30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that; the Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel State governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve per cent; Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guidelines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Klugman, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Stewart.
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 MacKellar and Mr Connolly.
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 Bryant and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
We support the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation in asking the Federal Government to underwrite manufactured dairy products to the extent of providing a farm gate price of a minimum of 65c per pound of butter fat.
We stress the need for immediate action if a viable dairy industry is to be retained.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this underwriting provision be implemented urgently. by Mr Goodluck and Mr Groom.
Symphony Orchestra in Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Hunter Valley Region respectfully showeth the lack of a resident professional symphony orchestra in Newcastle and surrounding areas, with consequent denial to the citizens of adequate provision of concerts, opera, ballet, school concerts, teaching of various orchestral intruments and career opportunities for young musicians.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament give due and early consideration to the provision of funds, in association with the N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors of Flinders respectively sheweth:
Such alterations and amendments to the Family Law Act as will abolish the Maintenance and Alimony System and establish the right of fathers to custody of their own children against defaulting wives.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that: thereby reducing the divorce rate and re-establishing security and stability in family life
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Armitage.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the chronic ill and handicapped persons of Australia being cared for in private nursing homes have never suffered greater financial hardship than at present, due to Government subsidies not keeping pace with inflation and it is requested that urgent attention be given to this matter. by Mr Jull.
Dockyards at Newcastle
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Newcastle respectfully showeth:
That shipbuilding and repairs play a vital role in the economic stability of the Newcastle region.
That a recent study by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation showed that 50 000 people were partially or wholly maintained by the State Dockyard.
That stability is at present in jeopardy, as a new ship order is required within the next few weeks if serious unemployment and hardship is to be avoided.
That the previous Government’s plan for the building of a graving dock in Newcastle should be continued as proper ship repair facilities are a vital factor in the maintenance of a viable shipbuilding industry.
That the Government’s election pledge to restore business and employment can be implemented in Newcastle if new orders and a graving dock are granted.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government place immediate orders with the Newcastle State Dockyard and implement the previous Government’s plan to build a graving dock in Newcastle.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students and staff of the State Colleges of Victoria respectfully showeth:
That teachers recruited outside Australia by the Victorian Education Department have their income taxation exemption for the period of their stay in Australia cancelled.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Treasurer will carry out this petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Scholes. Petition received.
– I preface my question which is addressed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs by referring to the concessions made by the Government in this year’s Budget to the mining industry and to the prospect that we could face a renewed mining boom in Australia. Is it a fact that we have no national corporations and securities legislation even though this matter has been the subject of 5 years investigation and 3500 pages of evidence have been taken? Is it also a fact that there is no prospect of uniformity in this field through the Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission given that only 37 per cent of Australian public companies are incorporated in the 3 Tory States? When can investors expect the Government to enact national legislation to ensure that the Australian capital market is run competently, honestly and in a way which provides a secure investment structure?
– It is a fact that in the last Budget concessions were made quite deliberately to the mining industry. The Government believes that they were justified. The Government also believes that those concessions will have a be neficial effect on this most important element of our export activities and makes no apology whatever for having made those financial concessions. The honourable gentleman will be aware that in July of this year the Government announced a policy regarding a co-operative approach between the Commonwealth and the States in respect of the regulation of the securities industry and a move towards greater uniformity in company legislation generally. I have already had one meeting with State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs. I am to have another meeting with those Ministers in Melbourne on 12 November, that is, on Friday week. I have said publicly on a number of occasions that the Government regards the Commonwealth as having a definite responsibility in this area. The Government regards it as necessary that the Commonwealth be involved in order that the level of investor protection and the degree of uniformity which are so essential in this area be achieved.
The Government does not intend to turn its back on this area. Equally, the Government does not believe in the sledgehammer approach adopted by the previous Government when it was in office, an approach which denied any involvement by State administrations in the administration of legislation and the reform of the law and an approach which could have provoked a number of years of constitutional argument and conflict. This Government is committed to uniform legislation in this area. This Government is committed to an effective sytem of national administration. I want to make it quite clear to the honourable gentleman and to the House that as far as the Government is concerned there are 2 elements involved. There is the element of investor protection. There is also the element that any government legislation ought to be designed to facilitate the operation of the capital market in Australia and that regulations enacted should be such as not to hinder the operation of that capital market but rather to assist its performance. I can assure the honourable gentleman that this particular issue has an extremely high priority as far as my own portfolio is concerned and as far as the Government is concerned, and I intend to pursue the implementation of the Government’s announced policy with the greatest degree of expedition.
– I ask the Acting Minister for Overseas Trade whether he has yet been informed of the decision of the Japanese administration to suspend the import of Australian chilled beef under what is called the Touch I section of Japanese meat import controls. Is he aware that until yesterday the price of quality steers had fallen disastrously by over $40 a head and that yesterday at the Wodonga sales it fell from $132 to $70 a head, with naturally disastrous consequences for producers in this premium market? Will he discuss this matter with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs to ensure that strong representations are made to the Japanese Government to have the administration decision reversed?
– I was in fact informed a few days ago that this move was in prospect. In anticipation of that, strong representations were made to the Japanese Administration, pointing out the great concern that would be felt in the beef industry in Australia if in fact this decision were made. I appreciate the concern of the right honourable gentleman. I cannot respond to the specific details of the impact of this decision on the Australian sales that he mentioned but I shall investigate that. I shall also discuss with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs the request by the right honourable gentleman in his question that further representations be made. I want to make it very clear that the concern of the Australian Government on this issue has already been conveyed to the Japanese authorities. We are very concerned about it and the Government very much shares the concern of the right honourable gentleman about the impact of this action on the Australian beef industry.
-I preface my question to the Foreign Minister by pointing out that the Minister would be aware that the United Nations General Assembly commenced a debate on East Timor on Tuesday of this week at which the Portuguese delegate stated that Portugal does not recognise Indonesia’s takeover of East Timor and that it called upon the United Nations to adhere to the principles it expressed in a resolution earlier this year. Further, the Minister would be aware of a current resolution on East Timor sponsored by Mozambique and several other countries declaring support for East Timorese self-determination. I ask the Minister What is the Australian Government’s attitude to this resolution? Further, is it a fact that Australia is working with Indonesia, Japan and the United States of America to formulate a softer line in the United Nations on the Indonesian invasion of East Timor?
-Of course I am aware that the debate commenced this week, not in the plenary of the General Assembly, but in the fourth committee. Speeches and statements are being made by members of the fourth committee at this stage. According to the advice put to me there was no draft resolution as of 2 hours ago before the fourth committee. I would assume that there would be a resolution put down before the committee either later this week or indeed early next week. Australia’s views on that resolution will be made known in the appropriate forum, as it is now being discussed in the fourth committee.
Our policy has been stated time and again. I reiterated it in this House on 20 October. I trust that the resolution that comes before us will in fact be forward looking in the interests of the people of Timor, as the policy of the Australian Government reflects a forward looking approach.
– Are we working with Indonesia on an alternative?
-On the question of consultation, we have been consulting with a wide range of countries in the fourth committee. I do not want to become partisan on this matter, but we have not ducked for cover in the United Nations on the question of Timor as did our predecessors.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, concerns the very important general issue of the protection of our environment and the Government’s and the Minister’s attitudes to environmental issues. Has the Minister seen a copy of Moonbi 30, the newsletter of the Fraser Island Defence Organisation, which was recently circulated to all members of Federal Parliament? Is the Minister aware that the newsletter alleges, among other things, that he has adopted a position hostile to conservationists and abrogated his environmental responsibilities?
– I welcome the question from the honourable member for Petrie. I would like to commence my answer by saying that the article, of which I am very aware, gives a totally untruthful view of the meeting that I had with the Fraser Island Defence Organisation in Maryborough. I attended the meeting with FIDO with an open mind and with sympathy towards the cause of those people who had been fighting for Fraser Island. At the very beginning of that meeting I was presented with 2 documents from FIDO which contained a number of what can best be described as misleading, at the worst untruthful, statements on the attitude of the Fraser Government to the environment in general and Fraser Island in particular. For example, I was presented with a copy of a FIDO newsletter in which it was asserted that the Fraser Government had approved new export contracts for the export of Fraser Island mineral sands. This, of course, is a total falsehood. I took exception to this and other scurrilous allegations.
The FIDO members present promised that if they reported the meeting in their newsletter they would publish my specific criticisms that I made of them at the meeting. This promise has never been honoured. Rather, in that curious newsletter called Moonbi 30 there is a one-sided and inaccurate account of what took place at that meeting. More seriously, the newsletter does not even mention the fact that I replied in detail to the Organisation’s criticism in a letter dated 16 August. Rather than read the letter right through I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T.,2600 16 August 1976
Dear Mr Sinclair,
I refer to your telegram of 4 August regarding exports of heavy mineral sands by Queensland Titanium Mines (Q.T.M.) from Fraser Island, and also to your subsequent communication of 1 1 August in which you enclosed a copy of a letter which you sent to the Prime Minister on 9 August.
Initially I wish to remind you of what occurred during our meeting in Maryborough on 30 July. I do so because you referred to this meeting both in your telegram of 4 August and in your letter to the Prime Minister.
I attended the meeting with high expectations- anticipating that I would be presented with a forceful account of your organisation’s views on Fraser Island. I might add that after spending a day and a half admiring the beauty of the Island, I was quite sympathetic towards your organisation and its cause.
At the beginning of the meeting, you presented me with two documents, viz:
On glancing through these documents, I took exception to a number of statements that seemed to me to be either misleading or untruthful. I expressed concern that a group like the Fraser Island Defence Organisation could publish such unsubstantiated material. You will remember that I disputed the accuracy of four statements made either by you or by your organisation.
The Fraser Government has already made decisions to allow sandmining to continue. It has approved new export contracts for the export of Fraser Island mineral sands, particularly with reference to contracts for Queensland Titanium Mines Pty Ltd (Q.T.M.).’ ln your telegram of 4 August you cite as evidence for this assertion comments made by Mr Morrison of Q.T.M. to the Fraser Island Inquiry and printed in the transcript on pages 2405 to 2412.
I repeat now what I said to you at our meeting. Your letter to all Federal Members was quite inaccurate. No new contracts for the export of Fraser Island mineral sands have been approved by the Fraser Government.
The pages of the transcript of the Fraser Island Inquiry to which you refer must be read in conjunction with the exhibits before the inquiry,- this is particularly necessary in the case of exports by Q.T.M. In paragraph 17 of the statutory declaration made by Mr S. Pennycuik of Q.T.M. (Exhibit No. 317), he states that the total production from the company’s Fraser Island operation has been committed forward under contracts. Attachments F and G to his statutory declaration substantiate this position. (Exhibit Nos 323 and 324). The material exported under the contracts is shipped at ‘market prices ‘ approved by the Commonwealth Government.
From the statement submitted to the Inquiry by the Secretary of the then Department of Minerals and Energy (Exhibit No. 611, paragraph 6), you will see that export contracts for Q.T.M. ‘s production from Fraser Island were entered into some years ago, prior to the 1973 extension of the export controls to cover all minerals.
Although the Australian Government denies that blanket approval exists, there is a general approval which allows D.M. to virtually automatically gain export licences every time they seek them, as they have ever since the Fraser Government came to office. ‘
The fact is that no such blanket approval exists. Nor is it true to say that D.M. Minerals ‘automatically’ gains export licences and that it has done so ever since the Fraser Government came to office. You should be aware that in the case of D.M. Minerals the issue of export licences by the Commonwealth Government is contingent upon D.M. Minerals continuing to meet the environmental obligations as set down in Mining Lease 102 Special Conditions.
This also is quite misleading. The numerous demands on Senator Greenwood’s time made it very difficult for him to get to Fraser Island and two earlier visits had to be abandoned because of pressure of other work. The Senator’s visit was arranged at short notice. I understand that difficulties were encountered in contacting Mr Powell. I assure you that there was no intention to exclude anyone from these discussions, and Mr MacKellar, as Acting Minister following Senator Greenwood’s illness, wrote to Mr Powell to express regret that it had not been possible to give him adequate notice to enable his attendance.
Soon after his visit, Senator Greenwood fell ill and during his illness there have been two acting Ministers for Environment- making a total of four since Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister- (compare this with the four Environment Ministers during the last six months of the Whitlam Government). ‘
In view of the context in which it was written this could only be read as some kind of criticism of the Fraser Government. The point I made at the meeting was that the Senator’s illness, and subsequent replacement, was something that no reasonable person could interpret as showing any lack of concern for the environment on the part of the Government, and was something that could not be compared with the fact that the previous Government had four Environment Ministers in its last six months.
In your letter to the Prime Minister you say that you would expect that ‘even if a Minister had doubts about the integrity and motives of a group, he would at least give them the benefit of the doubt and let them be heard and later form an assessment of their credibility ‘.
The true situation is that I had no doubts about your integrity and motives prior to your presenting me with printed documents which contained untruthful and unsubstantiated statements about the Government of which I am a member. Likewise I did not prejudge ‘your group and its motives’ as you assert in your letter to the Prime Minister. When I read your documents I was in no sense prejudging- but rather examining them in a way that I would examine any other document or submission that was handed to me.
