30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be forwarded 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 Les Johnson, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
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 Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Price Index months after goods and services have risen, and that many medications, formerly a pharmaceutical benefit, must now be paid for.
In addition, State Housing Authority waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners become never less, and funeral costs increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically on announcement of increases in the quarterly Consumer Price Index.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
The State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974, eroded by inflation, be updated and icreased to overcome the back-log.
The funeral benefit be updated to 60 per cent of a reasonable funeral cost. This benefit, when introduced in 1943 at 200 shillings ($20.00), was seven times the pension at that time of 27 shillings ($2.70) per week, or more than twice the basic wage of 97 shillings ($9.70).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr J. F. Cairns. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1 976, does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Chipp.
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Whereas your petitioners respectfully request consideration be given to:
Both of the above being without the prerequisite of referral by a medical practitioner.
Therefore your petitioners pray your honourable House to legislate accommodation of these matters under the provisions of Federal law.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
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 recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
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. 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. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the present subsidies are not sufficient to cover the cost of pensioner care in private nursing homes.
We ask that the Commonwealth Government raise the subsidy immediately to a more realistic level and move to allow nursing home patients to be covered for costs by Medibank, from the first payment due date in October.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that SO 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.
– I inform the House that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) leaves Australia today to visit West Germany and Switzerland to hold discussions with leaders of government and industry. He is expected to return on 3 1 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 Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) leaves
Australia today to visit Noumea and Japan. In Noumea he will lead the Australian delegation to the South Pacific Conference and while in Japan he will be holding discussions on a range of industrial matters with Ministers and businessmen. He is expected to return on 1 November. During his absence the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will act as Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Acting Minister will be represented in the Senate by Senator Withers.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That this House notes with pride and sadness the 20th anniversary of the heroic and patriotic uprising of the people of Hungary in October 1956 and recalls their famous last message: ‘ Here we must live, here we will die ‘ and the valour of those who laid down their lives in the cause of freedom. and expresses the wish that one day the people of Hungary will have the opportunity to live in their country with the same rights and freedoms as those which are enjoyed by the people of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I will second the motion.
– My question is directed to the Foreign Minister. In view of the statements by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. indicating that the Government has not changed its position relating to East Timor, will the 4 March 1976 policy be clearly restated at the United Nations General Assembly debate on East Timor and will Australia vote in support of those principles? Further, will the Australian Government publicly correct the misrepresentation of Australia’s position by the Indonesian Government officials at the United Nations?
-Mr Speaker, with your indulgence and the indulgence of the Opposition I should like to take a little more time than is normally taken on a question such as this. The precise form of resolutions to the United Nations is not yet known. What is involved in our stance will be the policy of the Government reflected in resolutions, hopefully, that we would be working to. If that sounds a vague statement, it is couched cautiously for obvious reasons. There is a variety of resolutions being discussed within the outer councils of the United Nations at this moment and it might therefore be more helpful to the House if I indicated the Government’s view which is at present reflected in United Nations resolutions already standing which we supported at the last General Assembly and to which we spoke in the Security Council. The resolution in the Security Council, of course, was adopted unanimously. The bases of this Government’s policies are our rejection of the use of force as a proper means of solving international problems; our belief in the democratic process and the rights of people to determine their own institutions; and our deep concern for the welfare of the underprivileged anywhere in the world. These are fundamental to our views and policies, past, present and future, and the policy once we came to power gained international reflection in the resolutions of the United Nations that I have referred to- the resolutions in the General Assembly and in the Security Council. These resolutions continue to reflect the substance of our position.
I also defined our policy in a statement to this House on 4 March. This is a policy born of a desire for an orderly and peaceful settlement in Timor and it is a policy of which we are not ashamed. As I stated in a speech which was widely distributed in May this year to the United Nations Association, Victorian Division, we have said that we must face the fact that neither Australia nor any other member state of the United Nations, nor the United Nations itself, has been able to have that policy fully implemented. Of course, there are obvious limits to what Australia alone can and indeed should attempt to do, limits that are set by the need for a careful balancing of our interests and responsibility. Our country’s foreign policy, if it is to be viable, must take into account the regional environment in which it is to function and although preserving our position on principle it has not and does not serve Australia ‘s interests to place itself on a massive collision course with its largest regional neighbour. Some people clearly baulk at that viewpoint but it is a political reality and one we would do well to acknowledge. It means that we must take into account Indonesia ‘s view that East Timor is now part of Indonesia and that this situation is not likely to change. That is Indonesia ‘s view.
The fact that we have adopted such a stance as I have outlined, while seeking to keep it in perspective, should indicate that while differing with Indonesia over its policy toward Timor we have nevertheless sustained the relationship between the 2 countries; a relationship that has been viewed by successive governments, and rightly so, as of great importance. On that point about Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor, there has been a lot of talk about this Government recognising de facto or de jure that incorporation. Let me say, if the Opposition will permit me, that so far as de facto recognition is concerned any ambiguity which exists is implicit in that term and not in the Government’s policy. Non-recognition does not necessarily signify non-intercourse. There must be a will on the part of the recognising body. There are numerous examples at public international law for this. As will be well known there are essentially 3 stages: Firstly, informal relations on a non-recognition basis, distinct from de facto recognition; secondly, de facto recognition, and thirdly, de jure recognition.
This Government has not recognised Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor. On the other hand, for quite practical reasons such as the provision of humanitarian aid and the reuniting of families, we have to accept certain realities. The alternative to doing so is to remain inactive in the face of pressing human problems, and this we are not prepared to do. I hope that in answering that general question with the problem of not knowing the nature of the resolutions at this stage, honourable members can see the background to our thinking on this matter. In my view Australia would have been remiss in our responsibility to promote a mutually beneficial relationship with our largest regional neighbour if we had taken any other course of action.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. Many Tasmanian apple growers and I- I point out that I am not an apple grower- have been extremely upset at the implication by the honourable member for Calare that Tasmanian apples are not the best in the world. In view of that will the Minister please advise, firstly, when the freight equalisation problem will be clarified, and secondly, when south bound freight equalisation will be extended to Tasmania?
– It seems my lot to be drawn into political fights of one nature or another. I said the other day that I did not want to be partisan in this matter of the apples from Calare in New South Wales as against the apples from the Franklin area in Tasmania. It seems to me that the only way to resolve this issue is for the honourable member for Calare and the honourable member for Franklin to emulate the action some years ago of the former member for Mallee. There was some discussion at the time as to the quality of the grapes from Mildura. As the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the then honourable member for Mallee made provision for sultanas and raisins to be placed regularly on the parliamentary dining tables, and they have been there ever since. That statement seems to be causing some amusement in the House. Winton Turnbull, if you are listening, I do apologise. I am not for one moment suggesting they are the same lot. I suggest to the honourable member for Calare and the honourable member for Franklin that rather than having me, as one member of this House, act as judge on this matter they should invoke the opinion of all other honour- - able members. I suggest that they emulate the ex-member for Mallee and let us have an apple a day, not to keep the doctor away but so that we can make a proper judgment on this issue. We will exclude the honourable members for Calare and Franklin from having to eat their own produce, so we want 124 apples a day for over a week from each electorate. The Parliament can then decide the issue once and for all.
As to the second part of the honourable member’s question, the matter of the freight disparity has been clarified. Tasmanians will be obtaining a subsidy at one level for those apples sent in refrigerated containers and at a distinct and different level for those apples which are sent in dry containers. In relation to the third part of the question, I should mention that I have been badgered by the honourable member for Denison as well, as to when the south bound freight equalisation scheme will be introduced. I am hopeful that within two or three weeks I will be able to make an announcement on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can the Minister explain to the House why equipment purchased under the Regional Employment Development scheme by the Fitzroy City Council in Melbourne is now being reclaimed by the department? What conditions, if any, were placed on the original allocation of money to the Fitzroy City Council under the RED scheme? What were the normal conditions and procedures laid down with respect to the purchase of capital equipment under the RED scheme grants? Is the Minister aware that 5 beneficiaries of the RED scheme who were subsequently taken on to the permanent staff of the Fitzroy Library will almost certainly be retrenched if the equipment is reclaimed?
– Since inheriting the winding up of the RED scheme I have encountered many difficulties and problems such as those outlined by the honourable member for Melbourne. To the best of my knowledge, the honourable member has not brought this specific problem to my attention. I am not aware of it. If he does bring it to my attention I will see that he gets a written answer as soon as possible.
– I address my question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is the Minister aware that many hundreds of families in Canberra have either no television reception or poor television reception due to the lack of a television translator station on Mount Taylor? Is the Minister aware that there is much frustration in the Canberra community at the delay in erecting this facility? Is the Minister aware that the local member shares that frustration?
-I am well aware that the local member shares the frustration caused by the lack of television viewing facilities in some parts of Canberra because he has mentioned it to me on a number of occasions. He is aware that this matter is under consideration by my department. He would be aware also that an approach has been made by a commercial institution for an agreement to be reached with the department to facilitate the erection of a translator on Mount Taylor. These matters are under review. I am concerned, as the Government is concerned, about giving Australians everywhere the best possible television viewing facilities. Consideration of this matter will be continued with a view to finding a satisfactory solution.
-The Minister for Transport will remember that the Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania, whose report was presented on 5 March last- the Nimmo report- recommended that the Australian National Line carry out an expeditious study of the cost of moving general cargo between Western Port and Devonport in a vessel which completes the round trip in 24 hours, with all cargo loaded on its wheels, and the cost of moving the same cargo between Webb Dock and Devonport in a vessel that completes the round trip in 48 hours, with the cargo being loaded and unloaded by forklift and crane. What was the result of this AN L investigation?
– The investigation is not complete. When it is completed the Government will have a look at the recommendation made and announce any policy decision on it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. With the intention of assisting Tasmanian manufacturing industry to cope with ever rising costs, will the Minister give consideration to asking the Telecommunications Commission to investigate the feasibility of permitting telexes, telegrams and telephone calls between Tasmanian manufacturers and their administrative and sales offices in mainland States at local call rates?
– My instinctive reaction to the request by the honourable member for Denison is, of course, to try to be helpful. But that would only be consistent with the Government’s overall attitude with regard to Tasmania. No government has done more to assist Tasmania than has the Government led by Mr Malcolm Fraser. The Government’s action on freight equalisation alone demonstrates its genuine attitude. Of course, the specific request made by the honourable member would need to be the subject of some discussion between the Telecommunications Commission and me. It is not a matter on which I could reach an arbitrary decision. I am concerned about the costs of manufacturers in Tasmania. They have a problem of isolation which is not found in many other parts of Australia. The matter will be looked at consistent, of course, with the Telecommunications Commission carrying out its financial responsibility.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Would the Government look at the role of the Australian Industry Development Corporation in respect of both its appointment of a receiver to the Poseidon company and its approach to the international market for a loan raising in Australian dollars? Is the Government concerned that the AIDC, while acting legally, has nevertheless jeopardised Australia’s reputation by issuing a prospectus which failed to indicate that its major investment- its $24m in Poseidon- was in financial trouble? Could the Government ascertain whether the AIDC has in fact been pumping $250,000 a week into Poseidon to keep it afloat through the period of the loan raising?
– I shall see what information can be given to the honourable member in relation to this question.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware of reports that the recommendations of a departmental inquiry into broadcasting will be shelved or re-examined? If so, how does this affect the hiatus that has developed over the granting of a much needed new radio licence for Wollongong which has resulted from court action by an unsuccessful applicant?
– The inquiry into the broadcasting system has no relationship at all to the problem that the honourable member mentioned. There is a particular matter with regard to the radio licence for the Wollongong area. This is well known to people in the previous Administration as well as to me. That matter is the subject of a writ; I do not intend to say any more about that. The report of the broadcasting inquiry has been made available to me. I have made recommendations to the Government. The Government will soon consider those recommendations and when a decision is made it will be announced.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Was the release of this month ‘s consumer price index figures deliberately delayed for 24 hours so that the Treasurer would not have to face questions on them?
-The honourable gentleman’s question is absurd. That is not necessarily surprising.
– Will the Minister for the Capital Territory kindly confirm or deny that bees have been entering the Australian Capital Territory without his prior consent?
-This is a bee of a problem. Indeed I understand that the honourable member for Holt brought bees into the Australian Capital Territory. The Apiaries Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory, which was introduced in 1928, provides that bees should be regulated. It further provides that bees entering the Territory need my consent. What is more, they need my prior consent. I further understandand this is all contained in a document issued by my Director of Conservation and Agriculture-that the bees must first accompany their application for entry with a signed certificate of health.
I further note- this is very important in view of the fact that you, Mr Speaker, and the President of the Senate uphold the dignity and decorum of the Parliament and control the parliamentary gardens and so on- that landholders must notify my Department if foreign bees enter their territory. My understanding is that the bees have been placed in the parliamentary gardens. I have not yet received any notification from either the President of the Senate or you, Mr Speaker, about the entry of foreign and unregistered bees into your gardens. I think there is one very important final question which needs to be asked and that is: Does parliamentary privilege apply to bees in the precincts of Parliament or, to put it more briefly, are parliamentary bees privileged bees?
-I ask the Prime Minister whether the reports that he proposes to sell the present Mercedes Benz car purchased by the previous Prime Minister and replace it with 4 armour-plated cars at a cost of $50,000 each so that he will’ have one available whenever or wherever he travels in Australia are true? In view of his austerity campaign, why does he require such outrageous expense to ensure his safety when he already has the thickest hide in Australia?
-Order! The honourable member for Robertson will withdraw the last remark.
– I withdraw the last part of the question, Mr Speaker.
-I do not know whether the Prime Minister feels there is enough left in the question to answer. I call the Prime Minister.
– I think it might not hurt to give the House what information is available on this rather imaginative matter. I was advised shortly before question time that there has been a continuing surveillance by security people of the son of transport arrangements that ought to be made for visitors and in particular for VIPs visiting Australia. They have asked some questions which have come to no conclusion and which I think would be unlikely to come to any early conclusion, if they ever do come to a conclusion. To embellish those particular examinations from time to time of what security requirements are necessary for visitors to this country and for other people in this country, as was done in the report on the front page of the Sun this morning, is somewhat imaginative.
There is no suggestion that that particular Mercedes Benz will be sold. It will last for many years yet.
– I am relying on it.
– I will be pleased to give the honourable gentleman a ride as a passenger occasionally if he would like it. The person who wrote that particular story could have learnt the truth if he had bothered to check with my office before he wrote what is u fabrication.
– Has the Acting Treasurer any evidence to indicate to what extent the 40 per cent investment allowance has been accepted by Australian businesses? Is he satisfied with the result so far? Is there any real evidence of a flow-on effect into other industry?
– The Government is encouraged by the reaction to the 40 per cent investment allowance which, of course, is one of the most generous investment allowances ever offered in the world. It was designed to get productivity and growth into the economy. People will react and use the allowance as they sense the forces of the market place. We are encouraged when we see the figures, particularly over the last few months. There is now a growing acceptability by business people of the fact that there is reason to have confidence. They know that if they have confidence and invest, there are very real tax savings to be made. That is the purpose of the investment allowance. We expect it to be used increasingly in the future.
– Has the attention of the Acting Treasurer been drawn to a recent intensive advertising campaign throughout this country promoting the sale of a certain class of insurance following an agreement between David Jones Pty Ltd and Occidental Life Assurance Co. ( Aust. ). a subsidiary of the same firm in California? The terms of the offer are both misleading and deceptive, particularly insofar as service charges and interest payments are concerned. Will the Acting Treasurer have this deal investigated immediately by the Insurance Commissioner to ensure that policy holders’ rights are fully protected? Will he instruct the Insurance Commissioner to contact the Minister responsible for consumer affairs in South Australia? Will he ensure that the agreement between David Jones and Occidental is obtained and tabled in the Parliament?
-I am aware of the campaign that has involved an insurance company which has an association with David Jones Pty Ltd. I have no reason to believe that any of the activities would conflict with the Life Insurance Act. I listened very carefully to the honourable member’s comments. If there are specific matters that he has raised in his question or if he wishes to put specific matters to me, I will make certain that the matter is investigated by the Insurance Commissioner. I give him my assurance that I will look at the information contained in his question. If he has other information and I believe that it is proper, it will go to the Insurance Commissioner for investigation.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to Press reports that during his recent visit to Indonesia he made a secret agreement with the President of Indonesia? Is there any truth in these reports?
-Such reports were attributed to the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Some time this morning Australia’s Ambassador to Indonesia spoke with Mr Malik. I would like to read the message that has come from our Ambassador in Indonesia. It reads:
I saw Malik a few minutes ago. He said he had not, repeat not, said or implied there is a secret agreement between you and President Suharto. He said his remarks to the effect that there was a ‘ heart-to-heart conversation ‘ and a better mutual understanding between the two men following the visit must have been misinterpreted by the Australian media.
If people want to look to the sense of any understanding between President Suharto and myself they need look only to the joint communique. There is nothing beyond that.
– I ask the Prime Minister this question because yesterday he did not respond to the suggestion by the honourable member for Oxley that an inquiry be held into the operation of life assurance companies in view of their high operating costs and low return to policy holders. Later yesterday the Treasurer gave me a written answer that few, if any, life offices give their policy holders the right to elect their directors, and the Minister for Health has twice expressed concern that contributors to health insurance funds cannot elect their directors. I now ask whether the Prime Minister will consider appointing an inquiry into the control of life and health insurance organisations as an earlier Liberal-Country Party Government commissioned Mr Justice Nimmo and others to inquire into the operations of health funds.
– I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave yesterday.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to his recent offer to the workers engaged in the Australian shipbuilding industry- in particular, to his statement that if they were prepared to accept the Government’s specific terms it would be prepared to place an order for one ship in each Australian shipbuilding yard. Has the Prime Minister as yet received any acceptance of the offer by the workers engaged in the industry?
-A number of things have been set in train in relation to this matter. Since the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on this matter has been available there has been a working party involving the Commonwealth, New South Wales and South Australia studying the impact of the IAC’s recommendations on the centres in both States. In addition, a submission has been received from Mr Hawke for the Australian Council of Trade Unions- a submission about which my colleague the Minister for Transport casts one or two mild doubts. A submission also has been received from Mr Wran of New South Wales, but I think that Mr Wran has not replied directly to the particular proposition that was put and that he very willingly undertook to convey to the unions in Newcastle. The threads of this matter shortly will be drawn together. When that has occurred the Government will be making its final decision on the matter.
-Has the Minister for the Capital Territory seen reports that members of the Victoria Police Force are now working according to regulations and that this involves them in not driving unsafe vehicles, exceeding speed limits or interviewing suspects alone? Does the Australian Capital Territory Police Force have the same regulations? If so, how can we get the police in the A.C.T. and, for that matter, in the other States to work according to those regulations? - Mr STALEY- I am not responsible for the Victoria Police Force. As far as the Australian Capital Territory Police Force is concerned, I think that all members of this House and people in the Territory agree that it has a first class reputation for providing an extremely line service in the control of demonstrations and all manner of things in the Territory.
– Has the Minister for Transport noticed a report that the New South Wales Minister for Transport wishes to electrify the southern railway line to Wollongong, provided the Federal Government supplies the necessary funds? Did the Minister in fact offer to provide two-thirds of the cost of the electrification of the line to Waterfall and did the New South Wales Labor Minister for Transport reject that offer some months ago? Will the Minister advise the House of the present situation regarding this matter?
– If my memory serves me correctly, such a proposition was put forward by the previous Willis Government. I understand that when Mr Cox came to power as Minister for Transport he sought to have the various projects that were under way reconsidered and that he in fact put up several other propositions which finally excluded the electrification of this railway line. It is therefore not on the list of approved projects to draw Commonwealth funds. State Ministers find it very easy to avoid accepting their own responsibilities by blaming the Federal Government in relation to these matters. Many powerful speeches are made around Australia by State Ministers in which they say that if only the Commonwealth would agree to such and such a proposition they would be able to do certain things. The fact of the matter is that the funds provided under the urban public transport scheme and the roads grants legislation are known years in advance. The State governments are able to plan their programs and submit them for approval. They do not have any difficulty with me in getting approval for matters. So programs are selected according to the priorities set down by the State Ministers. It is really humbug on the part of the State Ministers to continue to pass the buck in this way. They should accept their own share of the responsibilities.
– Can the Attorney-General explain to the House why he has failed to agree with a trial judge who sentenced a person in Melbourne to 12 months gaol but recommended release after 3’months, namely, on or about 12 July last? Is it a fact that despite representations the Attorney-General has exercised a personal discretion and has refused to release this person from gaol, bearing in mind that this person has now served twice the period of time recommended by the trial judge?
– It is always difficult to answer a question when one does not recall the facts of the case. I assure the honourable member that if he draws a particular case to my attention I certainly shall give him and the House an answer relating to it. The question of parole is a matter that in the past has rested very much in the personal discretion of the Attorney-General when making recommendations to the Governor-General. Not on all occasions can one follow the view of the trial judge. I cannot precisely recall the particular case and therefore can say nothing at the moment. Sometimes one finds that, due to the conduct of the person concerned, there are risks in granting parole. The person concerned may not be a good parole prospect. On other occasions one may simply disagree with the view that the judge formed because one has other information.
Referring to parole generally, since I became Attorney-General I have been concerned about the need for proper parole boards. A parole board has been established in the Australian Capital Territory and another one in the Northern Territory. I have been considering ways of ensuring that there will be proper parole facilities for other Commonwealth prisoners. If the honourable member lets me know the name of the person concerned I shall give him an answer. Indeed, if he thinks I should tell the House about it, although I am reluctant to talk about particular cases, I shall tell the House.
-Has the Minister for Transport noticed the action of the New South Wales Government in lowering the price of fares on public transport in Sydney while raising freight rates in country areas of New South Wales, increasing revenue by $6m as a result of the exercise? Is any assistance available through Commonwealth funds to adjust the burden placed on country people by the New South Wales Government? I refer particularly to wheat growers who have no alternative method of transport, unlike wool producers and beer consumers who apparently are exempt from the freight increase.
– There is no direct Commonwealth assistance that can offset the freight increase imposed by the New South Wales Government, I am well aware of the policy introduced by that Government in respect of the reduction of fares on the urban public transport system in Sydney. I do not know whether that decision is going to work or not but hopefully some gains will come out of it. My understanding is that according to early indications the policy has not attracted too many more people back to public transport. As for the Commonwealth Government’s attitude towards railway systems generally, we have a policy of assisting State governments with their public transport systems, both in country areas and in city areas. I would be very willing to accept a proposition of any sort from Mr Cox, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, in an endeavour to help.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Construction. I refer to the day labour force of the Department of Construction which enjoys a high reputation for the quality of its work in maintaining government property and services throughout Australia. I ask the Minister: Will he indicate whether he is considering any significant reduction in the day labour force of the Department which might contribute further to the serious unemployment problem in Australia?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his reference to the Department with which I entirely agree. There has been a diminution in the day labour force around Australia. I do not have the figure exactly in my mind but, as I recollect, it is about 600. Nobody has been retrenched. Those who have left have gone as a result of normal wastage. I believe that we have not decreased our efficiency at all.
– What about the future?
– The future will have to look after itself. We believe that we can maintain our efficiency with some further reduction by wastage.
– My question which is directed to the Prime Minister concerns the nature of Australia’s relations with China. Is the Prime Minister aware that when the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea visited China recently he was welcomed with various greetings which referred to his country as now being released from colonial aggression? Most specifically, in the editorial columns of the Peking People’s Daily, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, verified by it and uncontested at this stage, there was this gem:
The century of untold sufferings from colonial aggression, oppression and plunder ended in the proclamation of independence last September.
I ask the Prime Minister: Will he consider making an appropriate response to what I consider a gratuitous insult to Australia and to tens of thousands of Australian citizens who have lived and worked for many years in Papua New Guinea?
-Nobody in Australia and, I believe, nobody in Papua New Guinea will accept that as in any way being an accurate description of the relationship which the 2 countries have at the present time or have had at any time in the past. As far as an editorial in a newspaper is concerned, I do not want to speculate about it but ideology and rhetoric might have become rather mixed up in a thoroughly inappropriate case.
-My question which is directed to the Minister for Construction concerns a matter to which he directed the then Government’s attention in May 1971, rightly describing the matter as one which always appeared trivial until an emergency arose. It is a matter for which he is now the responsible Federal Minister, namely, efforts to achieve standardisation of fire couplings among fire brigades and civil defence units. He may know that the same problem has engaged my attention since the Federal, State and municipal authorities had shown that they could not work together in fighting the fire in the Townsville bulk sugar terminal in May 1 963 and that at last, in October last year, in correspondence with me all Premiers agreed to the Australian Fire Board investigating the progressive introduction of a standardised fire hose coupling throughout Australia.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has given enough information. Will he now ask his question?
– 1 ask the Minister: What progress has been made with this investigation in the past year?
– I do remember when the Leader of the Opposition and I, at least on one occasion, agreed on a matter. I think it is probably the only occasion on which he has ever written me a note reading: ‘Thanks very much for supporting me’, or something of that nature. The Leader of the Opposition has given most of the information in his question. 1, too, am not sure of the exact position at this moment. I believe there was considerable improvement in the matter of standardisation even before we came into office. I shall get the up-to-date position and write to the honourable member.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it correct that already there are quite encouraging signs that employers are cooperating in this Government’s schemes to encourage employment of school leavers and young people? Will the Minister advise the House in due course of the number of last year’s school leavers who have already been placed in employment as the direct result of this Government’s extension of the National Employment and Training scheme and the establishment of the youth employment subsidy scheme?
