘sit down money’ or unemployment benefits, and we heard criticism this afternoon by a former Labor Minister of the fact that Aborigines were not being given work. But the Aboriginal people themselves have requested that they work for the money they receive rather than be paid ‘sit down money’. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in his ministerial statement this afternoon said:
In the field of employment and enterprises- other areas subjected to the closest scrutiny, additional funds will be made available to help alleviate the serious employment problems . . .
So the Government all the way through has stated that it would exercise scrutiny and control and that it certainly would not be cutting back on funds. The Minister demonstrated very ably this afternoon that the Government is keeping its election promise to support Aboriginal enterprises and make available funds to genuine and capable Aboriginal businesses, housing associations and other groups needing finance.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is back on the same old tack- it is a waste of money if it is spent on people who happen to be black; it is profitable enterprise and money well spent if it is spent on his white friends. What on earth is he talking about when he says: ‘Too much money spent too fast on Aboriginal affairs’? Whereabouts? Which of his constituents have received more than they were entitled to or more than they needed to catch up on the system in which the rest of his constituents live? This is one of the most painful continuing episodes in this Parliament- the consistent attack upon Aboriginal advancement through innuendo, inference and sly digs at the system. Whereabouts has the money been wasted in the Northern Territory? Of course we all know that we do not get full value for things for all sorts of reasons. Some of the reasons have nothing whatsoever to do with the Aboriginal people themselves. If a bulldozer breaks down on an Aboriginal reserve or settlement in the Northern Territory it could be out of action for a month because the administrative system does not pick up the bits. Who is to blame for that? Is it Aboriginal people who bear the cost under the Department of Aboriginal Affairs? Of course it is not.
Which part of Papunya has had too much money spent on it in the last 3 years? When will people get around to specifics? When will people take the time off to go and look for themselves and see exactly the miserable and degrading position in which people live?
– I suggest you go there more often.
– I go there quite often and I would not mind betting there are parts of the Northern Territory I have been to more often and for a greater length of time than the honourable member has.
– You are talking nonsense- utter nonsense.
– As the honourable member well knows I have been around for a long while. I have spent a great deal of time travelling across his electorate. I know many people in it. I make no reflection upon his work as a local member but I do make strong criticisms of his understanding of the needs of between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of his constituents.
Mention has been made of the lack of people’s desire to work because they are on unemployment benefits. What else are they going to be on? We have not resolved the question of the creation of work in remote places. What are we going to put them to work at in most of these areas? During my period as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I felt that I was probably as ingenious as the next person in thinking up things for these people to do. But the fact is that it is almost impossible to design work programs for communities of between 600 and 1000 people situated 140 or 150 miles out from a town like Alice Springs. You can, perhaps, initiate a program, as I thought was desirable, of rebuilding a settlement to ordinary Australian standards based upon decent architectural standards and the needs of the Aboriginal people themselves.
What else are they going to do but draw unemployment benefits- call it what you like? In this respect, they are no different from the 170 000 other people in Australia who are drawing unemployment benefits. Grog rights were mentioned. As honourable members are probably aware, I do not touch the stuff. I do not mind other people drinking it. They pay a lot of tax on it although perhaps the world would be better if it were abolished. You could not possibly sustain a situation in Australia in modern times in which some people were excluded from the advantage, if that is what it is, of drinking in a hotel because their skins were black. I recognised long ago that this created all sorts of problems. It is no good attacking that. It has been a discriminatory situation for too long.
I want to challenge this handout system that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) and his friends talk about. I met people working in the north-west of Australia who talked about the handout system. I said: ‘What do you mean by the handout system?’ They said: ‘All this money you are giving the Aboriginal people?’ I asked: ‘What money are we giving the Aboriginal people?’ They said: They are getting unemployment benefits.’ I asked: ‘In what way are they different from any other person in Australia who is getting unemployment benefits?’ They said: ‘Who else gets education allowances in their situation?’ Thousands of people scattered round Australia are getting educational allowances, at the top of the secondary school system in many areas. They said: ‘In some areas all the Aboriginal people get it. ‘ All the parents of isolated children get some amount. Scattered throughout Australia, is a handout system for us all, if you care to call it that. Every time we get in an aeroplane and we pay our own fare we are still subsidised by some $5 to $10, depending on where we are going, because the air fare does not pay for the airlines system. It is the same with pensions.
We face an extraordinarily difficult challenge. It is the creation of a new community spirit and beings in areas that are remote from us, in cultures different from ours, and in situations which perhaps nobody has resolved so far. We do not get anywhere by just talking in the way I have described. What we want are constructive policies. What I would like to see is the time when the Papunyas and the Yuendumus and the rest of them even if architecturally different and different in the standard of service, look like any other Australian town. I invite honourable members to look at Leigh Creek with its population of 1000 people. It is the place we called at on the way north on one occasion. Compare it with the Aboriginal situation. There is no doubt that it is a disgrace that anybody in Australia lives in these conditions. I hope that parliamentarians will gradually turn their minds more consistently to these challenges and problems.
Let me refer to the programs of the last three or four years, some of which were inherited in embryo by the Labor Government from the previous Government. For instance there are the educational allowances and the capital funds for business enterprises which we took up and made run a bit further. There has been an immense increase in the number of Aboriginal people who can speak for themselves and who can take thenpart in the community in such a way that they have almost dropped out of sight. They do not even realise they are playing such a significant role. There are housing programs from one end of Australia to the other that are working. Even the beleaguered Redfern project is gradually turning a derelict area of some three or four years ago into a reasonably decent housing project. The same applies across the board with all these communities which have managed to acquire properties. They are not properties which would sustain them in an economic way. What property could sustain 200 or 300 people economically in modern Australia? They are places where they get their feet on the ground and start to feel at home.
I wanted to say a few words about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This was created early in 1973. As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs at the time I believed that finally it would be only through proper continuing and effective advice coming to the Minister from the Aboriginal people that we would be able to gather up the threads of policy and make them work. So we had the initial meetings nearly 4 years ago. Out of these came the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee system with something like 41 electorates. It took about 6 months. Even the election came under consistent attack. Even the responsible electoral officer when speaking to the Public Accounts Committee said that it was a disaster. I do not know what he meant by that. I have looked up the figures. By September of that year over 3 1 000 people had been enrolled to vote. Finally about 37 000 or 38 000 people enrolled and 30 000- odd voted. It was a remarkable performance. There is only about one-sixth or one-seventh of that number on the electoral roll within the responsibility of the electoral authorities. The object of the NACC was to create an apparatus free from the departmental structure and free in its own way, as we are, to work for its constituents. It is true it does not quite know how to do that. I have seen over the last few months operations which show me that it is gradually starting to feel more confident about these things.
– The Liberals do.
– I do not care whether they are liberals or illiberals, as long as they stand up and speak for themselves and for the people they represent. One of the most depressing features of this Budget is the reduction in the amount of money for the NACC and the near doubling of funds for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I think that shows a quaint set of values. I make an appeal to the Minister- I think he appreciates this- to accept that the NACC is the voice of the Aboriginal people and should speak directly to the Minister. Do not let any apparatus stand between them and the Minister. They ought to have a direct hot line.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-Speaking in the debate on the estimates for Aboriginal Affairs last year I made the point that the whole question of the welfare of Aboriginal people should not be allowed to become a party political issue. I think most honourable members would agree with that proposition. I still hold to that view. I believe that all members of this Parliament and the Austraiian community in general should concentrate their efforts on the very considerable problems confronting the Aboriginal people rather than using the issue for some political advantage.
On this basis then it is extremely important to examine carefully the extimates of expenditure on Aboriginal affairs in this year’s Budget and in the light of the statement pf the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to the House today. Many honourable members on the Opposition benches and certain sections of the Press were only too ready to accuse the Government of savage cuts in funds to Aborigines when the Budget was announced. There was a marked unwillingness to acknowledge that only in certain areas were moneys withheld and that those funds were only temporarily withheld pending inquiries into the methods of spending. A firm commitment was made by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech to increase the allocation to those areas once the outcome of those inquiries was known. That announcement has been made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs today and an extra $25m will be allocated for Aboriginal housing and other projects. That announcement is to be applauded.
It is, I believe, to the eternal shame of the Australian people that so little has been done for our Aboriginal population over the past 200 years. This long neglect has meant that there is now a need to move much more rapidly than perhaps is good. We have seen in the past 10 years considerable advances made under governments of both political persuasions. Year by year substantial progress has been made in the amount of money allocated to Aboriginal affairs. Much has been achieved for the welfare and training of the Aboriginal population. There has, however, particularly under the previous Government, been a tendency to rush blindly into many areas and as a result large amounts of money have been poured into ill-considered schemes, as we have sought to impose our standards, our life style and our conditions on the Aboriginal people.
– Which ones? Name a few.
-The turtle project.
-Inevitably, many of these well-intentioned attempts have been unsuccessful and have only resulted in a waste of money which could have been better spent in other areas or on other projects. I think I heard the honourable member for Wills say ‘What projects?’ The turtle farm was one of them. Illconsidered attempts to impose our standards on the Aboriginal people and failure to consider their unique characteristics, unique life style and culture will drive us further and further from successful integration. It is integration we must strive for, not assimilation and not some form of apartheid or separate development. The Government’s professed policy is to achieve selfsufficiency and self-reliance for the Aboriginal people. Embodied in that goal is the belief that they should be able to enjoy the same opportunities and the same privileges as all other Aus.tralians. But that does not mean that they should have the white Australian life style imposed upon them or be forced to accept that life style as a prerequisite to the enjoyment of those opportunities and privileges.
I believe that it was with those considerations in mind that the Government came to look at the 1976-77 Budget allocation for Aboriginal affairs. The resultant allocation reflected the Government’s determination to do all it could to continue to improve the lot of the Aboriginal people, at the same time reflecting its equal determination to ensure that the money is spent wisely and in a way which will achieve the most effective result for the Aboriginal people. Funds in the crucial areas of employment and welfare have not been cut. In fact, there has been an increase of nearly Sim over last year’s figure of $5. 834m in the allocations for employment, grants in aid and employment training. In the welfare field, funds available to the Aboriginal Legal Service have been maintained at $7. 746m, and more money has been given to such organisations as Aboriginal medical services. The major areas in which funds have been withheld are those of housing and Aboriginal enterprises, which were the subject of the interdepartmental and Hay inquiries, which have been reported on to the Parliament today by the Minister.
Looking briefly at the area of housing, it is obvious that there are characteristics in the make-up and culture of the Aboriginal people which necessitate very different housing facilities from those which our European style of living provides. Recently we have seen the successful completion of the first house in the Bakandji Housing Company project at Wilcannia in New South Wales. These homes are being constructed by Aborigines with regard for the special needs of the Aboriginal people who will occupy them. There is every indication that the project will be highly successful and, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said on the occasion of the opening ceremony, the Wilcannia story is one for the history books. It is the type of project which must get our financial support. It is no use spending money, as we have done in the past, to build homes in which the Aboriginal people cannot and do not wish to live. To do so is not only wasteful but demonstrates to the Aboriginal people a complete ignorance of their needs and their cultural background. In the housing area, as in the areas in which money was temporarily withheld, undoubtedly there was a need to examine the ways in which funds were being utilised. I commend the Government for recognising and acting upon that need. It is not an easy thing to withhold moneys in such a sensitive area. It would have been much easier simply to sustain or increase the allocation, but by so doing the Government would have been abdicating its responsibility to ensure that the money is spent in the best interests of the Aboriginal people. The Government has demonstrated that it is not prepared to abdicate that responsibility, and for that it is to be commended.
I turn finally to the area of education. I was disappointed to see that in this area we had suffered a fall in expenditure. In the Budget the Government’s estimated expenditure for 1976-77 is $35.3m, a decrease of $6.1m on 1975-76 figures. In the Department of Education report for 1 975 1 notice that there has been a continuation of the disturbing downward trend of enrolments and attendance at Aboriginal schools in the Northern Territory. No doubt that has made the prediction of education needs and staffing in Aboriginal schools very difficult. The needs of the Aboriginal people are immediate needs. Already we have neglected them for far too long and, while we must continue to consider carefully the best possible means of achieving a solution, we must do so with more haste than perhaps we would like. We cannot expect the Aboriginal people to sit around and wait for much longer.
– I should like to make a few comments on the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I know that to date the Opposition has been fairly strong in condemning the Government for the cut of $33m in this year’s estimates for the Department. Today the Government announced, through the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), that a further $25m will be made available. However, that still represents a cut of $8m on last year’s estimates.
– It does not.
– It does, otherwise the honourable member is pretty crook at figures. It represents a large percentage drop over last year’s estimates and certainly does not take into account the effect of inflation, which the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said earlier was 12 per cent. One of the matters which concerns all those people who are interested in Aboriginal affairs is the problem of housing. The effect in my own area has been made fairly clear. In the various areas where building societies have been established and efforts made to provide housing for Aborigines, great concern has been expressed to me about what the future will hold. I refer to one particular project, the new Davenport project outside Port Augusta, which was to replace sub-standard housing. The project was approved by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and, from memory, S3 houses were to be built. To date 14 homes have been completed. They are all large homes, obviously designed to cater for the larger Aboriginal families. The roads and gutters have been laid and all the other faculties are available. Let us hope that the project does not stop at the 14 houses that are there now. Any cutbacks in this area will mean that the project will not be completed in the way that the previous Minister, Senator Cavanagh, envisaged when he authorised it to proceed.
The question of housing is also a matter of concern to the State Minister for Housing, Mr Hudson. In a statement reported in a newspaper the other day he condemned the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for the cutbacks that took place in relation to South Australia. In a letter to the Minister, Mr Hudson stated that the allocation for general housing for Aboriginals in South Australia had been cut from $2,507,900 in 1975-76 to $313,000 this financial year. The report states:
This will mean the S.A. Housing Trust will be able to finance the completion of only 24 new houses this year’, Mr Hudson said yesterday.
Last year the trust was able to house 111 Aboriginal families. ‘
In his letter … Mr Hudson told Mr Viner ‘Your action has disrupted a program which has been running smoothly and effectively in S.A. with significant social benefits for the Aboriginal people and for the society of the State as a whole.
The action of your Government will create and perpetuate over-crowding of families in sub-standard conditions. ‘
Mr Hudson said the Federal Government had given an undertaking not to reduce spending on Aboriginal affairs.
He was referring to the telegrams sent by the then shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr
Ellicott, prior to the last election in which Aboriginals were told they had nothing to fear from a Liberal government; that there would be no cuts. Mr Hudson concluded:
In making an official announcement of Government policy on that date he -
That is Mr Ellicott - was reported to have committed your Government to the view “that Aboriginal people are entitled to receive additional funds by reason of their past dispossession and dispersal. “
I believe this Government and the Aboriginal people were entitled to rely on that statement in their expectations and future planning. ‘
The following day in South Australia a statement attributed to a South Australian Liberal senator suggested that the amount of $313,000 which had been quoted as the South Australian allocation was to be increased by approximately $100,000. I certainly hope that $100,000 is not all that South Australia will get from the extra $2 5m allocation announced today by the Minister. I do not know whether prior information was given to the South Australian senator, but that amount would increase the allocation to about a quarter of last year’s allocation.