During the last eight months I have met with numerous groups representing all shades of opinion in every State of the Commonwealth. No other group or individual has taken exception to any such meeting. 1 should add that no group or individual has handed me such misleading material.
I suggest that in this instance the past is best forgotten. As I said to your delegation towards the end of our meeting, I hope that, despite an unfortunate beginning, we will remain in communication. If you are in Canberra in the foreseeable future, feel free to see me. The Government and your organisation share a common interest in the future of Fraser Island and I am confident that this common interest will override any personal ill-feelings that might at present exist.
Yours Sincerely, KEVIN NEWMAN
Mr J. Sinclair, President, Fraser Island Defence Organisation, P.O. Box 420, MARYBOROUGH, QLD 4650
– I thank the House. Let us be clear on the Government’s feelings to the environment. The Government firmly believes in the necessity to preserve the quality of the Australian environment. As a responsible Minister I personally have a commitment to that policy. Fraser Island is too important an issue to be tarnished by a group of people who seem to go out of their way to criticise this Government in what can only be described as a totally dishonest manner. The conservation cause in general is in no way assisted by such irresponsibility.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications a question. On Tuesday he said that he expected to table within the next day or two the Green report on the overall structure of the broadcasting system. Since he did not table the report yesterday and since newspapers each day have been publishing extracts from it, can we expect the Minister to table it today?
– I regret that I will have to disappoint the Leader of the Opposition. I will not be tabling the report today. The Government wanted to give very careful consideration to this report. That is the way we arrive at decisions. I assure the Leader of the Opposition, however, that I will be tabling the report after question time on Tuesday.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister or to the Acting Minister for National Resources. Can the Government ensure that in any decisions it makes in relation to Fraser Island it will use principles which have universal application to all developments, that it will consider carefully the effects on all other mining and development if those decisions are applied equally throughout Australia, that it will remember that the ultimate environment in Australia are the households which, for a proper and happy functioning, require people to be employed and to be certain of their future and finally that it will look with the greatest scepticism at the vague and imprecise propositions in the Fraser Island report concerning compensation and the serious understatement of the economic and social consequences if mining were to be stopped forthwith?
-Many aspects need to be taken into account in making decisions of this kind. The Government will take account of all relevant considerations. The Premier of Queensland, I think one of the officials involved and maybe Mr Camm will be in Canberra today and will be having some discussions. I have no doubt that the views of the Queensland Government will be put to us in a forceful fashion. The honourable gentleman spoke of the need for jobs as being a part of the environment in which people must live and of the need for security. We are very much aware of those things. Having security in a job and security for one’s family are fundamental to what we are about. At the same time we have an obligation not only to the present generation but also to our children and to their children to ensure that they have jobs which will give them a rewarding working life and that there will be places in Australia which people can enjoy for their leisure.
The natural environment certainly does need preservation. In many parts of the world it has been polluted and destroyed because people have not looked with sufficient concern at the damage that members of the human species can do if they are allowed to run wild in certain parts of the natural environment. I can only say that all the relevant considerations will be taken into account and I am confident that the Government’s judgment will be the right one. I believe it will be the right judgment but I am not confident that it will have universal approval.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the record $146m spent by Australian tourists overseas in the 3 months to 30 September this year? If this trend continues will there be an annual outflow of approximately $600m which will seriously affect Australia ‘s balance of payments? I understand that the Government has set up a back bench committee to look at tourism. Will the Prime Minister consider the possibility, as there is interest in tourism on both sides of the House, of setting up a select committee -
Honourable members interjecting-
– If the honourable members on my left have finished interjecting, I will ask the Prime Minister the question again. In view of the interests of members of both sides of the House -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There seems to be interference to the honourable member from alongside him. I cannot hear it but obviously the honourable member can. I ask for co-operation from honourable members to allow the honourable member for Robertson to ask his question. I call the honourable member for Robertson.
-Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, I have been sat next to the fowl house here and there is cackle all the time.
-Order! The honourable member will ask his question.
– In view of the interest of all members of the House in tourism and its future in Australia, will the Prime Minister consider setting up a select committee of the House to look into tourism?
– I am quite sure that all members of the House would have an interest in promoting tourism in Australia. It is not only a question of Australians staying in Australia for their holidays when they go travelling but also a question of attracting people from overseas to visit Australia to see what this country has to offer. I think that the substance of the honourable gentleman’s question is well worth examining and the Government will look at it.
We will let the honourable gentleman and the House know what comes out of that examination.
– I direct a question to the Acting Minister for National Resources. Are mineral exporters frustrated and caused wasted time by the complex system of export controls which applied under the previous Government? What progress has been made in relation to the proposals by the Minister for National Resources to reduce the amount of bureaucratic involvement in approvals of mineral exports?
– Some months ago representatives of the mining industry came to see the Minister for National Resources to tell him of the difficulties they had in securing approval for the export of their minerals. On investigation he found that there is indeed a great deal of bureaucratic delay and interference and that in fact our predecessors had made the rnining industry seek approval through a whole procedure of paper work, for every shipload of minerals leaving the country under each contract. It was certainly time consuming and costly to the mining industry. On further investigation, the Minister decided that it was unnecessary. He believed that if a government was prepared to give a contract for the export of a certain quantity of minerals, it was logical enough to assume that the mining industry could export those minerals without requiring each shipload to be given separate approval. He has therefore changed the system. The mining industry will be pleased to know that the previous bureaucratic interference will cease, and that in future it can expect to receive approval for a long run of mineral shipments under each contract.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that a decision has been made not to print the current Boyer lectures? If this is so, how many years is it since the Boyer lectures were not published? Is this a further example of an attempt to apply censorship to and suppression of this series of Boyer lectures?
-I am not aware of the position. I take it that the honourable member means the Australian Broadcasting Commission has made a decision not to print the Boyer lectures.
– I do not know. I am asking you.
-IT the honourable member does not know who is responsible for the decision, I want him to know that I am not aware of the decision. I should imagine that it would be a decision that the ABC would make. The Government does not interfere in its decisions. However, if it has been the practice to print the lectures I would be very happy to make inquiries of the Commission and to inform the honourable member the reason for the decision.
-My question is directed to the Minister for the Capital Territory. It being ‘Life Walk Day’ I am concerned that in a modern city such as Canberra little or no provision has been made for bicycle tracks. Will the Minister take steps to ensure that in any future roadwork plans ample consideration is given to the provision of such tracks before it becomes excessively expensive to do so as is now the case in some other Australian capital cities?
– I did not catch the first part of the honourable member’s question but I take it that he was asking whether there is provision for bicycle tracks in the Australian Capital Territory. There is already quite extensive provision of bicycle tracks in the Australian Capital Territory, probably as much as if not more than anywhere else in Australia. We take this matter seriously and will ensure that future planning makes provision for bicycle tracks wherever possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Following a private conversation I have had with him and other information he has received, is he aware that doctors in some New South Wales country towns- for example, Cowra, Young and Dubbo- have notices in their waiting rooms telling prospective patients that they must belong to a private health fund? Does the Minister agree that what fund a patient belongs to is no concern of the doctor as long as he gets paid- a policy with which even the General Practitioners Society agrees? Does the Minister agree that in a country town this practice amounts to very unpleasant pressure on patients? What can he do about it?
– The honourable member for Prospect has asked a good question. This attitude developed amongst some general practitioners in country areas of New South Wales when Medibank was introduced last year although doctors were being offered what are regarded as fairly reasonable terms- a modified fee for service for the treatment of public patients in public wards. I am aware that certain advertisements have appeared in some country newspapers in New South Wales. I deplore the attitude that is adopted by some country practitioners in respect of public patients; that is those patients who have chosen to pay the 2Vi per cent levy or pensioner patients who have not otherwise insured themselves. One of the principal reasons for making the modifications to Medibank was to try to achieve a general acceptance by the medical profession and others of giving a service to people who choose not to insure privately. The private practitioners will have at least 50 per cent of the Australian population privately insured. I should have thought that the present arrangements provided security for private medical practitioners in Australia. There is little that I can do, there is little that the Federal Government can do to overcome the problem to which the honourable member has referred. However, I have written to the Minister for Health in New South Wales drawing the matter to his attention. I hope that our officers can have some discussions to see whether this situation can be resolved. It is quite unfair for pensioners and other people who have chosen to pay a 2Vi per cent levy to be treated in this manner by private practitioners.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Has the Minister received any assessment of the performance of Australian armed forces during Exercise Kangaroo II? How well did our forces perform and were any deficiencies in equipment or training revealed?
– I have not had the advantage of receiving a detailed assessment from the Chief of Defence Force Staff and his colleagues on Kangaroo II. But I have had the opportunity of receiving what one may describe as interim assessments relating to some deficiencies which were detected during the operations and to some significant accomplishments which were apparent throughout the operation. One deficiency which was palpable to most people who saw the exercise was in the field of communications. One significant accomplishment was the fact that the professional skill of the Australian Services was of a very high order indeed. In many respects that skill was superior, one may say with a sense of pride, to the skills of those who were operating with us. I hope that during the course of the next few weeks the professional Service advisers to the Government will be able to prepare a detailed assessment of the exercise. Finally, the exercise showed how clearly and how well joint operations can be staged and controlled. I was most encouraged to find during a visit to joint headquarters that representatives of the 3 Services operated together in complete harmony and with not the slightest display of inter-Service rivalry.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, concerns the difficulties that are now being created for the staff of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I ask: Is the Minister aware that there is great dissatisfaction amongst the staff of the Authority due to the procrastination of the Government over the proposed new arrangements for the stevedoring industry and the consequent lack of certainty as to the role of the staff of the Authority during transitional arrangements? Is he aware also that the staff of the Authority are greatly concerned at the lack of promised assistance by the Commonwealth Employment Service, the lack of assistance to staff in obtaining jobs in either the Australian Public Service or other governmental authorities, and the refusal to allow staff who have found another job by their own efforts to take up that employment forthwith? Will the Minister advise the House whether he intends to demonstrate some compassion for the 228 persons whose jobs are being wiped out by acting quickly to meet their very legitimate complaints?
-The House will remember that on 6 May I incorporated a statement in the second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry Temporary Provisions Bill which gave an indication of how the Government saw the future arrangements for that industry. Prior to presenting that statement I had detailed discussion and consultations with all the parties involved, including the Austraiian Stevedoring Industry Authority. I can well understand the concern of the staff of that Authority. As a result of the earlier discussions and consultations, arrangements were agreed upon for proper redundancy compensation for the staff of the Authority. In the meantime- that is to say, post-6 May- I indicated that further discussions would be held as to the future of the industry and that I hoped to make a further statement to the Parliament this year. I still hope to make that statement. I understand the concern of staff of the Authority. Indeed, I have sent a telegram to, I think, the secretary of the union concerned only in the last 24 or 48 hours. It is certainly my hope and intention to clarify the Government’s attitude in relation to the industry and the members of the staff as soon as possible. I am concerned about the comment made by the honourable member as to lack of co-operation from the Commonwealth Employment Service in finding other employment for them. I was not aware of that. I shall see what can be done for those who wish to leave the Authority and find other employment. I agree that the important thing to do is to clarify the conditions for the future conduct of the industry.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry concerning the continuing plight of dairy farmers in New South Wales. Why has the flow of federal funds for rural reconstruction in the dairy industry in New South Wales ceased when all other States have received additional Commonwealth funds, as is provided for in the Budget?
-Unfortunately New South Wales is the only State that has not signed the agreement for the extension of the dairy adjustment program. In fact, a lesser measure of assistance is provided in New South Wales because of the failure of the New South Wales Government not just in the field of dairy adjustment but also in the field of underwriting. As all honourable members will know, the Commonwealth has provided an overall scheme of assistance in relation to skim milk powder and butter which ensures that there is an underwriting to provide a rninimum income from manufactured milk supplied to dairy factories. There is an agreement with respect to skim milk powder and casein which has been joined in by all the other States and the Commonwealth, but New South Wales does not participate in that agreement. It means as far as skim milk powder and casein are concerned that milk supplied for manufacturing purposes in New South Wales receives a lesser level of assistance than that supplied in every other State of the Commonwealth.
Similarly, with respect to the dairy adjustment program, the New South Wales Government alone has not signed the extension which has been offered to it. Unfortunately, until such time as the agreement has been concluded, with the best will in the world the Commonwealth cannot provide the sort of assistance that the honourable gentleman quite rightly seeks for his constituents. It is hoped that the Government of New South Wales will recognise the quite severe plight of its dairy industry and provide it with at least the same measure of assistance as is provided to every other State in the Commonwealth, particularly as the significant part of the assistance provided is provided from Commonwealth resources, but it is a matter that does, of course, require the co-operation and co-ordination of the State Government and the State authorities, which, correctly under our assessment of what is a federal system, are administering it.