-The extension of the National Employment and Training scheme to provide a much higher subsidy to employers who employ last year’s school leavers has not yet had time to appear in the figures for the NEAT scheme, but I can say that the policy of the government to direct the emphasis on the NEAT scheme to inplant training already is having a very significant effect. In the month before last the number undergoing training increased by some 600, the greatest single monthly increase yet. Last month the number undergoing training under the NEAT scheme increased by almost 1200 or double the increase for the month before which itself was a record. This clearly reflects the success of the Government’s scheme in increasing the subsidy to employers for in-plant training. As to the specific question raised by the honourable member in relation to young people, as I said earlier there has not been time for the success of the Government’s initiatives to be reflected in the figures. However, in view of the substantial and record increase in the number of in-plant trainees under the NEAT scheme even before the recent increase in subsidy to employers who employ young people, we would expect an equally encouraging result from that source too. Certainly inquiries to my Department indicate a very great interest on the part of employers in the scheme and we will be monitoring it very closely in the months ahead.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Overseas Trade for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee appointed to consider the transfer arrangements involved in the new superannuation scheme for Commonwealth Government employees which came into operation on 1 July 1976.
Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964 I present the annual report on the administration and the operation of that Act for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
– I ask leave of the House to make a statement relating to the establishment of an Australian Defence Force Academy.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I wish to announce the Government’s decision in principle to establish a Defence Force Academy to provide education at university level in a military environment for selected members of the 3 Services. Such an Academy was first envisaged under a previous coalition Government and the concept was endorsed by the Labor Government in 1974. At present some 540 cadets are undertaking degree studies in Service colleges which are affiliated with the Universities of Melbourne and New South Wales, or as full time students of those Universities, or the University of Sydney.
The agreement made by the Government with the University of New South Wales in respect of the Faculty of Military Studies at the Royal Military College at Duntroon- the agreement is about to expire- provides that an autonomous degree-granting institution will replace the College in its present form, and will employ its staff under conditions not less favourable than those applicable with the University. The Academy has two basic objectives: To provide a sound education as a foundation for further professional development, and to provide that education in a military environment appropriate to the three Services.
The merging of 3 small colleges now situated at Jervis Bay, Duntroon and Point Cook into one larger institution will have the concurrent advantage of offering more attraction to academic staff of high quality. The Academy is due to be opened in 1982. It is required as soon as possible because of the imminent expiry of the present agreement with the University of New South Wales and because, while some 16 per cent of Service officers receive a university level education now, the Chiefs of Staff require a substantially enlarged proportion of officers to hold degrees in the future. Leaders in the profession of arms must be more than leaders of men. They must be educated men, equipped to cope with increasing complexities and changes in technology, industry and in society. Progressively it will be possible to make more refined estimates of the cost of the Academy. Course content, which affects costs, is being studied by academic and military advisers. Following this I will propose next year legislation to lay down principles of administration that will ensure both its academic autonomy and scholarship, and retention of the required military environment.
The Academy w”ill offer undergraduate courses in arts, science and engineering for cadets and officers of the 3 Services and for some students from overseas. It should attract entrants and, no less important, academic staff of high quality because there will be opportunities for honours courses, research and for studies leading to higher degrees. The Academy will aspire to academic excellence. The Academy will in the first place be constructed to provide for a total full time student population of about 1200, and the design will allow for expansion. The approximate capital cost of building and equipping it has been estimated at $45m at present prices. This expenditure will mostly be spread over the period from 1978-79 to 1984-85. Planning of the Academy is being undertaken by a development council under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Basten, who was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1958 to 1967, and Chairman of the Universities Commission from 1968 to 1971.
I will be arranging for discussions with the universities of Melbourne and New South Wales at an early date concerning the transition to the new institution and the interests of the teaching staff engaged in the colleges. The universities and the University of Sydney are playing a most helpful role in planning for the development of the new project. The establishment of the Academy on a new site adjacent to the Royal Military College at Duntroon in the Australian Capital Territory will enable it to be built as a new institution with purpose-designed buildings, while sharing some of the College’s facilities. The College will be devoted to other Army officer training purposes. Facilities at Point Cook now occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force Academy will meet a need for other RAAF educational and training purposes. Other forms of officer training and education for Navy will continue to be provided at Jervis Bay. I present the following paper:
Australian Defence Force Academy- Ministerial Statement.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) as an affirmation of initiative taken by a previous Labor government. The Minister in his statement states:
I wish to announce the Government ‘s decision in principle to establish a Defence Force Academy to provide education at university level in a military environment for selected members of the 3 Services.
Mr Barnard, as Minister for Defence on 1 7 April 1975 stated:
Last year I announced details of plans to establish the Australian Defence Force Academy. The Academy will provide education at tertiary level for officer cadets of the 3 Services.
Today the Minister said:
Such an Academy was first envisaged under a previous coalition government and the concept was endorsed by the Labor Government in 1 974.
I suggest that that is a rather generously free play with the facts because Mr Barnard, as Minister for Defence in a Labor government, in the same speech on the date I mentioned, stated:
In 1970 the previous Government - a coalition government, I notedeferred a decision on a similar proposal which originated in recommendations by a committee chaired by Professor Sir Leslie Martin.
I had this proposal reviewed, and brought up-to-date.
The initiation of the concept by a government was first undertaken, it would seem from the record, by a Labor government, by a former Defence Minister, Mr Barnard. The first steps in that direction were taken, it would seem from the record, in 1974. It is interesting to note that the discussion, if not dispute, in the earlier coalition government on the future, if there were to be any, of an Australian defence force academy was one of several ingredients at a period of rather turbulent dissension within the Cabinet. Those honourable members who were here at that time, as I was, can cast their minds back and recall one of the many ingredients of the brawl- I think that is a fair enough description- which broke out and which resulted in one Minister, the Minister for Defence, resigning from the Government. He is now the Prime Minister of the country. One of the ingredients was part of the conflict between him and the Army, with the Army supported by the then Minister for the Army, now the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). On that occasion the Minister for Foreign Affairs was successful in obtaining the ear of the Prime Minister on that and other issues which were part of the conflict over military matters between the Prime Minister and the then Minister for Defence. It would seem that on this occasion the present Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has been much more successful than his predecessor in maintaining the continuity of the undertaking that Mr Barnard gave.
Another observation I want to make from the record is that the Minister for Defence said today:
Planning of the Academy is being undertaken by a Development Council under the chairmanship of Sir Henry Basten . . .
I feel it is necessary to take these quotations from the record because there was some sceptical laughter from the back benches of the Liberal Party, and I think there was laughter from the back benches of the Country Party, although they get too close to some of the non-human residents of their electorates and adopt some of their mannerisms, and it hard to tell at times. In the same speech Mr Barnard stated:
In the light of these discussions-
These were detailed planning discussions to establish the Academy-
I now announce the appointment of a Development Council to make recommendations to me on all matters relevant to the setting up of the Academy.
If my recollection is correct, it is stated that the development council is to be chaired by Sir Henry Basten.
– Stick to the facts.
– I do not know why the honourable member is interjecting. I am making it very clear that the Government is seeking to take the credit for an initiative which was undertaken in 1974-75. If the honourable member had any comprehension at all he would understand that the record shows that nothing said today has added to what was said in 1974-75. 1 cannot but wonder about the reason for the absorption of the time of the House to have a restatement of a commitment undertaken by the Labor Government. The only consolation I find in it is that it is once again an affirmation of faith in the Labor Government’s initiative in matters of defence.
The final observation I want to make is that I imagine there will be some difficulties in having the Academy accepted by the Vice-Chancellors Committee. I remember some discussions of a private and informal nature I had with university people when Labor was in Government. It was clear from some of those discussions that there were reservations about a military college being given full university status. It appeared that there was some feeling that it was inconsistent with the very long traditions of the liberal studies of universities to have a military academy, with its traditions of discipline and very strong pressures for conformity, given the full status of a university. It is not an easy issue to resolve. I can sympathise with the view expressed by some of the people at the universities. On the other hand, I recognise the great need for university standard education among our leaders in the defence Services. Incidentally, I was surprised to find that only 16 per cent of officers receive a university education.
– That is right, 16 per cent of the Services as against 23 per cent in the Public Service.
– It is a surprisingly low level. First of all, the community is better served if the officers in its armed Services are better educated, at a more reflective standard of education and intellect, with a firmer grounding in the liberal traditions of our society. From the officers’ point of view, it gives them more marketability, if I could use such a coarse word, at the time of retirement. I cannot but express a great deal of feeling and sympathy for armed Service officers who, as they enter middle age, have to retire at a particularly early age, many of them with mature members of their families on their hands who are undertaking expensive higher education- still expensive in spite of the fact that these days fees do not have to be paid at universities. I hope the issue can be resolved. It seems to me that one way in which the issue might be resolved is to consider making places available at the Defence Force Academy for non-Service people as students. I think the cross-fertilisation would be a particularly helpful experience for all concerned. I conclude by welcoming the statement of the Minister because once again it does affirm faith in another initiative taken by the previous Labor Government in the field of defence.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That leave of absence for one month be given to the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) on the ground of ill health.
– 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 failure of the Government to commit itself to the retention of an Australian shipbuilding industry.
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-
-This Government has demonstrated nothing less than a masochistic attitude to the Australian shipbuilding industry which ignores the welfare and well being of all its employees and their dependent families. In particular, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has been quite cavalier about what he has said and where he has said it. The Government has handled the question of the shipbuilding industry with the same conscience and concern as Medibank would receive if Dracula were placed in charge of it. The issue has gone from being one of debate to one of a national joke- a joke for the Government but no joke for the men and women whose livelihoods are threatened, no joke for the fitters and boilermakers and other skilled personnel who have now brought their protests to the steps of Parliament House. To all this, the only response we have had in this Parliament from the Minister was that in his opinion the submission from the Australian Council of Trade Unions was light weight. Perhaps the author of that document was aiming at the Minister’s mentality. Whilst we are speaking about the handling of this matter, it would indeed be interesting to know why the Liberal Party has abdicated its responsibility and why it is that no Liberal objects to the Minister using his own Country Party conference to tell the world about Government policy on industry generally. Who is governing this country?
Let us make our position quite clear. Members of the Labor movement, politically and industrially, are fighting side by side to save our shipbuilding industry. The Japanese Government, to its credit, has recognised this even if the present Australian Government has not. There can be no argument about our need in the future for ships. In a country whose potential growth will revolve around our export potential, shipping will be the key. According to the estimates for the Minister’s Department, our requirements for coastal trading purposes in the period from 1978 to 1986 will be 13 bulk ships and 6 tankers, a total of 19 vessels. That concludes my argument about our requirements, but that is not the end of the argument. For Australia not to build out of those 1 9 vessels sufficient ships here to keep our major yards operating means a commitment to close the yards down altogether. That is a commitment which most countries similar to our own have refused to make. The Parliament on many occasions has heard of the varied forms of assistance available to ship building in 30 other countries. It is not always in the same form as that in Australia but it exists and it is sheer nonsense for this Government to attempt to convince people otherwise. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard page 18 of the Industries Assistance Commission report which outlines the assistance given to the shipbuilding industry in 12 other countries.
-Is leave granted?
– I will grant leave, Mr Deputy Speaker. However, I point out that the normal courtesies applying to the granting of leave to incorporate material in Hansard have not been observed.
– I am terribly sorry. I appreciate the opportunity to have it incorporated.
-Leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I shall take this matter a little further because it is one of the important aspects of this whole debate. We are told from time to time that Australia cannot afford to continue to give to the Australian shipbuilding industry assistance that is not available in other countries. Let me read from this IAC report some of the assistance that is available to the shipbuilding industry in the United Sates of America. Under the heading ‘Assistance from public sources’, the report states that in A class, on the protection of the national market, the U.S. has import restrictions and government purchasing policies. In B class, it has direct subsidies. In the finance for investment and research, it makes contributions to that research. In the general facilities for financing the activities of the yards, it has provision or guarantee of finance on favourable terms. On the question of export credit facilities it has provision of credit on favourable terms and export credit insurance. On the question of assistance to customers- shipping, fishing, etc.- the country offers home credit schemes, demolition and/or modernisation subsidies and operating subsidies. One can see, from the collection of assistance measures gathered together to assist the U.S. shipbuilding industry, that the essence of the assistance shows that the U.S. has refused to succumb to the arguments that are put up in this Parliament by the Government to close the shipyards.
I believe that technology in the U.S. would be far in advance of technology in Australia. The argument is used that perhaps the wage structure of Australia is to blame or, in other words, that our standard of living is to blame. On that phoney argument it is said that we cannot have
shipyards. If countries like Belgium, Canada. Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy. Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom in addition to the United States of America have all reached the conclusion that assistance should be given to their shipyards, why is it that this Government hides its head in the sand when it comes to helping our shipyards at Whyalla and Newcastle? Why is it that we have had this medley of decision making within government about the future of our shipyards? Let me go further in citing the assistance that is available to shipyards in the U.S. I quote from World Trade News, a journal which is available to honourable members in the Parliamentary Library, a note that was taken out of the Wall Street Journal just 2 weeks ago. It states:
Bethlehem Steel Corporation has been awarded a U.S.S 156.6m contract to build two cargo ships for Farrell Lines Inc. for the U.S. East Coast to Australia and New Zealand routes. The U.S. Commerce Department will pay 49.6 per cent, or U.S.$77.8m approximately, of the cost of the two 27 340 tonne deadweight vessels.
This is the sort of assistance that is available and can be observed by everybody in the U.S. Let us look at the Budget Papers of the U.S. Congress to see the involvement of that country in the maintenance of its shipyards. I quote from the appendix to the Budget for the fiscal year 1 977:
The ship construction program is intended to help improve the international competitive position of the U.S. shipbuilding industry through payment of current differences in price between domestic and foreign construction of equivalent ships. This enables U.S. shipyards to construct ships for U.S. citizens at prices which are comparable to the prices which would be paid for the same construction in a foreign shipyard. At the same time, the program aids in the maintenance of a strong U.S.-flag fleet for the foreign trade by providing support for the replacement of overage
U.S. -flag ships engaged in the foreign trade, and by requiring U.S. registry of subsidised ships. As at June 30, 1975, over 200 of the 260 ships engaged in the U.S. foreign trade had been constructed with the support of this program.
The program also encourages shipyard and industry improvements to increase U.S. competitiveness by supporting greater shipyard /shipowner co-ordination for subsidised contracts, supporting series production of standardised ship types, and by providing encouragement for shipyard investments in capital improvement. Each of these factors helps to accomplish increased productivity and cost savings in U.S. shipyards.
A slowdown in demand for merchant ship construction in 1973 and 1 976 has resulted in estimated funding availability (unobligated balances) of $247m in 1977.
Just in 3 paragraphs we see reflected in the U.S. a certain pride in its shipbuilding industry and its decision to maintain the shipbuilding industry. The United States is not running away from the fact that it can get ships built elsewhere, but it is retaining its independence. What arguments does this Government have for ignoring the decisions that have been reached in the United States on pretty much the same grounds as those on which the decisions have been reached in Australia?
Let us look at some of the other matters that affect this question in the very short time that we have available. I want to reflect upon the employment repercussions that will result from the Government decision to close the shipyards. I go to no better source than the Industries Assistance Commission. Section 3 of the report deals with the employment repercussions. The Commission predicted that there would be vast unemployment in both regions that would be affected by a decision to close the shipyards. I again read from the LAC report:
The prospect of retrenchments in Newcastle and Whyalla has to be viewed in the context of a’n economy which appears to be slowly recovering from depressed conditions but with little indication of how long such a recovery is likely to take. The current level of unemployment in Australia is 4.4 per cent of the labour force. At the end of June 1976 the nonmetropolitan unemployment rate was 7 per cent in New South Wales . . . and 4.1 per cent in South Australia . . . Any future reduction in unemployment is likely to lag considerably behind a recovery in economic conditions.
Enshrined in the Budget of 1976 presented by this Government there was a commitment to do nothing about unemployment. It was admitted by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that unemployment in August 1977 when the Budget is brought down for that year will be virtually the same as it is in 1976. This is not the prediction we on this side of the House make because we believe the influx of school leavers will see an explosion in the number of unemployed people in Australia. The number will be far higher than it is now. How can the Government reach a decision affecting this enormous percentage of the work force in both provincial centres? In the case of Whyalla, there will be an unemployment rate of 26 per cent added to the number of people already out of work if the shipyards were to close. The IAC goes on to expand on the effects of this. The Australian Council of Trade Unions, when confronted with the decision by this Government to close the shipyards not only passed a very lengthy resolution reflecting its concern for the working people, the skills to be lost, the depressed social standards under which the people in these areas would be; it also gave notice that the Government could be provoking a gigantic industrial conflict. The ACTU stated as part of its resolution carried on 19 August 1976:
No vessel capable of being built in Australian shipyards to be accepted on the Australian coast.
As I said earlier in this debate, as rationally as possible, there is no argument about the need for the commodity. In the Minister’s own Department, it has been predicted that we will need these 13 bulk ships and 6 tankers to be ordered between now and 1986. It is not as if we do not need them. There may be some argument about whether we have the ability in both those yards to build all those ships. But we have enough work to keep those yards going. We have enough time to uplift the efficiency of those yards. I think it is important to state the attitude of the unions in the State dockyards. Of course, there can be no chance of any section of the Labor movement in Australia accepting a clumsily concluded agreement or proposal reached on this quite unique interdepartmental committee consisting of the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister in a car ride from Parliament House to the Canberra airport. They put up this outrageous proposal that workers in the shipyards should go without any pay rises for the next 12 months before the Government would consider giving any orders to the Newcastle shipyards. No section of the Labor movement would be permitted by the vast majority of the Labor movement to accept or to bestow on the Labor movement such a standard. But the men have moved a long way in overcoming these problems. They had said that subject to the indexation increases which will flow to all of the labour force, negotiations on other wage increases will be set aside over the next 12 months.
The interchangeability of the labour force has been talked about, and that is an enormous problem not just in the shipyards but in industry generally. Honourable members should not forget that it was the Liberal Party and the Country
Party which fought furiously to stop the amalgamation of trade unions. We can do a lot to be proud of in making the correct decision about continuing to build ships in Australia. We can let the people involved and the dependants of those people who work in the industry rest easily in the homes they are buying. Seventy per cent of the people who work in the shipyards in Newcastle are buying their own homes. An enormous percentage of them have had over 5 years’ service in that one industry. There is no chance of their finding other employment. The Government must reach the conclusion that we have to continue with an Australian shipbuilding industry or otherwise meet with the wrath of all those who are involved and all those who sympathise with the sorts of living conditions that will have to be endured as a result of their not receiving any other employment.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Let me state the terms of the matter of public importance which has been brought before this Parliament by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). They are:
The failure of the Government to commit itself to the retention of an Australian Shipbuilding Industry.
We have been very specific in our dealing with this problem to make sure that proper consultation has been held with all the people affected. This matter of public importance cuts across the program and procedures that have been laid down between the Premier of New South Wales, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Premier of South Australia, and the Government. We have said from the start of this issue that we would await reports and submissions from those 2 Premiers and from the President of the ACTU following the publication of the Industries Assistance Commission report. This proposal wants us to pre-empt that situation and not even to await or give consideration to those submissions. It wants us to announce some decision. Well that is not the way proper government works. I suggest to the honourable member for Port Adelaide that had the previous Government in its 3 years of office taken more account of submissions of the nature we are expecting, it might still have been in government today.
Let me turn now to look at the crocodile tears of the honourable members for Port Adelaide. Crocodile tears they were. I am disappointed that he should come into this Parliament right at this particular time when there are demonstrators outside trying to put weight on the Government in relation to this matter. The people who are waiting outside ought to know that this Government has made no change to the shipbuilding policy. The policy that is presently being followed is the policy laid down by the previous Government. The fact is- and the men ought to know this- that the policy decisions, as distinct from other problems within the industry, which caused the collapse of the shipbuilding industry in Australia were policy decisions made by the Labor Government. Nobody else is at fault in this regard. The men outside ought to be told that under the policy laid down by the Labor Government, 3 shipyards have closed already. That was not a policy introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government: That was a policy introduced by the Labor Government.
– When did they close?
-They closed during the Labor Government’s regime. The Labor Government lifted not one finger to help them. The Labor Government lifted not one finger to introduce any assistance to the shipbuilding industry on the lines that the honourable member for Port Adelaide now espouses as being given overseas. The Labor Government did quite the reverse.
Let me repeat the history of this situation because I think it is important that the Parliament know about it. In December 1973 the Labor Government introduced a policy to phase down progressively subsidies on ships so that eventually the subsidy level would be only 25 per cent. That was not a decision taken by this Government, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide would like to portray. That was a policy decision taken by the Labor Government. But more importantly- I ask the people who are standing outside to note this- it was the Labor Government that introduced a policy whereby owners could import a vessel permanently if the Australian subsidised price exceeded the overseas price. These are Labor Party initiatives simply and solely. They were taken by nobody else. It is sheer humbug for the honourable member for Port Adelaide to come into this House and try to make political capital out of a very difficult situation. That, in truth, is all he is trying to do.
There is another matter I must lay at rest. The honourable member cited a great bagful of forms of assistance that are granted to shipyards overseas, but he avoided, or did not explain exactly, what that bagful means. In point of fact. no country overseas is presently giving more assistance to shipbuilding than the Australian Government- even under the policy I am talking about, which was Labor policy. No country is giving more than 35 per cent direct subsidy. When it comes to shipbuilding, that is the policy that counts. It is the net cost to the shipowner that counts. The honourable member may talk about all the loans that are made available to shipowners to try to attract them to the shipyards, but it is the net cost of that ship to the shipowner that counts. No country is giving subsidies at a level greater than that given in the Australian yards.
So there will be no misunderstanding on this matter, let me repeat what I have said outside this House on a number of occasions: Japan does not give direct subsidies to shipbuilding but Australia is giving a 35 per cent subsidy. Certainly Japan gives assistance to shipowners by way of loans to try to attract them to the yards, but that does not reduce the net cost of the ship. Sweden gives no direct subsidies for the ship. Australia gives a 35 per cent subsidy. The United States of America does give a 35 per cent subsidy but it is the only country in the whole of the shipbuilding world which gives a subsidy that is comparable with the Australian subsidy. In Korea there is no direct assistance to shipbuilding. In West Germany there is no direct financial assistance. The honourable member is misleading the people he claims to represent when he tells them that assistance of that order is given, particularly as it is not true.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide claims that we are wrecking the shipbuilding industry. I have pointed out already that the policy we are following is not our policy; it is a continuation of the policy espoused by the Labor Government. That alone ought to be enough for the dock workers to realise the hypocrisy of the honourable member for Port Adelaide in espousing this sort of cause. Rather than reduce the subsidy further from 35 per cent to 25 per cent as was proposed by Labor, we referred the matter back to the Industries Assistance Commission. We had discussions with the Premier of New South Wales. The honourable member for Port Adelaide claims that this proposal that there be no strikes, no demarcation disputes, no go-slows and no increase in wages was a policy cooked up by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Transport- that being me- in a car on the way to the airport. The honourable member has been misinformed. The fact is that it was Premier Wran who said in a conference with the Prime Minister and myself that he would back himself in to go to Newcastle and secure those very provisions. He said so before he left the office of the Prime Minister. All the Prime Minister and I discussed in the car on the way to the airport was whether or not we ought to accept that offer. We accepted it and I rang Premier Wran and confirmed that we were prepared to accept it. The disappointing thing is that the men at the yards would not accept those propositions. They rejected Premier Wran’s proposals out of hand, although Wran said that he would back himself in.
Let us compare the attitude of the men in the yard with that of the apple growers in Tasmania, or the dairy farmers of Australia, or the beef growers who are going without and are managing to struggle on their farms with a much smaller income than the men at the dockyards. They are prepared to continue on a much lower level of earnings than that received by the men at the dockyard to try to hold their farms. The men at the dockyard apparently have publicly declared that they are not prepared to back themselves in for a dollar. They are not prepared to accept a no strike situation. They are not prepared to go without an increase in wages in order to save their own industry, although they are being satisfactorily paid at the moment. Either they are not prepared to do that, or they are being stood over by the Halfpennys, the Carmichaels and the Mick Youngs of this world and are not being allowed to do it.
It is a complete tragedy to think that the honourable member for Port Adelaide would use this opportunity in the national Parliament to be so politically motivated and to mislead the dockyard workers of the world. We have been positive in this matter. We have given Premier Wran the opportunity to talk to the dockyard workers. He was rejected. Premier Wran is building a dock in Japan, of all things. I read a report in the Canberra Times yesterday which indicated that when the dockyard workers who are presently in front of Parliament House were approached about this question of the dock being built in Japan they said: ‘Oh, it would take too long to build it in Newcastle. Therefore, we do not think it ought to be built there ‘. That is how they have rationalised this matter for themselves. But the fact is that Premier Wran is not prepared to back his own dockyard. He owns it; it is a State dockyard, and he is the Premier of New South Wales. He is not prepared to have the floating dock built by his own men in his own yard. It is sheer and absolute humbug. That is the cold fact.
Premier Wran expects me, as the Minister in charge of the Australian National Line, to place orders to build 2 ships in Newcastle, but he is not prepared to place an order to have a floating dock built there. It demonstrates again the lack of sincerity by members of the Labor Party- the spokesmen for the workers- in the whole issue. They are supposed to represent the workers, but this is the sort of attitude that they adopt. Here we have a policy of the Federal Labor Party that has wrecked the shipping industry. Then we have the Labor Premier in New South Wales who is not prepared to get a floating dock built in his own State dockyard in order to keep men at work. We set up working parties between the Commonwealth and the State to investigate and to report upon the effects of the IAC report on Newcastle and Whyalla. Those reports are not yet to hand. We have also asked the ACTU to put in a submission. It did so. I described the submission as a lightweight, and quite properly so. If the honourable member for Port Adelaide has read the submission he will agree with me.
– It is confidential, is it not?