I think everyone recognises the importance of housing projects. I do not think we can move on to anything else until inroads are made into this problem. Earlier I mentioned Port Augusta, which is in my electorate. In Coober Pedy, where there is a housing society, the same concern has been expressed about what the future holds for its housing program. It is an area where housing for Aborigines is extremely bad. The report of the Senate Select Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders referred to the number of Aboriginals who live in makeshift accommodationold burntout motorcar bodies and so forth. In many areas of my electorate, such as at Coober Pedy, Aborigines utilise this sort of accommodation. It is in such areas that people have been tackling the problem. Any cutback in the funds made available for Aboriginal housing will put a stop to the efforts of these people to provide decent housing.
I move from the housing area to the question of education. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs earlier today mentioned that education had an extremely important part to play in the development of Aboriginal people in that if they did not have that basic background it made it much more difficult for them to obtain employment. However, I instance various areas in the Budget in which there have been expenditure cutbacks. Expenditure under the Aboriginal secondary grants scheme is estimated at $8.4m in 1976-77 compared with $8.6m in 1975-76. That is a drop of only $200,000, but when a 12 per cent inflation rate is taken into account, that drop is considerably more than it appears on paper. Total expenditure on the Aboriginal study grant scheme is estimated at $1.6m in 1976-77 compared with $1.8m in 1975-76. Again, there is a marginal drop in the expenditure but when the inflation rate is taken into account, it becomes a considerable drop. The Budget Papers refer also to the education of Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory. Last year, $22. lm was provided for this purpose compared with $ 16.3m this year. It is stated that the decrease in proposed expenditure reflects a reduction of $6.1m in expenditure on Aboriginal school buildings. I do not believe that there is a need to decrease that sort of activity. But taken overall, that decrease in expenditure certainly reflects a drop in the education facilities made available for Aboriginal people.
I refer now to the problem of the health of Aboriginals. Although it could be said that the cut is not much, it is still there, the expenditure being reduced from $2 1 .5m last year to $20m this year. Perhaps I may be transgressing from our discussion of the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, but the fact remains that there was a government to government policy and there has been a drop in the expenditure in this area. How can there be such expenditure cuts when everybody knows that the health problems confronting Aboriginal people, particularly in some of the remote areas, have not been solved? The report of the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders dealt with the question of infant mortality. Although some progress has been made in this field over the last few years, we still cannot hold up our heads with pride. In 1965, the infant mortality rate per thousand live births was 144 deaths. Although progressively we have cut down that infant mortality rate to 50 deaths per 1000 live births, the figure still represents about 3V4 times the infant mortality rate of white Australians. How can we cut back the finance made available in this area? I feel that I am involved personally. Figures are often cited for the Northern Territory, but I understand that those figures take into account the South Australian north-west Aboriginal area, which falls within my electorate. I know the conditions prevailing there. When we talk about the infant mortality rate, it concerns my electorate because of the people who live in the north-west Aboriginal area. Although the cutback in expenditure is not great, when the inflation rate is taken into account, we can see that it is more considerable.
Turning to the question of employment, we find that restrictions have been placed on the expenditure of those people endeavouring to find employment for Aboriginal people. Because of the Government cutbacks in expenditure, those people have not been able to carry out their functions in the way in which it was originally proposed that they should.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– We are discussing the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In so doing, it would be proper to draw to the attention of the Committee the fact that we want neither overindulgent idealism nor over-zealous pursuit of economic efficiency when we question the expenditure which has been made available to this Department for the ensuing year. I notice that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) is at the table. I know that he agrees that what we want most of all is a reasonable and sensible approach. But in these times, we cannot divorce ourselves from the realism that we as a nation are slowly but surely crawling out from under the greatest mullock heap of economic disaster that has struck this nation since the great Depression. Of course, I am referring to the aftermath of the previous Australian Labor Party Government.
The previous Opposition speakers in this debate have alluded to the fact that there has been a cut in expenditure on Aboriginal affairs. As the Minister informed honourable members earlier today, the Government gave an undertaking earlier in the year and again in the recent Budget that it would review expenditure on Aboriginal affairs, and that if it were found that the cuts which had been made were excessive the original amount of expenditure would be restored. So today we have the welcome announcement by the Minister that an extra $2 5 m has been restored for expenditure in this field. Opposition members decry the fact that expenditure on Aboriginal affairs is to be some $8m less this year than the previous year. At the outset, to my recollection there are only 2 government departmentsthe Department of Defence and the Department of Education- in which expenditure in real terms has grown. An $8m cut in expenditure on Aboriginal affairs does not mean that the Aboriginal people of this country will be any worse off than they were when that extra $8m was being allocated a year ago.
As we all realise, the keynote to success or progress is not necessarily connected with the amount of money which is spent but rather with the way in which it is spent. When we look, for instance, at the field of housing and see how this Government has made changes to ensure the better use of consultants and how the Department of Construction will now be utilised in an advisory capacity, it is a very brave man, or rather a very foolish man, who will argue that in that area alone things will be worse. By the employment of these 2 other avenues we can certainly get a better job for less money. Let us look at the Labor Party’s record and some of its projects and recall the inquiry into the turtle farm project. The turtle farm had so many loose bones that when you shook it it was like listening to a tambourine. It is little wonder that when we came to power we said that one of the first things we were going to do was to look at the way in which money was being expended in the cause of the advancement of the Aboriginals. We are also providing better administration to the Department, within the Department and to the various projects.
One smiles when one listens to the official Opposition spokesmen on Aboriginal affairs in this place- the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). They were both Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and were both sacked as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Opposition members interjecting-
– They were both sacked; there is no disputing that. Honourable members opposite have only to read the records. The honourable member for Wills went out in disgrace. The honourable member for Hughes went out a little bit more quietly. What did their successor say? Senator Cavanagh was the third Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 3 years. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs was almost like the Department of the Treasury. The Labor Government had the same amount of success with each of them. Senator Cavanagh described Aboriginal affairs as ‘the ALP’s greatest area of disaster in the 3 years’. When we consider all the ALP’s other disasters, it is really saying something for a former ALP Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to come out and describe Aboriginal affairs in this way. But I believe that with the change of government we have not seen, as some of the pundits who predict gloom foresaw, a sudden turnoff of the advancement of Aboriginals. I willingly and readily concede that despite Labor’s stupidity in its approach, the Aboriginal cause in the 3 years of Labor was advanced. One recent aspect which fills me with considerable pride is the fact that the present Government has kept its word in relation to the advancement of the Aboriginal people. Under the leadership of the Minister who is presently at the table, their cause has not only been well presented but has continued to be advanced. As the Minister said in his speech this afternoon, and as I said earlier tonight, one cannot judge progress simply in terms of dollars expended.
In the remaining minutes available to me, I conclude by harking back to a question that I directed to the Minister in the House today. The Minister will recall that I asked him about the definition of an Aborigine as far as qualifying for government assistance was concerned. The Minister handled that question so well that I wondered whether he had been waiting for it all year. But I really believe that within our society there is a degree of intolerance to the cause that we are supporting here this evening. It would appear that people who really should not qualify for grants, aid and assistance to develop themselves under the appropriations for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are getting these grants.
I know that it is a very ticklish and difficult question and is one which cannot easily be answered. I believe that in the interests of tolerance towards what has to be done and what must be done to correct the mistakes that were made over 2 centuries the Minister has a very definite duty to ensure that the money which is allocated for the advancement of Aboriginal people is directed towards them and them alone. He should ensure that it is not available to those who, on a passing whim, suddenly make claim to being an Aborigine because far in the background they have a trace of Aboriginal blood which, under the present legislation and definitions, allows them to become entitled to the assistance. I believe we must ensure that the people whom the money is allocated to assist are those who get it There are those outside who regrettably make our cause of assistance more difficult because they play on those rather unfortunate prejudices which exist. I am pleased that recent gallup polls indicate that the majority of Australians want us to continue to help the Aboriginals. Let us continue to bring this about.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Chairman, I think the honourable member for
Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is mistaken in his origins of the turtle farm project. It originated not during the period of the former Labor Government but before that Government came into office. I do not say that is a criticism of our predecessors. I do not believe that the failure of a particular Aboriginal project proves anything when these are initial experiments designed to give the people management of their own business affairs. I wish to make an observation, because it seems to me that there are too many hear, hears’ in this chamber whenever anybody suggests that some aspect of affairs, especially those related to Aborigines and mining projects in the Northern Territory, should be handed to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory.
Honourable gentlemen opposite have stressed again and again the sound instinct of the Australian people as shown in referendums. The honourable member for Griffith in concluding his speech referred to a gallup poll indicating what the Australian people wanted. The biggest gallup poll on Aboriginal affairs that we have ever had was the referendum of 1 967. It has been the only referendum where an affirmative vote was carried in every polling place in Australia. The decision of the Australian people was that this national Parliament was responsible for the Aboriginal people. There is no reason why anybody in this Parliament should say ‘hear hear’ when other people in this Parliament suggest that some of these responsibilities for the Aboriginal people should be handed to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory. There has been a very clear declaration, and I believe that there is a reason for that very clear declaration and that this Parliament has never yet really taken into consideration what that reason is.
We have spoken about advancing Aborigines in civilisation. We have spoken at various times about assimilating Aborigines. Sir Paul Hasluck gave very refined definitions of what ‘assimilation’ meant. We have spoken about integrating Aborigines. We have spoken about all the decisions we will make on behalf of Aborigines at the drop of a hat. But I believe that the reason for the emphatic decision of the Australian people was the plain view that Aborigines are entitled to a new basis of treatment, and that new basis of treatment is compensation. Do not let us be mealy-mouthed about the fact that the Aborigines are a conquered people and have always been treated as a conquered people. When I was Minister for Education the first decision that we made regarding Aborigines concerned their right, if Aboriginal parents nominated it, to an education in their own languages. When the Welsh were denied an education in their own language in primary schools they regarded this as a symptom of their conquest by the English people. It was an aspect of being treated as a conquered people.
I remember that during the last World War we could write articles about how the Germans in certain occupied areas, the Sudeten areas of Czechoslavakia, suppressed the Czech language. We said: ‘Oh dear, how dreadful’, quite failing to realise that in all our dealing with the Aborigines we had suppressed their languages, we had denied them their right to be considered as a distinctive people. They are a distinctive people and they have the right to be considered as a distinctive people. We have dispossessed them of land through a mystic rigmarole, that George III, by the Grace of God, owns it all. That is just as mystic as the idea that the Aborigines own it because of some possession in a dreamtime. But one set of mysticism was backed by guns and the other set of mysticism was not backed by guns, and that determined where the land question lay.
We have been in the process, in the last Parliament under the previous Government and now in this Parliament under the present Government, of acknowledging Aboriginal land titles. When I first raised this question of land titles in this chamber in August 1952 I was told that it was impossible to devise a tribal title. When I was a member of the select committee which inquired into Aboriginal voting rights, one expert after another from the Attorney-General’s Department in Darwin or anywhere else said: ‘You cannot devise a tribal title’. Now we know that we can devise a tribal title and that we can regard Aborigines as having some kind of collective ownership. That procedure of giving them ownership ought to be carried out with the utmost sensitivity without, every time when some mining company’s interest may be involved, saying: ‘Let us hand this over to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory because we know that they will surrender to mining companies at the drop of a hat’. Some people say: Let them decide whether Aborigines have sacred sites or not’. This is happening in our own Northern Territory. We have a much more problematical relationship with the States which do not acknowledge and, as far as I can see, will not acknowledge Aboriginal tribal titles. Whatever we are aiming to do for the Aborigines, we have to regard it as axiomatic that we owe them some compensation.
If one goes into the north of my State of Western Australia one sees rock paintings, which do not date back out of the lifetime of people now alive, of Aborigines chained together and being pushed into gorges. In the north of my State there are extermination policies that are comparatively recent, and there are such policies within living memory in Queensland. These people are owed compensation. If we can make that the basis of our thinking instead of integration or assimilation or some other nice arrangement that we have, I think we will get a different approach. I do not believe that just throwing money is the answer to anything. There are some problems with which Aborigines cannot cope. When the report on voting rights for Aborigines was being debated in this chamber I did not believe that the first thing that should happen to Aborigines was that drinking rights should be extended to them. The first rights which they were given by the Commonwealth and the States were fornication rights, so that it was no longer a crime for a white man to cohabit with an Aboriginal woman. Then they were given drinking rights and voting rights. The glorious attraction of those 3 points was that none of them cost the Treasury a brass razoo. The Commonwealth and the States have been very much slower in giving Aborigines anything that would cost the Treasury anything or in acknowledging their title to the ownership of anything in Australia.
I am not making an attack on the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), but I believe that he has made this fundamental switch- I know that his predecessors had, whether they would put it in these words or not- to the fact that we owe the Aboriginal people some distinct compensation. As I mentioned at the outset, it was for this reason that the matter of Aborigines was delegated to this Parliament. The Australian community has been terribly suspicious of granting any powers to the Federal Parliament in all the referenda that have been held over the years, but suddenly there was this emphatic protest at the whole course of Australia’s relationship with the Aboriginal people. We really need to make a scientific attack on this question. We can tie ourselves in knots when we are trying to deal with this problem.
When it was revealed to us when we were in Government- it came through the education sectionthat large numbers of Aboriginal children in the Kimberleys were being born with brain damage, I wrote to the then Prime Minister and he asked for a conference of 3 Federal Ministers and 3 State Ministers. It transpired that a State civil servant, a resident medical officer, was given finance to recruit young doctors. We could do that in our relationship with the State of Western
Australia. There were doctors in the Northern Territory who wanted the recruitment of doctors who were not committed permanently to being State or Federal civil servants, but we found that under our own Public Service Board regulations what we were doing by giving grants to Western Australia we could not do to make a scientific attack on Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory. I think that we can look at the need for recruiting the ablest young doctors to go and deal with Aboriginal health. There are too many areas in which we get reports of brain damage through pre-natal malnutrition or for other reasons. I think that one other reason why the Australian people gave this Federal Parliament power to deal with Aborigines was that they believed that at the national level there could really be a scientific attack on Aboriginal needs. That is the way in which we ought to try to assess these estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
– I thank honourable members for their participation in this debate on the estimates of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, following as it does my announcement this afternoon of the Government’s decision to provide an additional $25m for expenditure on Aboriginal affairs- a decision of the Government in fulfilment of the clear undertaking by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) in his Budget Speech. He said that there were reviews of key areas of Aboriginal policy in progress and that when they were completed the Government would be providing additional funds. He did not say that it might provide additional funds, he said that it would provide these funds. So the Government, in fulfilment of that undertaking, has provided $25m. Those funds will be spent primarily in the significant areas of housing and employment support, as well as in other areas which are of no less importance. I indicated those areas in the statement which I made to the House this afternoon. There has been a variety of opinion expressed by honourable members on the estimates. Not unnaturally, there have been differences of opinion expressed from both sides of the chamber. It is rather interesting that as each member expressed a different opinion, each was purporting to speak in a bipartisan way. From both sides we were exhorted to consider Aboriginal affairs in a non-political manner. I think that is an admirable sentiment. Perhaps all politicians must succumb to the opportunity to speak and then succumb to the opportunity to be political.