-Has the Prime Minister taken any action to stop the continual leak from Cabinet, ministerial offices and departments of confidential discussions, papers, letters and reports- the latest example being the Green report- or is this his style of open government?
– It is sometimes difficult to do something in too short a space of time about some of the legacies that we were left.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the close and cordial relationship which has existed between this Government and the Ford Administration, will the Minister affirm the importance which the Government attaches to the development of co-operation and consultation with Mr Carter and the new American Administration? Does the Minister see any major changes taking place in the foreign policy emphasis of the United States of America which would have a direct bearing on Australia?
-The Government has been paying close attention to the policies enunciated by the President-elect. It has made contact with most, if not all, of his key foreign policy advisers and, of course, through the Prime Minister and myself, with the President-elect. It is clear, to the extent that one would wish to discuss these matters at this stage, that Mr Carter’s attitudes reflect a commitment to a co-ordinated and integrated foreign policy, as distinct from, to use his terms, case by case analysis. Undoubtedly he believes in an international system geared to coping with a new agenda which he thinks is necessary.
– He uses the word detente’.
-So do we. Indeed so far as terminology is concerned, this is the great difficulty in being able to discern the advances made in Australia’s foreign policy under the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister- the attachment of so much stress to the rhetoric rather than the performance. Before being interrupted by the Leader of the Opposition I was referring to the new agenda, as I discern it and as the Government discerns it, that
Mr Carter feels ought to be faced by the international community. I think that the key global elements of that agenda, using the terminology of the Carter team- do not ask me to spell it all out extensively in the time available for questions without notice, or in any order of priorityare, firstly, a cooler hard-headed approach to the Soviet Union; secondly, a stress on reducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons; thirdly, the building up of core alliances with democratic countries, which Mr Carter describes as a democratic concert and in which he includes quite specifically, Australia; fourthly, greater stress, to use his terminology, on global issues, and in particular the north-south dialogue; and finally, and this is by no means unimportant, the belief that there is a need to get a firm domestic base for his foreign policies by making these policies reflect, as he puts it, the moral values of the American people.
So far as Australia is concerned, both the stress on the democratic concert and the stress on the global problems are important and are likely to give us salients in our discussions with the United States. We are well placed to develop a tangible dialogue and discussion. It would be unfair to Mr Carter to go into matters in greater detail at this stage. I would like to end by saying that the Prime Minister and I believe that Australia probably has provided more analysis of Carter foreign policy priorities than perhaps any other country. I believe we are uniquely placed to enter into a dialogue with the new Administration next year.
– I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Government’s recent decision to grant humanitarian aid to the people of East Timor through the Indonesian Red Cross rather than through the International Red Cross. Is it intended that the Australian Red Cross will have the opportunity to exercise some supervision or a watching role over the distribution of Australian aid in East Timor? If this is not so, will the Minister ask the Indonesian Government that such supervision by Australian Red Cross authorities be permitted to ensure that such aid is used for the purpose for which it is intended and in fact is applied to areas of greatest need?
-Last month I announced that we had made $83,000 available to the Indonesian Red Cross for use in humanitarian work in East Timor and that a further $250,000 would be made available as required. The Government has been informed by the Indonesian Red Cross that the contribution of $83,000 has been spent on medicine, medical supplies, relief goods and the administrative costs of distributing these items.
– Where is it being distributed?
-So the Red Cross is covering the purpose for which the money was intended. The Red Cross has also told us that the $250,000 will be spent on medical facilities. Because of changing needs, the Indonesian Red Cross has indicated that it wishes to shift the emphasis from immediate emergency relief supplies to the provision of basic medical care facilities in both rural and urban areas. That answers the interjection as to where this money is being spent. It is expected, therefore, that the expenditure will concentrate on the refurbishing or provision of clinics and hospital facilities. In particular, as I understand it, the Indonesian Red Cross proposed to establish health centres with a doctor or paramedical worker in attendance, to provide ambulances and to make available medical equipment for hospitals. So it is apparent to the Government that its decision to channel aid through the Indonesian Red Cross will have a direct and tangible impact in helping to alleviate the suffering which has resulted from the fighting in East Timor.
-Has the Attorney-General seen an editorial in yesterday’s Canberra Times criticising the Government for an Executive Concil decision allegedly vetoing an ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly decriminalising homosexual conduct between consenting males in private? If so, will the Attorney-General say whether there is any truth in this report and state the Government’s intention with regard to the ordinance?
-I have seen the editorial in question. It is not accurate to say that this ordinance has been vetoed. I anticipate that it will pass into law in the next few days or perhaps during next week. The ordinance was prepared in draft form, I think, during the term of the previous Government. It was considered by me earlier this year. In July it went to the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory which suggested various amendments. I considered those and the ordinance was finally approved I understand in a form acceptable to the Assembly, I gather in October. The ordinance is broadly in conformity with a resolution passed in this House in October 1973. It will have the effect of decriminalising- I suppose that is the common word used these days- homosexual conduct between consenting adults in private. I think it is time we acknowledged that this conduct ought not be subject to the sanctions of the criminal law while, at the same time, not necessarily approving that conduct. This ordinance will have that effect.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has a special task force been established under the Permanent Heads Committee, servicing the Economic Committee of Cabinet, to set out uranium mining and export policy? Which departments are represented on this task force? Is it a fact that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development is not represented on this Committee and is not being consulted? Is it also true that this task force has been directed to report to Cabinet today?
– I will see what information might be available about the coordination of departmental advice on these matters and provide it for the honourable gentleman. He may rest assured that the Government will take very close note of what the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, advised by his Department, says in relation to all matters affecting the environment as obviously this report does.
– The Acting Minister for Overseas Trade may be aware of the widespread concern in rural areas that Australia may not be promoting its rural products as successfully as some of its competitors, such as New Zealand. In view of the fact that a substantial proportion of Australia’s exports is in agricultural products and because of the obvious need for their active promotion overseas, will the Minister indicate whether greater permanent specialised resources can be made available in relevant Australian trade commissions, such as Tokyo, in the form of agricultural attaches?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question which demonstrates his consistent interest in the future of Australia’s agricultural exports since he entered this House. The concept of agricultural attaches- if I can call them that- was contained in the 1975 preelection policy statement of the joint government parties. It remains part of Government policy to develop this concept progressively. While it is true that developments in this area have not been enormous, I indicate to the honourable gentleman that a number of appointments to trade commissioner posts which have an important agricultural element have been of people with an agricultural background. As an example, I instance the recent appointment to a trade commissioner post in the United Kingdom of a former officer of the Department of Primary Industry. Such appointments, while they might not be described specifically as appointments of agricultural attaches, will give a much needed emphasis to the agricultural considerations of our export performance. Naturally, as the honourable gentleman will appreciate, further developments in this area must be looked at in the light of overall budgetary considerations and within the general financial resources of the Trade Commissioner Service. I can assure the honourable gentleman that the Government remains very committed to the concept spelled out in its policy speech, has made practical gestures towards its implementation and will continue to do so.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Since the Premier of Queensland will be holding discussions on Fraser Island with him in Canberra today, will the opportunity be taken to discuss other current matters, recently raised more than once in the Parliament, such as the seabed boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea and Aboriginal health?
– I often discuss many different matters with many different Premiers of more than one political persuasion.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Australian Tourist Commission Act 1 967, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
For the information of honourable members, I present a White Paper on Australian defence. I ask leave of the House to make a brief statement relating to that document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In 1946 there were 55 nations in the world which had a personality in international law. At the beginning of this year there were 144 nations accepted by the world community. Australia is one of the very few nations which was brought into being without tumult, revolution or conflict of some description. It is a singular fact, and we do well to reflect upon its significance. The personality of a nation is very much like a human personality. It changes and develops. It acquires new attitudes. It is beckoned to accept new responsibilities. The first sentence in the first chapter of the White Paper which has just been tabled does in a very real sense write about our past and it propounds our future. It simply states:
For most of its history, Australia was protected by Britain’s imperial might.
But empires, no less than human beings, are not given to permanence.
But once the word of Caesar would have stood against the world. . . .
The White Paper endeavours to lay the basis for mature debate upon the new role which this country has in the world. It acknowledges the changed circumstances. It lays stress upon the need for this country to be self-reliant. It seeks to encourage the development of a genuine bipartisan approach to defence matters. There are and there must be areas of political endeavour which should be free of party conflict. The security of the nation is surely one of them. No political party represented in this Parliament has a monopoly of patriotism. That fact should spur us all to contribute whatever we can to gaining a highly desirable national goal. I present the following paper:
Australian Defence-Paper, dated 4 November 1976.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I appreciate the calmer and more reasonable tones in which this paper has been presented to the Parliament -calmer and more reasonable than generally we have been used to in defence debates in this country and especially in this Parliament. The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) suggests that his paper may provide the basis for the development of a genuine bipartisan approach to defence matters, and it may just do that.
By and large, I welcome the statement. There are some issues on which I would have some differences with the Minister. But I suggest, in terms of the strategic basis upon which the paper has been constructed, that the differences are not terribly significant. Certainly, in view of the warm rhetoric in which we have all indulged in this House in the course of this Parliament on the few occasions on which foreign affairs and defence matters have been debated, I believe it is not necessary to raise those differences. I commend the Minister for the restraint with which he has presented this paper.
We are faced with the enormously costly implications of providing adequate defence arrangements for a small medium-sized power like Australia. I would hasten to add that ‘small medium-sized power’ is not my description but it seems to be the accepted one and there seems to be some sort of imbalance there. But the enormous cost implications of providing adequate defence equipment for this country are such as to encourage all members of this Parliament to try as much as possible to engage in restrained and responsible discussion as to how this country should prepare itself for its defence. The discussion should cover the sort of outlays we ought to be making and the costs that are involved- not only immediate costs but the opportunity cost of undertaking a particular expenditure program in, say, one service, at the expense of other programs that that service would otherwise have undertaken or at the expense of other programs for other Services, so that overall the program in the defence area is balanced. Furthermore, we should also be looking at the opportunity cost of undertaking increased defence expenditure at the expense of other public programs such as education or health or programs for a better environment, better roads, better harbours or better railways. These are important ingredients in a balanced defence-oriented development of a country. We must consider from a fiscal point of view all of the areas for which we are responsible whenever we consider a particular expenditure commitment and the effect on those other areas of a change in outlays on that particular commitment.
The Minister has submitted to the Parliament a very large financial outlay over the next 5 years. I suggest with good will and friendly concern for the Government- and any government that is in office during the course of the next 5 years- that there will be difficulties in financing that program. Furthermore I suspect that the program will be considerably more expensive than the figures in the Minister’s statement indicate. I am not suggesting for a minute that there has been any conscious effort to understate the costs which are involved, but rather that the cost escalation for defence equipment, especially that purchased from overseas, has well exceeded the cost allowances generally provided for in this sort of program up to the present. I see no reason why that problem would be likely to disappear in the near future.
I want to come back to the fiscal matters because they are the most important ones of all. I want to mention some differences, and I do so largely to indicate how the area of conflict between us has narrowed greatly. Really, I believe that on some of these strategic assessment issues, when there is difference, the difference is not all that great. For instance, at page 2 paragraph 1 1 of the statement entitled Australian Defence presented by the Minister, the following statement is made:
The USSR has achieved essential nuclear strategic equivalence with the US and competes with the US as a global power.
At paragraph 12 the following statement is made:
Allowance must be made for USSR’s perceptions of its requirements for defence.
Nevertheless, the size of the Soviet military build-up and the scale of strategic weapons still leave questions about Soviet motivation unanswered.
I wish I had sufficient time to outline all of the evidence which I detailed to the Joint Services Staff College at Canberra last week so as to show that this sort of assertion does not stand up in fact. I recognise that there is always the risk that one will seem to be pro-Soviet by putting forward this sort of evidence. I am not pro-Soviet as anyone who is conversant with my views about communism as practised in Russia and about the people administering Russian society would know.
I believe that we must have clear perceptions of what we are talking about when we are trying to understand our strategic basis for developing our defence preparedness. A blurred, distorted vision will lead us most likely to incurring unnecessarily expensive outlays at the cost of other programs which we ought to undertake and at the cost of development of the country which will give it greater industrial strength to sustain it on some future occasion should it be confronted by a threat. I merely mention however that I find it hard to understand the basis for this assertion of essential nuclear strategic equivalents. Secretary of State Kissinger in a speech in March this year at Dallas, Texas, pointed out that America has about 8500 nuclear warheads to the Russians’ 2500 nuclear warheads. I think it is well known that the American warheads are much more accurate than the Russian, although the Russian warheads can be propelled with much greater throw weight. The significance is that accuracy gives a greater destructibility factor than does throw weight capacity. The Americans have more nuclear missiles at sea on invulnerable submarines than do the Russians. The have 13 attack aircraft carriers with several hundred fixed wing aircraft able to move from those carriers. The Americans have the backing of a wide range of land bases to support them throughout the world. The Russians have 2 anti-submarine aircraft carriers and a limited number of fixed wing aircraft. The aircraft carriers have limited range and the Russians have very few bases to support them.