– It has been given publicity on every television and radio station in Australia. It was given a great deal of publicity before publication. There are no secrets about what is in it. I will not say any more about it than that.
– Give us a copy.
– The honourable member should ring the President of the ALP and get himself a copy. The Premier of New South Wales has made a submission. The Premier of South Australia has made a submission. There is more weight in the submission of the Premier for South Australia than in the submissions of the Premier of New South Wales and the President of the ACTU put together. That is the cold fact. As I have said- I repeat it again in this place- the Government will consider all these reports together. It will not take one at a time. It will weigh the question and the strength of all the submissions against the background of the IAC report. Let us face it: The IAC report is a damning report on the industry. Without question, if the IAC report is accepted it will mean the end of big shipbuilding in Australia. When I talk about big shipbuilding, I am not referring to CarringtonS. The level of subsidy required to build a big ship at the State dockyard or at Whyalla is $13,000 per ship per man employed. To build the small ships at Carringtons it is $1,800 per ship per man employed. Those figures show the marked difference between the efficiency of Carringtons and the efficiency of the State dockyard and Whyalla. Further, if there is concern about efficiency in the dockyard, why is- it that the State governments of New South Wales, Liberal and Labor alike, have not concerned themselves with that matter? Labor was in power in New South Wales for 20 years. It did nothing about improving the efficiency of or updating the yard. Therefore, it is a hopeless proposition that the honourable member for Port Adelaide brings before the House.
I will conclude on one point. The Government has been more than sympathetic in this matter. It extended the 35 per cent subsidy until the IAC report reached it. It has given the ACTU and the Premiers of New South Wales and South Australia an opportunity to make a submission on the IAC report. It has set up joint working committees to ascertain the effect of the IAC report on Whyalla and Newcastle. The Government will take a decision on this matter when the results of all these considerations are to hand. It will not take a decision because of the pressure tactics and the political motivations in this House of the honourable member for Port Adelaide and the Opposition.
– We have heard a pathetic contribution from the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) who ought to know better and who ought to be able to make a better contribution in this chamber. I ask the Parliament: Where is the Minister who is responsible for this matter? The Minister responsible for this matter is the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), not the Minister for Transport. The Minister for Transport is concerned only with whom and where the Australian National Line orders its ships. Throughout this exercise the Minister for Industry and Commerce has been hiding behind the skirts of the Minister for Transport. Obviously there is a union bashing job to be done. The Minister for Transport is recorded as being the champion at that. The Minister said that the Government was adopting the policy of the former Labor Government. Labor’s policy was designed for a boom shipbuilding year. It was designed for the preenergy crisis. We are now in the depths of a postenergy crisis and a world depression in shipbuilding. I repeat the words of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He said: ‘It is a scheme of industrial blackmail, dreamed up in the back seat of a Mercedes by 2 wealthy graziers who, only a matter of a few months before, voted themselves a superphosphate bounty’. Here we have all this bleating and humbug that men should work harder. The Chairman of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, Dr Lang, said:
Council also emphasises that the threat of massive unemployment in the industry-
He was referring to shipbuilding- should not be taken seriously.
I wish he would go to Newcastle and tell that to the mothers, the daughters and the sons who are looking for jobs. I recall the day when this matter was first debated in the Parliament. The Minister for Transport assured the Parliament that the Japanese were to sign contracts to build these Australian ships that evening, and that they had not been signed because of some technicality about the Loan Council. I put it to honourable members that he misled the House on that occasion. I do not believe that the Japanese will ever sign the contracts. I believe that they have more wisdom and that they are looking further down the road than are Government supporters. The Minister talked about shipbuilding policy. Let us look at his policy. This is what he said just over 12 months ago. I do not need to make a speech; I need simply to put the point he made to the Parliament.
– Whom are you quoting?
-I will quote the Minister for Transport. He said:
One of the means by which the Australian shipbuilding industry can increase its productivity … is through the modernisation and updating of shipbuilding facilities. This will require an injection of substantial capital . . .
He said that on 3 June last year. He went on to say:
The basic problem of the Australian shipbuilding industry is that of a market. There has not been a stable market in Australia for shipbuilders.
The Minister then said:
For the industry to be efficient and competitive it must have confidence, and to have the confidence which is necessary to ensure the large injection of capital there must be some continuity of markets.
Perhaps this should be like the continuity of markets we have had in the last 10 months. The Minister went on further and said:
Although our labour costs are expensive by world standards Australia has the cheapest steel in the world. I also believe that the type of vessel most used in Australian waters and in the Australian export trade could easily be constructed here on a mass production basis. I am referring to a bulk carrier in the 25 000 to 30 000 dead weight tons range.
Being the Opposition spokesman on shipping he then said:
The Opposition believes that the only way in which a healthy Australian shipbuilding and shipping industry will be brought about is through the provision of liberal credit and depreciation arrangements which recognise the special risk involved in ship owning.
They are the very matters that he just rubbished when they were put forward by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I do not need to put forward any arguments other than to repeat to the Minister his own propositions which he made a matter of 20 weeks before he became the Minister. He had the responsibility and opportunities to do something about this matter long before February of this year. The problems of the shipbuilding industry were not caused by the Labor Government. They were caused originally by the lack of a shipbuilding policy during the period 1960 to 1972. The Liberal-Country Party Government in New South Wales presided over the dockyard in Newcastle for 12 years. That Government did nothing about the injection of new capital or updating plant. For 12 years there was no clear industry policy or there were no clear guidelines to enable the necessary investment to be made.
I mentioned the proposition about a deal being done in the back seat of a Mercedes. I put it to the House that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Transport sat down and thought up a proposition which they were certain would not be accepted. They hoped like the devil that it would not be accepted so they could then be in a position to say that they had made a proposition. That is the kind of proposition that they put forward. It is very interesting to note that they did not put forward a similar proposition to the suppliers of materials to the dockyards. They did not say: ‘The men are prepared to accept a moratorium on strikes and a freeze on wages. In the interests of the permanency of the industry we ask you, the suppliers of materials to the industry, to accept a freeze on the price of materials’. That has not been mentioned. The Government is not concerned about that. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is the major supplier of materials to the industry. That shows the transparency of the proposition put forward by the Minister for Transport and the Prime Minister.
We have had false accusations and exaggerations about and denigration of the people working in the dockyards. They have been named and maligned as if they are some kind of foreign being. They have been referred to as lazy people. If the Industries Assistance Commission had looked at the submission from the Hunter Valley Research Foundation it very quickly would have seen that it is an extremely difficult exercise to compare productivity in shipbuilding and that, depending upon the definition one wants to use, one can get the result that one wants to achieve. The IAC referred to delivery times, but there was no mention by it of the fact that the difference in delivery times is affected mainly by the availability of steel. In Japan one can obtain steel on 3 months’ notice. In Australia a minimum of 6 months’- more likely 9 months’- notice is involved. That is the BHP’s baby and not that of the dockyard workers.
We heard about the New South Wales Government purchasing a new floating dock overseas. The price of the new floating dock purchased overseas was sought by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. It is a tragedy to the industry that the Minister referred to that in the way that he did a few minutes ago. It shows his lack of understanding of the industry. Back bench members of the Government’s shipbuilding industry committee went to Newcastle and Whyalla before presenting a phantom report. I call it that because nobody has sighted it. I do not know why the devil they went there and wasted the taxpayers’ money. If they had any inkling about or understanding of the industry they would know that a dockyard work force goes from designing to the last section of outfitting, that various different skills are involved and that there has to be continuity in the work flow. One could not just put down everything and build a dock. If one were to build one in Newcastle one would be building it in 10 sections, which would bring about all sorts of problems. While one was doing that the rest of the work force would have fallen apart. The industry would have collapsed long beforehand. So that remark by the Minister only illustrates his lack of understanding of and contempt for the industry.
I am sorry that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) and the. honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) are not present this afternoon to stand up and evidence their support of the matter before the House. Their electorates are also vitally affected by this matter. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, and the Minister for Transport were invited to Newcastle for the launching of the Flinders Range. Both conveniently were unable to accept the invitation. Where is Senator Cotton, who is the Minister responsible for this matter? He has not been sighted in Newcastle. He has not been sighted in the shipyards. He has not been making any statements about this matter. The Minister for Transport has been doing the dirty work for him- the union bashing. There has been a failure by the Government to commit itself to the retention of the Australian shipbuilding industry. I do not trust this Government and I do not believe that the dockyard workers trust this Government. Since the beginning of February we have been told by the Government that it will consider the matter. I cannot repeat the greeting that I received from the Minister for Industry and Commerce when I took the first delegation to him as it is not printable in Hansard.
I want to enter into a discussion on one other aspect, that is, the fact that no reference has been made to devaluation in all of the comparisons of figures by the IAC. During the post-energy crisis Japan devalued heavily. We revalued. We slightly devalued again. The net result has been the showing of a distinct advantage in terms of prices for Japanese products. I do not think it is a matter of whether we will devalue now; I think it is just a matter of when we will devalue. No consideration has been given to that. If we were to devalue our currency by 15 per cent the price of the Japanese constructed ships would rise to $43.7m. If we were to devalue our currency by 1 8 per cent it would be $44.8m and if we were to devalue it by 20 per cent it would be $45.6m. The net price quoted by the Newcastle State Dockyard- the current price- is $44.75m. So let us do away with the argument about there being a difference in the net costs. That does not exist. What is involved is politics. It is a matter of political priorities. Money is available for a superphosphate bounty for Cabinet Ministers but no money is available for the men employed in the metal trades union. Why is that so? Because the Government is determined to expand the unemployment situation and to keep up the level of the expanded unemployment situation. To force a reduction in real wages, it has to defuse the militant unions. Why does it not be honest with the people and put its cards on the table?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition has raised a very serious matter for discussion. Without a shadow of doubt it concerns me that the Opposition has not thought more seriously about the honourable members that it has appointed to speak on this matter. Without a shadow of doubt there is a genuine need for the re-election of a shadow Ministry. I think that the terms of the motion are such that the motion should be re-phrased. The motion refers to the failure of the Government to commit itself to the retention of an Australian shipbuilding industry. If ever there has been a need to change the word Government’ to ‘Opposition’ it is on this occasion because it is the Opposition’s policy, as the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has already clearly explained, that has resulted in the bringing forward of this motion. This motion is a motion of condemnation.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) have asked where is the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton). I ask honourable members opposite: Where is the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), who is supposedly so concerned about the retention of the shipbuilding industry in Newcastle? Is he in the Chamber? Of course not. Why is he not present? Because he has no concern for the industry. As I will shortly let the House know, he had no concern for the industry during his tenure as Minister for Transport. He was the holder of that office for 3 years. What did he do for it during that time? Nothing. What interest does he have in it? None. The honourable member for Shortland implied that the Government members committee on shipbuilding had wasted the taxpayers’ money because no report has been forthcoming concerning its investigation of the Australian shipbuilding industry. I point out to the honourable member for Shortland that the members of the committee paid their own expenses and that the investigation was not conducted at the taxpayers’ expense. Does the Opposition have a comparable committee? Are any of the honourable members sitting on the Opposition benches members of a committee that is inquiring into the Australian shipbuilding industry? Of course not.
– There has been no submission from the Australian Labor Party to the Government on this issue.
– The Minister interjected that there has been no submission from the Australian Labor Party to the Government on this issue. I would not expect one to be made because the Opposition’s concern is purely on the surface. This matter of public importance has been brought forward on a Wednesday, which is a day on which there is no broadcast of this chamber’s proceedings. When was such a matter last brought forward? On a Wednesday- a day on which there is no such broadcast. Honourable members opposite are actors. They are standing up in this Parliament to get their views recorded in Hansard so that they can pass them throughout the shipyards. Honourable members opposite are not prepared to have their comments on this subject broadcast to the concerned workers outside. So they raise it on a Wednesday.
On 13 August the Minister for Industry and Commerce stated that the Government had decided to continue for the time being the shipbuilding subsidy arrangements introduced in December 1973 by the Whitlam Government.
That was the first statement made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce leading up to the reference of the shipbuilding and ship repair industry to the Industries Assistance Commission. I invite honourable members to listen to the following quotation:
Enough is enough, when one hears the puny attempts by members of the Opposition who declaim: ‘Blame the Government! Blame the Government! Blame the Government!’ The Government pays the wages bill for every worker employed in the Australian shipbuilding industry .. . The future of the Australian shipbuilding industry is sound.
They are not my words; but they are appropriate, are they not?
– Whose words are they?
– They are the words of a former Minister for Manufacturing Industry- a defeated Minister.
- Mr Enderby. Listen to these words:
And in Australia- the most highly manufacturing country in the world, a very large manufacturing, a great manufacturing country, but the most highly protected of them all- we have too often forgotten the consumer.
They are not my words. They are not the words of the Minister for Transport. They are the words of the former Prime Minister- the pro tern Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Yes, we do have a great manufacturing industry, but we do forget the consumer. Do members of the Opposition seriously believe, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide said, that the $240m subsidy that is applied in the United States should be applied to this industry in Australia? Is that what they are suggesting? They have not said that outright, but by innuendo that is what we are supposed to have. Here is another report of a statement by the Labor Minister for Manufacturing Industry, Mr Enderby:
The Federal Government would not necessarily assist industries which went to the wall under Labor policies, the Minister for Manufacturing Industries (Mr Enderby) said yesterday.
It is a different tune today. On how many occasions during the 3 years of Labor Government did the honourable member for Port Adelaide speak on the crisis in the Australian shipbuilding industry? On how many occasions did the honourable member for Shortland do so? On how many occasions did supporters of the then Government raise a matter of public importance relating to the Australian shipbuilding industry?
– I would say none.
– I think the honourable member would be right. Another quotation I have states:
The unemployment in Australia is primarily due now to the fact that people are pricing themselves out of jobs.
Whose words were they? They were the words spoken by the former Prime Minister on 30 November 1974 on the program Four Corners. On that program the Labor Government’s tariff cuts were being discussed. There was some concern expressed about the superphosphate bounty and a Mercedes vehicle. Well, the Mercedes was ordered by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister, and is it suggested that the superphosphate bounty is doing nothing to help the man on the land? Is it suggested by members of the Opposition that we should do nothing for the man on the land? During their 3 years in office that is exactly what they did. Are they suggesting that their tariff cuts did nothing to destroy the workers in the clothing industry? Now members of the Opposition supposedly are concerned about workers in the Australian shipbuilding industry. They were not concerned then. Another quotation I have states:
The subsidy that was paid to that industry in 1972-73 amounted to about $30m. There are S000 men employed in the shipbuilding industry. That means that the Australian taxpayers met the wages bill of the Australian shipbuilding industry.
They are not my words but the words of the then Attorney-General and Minister for Police and Customs, Mr Enderby, on 3 June 1975. It is astounding that the Opposition had the audacity to bring forward today a motion that condemns it. The Opposition has been condemned before. The former Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle, who has the Newcastle dockyard in his electorate, is not even concerned enough to come into this House today. He knows that if he walked in here he would stand condemned. He would not have the opportunity to interject because his own words would condemn him. The honourable member for Shortland referred to the 12 years of Liberal and Country Party administration in New South Wales. He forgot to say that there were 19 years of Labor administration during which an improvement to the docks could have been brought about.
– Nothing was done.
– No, nothing was done. Now there will be an opportunity to do something because Mr Wran, the New South Wales Premier, has given the shipbuilders in New South Wales a real opportunity to show their strength, determination and tenacity. He is prepared to order the floating dock overseas. I was at a launching in
Newcastle recently when it was announced that the dockyard could be ordered overseas. I asked the reason and was told that it was because of cost and the time of construction. Even if the dock were commissioned by the former Liberal and National Country Party administration the Labor administration under Neville Wran could now re-order that dock in New South Wales if he cared to do so. He does not care to do so. Neither does the Premier of South Australia care, although at least his offer was better.
This Government is concerned about the shipbuilding industry and has been concerned from the outset. It was prepared to make an offer to the workers in Newcastle and Whyalla but they were not prepared to accept it. They were not prepared to accept it when we addressed them on the lawns outside Parliament House. They want money, they want to pay off their houses and they want to live in Newcastle. I want to see them stay there and I want to see them working. Is it unreasonable to say to them: ‘Let us have a moratorium?’ Is it unreasonable to ask them to restrain their wages? If those things are unreasonable I do not know what sanity is left in the Australian shipbuilding industry.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We heard the honourable member for Evans (Mr Abel) spend practically all his time in this debate drawing a red herring across the path of the Parliament. He tried to blame the faults of the present Government on the previous Government. It is time that the Government and its supporters realised the facts because they now have been in office for 1 1 months. Whatever criticism the Government and its supporters had of the previous Labor Government, power has been in their hands since November last year. The Government has had the power to introduce a new policy if the Labor Government’s policy was wrong, but it is not prepared to do so. All the honourable member for Evans wanted to do was to get up in this place and criticise the Labor Party in an endeavour to draw a red herring across the path and draw attention away from the condemnation that should be directed at the Government and the policy it has adopted on the shipbuilding industry.
I support the raising of the matter of urgency by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). It draws to the attention of the House the plight of the shipbuilding industry and the need for a change in Government policy. All we have seen since the Industries Assistance
Commission made its report on the shipbuilding industry is procrastination from the Government and an announcement that 4 ships for the Australian National Line would be built in Japan. Since then we have had a vague offer by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), to the shipyard workers at Newcastle and Whyalla, which I think was very unfair, in which he indicated that a ship would be built in each of those yards if the workers were prepared to accept a wage freeze. In the first place I think it is completely unfair to expect workers in the shipyard industry not to accept wage indexation rises and anything else given by the industrial tribunals to everyone else in the Australian workforce. I do not think the Government should expect the shipyard workers to accept those conditions at any time. The Government and its supporters must know in their own minds that those conditions would not be acceptable yet the honourable member for Evans said these workers ought to be prepared to accept lower wages. I do not know of any worker in Australia who has ever been advantaged after being prepared to accept lower wages under a Liberal and National Country Party Government. The present workers in the shipyards at Whyalla and Newcastle will not accept such a reduction in their wages.
I think the proposed moratorium on strikes may be all right. I think the shipyard workers would be prepared to discuss something along those lines. They would be prepared to discuss dispute procedure clauses and such things. The number of disputes that arise in the industry is not so great, not nearly as many as suggested by members on the Government side. This matter could have been negotiated but not the proposed freeze of wages. There has been the offer by the State Premiers, Mr Wran and Mr Dunstan, and there also has been a submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) rather insultingly referred to as being a bit lightweight.
The industry still does not know its future and where it will go. The Minister has said that he will bring down a policy in a few weeks after he has examined all these submissions. We certainly hope that the Government does so and we hope that it will look at its own election policy. Prior to the last election the Government Parties included in their election policy issued to the Australian people the following statement:
An Australian shipbuilding and repair industry is essential to the national interest The Liberal and Country Parties believe Australia must maintain an independent capacity to provide and service the relevant requirements of our commercial shipping and our defence forces. A Federal Liberal and Country Party Government will pursue policies which ensure the shipbuilding and repair industry operates as competitively and efficiently as possible. In this we will provide a building subsidy to protect our relatively small but vital industry.
That was the policy that the Government Parties put to the people. One would think that that policy supports the maintenance of our shipbuilding industry but that is not the case. It was just a red herring drawn across the path of the Australian people in a bid for votes. The Government is ignoring the point made by the Industries Assistance Commission. It is completely ignoring the defence aspect of our shipbuilding industry. It is all right to say that the defence aspect is of no concern to our shipbuilding industry but if Australia were in trouble tomorrow those same shipyards and workers who today are being condemned would make a great contribution to our defence capacity.
My special concern in this matter, irrespective of what honourable members on the other side have said, is Whyalla. I have spoken on the matter of the shipbuilding for quite some time because I feel it is my responsibility. People in Whyalla expect me to show some concern and to act in a responsible way in trying to defend their interests. If the Whyalla shipyards are closed I think that Whyalla will be hit a lot harder than Newcastle. Newcastle possibly has some of the highest unemployment in Australia at the present time but unemployment in Whyalla is also high. Whyalla is in a completely decentralised area where there is no alternative employment. There has been talk of the workers from the shipyards being absorbed into the steel works. How we absorb 600 or 700 tradesmen in the steel works, I do not know. From reports I have heard, it can possibly absorb about 90 tradesmen. Some of the unskilled staff possibly could be absorbed in the steel works, but they will be absorbed in that section which finds it very difficult to attract labour and to hold labour because of rotating shifts, working over weekends and this sort of thing. The jobs are very unpopular and those are the jobs which will be available to these people.
We have to take into account the high migrant population in Whyalla, which is faced with the situation of the sudden rise in unemployment and the diminution in jobs. Honourable members have a pretty good idea of the effect a situation such as that would have. Quite recently some of the women of Whyalla got together and went along to the local newspaper editor and had a talk to him. They were able to put a case for Whyalla, looking at the matter from the woman ‘s point of view and at the social effects.
Two of the women were Mrs Jean Whiteman and Mrs Pat McGuinness. The report states:
Mrs Jean Whiteman and Mrs Pat McGuinness have, in the absence of any other contenders for the job, grasped the nettle and set about making it public that they think, to quote Mrs McGuinness: ‘The shipyard is being buried even before it’s dead’.
They think it’s time the wives of shipyard workers got together to see if there is anything left to be done by way of a rescue operation. ‘We think there is too much acceptance that the shipyard has to close’, is how Mrs Whiteman summed up the attitude of all the shipbuilders’ wives she knows. ‘The unions have done everything they can. The only thing left is to embarrass the Federal Government with the consequences of what it is doing*.
The women say there is widespread feeling among shipyard-department families that their interests are being too readily written off under the blanketing assurance that everything will be done to try to give the men jobs at the steelworks. ‘We know a lot of wives who say their husbands would not accept laboring jobs after being sponsored out from the U.K. by BHP as tradesmen for the shipyard ‘.
The Whiteman and McGuinness families have been in Whyalla about nine years. Mr Whiteman is a boilermakerwelder, and Mr McGuinness a leading hand plumber. Both left the U.K. to work at the shipyard by arrangement with BHP’s recruiting officer.
Mrs Whiteman thinks the company has incurred a responsibility to do more than offer tradesmen any job that might be available.
Of course, that would be at a much lower rate of pay. The matter before the House today is important. I think it tries to draw to the attention of the Government the urgency for some definite proposals to be made regarding the Australian shipbuilding industry. In Newcastle and Whyalla we have growing unemployment, so it is essential that we ensure that the shipbuilding industry is kept going. The Government, instead of blaming the workers in the industry and low productivity, should try to draw up some plan which will increase productivity in those areas. It should put in more modern equipment so that the yards can successfully compete with overseas yards.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There should not be the confrontation that there is in the House today. There should be a spirit of cooperation and consensus. The Opposition should act responsibly and accept the Government’s attitude of responsibility by putting a sensible proposal to the Government and to the people. Today we have not heard one thing about what the Opposition might do to save the shipbuilding industry. What a joke it is that the Opposition has raised as a matter of public importance:
The failure of the Government to commit itself to the retention of an Australian shipbuilding industry.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has shown by his speech that the previous Government’s policy brought the shipbuilding industry to the state that it is in today. What we should be doing, in co-operation with the Opposition, is discussing this matter in a responsible way. Instead the Opposition is looking for scapegoats and for votes and is throwing fuel on the fire. The Opposition should be encouraging the trade union movement, management and government to co-operate so that we can solve a national problem. There is a problem. Let us face it together instead of the Opposition muckraking for the sake of votes. What a pathetic effort it was from the Opposition today. What a pathetic team of speakers it was. Were the 3 speakers for the Opposition the best that could be mustered? If they were, I would hate to see the three worst.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said that we on this side of the House were not concerned. We have never been more concerned. We referred the matter to the Industries Assistance Commission on 1 8 August and on 20 September there was a reply. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) then made his offer to the union movement. The offer has been denigrated and knocked because it is said that wage earners should not accept a no-wage increase proposal. I say we should listen to the words of the Minister for Transport. He talked about the apple growers in the Franklin and Calare electorates. He talked about the dairy farmers who are working and going broke on the farms because they have a spirit about this country. They feel for this country. I say to the blokes at Newcastle and Whyalla, and to the ladies at Whyalla: ‘This is your country as much as it is the country of the apple growers. Get your shoulder to the wheel and your nose to the grindstone and let us work our way out of the problem. Let us meet the Government’s offer. Let us go forward together, but do not come here and denigrate and criticise and be anti-constructive. ‘ Let me say what I believe the Australian Labor Party would have done if it had been in government. Its supporters today said that the shipbuilding industry would have been saved if it were in government but they put no proposal before the House.
– They do not have one.
-They do not have one, that is very true. Let me read from the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this House on 24 August. He said:
We have to decide now what industries are worth keeping- which ones are likely to be strong and productive in the years ahead. We have to identify the industries which offer most scope for employing our people and we have to build them up selectively with Government help.
– Who said that?
-That was the Leader of the Opposition. I say to the honourable member for Grey (Mr Wallis) and to the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) whom I welcome into the chamber at this late stage of the debate -
– His conscience must have pricked him.
- His conscience must have pricked him, as the honourable member for Evans has said. I am sorry that we did not hear from the honourable member for Newcastle today. He might have had something to say. I say to the honourable member for Grey: ‘Take that message from the Leader of the Opposition back to the people of Whyalla.’ That is what the honourable member’s Party would have done. The Labor Party would have wiped out the shipbuilding industry as, in fact, its proposals did on 18 December 1973 when the then Minister for Secondary Industry, Mr Enderby, made a statement about new assistance arrangements for the industry. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to table this statement of 18 December 1973, made by Mr Enderby.
-Does the honourable member for Higgins desire the statement to be incorporated in Hansard?
– What is it you are trying to incorporate?