Let me deal briefly with some of the things said by individual speakers. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), a former Minister, spoke of legal aid. I have said to the Legal Aid Services on a number of occasions that, as the coalition parties’ policy statement clearly expresses, we accept that this service is a valuable one, one which involves Aboriginals and one through which services should be provided to Aboriginals. Mention was made of an article in one of today’s newspapers about outstanding debts to the legal profession by the Victorian Legal Aid Service. Whereas the figure quoted today was $63,000, the figure quoted to me two or three weeks ago when I interviewed someone from the Legal Aid Service was about $25,000. Mr Hay has something to say in his report about legal aid. I suggest to the honourable member for Hughes that he read that part of the Hay report. Mr Hay made the point that the Legal Aid Services need to control expenditure and need to define the areas of need which they should satisfy. He spoke in favour of the continuance of Aboriginal legal aid services as autonomous units, working in co-operation with other legal aid services in the community.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) spoke of unemployment benefits and of the request by numerous Aboriginal communities that either they not receive those benefits or that the money which is paid into the community in that manner be used to provide job opportunities for the men and the women. Mention was made earlier in the day of the community at Mowanjum. I inform the Committee that the Mowanjum community wrote to me in February of this year pointing out the great socially destructive effect of unemployment and other social security payments on the community. The community asked me whether I could do something to help. As a result I established a working party, calling in my colleagues the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), to consider that matter among other matters affecting Aboriginal employment. That working party has reported. I have recently said publicly that the Department is now working on ways and means by which we can convert those unemployment benefits into work money, not in any sense of discrimination or to deny to Aboriginals their entitlement to unemployment benefit but to see that the money which would otherwise go into a community in that way and not be put to work is in fact put to work.
The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) mentioned various communities, including Papunya and Yuendumu. I feel that it serves no purpose to single out communities such as those for particularly critical comment. They may be, in their own way, an example of the variety of problems which confront any Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who seeks to do something of value for the Aboriginal people. I think we should acknowledge the differences in those communities and should seek to orient our programs to meet their needs. Mention was made by the honourable member for Wills and other members of education. Let me make 2 short comments about that matter. Firstly, the Minister for Education has established an interdepartmental committee to look into the level of all student allowances, including those payable under the various Aboriginal student assistance schemes. I have no doubt that the Minister will be making a statement in the near future which will advise Parliament of the new level of allowances to be paid to all students. Senator Carrick and I jointly visited the Northern Territory in July to look at education in the Territory. One of the things that struck us forcibly, as it must have struck the former Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), was the necessary link between vocational training and work opportunity in particular communities. There has been a breakage of that link in recent times which my colleague and I are seeking to re-establish, because as more and more Aboriginal children come through the educational stream education is worth nothing to them if there is no suitable work for them back in their own community or where they would wish to establish themselves.
The honourable member for Wills said it was depressing to see the reduction in funds for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee while there was a doubling of funds for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I regret to advise the honourable member, a former Minister, that there was no doubling of funds in the Aboriginal Affairs vote for the Legislative Assembly. If he had been following my statements he would have observed that the Government has established an inquiry into the future role and structure of the NACC and that the appropriation in the Budget is sufficient to cover the known expenditure requirements until that inquiry is completed and the Government has made its decision on the future of the NACC.
The point has been well made by several honourable members that the measure of a government’s performance in the field of Aboriginal affairs is not simply the amount of money appropriated or spent; rather, the social value of what any government does is the real test of its performance. The honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) dwelt at some length on the inadequacy of appropriations this year because of an inflation level of 12 per cent. He said that in the field of Aboriginal affairs, and presumably he would argue this in respect of other departmental estimates, all levels of expenditure should be increased by 12 per cent to match inflation. Well, on 13 December last the public gave this Government a resounding vote of confidence and asked it to reduce the rate of inflation because it knows that if inflation is allowed to continue at the level established by the former Labor administration it can only be destructive not only of the economy but of the very social fabric of the nation. Therefore it serves no purpose simply to increase all government expenditure by some form of indexing to equate with the current level of inflation. Rather, the point of any government economic strategy, as it is the strategy of this Government, ought to be to reduce the level of inflation and restore real value to the nation’s currency. That is what this Government is embarked upon and it is reflected in the estimates of my Department as it is in the estimates of all other departments.
The honourable member for Grey also referred to a recent Press statement by the Minister for Housing in South Australia in which he lamented the fact that his Government was to receive only $313,000 for Aboriginal housing this year. It is a pity that the South Australian Minister did not also publicly refer to the contents of my letter to him pointing out that in the “light of reviews presently being undertaken there may be increases in the provision for Aboriginal housing. Of course, I was not in a position at that dme to tell the State Minister unequivocally that there would be any particular level of additional funds for Aboriginal housing in South Australia. Honourable members now know, in view of the statement I made this afternoon, that there will be substantial additional funds for Aboriginal housing provided through both State grants and direct grants to Aboriginal housing associations. South Australia can be sure that it will receive a fair proportion of those additional funds.
All people who have worked in Aboriginal affairs will readily acknowledge the capacity of the South Austraiian Aboriginal Housing Board to build and provide houses for Aboriginals efficiently. I might also mention in passing, in order to dispel any doubts that there might be in the minds of honourable members in view of certain remarks made by the honourable member for Grey, that no South Australian senator had any prior information about the Government’s decision to provide the additional $25m.
Mention was made also of reductions in expenditure on health and education in the Northern Territory. What needs to be recognised in this case, as commentators and honourable members failed to recognise when reading the Budget papers, is that the amounts referred toapproximately $6m for education in the Northern Territory and $ lm for health in the Northern Territory- represent deferred capital works and not direct expenditure on health or education programs. I might also mention now for the information of honourable members, in view of a question asked of me some time ago, that the nutritional program for Aborigines in the Northern Territory, administered by my colleague the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), resulted in an expenditure last year of $200,000 and that it is to be continued. I thank the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) for the comments he made in his contribution to this debate. As he said, it can be readily established that with sound administration more can be done with less money.
The honourable member for Fremantle always makes a valuable contribution to any debate on Aboriginal Affairs and on this occasion he took as a theme the idea that the Government ought to acknowlege a new basis of treatment for Aboriginal people, and that is compensation. They ought not to be treated as a conquered race; they should be compensated today for the neglect of the past. The honourable member might well be satisfied with the published statement of the coalition parties relating to Aboriginal affairs which expressly speaks in similar terms to those in which he spoke tonight- that additional funds ought to be provided for Aboriginals for their past dispersal and dispossession. The policy statement of the coalition parties speaks in what some might think is a radical way. I refer to those who are inclined to describe us as conservatives. We speak there of establishing 2 accounts, one the Aboriginal entitlement revenue account and the other the Aboriginal entitlement capital account. The first is in order to display to the public the magnitude of our commitment to Aboriginal advancement and the second is to give effect to the notion that we ought to provide additional funds for past dispersal and dispossession, a notion which was, so far as I know, never accepted or acknowledged by the former Labor administration.
In view of the statement I made to the House today about the additional $2 5 m to be provided for Aboriginal affairs in pursuance of the undertaking by the Treasurer, I think all Aborigines and others interested in their welfare can be well satisfied with the commitment of this Government to their advancement.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $32,975,000.
– It is my intention to address my remarks to the estimates of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In particular I want to refer to the Government’s population policy and its announced intention to bring 70 000 new immigrants to Australia when our already high unemployment rate continues to rise. The Government’s statement on population policy is yet another example of its complete confusion about its priorities and objectives. The unemployment figure in this country today is 328 000, seasonally adjusted, yet it is the objective of this Government to bring a further 70 000 people here this year and thus increase the number of unemployed.
I do not want to spread gloom but that unemployment figure of 328 000, seasonally adjusted, could quite reasonably be expected to rise to between 400 000 and 500 000 by February and March next year. I am talking about our economy and that of the whole of the Western World. Our manufacturing industries are operating at between 60 per cent and 75 per cent of capacity. In other words our economy is not running at its full rate. It is lagging and is very hesitant. It is lacking confidence. This is so not only in this country but also in the whole non-communist world. Here industry is only partially used. Yet we have a program under which we intend to increase immigration this year to 70 000 people. At the same time, this Government has cut back on urban improvement which is something which would improve the quality of life of the great bulk of working people in this country. It has cut back on public works so that we cannot catch up with the service backlog in our cities. It has cut back on any improved sewerage proposals, on improved housing, particularly in the public sector, in improvements to urban public transport, health services, real value in education and in environmental and cultural services within our community. That is the policy of the present Government yet it talks about increasing immigration.
The situation is that during the 23 years from 1949 the immigration intake continued at a rate around 2 per cent. At one point, the actual rate was 1.9 per cent. The average growth rate for those 23 years of Liberal-National Country Party Government was something like 1.1 per cent in natural population and 0.8 per cent in immigration population. If the Government had continued with that population growth until the turn of the century we would have had a population of about 22 million to 23 million people. In October 1972 the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, when introducing the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill to the House estimated that there would be a population of some 22 million people by the year 2000. The fact is that under the conservative forces of this country, between 1949 and 1972, 70 per cent of the immigration increase in the population of this country settled in the cities and urban communities of Sydney and Melbourne. As a result the urban problems created in those areas were of such a proportion that for that reason alone the Australian Labor Party was swept into power in 1 972. Our vote in those cities increased in 1974. 1 predict that in 1978, because of the worsening conditions of urban services within Sydney and Melbourne, a Labor government will be returned to power again by those communities.
The situation is that if we increase the population as proposed the magnitude of pressure on services in Sydney and Melbourne will increase. I ask whether the Government will be able to continue that program. Already it has destroyed a selected decentralisation policy which was carried out by the Labor Government. It has destroyed the rational development of urban programs for Sydney and Melbourne. The situation is that had the Government continued with the policy as proposed by the former conservative government by the year 2000 there would have been an increase of 9 million in the population. That would take the population from 13 million now to 22 million. That was the figure proposed by the then Prime Minister Mr McMahon. That proposition is still put forward by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who is at the table. He not only supports a proposition for an increased immigration program but also he supports a program of increased natural birth.
If the Government continued on that road and assuming that it continued to accept the Labor Party program of decentralisation, then the situation would be that we could equal the decentralisation program of Great Britain between 1945 and 1970. It has the greatest decentralisation program of any country in the non-communist world. If we were able to increase our decentralisation program between now and the year 2000 so that it was similar to the program carried out in Great Britain we would bring about a decentralisation program which would involve one million people in our selected growth centres. I put forward that proposition- I hope my colleagues will agree with me- because if we were able to decentralise one million people the other 8 million to 9 million people would have to be absorbed in the major capital cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Such a program would be chaotic because over-centralisation which continued for so long under the 23 years of former conservative governments would magnify the situation of appalling living conditions in the urban communities of both Sydney and Melbourne.
We propose a slowing down of the population. We believe that we should slow down to at least 1.1 per cent population program. Instead of having a population of 22 million to 23 million people by the year 2000 we would have a population of about 17.5 million people. If we could absorb within our decentralised communities one million people we would be able to rationally absorb into our major capital cities the remaining 3.5 million people. If one looks at the Borrie report one sees the rational proposition that by natural growth alone the population of Australia would be 16 million by the year 2000. By making a rational decision in relation to our immigration program we would then be able to look at a population of something like 17.5 million by the year 2000. In the Australian Labor Party we believe, on humane grounds, in family reunions and of migration from such areas as Lebanon and Chile. There are human problems. Those people should be allowed into this country. A rational program should be allowed. Immigration to this country should be allowed on the basis of family reunions and from such countries as Lebanon and Chile.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My only comment in relation to the speech by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) is that had it not been for the economic policies of his Government we would not be in the position of having to cut back on migration as has happened. At the outset I refer to the statement on population policy made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in the House on 30 March. I had hoped to speak in that debate in order to call for an increase in immigration, but the debate was terminated rather abruptly and this was not possible. Since then the Government has approved an increase of 20 000 persons in migration intake for 1976-77. The number will increase from 50 000 to 70 000. I am reliably informed that while 70 000 people will arrive, 40 000 people will leave this country which will mean a net gain of 30 000 people. Of this number something like 10 000 will enter the work force.
I believe that this migrant intake is far from adequate. Despite the current unemployment problem this country can and must support a greater population. When Mr Arthur Calwell commenced the post-war immigration scheme Australia’s population was approximately 7 million. Immigration reached a peak in 1970 when 185 325 permanent residents came to Australia. By 1972 our population had reached 13 million. Yet during 3 years of Labor rule and mismanagement Australia’s population increased by only a further 1000 people.
The intake of various ethnic groups over the past 30 years has probably been one of the greatest things that could have happened to this country. Australia has been enriched by their presence. They have contributed considerably to the increase in Australia’s gross national product, and have provided a market for Australian produced goods, with all the economies of scale which have been involved. Since 1945, 3.3 million migrants have come to Australia, and at the present time one person in every five in Australia is an immigrant. Over half the increase of 6.2 million in Australia’s population since World War II has been due directly to immigration.
I am most concerned, however that during the 3 years of the Whitlam Labor Government, we witnessed the rundown of Australia’s once great migration program, as we witnessed the rundown of many other things in Australia. Under Labor mismanagement the economy came under increasing difficulties and unemployment reached its highest peak since the days of the Great Depression. The Labor Government falsely believed that in order to keep unemployment figures from rising even higher migration should be cut back. This view has again achieved some prominence in recent times, and I believe it represents a grave misunderstanding of the effects of a high immigration intake. The present Minister has quite correctly pointed out:
It is simplistic and quite misleading to regard the economy as containing a fixed number of jobs, so that every migrant who enters Australia to take employment reduces the stock of available employment for Australians. This totally ignores the dynamics of the labour market.
He went on:
Migrants, especially during the early period of settlement, add significantly to demand for goods and services and thus help to create employment. They may well have a greater impact on stimulating demand for labour than on increasing its supply.
I agree totally with those remarks. However, I cannot but question how the Minister can reconcile that view with the present restrictive immigration guidelines and an immigration target for the forthcoming year of only 70 000. Canadian experience has shown that immigration has had little or no effect on unemployment in that country. High levels of immigration to Canada during the past 3 years have not significantly affected the level of unemployment. I am convinced that if Australia were to adopt an approach similar to that of Canada the effects would not be different from those experienced in that country.
As a result of Labor’s immigration policies, migration to Australia has declined so drastically that the rate of increase in our population has come to a virtual standstill. Against a peak of 185 000 in 1970, only 50 000 migrants came to Australia during the last year of Labor rule. When departures from Australia are taken into account, we find that Australia had a net migration loss of over 8000 people in the calendar year 1975. In no other year since 1947 have the recorded arrivals over departures been less than 28 000. Three years of Labor Government had achieved stagnation in our population growth- a stagnation which no country at Australia’s stage of development can afford. Australia’s population is now barely increasing. We have just about reached zero population growth, and if our population stabilises at this figure, we could well be faced with an ageing, permanently declining population. Any government which believes we can sit here in this vast country, with all its undeveloped resources and potential wealth, in an over-populated, poverty-stricken world, and just say ‘sorry, you cannot come here because you do not fall within our guidelines ‘ is just not facing reality. How long does anyone seriously believe we can get away with such an unrealistic stance? Both morally and for practical reasons Australia must take more people into this country.
Neither can we afford to postpone taking action. To quote the Minister’s own words once again:
Australia has the natural resources as well as the technological capacity, and the political, economic and social structures, to enable population increases during the rest of this century of at least the levels of the postwar period.
And yet we have limited our intake this year to 70 000 people. Perhaps the net result will be far below that figure. The Minister further pointed out that the rate of growth of our traditional source countries for immigration is decreasing, and that, if current trends continue, it will do so to a much greater degree from early in the next century. He has said that the potential for further migration from most of these countries exists during the next 2 decades. Was he implying that it will exist only for the next two decades?
Not a day passes without people coming to my office, wishing to sponsor close friends and relations for immigration to this country. Most would make excellent and exemplary citizens. In the vast majority of cases these applications are still being refused. Invariably the same type of letter comes back. Time does not permit me to go into the cases which I had intended to bring up tonight, but I am sure that most Australians would feel rather ashamed at our present limited policy which has resulted in people being turned back.