I was pleased to note, without getting involved too much on this point, in paragraph 3 of page 3 of the statement on Australian Defence the Minister saying:
Given the enormous risks from military conflict, on all rational calculations the restrains on use of force between the 2 powers, and the framework of their co-operation should endure.
That seems to me to be a carefully, responsibly qualified assessment which reflects a balanced appreciation of the international situation. It is not one that is too excessive one way or the other. There are reasonable grounds for building qualifications in to making assessments of the strategic situation of the super powers and especially of Russia. I welcome that as a healthy movement away from strident attitudes which were expressed by the Government in this Parliament on 1 June this year when foreign affairs were discussed just as I welcomed the comment of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in the House this morning that the Government is committed to detente. Detente has never been meant to be anything more than an effort to modify international tensions and it has never been claimed to be anything more than that by the people responsible for it.
Let me move quickly to the funding of the program. This worries me. If we came to government in the near future it would worry us then. To some extent we have been responsible for some of this bulking of expenditure which will be coming up within the next two or three years. Previous Defence Ministers in the Labor Government, Messrs Barnard and Morrison, engaged in certain undertakings which will very largely contribute to this bulking. I observe here after a period of experience in government that there seems to be a much greater degree of similarity and continuity in defence policies in office between the parties than an outsider would ever dare believe from the sorts of rhetorical comments which are made by various sides of the Parliament from time to time. The expenditure looming in the last 3 years of the program worries me. It is reported that the expected cost of a tactical fighter replacement will rise from $300m to $500m. The FFG program will cost about $150m. Possibly $60m will have to be provided for an announced extended patrol boat program, about $30m to pay for the last of the C130H Hercules transport aircraft and perhaps $70m for the fast underway replenishment ship to replace HMAS Supply. A heavy lift ship was announced in 1975. There will be a reconnaissance conversion of the FI 1 1 and an increase in Army strength. There will be the cost of the manpower increase in the last of the 3-year period. I do not have dme to give the sums which relate to each of these items but the total is something approaching $800m in 1976 values alone.
Major studies are to be made on the second stage of the Rapier anti-aircraft missile. The Harpoon surface skimming missiles for the FFGs, the P3C Orion aircraft and possibly submarines will involve further outlays. Evaluation studies by the Army of medium and field artillery, replacements for its 5.5-inch and 105- millimetre guns, the retirement of the RAAF’s Caribou, HS748 and Dakota aircraft and imminent obsolescence of the Navy’s mine counter measures force all add further strain of varying degrees. I mention the massive escalation in costs with these sorts of undertakings. For instance the FFG frigates have risen by some 77 per cent since the project was announced in April 1974. The Leopard tank order is now quoted on a project basis as $90.6m as against less than $30m for the first fifty-three as announced in 1974 and $25m for the subsequent 34 tanks when announced in August 1 975.
We are really talking not only about enormous outlays but about outlays which are increasing at an extremely rapid rate. There was even some fudging in the recent Budget to try to make savings in the defence vote so that the defence outlays could fit within the general program parameters for capital items which have been set by previous Defence Ministers and by the present one. I sympathise with the problems of both the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Defence Minister in trying to fit these things together. But the picture becomes clear as one goes through these costs. They will be quite enormous. I compliment the Minister for his helpfulness in giving such a candid statement on these sorts of outlays. Using the Minister’s figures and assuming 5 per cent real growth each year, which I think is a particularly generous assumption about the Government’s success in stimulating economic growth given the sorts of economic problems at the moment which I expect to persist for some few years yet, this means that some $632m of additional expenditure will be covered above the sort of expenditure which would be covered by natural growth of revenue available assuming that the government maintains public expenditure at the same level of total expenditure as it now stands. The Government has said that it wants to reduce that level dramatically. It has no chance. I do not see anyone reducing it in this decade. I see all of the forces at work in fact to increase the level even with an economic recovery.
Let us convert this into some relative relationship for current expenditure terms. In current expenditure terms this financial year we are talking about $520m. That is the sort of relative burden we would be faced with if the program funding was ending now. We would be making adjustments- I am talking collectively- to meet that cost. That represents a 6 per cent increase in personal tax. Under the new federalism policy, because the States and local authorities receive a certain proportion of additional revenue, a 9 per cent increase in tax will be necessary to provide that sort of money for defence after the States and local government have received their shares. In turn this implies that the average income earner would have to pay $258 extra tax this year. That is $5 a week.
The question that must be answered is: How is this program to be funded? I stress that I do not believe it can be contained within the figures which have been outlined. I believe that we need to understand how it will be funded. Next year the Government has already committed itself for some $850m to $900m on programs announced in this Budget and to be paid for in the next Budget. Natural growth in revenue will be between $650m and $700m. The Government has increased its outlays and its commitments by another $120m. I believe we must know. In an effort to be reasonable and move towards the result of a bipartisan policy, if that is achievable, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Oxley moving:
That the White Paper on Australian Defence presented to this Parliament today be referred to the House Expenditure Committee so that the fiscal implications of the proposed program, especially in relation to its effects on other programs and its requirements for additional revenue collections can be investigated and reported upon to the House and that such report be available to this House no later than the last sitting day of this House in March 1977.
I believe that the Minister has sought seriously to lay the basis for some common ground to be developed between both sides of the Parliament on the very important issue of the defence of the nation. If this proposal is accepted, I believe that we can make a very substantial further advance in this area.
-The honourable member for Oxley has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders. I point out to the honourable gentleman that there is a much simpler process for him to put the issue before the House, that is, by way of a simple amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper. I will permit the honourable gentleman to withdraw the proposal to suspend Standing Orders and instead to move an amendment to the motion that the House take note of the paper.
– I will follow that advice, Mr Speaker. I sincerely trust that the Government will accept the -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to speak to the motion any further.
– Can I make the point to you, Mr Speaker, that if the Government accepts this it in no way impedes or delays the purpose of the White Paper. In fact, it could very substantially facilitate the objective that the Minister is seeking, that is, the movement towards a better understanding between honourable members on both sides of the Parliament and perhaps eventually a closer identity between the parties on defence policy. I therefore move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the white paper of the Minister for Defence presented to the House entitled ‘Australian Defence’ today be referred to the Standing Committee on Expenditure so that the fiscal implications of the proposed program, especially in relation to its effects on other programs and its requirements for additional revenue collections can be investigated and reported upon and that such report be available to this House not later than the last sitting day of this House in March 1 977 ‘.
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Speaker, I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to be misrepresented?
– Yes. In yesterday’s Hansard- that dated 3 November 1976-I am recorded on page 2305 as being present for a division of the House last evening. I point out that when that particular division was taken I was not present in the chamber. Mr Speaker, I request that you have this matter investigated with a view to correcting the situation.
– I will have the matter investigated and, if necessary, it will be corrected. If, as I expect, what the honourable gentleman says is correct, the only possibility is that the honourable gentleman may be looking at one division and, in fact, some error in printing has left his name out of the one list and put it into another. I will check that and make any necessary correction.
– The honourable member for Wilmot was not here for good reason because -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will make no comment.
Motion (by Mr Young) agreed to:
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honourable member for Bonython on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent general business notices talcing precedence of the matter of public importance until 1 2.30 p.m. this day.
Bill presented by Mr Keating, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to exclude present and future newspaper investment from radio and television holdings. Clause 2 of the Bill seeks to amend the principal Broadcasting and Television Act in Division 2 of Part 4 with the insertion:
The Parliament approves the principle that it is undesirable that a person who has, either directly or indirectly, a substantial financial interest in a newspaper, should also have, either directly or indirectly, a financial interest in a commercial broadcasting station, and regulations may be made in this Act to give effect to that principle.
The same words would also be inserted in Division 3 of Part 4 of the principal Act for Section 92KA. The legislation seeks to come to terms with the undesirable concentration of ownership of the Australian electronic media in the hands of newspaper monopolies. The present provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act allow 3 groups of companies to dominate the Australian media to an extent that would not be tolerated in countries comparable with Australia. These groups are the John Fairfax group, the Herald and Weekly Times group and the Murdoch group.
The John Fairfax group controls 4 daily newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Sydney Sun, the Australian Financial Review and the Canberra Times, as well as a range of country newspapers such as the Newcastle Morning Herald, the Newcastle Sun and the Wollongong Daily Mercury. It also controls numerous weekly publications. This group controls a 3- station television network in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra and directly owns 6 radio stations in the capital cities along with a spate of radio stations it controls through interlocking company structures.
The second group- Herald and Weekly Times group- controls 8 daily newspapers in every city but Sydney and controls S television stations, one in every major city but Sydney, along with a network of 14 directly owned radio stations and others it controls again through interlocking companies. The News Limited group, or better known as the Murdoch group, operates one national daily newspaper plus S daily metropolitan newspapers, a number of weekly specialist publications and daily country newspapers. It owns two television stations, one in Adelaide and one in Wollongong.
The other group which requires a mention is the Consolidated Press/Packer group which has television stations and though it does not own any daily newspapers, nevertheless operates IS country newspapers in significant country towns. This group also operates television stations in Melbourne and Sydney, the 2 largest cities in Australia and S radio stations, two of which are in capital cities. The incestuous nature of the interlocking companies and directorships provides this small clique of proprietors with perhaps the most effective grip on the instruments of a national media that could be witnessed in any part of the western world. Of course it should never have been allowed to occur. But no positive moves have been made by any government to break up the multi-media combinations. No serious attempt has yet been undertaken.
What also makes the situation frightening is that most of the proprietors who operate these groups share a common social background and in political terms share a common point of view. This present monopolisation of the media is not a reflection of the pattern of ownership in the past.
It is worth recounting that in 1 903 there were 2 1 capital city daily newspapers owned by 17 different proprietors. By 1950 there were 15 newspapers owned by 10 proprietors. Today there are 16 daily newspapers owned by 3 proprietors. Henry Mayer, in his Reader of Australian Politics of 1972, shows the proportion of the total circulation in Australia going to the 4 major groupings which in those days included the Packer interests in the Sydney Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Telegraph. These newspapers, of course, now have been sold to the Murdoch group. The Melbourne Herald group controls 53.2 per cent of the total national circulation, Fairfax 22.33 per cent, Murdoch 15.89 per cent and the Packer interests when they held the Sydney daily newspapers 8.06 per cent. The Packer interests could now be added to the Murdoch intersts which would bring the News Ltd figures to 23.95 per cent of the national circulation. How any nation can be complacent about these kind of figures is beyond me.
Looking at the circulation figures of the capital city newspapers controlled by the groupings on a city by city basis, Fairfax controls 47 per cent of circulation in Sydney, 14.4 per cent in Melbourne, and 87 per cent in Canberra. Since then the Fairfax organisation has bought controlling interests in the Melbourne Age which would have increased significantly the Melbourne figure. The Melbourne Herald controls 82.7 per cent in Melbourne, 98.5 per cent in Perth, 98.1 per cent in Hobart, 93.5 per cent in Brisbane and 53.8 per cent in Adelaide. Murdoch controls 45.6 per cent in Adelaide, 43 per cent in Sydney, 2.8 per cent in Melbourne, 2.4 per cent in Brisbane and some small percentage in Hobart and Perth. The proportion of the State figures attributable to the national newspaper the Australian owned by News Limited is difficult to obtain and therefore the Murdoch interest in Perth and Hobart is difficult to assess. However, the degree of concentration is obviously beyond acceptable limits for all of these groupings.
Naturally, with the proliferation of broadcasting and television the control in this area went into much the same hands as I demonstrated with respect to newspapers. Therefore a large proportion of news dissemination and digestion comes from these massive media groupings. This stranglehold of course has side effects upon the way in which news is written and programs presented. Because of the limited opportunities for employment there is the constant yet subtle pressure on editorial staff and journalists to fall into line with the views of the proprietors. Persistent bouts of independence of view can guarantee that employment for a journalist is difficult to come by. Hence the easy resort to a story that will not provoke a response from the management. A tight grouping of media companies can ensure that issues are discussed on their terms and on their priorities, particularly in respect of important political debate. What is objectionable is the arbitrary nature of the power which is available to proprietors- whether it is used or not- to fix the priorities on public issues. This is the worrying thing. The Broadcasting and Television Act is deficient in that it does nothing to come to terms with this problem.
The only hedge available against proprietorial power is the libel laws and even here the proprietors constantly prevail upon governments to amend these, of course with the intention of easing the burden upon the media companies. Journalists themselves have not been able in an organised way to make any inroads into powers of proprietors. The Australian Journalists Association, which is the major union involved with the Press, has had little or no success in securing structural change in the Australian media. The Association was vocal during the last national election campaign in Australia when proprietors were directing journalists to frame stories in the direction of their own political bias. Yet even this did not have any significant effect upon the unbalanced tirade that on that occasion the Labor Party had to suffer at the hands of the proprietors.