-It is the Press statement by Mr Enderby on 18 December 1973. Whilst the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) is looking at this statement I will read parts from it. It said that the Labor Party would relax the present controls governing the importation of vessels into Australia, and make new arrangements providing for smaller but more frequent reductions in the maximum level of subsidy payable. It also said that the relaxation of import controls would allow for meaningful competition for imports with consequential beneficial effects on freight rates.
-Is leave granted for the incorporation?
– We are happy about it, but there are 7 pages and somewhere along the line we have to consider the situation of Hansard. It is a document that has been publicly circulated.
-I will withdraw the request. I am quite happy to quote it.
-Leave is granted for documents to be incorporated in Hansard always with the proviso that they can be reproduced in Hansard. That is a stipulation that is made all the time.
– I will leave the matter in your hands.
-Leave will be granted provided it can be incorporated.
– Leave is not granted.
-Leave is not granted.
-This policy statement that I am reading shows what the Labor Party thought of the shipbuilding industry. The honourable member for Port Adelaide referred to what happens overseas. I would like to tell him what happens in Japan. In Japan there is no direct subsidy for shipbuilding. There the Government has taken steps to reduce the number of yards. In Sweden there are no direct subsidies and by 1 978 the 4 main yards will reduce employment by 30 per cent. In the United States of America there is a subsidy of 35 per cent on vessels engaged in overseas trade. In West Germany there is no direct financial assistance. The honourable member for Port Adelaide made a very poor contribution to this debate but an even worse contribution was made by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who said absolutely nothing. I refer him to the question in the House today on the subject of bees. I wish he would encourage the people in the shipbuilding industry to work hard like those bees in the parliamentary garden.
He talked about the delivery of steel taking a long time and I would like to tell him what has happened to steel prices in this country. In 10 years they have come from the lowest to the highest in the world. Why has that happened? It has happened because wage demands have added to costs, including the cost of building ships. The honourable member for Grey denied by interjection that 3 yards closed down under Labor rule. I challenge him on that point. The fact is that 3 shipyards closed down under the Labor Government, and what did he do about that? He talked of red herrings. I would like to suggest that he take the message back to the people of Newcastle and tell them his proposals for saving the shipbuilding industry; but he has no proposals at all. I consider the Prime Minister’s offer to be a generous one. We have said that we will consider the submissions from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and from both the South Australian and the New South Wales governments and will draw the threads together to make a decision. We can do no more than we are doing. We have acted very responsibly. What we have done is completely contrary to the allegation in the matter of public importance raised by the Opposition and proves that the allegation is ill-founded, ill-timed and completely wrong. This Government is concerned; the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is concerned. The Prime Minister has made an offer. A back bench committee has visited the yards. Did the Opposition ever have a back bench committee? We are concerned about people.
– Where is the report?
-The report is a confidential one and we are proud that it has not leaked out. We are proud of our concern.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I was misrepresented on 2 occasions, firstly by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and secondly by the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), who has just resumed his seat, on the score of their allegations that I was responsible for the closure of 3 shipyards. That is completely untrue. The fact is that the Adelaide -
-The honourable member for Newcastle should point out where he has been misrepresented without debating the matter.
-I am not debating the matter.
-I did not say that and you know it.
-The honourable member for Newcastle has claimed to have been misrepresented and has stated where he has been misrepresented. I think that is sufficient for his personal explanation.
-I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker. The position is that I was misrepresented when it was claimed that I was responsible for the closure of Adelaide Ship
Construction, the Walkers Ltd shipyard at Maryborough and the Evans Deakin and Co. Pty Ltd shipyard. Evans Deakin closed down the other day during the term of office of the present Minister for Transport. Adelaide Ship Construction closed down in March 1973 when the owners of the shipyard, the Adelaide Shipping Company, placed an order with Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd shipyards at Whyalla to build a ship for its fleet.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Newcastle again that he is giving detail. The honourable member has claimed to have been misrepresented and has said that the statement made was not correct. Without giving details, that is all the explanation that the honourable member can give. If the honourable member now goes on to give details of the misrepresentation he is debating the matter rather than merely showing where he has been misrepresented.
-In respect of Walkers shipyard, it had orders for 3 ships and $83/4m worth of work when it closed down. The yard made the decision to close, not the Labor Government. We made an offer to go into partnership with Walkers but the Liberal and National Country Parties would not be in it.
-The honourable member has explained where he has been misrepresented. The details of it cannot be given and I suggest that the honourable member has now made his point.
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
– I rise to order-
-Order! I suggest that the 2 honourable members on my right cease standing on points of order at every moment. I am now telling the honourable member for Newcastle the point at which he completed his personal explanation. The honourable member has again explained where he has been misrepresented and I have said to him that he should not go into the details of that misrepresentation.
-I am not trying to do that. All I am trying to do is show you-
– Sit down.
-Sit down yourself you mug.
– Get back into your clown ‘s clothes.
-I have told you before that you ought to be locked up in a zoo.
– I will get you to clean out the cage.
-Order! The honourable member for Evans will cease interjecting. The honourable member for Newcastle should realise that he is not helping when he answers interjections that should not have been made in the first place. The honourable member for Newcastle is now trying to illustrate where he has been misrepresented. He has explained where he was misrepresented and the details of the misrepresentation are not relevant. I suggest again that the honourable member not go into the circumstances surrounding the misrepresentation.
-I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker. If I were to go into the details of the 3 shipyards mentioned it would take the best part of an hour and I know that you would not allow me to transgress to that degree, and I would not anyway.
– Even if the honourable member for Newcastle took 10 seconds going into detail, he would be out of order.
-The other point on which I was misrepresented concerned the question of policy, the Australian Labor Party’s policy on shipbuilding, and it was said that it was my policy. I want to make it clear that it was never my policy. I opposed it as strongly as I could, and whenever and wherever I could. Let me make it clear that it was not Charlie Jones’s policy. He was just as much opposed to it as the honourable.member for Grey (Mr Wallis).
Mr ABEL (Eva’ns)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) inferred -
– Order! The honourable member for Evans will resume his seat. A personal explanation does not, cannot and never will, cover an inference. The discussion is concluded.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to honour a longstanding moral obligation of the Commonwealth Government to the long term Asian residents of the Territory of Christmas Island. Honourable members will be aware that the only commercial activity on Christmas Island is the extraction and export of rock phosphate and phosphate dust. The life of the usable phosphate deposits- at present rates of extraction and with existing technologyis about another 20 years. When that industry ends, there will be no economic future for the Island’s residents. There are no alternative industries which could reasonably be expected to provide them with a livelihood. As a result, successive .Commonwealth Governments have accepted the obligation to provide some form of resettlement assistance to those residents of Christmas Island who have given long and valuable service to Australia in working the phosphate deposits on the Island.
I point out that 417 of these long term residents are Australian citizens already. The others are eligible to apply for Australian citizenship. It is a matter of simple justice that the Commonwealth Government accepts its obligations to them. This is a Government for all Australians, no matter where they may be. As honourable members will recall, there are no indigenous inhabitants of Christmas Island. Asian workers brought mainly from Singapore have been employed in the Island’s phosphate industry since mining began in 1 899. Most of the Island’s present Asian resident population came to the Island since World War II or were born there. Since 1 965 almost all workers brought to the Island have come on a restricted term basisusually 3 years- and have been repatriated to their homelands on completion of their term by their employer as part of their normal employment arrangements.
Late in 1972 the McMahon Government approved a resettlement policy for the long term Asian residents of Christmas Island. This promise was endorsed by the Labor Government in 1973, and announced by the then Minister for External Territories, Mr Morrison, in April 1 973. His successors promised introduction of the scheme as quickly as possible to these residents a number of times. It is a matter of deep regret that despite the promises the scheme did not eventuate during the years of the Labor Government. The delay following the initial announcement has caused the residents of the Island great uncertainty and extensive distress. The extent of this concern was evidenced during the visit of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to Christmas Island in April of this year. The residents of the Island were clearly sceptical that the promises would ever be honoured.
At the time of the Minister’s visit he gave an undertaking that enabling legislation would be introduced as soon as the necessary amendment to the Christmas Island Agreement could be formally agreed to by the Australian and New Zealand Governments, and the Parliament. Agreement has been reached with New Zealand. The formal documents were signed on 8 September 1976. This Bill now seeks the approval of that Agreement by the Parliament. Once the Parliament ratifies the Agreement, work on the resettlement scheme can begin. Australia’s obligation to the people who have provided her with valuable and long service will begin to be repaid. As I said earlier, the phosphate industry on Christmas Island is likely to end in 20 years.
The existing Christmas Island Agreement of 195 8 provides for establishment of a special fund to meet the obligations on Australia when the industry ceases. The fund is built up by a levy on each tonne of phosphate rock exported from the Island. It now amounts to approximately $4.5m. Under the existing Act, however, this fund cannot be used until the phosphate industry ends. This would mean prolonging introduction of any form of resettlement scheme for probably 20 years. The Government not only believes this would be unfair, it would also be a breach of the promises made to the long term residents of the Island. As a result of this amendment to the Agreement, it will be possible to use the money in the special fund progressively to finance a scheme for the voluntary resettlement of the long term Asian residents.
At the moment there are about 1300 residents of the Island eligible to benefit from the scheme, most of whom wish to settle in Australia. Very few, if any, are likely to choose to settle in other places such as Singapore and Malaysia. Resettlement will, I stress, be a voluntary and gradual process. It is expected that the scheme will provide for about 300 people- workers and their families- to move from the island each year. This will ensure their proper integration into the Australian community and also ensure that there is no disruption of the Island. As residents leave they will be replaced by restricted-term workers from Malaysia and Singapore who will return to their homelands on completion of their term of employment on the Island. The resettlement scheme will provide a resettlement allowance, free fares and other assistance such as scholarships for further education and training.
The Government will also assist the resettlers in finding employment and housing. The actual level of assistance at any one time will be negotiated as necessary with New Zealand. Every effort will be made to ensure that those resettling are properly equipped to fit into the mainland community. Some 450 residents of Christmas Island have already resettled privately in Australia, principally in Western Australia. Many of these have gone to Katanning while others have gone to the mining areas of the north west of Western Australia where they appear to have settled in extremely well. I am confident the Christmas Island residents who take pan in this scheme will be similarly accepted by their local communities. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1976-77 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 1 9 October. Second Schedule.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $2,036,641,000.
-The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), armed to the teeth with metaphors, many of them mixed, has sought to create the impression that the Government is undertaking a more vigorous, broader commitment to defence. I am afraid that the actual performance falls well short of the promise. The Budget shows that defence expenditure this year will be about 2.7 per cent of the gross domestic product, which is about the same level of expenditure in relative terms as it was last year. However, an analysis of the expenditure suggests that in many respects the performance will be less than it was last year. Indeed, it would seem that certain measures have been taken to impose restraint within the defence forces, I suspect largely at the expense of serving members of the defence forces, so that capital expenditure items can be acquired and payments met.
I ought to point out now that the momentum behind increased expenditure on capital equipment items was commenced by the previous Labor Government. When we came into office, and for the initial years we were in office, the ratio of capital expenditure to total expenditure was low. It was low before we came into office and it remained at that rate for a little while because lags occur between the time orders are placed and the time deliveries commence to arrive. A succession of Labor Ministers for Defence reversed that trend, and the upshot was that capital expenditure assumed “a greater proportion of the total expenditure on defence than was occurring immediately before we came into office and in the initial period we were in office.
However, to hold expenditure down, and in spite of the claims of the Government that otherwise is occurring the Government has, for instance, frozen personnel strengths in the armed Services. Again, it seems as though the income levels of members of the armed Services are going to suffer as part of the Government’s efforts to juggle total defence expenditure in order to meet the costs of capital equipment. I quote figures which show that, on average, wages for serving members of the defence forces are going to increase by about 7 per cent compared with a projected 12 per cent increase in average income for the rest of the community. This matter has been drawn to the attention of the Minister for Defence at Question Time in this House. To date, no answer has been provided why this apparent discrimination is to be exercised against serving members of the defence forces. The implications are clear. Expenditure on equipment and stores is down. Expenditure on fuel and lubricants is down. It would seem that activity in the armed Services is certainly not going to burgeon forth, as the Minister for Defence would have had us believe before he was elected to his ministerial office, and as he has implied very heavily with those rather dramatic metaphors that he uses from time to time.
The Minister has been kind enough to suggest from time to time that a bipartisan approach to defence would be desirable in this country. I have been equally generous in nature to respond by saying that I too think that would be desirable. But it seems to me that a little less exaggeration, drama and perhaps emotion and a little bit more calm, factual consideration might be helpful in reaching that point. I suggest in all seriousness that if unwise decisions are made at this point about important and extremely expensive capital expenditure commitments for replacement items, especially for the Air Force then the Government, of whatever political colour it may happen to be over the next decade or so, is going to be saddled with extremely expensive items which it will have to pay for from its Budget. It is going to be confronted with extremely difficult budgetary management problems, and I think it is quite unsound for anyone in this Parliament or outside to think that the difficulties of budgetary management are going to be briefly ephemeral. They are going to be with us for some considerable time, as are the difficulties of economic management generally in the Australian economy. So I start by suggesting to the Minister and to the Government that I believe there is room for calmer joint consideration of many of these items, and the calmer joint consideration would be in the community interest.
The first question I ask is this: What are we going to prepare for? What do we have to defend ourselves against? I abhor the exaggeration which is being fostered by members of the Government about the threats that confront this country. The best advice that we received when we were in Government, and it was supplied to us close to the end of our period of Government last year, was that at best the threat was mild. Let me cite to the Committee some quotes:
The contingency of military threat against international lines of communication directly affecting Australia is remote and improbable.
The contingency of military threat by a major power has been found to be remote and improbable.
Major assault against Australia is at present the least conceivable and most remote of contingencies.
Nothing has happened internationally, and especially in the region near us, which would cause any substantial change to that sort of strategic assessment of our situation. I am certain that the advisers who advised us in Government, who are the same advisers advising the present Government, would not allow themselves to be manoeuvred into a position- a position which would be far removed from any ethical commitmentwhere they would change that advice.
I suggest that the threat to this country is not the sort of high level threat which arises from conflict between the super powers. In any case, if that sort of threat were to occur I would again suggest quite seriously that we are small fish in that pond. Although we would have a role to play- hopefully that situation would never occur, and the assessment is that it is the most unlikely of probabilities- and we should discharge that role, the fact is that it would be very much a conflict between the super powers. So the more likely, although highly improbable, situation for which we would have to prepare is a localised conflict.
Following the Guam doctrine of 1969 the Americans, our powerful friends and allies, have made it clear that they expect countries like
Australia to attend more adequately to their defence preparation, a perfectly reasonable sentiment. In spite of the great faith we invest in ANZUS, I think we should bear in mind that America has many more interests in this part of the world than Australia. If we are thinking of the likelihood of conflict- I put this as a purely hypothetical proposition because I do not believe there is such a likelihood- we are thinking of countries near us, non-communist countries, countries which like us are supplied with military arms and equipment from the United States of America. Accordingly, if there were to be any sort of conflict, then very largely we have to consider the way in which we would handle our defence ourselves. I want to repeat that I think it is highly improbable, and I think that diplomacy has a much more subtle and influential role to play in avoiding such a conflict.
In any case, what sort of conflict would it be? Certainly we do not have to prepare to defend ourselves against the USS Enterprise and the United States forces moving up and down our coastline, as one bemused correspondent in a daily newspaper seemed to suggest last week. The first thing to ask is what country in our near area has sufficient industrial capacity to support and sustain military conflict with this country? Frankly, the answer is no country. None has the advanced industrial capacity to sustain such a conflict, and it would have to be an extended sustenance too. None has that sort of capacity. That is the first point to be considered. The second point to be considered is how they are to get to this country. They would need a massive armada of ships to move personnel. For instance, on the occasion of the D-day landing towards the end of the Second World War 6939 ships and 10 150 aircraft were required to land 5 divisions of 14 500 men each, and 2 airborne divisions. Takushiro Hattori’s Complete History of the Great East Asia War relates that it was estimatedthis was a Japanese naval estimate- that an invasion of Australia would require 12 divisions or some 216 000 men, 1.5 million tons of shipping to move them, and the entire Japanese fleet to protect the force.
Unfortunately, Mr Deputy Chairman, I have a good speech which I would like to develop, and if there is enough generosity in the heart of the Minister for Defence I might be able to pick up another 10 minutes.
Mr DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Hurford) proposed:
That the honourable member’s time be extended.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I am afraid that is not allowed at this stage of the debate because honourable members can speak more than once during a Committee debate.
-The moneys provided in this Budget for defence - $2,036,64 1,000-reflect the tenacity of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). If we add to that the fact that he was able to announce that over the next 3 years $ 12,000m will be available for expenditure on defence, we will understand that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) chose this man to be the Minister for Defence, he evaluated not only his capacity and integrity but also his tenacity. 1 think that the Prime Minister, who held this portfolio himself, realised the extreme difficulties in this area and that the Minister was taking over a department which in many respects- this is no reflection on the people in the department- was in effect in a shambles because of the discouragement under the previous Government. Naturally, I will speak highly of my Minister because he merits such .praise. But it is interesting to note that a writer in this month ‘s edition of the Pacific Defence Reporter states, among many other complimentary things, regarding the Minister:
As it is, Mr Killen is emerging stronger and stronger within the portfolio, with any showiness of style more than offset by a widespread and growing trust and respect for him from within the Services.
That one comment alone indicates that within the Services there is a restoration of morale and respect for what the Services stand for. Honourable members each have 10 minutes to speak in this debate. How can we possibly hope to deal with the all important matter of defence in that time? However, one point I should stress, and it is my responsibility to bring it before the Australian people, is the tremendous importance of having a defence capability and I should explain what that capability stands for. I will expand that a little further. I hope that sinks into the younger people who over the last three of four years have been encouraged to have nothing but contempt for anything that may be even suggestive or patriotism, and I use the word without shame and with an awareness that this is a magnificent country. Unless we are prepared to build up a realistic defence capacity, no other country in the world is likely to look in our direction -
– Against whom- the Vikings?
– Let me repeat what the honourable member said. He interjected and said: ‘Against whom- the Vikings?’. In other words, he is projecting the technique that has been used with some effect by members of the Australian Labor Party. I understood that honourable members opposite still use that title for their party; shame on them. As soon as a threat is mentioned, honourable members opposite throw out a contemptible comment such as the one we just heard, ‘Against whom- the Vikings?’. I listened to the shadow Minister for defence, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). I commend him for his low key address to the chamber. He did not attempt at any time to scream forth as the Minister in the previous Government did that there would be no threat to Australia for 5, 10 or 15 years. Honourable members opposite have given away that line because the Australian people found it unacceptable.
Let us look for a moment at the defence situation as it is seen by people whose business it is to know the requirements for a realistic force to defend this country. Of course, at first glance it would appear to be an insoluble proposition with our huge coastline, our huge land mass and so on. But there is the possibility that we can, within a short space of time or a comparatively short space of time, with the new spirit in the various defence forces build up a capacity to enable us to hang on until a powerful ally could come to our assistance. One line of thought is that we would need a capacity to hold on for up to 6 months. Of course, that can be disputed. One might well ask: Could we hang on for that length of time if we were under threat, whatever that threat may be? It may be the threat of infiltration, invasion, all out attack or a force establishing itself and then expanding into this country. Those who have contemplated this proposition visualise this nation having from six to ten infantry divisions or equivalent lower formations. When we think of infantry divisions, this Government is not for one moment setting aside the concept of new generation warfare. In other words, we do not contemplate six to ten footslogging divisions. We contemplate divisions which would have the supporting forces of all the units which would include new generation warfare missiles and so on.
I wish to quote some further facts in relation to the defence of our coastline which have been compiled by people who once again have thought about these things with a sense of responsibility and reality. I think that is the important thing. They deal with the reality of defending this country with a holding on operation until the forces of a country powerful enough to assist us arrive. It has been estimated that we would require 40 missile boats. The defence planners have been thinking in terms of a craft similar to that used by the Israeli forces in the defence of their very limited coastline. It is debatable whether a craft of that nature could be adapted to be precisely suitable to our situation. This is the sort of defence that has been visualised. As I have said, I can merely touch briefly on or scratch the suface of this subject. But obviously, the many airports scattered throughout this country should be upgraded at least to a point where they can handle the Hercules and Caribou aircraft of the Royal Australian Air Force.
I turn to deal with our road system. Because of the policy introduced by this Government in relation to beef roads, we have at least some sort of road system now that would be immensely valuable in the time of an emergency. But at present it is totally inadequate. Again, the advice of the people who study these things is that we would require many more miles of highway traversing this country, more particularly from east to west. We have a program of national highways to run from north to south. But at the moment, we need something more suitable to travel from east to west. We would need to look at the establishment of bases for the Royal Australian Air Force. They exist now at Townsville, Amberley, Williamstown, Richmond, Wagga, Laverton, Sale and Edinburgh. But the suggestion has been made that there should be greater development of Air Force bases, particularly in inland Queensland and inland New South Wales. It is estimated that to supplement a force required we would need six to twelve tankers. Mr Temporary Chairman, I find that already I am running out of time. It is quite unrealistic to try to debate this question during the Committee debate on the Estimates. However, may I say this in conclusion? Under this Minister at least we have debated the subject of defence in this place. We know that he is preparing a White Paper and that there will be a full-scale debate on the defence of this country for the first time in many years since the previous Liberal-National Country Party Government went out of office. We realise that without a defence capacity nothing else would matter very much.
-I am able to continue the observations I was making a little earlier through the generosity of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), a generous benefactor who acts in the public interest. He has withdrawn his name from the list of speakers in the debate to allow me to continue. I was making the point a little earlier that the best advice available to the previous Government, and I am certain to this Government, was that the likelihood of threat to this country was improbable. I also said that one had to consider the industrial capacity of countries which might be considered in some distant situation as likely to threaten this country, to attest whether they could sustain conflict in the field. The evidence is that those of our neighbours in our region of interest are not in that position. I then indicated the enormous armada of ships alone that would be required to mount such a logistical exercise as to attack this country.
I want to mention the situation in relation to the air forces of our near neighbours. By and large they are defensive air forces. Indonesia, for instance- I do not concede for a second that Indonesia is any sort of threat and I want to state that this is a hypothetical proposition- has largely fighter aircraft. Nineteen of these were reconditioned Sabres which we provided; they are scarcely aircraft with a range to be a threat to Australia. The remainder of Indonesia’s fighters are very much of Second World War vintage. She has some C-130 Hercules and some Fokker F-27 freighters, but these are transport aircraft. With the sort of defensive capacity that we have with our Mirage Ills, they are incapable of being any sort of serious threat to Australia. Malaysia certainly has modern F-5E fighter aircraft which have been recently acquired, but these are defensive aircraft and do not have the sort of range that would make them a threat to this country. I challenge anyone who is conjuring up some sort of imminent threat to Australia to produce the substantial factual evidence upon which he bases such an unnecessarily disturbing assertion. It is unnecessarily disturbing for members of the Australian community who, in their misguided way, tend to place considerable trust in the loose statements that are made by members of the conservative coalition from time to time and which are made so easily because of their hawkish commitments in these areas.
Similarly, in relation to the naval capacity of our near neighbours, Indonesia largely has small frigates which mostly are quite antiquated ships supplied by the Russians and again, are mostly about 2 decades or more in vintage. They are scarcely the sort of naval armada that would present a threat to this country. Singapore and Malaysia largely have patrol vessels. China is certainly building up its navy but it has largely a coastal defensive navy. Its army has been developed on a defensive concept. It has a very large amount of manpower available to defend the country but with limited mobility beyond the borders of the country. It was conceived to take extremely severe, savage if you like, casualties in the course of repelling an invader. That invader would find that the cost of such an invasion, although inflicting a heavy cost on the Chinese, would still be greater than would justify an assault on that country. In any case, for a very long time into the future, China certainly will not be any threat to this country. Having visited the country recently, I can assure honourable members that one comes away with the enormously overpowering impression that China will be altogether too preoccupied with her own domestic industrial development to consider those sorts of ventures.
What I am really saying is that we have time for mature consideration, and we are confirmed in that view by the best advice that any government of any political persuasion can get in this country. It would be dishonest of any politician to claim, on the basis of the best advice available to him, that he had formed an opinion to the contrary. We have time for mature consideration. We do not have to rush and make unwise commitments. We want no more Fill fiascos. I do not dispute the technical superiority of the Fl 1 1, but I put the simple proposition that in terms of Australia’s defence, more adequate defensive arrangements could have been made for an even smaller outlay than was involved with the Fl 1 1 . More planes of a particular type, for instance the Phantom, could have been purchased and a more effective defensive arrangements could have been established for Australia. Having outlayed such an enormous amount of money we are not particularly well served in that we have only 24 aircraft, six of which are usually out of action for one reason or another. One could well consider that in a situation of conflict with aircraft under repair, aircraft out of action, probably the best we could muster in the field would be about fifteen to eighteen Fills- not a particularly formidable array. We could have got more benefit for the same amount of money by wiser, less rushed, less politically motivated decision-making.
I come to the point I raised earlier: The most expensive decision that this country has ever undertaken is about to be made probably by this Government or conceivably by the next government, that is, in relation to what is generally referred to as the Mirage replacement. I suggest to honourable members that there is no need to rush into a decision on the Mirage replacement. I suggest that first of all we identify and accept the fact that we have a serious weakness in our ground attack capability and that the Mirage aircraft, as a Delta wing aircraft, that is, those of them that have been converted for this role, performs very poorly. It seems to be conventional wisdom amongst those interested in this fieldand on the face of the evidence produced to me I endorse it- that we would best serve ourselves if we reduced the operational force of Mirages to about forty, which is about 2 squadrons, including training aircraft. With strengthening of the wing frames we could extend the life of the Mirage into the mid-1980s, giving us more than ample time to consider maturely the sort of air superiority fighter we may require by that time. Many changes in defence technology which are taking place at this time may well lead to radically different decisions in 5 years time as against the decisions we make now.