I must pay a tribute to the present Minister who, of all the Ministers for Immigration with whom I have dealt in the last 1 0 years, has given the most compassionate and sympathetic ear to family reunions and applications by people to come to this country. I am sure that he has been limited in the approvals which he may give.
I call on the Government to take a further look at where we are going in regard to population growth. The Minister has admitted in his statement to this House that we can expect little population growth from natural increase and that we must look to migrants for the long-term increase in our population. Let us get rid of these present restrictive guidelines and adopt a realistic policy to Australia’s future population growth. Australia cannot hope, in the long term, to occupy this vast wealthy country with a meagre 13 million people and say to the rest of the overpopulated world: ‘Keep out’. If we do we will do so at our peril. The day may well come when the United Nations, dominated by Third World powers and the communist bloc, may endeavour to dictate to us what our immigration policies will be.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should Uke to address myself to some of the more basic questions on immigration in this country from a long-term point of view. I Will quote very extensively from my submission to the national population inquiry held about three or four years ago.
I was surprised today when I re-read my submission to find how firmly I still believe all of the things I said then.
Whilst most thinking people must obviously support zero population growth or even minus population growth for the globe’s population, this does not necessarily mean the same for Australia. Many of the ZPG arguments in Australia rest much more on value judgments about what makes for a tolerable life style than on what I would call pseudo-scientific predictions. To my mind growth- economic and population- tends to threaten traditional middle class values. It is felt to be disruptive and unpleasant precisely because it turns minority privileges into majority ones, because it means crowded roads, crowded beaches and fishing spots. It has overtones of a strong historical anxiety about being overwhelmed by Asia’s population. The local ZPG movement collects the Asian-horde worriers. Recruitment in the schools is spreading, with ecological politics receiving an uncritical embrace- not given to any other political movement- probably because of the combination of scientific jargon and doomsday religion. There is the theme of apocalyptic catastrophe- the threat of doom to come and the theme of millenial hope with the promise of human perfectability, zero population growth plus a repudiation of worldly goods. We have the combination of complete pessimism that scientific technology could not be the saviour, with a completely unjustified optimistic faith in social technology. There is the assumption that mankind would carry out the social revolution demanded, that underdeveloped nations would not aim to reach our levels and that those in our society who already consider themselves close to subsistence level would join with the affluent in reducing their consumption.
Basically they- the ZPG and zero economic growth advocates- make one of two alternative sets of assumptions: Firstly that, broadly speaking, the global distribution of income will remain in the future as it is now or secondly, that there will be a voluntary massive redistribution of income from the rich nations to the poor. Both seem very unrealistic. The advocates of global equilibrium throw up their hands in horror at the assumption that what they consider such minor political problems as the distribution of income among countries or within individual societies cannot be overcome under the threat of catastrophe. Suddenly it appears that although the technologists and scientists cannot solve the problems of increasing food yields, by, according to them, recycling raw materials or stopping pollution, politicians can square the circle by reconciling everyone to the social and economic consequences of global equilibrium. This, of course, is a nonsense assumption.
I am combining my criticism of ZPG with an attack on the exponents of ‘no more economic growth’, as the ecological doomsday approach of, say, ‘the limits to growth’ by the Club of Rome is often their main argument. Recently they attacked the optimistic futurology of Herman Kahn and the Hudson Institute as sponsored by General Motors, ignoring that the Club of Rome is sponsored by Fiat and by Volkswagen. Just as growth was once seen as the magic formula, so now non-growth replaces it; one over-simplification takes over from another in a depressing dialectic of slogans. The emphasis on repudiating worldly goods is, of course, drawing on a very deep well of Western tradition. And the final irony is perhaps that what is basically a religious impulse now feels obliged to reinforce itself with scientific predictions from a computer, the 20th century version of the apocalyptic vision. But in the past the choice was seen as a personal one. It was the individual who chose to join a mendicant order of friars or give part of his income to the poor. Now, however, the choice is presented as a communal one. It is society as a whole which is expected to take a pledge of voluntary poverty, or more accurately, to abstain from enriching itself still further. And the sanction is not the traditional one of retribution in the next life but ecological catastrophe in this one; present affluence and future squalor, the contemporary version of visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons.
In dealing with the Australian position I would then argue that there is no absolute optimum figure for future population. It is a question of whether, for idealistic of materialistic reasons, we should allow to come here people who are convinced that for material or political reasons they would be much better off. Most would agree that refugees should be accepted. The admission of others should, to my mind, only be limited by: Firstly, the active desire of people to come here, with no positive propaganda on our part; secondly, our ability to provide them with jobs, accommodation and services. I have a gut feeling that we are not entitled to deny a migrant entry if he feels that it is in his interest, unless we have a precise reason for doing so. On the question of the origin of migrants, I submit that many of those who claim that non-Europeans should be admitted are just as racially prejudiced as those they criticise. Their argument often goes: Why should we not admit an Asian English-speaking professional when we admit illiterate peasants from the Mediterranean area? Whay do they not compare him with the Dutch peasant or the Irish farmer? They are being just as racist as the people they criticise.
My view on the main term of reference which was then before the National Population Inquiry, the Borrie Inquiry- the best possible size for Australia’s population- is that there is no simple answer. Over-simplifications would only produce an answer unfit as a guide to action. I would also like to criticise some of the opponents of immigration. They are basically the same people who opposed immigration ever since it became fashionable to do so. I suppose that is ever since the time immigration started. Opponents used to argue that in periods of full employment the cost of basic services required for migrants, the so-called build-up of the social infrastructure, was so great as to use up our very limited resources. We were told that Australia could not expand at the rate it ought to be able to expand because we were bringing in too many migrants; that the infrastructure cost was too great. The same people, who are still opponents in most cases, now argue the opposite- namely that immigration will cause unemployment. I do not know the correct answer but they cannot both be true. Mr Wilson, who is I believe from the Sydney University’s Department of Economics, was appointed in 1971 or 1972 to prepare an economic cost benefit analysis on this subject. It is a pity that cost benefit analysis has not been published. It is obvious that it is a very difficult cost benefit analysis. But I wish we would at least get a paper on it so that we could argue the pros and cons involved.
Let me summarise my own position as far as migrants are concerned. I am one who is a migrant. We should not chase migrants. That is where I disagree with the Minister when he goes overseas. We should be more reasonable and lenient in admitting those who want to come to this country. People often treat this as a joke but it has often been my argument that it is ridiculous for us to sponsor films showing happy Australians lying on the beaches and sunbaking, yachting and doing all sorts of things and spreading that image overseas, giving people a false impression of what the average person should expect when coming to Australia. I do not know whether this is still done by the present Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, but the old Department of Immigration did this. Why not show people the unpleasant things about life in Australia? If they are still prepared to come after seeing the unpleasant things they would probably make better migrants. Certainly they would not be disappointed and there would be a saving of the cost involved in their going home.
Finally- this is not a terribly big issue at the present time but it was when the previous Government was in power and conditions were booming- it struck me always as ridiculous that migrants must at least pretend that they intended to stay for ever. How can one be sure? You could not come into Australia and you still cannot on what is called a permanent visa, giving you a work permit and so on, unless you pretend that you are going to stay here for ever. I do not believe that people can make that sort of prediction. People come here to have a look, to see how it is going to turn out and to see if they are going to get a reasonable sort of job. I think all we are encouraging is people to tell untruths when they have to sign up to say that they are going to stay here for ever.
It is particularly objectionable to me when we take the opposite point of view as far as students are concerned. Students have to give an undertaking that they are going to return to their own country. They have to give exactly the opposite undertaking to the undertaking that we expect from ordinary workers. It seems to me quite hypocritical that that sort of thing happens. There is obviously not the opportunity at the present time to allow people to come here as guest workers, as they have been termed in Europe. I think the proposition that people have to commit themselves, sell up everything, bring the whole family out to this country and sign an undertaking that they are going to stay here forever is ridiculous if we want to attract the people who are intelligent enough to have alternative choices.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise with pleasure to speak to the estimates of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. At the outset I want to take issue with some statements made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) in this chamber tonight. I regard his comments on the proposed numbers of migrants coming to Australia this year as an insult to the migrant community. It is an attack upon migrants. He stated that 70 000 people were coming to Australia this year and that would add to unemployment. That is total and unadulterated rubbish. The honourable member fails to take in account the fact that approximately 40 000 people will leave the country, leaving a net number of 30 000, of which approximately 10 000 will join the work force. Additionally he fails to take note of the fact that those people coming into Australia under the present polley are skilled workers for trades where there are shortages of people in this country, and are being reunited with their families. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is attacking those who are coming to Australia to fill shortages in particular trades and he is, in effect, attacking family reunions. He is saying that when certain members of families want to come to Australia under the policy of the present Government they should be left where they are because members of the Labor Party do not care about them. It is an attack upon the relatives of people in Australia, it is an attack upon our refugee policies, and it is an attack upon migrant children. At the end of his speech the honourable member said that because of human problems we must as a policy provide for the admission of refugees into Australia. I ask honourable members to cast their minds back to the former Government’s policies on refugees. I ask them to go back to the fall of Saigon and to remember the despicable policies of the then Government. On Tuesday 22 April 1975 the Labor Government issued guidelines for the admission of refugees into Australia. On Thursday 24 April our Embassy in Saigon closed, on instructions from the Labor Government in Canberra. Let me read some Press comments made at the time. In the Melbourne Age a report from Hong Kong under the by-line of Michael Richardson stated:
I have never felt ashamed of my Government before. But I felt profoundly ashamed of it in Saigon, on Friday.
This miserable and mean-hearted betrayal was the culmination of 3 weeks of procrastination by responsible authorities in Canberra.
That was Michael Richardson commenting on the Labor Government in office and its policy on refugees from the Indo-China war. I want to remind the Committee of the former Government’s policy on refugees because when members of the Opposition ask questions in the House and raise issues relating to refugees from other areas of the world I am always reminded of the practical policies that they put into effect. Let me read from an editorial on this issue which appeared in the Canberra Times on 24 April. The editorial is entitled ‘The Pontius Pilate Touch’ and in referring to the Labor Government it stated:
If the Government does not move swiftly to amend the policy stated on Tuesday, its paltry, grudging response to the plight of adult Vietnamese refugees stands to figure as one of the darkest most demeaning and miserable episodes in the history of the Whitlam Administration . . .
Those are the Press comments of the time on the Labor Government’s policy on refugees. Every Asian Australian will be aware of that policy, and I say to members of this Committee and to migrants everywhere that that shows the real concern of the Labor Party for refugees.
This Government does recognise the special needs of migrant people in Australia. Immediately it came to office it established a separate Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. In addition to the matters before the Committee this evening, there are other important matters referred to in the Budget which concern the migrant community. There are significant measures in the field of education, namely, migrant education and education for migrant children. Similarly, in social security areas there are substantial measures for migrant services throughout the community. But we are not talking about those matters this evening; we are talking about the estimates for the Department itself. In that respect the Government’s record is first class and the record of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is excellent.
Let us consider the Government’s policy and its actions in relation to refugees. It is an enlightened humanitarian policy. In relation to IndoChina, the Minister announced in January of this year that up to about 800 Indo-Chinese refugees would be admitted into Australia. Special attention was paid to Thailand, where refugee camps had been set up and where an Australian mission was sent. Let us consider the East Timor refugees. In May 1976 the Minister announced that approximately 2000 Timorese refugees could apply for resident status in Australia. Let us consider the current tragic situation in Lebanon. The Government has been unable, because of the military operations there, to set up a mission in Lebanon itself but for some time the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Damascus was acting for Australia. We are now receiving applications in Nicosia, and I know from my own experience that a constituent in my electorate today got permission through our office in Ankara in Turkey to bring his father from Lebanon. As to the Government’s policies in relation to the Italian earthquake victims, the Minister acted quickly. A migration officer was dispatched from Rome to the disaster area.
Let us consider some of the other measures the Minister and the Government have taken. The Government announced an amnesty by which people who were illegally settled in Australia did not have to worry any more and could apply to become permanent residents. That is another enlightened policy. The Government has also abolished the re-entry visa system. It is now easier for residents who are not Australian citizens to depart from Australia and return than it was in the days of the Labor Government. The Government’s policies and actions reflect concern for the migrant community. We are not 2-faced about our policies, and I believe that the migrant community of Australia and all Australian citizens recognise the real concern that this Government and the Minister and my colleagues on this side of the Chamber have for the Immigration and Ethnic Affairs portfolio. For instance, only today steps were announced for the establishment of an ethnic affairs unityet another policy initiative. To those public servants at the Public Service Board who will be responsible for helping the Minister to set up this unit I say: ‘Get it done quickly, boys. Cut through the red tape.’ A lot more work needs to be done in this area, and I know the Minister recognises that. I recognise it and I look forward to his new initiatives and actions, in line with the Government’s policies.
May I make brief reference to a most excellent publication prepared by the Community Services Centre in Melbourne under the auspices of the Victorian Hamer Government. An excellent book has been written by Mrs Bini Malcolm and Mrs Kristine Whorlow entitled Migrants Melbourne. This is a major work and has taken some considerable time to prepare. It is being translated into seven or eight foreign languages and will be of interest to people concerned in the field of migrant welfare. The book in fact sets out a framework that could be adopted and followed by other States of Australia. I have taken the liberty of writing to the Minister pointing out the contents of this book, of which I know he is aware. I have asked him whether he could obtain the approval of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to have funds made available for similar books adopting the framework and guidelines set out in this publication to be published in other areas and cities and communities in Australia where there are large migrant populations.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In rising to speak to these estimates, I was concerned to deal firstly with the estimates for ethnic affairs provided for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Of course, there are none because the Department is a complete misnomer. At the last election the coalition parties ‘ policy was perfectly straightforward. It said that a Liberal-National Country Party Government would establish a Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and that the migrant integration services being performed in the Department of Social Security would be transferred to the new Department. There can be very little doubt that ethnic communities throughout Australia have responded quite significantly to that promise by the Government. It is a promise which, like so many others, the Government has not honoured, and the ethnic communities are beginning to wake up to that.
I do not want to stray too far from the subject, but it is pertinent to look at the Government’s record in the field of providing assistance to migrants for integration. It is a quite lamentable record. The Government has not used the moneys allocated in the Hayden Budget and it has not significantly increased them in this Budget. The ethnic community organisations are crying out for the money. As the Department of Social Security admits in its own report, there is a long waiting list of voluntary agencies needing grants under the migrant social worker grantinaid scheme, and the Government has not responded to their pleas. Positions have remained vacant. At the same time, the strict conditions laid down in that scheme whereby only social workers can be employed and not welfare workers have meant that many of the positions have not been filled and many useful people who could be employed by the agencies have not been employed.
There is one small element of these estimates that relates to ethnic affairs. If honourable members look at its treatment, they will see what regard this Government has for the ethnic communities in Australia. I refer to the allocation for the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations. Honourable members will recall that last year the Racial Discrimination Act was passed by the Parliament. This was a very significant achievement. It marked an aspiration of this Parliament for greater equality for everybody in the country. One of the things that it did most significantly was to abolish discrimination based, amongst other things, on ethnic origins. The appointment to the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations was of a man who had a distinguished background in working with ethnic communities in this country. The creation of that Office and the appointment of this man to that position raised significantly the hopes of ethnic communities that positive discrimination in their favour may at last take place and that a good deal of discrimination that took place so unfairly in the community would be stopped.