It is a fact that because the media instruments are concentrated in so few hands the structural issue so rarely arises for public debate in Australia. It has never been a matter of urgent debate within the Australian community. Even organised labour has tolerated some disgraceful forays against it by the media conglomerates without the massive retaliation of which it is capable. Unions have on many occasions remained silent while their membership has churned out heavily biased material designed to jeopardise the advancement of organised labour goals, particularly during the crucial days of some election campaigns. Perhaps a greater sense on the part of unions of the arbitrary nature of the powers of proprietors and of the stifling structure of the private media may serve to galvanise the union movement into some kind of organised campaign to break the iron grip these few executives have upon public opinion.
Of course the passage of this legislation would go a long way towards that objective. At least holdings in the electronic media would be diversified and this, I believe, would have a desirable impact in as much that a broader range of issue priorities would be in evidence and the slant of reporting more balanced. Naturally this proposition will be vigorously opposed by the proprietors, particularly as in many cases the earnings from radio and television subsidise the flagging commercial performance of daily newspapers. It would be interesting to know how many metropolitan dailies could stand commercially on their own without some subsidisation.
Another aspect which arises from the concentration of ownership in the private media is the standard of programming on Australian private television. The resources of newspaper monopolies in the days before television, which included substantial radio holdings, allowed the 4 major groupings to considerably influence the government of the day as to the direction Australian television should take. The propensity was for the government to structure television on basically the same pattern that existed in radio, that is, with the Australian Broadcasting Commission holding being the only government media operator and holding about the same proportion of television licences as it did in radio. The decision to move towards a substantial proportion of private television ownership has, I believe, mitigated against the quality of viewing and programming which could have been available to the Australian community.
Because of the demands of commercial viability the public is saturated with television advertising, and radio advertising for that matter, and a high proportion of cheap television production. The need to make money is forever present with the executives of the major groupings and therefore television programs are slanted towards that end rather than an alternative which could be more beneficial to the community at large. When one has the experience of British and European television, one is left with the distinct impression that the standard of Australian commercial television is poor by comparison, and I believe much of this can be laid at the door of its commercial nature.
If the concentration of private media ownership in radio had not been allowed to develop in earlier days, it is quite likely that the direction of television development may have been towards more government involvement and less private involvement. But of course the persuasive influence of the proprietors particularly on the Menzies Government in the early 1960s would no doubt have turned the tide in the direction television has now taken. Still, this is one egg that can be unscrambled. Determination on the part of the Parliament and the Government could come to terms with this problem.
Other countries have been faced with a similar situation. The American Congress empowered the Federal Communications Commission in the United States of America in 1970 to regulate the broadcasting media in order to protect the public interest and proposed new drastic multiple ownership rules designed to affect the wholesale re-, alignment of the communications industry. Development of this proposal after much litigation in the United States Supreme Court now represents a significant development in communication law and now provides the Federal Communications Commission with rules directly affecting newspaper interests. The Commission, since 1970, has broken up a number of major multi-media combinations with divestiture orders and has adopted prospective rules barring any future newspaper interest in broadcasting and television stations in the same market. As well as that the Commission has ruled that it is contrary to the public interest for a single network to control a broadcasting and television station in the same area. While the United States interests are peculiar to the United States, and different to ours, the principle nevertheless is worthy of adoption.
Divestment must occur. In future, newspaper groupings should not be permitted to take over other groupings with holdings in radio and television. Nor should newspaper groupings be permitted to acquire any new radio and television licences. This Bill deals with these problems. Its carriage into law could be accompanied by an orderly program of divestment of the major groupings that would ensure that dislocation does not occur. This legislation is, I believe, long overdue. I urge honourable members to give it their most earnest consideration and support.
Leave granted for debate to continue forthwith.
– It is difficult for the Government to regard this measure with any great amount of respect. If brought into effect it would have significant repercussions on many people employed in the communications industry. I find it hard to believe that any responsible member of the national Parliament would want to introduce such new concepts which would have the effect of contributing to employment instability in the present economic climate. The Government is pledged to restore and maintain stability. For too long the people of Australia suffered the effects of the decisions of the Labor Government and from poor administration arising from many hasty, ill thought through policies put into operation over 3 years and designed to pander only to narrow interests.
This Bill is poorly conceived and typical of the type of half-baked policies which the people of Australia had to endure during the term of office of the Labor Government. An example of the situation which we encountered on returning to government was the way the broadcasting industry had been allowed to develop- if develop is the right word- over 3 years of Labor Government. Some of the development of the broadcasting system was and is on a dubious legal basis. Because of the problems this unstructured and unplanned development had posed it was necessary to have a close look at the fundamental basis on which broadcasting exists in Australia. Accordingly, the Government directed me to arrange an inquiry into the Austraiian broadcasting system with particular regard to the machinery and procedures for the control, planning, licensing, regulation, funding and administration of the system. I can now say that following the inquiry initiated by the Government, Australians will be able to see why it is necessary for broadcasting to develop on a much more planned and balanced basis. The Government is now taking steps to give effect to some of the conclusions reached by that inquiry.
While I recognise that the Bill before the House may have some superficial appeal to some people, I have to ask: What real benefits are expected to accrue from it? I would have expected that a Bill designed to achieve the ends suggested, so broad in its effect on the communications industry in Australia, would have the support of the Party to which the honourable member belongs. But I am not certain whether this is the case. Section 25 of the 1975 Labor Party Platform states:
Monopoly of mass communications resources will be resisted and Labor will oppose a limitation on the ownership of radio and television services by newspaper interests.
The present position is that there is no monopoly of mass communication resources and there is a limitation on the ownership of radio and television services by newspaper interests. It seems that the present provisions limiting ownership and control of radio and television stations accord with stated Labor Party policy. If this were not the case, why did the Labor Government take no action regarding this matter when it had the opportunity? After all, it was in government for 3 years. The reason could only be that the Labor Government was satisfied that the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act were adequate in this regard.
Let us consider some details of precisely to what extent newspaper companies control and own radio and television stations. Section 90C of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 provides that a person shall not have a prescribed interest in licences for-
A prescribed interest is denned in section 90 (2) as a shareholding of voting interest in excess of 1 5 per cent in a licensee company held directly or indirectly. At 30 June 1976 newspaper companies held a prescribed interest in 29 commercial radio stations out of a total of 1 20.
So far as television is concerned, section 92 of the Broadcasting and Television Act provides that a person shall not have a prescribed interest in licences for-
A person may continue to hold excess prescribed interests if these interests were held prior to 17 December 1964, which was the date from which the amending legislation became effective. However, such excess interests may not be increased and such persons may not acquire prescribed interests in further licences. A prescribed interest is denned in section 91 (2) as a shareholding, voting or financial interest in excess of 5 per cent in a licensee company held directly or indirectly. At 30 June 1976 newspaper companies held a prescribed interest in 23 commercial television stations out of a total of 48.
It should be noted that these figures relate to all newspaper companies, large and small, and that the figures I have just given do not show the complete situation. The actual number of radio stations in Australia at 30 June 1 976 was 224 and the number of television stations was 132. This, of course, includes the commercial, national and public broadcasting stations. It can be seen, therefore, looking at the industry as a whole, that newspaper companies hold a prescribed interest in 12.5 per cent of radio stations and 1 7 per cent of television stations.
I believe I am correct in saying that all political parties represented in this House would agree that diversity of opinion is an essential prerequisite of a democratic society. This concept is enshrined in our support for freedom of speech. The way in which the Government and the Opposition differ is the best way in which a diversity of opinion can be achieved. If the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) subscribes to the principle of freedom of speech, why is he bringing forward a Bill designed to exclude certain sections and interest groups in the community from their democratic right to have access to one particular form of media outlet? This, of course, is the effect of the honourable member’s Bill. In other words, if the honourable member subscibes to the concept of free speech, the intention of this Bill is illogical.
It can be argued that broadcasting is a special case as it is a crucial means of influencing public opinion and is different from other means of influencing public opinion. Let us examine these propositions. Surveys have shown that the broadcasting media are trusted more than the printed media by Australians. It has been shown conclusively that the media generally do not make public opinion. The media cannot dictate what people think but, of course, they do influence what people think about. The second proposition is that broadcasting is different from other means of influencing public opinion. This is true and it is precisely for this reason that successive governments of different political complexion have legislated to restrict control and ownership of radio and television stations.
Let me now put forward some points which show that the exclusion of newspaper companies from the radio and television industry would not have the result desired by the honourable member. This action would not guarantee any greater degree of diversity of opinion for the following reasons: Firstly, changes in the ownership of outlets within the commercial broadcasting sector will not greatly affect the substance of the output of that sector. The commercial broadcasting sector is characterised by popular programming that is aimed at mass audiences. This is necessarily so where the output is, to some extent, determined by the size of the audiences that can be reached for advertising purposes.
Secondly, there is no authorative data to prove that changes in ownership will automatically bring about changes in editorial policy in the communications media. In fact, the Australian experience is generally that editorial policy in the communications media often differs substantially from the policies or attitudes of the ownership group. Indeed, it can be shown in examples of newspaper chains in Australia where the editorial policy of different newspapers differs to a significant degree. Thirdly, exclusion would not increase the level of community participation in commercial broadcasting. By its very nature, commercial broadcasting must derive its revenue from advertising aimed at a mass market, whereas broadcasting involving substantial community participation is generally intended for minority or special interest audiences. The revenue from such programming does not produce sufficient revenue for viable commercial broadcasting.
As I mentioned earlier, exclusion would severely damage the Australian newspaper industry. It is generally recognised throughout the Western world that newspapers are the most limited of the communications media in regard to profit potential and the general consensus is that newspaper proprietors must supplement their newspaper activities with other related enterprises. The exclusion of newspaper proprietors from radio or television holdings could do substantial damage to the viability of our newspaper industry.
The honourable member’s Bill can also be shown to be impractical because, were the Government to legislate to require newspaper proprietors to divest themselves of or be excluded from holdings in radio or television stations, it would not be difficult for such companies to alter their corporate structure so that they became, in the legal sense, radio or television station proprietors with newspaper interests. In such a situation, the power of the Federal Government to legislate on matters regarding newspapers, where radio or television station proprietors with newspaper holdings were concerned, would be the subject of much debate. The power to legislate regarding newspapers is, after all, a State power and not a federal one. It is not even certain that the High Court would uphold the validity of a law preventing newspaper investment in radio and television companies. Furthermore, the Broadcasting and Television Act provides stringent ownership and control requirements for radio and television stations and there are remedies if these provisions are breached. In addition, if section 46(1) of the Trade Practices Act, which relates to monopoly control of markets, or section 50 ( 1 ) of the Trade Practices Act, which relates to mergers that have reduced competition, are contravened the public or the Trade Practices Commission has recourse through section 80 of that Act to seek an injunction.
Rather than detract from the role of newspaper companies, I conclude by paying a tribute to the historical role played by newspaper companies in the development of radio and television in Australia. This development would have been greatly hindered had it not been for the investments in broadcasting by newspaper companies. These companies have provided finance and expertise necessary quickly and efficiently to assist in developing the radio and television industry throughout the nation.
-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) might very well have been quoting from the editorials in tomorrow’s newspapers applauding his remarks. He said that it is difficult to treat the motion moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) with great respect. I say that the issue of the ownership and control of television and broadcasting stations has always been regarded as a legitimate area of concern in this country by governments of every political persuasion. The difference is that the members of the Liberal and National Country Party governments have looked at broadcasting and television in isolationin a vacuum, as it were. Sir Alan Hulme said when he was Postmaster-General that the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act were essential because they covered an important field of mass communication and were concerned with the effects of monopolisation.
The Bill presently before the House seeks to look at mass communication in the whole to ensure that we have diverse avenues of genuine communication in Australia, which has always been the objective of the Australian Labor Party. It is interesting at least to see that the Minister has grasped the nettle and looked at the relationship of newspaper companies to broadcasting and television stations, even if he has arrived at a rather curious conclusion as to the benign effect of that influence. If one looks through the legislative history of the control and ownership provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act since the early 1960s one will see how remarkable it is that Liberal and National Country Party members of this Parliament and thenMinisters have in the past refused to look at the interaction of newspapers and their effect upon radio and television stations. The position in Australia today remains as it was in 1965. When discussing amendments to the Act then the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) said:
If we examine this mass media in its widest ramifications we And that the same people to a large extent control our daily newspapers, our broadcasting stations and our television channels.
He went on to say:
Many organisations claim that there should be no censorship in Australia, but with our mass media we have a more dangerous censorship developing. Here people who are beholden to nobody can refuse to publish any item of news, can refuse to publicise anything that might happen, can refuse to allow people to appear on their television programs, and if they so decide can virtually control the government of this country. This is a dangerous type of censorship. It is the type of censorship against which we should be safeguarding ourselves.