Let us be under no delusion about the capacity of the Mirage Ills. In the Middle East the Israelis have shown that the Mirage III has been able to handle the MiG-21s in every instance in which they have met in combat. So it is a formidable aircraft and is quite capable of handling anything that could conceivably be a threat to Australia. I have indicated that on the most extreme test of one’s gullibility there does not seem to be that sort of threat. We have plenty of time up our sleeves to make wise decisions which will give us a sound defence capacity in the future. So I suggest that, rather than talk about F14s, F15s and the F16s and the enormous costs involved in them, we explore other aircraft. I am concerned, for instance, at a recent report that the Israeli Air Force, certainly an air force no less capable than the Royal Australian Air Force, purchased 25 F 15s at a project cost of US$580m. That gives a unit project cost of $23m each. That is why I am arguing that we have to be cautious, we have to be conservative if you like, in our approach to this very important expenditure decision.
These sophisticated types of aircraft have certain limitations which are a disadvantage in Australia. They require expensive facilities from which to operate. Perhaps the Viggen or Jaguar or some similar type of aircraft which can be used flexibly, can be deployed quickly and can adapt to local conditions fairly easily without involving enormous investment in hard runways and other infrastructure, might be more desirable for Australia. Perhaps rather than rushing into further FFGs, which at their best can cruise at about 28 knots, we should wait a little longer, say until the early 1980s, when there will be in operation surface effect vessels with a cruising speed of about 100 knots which will antiquate the FFG. In the meantime a new concept of patrol craft, bigger than we have been used to, perhaps would be more suitable.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-Before the suspension of the sitting the Committee was discussing the estimates for the Department of Defence. We had heard an interesting speech from the spokesman on defence matters for the Australian Labor Party, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He referred to recent ministerial statements and to the attitude of the Labor Party to the defence programs that are reflected in this enormous commitment which is set out in the estimates. The figure for 1976-77 is $2,036,641,000. In 1975-76 the figure was $ 1,749,666,68 1. He talked about the general picture of the Australian strategic position and he put to the Committee a query about the future. He looked at the nations close to Australia. He asked a series of questions concerning technical capacity, economic strength and the ability to sustain an invasion force which he attempted to describe in the terms of the force under General Eisenhower which invaded Europe in 1 944. 1 believe that an appraisal of this nature is rather like an appraisal which one might have expected to hear in this place in 1929. At that time, before the great economic problems of the world burst with such fury upon Australia and other nations, the Government of Mr Scullin probably would have been unable to look ahead in similar terms and envisage the actual situation which faced Australia in 1939.
I illustrate here the danger of making appreciations other than on a day to day check basis. It is impossible for Australia or any other country to look ahead in this circumstance and make decisions with the conviction that its assessments will be accurate. I wish to refer to the 1976 Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture which was delivered by Henry Kissinger to the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London on 25 June 1976. For the benefit of the honourable member for Oxley and his colleagues I shall read one or two paragraphs from the speech so that it will be clear to them what is in the mind of the Foreign Minister of the country upon which so much depends. Dr Kissinger said:
Our economies are the most prosperous on earth: our technology and productive genius have proven indispensable for all countries seeking to better the welfare of their peoples, be they socialist or developing. Our societies represent, more than ever, a beacon of hope to those who yearn for liberty and justice and progress. In no part of the world and under no other system do men live so well and in so much freedom. If performance is any criterion, the contest between freedom and Communism, of which so much was made three decades ago, has been won by the industrial democracies.
I use that quotation because I believe that it is a fair enough description of the situation, at least on a superficial analysis, in Australia. Dr Kissinger went on to say:
And yet at this precise moment we hear in our countries premonitions of decline, anxieties about the travail of the West and the advance of authoritarianism. Can it be that our deeper problems are not of resources but of will, not of power but of conception?
We who overcame great dangers thirty years ago must not now paralyse ourselves with illusions of impotence. We have already initiated the construction of a new system of international relations, this time on a global scale; we must summon the determination to work towards it in unity and mutual confidence.
That is the background. Whilst we look at our appreciation of the future we ought at the same time to look at some of the other problems which are not dealt with by the Department of Defence but which create an environment from which come other problems that are vital to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). The Minister knows that I refer to what is a subtle form of internal subversion. There has undoubtedly been a marked change that is evident in the media and in the universities. It is also evident in regard to the significant factor of nuclear energy which is of tremendous interest to our defence scientists. The change manifests itself in a denigration of the Services, in ar. attempt to undermine the nation’s respect for the Services. It manifests itself in a denigration of ex-servicemen ‘s organisation, which have already made their contribution to the welfare and development of Australia. We must concern ourselves with this sort of internal problem as well as with the overall problem of looking at the cost of replacing equipment and at the issue, with which the Department of Defence must wrestle year after year, of providing in Australia the maximum degree of return for the investment that the Australian people through their Government will make in purchasing defence equipment for the armed forces.
I suppose that the last comment I could make about the query of the honourable member for Oxley would be that if the events that were reflected in the phrase ‘the domino theory’ had begun to take place in the way desired by those who were responsible for the internal subversion of these other nations and if they had been successful, most Australians today would have an entirely different outlook on defence matters and a far greater sensitivity. I believe that that would apply to honourable members on both sides of the chamber. If the events in Indonesia in 196S had led to the PKI taking over Indonesia, Australia’s outlook would now be different.
Seven thousand to 10 000 insurgents led by Thai communist agents are moving from the IndoChinese peninsula within Thailand and creating circumstances which must be of great concern to the government in Bangkok. If Thailand goes, if the problems had not been overcome in Malaysia, and if Singapore were, as the distinguished Prime Minister of Singapore said some years ago, to go into the communist mincing machine, Australia’s outlook would be an entirely different one. The question with which I hope honourable members opposite will wrestle is: How would they envisage Australia’s future if this series of events came to pass within a decade? That, as I see it, is the problem for the future.
-The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) seems to me to be working out of the past. It is true that we are spending an enormous amount of our treasure, to use that word, on defence- $2,000m this year and every year, which is 2Vi times the total cost of the Snowy Mountains scheme. So we have to start to evaluate the situation in a different kind of way. I disagree with the remarks of the honourable member for North Sydney about future projections. I think that we must project ourselves beyond the present and into the future- 10, 15 and 20 years hence, which is a long time in politics- otherwise we will be paralysed by the simple statements of the situation us it now stands.
I join with my friend the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in saying that we have time to deliberate carefully upon this matter. .We do not say that the future is secure. I do not hold the quite gloomy view of the politics of it all of the honourable member for North Sydney, but I do suspect that the kind of governments that are likely to develop to our north will be inclined to be capable of anything. One of the misfortunes of our parliamentary procedures at the moment is that we cannot have a full engagement on defence. The debate on the estimates for the Department of Defence is simply a skirmish in which we can raise a few issues. So I take up what the honourable member for Oxley has had to say and point up the very important points that he made. He spelt out the actual physical realities of Australia’s defence situation vis-a-vis its neighbours at the present moment and he said that there was time for a mature consideration of the situation. He implied-in fact, I think he actually said it- that we should go for the overkill by having an over sophistication of our weaponry at this stage.
– I interrupt my good friend to say that I hope that the White Paper debate will cure the very proper argument he has raised.
-Thank you very much, Mr Minister. I was going to say something about that White Paper, but I have been associated with this place for long enough to know that if what is going to happen tomorrow actually happens within 6 months we are not doing too badly. I think we are at the stage of a totally new debate on defence. It is a totally new environment in which we now live insofar as defence is concerned. When the Timor situation arose we came upon a new situation insofar as our foreign affairs policy is concerned. For the first time Australia has had to make a decision of its own, on its own ground and in its own area without any real support or pressure from anybody else. In fact, it might be said that all the freedom fighters throughout the world for whom we have poured out great support in recent times- the Americans, the British in Malaysia and all the other people of that sort- ha ve been as silent as a tomb when it comes to the situation in Timor.
I am afraid that I look at the future in much the same terms. If we are talking about great and powerful friends, it is true that we do not need to think as deeply about the matter. But if we are thinking of Australia as being a continent in pretty much an isolated situation in a world which will have grave doubts about the merits of participating in the affrays of other people we are thinking of a new situation. It seems to me that Australia’s history has been of the order of ad hockery in relation to defence and I am not using that word in a derogatory sense. As the issues of other people have arisen in other parts of the world we have responded. In 1914 we went off to Europe. In 1939 we went across the globe. In 1965 we sent people to Vietnam and so on. They were the issues of other people in other parts of the planet. I do not think that we have had an effective actual policy in relation to defence since about 1910. 1 am not saying that in a derogatory way. It is just a simple matter of the facts of life as history has developed. But we have grown out of that. We do not live in that sort of situation any more.
I look at this matter in this way: Firstly, we are in an area on our own. I think it was General de Gaulle who once said that there was no absolute value in treaties. I say that, too, without any disrespect to the people with whom we have signed treaties. Situations can arise in which people can be involved on both sides. I refer to an argument such as we might have with our neighbours. I believe that the Indonesian Government has placed this whole area in a situation of great insecurity. I am not saying that it is a threat at this moment, but it is a government that confronted Malaysia for all sorts of mystical reasons, it did take over West Irian and it now proposes to incorporate- it claims that it has already done so- East Timor in the Indonesian Republic. Where will it stop? I think we have to face up to the fact that that places a new situation before us. So we have to start to look at some principles that will have to prevail. Australia will have to develop self-sufficiency. We have to be in a situation to defend ourselves. I support the enumeration by the honourable member for Oxley of the factors involved. It would be very difficult for anybody to invade this country in the foreseeable future. But the position 1 5 or 20 years hence is what we are looking at when we start doing things now. Preparations have to be made for things which may happen 1 5 or 20 years hence.
We have to grow out of our national inferiority complex. Why are we acting as we are- I was nearly going to say why are we being so craven- in our approach to the Indonesian Government and its aggression in Timor? Because we think that we can do nothing about it. What we could have done, of course, is given full support to the United Nations mission. There is very little that the Indonesians could have done about that. I believe that Australia is afflicted with an almost unique national inferiority complex. Australians do not understand the strength of this nation. They do not understand that a nation of 13 million people, with an immense industrial capacity and being the kind of continent that Australia is would in fact be very difficult to invade, capture and hold. So I think we can look at self defence. We must look at selfsufficiency across the board. I remind the honourable member for North Sydney that it was the Australian Labor Party that was talking in this Parliament about air defence back in the 1930s. I think he will find that Scullin and Curtin spoke about it at that time. They were before their time relative to the rest of this Parliament then.
Some things have been said here today about the role of the Whitlam Government in the 3 years in which it was in office which ought to be refuted. It improved the situation of the serviceman a great deal. It set out upon a program of Navy re-equipment. It set out on re-equipping the armed forces. I think it picked up the tab for the- Fill aircraft, no matter what it thought about that aircraft. It established the reserve forces. Frankly I do not think much of the use of the word ‘reserve’ to describe that section of the
Services, but it is a situation in which the name is not as important as what the Labor Government did about it.
In the next few moments I would like to say how very important it is that we protect the industrial base of the Australian defence system. I believe that a great deal of the defence preparedness is multi-purpose planning. There are innumerable things that one can do which have both a Service and a civilian role. We underrate the capacity of Australian industry, of the Australian scientific services and the general productive capacity of the nation in this field. As a member of the defence industry sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I have had a good look at shipyards, workshops and the electronics industry over the last few months and I have been astonished by the versatility of the situation, the capacity of it and the way in which it is underrated and undernourished. I think the Industries Assistance Commission is a threat to this system not because it has any malevolent purpose but because the IAC is looking at the economics of a situation and not at the facts of life of a nation’s self-sufficiency. I hope therefore that we will take steps to protect the shipbuilding industry.
One can only make brief appeals in situations such as this one. I belong to the generation that saw the last war. I participated in it in a modest way. I was part of an invasion force which was most impressive from the point of view of the size of the ships that were involved, but that is by the way. In this country we need ships. We need to be able to get our own ships. We need to be able to continue to produce them. We have to think of a new procedure for the manufacture of aircraft for the Air Force, the manufacture of armoured vehicles for the Army and the manufacture of ships for the Navy. We need all these things to keep ticking over so that come the day that buttons are pressed, the defence system will go into full fighting trim.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Away from the dreadful reality of war there always is some sense of unreality about a debate on defence. This is inevitable and I think it is exacerbated by 2 factors. Firstly, we always tend to think in terms of the last war rather than the next; secondly, in a way the defence staff always seem to think that the enemy is bound by its appreciation of the situation and will not do anything unexpected or unforeseen. These things are inevitable.
Tonight, in the very brief time available to me, I do not intend to talk about any general principles but to concentrate on two specific matters. The first is that the gas supply for Melbourne comes exclusively from very vulnerable installations off-shore which are very open to enemy attack and which could not be repaired quickly. If anything happened to that gas supply in war- it could happen in even a quite small and unsophisticated war- the factories in Melbourne which depend to any extent upon gas would be out of commission. To some extent this situation can be remedied by doing the sensible thing, that is, to tie the Melbourne gas system in with the onshore gas system. We are going to build a branch gas line from Yass to Wagga and from there to Albury is only a matter of 100 miles or so where there will be a link with the Melbourne supply. It is true that pipe will be too small to carry the main needs of Melbourne but in an emergency it could carry the factory needs. Those factories which are dependent on gas and cannot be switched over could get supplies in this way. It would be possible at some later date to augment that pipe with a larger diameter pipe.
Therefore I say it is pure common sense, as a defence measure, to see that at least we have that security. We should not have our Melbourne defence factories which depend on gas entirely vulnerable to unsophisticated off-shore operations. I put to the Government that this is a fairly small matter but it is one thing which should be undertaken now otherwise the whole of our industrial strength in Melbourne might be tied up by enemy action.
The other matter I want to raise is a much more difficult one and of much greater importance. In any sophisticated war, a war against a sophisticated enemy, we will not be able to keep our sea lanes open, no matter what we do. Let us forget the possibility of being able to do it against a sophisticated enemy. I do not say for one moment that in an unsophisticated war we could not keep the sea lanes open but in any big conflict, whether we were directly involved or not, our sea lanes would be closed. The reason for that is very simple: It is the vulnerability of a ship to attack, whether it be a naval ship or a merchant ship. At sea the attack has overwhelmed the defence, so big vessels which are worth a missile will not live.
What has happened? Let me briefly enumerate the kind of things I have in mind. Firstly, the satellite makes it impossible for ships to be hidden. The convoy which sails on a secret route is gone if a satellite is up. Perhaps all the satellites could be shot out of the sky. Perhaps! Perhaps we could do something about over-the-horizon radar and perhaps we could do something about the patrolling planes which have much longer ranges. But, in general, ships no longer will be able to hide on the high seas.
Secondly, there is the speed of submarines. The nuclear submarine is far faster than the surface ship and so it can pursue and intercept. Therefore the surface ship is very vulnerable. Then there is the range of attacking aircraft. There is the range of missiles. Guided missiles, ballistic missiles, have long ranges. We now have smart bombs and smart missiles which are target seekers. At sea there is a virtually plane surfacewater, and sticking up from it is a high thing made of metal- a ship- which is emitting noise and heat. It is an ideal target for a searching missile. In this case we do not need to have the sophisticated missiles that might be needed against other targets, and by comparison with a missile a ship is slow. The target seekers, whether they be launched from a submarine, from another ship or from an aeroplane a couple of hundred miles away, will find their target if the ship is worth a missile.
Next we have to consider the possible use of nuclear weapons at sea. Even if nuclear weapons were not used on land their use at sea is entirely conceivable. We have been told, quite rightly, that big missiles would not be used on land because after they get to 20 megatons or so they simply blow out through the ceiling. This is not true at sea because a very big missile under the surface of the water does not blow out. Therefore we can say now that it is quite possible to have a missile which will kill any ship within a radius of 20 to 30 miles and that means that the convoy system is no longer practicable.
All these things are compounded by the vulnerability of our ports. They add up to one conclusion, namely, that against a sophisticated enemy- again I emphasise the words ‘sophisticated enemy’- our sea lanes will not be kept open. This must mean that we should be thinking in quite different terms of our local defence supplies. We should be thinking in terms of stocking up with the supplies we must import, particularly oil. We should be thinking in terms of our local manufacturers having to perform tasks they have not previously envisaged. If we are serious about defence we must take this kind of thing seriously.
I have spoken of a war against a sophisticated enemy. It may be that our defence Services are needed for quite a different kind of war. In this respect may I say something about the Navy.
Shortness of time compels me to confine my remarks. I think that perhaps the Navy has been too ready to scrap ships which it calls obsolete. These ships may have little combat value in a sophisticated engagement but as supply ships used in some kind of landing operation or as demonstration ships- the Russians and the Americans have realised the value of demonstration ships- they may be invaluable. Perhaps we have been too ready to scrap ships, saying that because they cannot be used in sophisticated warfare they are not worth having. I put these points to the Government in the hope that it will initiate action.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not mind listening to abstruse conjectural arguments but I remind the Committee that we are debating the estimates for the Department of Defence. Some of the speeches made here this afternoon would be more appropriate if we were discussing the White Paper which was promised in May this year on how this Government would spend $ 12,000m on defence in the next 5 years. I rather prefer to look at the record of Labor governments in matters of defence as compared with the record of Liberal-Country Party governments. I find that the general community believes, for some unknown reason, that the Australian Labor Party has never been interested in the subject of defence. I remind the Committee of what happened in the Second World War. A Liberal-Country Party Government, or should I say a United Australia Party-Country Party Government, was in power from 1939 to 1941 and for many years prior to that date. But in 1941 this House threw that Government out. Into power came a Labor Government. At that stage our defence forces were run down. Our defence equipment was run down.
At the end of 1 94 1 when I went into the Army we were doing our drill with broomsticks. We had no rifles, no equipment and no technical knowhow. We had to get our young men into the Army at 1 8 years of age. The Labor Government conscripted them but it would not allow them to go out of Australian territories. During the Vietnam war a Liberal-National Country Party Government had to conscript our 1 8-year-olds to go to Vietnam. But between 1941 and 1 949 - it was in 1949 that the Labor Government was defeated- we waged a successful campaign. We brought our forces back from overseas- the Middle East and other places- so that we could defend our own shores. We went to the United
States of America and asked it to help us to protect Australia. We knew that the war in the Pacific would be paramount in winning against Germany and Japan. We waged that successful campaign. Peace was declared. We had hundreds of thousands of men and women in our armed forces. We had them in war industries. We had to change those industries over and put them on a peacetime footing. We had to demobilise our forces and find jobs for the members. It was in those years that full employment was born in Australia. We reconstructed our industries. We set this country on a firm peacetime footing after having waged a successful campaign during the 1939-45 war.
After 23 years of Liberal Government when we again came into power we found that our defence forces and equipment had again fallen away quite drastically. Between 1967-68 and 1974-75 the percentage of our total defence expenditure on capital equipment and facilities fell from 37 per cent to 1 3 per cent. That was due to the lack of decisions between 1949 and 1972 by the then Liberal Party Government. The only thing worth mentioning on defence in those years is the debacle of the Fl 1 1 aircraft. They were ordered about 10 years before they were delivered. They were ordered at a certain price and the price went so high that we paid as much for one aircraft as the Government of New South Wales paid for the Opera House. When we came into office in December 1972 we set about rectifying the years of neglect of the LiberalCountry Party Government from 1949 to 1972. Mr Chairman, I remind you that in buying defence equipment or capital equipment there ,are years of lead time in making decisions and in deciding what sort of equipment to buy. To verify my statement that the Liberal-Country Party Government of those years neglected our defence forces in relation to capital equipment I cite these figures. In 1968-69 $30m was allocated for equipment. In 1969-70 the amount was $53m. In 1970-71 $153m was spent. In 1971-72 the amount was $24m and in the last Budget of the Liberal-National Country Party Government, that is for 1972-73, $84m was spent making a total over those years of $344m.
In 1973-74 the Labor Government allocated $96m for equipment. In 1974-75 $330m was set aside for equipment and in the 1 975-76 Budget on which this Government worked until August this year the amount was $290m. This makes a total in those 3 years of $7 1 6m. In other words, in the 3 Budgets for which the Labor Government was responsible we allocated more than twice the amount to equipment that the former
Government did in its last 5 Budgets. A lot of the defence equipment which has been ordered or which is being delivered to Australia was ordered during those 3 years of Labor Government. Even the defence expenditure this year as a proportion of the gross domestic product in this Budget is about the same as it was in the last Budget of the Labor Party. That is a short history of the capital equipment and facilities.
I turn to our attitude towards personnel in our armed forces. We implemented the Woodward report on pay and conditions. We adopted the Jess report *on defence retirement and death benefits. We introduced the automatic income adjustments for our defence forces in line with other Public Service pay movements. We established the Millar inquiry into the citizen forces and implemented the major recommendations. We reorganised and rationalised the Department of Defence, the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and the Department of the Air Force into one department. We introduced the re-enlistment bounty. We extended repatriation benefits and defence service homes eligibility to members of our peacetime forces. The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) talked about our lack of regard for our Service and ex-service personnel. I remind the Committee that in our 3 years of government expenditure on repatriation benefits increased by $40 1 m. Let me turn to the rate of re-engagement in our armed Forces. In 1971-72 the Navy had a rate of re-engagement of 44 per cent; at 30 June 1975 it was 70 per cent. The rate of re-engagement for the Army in 1971 -72 was 69 per cent; in 1975 it was 74 per cent. The Air Force rate of re-engagement in 1971-72 was 62 per cent and in 1 975 it was 82 per cent.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr GRAHAM (North Sydney)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented in what the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) just said. He said that during my speech I said that the Australian Labor Party took no interest in the welfare of servicemen. I refute that. That is not at all what I said and anyone who knows anything about the recent program of pay increases would know that that was quite wrong. I did not say that at all. I was talking about the denigration by subversion of exservicemen’s organisations, not the current Services.
-The Government is to be congratulated on the finance it has provided this year and for the next 5 years. The principal goal of the Australian defence policy is the security of the nation and its interests and not until this present plan was announced were the defence Forces properly able to look forward to a planned program. They now know that in real terms there will be $ 12,000m available and in an essentially anarchic society of nations it is absolutely imperative that our defence forces are able to plan ahead. It is even more to the credit of the Government that this money has been provided during times of economic difficulties because there is always a conflict between the requirements for spending money on ordinary civil programs and community interests and spending money on military programs. The moneys that have been provided will enable the Government and the forces to provide a proper defence of this nation. Perhaps some of us would like in the future to see more spent but we will await the White Paper with great interest and will then be able to see in detail how we can put the expenditures into effect.
I refer to one or two matters mentioned by Australian Labor Party spokesmen. I wish to congratulate some of the Labor members for the reasoned arguments they have put forward tonight. Regrettably, if history gives us any guidance, those moderates in the Labor Party are unlikely to be heeded in the future. We heard before 1972 some reasonably respectable policy programs on defence from the Labor Party but when it was in office the reality was different and those who were reasonable and moderate were outvoted. We saw the results. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) continually asserts that we have plenty of time. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) does not go so far. Of course, we cannot go so far as to say that we definitely have plenty of time. The likely threats to this country cannot be predicted. They can be put into the usual scenarios of low level threats in the form of limited guerrilla attacks, national or sub-national interference with the maritime zones, smuggling, attacks on off-shore oil installations and the like, escalating to very high level threats which could arise in one of a number of circumstances. Our very isolation could over a long period of time lead to pressures upon us that are unpredictable. It could lead to any number of possible threats.
In the short term or the long term there could at times be international chaos which is totally unpredictable and the aftermath of that international chaos might involve Australia in defence activities. There might be totally independent and unpredictable activities in the near area of a high or low level variety that we cannot predict at all. It is probably true to say that low level threats are the most likely and that high level threats are the least likely but it is important because of the cross factors, because the low level is more likely and because the high level has the highest danger that we plan for the lot. It is at variance with this Government’s policy to accept the propositions of the honourable member for Oxley that we definitely can and must look forward to plenty of time.
What we should be doing while making decisions on equipment purchases, and whilst we have reasonable time and are using reasonable measures to evaluate equipment, is to get the forces geared up once again. It is often forgotten that before the Second World War the Germans trained very adequately on sub-standard equipment. They had very few tanks off the assembly lines and they trained on cardboard models at times. Much of the doctrine of Guderian and the other generals was based upon the use of prototype equipment. They trained on very poor equipment compared with the stuff they eventually used but they got on with the job and the Services were able to work and flourish in the development of their doctrine. What has happened over the last 3 years in this country is that under the Labor Government the Services to a great extent were reduced in activity. Exercises were cancelled, money was not available even for petrol to take troops to exercise areas. There was a very considerable cutback of activity. This money provided by the Government will enable the Services now to start activating again and we see already the fruits of this Government’s approach in the largest peacetime exercise ever held in Australia, exercise ‘Kangaroo II’ which is going ahead at present.
Another comment that was made on the other side of the House was that this Government has neglected the defence forces over a period of time. Of course, that is absolute nonsense. What honourable members opposite seem to forget when they talk about figures for equipment procurement in the last one or two years is that during much of the 1960s and early 1970s this country in regard to the use of its defence forces was at war. Those forces were used in a conflict. It was not a declared war but it was a conflict. They were under incredible strain and were overstretched, and it was simply a totally invalid argument to say that because resources were not necessarily switched to the fullest degree to capital procurement in that period this Government was not concerned about the matter. Obviously what was required immediately at the end of the Vietnam conflict was a massive boost, but what did we get? We got not a massive boost in equipment procurement but a massive boost in inflationary wage rises caused by the Labor Party’s policies. Wages went up until they comprised approximately 65 per cent of the defence vote and that is where the money was used as a result of the burst of inflation provided by the Labor Government. The Labor Government could not keep its promise of 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product being set aside for defence expenditure. It broke that promise immediately and defence expenditure went down to a level that was totally inadequate. We are building up that expenditure generally although we do not specify a particular percentage of the gross domestic product for defence.