If honourable members look at the allocation in this Budget for the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations, they will see that there is no increase whatsoever over the allocation for last year. The Office is at best to stand in place. The allocation is static. There will be no increase in the effectiveness of this Office. This action will frustrate the quite legitimate aspirations of the ethnic communities throughout Australia. People know of this Office’s existence. They know of the qualities of the man appointed to it and they have great expectations. It is one area that comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). The Office has been shifted from the responsibility of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) to the responsibility of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is the one part of his Department that relates to ethnic affairs and he would be very well advised to look to beefing up its resources and to making available a real and effective service to ethnic communities in Australia through that office.
Honourable members have spoken about the effect of immigration on unemployment and about the priorities of this Government. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) made a particularly useful contribution to the whole question of the morality of immigration. One of the things that we should not overlookthe Minister should not overlook this since at least he has some kind of nominal responsibility for ethnic affairs- is the morale of ethnic communities in this country. There can be very little doubt that the great majority of the members of ethnic communities are very much concerned about the immigration program that this Government is now about to undertake. They are concerned about its size and about its emphasis. The increase in the number of assisted passages proposed-from 20 000 to 30 000- is very significant. It comes at a time when a great number of these people who have come here to make new lives for themselves are out of work. They see new people coming into the work force. I accept what the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) had to say and I accept some of what the honourable member for Prospect had to say, namely, that these immigrants will not of themselves increase unemployment. But it has a very significant effect upon morale. One of the most significant elements about the trend and the style of this program, of course, is the emphasis on persons who already speak English, and particularly the promotional activities in Great Britain to which the Minister himself chose to give so much emphasis. I represent in this place a constituency in which a great number of persons came from countries where English is not the language and who arrived here without the ability to speak English. These people have now, for the most part, developed that skill very well. There is a tremendous resentment against the acceptance of the idea that somehow better migrants will be those persons who have had an opportunity earlier on in life to work in the English language and to learn in the English language. Of course, the point is that very many people came to this country from non-English speaking countries. They never had a chance to learn English. But when they have had that chance, they have learnt it very well. They have certainly adapted extremely well to the requirements of the work place in this country. The Minister should not be in any doubt that amongst the huge number of the ethnic communities in Australia there is a tremendous resentment against his emphasis on these promotional activities in English-speaking countries and particularly in Great Britain. In saying that, I do not mean for one moment to denigrate persons who have come here from the British Isles. That is not my point. My point is to draw to the attention of the Committee and the Minister the very significant effect this has on the morale of ethnic communities for which he is at least nominally responsible. When he is developing proposals for which he does have some direct ministerial responsibility, such as immigration plans, he should have some care to take these factors into account.
Looking again at the Minister’s responsibilities directly for immigration, it would be mealy-mouthed to speak in a debate such as this without drawing attention to the very real concern felt about the performance of his Department in several significant areas. In our system of responsible government, the Minister has to take responsibility for that. It may be that in times past no great demands were made on the abilities of the officers in the Department of Immigration to respond quickly on difficult policy decisions. But as the Minister will be aware, honourable members, particularly honourable members from this side of the chamber such as myself and the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), have a very significant load of applications for entry into Australia for permanent residence of persons from the Lebanon, persons who are in the Lebanon and persons who have managed to escape from the Lebanon. I have found it most unsatisfactory in giving guidance to these people that the Department and the Minister in his responses are unable to be more frank. In one of the recent debates on this subject in this place, the Minister not unfairly, said that we should never raise the expectations amongst the Lebanese community in Australia that everybody who can escape from the Lebanon will be able to come to Australia. That is fair enough. But we certainly ought to be able, for the comfort of persons in this country who have relatives in the Lebanon or who have relatives who have escaped from the Lebanon, to give a much clearer indication than the Minister has been doing of the prospects of success. It simply has not been good enough. The Australian Embassy in Beirut closed in March. The Minister made a statement in April about interim arrangements, particularly those relating to Syria, which were in operation until the end of June. But those arrangements received wide currency in the Lebanese community. Many of those people still think that they are on foot. The next proposals were not developed until September. But we had quickly in succession a couple of new changes in policy. The new changes are to be welcomed. But the reactions were much too slow. The selling of the Government’s policies has been done very poorly. The communication with the Lebanese community in this country has not been good enough. I am afraid that it reflects a lack of contact with the very real fears of these people about their relatives’ position in the Lebanon and about those who have escaped. The other point I touch on briefly is the administration of the amnesty for illegal immigrants. The Minister will be aware that a number of members from this side of the chamber have been very dissatisfied about the even-handedness with which the amnesty has been administered.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-At the outset, in supporting the appropriations for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I would like to compliment the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on administering a very difficult portfolio in a most -
– Too weak.
– The honourable member who interjects says ‘too weak’. I think the position is the contrary. The Minister has administered his portfolio in a most admirable manner and in a very strong way indeed.
– You are a oncer.
– Honourable members opposite delight in interjecting at a time when there is something of so-called importance before us. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) who has just resumed his seat said how important immigration is to his electorate and to the Opposition. Yet, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) sitting beside the honourable member for Grayndler interjects. Perhaps he does this because he has no concern, as is the case with the majority of Opposition members, for immigration and its impact on the Australian community. As I was saying before the honourable member for Chifley so rudely interrupted, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is to be complimented, as is his Department, for handling at a most difficult time some very difficult matters.
Let me correct the honourable member for Grayndler on a couple of points that he raised. Mathematics, for example, seems to be a thing in this Budget debate and more particularly in the Estimates that has been sadly lacking in the Opposition. The honourable member for Grayndler says that the Government has not increased expenditure for the Commissioner for Community Relations. Might I draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that there has been a 50 per cent increase in this expenditure and, indeed, there has been a provision for a 25 per cent staff increase. I suggest that they appear to be increases irrespective of which way we look at the mathematics.
The honourable member for Grayndler and a large number of the Opposition spokesmen have put some degree of emphasis on the tragic Lebanese situation. He has conceded that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the Department have, to a large degree, given sympathetic consideration to the handling of applications from those Lebanese nationals desirous of coming to Australia. Let me go a little step further and say here and now that the Opposition has sought to make political capital out of a tragic situation in the Lebanon that was not of the Lebanon’s choosing. The people in the Lebanon find that they have a civil war on their hands. People have been forced to leave the country and go to other parts of the world. Some have made application to come to this country. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, under the capable administration of the Minister, has sought to process as quickly as possible and in a most compassionate way, every application that has come forward.
Might I remind honourable members opposite and those Lebanese people in this country who are listening to this debate and indeed the Australian citizens who are listening, that every application that has come forward has been given compassionate consideration and has been expedited in a manner that is becoming to an efficient Department and an efficient Minister. We have sought to see that family reunions are given great emphasis. The Minister understands that there has been a need to widen the guidelines and has now allowed brothers and sisters to be included in that priority one category. The Government has not sought to make political capital out of this situation. The Minister has sent a highly specialised team to Nicosia and to overseas ports to ensure that applications are given expeditious treatment and to see what the exact situation is.
I might add that the honourable member for Grayndler made passing complimentary references to the assisted passages scheme being increased from 20 000 to 30 000. But what he failed to say at the same time was that Opposition spokesmen, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other spokesmen for the Labor Opposition would have us bring no migrants to this country. They would like to see the figure of 50 000 brought in under their Administration reduced to maybe 30 000, 20 000 or even less. Yet they would compliment us on increasing the number from 20 000 to 30 000. How do they understand their own double-talk? The Government realises the importance of bringing migrants to this country from all parts of the world. Here they can be integrated into the Austraiian way of life and, by reason of human suffering and by reason of family reunion, they can be given a much needed place within the family circle. We do show real concern and that real concern has been expressed in many areas.
I draw the attention of honourable members to the situation with regard to the evacuees from East Timor. I remind honourable members that as at 30 June 1976, there were 2000 evacuees in this country. The Minister, realising the situation, offered 2 things: One was an extension of thenvisas to 30 June 1977 and the alternative was that they could apply for permanent residence status. The Opposition has not made any mention of that this evening. Let me tell honourable members that over 1600 people have applied for permanent resident status and that is only one small section. We have already covered the Lebanese situation so I should like to place special emphasis on the Italian earthquake disaster. Would honourable members opposite suggest that this Government did not show any real concern for the Freuili disaster victims? Did not the Minister and indeed the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) immediately the disaster was made known to them communicate the total support of this Government in terms of financial commitment and in terms of offering to the relatives of those victims in Australia the assistance of the Australian Government in having their families brought to Australia without the normal formalities? Was not that real concern? That was not a matter of trying to gain political capital by using the migrant population as the Opposition would seek to do.
The honourable member for Grayndler, in his closing remarks, made some passing reference- I am sorry he did not get to finish it- on the amnesty. He should talk about the amnesty! Under his Government’s Administration illegal residents in this country were too frightened to come forward and submit themselves to the examination of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which would consider whether they would be fit and proper residents. Under the present Administration over 10 times the number that came forward during the Labor Administration came forward. The honourable member should stand in this chamber tonight and suggest that there were certain areas of concern -
– You seem to be worried about it.
– Look, Bugs, if we had carrots I would give them to you tonight.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The Committee will come to order.
– We did not have any concern other than to ensure that those persons who wanted to present themselves to be considered for permanent resident status came forward cleanly and said: ‘I want to stay in Australia ‘.
I should like to conclude by saying that I hope that the Government, in the Budget that ensues when the economy has improved, will give greater emphasis to the Department in as much as the Ethnic Affairs Bureau is concerned. We did honour our election promises. We did split immigration into its real area of concern- immigration and ethnic affairs. We placed greater emphasis on the Department as a whole.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In this debate on the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I direct attention, as I did last
Thursday week, 23 September, to the inadequacy of the Government’s efforts to process applications by or for Lebanese refugees to come to Australia. It is a subject which raises serious questions about the real motivation and guiding principles of the Government’s migration policy. It reveals a failure by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) to come clean with the many hundreds, indeed thousands, of Lebanese residents in Australia who are trying to assist their relatives overseas, most of whom have suffered enormous emotional and material hardship and loss.
In a statement to the House on 1 April, following the closing of our Embassy in Beirut, the Minister pointed out that there were Australian missions in Athens, Nicosia, Tel Aviv, Ankara and Cairo and that special arrangements were being made to post an immigration officer in Damascus. He said that before leaving Beirut staff had placed a notice in the Press of 29 March advising applicants that they could still be assisted if they were able to make their way to Australian embassies in Cairo, Ankara or Athens. Presumably the advertisement did not mention Nicosia, Tel Aviv or Damascus.
On 20 May the Minister issued a statement saying he was surprised at criticism levelled at him by the local Lebanese community. In support of his claim that Australia had done more than any other country to assist Lebanese wishing to migrate, the Minister cited, among other things, the presence in Damascus of the immigration officer he had referred to in his ministerial statement on 1 April. The question of Damascus is central to the Government’s handling of this issue. On 2 1 May the Minister issued a statement announcing that Australian residents can now sponsor the immigration of their parents even if the parents are not dependent on them and are outside the acceptable occupational categories.
On 24 August I asked the Minister without notice why this statement was telexed to most overseas posts but not to those covering the Lebanon and Cyprus. In fact it was telexed to Athens alone among the places so far mentioned. Later that day the Minister wrote to me saying that a circular was sent on 2 1 May to all posts. I now quote him:
Accordingly, the circular would have been received in Athens, Nicosia, Ankara, Tel Aviv, Cairo and in any other post concerned with Lebanese or Cypriot migration. The information contained in the circular would have been sent also to Damascus.
I have quoted from the Minister’s letter of 24 August concerning a circular sent on 21 May.
Meantime, on 25 June our officer had been withdrawn from Damascus. This had been announced in a statement by the Minister on 26 June from Athens. The Parliamentary Library and the National Library can find no coverage anywhere of the Minister’s statement except for 2 column inches in The Australian the following Monday. It did not appear in any of the mass circulation metropolitan dailies. The day the statement was released, 26 June, was a Saturday. Anybody who works here would be forgiven for wondering whether people who make announcements on Saturdays are really serious about having those announcements publicised.
As I pointed out on 23 September, Damascus is for many Lebanese the closest foreign capital. Estimates put the number of Lebanese in Syria at 600 000- certainly no less than 200 000 and maybe as many as one million. This compares with an estimated maximum of only 8000 Lebanese in Cyprus. Moreover, in the 77 days that there was an Australian officer in Damascus he was able to process on the spot or refer to Canberra as many Lebanese cases as were processed or referred by the Nicosia office in nearly twice as many days. Yet we find that last March Damascus was not notified in the Lebanon as a place where migrants could be assisted, that the arrangements in Damascus were never stated to be temporary, that these arrangements were terminated with a minimum of notice, and that no permanent arrangements are contemplated in Damascus, despite the evidence that they would be in great demand.
The substance of the Minister’s statement on 23 September was that reinforcements would be sent to our migration office in Nicosia, including a medical officer. It was certainly about time. Hitherto, X-rays taken in Nicosia had been sent to London for interpretation. The exercise took 4 weeks. In the 6 months since our Beirut mission was closed Athens has been the only post concerned with processing Lebanese applications which has had a medical officer. Cyprus is not the easiest or the cheapest place to reach from the Lebanon. It is not an easy place for the Lebanese to live while their nominations are processed, because it has grave unemployment and housing problems, and it uses a different language. The Cypriot authorities have a refugee problem of their own, arising from the civil war in their own country. Their apprehensions must be compounded by the expansion of the Australian operation, which must raise the spectre of a magnet effect on the pattern of people leaving the Lebanon. They may be forced to limit the numbers of Lebanese arriving to make use of the
Australian facilities. In particular, however, Nicosia is ruled out for most Lebanese refugees because they and their sponsors in Australia cannot hope to find the money for their fares to Cyprus and for their accommodation and sustenance there. Of all the places in the region, accommodation and employment there would be the most difficult for any new arrival.
Many of us in this chamber know scores of heartbreaking cases where Lebanese in Australia are undertaking ruinous financial commitments to bring out relatives who have lost their houses, possessions and jobs. Those here are usually young men who came as forerunners for their families to establish themselves in Australia and then to bring out their families afterwards. Now their plans and hopes are being overwhelmed by the civil war. In the 1950s many honourable members had to show great patience and ingenuity to establish family relationships between prospective migrants from Italy and their sponsors in Australia. In the 1960s we had to show that patience and ingenuity in establishing family relationships between prospective migrants from Yugoslavia and Greece and thensponsors in Australia. Now we have to do it for the Lebanese. There are not, however, the international agencies- refugee and migration agencieshelping Lebanese family reunion in Australia as there were in helping the earlier migrants or refugees. There was no great delay after Budapest or Prague. There are exceptionally strong family ties among the Lebanese. Nothing is more moving than the efforts young Lebanese men in Australia will make to help their parents, their younger brothers and sisters and even their married sisters and their families to come to our country. The Department and the Minister in my experience have often taken 6 months to answer applications or representations by members of this chamber. Then after the representations or applications have been acknowledged, the process of determining the applications commences. It is impossible to justify the time the processes take.
The facts show that in his handling of the grave and tragic plight of refugees from the Lebanon the Minister has been less than candid and less than sincere to the Parliament, to the Lebanese community in Australia and to the refugees themselves. One has to ask whether the image of action and concern which he has tried to fabricate is in fact an attempt to conceal doctrines which have pervaded the coalition’s thinking on migration for nearly 3 decades. The first doctrine is that as one moves from north-west to south-east across Europe from the North Sea to the Mediterranean, so in Liberal eyes do the people become less agreeable and desirable as potential migrants. The other doctrine is that able-bodied young men are an economic asset but that dependants are an economic liability- no matter what the social consequences or considerations. One sees these doctrines in the issue of Lebanese migration, and now the Government is contemplating another affront to these people. The Government will make it easier for people from Rhodesia who do not have relatives or even sponsors in Australia to come to Australia than for people from the Lebanon who have both relatives and sponsors in Australia.