It is remarkable how little the situation has changed in the last 10 years. In 1960, when amendments were first introduced into the Broadcasting and Television Act to give effect to the then Government’s policy in relation to the limitation of television licences, the late Right Honourable Arthur Calwell referred to the fact that any pettifogging lawyer could get around the restrictions that the Government was imposing. If one looks at the amendments that were required in 1965 and 1969 one will see that it is clear that that is what happened. In fact at that time- in 1960- Mr Calwell referred to an opinion given by the then Attorney-General 2 years previously to the Herald and Weekly Times organisation which pointed the way around the amendments that the Government was then introducing. The Government always has been less than sincere in its interest in this area of ownership and control. At every stage it has sought to amend the Act after the horse has bolted. During the period since 1960 we have seen an increase in newspaper ownership of the broadcasting and television stations in Australia.
It is simply not good enough for the Minister to say that the Bill that the honourable member for Blaxland has introduced seeks to limit newspaper ownership in relation to television and broadcasting stations. The Government seeks to do that. It will not allow newspaper companies which have existing interests to increase those interests. We are taking the situation one step further and are suggesting that one cannot look at this field of mass communication in isolationthat one has to look at it in the whole- and quite clearly the interest of newspaper companies in broadcasting and television is inhibiting the development of communication in Australia.
One of the most insidious effects of the ownership by newspaper companies of television and radio stations is the fact that the television and radio stations have not sought to become serious commentators on public affairs. They have never sought to compete with the newspapers in what ought to be a legitimate area for their concern. The Government concedes that it is concerned about monopolisation in the field of broadcasting and television, but it must look beyond that to what has happened in the whole area of mass communication- the inhibitions throughout the whole area. The contrast, of course, is with the record of the Labor Government. In its 3 years in power the Australian Labor Party sought very much to increase the opportunities for communication in radio and television. It introduced programs for imaginative reforms in the area of community radio. It established new Australian Broadcasting Commission radio stations. Most importantly, it introduced ethnic radio.
Paranthetically I should say that ethnic radio is a very good example of what happens when one gets broadcasting and television stations going into areas that have been traditionally served by newspapers. The interest exhibited in ethnic radio was resented tremendously by the ethnic language newspapers. They saw the captive market that they had being competed for more intelligently than it had been in the past. We ought to be able to see that kind of development taking place throughout the communication area in the English language field as well so that this influence of newspapers is diluted.
Every time we have talked in this Parliament about amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act which are designed to limit increases in the ownership and control of television and radio stations, every PostmasterGeneral in Liberal and National Country Party governments has wept crocodile tears about how the horse has bolted and how the Government could not possible apply the legislation retrospectively. There is nothing improper in introducing any legislative measure which involves divestiture. It is a necessary consequence of a great many orders made under laws passed by this Parliament. There would be nothing wrong, nothing inequitable, in insisting that within a reasonable time newspaper companies which have a large financial interest in the broadcasting and television stations in this country be required to divest them. That would be in the interests of encouraging mass communication in Australia.
The nub of the matter is that freedom of the Press implies that anyone can publish his views. Thus one cannot have unlimited numbers of newspapers. The present concentration of ownership is contrary to this spirit since quite reasonably any media outlet reflects the interests, views and values of that proprietor. Thus the concentration of present ownership in a few hands necessarily limits the range of views publishedthe antithesis of freedom of the Press. The intention of our Bill is to ensure a greater diversity of ownership by prohibiting present owners of newspapers from taking over even more outlets and increasing their influence. Lord Thomson of Fleet- he should know something about the ownership of newspapers and television stations -said that the ownership of a television licence was a licence to print money, and we can understand every newspaper baron in this country being quite interested in that. We in this Parliament ought to be more concerned about the debilitating effect of that on the freedom of communication within this country. There can be no doubt about that.
The Government conceded up to a certain point because it has set its face against the newspaper companies which already have an interest in broadcasting and television stations increasing that interest, especially where they are in a position of control. We say that is simply not good enough; that the Government must look beyond that and must insist that the same newspaper companies divest themselves of their interest and stop inhibiting the development of broadcasting and television in Australia.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications was grasping at straws when he suggested that one of the unfortunate repercussions of the passage of this Bill would be that it would create tremendous employment instability in a time of great economic difficulty. That seems to me to be a most curious argument. In fact it is the exact reverse of what is always put as being one of the major advantages of having a community of interest between newspaper owners and the owners of television and radio stations. It is always suggested then that we somehow have a great economy of resources of manpower; that we use the same news sources and that this is supposed to be a good thing. I do not think it is a good thing. I think there is nothing more despicable and nothing more ludicrous than the spectacle we have of certain well-known newspaper identities putting on these curious socalled public affairs programs which appear during convenient times of electoral advantage to the conservative parties, when we have these marionette shows, when we have one man standing on camera interviewing a prominent politician and we have someone standing off camera priming him, and then when the interviewee goes off camera we have the eminence grise coming in off camera and explaining what it really was that the interviewee meant to say. If anybody does not recognise the faces of the Packer organisation they must be very dull indeed. That is a direct result of the newspaper companies influencing and owning television and radio stations.
It may not be too much to remark at this time, quite appropriately, on the sly conditioning that goes on every day in Australia in these insidious talk-back shows on radio and television. Other persons in the community have had occasion in the last week or so to comment on them. I think every honourable member here would have to concede that those shows are a prime example of what happens when you have this insidious influence of newspaper owners owning a radio station. If you look at the so-called personalities you will see that they are the same dull personalities who start off as C grade journalists doing the most hack chores on newspapers and who are eventually built up to become radio personalities. Why do we not set the radio and television industries free from this influence of newspapers? Why do we not allow them to develop in competition with newspapers as another diverse outlet for the communication of ideas throughout Australia? The Bill deserves the support of the House.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence to general business notices has expired.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The illegal strike which is occurring at the Sydney Morning Herald and the efforts of certain left-wing unionists to prevent the legitimate publication of that paper.
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-
– It is quite sinister that the newspaper and media industry has been disrupted throughout Australia by a number of rolling strikes. I propose to bring to the notice of the House an incident which has occurred in relation to the Sydney Morning Herald. That newspaper has been harassed by rolling strikes for some time. A combined unions committee has been set up with the
Printing and Kindred Industries Union, the Transport Workers Union of Australia, the Australasian Society of Engineers, the Union of Painters and Plumbers, the Amalgamated Metalworkers Union, the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia and the Building Workers Industrial Union of Australia to deal with the strike. The clerks and the journalists have elected not to participate in the combined unions committee. Many of the matters in question have arisen largely through redundancy in the industry and new techniques. John Fairfax and Sons Ltd which prints the Sydney Morning Herald also publish the Australian Financial Review, the Sydney Sun and other newspapers. The company has taken a most responsible attitude towards this matter. It has endeavoured to look after the interests of its employees. In fact, it went as far as printing a booklet setting out the problems and the company’s approach to them. It is regrettable that the unions refused to allow this booklet to be circulated to their members.
Recently the strikers made 4 demands- firstly, a 35-hour week; secondly, an increase of $20 a week in pay; thirdly, Medibank payments and, fourthly, some guarantees in regard to redundancy. The company has always held itself open to negotiation on the fourth point. The company believes that the previous 3 points are contrary to the principles of wage indexation and it did not grant them. On 2 1 October the matter went before the State Industrial Commission which was asked for a no strike order. The matter was heard by Mr Justice Cahill the son of the late Labor Premier of New South Wales. He was sitting as a judge. He ordered a no strike provision. On the night of 2 1 October a meeting of employees of John Fairfax Ltd decided to disregard the instruction, to disobey it, and in fact to strike against the principle of a no strike order ever having been asked for. They went on strike, but the newspapers were printed. With staff labour, the company was able to keep most, not all of its publications before the public. There was disorder, there was some violence, but the publication went on.
Then on 27 October the combined unions’ committee made a request for outside assistance. They asked other unions to try to black ban the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers and to cut off supplies to them. For example, they addressed their appeals to the Waterside Workers’ Federation, which held up about $1m worth of newsprint which was on the wharves. No help was given because the Maritime Services Board had intimated to John Fairfax Ltd that it proposed to charge the company $ 1,000 a day demurrage for the newsprint which the unions refused to load. The Union Steam Ship Co. has been intimidated and will give no help. The telephone technicians have intimated that they will not repair telephones or telex instruments which go out of service. Already the telephonists have withdrawn their labour. One Australian Financial Review teleprinter to Melbourne is out of order; the line between Sydney and Brisbane is out of order and cannot be repaired. Employees of the Water Board have intimated that they will not repair any water supply services and if anything goes wrong the building will be without water.
Most of all, I look to what the postal union, the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union, has done. I come back to the request made on 27 October that it should engage in a conspiracy to prevent the Sydney Morning Herald being published. The State branch of the union sent out a circular to all its postal employees at the request of the Printing and Kindred Industries Union. The . matter was referred to the Full Bench and on 2 November, a couple of days ago, the Full Bench again directed the unions to hold a mass meeting on 4 November- I understand it has been postponed for a day- to return to work and to continue negotiations on redundancy. The Commission said that it would offer its services, if required, to help in those negotiations. In regard to the other 3 points, the Commission said that they had to stand over until the national wage case was decided. Meanwhile, a statement of claim was lodged in the Supreme Court alleging conspiracy by the APTU with the PKIU to injure John Fairfax Ltd by unlawful means. That application was heard yesterday, and the Supreme Court gave its decision. Evidence was given to the court that something like 23 000 letters were being held in Sydney at the City Central Exchange in the GPO addressed to John Fairfax which could not be delivered because the unionists would not allow them to be delivered. That is absolutely and completely shameful. The letters were varied. There were letters to the editor, letters containing cheques and revenue, and 3000-odd letters from ABBA fans, children who had been writing in on some kind of children’s competition. Here we have 23 000 letters, all sorted out and ready to go, which have been held up. They could not be moved; they were not allowed to be moved. The judge said in his findings that the union or persons were in violation of section 94 of the postal services Act. I read to the House section 94 of an Act which was passed by the late Labor Government.
– The deceased Labor Government.
– ‘Deceased ‘ is right. The section reads:
A person shall not wilfully obstruct or hinder the conveyance or delivery by or on behalf of the Commission of any mail or postal article.
Penalty: Imprisonment for one year.
That section was passed into law by the late Labor Government and that is the section in respect of which the judge found that there was evidence of contravention. He ordered that the union, its servants and agents, be restrained until further order of the court from doing any act which would directly or indirectly obstruct or hinder the delivery of mail to John Fairfax Ltd or its papers.
Only a few moments ago I checked the situation, and the ban is still on. The court is being defied. The mail, which is technically the property of the Commonwealth until it is passed over, is not being delivered. We have a strong-arm operation by a gang of unionists who are endeavouring to hold the whole community to ransom. I ask the House to consider the implications of this kind of thing because it is something which can be done not only against John Fairfax, not only against any other firm, but it can be done against any person. We all get letters; we all use telephones; we all want to have the services of water supply and things like that. It is wrong that somebody can put on an interdict against an order of a court, because everything that has happened is against a direct order of a court, a direct order made by Mr Justice Cahill, who can scarcely be accused of being in any way biased in this matter. This has been done, and it can be done to anybody or to any firm or to any group of people. We are coming to a totalitarian dictatorship when this kind of thing is possible. Surely the sense of outrage in the community should be sufficient to stop this action from being continued, much less repeated. The mail service has always been considered as something sacrosanct. The mail must go through. Yet here we have a position where mail is sorted in bags, ready to be delivered, and the bags are not being moved.
What do the people in the trade unions think of this? I do not believe that the average trade unionist will support this kind of action, particularly when he realises that he himself can always be the victim of trade union leaders, and many of the trade union leaders today are the prime enemies of trade unionists. The trade unionists knows that they hold over him the power of intimidation, the power of victimisation. Surely we can appeal to the great body of workers to get rid of this kind of intimidation, this thuggery. It is easy enough to say that this action is against only John Fairfax. But it can go against John Smith just as easily. John Smith in the unions very often knows that if he will not obey his union boss when he is directed to do something illegal which he himself does not want to do that union boss has the power to victimise him, and to victimise him abominably. The position cannot continue where a clique can offer this kind of threat, and offer it successfully. The position cannot continue where the whole machinery of government and our economy and the fabric of our social life can be brought to a stop as a result of unions defying the court and demanding that union members continue to do something illegal. Such a situation is a rehearsal for revolution. That is what it is meant to be. I hope that this Parliament will show its abhorrence of what is being done.
– I find it difficult to understand why the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) has raised this matter now. I think it is rather mischievous of him to raise it in the current circumstances of the dispute about which he is so disturbed. The fact is that the dispute is at a very delicate stage. A mass meeting is to be held tomorrow at which the unions are to consider the recommendation of the Australian Industrial Court that they should go back to work and that the dispute should be concluded in the sense that they would hold over consideration of 3 of their 4 claims until the national wage case decision is handed down. The unions will also consider the proposition that there be continuing negotiation on the fourth point which is concerned with a guarantee that there be no redundancies in the John Fairfax organisation through technological changes. In those circumstances this matter has been raised in this House by the honourable member for Mackellar as a means of attacking the unions and accusing them of being various things. I suggest that this action is highly irresponsible if what the honourable member really wants to achieve is to settle this dispute.