What we need to develop in this country from the top down is a totally new approach, and I agree with the honourable member for Wills that we are in new waters and uncharted areas. The whole defence of this country must be planned carefully and sensibly and I would suggest- it is not my own suggestion for it has been canvassed before- that we need a Cabinet committee for national security and that all defence policies be co-ordinated with other major decisions we make so that they interlock and defence decisions accompany major economic considerations. Obviously if we are to develop this nation and build railways- for example, from Alice Springs to Darwin- and if we are to have ports and the necessary infrastructure, these 2 considerations go together. We will then build the nation as well as help build the infrastructure for our defence purposes.
One matter which is very urgent is a decision on the forces structure. It is obvious that we must look at 2 areas, in the maritime area and continental defence. We should have proper maritime surveillance, control and a strike force with an updated Air Force and Navy and with proper destroyers, missile boats, submarines, aeroplanes and the like, which we can have for reasonable cost, backed by proper radar. We will then have the wherewithal to keep Australia surveyed, to keep people well away from us despite whatever level of threat there may be and to ensure that our first lines of defence are secure. I am sure that the amount of money provided now will enable us to get this under way. Secondly, we have to settle the structure of the continental defence force as soon as possible. One regular and two reserve divisions are in my view essential. We could, on the best professional advice, develop from a core of three active divisions to a nine or ten division force relatively quickly- in fact 9 divisions, including an armoured division, perhaps in a year.
If we have a reasonable force we can defend ourselves against large forces. If we have little or nothing we can defend ourselves not at all against even small forces. We need an army of about 38 000 men, a reserve of up to about 50 000 and between 6 and 10 squadrons of aircraft, backed by a sound industrial development policy. The reserve must be given a full and credible role. If there is one thing I regret, it is the fact that we could not use the reserve during the Vietnam war because it was not in a proper state as units. That must never happen again. We must have a sound force structure, ready to be developed, ready to be activated in the future. I believe that is the most urgent decision to be taken. If I can do one thing during this very short Estimates debate, it is to make a call to the Government to settle the force structure, and in particular the reserve, and to get it going, as soon as possible.
– I wish to say a few words on defence following my experience when in the last Labor Government from the point of view of Australia’s security, its future and its ability to take part in world discussions related to future conflict perhaps, or the easing of tensions as we would much prefer to advert to here. I think it is important that we recognise that we must have a bipartisan policy in defence. We have always taken that attitude. As Australians we have always recognised that in any emergency there have to be no political differences. The question is how best to achieve what we want to achieve.
Politics seems to be a major part of the way of life for Australians these days, and a division amongst our ranks seems to be par for the course. It applies in the normal habitat of Australia. Australia is such a large land mass that people, who are so many miles removed from Canberra have a tendency to think that they should secede from the Commonwealth. Generally speaking, there is a question of isolation, lack of consideration, generally a lack of a national spirit. I am not complaining about this. It is only in times of crisis that one sees the real value of the Australian, how he can work with his fellow man and how all Australia can mobilise itself. In the politics of the question- that is the tough, hard part: that is the part we will not agree on- we make a fair bit of political capital out of the words on defence.
I have never forgotten, after I was first elected to this chamber in 1969, that the then Minister for Defence, the Honourable Malcolm Fraser, on 10 March 1970 brought down a very impressive paper called the Statement on Defence. Gentlemen, you must be horrified to learn that we never debated that statement at any time in that Parliament which concluded in December 1972. That is the important consideration. Why is it that the statement was given such a low priority bearing in mind, for example, that in the statement which is of some length one eventually found on page 14 some reference to the Vietnam war which was then raging? Quoting the Governor-General’s Speech the statement stated:
My Government is glad to note that the increasing capacity of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves has already permitted the withdrawal of some Allied forces.
The statement went on to suggest that there would obviously be a better future and that we would be able to solve the problems of Vietnam. As honourable members know, that did not happen. I turn to some earlier comments in the statement. At page 3 it states:
The Chinese have been taught to see themselves as the sole repository of the true Communist doctrine and practice. China is developing a nuclear capability. She continues to give encouragement and support to revolutionary movements in neighbouring countries.
That is the tenor of those pages: ‘Watch out for China, there is going to be trouble there’. On page 5 the statement states:
This extension of Soviet maritime interest, particularly in the Indian Ocean is not something we can afford to be disinterested in.
This statement was delivered in March 1970. The position does not appear to have changed much from what we are now being told. Some of these classical remarks must go down as rhetoric and nothing more. One does not make South East Asia or the Indian Ocean disappear by turning one’s back on them. Nobody ever suggested we would turn our back on them. But why do we talk in such words when we should deal with facts as I want to see them portrayed? I was in China in June 1973. 1 talked to Lee See En Nin Some honourable members have been to China. In China one can understand that the real problem of China is its own internal management, the capacity to feed its 850 million people. The Chinese have done a magnificant job. One can understand how Chairman Mao became the leader and remained as such. It was because of the dedication of his people following what he had done to prevent famine.
If one is in the caves of Yunan as I was, one sees where the Chinese had to fight the Japanese years before we did. One can understand that those people had in mind the preservation of their country, dedication to their China, an ability to overthrow a regime which was not working in their interest. Why in discussing the condolence motion on the death of Chairman Mao, was reference made to his deserting his wife and children, and that they were slaughtered? Of course they were slaughtered. By whom? By the enemies within China. The same man lost his son in South Korea. We may not agree with the politics of the situation but we understand China now. It is important that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at last has gone there, has had a discussion with the Chinese, and would no longer write the same words that he wrote in 1 970.
It is important to realise why the Chinese place the highest priority on improving. their standard of living, on guaranteeing that everybody has a life, is not confronted with famine, and is not faced with the situation where the only pay was the produce of the land and if the crops failed people died literally in their millions. One meets people in China who can tell, for example, of the famines of the 1 930s when they lost their parents and their brothers and sisters. The most important aspect of China today is the ability to organise itself into land communes, basically on a food basis. Lee See En Nin made one request to us as Australians. It was to keep growing wheat because it was the one major factor that would help his people.
China is not interested in expansion, and it is a complete anomaly to suggest that it is. It is very concerned about its borders. It is concerned about the Soviet Union and about India. Those were matters that were pretty obvious during the time I was there. One does not see that intelligence in the defence statement I mentioned. I was also in Hanoi in the same year. There one can understand the problems of the Vietnamese and the national concept they have of running their own country and not being dominated by the French or any other outside persons. Of course the French were intelligent enough, having been defeated at the Dien Bien Phu disaster, to get out of Vietnam altogether. The most incredible thing from my point of view in 1973 was that when some sort of truce was declared, the French had an Embassy in Saigon and an Embassy in Hanoi and were trading furiously on the basis that it was good for French commerce and trade. But the peace concept had little chance of surviving when the situation was legalised to the extent that there were to be full and democratic elections in South Vietnam.
It was made clear by President Thieu that he did not agree with the concept and it was uncertain whether there was to be a presidential election or a provincial election, and the basic details as to what sort of democracy was to be established were never discussed. Australia had no part in the peace negotiations. It was not even invited. But we lost some 400 men dead in South Vietnam, and I should think the wisdom of the Australians should have been there.
I again turn to Russia. Russia lost 25 million in the Second World War. If one goes to Leningrad the first thing the Russians want to show is where they have buried the one million who died defending Leningrad. They said to us: ‘We are pleased to see you’, and to the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam) they said: You are the first Australian Prime Minister we have met. We were allies in two World Wars. Is it not important that we discuss the problems as we see them?’. Is it not important? I urge the Prime Minister not to make statements as though we are now pro-Chinese and anti-Soviet. By all means discuss the matter with the people in the Soviet Union. You will understand that their problems are not the same problems that we have. Their problems relate to their land boundaries, which are enormous, to the fact that they have to maintain so many divisions, to the fact that their country has been invaded twice this century. You will understand their concept of a national interest and an ability to survive and of having to pay dearly for it in terms of the loss of human life.
If one goes to the European Economic Community and talks to the people there who were directly involved in the front line in 2 world wars, the first thing they say is: ‘The most intelligent thing we did was to get together as a common market. No longer do we have tanks rumbling down the main street of Brussels. At least we are able to discuss our troubles with each other’. And they have been able to do that. When one goes to the war cemetries of Villers Bretonneux and sees the graves of the thousands of Australians who died fighting the Germans one begins to wonder how it all happened in this modern day and age. We have to have consultation and leadership, not on the basis of winning through armaments and bullets and bombs but winning because of the integrity of our system and the honesty of our nation and our ability to understand that there are troubles in the world. Let us be the honest broker in the situation and not stand off and say that one side is right and the other side is wrong.
Both sides could be wrong, and we should be telling them so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are discussing tonight the estimates for the Department of Defence of $2,036m, and while he is still in the chamber I should like to commend the previous speaker, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), for what he said about bipartisan defence policies. Let us face it, all the talk about no threat in our time, nothing in 15 years, and so on, is crystal ball gazing. It is wishful thinking on the part of people who probably do not know what shot and shell are all about, who are burying their heads in the sand and hoping that it will not happen. I commend the honourable member for his comments. I accept what he said about Australia playing the role of an honest broker, and about the Russians losing millions of people in defending Stalingrad. I accept that the Russians have problems with their vast frontiers, but I ask the honourable member to consider what connection that has with the Indian Ocean. I have just returned from an island in the Indian Ocean where I was assured by everyone present that one could virtually walk on the Russian ships which operate in the area. I wonder where the balance lies. I can understand Russia defending her frontiers, but where do those frontiers end when it comes to the Indian Ocean? I ask the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith and his party to consider that.
The Opposition’s shadow Minister for Defence, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), was critical of the fact that the allocation for lubricants and logistics and so on. especially for the Air Force, was down. Those are the things that were imposed upon us by the previous Government. I remember that in Darwin on one occasion we had a Mirage squadron and an Fill squadron. Because of labour problems and actions which prevented them from fuelling the aircraft, they had no fuel on which to fly back to their bases on the east coast. We hear a lot of airy-fairy nonsense about defence, but when we get down to the practical side of flying aeroplanes or driving tanks or sailing ships, that is what this Minister is all about. That is what these estimates are all about and that is what the $ 12,000m program is all about. The allocation is to get Australia ‘s defence forces back into a position where they can defend Australia and have the men with which to do it. Those men will have the morale and the confidence and the will to do it.
All through the Opposition members’ speeches on these estimates we have heard such comments as ‘There is no threat’, ‘They are only mild threats’, ‘There is no threat inside so many years’. I heard it again and again. If we do not start to reform our defence forces and put together the men, the ships and the planes, we will have no strength on which to back our argument, no strength with which to back up any decision we may take in an area in which we should be strong. We are not a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations but we are in the area and we should be in a position not to bully but to say that we have made a decision. If that decision runs contrary to the attitude of other people in the area then we have to say: ‘We have the planes, we have the men, we have the ships to firm up our Government’s approach to the situation.’
The shadow Minister for Defence said that we should not rush into buying replacements for the Mirage. Let me tell him that it takes years and years to get a replacement aircraft, to build a replacement ship, to train the men to fly the aeroplanes and sail the ships, to train the soldiers on tanks and radar gear and so on. That will not happen tomorrow simply by flicking a finger. There has to be a lead time of at least 10 years. We have to look ahead, and that is what the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Government are doing. They will return morale to the forces, and that is what this program is all about. But the Labor Party does not appear to think that way. The shadow Minister spent a lot of time criticising this Government and belittling the efforts that are being made.
He did say that the D-day landing required 6900 ships and 10 000 aircraft- I take it that that related to the United Kingdom Normandy landingand I must say that on that morning one could have walked on the ships across the Channel. The honourable member for Oxley said that those were the numbers that were needed then, but it took a long time to get those ships and aeroplanes together and it took a lot of industrial effort and co-operation between labour and industry to get the aircraft and the ships into position. The honourable member referred to the F-5E as a defensive aircraft. I wish that we had bought the Phantoms that we had in Australia, because I do not think the F-5E is a defensive aircraft at all. The Phantom would have been the best short haul attack aircraft in the world at the time. As one who has flown short haul attack aircraft in my time, I know that we are short of that sort of hardware and I am sorry that those aircraft were not purchased at the price for which we could have got them. I cannot understand this continued attack on the F 1 1 1 .
– It is the best aeroplane in the world.
– It is the only aircraft in Australia today which could go into action and really stand up and battle with the world ‘s best. We are looking for a replacement for the Mirage, and yet we hear this continual attack on the purchase of the FI 1 1. As the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) said, it is the best aircraft in the world. If a country is at war it is always going to lose aeroplanes. It must do that, but at least the FI 1 1 is the best. It was bought by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government and it has been the target of the Labor Party again and again. The sums appropriated under these estimates are to be spent mainly on improving the logistic position. But, of course, the personnel who operate them and who actually do either the fighting or the backing up are the life blood of the Services. I would like to ask this question: Where is the will in Australia today to defend the country? This was one of the most devastating things that the Labor Government did when it was in office. The morale of the Australian forces when the Labor Government came to power was the highest that it had been in peace time. During its term of office- we have heard how it did all sorts of things; it improved the conditions for the men and so on- there was a steady resignation rate in all branches of the Services. I heard the Prime Minister of Singapore say today that Australia was a country that had everything. All right, it has everything. But I would like to see an improvement in the morale of the Australian people- the young people and the old people- to defend and keep Australia safe.
– I will take my second period so that I can briefly answer the points raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). He suggested that we should have adverted to the presence of the Soviet Navy in the Indian Ocean. Let us make the position clear. As was pointed out in the statement from which I quoted, as far back as March 1970 there was a Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. The presence of the Russians in the Indian Ocean is directly related to the fact that they need a shipping lane between their western land mass and their eastern land mass. This has to be via the Indian Ocean, preferably through the Suez Canal, which has now been re-opened because the United States of America said this would be a good thing to do. Those honourable members who heard General Moshe Dayan would know that he too welcomed this on the basis that it was one way to ease tensions. I could not think of anything more helpful to the Russians than to have the Suez Canal opened. General Dayan hopes it will be more helpful to the future peace of the Middle East because the Americans are anxious to get a settlement there.
Let us put the position in its proper context: I have no doubt that if we had asked the Prime Minister of Singapore, he would have told us that his country services the Russian fleet at Singapore. There is no objection to that. That is the biggest part of the operation in Singapore. Naturally, from Vladivostok there have to be sea lanes and the Russians want to protect them. The big issue is that there must be consultation and an ability to talk about the problems of the world. As the Belgian foreign Minister says, the intelligent thing to do is to discuss our problems across a table and not try to win battles with bullets and tanks. This is the point. It is important that our defence people should be involved in these conferences. They see how other leaders of the world are looking at their problems.
If honourable members had attended the Heads of Government Conference last year in Jamaica, they would have heard President Nyerere of Tanzania and President Kaunda of Zambia threaten that there would have to be war with Rhodesia within a matter of weeks because of the injustices done to their brothers in Africa. They told the British Prime Minister, Mr Wilson, that they had discussed this matter for years with leaders like Mr MacMillan and Sir Robert Menzies but that nothing had ever happened except the passing of pious resolutions. They said that they were sick and tired of passing resolutions and that unless the British controlled the Rhodesian situation they would do it with guns. It was said there and then. I could see why that could be the attitude of those people, much as we would be horrified by it. They could not see any other solution. They have already achieved that situation in Mozambique. They put their case from our point of view using the Christian ethic that all men are born equal. Most of them had been educated in mission schools. They believed that every man was equal and entitled to justice on this earth. Why should justice be denied to them because of the pigmentation of their skins?
It is important that Australians understand what is happening in the world from the point of view of defence and how the position should be looked at in a total context. Certainly, we need continental defence. We want a very effective defence force in Australia. But it is quite clear that we will not attack anybody. We are not that sort of people. It is also quite clear that we will fight to the death if we are attacked. But the point we want to get to is what we will do about the tensions in the world. There is plenty of tension now. There is plenty of tension developing in India. There is still more to come in South Africa. There are these problems. Let honourable members dare not suggest that we stand off and side with one faction or the other. People are talking about detente. Dr Kissinger is to be congratulated for his efforts. They are important if the world is to survive. We will have nothing but disaster if detente breaks down.
Let us look at trade. It is building up, as it should be, with the Soviet Union. In 1 975-76 we exported to the Soviet Union wool, wheat, barley, oats and meat to the value of $37 1 m. That is important for them and important for us. The value of the imports we received from the Soviet Union was only $3.7m. It is important that we build up our trade on an intelligent basis to the advantage of our people. In the 5 minutes remaining to me, I wish to look at other aspects of defence, including our internal position with industries directly associated with the defence concept. I had something to do with this for about 20 weeks before I was torpedoed. I am one of the few survivors of that wreck But let us have a look at the position as I saw in those few weeks. The manufacturing industries were wondering what would be their future in defence. I make no criticism of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen ). I want to put my arguments on the basis of how important it is that we get more co-ordination in respect of the sons of supplies we want, where we want to buy them and where we want to make them. We need co-ordination in these areas. I can say this to the Minister in all sincerity: There was a feeling that the procurement officers from the defence personnel could not care less about the Australian manufacturing base. In fact, I had this ridiculous situation put to me quite forcibly. We purchased Leopard tanks but had no intention of making the ammunition for their guns. The intention was that we buy the ammunition also from Germany. Can honourable members imagine anything more ridiculous, particularly when officers of our own ammunition factories were saying, ‘Mr Minister, do not you think this is strange? We do not have much to do now. We have made enough ammunition of the old type to last us for another 20 years. We have 20 years supply there. But what about new ideas? What about new concepts? Cannot we get that order?’. I was asked whether, for instance, the Lithgow small arms factory could get an order to make parts of the Leopard tank? I was asked: ‘Are we to dismiss all these men? Are not we able to take on apprentices at Lithgow?’. If we talk about morale, there was a complete disaster. These requests were not made on a political basis. They were not made in the sense that something strange was happening. This has been happening for years. There has been no plan on what we could do with the intelligent Australians in the defence back-up position. We can see the position in the shipbuilding industry and the making of marine engines. It was a good, concept. But the program will be phased out. because it is too wasteful to spend time building machines to make this sort of engine. So we will import the engines and we will import the ships. We import our present naval vessels. One of the most powerful weapons on them is the Ikara missile system. It was designed by Australians. It was a brilliant bit of work. The-Jindivik target aircraft was also designed by Australians, luckily without any feasibility survey being done by the Treasury. If that had been done, the project would never have got off the ground. It was undertaken because personnel had nothing to do. They said: ‘Let us get on to designing something’. We have sold this equipment.
The Nomad aircraft is another example. I can assure honourable members that if the proposition had been put on a Treasury basis it would not have continued. The Treasury officers would have solemnly told us, ‘You are losing $40,000 on every aeroplane built. Why in the name of fortune are you not making your resources available elsewhere’. I went to the aircraft factories and saw that more co-ordination was needed there. There is a lot of intelligence and a lot of good back-up. We can receive a spinoff to the betterment of our own people in better aircraft engines and better automobile engines if we use our brains. The typical Australian isolation position is: ‘Leave that to private enterprise; leave that to Ford and General Motors-Holden’s. Do not dare do anything new. Leave that to that sector’. We will become run down from the point of view of a second line of defence if we do not support our own intelligence and our own scientific brains. How is it that they are so good with such limited equipment, with such limited financial support and no plan at all? That is the tragedy of the situation. If we talk to the men in these factories we find that they have no morale. They say: ‘What is the point? We do not know whether or not we are going to make any planes next year. We do not know when more apprentices are being taken on. Anybody who is taken on cannot be guaranteed a job at the end of his apprenticeship’. It is a real disaster area.
If we are going to fail it will not be because of our front line; it will be because our second line does not have any support. Australians can do a lot better than that. We do not have to do it on the basis of a front line, vicious wartime complex. We have to do it on the basis of intelligence and how best to use our financial resources. We tried to set up a purchasing commission to co-ordinate these things. The defence people worked closely with those making the appliances here. It was decided that it would be best to do it by coordination. Unfortunately it was again sabotaged on the basis that it was going to detract from somebody’s power to procure defence equipment. That purchasing commission has failed. The concept, though, was purely one of co-ordination. Why could we not have made more of the Mirage here? Why could we not have done better here?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think it was 2 years ago in the rather luxurious days when I was allowed to do a little writing that I was asked to review the Labor Party Caucus minutes from the year 1901 to 1922-23. 1 was struck by the meticulous method with which those minutes were kept. I vividly recall reading one minute which went to this effect:
The Caucus stood in a minute’s silence as a mark or respect to Senator -
The senator’s name was then mentioned- whose son’s death had just been reported from the western front.
I mention that to illustrate one deep sense of personal commitment I have, that is, my determination to see that this country will eventually get to a bipartisan approach on defence matters. From my own experience, albeit limited, I have observed that in ultimate terms no political party has a monopoly of patriotism. I find that honourable gentlemen who oppose me politically, bitterly, fiercely and at times almost overwhelmingly, do have a feeling for this country which I do not think is distinguishable from my own feeling or from the feeling of my colleagues.
Time has caught up with us and we are now beckoned by circumstances and by history to understand that we can no longer indulge ourselves in partisan argument- mean, petty bickering- about our defence obligation. We must seek to husband our resources. We must seek to ensure that the curious prejudices which did exist years ago between and among the Services are not given any assistance to survive. We must seek to ensure that every cent we spend upon defence is spent properly, frugally. We must also ensure that our community understands that the British influence, the old imperial concept, has finished and that we cannot live in the past. Nostalgia is of no help. The Britons, like the Roman legions of old, have gone back and the next generation of Britisher, I would expect, will have a far more pressing involvement and interest in a European existence than he will have in our existence. That is one of the great influences that has disappeared. The other factor, of course, is the fact that the United States of America, summoned by what one could only describe as an incredibly complex array of domestic problems has put all of its friends and allies on notice. It has said: ‘Do a little more for yourselves ‘. So we must do j lust that.
I found this debate a refreshment. I have listened to defence estimates debates in this place now for 2 1 years and I cannot recall a defence estimates debate so singularly free of what I would describe as a harshness, an acerbity of language. Some solid views have been put on both sides. A robust exchange of views hurts none of us as long as there is a sense of personal conviction behind those views. But today, for the first time, I will be so bold as to say that I have been led to the conclusion that given a little bit of goodwill, we can reach a bipartisan policy on defence matters. If we like to examine the speeches which have been made by honourable gentlemen on both sides of the chamber, I’ think all honourable members will be encouraged to draw that conclusion.
I turn now to the speech made by my friend, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He said that he would like to see a bipartisan defence policy. That was a most welcome expression of opinion as far as I was concerned. There is the goal. It does not matter what aspirations we may have, what accomplishments may lie at our feet, or whether we may say in terms of personal vanity: ‘I did that’ or ‘my Government did this ‘. These matter not unless we command the integrity of this nation. We can only do so by ensuring that our defence capacity is such that that will follow.
My friend from Oxley said: ‘I should like to ask members of the Government: “Is there any threat? If there is no threat, why do we find ourselves getting so involved in defence matters?” ‘ I do not wish to punctuate what has been a most agreeable debate with any unpleasant note, but defence is not concerned with perceived threat.
Defence is concerned with contingencies. Of the last 60 occasions on which the United Kingdom has found herself involved in armed conflict, on only 2 occasions have the engagements, the involvements, been perceived by the experts. So today our clear duty is to look to the contingencies, not in some irrational, wild fashion but to say: What can happen? What must we prepare for? Then we have to arrange our priorities in an objective order, I suppose throwing in a visceral feeling here and there, because after all many of us think a little better with our stomachs than we do with our minds.
Here in Australia we are faced by dint of historial circumstance with an entirely new gathering of responsibility. I always look with puzzlement at people who say to me: ‘Oh, Killen, why do you not model yourself defence-wise on the lines of the Swedes?’ I just take leave to observe that this country spreads over 30 parallels of latitude. We range from alpine country to hot, tropical country, to desert country. We are now under an obligation to consider all the possibilities that may impinge upon this country in terms of possible contingencies.
I say to my friend from Oxley and to all of my honourable friends opposite: Our great task in defence today is to maintain access to the skills which will enable us to deal with an infinite variety of contingencies. That is where the problem of contemporary defence takes its centre piece: How to maintain access to the skills. By way of simple explanation, I have heard the question asked: ‘Why do you want Leopard tanks in Australia?’ I offer no view on the merit of the tank. I only hope that this country will be spared the day when it will have a Minister for Defence who is so stupid that he will direct what sort of equipment should be bought for the Services. In dealing with the question of tanks, the fact is that if we do not have tanks we lose access to the skills of operating them. It could well be that in 5, 10 or 15 years time an enemy may land here and we would need to operate tanks against him.- It would be a sad day if people were to look back and say: ‘Oh, those who sat in the Parliament in 1976 were not too keen on having tanks. We have not got access to the skills. It is sad’. We cannot whistle up the skills.