-I rise to speak in support of the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs which this year provide for an expenditure of $32,975,000 compared with an actual expenditure of $27,130,458 in the last financial year. When we look at the estimates for the Department we find that the increased expenditure will be incurred mainly with the assisted migration program- passage and associated costs. An appropriation of $1 1,088,000 is being provided for this program this year against an expenditure of $7,283,713 last year. The Government has approved an increase of approximately 20 000 migrants to bring the total intake to 70 000 in the migration program for the 1976-77 financial year. This represents an increase of approximately 40 per cent in the number of migrants coming to Australia. The Government has made it evident that the figure should be flexible so it can be altered in line with economic conditions.
Figures which I received today from the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library show that in 1973-74 the total number of migrants was 112 712, in 1974-75 it was 89 147, a considerable reduction, and for the 9 months ended March 1976 it was 40 558. It is important and interesting to find out where these migrants come from. Each year the main bulk has come from the United Kingdom and Ireland- 30 per cent to 40 per cent. In the 9 months ended March this year 13 823 of the total of 40 558 migrants were from the United Kingdom and Ireland. The number from Greece was 1188, from the Lebanon 1067, from New Zealand 2186, and from Yugoslavia 1416. I ask for permission to have these figures incorporated in Hansard. When the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor) was at the table I showed them to him. He agreed to their incorporation in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-The Government is completely opposed to increasing the migrant intake to keep up the number of people coming to Australia. It is unfair and unjust both to migrants and to Australians to bring out large numbers of people when unemployment is at such high levels after 3 years of Labor administration. However, in the long term, to develop Australia, surely there is no case for maintaining indefinitely the excessively low level of migrant intake that there has been this financial year. It takes 6 to 9 months from a change in policy to the reflection of the change in the number of migrant arrivals. We must plan now if it is decided to aim at an increased intake with effect from the last quarter of the present financial year. It must be remembered that there is an annual outflow of 20 000 to 30 000 persons a year from Australia. This seriously affects the net increase in population of this country. Those figures are staggering, but they are true. Between 20 000 and 30 000 people leave this country each year.
Recently the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) announced that following consultation with the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations a revised list of occupations for persons eligible for migrant entry into Australia had been approved. This approved occupational list is kept under continual review and is revised every 3 months. The unemployment situation varies considerably from State to State. There were shortages of workers in some occupations in Australia and in particular regions. By filling these positions through migration additional jobs could be created. Occupations in which there was an oversupply situation were deleted from the list. This indicates quite clearly that there is concern for those who are unemployed. Migrants will not be taking over positions which unemployed people could fill. Migrants, especially during the early period of settlement, add significantly to the demand for goods and services, thus helping to create employment. They may have a greater impact on stimulating demand for labour than on increasing its supply. This Government’s policy definitely ensures that migrants will not be permitted to settle in Australia if they face the prospect of unemployment or if they take up positions which could be filled by persons already in Australia.
The emphasis is on family reunion which introduces a small number of people into the work force and on attracting people with qualifications and skills which are in short supply in Australia. The Government has taken these factors into consideration and has assessed that the intake would not add to unemployment. It is certainly true that Australia has a shortage of skilled labour. I quote from a recent edition of the West Australian. An article headed ‘Plea Made For Skilled Migrants’ states:
Australia should start planning now for an increased intake of skilled migrants from Britain and Western Europe ‘, a leading employers spokesman said yesterday.
This is just one of the newspaper articles on the skilled labour situation.
A lot has been said during this debate about the Lebanese. There is no doubt that there are many skilled Lebanese who are willing to come to this country. Recently I had experiences of skilled Lebanese in the enginering field who are anxious to migrate to Australia. I have no doubt that the Minister and his Department are looking at these skilled workers with a view to getting them to this country as quickly as possible, particularly those who will join family units which are already well established here. This is an aspect which we must speed up. Furthermore, we are in a splendid position to screen the migrants. This is the greatest country in the world. It offers more opportunities for young people than most other countries do. So we should see that those people migrating from overseas countries should be screened very carefully. We should not allow into this country any leftist trouble makers who would disrupt the industries that we have established over the years. We must take some blame for allowing into Australia over the years this type of migrant who has infiltrated our trade union movement and who is today causing disruption to industry in this country.
If I could be critical of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, it is in the area in which relatives want to migrate to this country from England. I have had several instances in my electorate of young people from Australia having gone to England, having married there and wanting to come back to Australia. Considerable delay has taken place before their re-entry into this country. They have employment, and they can settle down. I ask the Minister to see what can be done to speed up immigration to Australia in these cases. We want them here. They are skilled people. I ask the Minister whether their entry into this country could be speeded up.
-The estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs represent a very significant expenditure on a very large proportion of our population. Unfortunately migrants have been looked upon in the past, and still tend to be looked upon, as an easy supply of unskilled labour to occupy jobs which Australians will not readily accept in normal times. I am concerned at reports- one on Four Comers last week- of the Australian population’s view of the standing of migrants. I was not in any way flattering to the Australian population. I think that basically migrants have not been given what I would consider is a fair deal in our society. Migrant English has been and still is substantially neglected. State departments tend to utilise teachers supplied for this purpose on the basis that if they have nothing else to do so they can teach migrants. Welfare among migrants, which is a very important area and which requires attention even more now than it possibly did in the past, is neglected and, I am sorry to say, appears to be administered on the basis of political patronage at the moment. I talk of the Italian organisation called FILEF (Federation of Italian Labourers, Emigrants and Families) which until this year had been serving a purpose which the present Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said was valuable among Italian migrant workers in Melbourne. It is now not to be provided with funds. In future the funds will go to a different organisation, on the basis that it is providing the service which FILEF pro,vided previously.
I raise this matter because I want to refer to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) the reported remarks of Mr Justice Gibbs in the High Court to the effect that amnesty should have been granted to this gentleman, an Italian journalist whose deportation the Minister has ordered. The Minister may reply to this matter. Unfortunately the parties now occupying the Treasury bench have a long history of discrimination against persons with left wing leanings, as previous speakers have said. No similar discrimination is practised against persons with extreme right wing political leanings. This is a matter of concern and I hope the Minister will indicate -
– There are a lot of them.
-I am quite correct in what I am saying. There is a very historic case on record about a gentleman who sold the Tribune for 30 years. When he reached the age of 70 years he was refused Australian citizenship on the ground that he was a security risk. He had to get naturalised at that time in order to get an Aus.tralian pension. The government of the day was so afraid of his vote, and that was the only other right he could have got, that it gave him ex gratia pension but still would not allow him to become naturalised. That shows how extreme on occasions is the party of which the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) is a member. I have only a short time in which to mention the case of this Italian journalist but I hope the Minister will consider it. The organisation concerned indicates that this gentleman has provided a valuable service in the field of migrant welfare. Irrespective of his political leanings it is important that people who can communicate with migrants and provide such a service stay in Australia. I point out that he was invited to Australia by that organisation; he did not come here seeking employment and is not occupying a job that someone else can do.
I want to raise another parochial matter relating to my electorate, one which I have raised before. Prior to the amalgamation of the former Department of Immigration with the former Department of Labour the services of an immigration officer were regularly available in Geelong on, I think, five half-days a week. I think the Public Service Board agreed to that situation. It was one of those quirks that those gentlemen work out in their spare time when they have nothing else to do. That officer provided valuable service in Geelong where something like 25 per cent of the total population is made up of migrants. Upon amalgamation responsibility for that service was transferred to the Department of Labour. Following the re-separation of that Department that officer, now an officer of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, is still providing that service on an agency type basis. I believe it is in the best interests of all concerned that that service be provided by the Department directly concerned, by an officer who has the necessary continuing contact with the Department and government policy. There is a lot of work in the Geelong area for an officer of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and I hope the Minister will consider restoring that service to the migrant community of that area.
There is another matter I ought to raise while we are dealing with the estimates of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the long delays experienced in obtaining replies to matters raised with the Department. I realise that there are communication problems but some of the delays seem to be exorbitant. Sometimes it is 6 months before a reply can be obtained to correspondence and that sort of thing. That period is excessive. The Minister has some correspondence that old in his office. I raise this matter because people do become quite concerned when there are long delays. Because of the present immigration restrictions there are large numbers of migrants who have raised immigration queries relating directly to members of their families who may or may not, in the final analysis, qualify for entry to Australia. An increasing number of cases of this type are coming before most honourable members. It would appear that an extension of our immigration program is to take place. The Minister was reported in that vein earlier this year in the Australian Press although he was most likely incorrectly reported. However I understand that some advertisements for additional migrants have been placed in England and this may tend to mislead people into thinking that we are increasing our migrant intake in a manner which is not intended. Certainly the replies I have received indicate that we are not increasing it.
The reunification of families or of persons with close ties is important. In this regard I refer to the lesser migrant communities such as the Turkish community which want their relatives to come to Australia. The people in our Turkish community and other such communities have religious and other differences and are in desperate need of close relatives, especially in some areas. I believe that any relaxation in our immigration policy should be along these lines. Significant numbers of people are now talking of leaving Australia, not because they do not want to leave but because they are faced with spending a long time in a strange country without having relatives with them or without having the prospect of relatives coming to Australia. This is a worry to them and they are not prepared to face that situation.
– That point is not particularly valid.
-It may not be particularly relevant in the Riverina electorate held by the honourable member who interjected but it is in my electorate. I do not have the White Australia Party campaigning for me. I want to refer to another matter which has been raised by every honourable member in this debate. I refer to delays in dealing with people wanting to come to Australia from the Lebanon. I do not know whether a reply went out today but I did raise one case about 3 weeks ago. It concerned a gentleman who wants his brother to come to Australia. His brother is an Australian citizen but is crippled. He requested that his sister be allowed to accompany his brother to Australia on a temporary basis. That request has been refused. He has been refused that right. He has 2 brothers in Australia and one is an Australian citizen currently in Lebanon. The request was refused on the ground that it cannot be ascertained that his sister will definitely leave Australia afterwards. I raise this matter again because it is a rather tragic case. I understand that the gentleman concerned cannot travel alone. His sister is an air hostess and has asked to come here on the basis of being a temporary resident. I understand that at some other stage she asked for permanent residence and I also understand that some other members of the family are involved. It should be possible for the Minister to approve temporary entry of that person to Australia.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
(10.8)- I want to thank honourable members who have taken part in this debate. There has been an interesting division in the contributions put forward by members on both sides of the House. The first point relates to population policy and it is an interesting development. Within our community we are beginning to get more detailed consideration of immigration- it has been exemplified by statements tonight- not just in terms of immigration but in terms of the broader context of a population policy for Australia and that is what we are seeking. We are seeking to develop within the community at large a realistic well-informed debate about the future size of Australia’s population. I was very pleased that a number of honourable members referred in this debate this evening to immigration not just in terms of immigration for itself but in terms of a broader policy.
I was very disappointed with the contributions by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I will deal firstly with the contribution by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I do not want to be unkind to him but we all know that occassionally he gets a little imprecise in his statements. He said that the present Government was at fault in bringing another 70 000 people here to add to our unemployment. This is a gross over-simplificatoin of the immigration program for this current financial year. In passing I point out that the 70 000 figure for the program is the second lowest figure since 1947. The Government, of which he was a member, had a figure of 50 000 people. The composition of the intake is such that it is composed largely of family reunion cases, refugee cases and occupationally selected people. At the finish of his contribution the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that we should have concern for family reunions and humane considerations in relation to refugees. Therefore he can only be arguing with that section of the immigration intake which is related to occupationally selected migrants. If we look at the occupationally selected migrants we find that they are in categories for which there is a continuing and unfilled demand in Australia. The people selected have qualifications or trade skills both needed and recognised in Australia.
In fact, the people who will be competing with Australians for jobs in terms of the immigration intake fall largely within the family reunion category and humanitarian category both those sectors of the intake which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said we must continue. In terms of sheer logic- this is not unusual for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- his case simply does not hold water. He also referred to statements made in 1972 about the possible size of the future population for Australia. Of course, he did not add that those statements were made before the Borrie Committee reported. The Borrie Committee projections were based on the 1971 census. They only became available to the Australian Government in 1975. We all know that the projections of the Borrie Committee made mincemeat out of the policy considerations which affected the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s portfolio when he was a Minister in the previous Government
I thank the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman) for his contribution. He spoke in the longer term about an increase in immigration. I believe bis contribution was part of the series of contributions which related immigration to population policies. As he and other honourable members will know we are seeking through the Australian Population and Immigration Council to have a green paper prepared and ready for public consumption early next year. I am hopeful that honourable members and interested people within the public who have a commitment in this area and who have some strong feelings in relation to these matters will make their contributions to the Australian Population and Immigration Council. Of course, submissions have been sought through public advertisements.
The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) talked about zero population growth and about those people who were advocating zero population growth in what I thought was, at the same time, both an amusing and realistic manner. He exploded a number of the myths concerning zero population growth. He said that we should be realistic in our approach to those people who seek to come to Australia. I agree with him in relation to this matter. I am anxious to see that those people who apply to come to Australia and who are interviewed in relation to their applications get an accurate idea about the sorts of conditions they will be facing when they come to Australia. Of course, the places where they hope to go will affect the sorts of conditions which they will face. Certainly, it is my intention and the intention of my Department to provide intending migrants with accurate, up-to-date, realistic appreciations of conditions in Australia. We do not want people coming here with unrealistic views. We are seeking to ensure that people who come to Australia know the conditions that obtain in this country.
In relation to permanent settlement, the honourable member for Prospect said that we should take into account the fact that people do move. I take his point. However, successive governments in Australia in relation to immigration policy have set aside the policies pursued by other governments- that is the guest worker concept. We seek people coming to Australia who intend, when they apply, to make Australia their home. Obviously, we realise that not everybody finds in the actuality of the situation that they wish to stay here or that circumstances allow them to stay here. We appreciate that a number of people will return to their country of origin for different sorts of reasons. We believe it is still realistic to promote a policy which provides that people who apply to immigrate to Australia should do so with the background that they wish to settle here permanently, bring up their children in Australia and contribute to the broader growth of Australian society. It is not, as the honourable member for Prospect suggested, hypocritical to suggest that students from other countries who come to Australia should return home while migrants should not. Part of the rationale behind our policy for students is that they should gain a benefit from education in Australia and take back with them to their country of origin the benefits of the education here so that the society from which they come can gain from the experience which they have had in Australia. I do not see anything hypocritical in that at all.
I believe that the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) answered very fully the arguments advanced by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He also mentioned a publication called Migrants Melbourne which I have seen, both in its original form and in the expanded form in which it has recently become available. I join with him in praising this publication. I believe that it has done a great deal to fill in gaps in the information available to the various migrant communities. I would very much like to be in a position to be able to say that we will provide money for similar sorts of publications to be made available in all major centres of Australia. Unfortunately, budgetary restrictions do not allow this to become an actuality. However, it is the sort of initiative and publication which we support. Obviously, that suggestion will be kept very firmly in mind for the future.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) in his contribution said that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was a misnomer because it did not have any ethnic affairs function. It was a little unfortunate that he had written his speech before the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) today in relation to the setting up of an ethnic affairs unit. That was a little unfortunate for the honourable member. He should have listened more closely a little before question time today before he made his statement. He also mentioned in some detail the situation of welfare workers and social workers in relation to grants administered by the Department of Social Security. He has raised this matter in the House before. That scheme at present provides for about 50 grants. Of course, it is inevitable that at any one time some positions will be unoccupied. When one thinks about this matter one realises that this is because of resignations at any one stage and recruitment which is in progress. In such cases the Department gives agencies reasonable time to fill or refill grant positions. This is why at any one time there will be some unfilled positions.