The fact that the honourable member has raised this matter today will be published around the country and will become well known to the parties that are in dispute. It will certainly be something that will come into their considerations. Bearing in mind the delicate stage that the dispute has now reached, the honourable member’s action is likely to exacerbate the situation rather than bring it to any solution. I suggest that it was rather silly to have raised the matter at this time. I am pleased that the honourable members opposite, who are trying to interject, are so in favour of industrial disputes that they would like to exacerbate them and to see them go on. I thought that they have tried to tell us that they are against industrial disputes and would like to see them solved. But it is quite clear that if honourable members enter a dispute, start attacking people and talk about certain left wing unionists dominating their members and so onthis is the normal type of rhetoric that we expect from them- such action is likely to inflame the situation. That is what honourable members opposite are doing.
I do not want to go into the details of the dispute because I am not going to have to get up and argue in favour of or against every dispute that the Government may want to raise. Disputes will go on year after year whichever government is in power. We will always have industrial disputes. It is not the role of the Opposition to get up and defend every action taken by a trade union in this country. I want to make the one basic point that the raising of this matter in this Parliament will not assist the situation and will not help to solve the dispute. It will not help to get letters through in the matter which apparently is of concern to the honourable member for Mackellar. It will not help to get goods off the waterfront. It will not do any of those things. It will, if anything, exacerbate the situation.
The honourable member for Mackellar said that letters were being held up by the Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union. This matter is the subject of a common law action before a court and there is nothing that we in this Parliament can do about it. This matter is undergoing the processes of law right now. Again, this is a matter that is not assisted by the honourable member raising it here at this time. So I suggest it is mischievous in the extreme to have raised this matter if what we want to do is to settle the dispute.
-The House is indebted to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) for raising this issue today. I take issue with the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) when he said that this item should not be raised at this time. I go further and I accuse him and the Opposition of abdicating their responsibility in this field. They have done so consistently both in office and out of office. A great deal of the industrial dispute that is taking place in Australia today, at great expense to the whole of Australia, can be laid firmly at the door of both the parliamentary wing and the non-parliamentary wing of the Labor movement because they remain silent on occasions when in the public interest they ought to take a firm stand against what is going on.
The honourable member for Gellibrand said that we have industrial disputes irrespective of who happens to be in government. Regrettably that is true. But it is usually Labor administrations and sections of the Labor movement that fan the breeze. We recall very vividly when Labor was in office how one of its Ministers, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), instructed the Snowy Mountains Authority, a Commonwealth instrumentality, to obey the dictate of the 35-hour week committee that was operating an industrial dispute. That was what Labor did when it was in office and today it apologises and takes little or no interest in the very important matter raised by the honourable member for Mackellar. The importance of this matter is not confined solely to the John Fairfax organisation and the effect that the dispute has on this company. It concerns the whole of Australia. The attitude of the Opposition, as I have already said, is also important. But as the honourable member for Mackellar said, what ought to be deplored by every member of the House, including the members of the Opposition who are now interjecting and not taking any notice of what is going on in the debate, is the intimidation and victimisation that is occurring at the present time.
I am informed that the Budget Rent a Car System and Avis Rent-a-Car System Pty Ltd will have the finger pointed at them by the trade union movement if they supply vehicles to newsagents in Sydney to carry papers that are produced by the Fairfax organisation. Do honourable members opposite support that?
– The honourable member nods his head approvingly. The Opposition supports that kind of blackmail and victimisation. This is exactly the point I am making: We are concerned not only with the effect that this dispute is having on John Fairfax but also with the attitude of the Opposition, the alternative government that will not be called upon to govern in this country for many many years.
A previous debate in this House highlighted the fact that newspapers are not profitable. Speakers from both sides of the House emphasised that point. Last year only $417,000 profit was made by the 5 newspapers which are run by the John Fairfax organisation. The profitability of three of those newspapers was reduced and the operating loss of the other two substantially increased. What the Labor movement both inside and outside of Parliament has not yet learned is that there is a nexus between profitability and job opportunities.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The matter raised by the honourable member for Mackellar is of the utmost importance. It relates to the illegal strike which is occurring at the Sydney Morning Herald offices and the efforts of certain left wing unionists to prevent the legitimate publication of that newspaper. The efforts of the union leaders in this dispute are to be deplored. Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I had referred to the nexus which exists between profits and jobs and I had pointed out that the Labor movement, both inside and outside this House, had not learnt the significance of this nexus.
It is hard to believe that in this time of high unemployment the Labor movement is not raising its voice against industrial disputes of the type that are occurring at the Sydney Morning Herald. I pointed out that the 5 newspapers produced by John Fairfax Ltd last year earned only $4 1 7,000. Three of the newspapers had their profitability reduced and two had their operating losses increased. The point that I am making is that if the profitability of this company and other companies is reduced, job opportunities will decrease. What is going on at the John Fairfax company represents a direct attack on that company. What is happening within the administration of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) is worker control in its worst form. The House ought to remember that there is a basic difference between worker control and worker participation. Worker participation is when those who are engaged in an industry take part in consultation and assist in forming policies and making recommendations in relation to the policies of the company or corporation concerned. Worker control is when the shop stewards take over and determine the course of action within an organisation. Right at this moment thousands of articles of mail are being held up in the Redfern Mail Exchange that ought to be delivered, in accordance with Acts passed by this Parliament, to the Sydney Morning Herald. As of 9 o’clock yesterday morning the number of articles totalled 23 685. It is a scandalous situation. I am surprised that every member of the Opposition has not voiced his opposition to what is going on.
I said also that what is happening to the Fairfax organisation today may well be happening to someone else tomorrow. The honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige) is already worried about a situation concerning Queensland Alumina Ltd. Contracts are up for negotiation between the company and the unions. What has happened? Stewards have taken over against the wishes of the executive of the trade union movement. There are 850 workers on strike at Queensland Alumina and the loss of wages amounts to something like $122,000 a week. The strike will break Gladstone if it continues. This is the type of thing that is allowed to go on unchecked and unchallenged by the Labor movement inside this House and by the left wing section of the Labor movement outside the House.
The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) labelled this discussion as union bashing. What rubbish! I suggest that the bulk of the men who are on strike at the John Fairfax company wish to be at work. They are being pressured. They are being intimidated.
– As the honourable member has interjected, they are being blackmailed into a situation where they have no alternative but to leave their jobs. This left wing union control is wrecking large organisations. It is not confined to private enterprise organisations. This worker control is infiltrating into the utilities of this country which are controlled by our several governments. Worker control is being aided and abetted by the members who sit on the Opposition benches of this House. Not once during the past 12 months has any member of the Opposition risen in his place to deplore, decry and criticise worker control by the trade union movement.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I was stung to rise by the speech of the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife). I intended to sit quietly and listen to the debate, but when one hears inaccurate statements made in this House it becomes incumbent to stand and correct them. It is not my intention to be as reckless as the 2 Government supporters have been in this debate. They have placed in danger a dispute that has arisen after 19 months of negotiation between the unions and John Fairfax Limited, the newspaper company. Members of the unions involved are meeting tomorrow in an endeavour to resolve a problem that is recognised by everybody as being serious. To raise this matter in the House today and to speak about it in the way that the Government members have will do nothing to calm the tempers of the people who are already angry through 19 months of frustration and inability to reach settlements with those with whom they are negotiating.
– There was no Medibank levy 19 months ago.
-For the benefit of those honourable members who obviously have no knowledge whatsoever of this matter and who will be persuaded by the well-known and far out anti-union rhetoric of the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), the people working in newspapers work to agreements which generally run for 2 years. Prior to agreements expiring negotiations are held between the unions and the management in order to draw up another agreement for another 2 years. These agreements are honoured during the time of their currency. This agreement expired 19 months ago. It has been out of date for almost as long as the term of the period of the agreement itself. For 19 months negotiations have constantly taken place and the company has stood flatfooted and just said: ‘No’. The company has not negotiated any of the points. It finally conceded on the question of retrenchments brought about by technological change. The other 3 issues quite rightly, as has been said, have been deferred pending the outcome of the national wage case because of the claim that they would be in breach of the indexation guidelines.
The whole point about the foolishness of this debate today is that matters of public importance are raised in this House for the Government to take some action. Government supporters have raised the issue but no Government Minister has joined in the debate. That shows how much importance the Government places on this matter. Yesterday we debated a matter concerning unions. The honourable member for Farrer has claimed that the executives of the unions are pushing their members around and telling them what to do and how to do it. He has talked about lack of rank and file control. Had he listened to the debate yesterday in this House he would have learned how the Government took away from rank and file unionists the right to determine their own executive officers. Now this matter is raised as a complaint. He made what he believed was an axiomatic statement- that profitability increases job opportunity. That is a very nice sounding phrase but I invite him to give us one example of where it has ever been shown to be true. The newspaper industry is becoming more and more mechanised, and even if it becomes more and more profitable, and it seems to me that every time I buy a newspaper it is a cent dearer than it was the last time I bought one, and I buy one every day, there always will be an attempt to keep the wage bill down. So profitability has no relationship at all to job opportunities. They are dissociated and different things.
Of course the Medibank levy has to do with wages. Who could argue other than that? It is a direct 2V4 per cent out of each man’s pay packet so it has to do with wages. It is a great tragedy that this matter was brought up today. It certainly was not done in the spirit of helping to resolve an awkward dispute which pleases nobody. Members of the trade unions are quite happy to come together tomorrow to make their decisions on what they should do and how they should do it. They do not need to be inflamed by the speeches /of honourable members opposite today, speeches which will do nothing to resolve the situation. It is not pouring oil on troubled waters. The speeches were designed to put out a fire with a tin of petrol. It is to be deplored by every thinking person in this House and in the community that people will stand in this House and use the privilege of it to incite and inflame others who are at this moment deciding among themselves how a difficult situation can be resolved.
That is all I wanted to say on the matter. It is not a question of standing here as we have been invited to do and defending those who have withdrawn their labour. None of these things can be considered in toto. Nobody can stand firm and support every strike that has ever been held just as nobody can stand firm and condemn every strike that has ever been held. They are matters which have to be considered on their merits and the merits and details of each are not known intimately to every honourable member in this House. The raising of this matter today was most unwise. It was a foolish exercise involving a proposition that cannot be answered. So I do not intend to buy in to that silly dog fight but simply to repeat that it is a great tragedy that this matter was raised in the House today.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
By this Bill it is proposed to raise the general level of exemption from pay-roll tax, in respect of wages paid or payable in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, from $20,800 to $48,000. Honourable member will recall that, in my Budget Speech, I foreshadowed legislation to double the present pay-roll tax exemption and to phase out the exemption by $2 for every $3 by which an employer’s annual payroll exceeds $41,600. This would have brought Territory exemptions into line with New South Wales. Since the Budget announcement, all States have raised their pay-roll exemptions.
The Government now proposes that, from 1 January 1977, the general exemption from payroll tax in the Territories should be increased to $48,000, phasing out above that figure by $2 for every $3 by which the annual pay-roll exceeds $48,000. This is the level of exemption to apply in New South Wales from 1 January 1977.
Our changed proposal will thus ensure consistency of treatment between employers in the Australian Capital Territory and employers in New South Wales, so that pay-roll tax considerations will not affect the choice of location of business activities between the Australian Capital Territory and adjacent parts of New South Wales. The deduction of $1,733.33 at present allowable in monthly returns is to be replaced as from 1 January next by a deduction of $4,000 less $2 for every $3 by which the monthly pay-roll exceeds $4,000. Accordingly no deduction will be allowable where the monthly wages exceed $10,000. After 1 January 1977, an employer who pays wages of $900 or less a week will not have to register for pay-roll tax purposes. The comparable figure at present is $400 a week.
The Bill will provide a welcome measure of relief for small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and reflects the Government’s continuing concern for this basic sector of the economy. I mention, in concluding, that the Government, in considering these changed taxation arrangements, had before it a series of detailed submissions from the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) and Senator Knight, and I pay tribute to my colleagues for talcing the initiative in making sustained recommendations on this matter to the Government and thereby enabling a welcome change to be effected. The decision to introduce this Bill owes much to the effective representations made by my two colleagues on my side of the political fence. Explanations of technical aspects of the Bill are contained in an explanatory memorandum being made available to honourable members. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976 is to incorporate in the Customs Tariff Act 1966 changes to the tariff which have occurred since the last amending Bill was passed during the autumn sittings of the Parliament in May this year. The Bill, which contains 17 schedules, brings before honourable members for their consideration tariff changes made since the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1976. All changes concerned are incorporated in Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 7 to 22 (1976) which I have introduced into the Parliament at different times since then. In the main the changes give effect to decisions by the Government in respect of the following reports of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority: Aerospace Industry; Aluminium and Articles Thereof, etc.; Cellulose Acetate Flake; Commercial Motor Vehicles, Parts and Accessories; Filament, Fluorescent and Other Discharge Lamps; Hosiery; Knitted and Woven Apparel; Motor Vehicles- Import Restriction; Other Electronic Equipment; Paints, Varnishes and Lacquers; Precision Ground Steel Ball Bearings; Railway and Tramway Locomotives, Rolling Stock, etc.; Spectacle and Sunglass Frames, Sunglasses; Superphosphate Production; Telecommunication Equipment; Welding Consumables and Flux Cored Solder; Orange Juice; Paper; Sheets and Plates of Iron and Steel; and Thick Plywood.