It is precisely the same with aircraft. I shudder when I look at the cost of the tactical fighter force replacement. We are dealing not with a few million dollars, but with $8m to $ 10m. The chief of Air Staff informs me that if we really want to be extravagant we can pay up to $ 18m to $20m. As the honourable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the honourable member for Oxley have pointed out, quite rightly, if one tacks on the cost of ground facilities one is looking at an enormous sum of money. Having mentioned the fighter, may I just say that we must maintain access to the skill of how to operate it. We must also maintain access to the skill of how to maintain it. This calls for a constancy which is not to be denied. I assure my honourable friend from Oxley that there will be no rush decision about the tactical fighter force. As things stand at the moment, the generic decision will be made this year if all the evidence is available. If all the evidence is not there, the decision will not be made. I think that is a reasonable approach to take. Before I leave the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley, may I say that I am indebted to him for what he said about the ANZUS agreement. When I was in the United States recently I did not hear the ANZUS agreement mentioned. We spoke about friendship between the 2 countries. One of the striking features about friendship- it is the same with an international agreement of the character of the ANZUS agreement- is that you cannot get specific performance of it. So, in the words of Samuel Johnson, you are encouraged to say: Well, keep friendship in repair’. That is what we must do with the United States of America- seek to keep friendship in repair.
The honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) was flattering to the point of almost making me feel uncomfortable in what he said. Without seeking to retaliate in kind, I believe it was a most thoughtful speech. He dealt with the problems of moving men, material and equipment around this country. I have just referred to the fact that 30 parallels of latitude cover this country and there is a coastline of 12 500 miles. One only has to mention those figures- they are sombre figures, they are striking characteristics -to realise that we face quite unique problems. Today we are looking with a fresh and keener eye at the problem of logistics in Australia.
We all should be under a clear and heavy obligation to the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) for having reminded us of what could have happened in 1965 if a few colonels had been absent at the time of the PKI occurrence; when that moment critical was reached in Indonesia. That country could have gone upon quite daunting waves as far as this country was concerned. The honourable and gallant gentleman from North Sydney has done us a service in reminding us that it is the sheer, massive uncertainty that attends our everyday existence, which places us under such an obligation to consider defence problems in terms not of certainties but of uncertainties. It is the uncertainties, not the certainties, that are our constant companions. If defence planning was on the basis of a certainty, how much easier it would be. There would be no need for the anxieties, no need for the government, irrespective of its calibre or character, to go along to the taxpayer year after year and say: ‘We want to ask you for these thousands of millions of dollars’. If we had the certainty, if we knew what was the definite threat, we could handle it. The honourable member for North Sydney has done the Parliament a very great service in saying that we must look at the uncertainty. I turn now to the comments of my friend the rumbustious honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). He would not be offended by that; it is impossible to offend him. That quality is one which I admire and like enormously. He says that we have time. They are famous words. I would like to think that we had the luxury of time. Regrettably, we have not got the luxury of time on our side because we never know what can happen. Without seeking to be offensive or patronising, the honourable gentleman made a speech which I thought was quite out of character. Again it encouraged me towards the view that the goal of genuine bipartisanship in defence matters is very much within our reach.
My friend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), whom I know has not collapsed with excitement, made a typical characteristic speech. It was a thoughtful one. I do not know what other honourable members may say, but it had never occurred to me how perceptibly the great elegant city of Melbourne depends upon off-shore gas. I say that to my honourable friend. No other person has pointed that out to me. My honourable friend comes along and directs his own unique perceptive mind to the sort of problem that many of us are inclined to dismiss. I suspect that in the course of the next few years we will be obliged to look after an exclusive resources zone of 200 miles off the coast. If we find gas fields there we will not look after this zone with a few long-range maritime patrol aircraft. We have to rack our brains a little more. During the whole of his life the honourable member for Mackellar has not hesitated to put a noogoora burr under the saddle of any government. Once again he has put a noogoora burr under the saddle of this Government. I hope that my honourable friend will not seek to impeach me, but it had not occurred to me that Melbourne depended so perceptibly upon off-shore gas and that there was a need for that source to be protected. It could well be that in the future we will find comparable growing burdens elsewhere. I am indebted to the honourable gentleman for having brought that fact home to us.
Far be it from me, having sat in this chamber with the honourable member for Mackellar for 2 1 years, even to seek to make the slightest dent on his magnificent hide by flattery, but what he said about sea lanes was so true. It must be remembered that 99 per cent of the goods that come into and go out of Australia are carried over sea. Some of my friends in the Opposition have said to me: ‘Killen, why do you get so fussed up about the Indian Ocean?’ I shall point out why. Thirty per cent of the oil that comes into this country comes from the Persian Gulf or Arabia. I suspect that something of the order of 90 per cent of Japan’s entire fuel resources comes from the same area. For Western Europe it is something of the order of 70 per cent to 80 per cent. One has only to mention those statistics. They can in a very real sense be quite melancholy statistics. The honourable gentleman has again given us all a proper, timely jab in reminding us of the problems that face us with respect to the sea lanes.
I hope that my friend the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) will not be upset by my giving him an Anglican dismissal in saying that I thought that what he had to say about the Fl 1 1 aircraft was not merely inaccurate by quite uncharitable. The honourable gentleman would do well to recall that the order for the Fl 1 1 aircraft was put in at a time when, as my friend the honourable member for North Sydney knows, we did not know what was to be the future of one of our near neighbours. We would like to think today that time, circumstance and effort on the part of people in the 2 countries have brought a better understanding to both. Nevertheless in those difficult years the defence planners were faced with the problem of what to buy. The Fill aircraft is quite one of the most remarkable aircraft that has ever been created. Its only deficiencyI observe. this on the basis of technical assessment- is that if does not have a stand-off missile capacity. That is something about which we may hear something when the White Paper has been prepared.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), in a very thoughtful speech, reminded us of the importance of the Army Reserve. Again I say that I hope that my honourable friend will await the presentation of the White Paper when we may have the advantage’ of his considered views on what is offered in the White Paper on the Army Reserve. The pertinacious attention of the honourable member for St George to defence matters has, of course, made a very deep impression upon honourable members on both sides of the chamber. I am indebted to him not merely for the courteous way in which he draws my attention to defence matters but for the very forceful and direct way in which he does so.
Finally, the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) touched on the skills that I have dealt with. The honourable gentleman comes to this Parliament with very distinguished service with the Royal Australian Air Force. He has very properly pointed out to us that the skills of operating modern aircraft are not skills that one can acquire overnight. One spends years acquiring them and one spends years perfecting them. It is in that sense that I come back to where I started. Defence today is not concerned with perceptive or perceived threats. It is concerned with contingencies. I am sure that this debate has shown that the chamber has a better comprehension of that fact than it has ever had in the 2 1 years that I have had the honour of sitting in this Parliament.
I apologise to the Parliament and to the country for an apparent display of dilatoriness on my part regarding the White Paper. It is my hope that it will be before the House during the week we come back after a break, which will be the week after next. But I am not without occupation; nor are my senior advisers. That White Paper has taken a great deal of preparation. Its presentation has been delayed for a variety of reasons about which I would not seek to weary the House. I hope that its presentation, irrespective of whether people are for it or against it, will encourage them to take one step forward along the path to securing a genuine, bipartisan policy on defence for this country.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr McLeay)- by leaveread a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1976-77 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 17 August, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I want to speak briefly to this Bill. When this Bill is disposed of in a few moments what is called the Budget will have been passed as far as this House is concerned. I point out that the Bill which has been disposed of already- Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1 976-77- accounts for an aggregate expenditure of $7,502m. This Bill provides for an expenditure of $1,725,446,000. Between them the Bills account for an expenditure of $9.2 billion out of a total projected expenditure this year of $24 billion. Honourable members will find set out in detail in the statement entitled ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’ how that other $15 billion or so is to be spent. There are 2 large items, of course. One concerns what goes into the National Welfare Fund, mainly for the payment of social services, which aggregate nearly $6 billion. A further $6 billion-$6, 1 40m- relates to payments to or for the States.
The largest single item in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) relates to the salaries and wages of people whom one cannot sack but who technically one cannot pay until Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) is passed. This House in particular went through a traumatic experience recently because of the refusal of what is rather loosely called Supply. The point I want to make is that this literally allows 60 per cent of the total expenditure to pass without any discussion, but certain people will still gang up and say that another place that cannot introduce these measures somehow has the right to refuse them. I believe that it is time that this House began to assert some rights. I think it is time that common sense occasionally prevailed against the opinions of lawyers, not matter how eminent they may believe themselves to be. At times they are very unworldly as far as a working parliamentary system is concerned. I still happen to be one who believes that the parliamentary system of government is the best system so far devised by mankind. But it is not a system that should be fractured or ruptured occasionally to suit political advantage.
I believe that any commonsense understanding of a working Constitution in 1976 can come to only one sensible conclusion; that is that Supply cannot be refused and ought never be refused in another place. Of course there is a tendency to believe that because certain things happened as a result of the election on 13 December, somehow that vindicated the action taken on 11 November. I hope that that will never be so regarded generally. I hope that when constitutional conventions and similar bodies are meeting they give some consideration to what I think is essential, and that is that paramountcy in financial matters should reside in this House, the
House of Representatives. Governments are made and unmade by the success of the numbers in the House of Representatives. I believe you cannot have a system with one set of ground rules when there happens to be some difference in the political opinion of the other House as against this House. If we are to protect what we have and to make workable what we have I believe that never again can it be contemplated that Supply will be refused.
I tried to point out how flimsy is the part called Supply in regard to the totality. I noticed the other day that a senator sitting on an Estimates Committee pointed out much the same thing. These large sums of money are never really debated in this House. Candidly I think that this House yielded when it agreed to split the Appropriation Bill and to have Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) separate from Appropriation Bill (No. 2 ). The distinction is supposed to relate to what are called ordinary annual services, dealt with in Appropriation Bill (No. 1), and what are vaguely called capital works, which are dealt with in Appropriation Bill (No. 2). The reality is that government these days is a continuum and a major part of what goes into these Bills merely represents the financial sanctioning of programs and processes begun some years ago and which may well continue for a good number of years. There is very little new initiative in either of the Appropriation Bills.
I hope that at some time this House will show a bit more concern about the anatomy of its accounts and will at least acknowledge that we are talking about a continuing system. When somebody rather fecklessly believes he can refuse Supply, in essence what he is doing is denying the validity of what previous parliaments have done. He is putting into prejudice the payment of salaries to people who have created no offence but simply are carrying out the duties they are supposed to carry out. I have simply taken this opportunity to say these few words because in a moment Appropriation Bill (No. 2) will be carried virtually without debate. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) is overseas and I accept that situation but if he were here he would heave a sigh of relief as far as this House is concerned and say: ‘At least I have got rid of the Budget and at least on this occasion I can sleep content knowing that nothing much is likely to happen to it in the other place’. In my view that is how every Treasurer ought to be able to sleep. As far as financial affairs are concerned, this is the only House that matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I briefly want to raise some matters relating to these appropriations. The first question I raise is one of substance. It relates to the works program for the Parliament. The appropriation is not shown under the appropriations for the Parliament but elsewhere. In Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1 976-77 there is no estimate relating to the Parliament. The estimate shown under the Department of Construction is $25,000, of which $ 1 5,800 is for work already in progress, leaving an amount of $10,000 for this year. I also point out that there has been a considerable reduction of $3,000- the effective reduction is considerably more- in the amount available for repairs and maintenance. This is a technical matter and I understand that it will be worked out during the year.
I had hoped that the Speaker would be present to hear what I have to say about the matter of substance, the whole question of parliamentary estimates. I had told him that I was going to raise this matter and I had hoped he would be here to reply to me. When the last set of appropriations was before the House I was in the position now occupied by the Speaker and difficulties arose in respect of financing the Parliament. There was a dispute between the 2 Houses. Because the parliamentary estimates are part of the normal budgetary appropriations for the year by the Treasurer the estimates for the Parliament were tied up in the dispute that took place. I am not talking altogether about that dispute. The point I raise, and I hope it is considered, is that the Parliament should have a separate appropriation which should be sought and carried through by the Presiding Officers. Such financial control as is necessary on the part of the Government could be exercised by the Government in this House and in the prior and subsequent negotiations about spending. All honourable members know that this is both practical and necessary. No section drawing on the public purse can have open access to funds.
Last year, because of delays in dealing with requests for additional appropriations, funds were not available to the Parliament for some 2 months, in August and September, to meet its bills. Parliament could well have been in the embarrassing situation that items of furniture in this place which were rented could have been repossessed for debts of only small amounts of money. I seriously put to the Parliament the proposition that the estimates for the Parliament should be dealt with by means of a separate appropriation on the request of the Presiding Officer. That person would have to be the Presiding Officer in this House. In order to bring that about it may be necessary for the Presiding Officer to be sworn as a member of the Executive Council. That would not create difficulties.
Possibly it would be a precedent in our system but that is not so in systems similar to ours. This would place the Parliament in the position that its funds could not be jeopardised. Its continued operation during disputes could not be jeopardised by differences between the political parties. I think the Parliament should be above that situation. As I say, financial control is not difficult for a government to exercise. No Governor-General, for instance, would appropriate and no House in which the Government had a majority would appropriate to the Parliament, money which it considered was not warranted. It would be a change. Such a change has already been suggested by the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) in a notice of motion which is on the notice paper. I hope that some action can be taken.
I raise another question which relates to the adequacy of the appropriations as they appear. I have been assured that action is to be taken on this matter. The amount appropriated for maintenance on this building for 12 months is $63,000. 1 suggest that at the end of 12 months, if that amount is not increased we will not have lights working in the place. Certainly, the bucket brigade which catches water when it rains will have to be increased and our wages bill for that service will add to our costs. The building is in a condition where its age makes it certain that it will continue to deteriorate. There will be no new works under this program during the year and there will be no improvements to the poorer parts of the building, that is, those parts which are in a state of disarray and badly in need of repair. I suggest that the area used by the refreshment room employees which has had some patching up in the last 12 months is still a disgrace to the Parliament which employs the people who work there. Nothing will be done this year. We acknowledge that this is part of a program of cost cutting. But what we put off this year becomes more expensive next year. It may well be that there will be short term savings for long term costs. That is the only matter I wish to raise. I am sorry that Mr Speaker is not here to reply. I am sure that he would have more to say on the subject along the same lines as I have followed.
– In the absence of the Speaker I shall respond briefly to the Manager of the Opposition Business in the Parliament, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). On the question of the amount of funds to be allocated for the maintenance of the Parliament and generally within the appropriations for new items of expenditure and so on, Mr Speaker and Mr President have had some discussions with the Government, with Senator Withers and with me about the details of the program which they wish to follow. As a result of those discussions, although we are pursuing a general policy of maintaining only minimal expenditure in areas of the Government sector, we felt that a number of items needed to be added to the list which was agreed to and shown in the appropriations. Of course, a number of facilities will be necessary for the conduct of the Inter-parliamentary Union Conference which will require both the Senate chamber and the House of Representatives chamber. Some sound-proof booths will need to be fitted in order that translating facilities can be made available and some shelving is required.
Some major items need to be replaced and there has been an agreement on the timing for the calling of tenders and the letting of contracts. These include a new boiler installation which will cost in the vicinity of $250,000. Certain other modifications are needed for certain rooms, some on the House of Representatives side and some on the Senate side of this building. They have been accepted. Because of the problems in there being- this is felt by Mr Speaker and Mr President- inadequate capacity for the general services and maintenance of the Parliament, there has been an acceptance that some additional money should be provided which will be available at the discretion of the Presiding Officers for allocation in those areas where they see that either repairs or maintenance are necessary.
It is quite true that given the age of this parliamentary building and the problems of maintaining it effectively the cost of maintenance is perhaps higher than it would be on a newer building. For example, to replace some of the major items such as the clock system would cost quite an extraordinary amount of money. That is one of the factors that we have taken into account. We have significantly deferred most of the major items of expenditure until at least the next financial year, although some tenders will be let and perhaps some funding will be necessary in the Treasurer’s Supplementary Estimates.
Also, some additional funds are needed for the expansion of facilities within Mr Speaker’s suite.
The other item raised by the honourable member for Corio related to the way in which this item appears within the appropriation. I would have some difficulty within the Government, at least at this stage, in accepting his suggestion that there be a separate item under the responsibility of the Presiding Officer. I believe that the way in which funds are provided at the moment results from a reasonable dialogue between the Presiding Officers and the Government and the Parliament which are responsible for the allocation of funds. Providing that dialogue can take place and there can be an identification of areas of financial need, I do not believe that the Parliament is in any way disadvantaged because of the manner in which the funds are now laid down. Nonetheless, I take note of the honourable gentleman’s contribution for, as a former Speaker, he, of course, is well aware of some of the problems which exist for anybody who tries to repair, maintain, extend, establish or function in a building as old as this House of Parliament.
– I do not want to delay the Committee or the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) for long. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has put forward a suggestion for an important change in the procedure for the granting of appropriations. I would not like him to think that there are not honourable members on this side of the chamber and others who are not in sympathy with his point of view. I believe that the Parliament should be independent of the Executive in these matters. In dealing with the finance for next year, I point out that this chamber will face additional expenditure in relations to not only the Silver Jubilee but also the commemoration of the foundation and opening in 1927 of this parliamentary building. I hope that these 2 matters have been taken into account for the appropriations for next year, otherwise we will be faced with an emergency measure.
– Do you think it will last?
– I do not know. I am a bit worried about it. All I say is that I hope that the Leader of the House has taken note that, as a Parliament, we have 2 important functions coming up. I do not want the Opposition to believe that we are not concerned about the way in which the funds are appropriated for the running of this Parliament.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 19 August, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the New South Wales (Namoi River Weirs) Bill is to provide assistance by way of a non-repayable grant to the Government of New South Wales towards the cost of constructing weirs and associated works at Wee Waa in the north-west of the State. The level of assistance by way of the grant will be $lm in 1976-77 and up to $2m for the completion of the project. The weirs which will be situated on the Namoi River are to be constructed for irrigation of land in the Namoi Valley. Much of the project has been completed. The Mollee and Gunidgera weirs are almost complete but for some minor works. Next year construction will begin on the Weeta weir and this work should be completed by the end of the year.
The system of weirs will go a long way towards the reduction of water losses by further controlling releases from the Keepit Dam and as a consequence will reduce pumping costs to farmers in the region by the creation of pumping pools. The Wee Waa district has developed substantially in the last decade. Cotton, oil seeds and other grains are grown in the district and the construction of these weirs should increase the capacity of the district substantially. The weir system, which will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $5. 5m, will be sufficient to irrigate an area of about 2500 hectares. The former Labor Government was to introduce legislation similar to this to authorise the granting of up to $2m following a commitment made by the previous Government in 1972. Of course the dismissal of that Labor Government last year precluded that happening.
There have been a number of issues which have delayed a final agreement on the measure but this legislation will contribute substantially to the cost of the project. The Commonwealth over the last few years has been giving an increasing amount of money towards irrigation and flood mitigation schemes. It seems both major parties are committed to assist the States in this way. I think this is a healthy development. For those who are interested the details of the specific works covered by this legislation are listed in the Schedule to the Bill. It is not necessary that I should recount them at this time. However, I should make it clear that the Opposition supports the measure and hopes that the project will reach completion on schedule.
-In the absence of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keeffe) in whose electorate these works are located, I would like on his behalf to refer to their importance and to acknowledge the action of the Government in making available this non-repayable grant. The area is an important agricultural region and the management of water is of vital importance to the farmers, the general community and, indirectly, to the nation. The river system lends itself admirably to this kind of developmental work and this project will have the effect of preserving the catchment of local water; it will assist in flood mitigation and it will mean that every drop of this vital water is conserved instead of being allowed to run away down the river systems in that part of New South Wales. Irrigation of sorghum, wheat, cotton and vineyards will be of significance. The action taken by New South Wales with the financial support of the Commonwealth envisages the kind of developmental works that undoubtedly are important to the immediate and long term future of” this part of northern New South Wales. The honourable member for Paterson has always been a very strong advocate of works of this kind. He has a very close knowledge of the industries that will benefit from the works and I know that, his constituents will greatly appreciate what is being done.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to the general support for this kind of development work in Australia by both sides of the House. I remind him that following the disastrous floods in 1974 and 1975 in Queensland, New South Wales and in the southern regions of the continent, many promises were made of extensive works that might be undertaken in the future. There then followed a directive that national water resources be reviewed. That review no doubt has taken place but in the interim the economic situation has somewhat affected the prospects for general expenditure of this kind. However, it is nevertheless important that continuing assessments be made, that cost benefit studies be continued and that the important long range considerations of water conservation be not overlooked. For that reason I strongly support what has been said. I commend the Bill and express the hope that this project will be the forerunner of further projects of this kind in various parts of Australia which as a consequence of the productivity which flows from them will add to our national prosperity.
The countryside is of importance in this day and age. To an extent perhaps too often we overlook these aspects, but on this occasion there is an opportunity to make a specific reference to them. The demands that come from the more closely settled parts of Australia are great indeed but, notwithstanding them, we must continue to see that this continent is managed in an effective manner, that all the aspects of development throughout the length and breadth of it are taken into account and that, in particular, conservation is given a fair share of the expenditure of national funds. For that reason also this measure is of great importance. It is noted that an environmental study into the impact of agricultural chemical use in irrigation and that sort of thing will be required and that this will be subject to approval by the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony). This also is of great importance. It is with pleasure that I support the Bill now before the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Motion (by Mr Howard) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Following my speech in the House last week relating to the Fedor Shalyapin, I was contacted on the weekend and advised of a similar incident, this time in relation to another cruise ship the Shota Rustaveli during one of its cruises in the Pacific. My informant and his wife had decided on a cruise. They occupied the penthouse cabin on the bridge deck of the ship which looks directly astern. The cruise was apparently uneventful until 2 days out of Fiji. I hasten to add that my informant had had several years experience in the merchant marine on boats operating in Australian coastal waters. When this ship was some 2 days out of Fiji and approaching the Australian mainland in the darkened hours of the early morning, he felt restless, was unable to sleep and decided to sit in bed and read a book. He states that shortly afterwards the cruise ship’s engines stopped. He woke his wife and told her. He quickly dressed, went out onto the deck and down to the rear portion of the Shota Rustaveli. To use his own words, which I confirmed with him on 2 occasions, he saw a submarine 300 yards aft of the Shota Rustaveli. There were no port or starboard lights on this latter vessel, only a mast head light. He was soon joined by 20 or 30 people at the stern of the ship. The submarine then beat a hasty retreat by quickly going hard astern and backing off at speed into the darkness.
He states that the following day he sought out Russian officers and demanded an explanation of events of that early morning rendezvous. He was staggered when he received a flat denial that any such event took place and a further denial that the ship had stopped at all. At the time of the incident he states that the lights of the ship Shota Rustaveli were out and that only navigational lights were discernible. I believe that all Russian cruise vessels have on board KGB agents and that key officers on these cruise ships are Russian naval personnel posing as part of the merchant marine, having ready and immediate contact with both surface and underwater vessels in their sphere of operation.
Since my speech to the Parliament on Wednesday last I have received numerous letters and telephone calls from all over Australia depicting similar clandestine rendezvous between Russian cruise ships and other vessels in the dead of night under the most suspicous circumstances. I am convinced that not only is there a Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean but that reports that I have indicate an increasing presence in the South Pacific. I believe all Australians should be made aware of the present overtures being made by Russian authorities to the King of Tonga for the acquisition of an island in the Tongan group for obvious use as a power base. This is disturbing news to say the least and I am delighted that the Department of Defence is having these matters investigated.
Let there be no doubt that the Soviets are intent on creating power bases across the oceans of the world. I hope that what I have said on this subject will awaken an awareness in all Australians that the great heritage that belongs to us all will vanish like a dream unless we are forever vigilant.
– Tonight I should like to discuss nursing home subsidies and domiciliary nursing care. Honourable members in this House have discussed this most important issue in their electorates many times. Only yesterday during question time 2 questions dealing with private hospital and nursing home subsidies were answered by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). The Minister has stated regarding the nursing home subsidies: ‘A statement will be given shortly’. It had better be soon because many constituents in my electorate are worried about their parents and friends. Also patients are worried about the daily rate of a bed in these homes. Up to $30 extra a fortnight is paid above the pensions allowing for extra subsidies provided by the Government. Any savings these people have had have been eroded.
As I have stated in this House, there is no encouragement if the Government queries 2 visits a week by a nursing sister to home patients who receive $2 a day for the entitlement for domiciliary nursing care benefit. Nursing home treatment is out of reach of many people with limited incomes. This issue is more serious than many Australians would believe. One has to be involved to experience the true feeling of injustice to these sick and troubled people, older citizens. They need our help. I have correspondence from the Executive Director of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association of Australia, John Gillroy. He states:
The decision by the Commonwealth Government not to increase the subsidies paid to nursing home patients has created increased problems for many nursing home patients and their relatives. There would seem to be no likelihood of the Commonwealth Government doing anything about helping nursing home patients in this area until next financial year (which begins on 1 July 1977).
This association has made many representations over the past 18 months to the various Ministers responsible for nursing home patients. We have spoken personally with Labor, Liberal and Country Party ministers alike. We have repeatedly drawn their attention to the problems being faced by so many people like yourself because of the insufficiency of the age pension plus the nursing home subsidy to meet the costs of the nursing home’s fees.
A short time ago the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, appointed a special Committee of Enquiry into the Care of the Aged and Infirm which has as its members the men who so recently redesigned the Medibank scheme. Every indication we have is that when the Committee of Enquiry gives the Prime Minister its report … it will contain some important recommendations for a better way to cover the needs of nursing home patients.
The letter continues:
We have asked for nursing home patients to be covered by Medibank. There is no point in the government claiming that Medibank is a ‘universal health insurance’ scheme when the fact of the matter is that nursing home patients are simply not covered by it. Neither are they recognised as being sick people in our community and therefore entitled to Medibank cover.