The honourable member mentioned the matter of welfare workers but he should understand that until recently the rules of the scheme did not permit welfare workers to be employed. However, if he reads the statement made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on Budget night he will see that agreement in principle has now been obtained for welfare workers to be employed under this scheme. It is expected that a small number of grants for welfare officers will be possible this financial year. He also mentioned the matter of ethnic communities being concerned at the number of assisted passages from and advertising in Britain. If he looks at Question No. 882 in the Hansard of 23 September 1976 he will see an answer I gave to a question posed by the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member will find if he investigates the matter very closely that the present Government is pursuing a policy of previous governments, including one headed by the present Leader of the Opposition. It should be pointed out that a number of governments do not allow advertising for migrants. Therefore we have to schedule advertisements in countries which will allow that practice.
What we are seeking to do in regard to the present very low key and very minimally funded advertising campaign in the United Kingdom is to change an attitude rather than recruit migrants. We are seeking to change an attitude brought about by the previous Australian Government’s attitude towards British migrants which resulted in people in the United Kingdom feeling that they were not wanted in Australia any more. I was about to say that the honourable member is a little bit two-faced, but that is probably too strong a term. He is a new member and I do not want to use that expression about him. Let me put it this way: I would put more weight on his submissions in relation to his attitudes towards migrant numbers and their contribution to unemployment if I received fewer letters from the honourable member seeking the entry of people outside category. He is also one of the members who most frequently write to me seeking the entry to Australia of people who are outside the normal occupational categories and who, if I acceded to all the requests, would be competing with Australians for jobs. So I do have that difficulty in relation to the contribution from the honourable member.
The only other comment I would make in relation to the speech made by the honourable member for Grayndler is in respect of his suggestion in a Press statement he put out earlier this year that there was something racist about the Government’s attitude towards immigration. He instanced the advertising in Britain. This is completely and utterly false and does little credit to the honourable member. I made exactly the same statements about the number and categories of people being admitted to Australia in every country I visited, not only in the United Kingdom as was suggested by the honourable member. It does little credit to any honourable member to introduce the term ‘racism’ to this Parliament and this country when we are endeavouring to integrate people from over 100 different countries, particularly when such a charge cannot be backed up by the facts.
I move on to the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition. I am not sure whether what I am about to say is parliamentary or not, Mr Deputy Chairman, but if ever I heard a hypocritical speech, this was it. This honourable gentleman led a Government at a time when a situation developed in Vietnam- and this fact has been evidenced by some contributions from this side of the House- where people were desperate to come to Australia. These were people who had fought with Australian troops, who had assisted Australian personnel, who had relatives in Australia and who had fiances in Australia. They were denied entry by one man and one man alone, and that was the then Prime Minister of Australia, the present Leader of the Opposition. The honourable gentleman talks about migrant intakes. He presided over the greatest cutback in migrant intake that this country has seen since 1947. He has a record in relation to refugee admittance that should make him ashamed. Yet he comes into this House and dares to take this Government to task for its alleged indiscretions or lack of action in relation to Lebanese migration in particular. It was an utterly shameful performance, and one which his whole Party should repudiate.
– We endorse it.
– You endorse it. That remark will live with you. The honourable gentleman finished his speech by saying- and I tried to write down what he said- that this Government will make it easier for Rhodesians to come to Australia than for reunions of families from the Lebanon. Let me say that this is one of the most arrant falsehoods that I have ever heard propagated in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition has no basis for such a statement. There is absolutely no truth in it. Once again it is an effort by this man to forment political strife, to make political capital out of a situation. Most honourable members are seeking to overcome the great humanitarian problem in relation to the Lebanon. The statements by the Leader of the Opposition did nothing to assist in that process. In fact all they did was to cloud the issue further. Again I say that all members of the Opposition should repudiate that statement by their socalled Leader.
Other honourable members have made contributions to this debate. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) quite rightly referred to lead times in migration. This is something which is not readily understood by the great majority of the population and the honourable member is quite right in drawing attention to it He also mentioned the delays in the processing of applications for re-entry. I am aware of the problem and we are seeking to overcome it. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said that he was sorry to report that many people believed that the migration program was being undertaken to provide an easy supply of unskilled labour. This is definitely not the case, as I am sure the honourable member realises, and we must seek to dispel that illusion, because an illusion it is. The honourable member mentioned the application for amnesty by a particular gentleman. I understand that that case is still before the courts and therefore I am really not at liberty to make any comment about it. However, I would make one comment because the honourable member went on to say that we seem to be more tolerant towards right wing extremists than left wing extremists. Let me make it clear to the honourable member for Corio and to all honourable members that this Government does not tolerate extremists of either wing. We seek to avoid the conflicts that have developed in countries overseas. We seek to allow into Australia only those people who will readily integrate with Australian society and who will not bring with them the hatreds, animosities and strifes traditional in their countries of origin. I want to make that quite plain, not only to the honourable member for Corio but also to all other people who may be concerned.
The honourable member for Corio also mentioned the long delay in responses. He mentioned a period of 6 months. There are very few cases in which a substantive reply is delayed for more than 6 months. I have taken the figures out on this matter because I was very concerned that it should not occur. As the honourable member quite rightly stated, delays cause trouble and strife to the people who have made applications. There will be delays in certain cases whilst checks are made and whilst applications are fully processed. We are seeking to cut down the delay as far as we possibly can. I might just point out that this is a new department and that the cutbacks in staff ceilings have affected it as they have affected every other department. I would like to state publicly that I have nothing but praise for the commitment, hard work and dedication of all members of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs both in Australia and overseas for the way they are handling the very greatly increased work load. As I have said, there will be some delay in certain circumstances but we are seeking to overcome that.
The honourable member for Corio mentioned a particular case. I have just had handed to me a note that a letter will be going to the honourable member tomorrow in this connection. In general, I am very pleased that at least some of the contributors to the debate in relation to the estimates for my Department took the opportunity to draw immigration in the wider context of population policies. The Government has made an earnest endeavour to expand debate on this subject so that future public discussion will be carried out against the background of detailed and accurate information, not wild and inaccurate speculation.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
-In accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I noticed a report in today’s Australian newspaper to the effect that moves in London and Canberra are continuing so as to enable Prince Charles to become the Queen’s representative in Australia. Speculation over an early appointment of Prince Charles as Governor-General of Australia must be offensive to Sir John Kerr whose place in history is assured as a truly great Australian, ranking with the greats of the past. The appointment of anyone other than an Australian to that exalted position would offend the nation. Australians owe a profound debt of gratitude to those stalwart politicians of yesteryear, in the days that have long gone by, who fought so vigorously, tirelessly and, as history recalls, so successfully in the debates that raged so long ago for the right of an Australian to be appointed as Governor-General in his own country.
The speculation in the British Press concerning the appointment of Prince Charles to the office of Governor-General must be grossly embarrassing to this young prince who is held in such high esteem by all Australians. The placement of the first in line to the British throne in a highly controversial position of responsibility in another country would be a ludicrous action. This speculation seems to be based on some outmoded concept of the days of colonialistic thinking. Decisions about future Australian GovernorsGeneral are not the prerogative of the British Press. The suggestion of his appointment would seemingly be a spineless attempt to find a solution to the unwarranted controversy surrounding the Governor-General. In my opinion, such an appointment would be disastrous.
Status quo Governors-General must now belong to the past and hopefully buried with it. Any attempt to fill this office with a person who would be, by virtue of background, constrained not to act in a constitutional crisis would be to place this nation in a dangerous situation. It is my view that the office of Governor-General must always be occupied by a distinguished Australian who must now, because of the complexities of that high office, be absolutely conversant with every section of the Constitution and ready to implement it fearlessly whenever the overriding consideration of the national welfare arises.
If the situation should emerge in the future that the majority of Australians want the powers of his office clarified, reduced or even increased, let it be decided by the correct democratic means- that is, informed debate and consequent referenda proposals. The election results of 13 December last clearly vindicated Sir John Kerr’s actions in pulling the political plug on the worst government since Federation. Recent public opinion polls continue to support that decision by the Australian people and endorse the high regard in which he is held by the overwhelming majority of all Australians. Will the Opposition never learn that it is here not as an official Opposition to the Governor-General but as the duly elected representatives of the people to make some contribution towards their welfare and prosperity, a task which continues to elude the Opposition? The Leader of the Opposition said of Sir John Kerr not so long ago:
Sir John Kerr has made himself more powerful than any monarch since the Stuarts.
The truth of the matter is that he has taken the most implacable stand against would-be despots and dictators since the Stuarts. He assumed office with the right spirit of service and full consciousness of the responsibility it imposed- an office he has already graced with wisdom and distinction. This might be an appropriate moment to inform the House that these last few words are not my own but those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), which I adopt as my own.
– On the last adjournment debate 12 nights ago my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) spoke poignantly in defence of Professor Manning Clark. He recalled an adjournment debate in the Victorian Parliament in 1 947 in which he had spoken in Manning Clark’s defence. I rise to join my colleague tonight, and to recall yet another adjournment debate- here in this House- in which honourable members, myself amongst them, again had cause to rebut attacks from the Liberals on Australia’s most distinguished historian. There are, as we know, 2 special targets of the Liberal Party’s venom whenever its ranks are rattled or divided. Its first instinct is to bash the unions; its second is to smear intellectuals. The Fraser Government has been diligent in attending to the first duty and is losing no time in setting about the second.
The unsavoury task of smearing Professor Clark in Parliament has been entrusted to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick)-the Minister responsible for tertiary education in this country and for defending the values and freedoms of academic life represented by universities. As always in these matters, the Liberals exhibit a strangely perverted sense of the fitness of things. In fact, the Minister twice spoke in the Senate the week before last on this subject and had Professor Manning Clark’s article in Meanjin incorporated in the Senate Hansard. It will now have a much wider circulation than Meanjin ever receives or deserves.
It is not my prime purpose, however, to defend Professor Clark. The reputation of so distinguished a man, so great an historian, so profound and compassionate an observer of our past and present society- a patriot in the truest sensewill survive whatever fly-specks the Minister for Education may try to leave upon it. This is not the first time Professor Clark has been the target of the petty Mccarthyites who breed in the rank air of the Liberal Party, nor is it the first example of outspokenness and moral courage in his public utterances. On 8 April 1954 the Canberra Times and the Melbourne Age published a public statement signed by Professor Clark, Bishop Burgmann, Professor Davidson and Professor Fitzgerald. It drew attention to the shortsightedness and folly of Liberal policy in IndoChina. It drew from Liberal members on the adjournment that night precisely the same personal denigration and character-assassination we have had from Senator Carrick. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the text of the statement of Professor Clark and his co-signatories.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Statement by Professor Manning Clark, Bishop Burgmann, Professor Davidson, Professor Fitzgerald in the Canberra
There is increasing evidence that the British Government, as well as the governments of the Asian members of the Commonwealth, are becoming deeply concerned about recent developments in American policy towards Asia.
It would be most unfortunate if at this stage, the Australian Government gave unqualified support to American policy without the fullest consultation of members of the British Commonwealth and of its own Parliament Before Australian policy is determined there should be full and public discussion of this issue between the governments of the British Commonwealth.
It is often forgotten that the Vietminh movement, led by Ho Chi Min, arose in Indo-China long before the Communist Government had come to power in China and was, in its original form, not a Communist but a nationalist movement aiming at the total independence of Vietnam from French rule.
During the larter stages of the war, Japanese forces which already occupied Indo-China disarmed and interned the French garrison and put an end to French rule. The Emperor of Annam, Bao Dai, thereupon declared the total independence of his country and ruled as an independent sovereign under Japanese protection until the Japanese surrender several months later. Bao Dai then abdicated and handed over his power to a government presided over by Ho Chi Min, which thereupon proclaimed the republic of Vietnam. By the terms of the Japanese surrender, Chinese Nationalist forces (the armies of Chiang Kai-shek) occupied northern IndoChina to disarm the Japanese troops, while South-east Asia Command troops (originally British) undertook this duty in the southern half of the country.
The Chinese authorities protected and sustained the republic of Vietnam, that is to say the (Communist) Vietminh movement. On the other hand, the returning French forces took charge of Saigon and put an end to Vietminh authority in that city.
Subsequently, prolonged negotiations between the French Government and the republic of Vietnam, during which Ho Chi Min and his colleagues visited France for a conference, failed to produce more than a temporary agreement under which French troops were admitted to Hanoi at the time that the Chinese Nationalist garrisons were withdrawn.
Open strife between these French forces and the Vietminh followed the failure of the French Government to acknowledge the independence of Vietnam.
It should, however, be remembered that the Government which Ho Chi Min still leads was recognised by the French Government in 1945-46 and came to power long before the Communist movement had triumphed in China, and represented the main force of Indo-China nationalism.
In the light of these facts, it is therefore alarming to read recent official statements on the subject of policy towards Indo-China. The American Secretary of State, Mr Dulles, has proposed that the signatories of the Anzus PactAmerica, Australia and New Zealand- should, in collaboration with France and Britain, act together to oppose the Vietminh movement. The Minister for External Affairs, Mr Casey, tonight said that he welcomed the intervention of America in opposing the spread of Communism in SouthEast Asia. Both he and the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Evatt, were content to describe the Vietminh movement as Communist. This is not in accordance with the facts.
– I thank honourable members. If there is a lesson to be drawn from those events it is not so much that Professor Clark has been proved right, and his attackers tragically and pathetically wrong in their prophesies about Indo-China. That is perhaps not surprising. It is rather that the Liberals are as blinkered and intolerant of dissent and true academic freedom today as they were 22 years ago and indeed have always been. If Professor Clark had been heeded by the Liberals in 1 954, instead of being traduced in this House, a great deal of bloodshed and suffering might have been averted. Time will show whether Professor Clark is right about the Governor-General and the Constitution and the events of last Novermber as he was undoubtedly right about Indo-China. All one can say with certaintly at the moment is that his name will be remembered and his writings studied years from now when his miserable detractors in both Houses of this Parliament and outside it are dead, buried and forgotten.
McCarthyism must be nipped in the bud whenever its foetid blooms arise in this Parliament or in public debate. The infection is catching. Already it has been reported that Professor Clark’s Boyer lectures for the Australian Broadcasting Commission are to be vetted by the ABC management. Why should an historian of Professor Clark’s standing be subjected to this humiliation? What has the ABC to fear? What has the Government to fear? It is not good enough for the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to plead, as he did this afternoon, that the ABC is an independent body. All the actions of the Fraser Government since it came to power have been designed to intimidate the ABC, its staff and those who contribute to its programs. We must fear and resist the attacks on free speech apparent from this Government. Every decent Australian will condemn what the Minister for Education has said and what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), by his silence, has condoned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I should like to deal tonight with the Lebanon, but I am sure that the House much appreciated the eloquent address of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) concerning Professor Manning Clark, that he might never be buried, dead or forgotten. I am certain that is the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition when he comes to think about the actions last year of the Governor-General. I hope the honourable gentleman’s attitudes will soon be dead, buried and forgotten, and the sooner they are forgotten by the Labor Party the better it will be for it.