Mr Jim Sharrock, State Secretary of the Combined Pensioners Association of New South Wales, has asked similar questions for his members from New South Wales and other parts of Australia, dealing with nursing home care and domiciliary nursing care. The Minister for Health will give a decision shortly on extra subsidies for home nursing care and domiciliary nursing care subsidies. The question will be examined by the same committee. These home sisters are doing a remarkable job. They do not want to be involved in the red tape surrounding the matter now. They would like to get on with the job of looking after sick people. If they have to make home visits 3 times a week they should be entitled to make them. But how many pensioners and invalid patients, because of the ruling of the Department of Health, do not receive adequate treatment because 2 visits a week means an extra $2 a day. This subsidy is denied to many needy people. Doctors and nursing sisters agree. I am pleased that the Minister for Health is looking into this injustice, but the Minister should make a decision as soon as possible. Now nursing homes are for the rich and domiciliary nursing care is for the chosen few.
– I am pleased to see that the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) took note of my speech during the debate on social security a few days ago when I dealt with the question of aged persons and in particular with the problem of those persons who are at home looking after elderly parents, in some cases for many years. These persons need all the assistance that they can be given because they save the taxpayers a fortune in costs that would be involved in elderly people having to go into hospitals. I commend the honourable member for Sydney. I know that many honourable members in this House are concerned about the plight of pensioners. The Government has said that it is concerned about this plight and in particular the plight of those persons in nursing homes or those people in need of domiciliary care.
I want to attack a government that would cut education spending. I refer to the fact that the New South Wales Government has increased spending on education by a paltry 1 1 .6 per cent this year as compared with an increase of 29.2 per cent last year. A few days ago I pointed out in this House the fraud that was being perpetrated in New South Wales by the taking of money. In that case it was legal aid money. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) pointed out that statements made by the New South Wales Premier were untrue. In that case we had seen an attempt to obtain money for legal aid, to close down the duty solicitor scheme and to use the money for other purposes.
There is another area in which we see the New South Wales Government taking Federal funds, laundering them, and putting them out to the community under the guise of benefits from the State. But what has it done with the 20.6 per cent increase in general purpose grants given to it by the Commonwealth this year? What does the average member of the public think? We increased education spending by IS per cent, which was about a 2 per cent increase in real terms, and the New South Wales Government has increased education spending by a paltry 1 1.6 per cent when IS per cent at least was needed to maintain the status quo.
I appreciate that the New South Wales Government might have some sort of argument regarding the special purpose grants, but the facts of life are that it has failed to use the general purpose grants we gave it. Only recently teachers- teachers from a teachers’ union- at schools in the electorate of St George came to me with great concern about cutbacks in funds for technical and further education. That was despite the fact that in this area the Commonwealth Government has provided $72 m. The teachers are very worried that the New South Wales Government is not going to provide the appropriate funds which should be flowing to technical and further education, which is an absolutely vital education process. We must ensure that people are trained properly in order to fit them for community jobs in the future. The whole future of our society depends upon funding in this area.
What is the New South Wales Minister for Education doing? He is being rolled unmercifully in his Cabinet. In that State, the education share of the Consolidated Revenue Fund is down to 30.6 per cent, compared with an average in the preceding 5 years of 32.5 per cent. Indeed, if expenditure on education this year had remained at the same level as last year’s in terms of a percentage of the Consolidated Revenue, an extra $27. lm would have been made available for education. If the percentage had remained the same as the average for the past 5 years, an extra $56.3m would have been made available for education. If I might give the lie to the claims made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) in relation to State government deficits, last year Mr Wran, in talking about the State Budget, said:
A Budget deficit would have funded more employment opportunities, increased spending power, and so helped cut down unemployment. .
The New South Wales Government has not had to go into deficit this year in any way. It refused to do so in accordance with its theory of producing employment by spending on capital works. Yet it turned around and slashed education spending, and did it under the guise of saying that the Federal Government had made cuts. It is all part of the fraud which that State Government is perpetrating hand over fist- the laundering of Commonwealth money.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (10.32 )-I want to raise the tragic problem of unemployment in my electorate, a matter which I raised some six or seven weeks ago. In the intervening period I have represented this Parliament in overseas countries- much of this at my own expensewhere I was constantly reminded of this problem. In every country I visited it was the No. 1 problem raised in the mass media. In every country the responsible government was trying to hide behind the same excuse as the Australian Government, that is, that inflation is the No. 1 problem and the continuing claims by trade unionists for higher wages were increasing inflation, lessening export markets, and creating further unemployment. In nearly all of the countries I visited that excuse was unacceptable to the people. Writer after writer pointed out that unless the government did something about the unemployment situation, the government would fall. From the correspondence I have received and the Press reports I have seen since returning to Australia, I think that this Government will fall unless it is prepared to do something about unemployment.
The Lachlander newspaper has carried large headlines expressing concern about unemployment, and the Barrier Daily Truth and many other newspapers have also referred to this problem. I have a letter from the City Council of Broken Hill headed ‘Unemployment Relief. It states:
I write to express the concern of the Council of the City of Broken Hill at the high level of unemployment which presently prevails in Broken Hill.
I am sure you are aware of the benefits derived by the City of Broken Hill from the Regional Employment Development Scheme which was undertaken during 1974 and 1975. That Scheme, in addition to providing worthwhile employment for large numbers of people otherwise unable to find employment, enabled a number of capital works to be undertaken which will benefit all citizens in the years ahead.
The level of unemployment in the Broken Hill District is presently at a similar level to that which motivated the implementation of the Regional Employment Development Scheme and the Council is of the opinion that a similar scheme for unemployment relief based on Local Government ought to be implemented without delay.
It would be appreciated if you would submit the Council’s views to the responsible Minister in order that an unemployment relief scheme may be introduced as soon as possible.
I would point out that that council is not a Labor council; it is an independent council which has only two Labor members. The letter indicates how concerned the council is. It clearly points out that the council does not accept the Government’s excuse that it is necessary to have high unemployment in order to handle the inflation problem. The council is fully conscious, as I am, of the problem of inflation but the letter indicates that inflation is no excuse and that allowing high unemployment to continue shows no signs of solving the inflation problem.
During the period of the Labor Government the Coonamble Shire, which has a very severe unemployment problem, was granted $1,386,131 under the Regional Employment Development scheme. The problem in country areas like Coonamble is that if men are not kept in continuous employment they go to the cities. Those men are skilled in the primary industries in occupations such as shearing and they are sadly missed in the area. I ask the Government to give serious consideration to the reintroduction of some form of unemployment relief such as that provided under the RED scheme.
– I am concerned with the serious situation existing in the textile industry which appears to be getting worse. I am concerned specifically with the problem as it relates to the textile mills in Wangaratta, the largest city in my electorate. Of course, the Industries Assistance Commission is inseparably connected with this problem. The IAC must exist, but it must not govern. The problems that beset the textile industry generally reflect the problems that affect many of the manufacturing industries in Australia at the present time. I realise that the Government has serious problems in solving the difficulties in the overall situation, but the Government must govern and the IAC must not. Since the 25 per cent tariff cuts introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1973 and the decision in February 1974 to abolish import quotas on textiles, the textile industry has gone through the worst economic slump since the 1930s. The 25 per cent tariff cut was introduced at a time when exchange rate changes increased the value of the Australian dollar, thus making imports much cheaper. At that time also the GATT textiles arrangement, which depended on individual countries voluntarily reducing their exports, broke down in the cut-throat atmosphere of the general recession. Another important development was the start of wage rises, which almost doubled the industry’s wages per employee. Not the least of the wage rises was the phased introduction of equal pay for women. At the present moment, in the woollen mills in Wangaratta 36c in every $ 1 earned from sales goes into wages.
Industry leaders rightly point out that most of the raw materials used are readily available in Australia, that the industry is innovative, labour intensive and capital intensive in many of its sectors, and is as efficient as it can be, given the wage bills, short runs and market uncertainties with which it has to work. In the short time available to me I cannot go into all the details, ramifications and problems of the textile industry. But they are problems similar to those in manufacturing industry as a whole. The textile industry, an important defence industry and an important industry generally in regard to raw materials in Australia, needs urgently a positive statement of Government policy which will support the development of a viable textile industry in Australia. How can any textile company make forward planning when the Government implements this recommendation in the Industries Assistance Commission report of April this year:
The measures proposed in this report are not intended to provide a basis for the longer term development of the industry. Accordingly it is suggested that investment decisions and other production or importing plans should not be based on the assumption that the levels and forms of assistance recommended in this report will continue.
There is no way that Australia can compete with imports without an adequate degree of assistance through tariffs and quotas. This situation is not unique to the textile industry; it is a problem facing most manufacturing industries in Australia. When low economic activity is insufficient to utilise fully existing productive capacity, increased imports must result in a further decline in manufacturing in Australia.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I take this opportunity tonight to speak in the adjournment debate mainly because there are a fair number of Government members in the House and I want to put a point to them. I have a vague feeling that they did not enter the chamber to listen to me, but I will take this opportunity nonetheless since I do not usually speak on foreign affairs in the adjournment debate. The other day, a Government member- I cannot remember now who it was- when speaking on some other issue made the point that he supported President Ford’s return to the presidency of the United States of America. I know that we do not have a vote and that we cannot have a significant influence on what happens in the United States in 13 days time, but I put to honourable members that it is not in the interests of Australia that President Ford be returned. Honourable members on the Government side are interjectingI thank them for their support. Some of them at least may be intelligent enough to see that it is terribly important that the United States foreign policy be an effective foreign policy. It has not been an effective foreign policy for the last few years because the political balance has been divided between the presidency and the Congress. All the Presidents since 1968 have been from the Republican Party and during all that time- I cannot recall the exact details- they have faced both a Senate and a House of Representatives controlled by the Democratic Party. Nobody- not even the keenest Republican in the United States- believes that the Republican Party can gain control of both Houses of Congress. They have a vague hope that they may win the presidency. If the Republican Party nominee were to win the presidency, I believe the net result of this would be a Republican President and a Democratic House of Representatives and Senate.
Those of us who believe that the United States influence in world affairs is important and essential surely must believe also that to have an effective United States policy what is needed is a President, government or executive which can with some confidence meet with other countries and make commitments on behalf of the United States which are not likely to be overthrown by a hostile Senate or a hostile House of Representatives. I would therefore argue that it is in the interests of Australia and of all the countries that are broadly described as the countries of the free world that in 2 weeks time former Governor Carter become the President of the United States.
I am not one of those who are exactly carried away by Mr Carter. Certainly, I would not have voted for him in the primaries if I had had a vote. But he is now the endorsed Democratic Party candidate and I put to honourable memberseven those who normally would feel a greater affinity towards the Republican side of politics in the United States as I suppose most honourable members on the Government side do- that the most essential impact of American politics, so far as Australia is concerned, will take place if we have an effective United States in foreign affairs. The only way we are likely to get that is by a victory by Mr Carter. I think this is even more important at the present time when what is happening in China is extremely debatable. It is a pity that the Government has not seen fit, even in response to some Dorothy Dix questions, to give some information as to what is actually happening in China at the present time but I suppose the Government has very little information. There have been sudden changes. I noticed a news item in today’s Melbourne Herald suggesting that the Soviet Union has threatened to intervene in China at a time when the Chinese leadership is not at its strongest.
– I must intervene on the honourable gentleman. His time has expired.
-An article in this morning’s Age indicated that a group of academics has alleged the Commonwealth Government has abandoned its interest in the problems of urban areas. This misrepresentation should be corrected. The Commonwealth Government has not abandoned its involvement in solving the problems of urban areas. These critics should recognise that the Government is not able to draw on a bottomless pit of money to spend on all the projects it or the community may regard as desirable. The Australian Labor Party in Government thought that there was a bottomless pit. In spending well beyond what the country could afford, it created economic problems.
-That is exactly right. It created the economic problems that this Government is now valiantly trying to solve. The reduction in the budgetary allocations for urban affairs should be considered in this light. To reduce inflation and restore growth, the deficit inherited from Labor has to be reduced without increasing taxation. Hence, Government spending has to be reduced. In the longer term, the reduction of inflation resulting from this Government’s sound economic management will benefit urban development by allowing more facilities to be provided for each dollar spent.
The Commonwealth Government’s revitalised approach to federalism is another important factor when considering the allocation of funds to urban affairs. Under the new approach to federalism, with tax sharing the States are entitled to 33.6 per cent of the Commonwealth Government’s collections of personal income tax. This will provide an increase of 2 1 per cent over comparable grants last year. The key factor in this is that not only will the States have more money but also a greater part of this money as untied grants. Decreases in specific funds for urban development are counteracted by a large rise in the financial allocation to the States in the form of untied grants. The States now have the capacity to choose their own priorities, be they welfare housing, sewerage or other services.
A third factor in relation to the Commonwealth’s allocation of funds is its initiation of a review of all major urban and regional development programs and the appropriate role of the Commonwealth in this sphere. The Australian Labor Party claims much credit for alleged initiatives in the sphere of urban affairs with the establishment of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, but it should be remembered that it was the McMahon Liberal-Country Party Government which initiated action in this area with the establishment of the National urban and regional development authority. Despite the fanfare, Labor’s administration in the field of urban development failed. Labor failed to grasp the problems associated with implementing programs on an intergovernmental basis. The Labor Government assumed the role of de facto policy dictator. It attempted to coerce State and local authorities to change their aims and priorities and their planning procedures to accommodate these new Commonwealth programs. No real attention was paid to existing State legislation and policy priorities. By the end of 1975 it was clear that despite the expenditure of vast sums of money the Labor Government had failed to make any real impact on the problems of urban growth. The money spent had not produced results on the ground. Hence the current review is necessary and timely to ensure that in the future real results are obtained from Commonwealth Government activity in this sphere.
I have had some experience in these matters in representing the Kingston electorate. In the Kingston electorate, the area to the south of O’Halloran Hill known as the Noarlunga region is a key example of urban growth in Adelaide. The recent census reveals it to be one of the fastest growing areas in Australia. Hence the provision of adequate services and facilities is of urgent necessity for people in this area. It is important that balanced and co-ordinated development take place to ensure that residential allotments are available serviced with water, sewerage and other facilities, to fulfil demand. It should be recognised that Noarlunga is a major urban area by Australian standards. Hence it is important that it be given high priority by both the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments. In this sphere there is opportunity for co-operation between the Commonwealth and State governments, as is implied in the new federalism policy of the Liberal-National Country Party Government.
I confidently look forward to a continuing Commonwealth interest in the problems of outer suburbs like those of the Noarlunga region. Urbanisation and its consequences are probably the greatest human problem facing modern industrial society. Finding the solution to this problem is a task of national importance and therefore requires Commonwealth Government involvement.
-Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) sanctimoniously and perfunctorily -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to reflect upon a member of the House. He should choose his words more carefully.
– The Prime Minister dismissed my question without notice concerning the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen).
– You jumped straight out of the garbage can where you belong.
– It is apparent that the Prime Minister has a very short memory.
– You even still have some of the cabbage in your ears.
- Mr Speaker, are you going to permit that?
-I did not hear it; I was listening to the honourable member. I apologise.
– Apparently the Prime Minister has a very short memory. It is like his promises to the electorate. There is one code of behaviour when he is in opposition and another when he is in government. He has so quickly forgotten his question of 4 June 1975 to the then Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, concerning the then Treasurer. I quote from page 3095 of the Hansard at which Mr Fraser said:
I ask the Prime Minister if he would be good enough to put an end to speculation that he is about to replace Dr Cairns as Treasurer, will the Prime Minister give an assurance that Dr Cairns, if he is replaced as Treasurer, will not be named as Minister for Defence?
Was the Prime Minister on that occasion concerned with the great issue of national defence. as I have been for some years, or was he concerned with and alluding to other issues? His pompus reply to my question yesterday suggests that he seeks to ascribe his motives and thoughts to my question. I dwell on this matter not to allude to the personal lives of members on either side of the House but to draw to the attention of the House the Janus-like behaviour of the Prime Minister in this place.
I now turn to another matter- a matter that the Prime Minister, unlike Mr Hamer, cannot deny any knowledge of. It concerns a company known as Vapold Pty Ltd and the secretary of that company. The Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, and the Public Works Minister, Mr Dunstan, both denied any knowledge of this company and its scurrilous activities. This is the company that acted on behalf of the Liberal Party of Australia when it purchased a building from the Victorian State Government- a building that is designed to be developed as a policy research centre for the State and Federal branches of the Liberal Party of Australia, that august body which is never involved in intrigue, conspiracy or malpractice. Will the Prime Minister now deny that the husband of a Minister of his Government is the company secretary -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to reflect upon any member of this House or of the other chamber.
– I never mentioned the other chamber, Mr Speaker.
-Well, the honourable member mentioned a Minister. He will confine himself to the Standing Orders.
– Well, this is the same Vapold Pty Ltd, a Liberal Party trustee company, that owns buildings by abusing privilege and power. It seems that the secretary’s contributions to the Liberal Party of Australia do not rest there. The secretary is also the executive director of 3XY Pty Ltd, a company which operates a commercial radio station in Melbourne- a company which he admits is controlled by the Liberal Party of Australia. The Liberal Party of Victoria not only acquires buildings in dubious circumstances, but it also seeks to make sure that the public is exposed only to suitably vetted political advertising. I quote from today’s Melbourne Age which states that the secretary of the company said: … the vetting of political advertising material provided an opportunity to see what political opponents of the Liberal Party were saying.
The report went on to say that the secretary said that to the best of his knowledge 3XY Pty Ltd had never agreed to Labor Party advertisements on 3XY.
Honourable members interjecting
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I will not permit interjections while the honourable member is speaking.
– I think you have been more than fair to them, Mr Speaker. I repeat that the secretary of the company said that to the best of his knowledge 3XY Pty Ltd had never agreed to Labor Party advertisements on 3XY. The community of Australia is interested in these affairs and in this democratic institution. I believe these matters should be raised.
-What we have just heard from the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is typical of the sort of contribution he makes in debates in this House. It was characterised by the fact that it was extremely light on for facts. Early in his speech the honourable member referred to the fact that the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, and one of his Ministers, Mr Dunstan, had lied in the Victorian Parliament about ownership of a company known as Vapold Pty Ltd. What the honourable member for Hunter and this House need to know is that the Liberal Party conducts its financial affairs in a somewhat different manner from that of the Australian Labor Party. The simple fact is that the Premier of Victoria and his Minister do not know, and have no reason to know, of the existence of a company known as Vapold. Neither, I suggest, would Liberal Party members in this Parliament, including probably the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), know of its existence. The fact is that Vapold Pty Ltd is a registered company, an approved company, and a respectable company which has respectable directors and respectable shareholders- something which characterises them as being different from the honourable member for Hunter.
The honourable member said that Vapold is a Liberal Party trustee company. He is wrong in that respect. I did not know of the existence of Vapold or who the directors of that company were, or what Vapold seeks to do. The honourable member referred to a link between an alleged Liberal Party trustee company, which I repeat does not exist as such in those terms, and 3XY Pty Ltd. He apparently sees something sinister in the fact that 3XY will not accept Labor Party advertisements. How can anybody be surprised at that? Even the honourable member for Hunter would recognise that any business operation has a right to look at the credit rating of its clients. When it is known that the Australian Labor Party, preceding the 1975 general election, had failed in its clandestine attempt to get Iraqi dollars over breakfast one morning in Sydney, is it any wonder that the executives of 3XY take the view that it was not necessary to put their shareholders’ funds at risk by dealing with debtors who cannot meet their repayments?
Would the honourable member for Hunter, if he were in a business position, regard himself as obligated to deal with clients whose credit rating was suspect and who raised money in clandestine operations at shadowy breakfast meetings that took place on the higher floors of some of Sydney’s high-rise buildings? It is strange indeed, when it is brought to public attention- the Liberal Party does not seek to hide this- that a dividend of $100,000 is payable to certain organs of the Liberal Party through this operation, that the honourable member overlooks the fact that $400,000 comes out of 3KZ and goes to the organs of the Labor Party.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
2 ) The relevant provision in the Staff Rules, Rules 1 6 and 17, which read:
The ABC Staff Rules were originally drawn up by the Parliamentary Draftsmen of the Attorney-General’s Department and were approved by Parliament as Statutory Rules.
The Rules have, since 1960 onwards, had the approval of the Public Service Board in terms of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 as amended.
Since 1 974 the practice under ABC General Orders ( 1 3 / J ) has followed the practice under Public Service General Orders (Section 14-M), so as to minimise restraints on public comment by officers and employees.
Mr Richard Carleton has and had no contract with the ABC since December 1970.
The ABC from 14 December 1970 until 31 July 1976 engaged a company, Gallery Research Pty Ltd, to supply Mr Carleton ‘s services.
Mr Carleton signed an attachment to that contract designed by the present Solicitor General, when a Member of the New South Wales Bar, adopting the provisions of the company ‘s contract.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
What progress has been made with the establishment of a computer based statistical system to assist the Aboriginal Legal Service to define its priorities as referred to on page 1 6 of the Annual Report of the Department for 1974-75.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The computer-based statistical system for the recording of information relating to persons assisted by the Aboriginal Legal Service has been prepared. The aim of the system is to provide information to guide my Department in provision of funding for Aboriginal Legal Services, to assist the Aboriginal Legal Services to determine their priorities, and to assist in indicating the sentencing pattern of Aboriginal people throughout Australia. It was proposed that the system should make use of a computer facility and to this end a computer program was obtained, a data collection sheet was prepared and an officer of the Department received training in the use of the computer facility. The program was discussed with representatives of the Aboriginal Legal Services at their Annual Conference in August 1 975 but was rejected by them on the basis that some Aboriginal people might fear the collection of such information, and because it was considered that additional work would be placed on the staff of the Aboriginal Legal Services. I consider the approach is worthwhile and hope that the Aboriginal Legal Service will accept the system with reasonable modification. A similar system has been adopted by the Victorian Legal Aid Service and has been useful to that Service. My Department is continuing to discuss the question of statistics with the Aboriginal Legal Services.
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
In respect of each Aboriginal Housing Association: (a) what was the level of funding in 1975-76; and (b) what funds are to be provided in 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
Has the Government considered introduction of legislation at a national level on the South Australian model to regulate consumer credit transactions.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Government’s policy gives high priority to the achievement of uniform credit laws throughout Australia. The whole legislative framework for consumer credit is currently under examination by a Commonwealth/State Working Party on Uniform Credit Laws and the question of legislation at a national level will be considered when the task of the Working Party has been completed.
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
As finance companies, in relation to their funding, are regulated under the Financial Corporations Act administered by the Treasurer, does the Government propose to introduce national legislation as has been done in the United States of America and the United Kingdom to regulate consumer credit transactions.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The whole legislative framework for consumer credit is currently under examination by a Commonwealth/State Working Party on Uniform Credit Laws and the question of legislation at a national level will be considered when the task of the Working Party has been completed.
ABC Broadcasting Time: Government and Opposition (Question No. 1083)
on asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
How much time was allocated by the ABC on (a) radio and (b) television news to statements and announcements by members and known supporters of (i) the Government and (ii) the Opposition during the period I January 1976 to 31 August 1976.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Although statistics are kept and have been provided concerning appearances on ABC Current Affairs programs I am advised by the ABC that there are no such statistics available on times used in news reports of announcements from members of the Government or the Opposition. To obtain these statistics would involve considerable cost which in view of their limited finances the Australian Broadcasting Commission cannot justify.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
What progress has been made in inquiries on the feasibility of providing television services on Eyre Peninsula in South Australia?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Broadcasting Control Board is, at present, conducting an engineering survey into television reception on the Eyre Peninsula.
It will be appreciated that until the information gained from the survey has been processed it is not possible to indicate what recommendations might be made.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice;
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, figures published in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Manufacturing Commodities, 1972-73 and 1973-74 (Ref. No. 12.26) show that production of alcoholic cider and perry totalled 6 873 000 litres in the 1 972-73 Census year and 7 602 000 litres in the 1 973-74 Census year.
Financial Interests of ABC Chairman (Question No. 1135)
am asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Report of the Auditor-General (Question No. 1196)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For reasons which have been spelled out in the Budget Speech and elsewhere, there is a continuing need for restraint in Government spending. In the Budget delivered on 17 August the estimated increase in outlays in 1976-77 has been limited to 1 1 per cent, which is about half the actual rate of increase in 1975-76.
That having been said, I confirm that this Government is committed to eliminating waste and inefficiency from the programs which it has principally inherited from its predecessors and to ensuring that value for money is achieved. The heads of the various departments and statutory bodies who administer Government programs have been left in no doubt about our concern to achieve these objectives.
In preparing for the 1976-77 Budget the Government carried out a very searching review of Government expenditure programs designed in part to cull out ineffective, wasteful and extravagant spending programs. The Government has also reviewed (through the work of the Administrative Review Committee) the delivery of a wide range of programs. Separate reviews, with the same basic objectives of improving efficiency and effectiveness, have been conducted in such areas as health insurance and Aboriginal programs.
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question: (1), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable member to the table on page 1 16 of the Annual Report of the DirectorGeneral, Department of Social Security, for 1975-76, which gives information in relation to pensions paid overseas under the portability arrangements.
Canned Fruit Growers (Question No. 1281)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, on notice:
When he considers the request of the South Australian Government to convert to a grant the Commonwealth portion of the early 1976 loan to the Riverland Cannery, will he ensure that any decision is equitable to all canned fruit growers in Australia, and does not favour certain canneries or orchardists supplying those canneries, i.e. it is on a per tonne rate of fruit deliveries, irrespective of the loan to the cannery.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The suggestions made will be taken into account when the South Australian Government’s proposals are being considered.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
In respect of each of the heads comprising the estimated total outlay of $24,320.9 million for 1976-77 appearing on page 28 of the Statements attached to the Budget Speech in Budget Paper No. 1, what amount is estimated to come from (a) Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1976-77, (b) Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1976-77, (c) Special Appropriations, (d) the Loan Fund and (e) other sources.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761020_reps_30_hor101/>.