The Lebanon presents this country with a very serious moral problem. Having been to Cyprus and having had discussions there, I feel that we must now consider with great care what the future of the Lebanon is going to be for us and for the Middle East. The war is going to continue, and for those like me who have lived in the Lebanon and have been at school there it is a matter of enormous regret The Lebanese people in Australia will sometimes be confused by the speeches they hear in this House, but the Lebanese people can be certain of one fact. Having lived in their country and knowing their country, I will not use their predicament for party politics or party advantage. I find that scurrilous, disgraceful and degrading to this honourable House, and the Leader of the Opposition stands condemned as a person who would use the sorrow, anguish and misery of the Lebanese people for mean political advantage. The Lebanese people have a very sensible expression, and they know it perfectly well. In Arabic it is Saadani aw al Himar which means ‘Do you believe me or do you believe a donkey? ‘ They can choose.
That I happen to know Mr Pierre Jemayel, Mr Raymond Eddeh’ and other members of the Lebanese Government is good news for the Lebanese people here. Certainly they can rely on me for one thing and one thing alone: I will assist them in every way possible to bring about family reunions. That is the very reason that I went to see the work of the Minister for Immigration in the offices of the High Commission in Nicosia. What chaos was going on in those rooms and corridors! People were pouring in from Latakia, coming across in boats and getting to Nicosia as best they could, hoping to be able to come to Australia.
I want to say only one thing about these people. If they can show that they have a family here, if they can show that they have a guaranteed job and if they have close family relations, I hope that the Government will give them every consideration. I know perfectly well that the Tahweel family and the Juaclid families and four or five others from Tripoli have been able to get here. It is wrong and ridiculous for us to pretend that we could take 20 000, 30 000 or 40 000 people into this country at the present time. I want to commend the Minister and his staff for working towards family unity. Far from being ashamed, I am absolutely delighted at what the Government has done to assist the Lebanese, who can trust us to help them because we know what the problem is all about.
– Tonight I wish to read some correspondence I have received today from the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development. The letter states:
Late last year the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development established a sub-committee to look at the needs for Home Help Services in the Inner Sydney Area.
This followed growing concern by people working in welfare agencies, and local community groups, that many elderly people were either being forced to live in squalid conditions or placed in Nursing Homes because of the lack of flexibility in the types of services being offered to the residents of the Inner city area.
As one of our biggest difficulties in talking about the size of the problem was the lack of quantifiable data a survey was conducted for the month of February in the Municipalities of
South Sydney, Marrickville, City of Sydney and Leichhardt. The data concerns only those people who presented to the 22 agencies participating and cannot be seen as a comprehensive survey, but for the first time we have some figures on the size and type of the problem. (A copy of the survey is attached.)
I seek leave to incorporate that survey in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Report on the findings of questionnaire on home help in inner Sydney.
Jointly sponsored by the N.S.W. Council of Social Services and the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development
This project would not have been possible without the help of Len Kane and Sue Gluyas from St Vincent’s community health team.
First printed in June, 1976.
This survey was done at the request of the New South Wales Council of Social Services (Community Services Branch) and the Inner Sydney Regional Council for Social Development. All persons seen by the Agencies involved during the month of February, 1976, and assessed as needing some form of Home Help were recorded.
It was found that the group most in need of the service were the aged/infirm. The typical request was for a two to four hourly service one or two days per week and involving a day-to-day cleaning service, heavy cleaning, laundry, shopping usually involving a complete house clean at the initiation of the service.
Seventy-five percent of the demand was of a non-urgent nature. Only 43 per cent of those in recognised need were referred to the Emergency Housekeeper Service; and of this 43 per cent only one third were known to have received the service while a further one fifth were on the waiting list
These latter results confirm the opinion that although professional staff working in the area recognise the need for Home Help they are reluctant to refer to the Emergency Housekeeper Service in the majority of cases, and, of those cases which they do refer the majority do not actually receive help.
In a separate survey of the Aged conducted in part of the same area from October to November, 1976, it was found that only one third of those interviewed knew of the existence of the Emergency Housekeepers Service. The survey (attached as Appendix 2) assessed that 16.8 per cent of the sample were unable to clean their homes without assistance; only 1 .4 per cent of the sample had used the EHS in the past two months.
The main conclusions to be drawn from the survey are:
The Survey was carried out from the 1st to 29th February, 1976 following several meetings of a steering group composed of people from the Municipalities of South Sydney, the City of Sydney, Leichhardt, and Marrickville had decided that before any more negotiations could take place with the Department of Youth and Community Affairs hard ‘ data needed to be collected.
The following groups participated in the survey:
Our Ladys Sisters of the Poor (Brown Nurses)
Meals on Wheels (City of Sydney )
Tenants ‘ Advise Service at South Sydney Community Aid.
The following Tables give some of the results of the Survey tabulated by area with a comparison between those persons referred to the Emergency Housekeepers Service and those who were not. Figures quoted are percentages based on the numbers given at the head of the columns in Table 1 .
The Survey would not have been devised or tabulated without the help and guidance of Len Kane and Sue Gluyas from St Vincents Community Health Care Team.
AREA 1 -City of Sydney Area
AREA 2- Leichhardt Area
AREA 3-Marrickville Area
AREA 4- Inner Metropolitan Region (remaining areas)
A total of one hundred and twenty three (123) surveys were returned and included in the sample.
-That survey was initiated by the Labor Government and has been endorsed in 1976 by the Liberal-National Country Party Government. The issue in the inner city area and in those municipalities relates to domiciliary nursing care. As we all know, an amount of $2 a day is payable to a person who looks after a mother or father or any other person who cannot go to a nursing home. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) today notified me of a decision in relation to a woman of 95 years of age whose 60 year old daughter has been taking care of her. I congratulate the Minister for the humane way in which he has dealt with the problem. Another case on which I am still awaiting an answer relates to a grand old lady in Pyrmont who is 98 years of age whose 70 year old daughter is looking after her. Because a nursing sister does not visit the old lady twice a week her daughter is not entitled to the benefit of $2 a day. It would be a humane act by the Government if that amount could be paid to daughters or sons or friends who are looking after people who need care. For some reason the Act provides that if a nursing sister does not visit twice a week no benefit is payable.
– That was so under your own Labor Government.
– I agree.
– It was introduced by the Liberal Government.
– Yes, but the Labor Government did not enforce the rule. The same rule applied in relation to pensioners. I had some trouble in Sydney when officers of the Department of Social Security raided houses, rightly or wrongly, at 7.30 a.m. or 7.45 a.m. to see whether people were living together as married people when they were simply friends and looking after each other at 70 or 75 years of age. That is the same sort of problem and something has to be done. The payment of $2 a day is not the main issue; it is the problem of the people at home who need to be looked after. I hope that in his wisdom the Minister will agree that a woman who looks after her 98 year old mother should receive the payment for domiciliary nursing care. I am pleased that in one case that payment will be made. I am pleased also that the LiberalNational Country Party policy is going to change and that a humane action will be followed tonight by this House.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It seems rather ironic that several weeks ago in this House I spoke at length on the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum. I mentioned, among other things, that certain recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly in the area of marketing and pricing, should be the subject of close and careful scrutiny by this Parliament. I wish to refer again to one recommendation. The Commission is firmly of the view that it is quite essential that government retain a flow of organised and regular information relating to all aspects of the industry from all oil companies and other organisations within the industry so that government is in the position to understand and evaluate the needs and problems of the industry from the point of view of the Australian community as a whole. In fact, the advice given to government is to keep this important industry under close and careful scrutiny.
I read with alarm- incidentally even before the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission had been tabled in the House- that the IAC had recommended an increase in the price of local crude. I am particularly conscious of the world shortage of oil and the dependence that so much of our technology has upon it and that the IAC is alerting the Government and the people of Australia to the stark realities of the availability and costs of petroleum. An increase in the price of petrol would cause an immediate How-through into wages. There would also be further effects on the consumer price index as costs in almost every facet of the economy would rise to absorb the price increase. It is my firm opinion that no decision should be made to increase oil prices for at least 12 months until our strategy to bring inflation under control has had time to work. I hope that this Parliament will have an opportunity to debate in full the recommendations of the IAC and the report of the Royal Commission into Petroleum. In fact, one recommends an increase in the price and the other suggests indirectly that the wholesale and retail margins are excessively high. The warnings all are flashing red. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to heed them and make decisions in the best interests of the Australian community. For example, never should we be guided by the ill-informed comments of the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, who would not know the difference between castor oil and engine oil until he drank them. At least one would have the desired effect.
-! direct attention to the effect of Government programs in the electorate of Port Adelaide. I am sure that many other honourable members are having the same experience as I am having with the number of constituents who are coming to their offices with problems concerning the following: Nursing home costs, homes for the aged, the Australian Assistance Plan, the school dental scheme, the advantages that were brought upon them by the Australian Heritage Commission and the effect upon youth sporting organisations as a result of cutbacks in grants for those various aspects. I will go through the list. I represent an area which has a number of aged people above the average age in the Adelaide area. The nursing home problem in my electorate is becoming of increasing importance. A number of people are finding themselves unable to meet the cost difference between the pension paid to the person and the subsidy paid by the Government. Many pensioners who are keeping elderly parents in homes are finding that they are using most of their pensions for that purpose. Working people are finding that it is taking a week ‘s salary and in some cases 2 week’s salary to keep their elderly parents in a nursing home. This is an area that will have to be looked at by the Government to avoid further poverty being imposed upon the elderly people throughout Australia. In areas like my electorate of Port Adelaide, the effects are quite devastating.
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) presented a program for aged persons homes. Under that program, thousands of aged people who considered themselves in some sort of security because they could get into aged persons homes that were planned for construction over the next 3 years now find that the proposed homes to which they were to go are missing from the list and that there are no plans to subsidise the respective homes over the next 3 years. Indeed, their futures are very dim. The charitable organisations which are involved in putting forward these plans have lost no time in protesting. The Port Adelaide Methodist Mission has already directed correspondence to the Minister pointing out that it was the intention of the previous Government and of this Government when it came to power to proceed with the construction of aged persons homes in the Port Adelaide electorate.
I turn now to the Australian Assistance Plan. Again, the handing back of this scheme to the States may mean the end of the Plan altogether. There have been critics of the Plan but all organisations within the community have been able to receive great benefits from it. The Government’s action may mean an end to the
Plan. No fewer than 64 community programs were launched in the Port Adelaide electorate under the Australian Assistance Plan. It was not a very large budget, but it allowed many of the community programs to get under way. It allowed these community groups to have some form of semi-professional organisation so that they could carry out their work more effectively and more efficiently. Under the school dental scheme, introduced by the previous Whitlam Administration there was a plan to see that all primary schools throughout Australia had school dental services operating by 1982. This scheme has been brought to an end. Many of the schools that were promised such facilities now find that they have been taken away and there is no set date when these facilities will be available for the children. In the working class areas of Australia, such as the area I represent, this sort of facility is of extreme importance. The end of the scheme has had a very bad effect upon the people in the area.
The recommendations of the Australian Heritage Commission saved many of the fine spots in my electorate. We saved all the original sandhills of the Tennyson area of Port Adelaide. But what will happen in the future? All the historic spots of the western districts of Port Adelaide are now up for grabs as a result of this Government being carried away with the argument of the size of the deficit. Our standard of living, standard of comfort and pride in the tradition of Australia has to go by the board. The final program to which I refer which has suffered under this Government is that which helped the youth clubs of the area. They received some support from the previous Government, but they now find themselves without the funds to carry on with full-time managers which the youth clubs in such areas need. In all these things, we are finding that we are going back to the pre- 1972 stage. We resolve to lead the fight again to have these programs recommenced under a new Labor government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to discuss the Budget of the State of New South Wales. But in passing, as it is a related subject, I wish to remark upon the extraordinary attitude still being maintained by the honourable gentlemen opposite who still take the view that the Federal Government has a right to try to buy votes by buying into areas with taxpayers’ money that quite properly should reside with the States. It is quite clear from the Budget Papers that the States have received effectively a 15 per cent increase for their outlays for this year compared with only a 12.9 per cent increase provided by the Federal Government last year. The States are getting a better deal. As a result, the specific vote buying gimmicks introduced by honourable members opposite to try to con their way into power have been done away with. This Government will win its votes by its efforts and it will not buy them with the taxpayers’ money the way the Labor Government did.
The point I make very strongly is that the Budget of the State of New South Wales dramatises the absolute nonsense of the submission made by the honourable gentlemen opposite and thenNew South Wales counterparts that the impact of federalism was totally dishonest. The New South Wales Government has brought down a Budget which shows the degree of economic health in that State. There will be a minute deficit which could not have been the case but for the federalism policies of this Government. New South Wales would be bankrupt if the sorts of policies put forward by the honourable gentlemen opposite continued. The fact is- the New South Wales Budget dramatises this-that that State has far more to spend on matters upon which it wishes to spend money. If the Premier of South Australia chooses not to spend his much greater amounts of money on specific things like welfare, that is his responsibility and the voters can judge him on his performance. The facts are very clear: The States have a far greater amount of money to do with as they will.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time being 11 p.m., the debate is concluded. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services the following question, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Most departments have substantial administrative offices located outside Canberra (including in some cases central offices). Whether these offices are required to be located as at present is a matter for judgment in the light of factors including administrative efficiency, economy, ease of access by and to the public, policies on the location of Government employment, the interests of staff and the availability of accommodation. The appropriateness of the location of departmental offices in Canberra and elsewhere is presently under consideration along with other aspects of government administration.
Project Enrichment Pre-school: Bourke (Question No. 891)
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What funds have been provided for the Project Enrichment Pre-school in Bourke, N.S.W., in each year since its inception in 1 970, and what funding is intended in 1 976-77.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Funds provided for the Project Enrichment Pre-school in Bourke, N.S. W. by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are as follows:
The final allocation for 1 976-77 has not been determined.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
What action does the Minister propose to take to increase the number of dental graduates in Australia, particularly in Victoria.
-The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Universities Commission has given consideration to the need for the expansion of output of dental graduates in its Report for 1977-79 Triennium which was recently tabled in the Parliament Recognising the relatively low ratio of output of dental graduates to population in Victoria, the Commission recommends that funds, additional to those specified in the Government guidelines for the 1977-79 triennium, be made available from 1978 onwards for the expansion of the dental school at the University of Melbourne to enable the University to double its output of dental graduates. It is estimated that the cost of the proposal (at December 197S cost levels) over the three years 1978 to 1980 would be about $300,000, $500,000 and $700,000 respectively for operating expenditure and $2.2m for buildings.
The Commission ‘s report is at present under consideration by the Government
Surplus Cattle as Aid (Question No. 1014)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The proposal would be impracticable and uneconomic for the following reasons:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
With reference to the statement by the Premier of Queensland in December 1973 that he would seek talks with him on the provision of an intra-State shipping service for Queensland by the Australian Shipping Commission, what progress has been made in the talks, and when is it anticipated the service will commence.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The question of the Australian National Line being permitted to engage in the Queensland intra-State general cargo trade was discussed with Mr Hooper, the Queensland Minister for Transport, on 9 July. As matters now stand the concurrence of the Queensland Government would be necessary to enable the Line to carry cargo between Queensland ports.
Mr Hooper and I agreed that there was a need for an exchange of information in relation to sea and rail aspects of the matter prior to a further meeting being arranged. This exchange is currently being undertaken by officers of our respective Departments.
I am hopeful that a satisfactory agreement on this matter can be reached in the near future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 October 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761005_reps_30_hor101/>.