As honourable members will appreciate, the tariff changes involved cover a wide range of Australian industries and will no doubt afford honourable members with an opportunity to have a wide ranging debate on the issues raised by these changes when the debate on this legislation is resumed. The last 4 reports I named were those made by the Temporary Assistance Authority.
The Bill also contains changes resulting from the biennial review of the system of tariff preferences for developing countries. In most cases rates of duty on goods qualifying for tariff preference have been reduced. However, certain imports have been excluded from tariff preference where imports from developing country suppliers are causing or threatening injury to local industry. Honourable members will recall that when the tariff proposals were introduced into the House I circulated a comprehensive summary in respect of each proposal which set out the nature of the change in duty rates and the origin of each change. I have had prepared a consolidation of those summaries and copies may be obtained from the Bills and Papers Office. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to seek authority for the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to guarantee, on behalf of the Commonwealth, loans raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of 3 Boeing 747 series aircraft. It is proposed that Qantas will negotiate the loans in its own name with the backing of a Government guarantee. The negotiations will be subject to consultations with the Treasurer on the borrowing arrangements. The airline will also be required to satisfy the Treasurer that adequate and proper security is given to the Commonwealth over the 3 aircraft. The proposed Government guarantee will be limited to an amount of US$1 17m, or its equivalent, which represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the 3 aircraft and associated equipment.
As honourable members would be aware Qantas is progressively replacing its smaller Boeing 707s with the larger and more economical Boeing 747 series aircraft. The aircraft financed under this Bill will comprise the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth Boeing 747s to be operated by the Airline. Qantas also wishes to take advantage of the favourable terms of purchase offered by the aircraft manufacturer at this time. It has been estimated that the terms of purchase currently available to Qantas would result in a saving for each aircraft of US$7.8m if delivered in 1977 rather than in 1978. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Nixon, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to seek authority for the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to guarantee, on behalf of the Commonwealth, loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries to finance the purchase of its seventh Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. This follows the enactment of earlier legislation under which the Australian National Airlines Commission was given access to overseas borrowed funds to acquire its seventh Boeing 727-200 aircraft.
Honourable members will recall that it has been Government policy for many years to extend assistance of this nature to the 2 major domestic airlines with a view to enabling them to obtain the funds required to purchase new aircraft and related spares and equipment. In this instance, the proposed Government guarantee will be limited to an amount of US$8m, or its equivalent, which represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the aircraft and associated equipment. The guarantee will be subject to appropriate security arrangements approved by the Treasurer. The proposal will not involve the Commonwealth in any expenditure; it will merely create a contingent liability for the Government to the extent of the outstanding balance of the loan.
Honourable members will note that the guarantee is designed to cover also loan money acquired by the issue of notes and securities. This is to allow the airline maximum flexibility in completing its financing arrangements to ensure that the required funds can be obtained on the best possible terms. The aircraft presently under consideration is planned for delivery in December 1976. The Boeing 727-200 series aircraft has now been in operation for a number of years and it has proved to be eminently suitable for Australian conditions. In comparison to the earlier 727-100 model, it is noticeably quieter, provides greater passenger capacity and is less demanding on energy resources. Although the domestic airlines have experienced some setbacks in recent months- setbacks, I would point out, that were largely caused by industrial disputespresent indications are that they have turned the corner and can look forward to at least a moderate traffic growth in the immediate future.
I am sure that honourable members will agree with me that the Australian airlines have made a very significant contribution to the development and welfare of this country, with an air safety record equal to the world’s best. They deserve our full support in their endeavours to maintain the first class service which they make available to the Australian travelling public. The assistance provided in this Bill is one area where that support is essential. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In July 1976 the Universities Commission presented to the Government its Report for 1977-79 Triennium, in accordance with the guidelines determined by the Government for the tertiary education commissions, which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) announced in the Parliament on 20 May 1976. This Bill provides financial assistance to the States to meet operating and building expenditure of the 18 State universities for the year 1977. In particular, it provides ongoing support for the establishment of Deakin University in Geelong and for Griffith University and Murdoch University which will be enrolling third year students for the first time in 1977. Special earmarked support is also provided for the Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales, the School of Medicine at the University of Newcastle, the School of Medicine at Flinders University of South Australia, and the School of Veterinary Studies at Murdoch University. Priority has been given to an increase in funds for the University of Wollongong to bring that University closer to the standard of other, more established, universities.
The Commission’s recommendations were expressed in December 1975 cost levels. The amounts provided in this Bill make allowance for subsequent movements in salary costs to the September quarter 1976, in non-salary costs to the June quarter 1976 and in building costs to the month of June 1976. A total of $520.7m is available to the States under this Bill for university purposes in respect of the year 1977, of which $5 14m is for recurrent costs and equipment purchases and $6.7m for building programs. Estimated expenditure on State universities for 1977, including building funds available from earlier appropriations, amounts to $546. lm at the previously mentioned cost levels. This figure does not, of course, include grants for the Australian National University which are provided under annual appropriations. Subsequent adjustments will be required for cost movements, and these will be made in accordance with new procedures for cost supplementation applying to the 1 977 program. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill amends the States Grants (Universities) Act 1972 and the States Grants (Universities) Act 1976 to adjust the approved programs of grants to State universities for the 1 973-75 triennium and for the year 1976 respectively. The Bill takes account of known variations in costs over and above those which have occurred since the previous adjustments were made in legislation enacted earlier this year. The proposed amendment to the States Grants (Universities) Act 1972 is the last in a series of amending Bills to provide for adjustments for the 1973-75 triennium. The Bill makes no change to the terms and conditions attaching to the grants.
The additional amounts to be paid to the States for universities in respect of the 1973-75 triennium have been calculated on the basis of price levels for the December quarter 1975 for operating expenses, and December 1975 for the building expenditure. The additional amount to be provided totals $ 1 .24m of which $ 1 . 1 4m is for operating expenditure and $0.1 m for outstanding building projects. Together with previous amendments to the principal Act, grants which have been provided for the 1973-75 triennium for State universities now total $98 1.3m. When State contributions are taken into account the total program for the 18 State universities is $l,169m.
In respect of the year 1976, the additional amounts take account of the recommendations of the Academic Salaries Tribunal’s 1976 review which have been accepted by the Government. They also take account of movements in the appropriate salaries indexes to the September quarter 1 976 and to the non-salary indexes to the June quarter 1976. In the case of the 1976 program the additional amount totals $44m of which $37.3m is for operating expenditure and $6.7m for the building program. The total estimated value of expenditure on State universities for 1976, including building funds available from earlier appropriations, amounts to $526m in the previously mentioned cost levels. Further amendments to the States Grants (Universities) Act 1976 will be required as information becomes available on movements in costs to the end of the year 1976. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to provide $4 15m for the approved programs of financial assistance to the States for the funding of colleges of advanced education in respect of the 1977 calendar year, following the acceptance of the financial recommendations made in the 1977-79 report of the Commission on Advanced Education, which conform to guidelines announced by the Government on 20 May 1 976. The grants included in the Bill total $343,52 1 ,000 for expenditure under the recurrent program and $70,456,000 for expenditure under the capital program. In addition, the Bill provides for recurrent grants on a formula basis to assist in meeting the administrative costs of student residences and affiliated residential colleges providing accommodation of a collegiate nature. The estimated expenditure on these grants in respect of 1 977 is $7 1 5,000.
The programs are based on the financial recommendations contained in the Commission’s report after transferring to the university sector $6.6m for allocation to the Deakin University on behalf of the Gordon Institute of Technology and the State College of Victoria Geelong, which will be absorbed into the Deakin University in 1977, and $3m to the technical and further education sector for advanced education courses in technical and further education institutions. Because the Commission’s financial recommendations were expressed in December 1975 cost levels the amounts shown in the Bill include an allowance to cover cost increases since that date. The allowance is based on indices to take account of increases in costs up to September 1976 in the case of academic salaries and non-academic- general- salaries and wages, and June 1976 in the case of building, equipment and other non-salary costs. In accordance with new cost supplementation procedures it will be necessary, in due course, to make further adjustments to the amounts shown in the Bill. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
The main purpose of the Bill is to amend the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1972-76 and the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act 1976 to provide, in accordance with the established policy and procedural arrangements, supplementary grants totalling $33,284,880 to cover cost increases not allowed for when the 1973-75 triennial and 1976 programs in respect of colleges of advanced education and approved non-government teachers colleges were adopted. The supplementary grants being provided for the 1973-75 programs comprise $623,5 10 for recurrent expenditure and $564,340 for capital expenditure and are the final cost escalation adjustments to be made to the 1973-75 programs. The grants in the existing Act contain a provision to cover cost increases occurring up to December 1975 in the case of salaries, and September 1975 in relation to building, equipment and other non-salary costs. In the case of the 1976 programs the amounts of cost supplementation being provided for in the Bill comprise $24,829,000 for recurrent expenditure and $7,268,030 for capital expenditure and are based on indices to take account of increases in costs up to September 1976 in the case of academic salaries and non-academic- generalsalaries and wages, and June 1976 in the case of building, equipment and other non-salary costs. Further adjustments for cost movements to the end of 1976 will be required as the relevant indices become available.
The grants contained in the existing Act were based on amounts set out in the Commission on Advanced Education’s report, Recommendations for 1976. The recurrent program includes an allowance to cover cost increases from the June quarter 1975 cost levels of the report to December quarter 1975 cost levels. The capital program is at June 1975 cost levels. As the amendments included in the Bill affect the programs detailed in the schedules to the Acts, the opportunity has been taken to include in the revised schedules the changed names of some colleges and a number of intra- and interprogram transfers of funds which have been approved under the provisions of the Acts. The additional funds provided by this Bill bring the total Commonwealth financial assistance provisions for colleges of advanced education in the States to $744m for the 1973-75 triennium and $385m for 1976. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide financial assistance to the States for technical and further education in respect of the year 1977. The Bill gives effect to the recommendations relating to 1977 contained in the report of the Technical and Further Education Commission for the triennium 1977-79.
The total amount which the Bill makes available to the States for 1977 is $79,088,000, of which $37,270,000 is for capital expenditure and $41,818,000 is for recurrent expenditure. The prime responsibility for technical and further education rests with the States and these amounts are supplementary to the States’ own efforts in this area of education. Building projects to be supported by the Commonwealth in 1977 are listed in a Schedule to the Bill. Most of the projects are located in the State capitals where the Technical and Further Education Commission considers that thegreatest demand for new training facilities is to befound.
The general purpose recurrent grants are intended to reimburse the States for the costs of abolition of tuition fees for vocational courses, a measure adopted in 1974 at the request of the Commonwealth Government.
Special purpose recurrent grants are being provided to meet two broad areas of concern which warrant Commonwealth assistance in the form of national programs to meet urgent needs in all States. These areas are staff development and the improvement of the collection of data on the enrolments, staffing and resources of technical and further education so that firmly based planning decisions can be made. Particular purpose grants are being provided to enable the States to achieve desirable improvements in the effectiveness of technical and further education. The grants will be applied by the States to fit in with their individual priorities.
The Bill also provides the first grants for programs to be carried out by non-government adult education bodies. The allocation of the funds is to be made by an agency nominated by each State in accordance with guidelines mutually acceptable to State and Commonwealth Governments. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
Mr VINER (Stirling-Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs) (2.58)- I move:
This Bill amends the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974-76 to adjust the approved program of grants to the States for technical and further education for the period I July 1975 to 31 December 1976. The Government has agreed that cost supplementation of grants for technical and further education should be applied from 1 July 1975. The Bill gives effect to this decision and provides additional funds totalling $5.633m, bringing the funds available for technical and further education since 1 July 1 974 to $ 1 37m. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Schools) Act 1976 and the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 to provide supplementary grants to the States for government and nongovernment schools. When the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1976 was introduced earlier this year it was indicated that the grants for 1976 were, in the main, expressed in June 1975 price levels and would be supplemented by amending legislation for subsequent movements in costs. This Bill is presented in accordance with that undertaking.
The commitment to the Commonwealth for 1976 under both the existing Acts amounts to $476.2m. This Bill extends that commitment to $531.9m-an increase of $55.7m. The 1976-77 Budget estimates include allowance for payment of supplementary grants in respect of cost increases. For general recurrent expenditure for non-government schools, the grants incorporated in the Bill include a prospective allowance for cost increases up to the end of the year. For other programs further supplementary grants have yet to be determined as information concerning cost increases becomes available; these additional funds will be provided for through a subsequent amendment to the Acts to be introduced in the 1 977 autumn sittings.
In addition to adjusting grants for 1976, the Bill adjusts grants for 1977 under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1972 in respect of cost increases. This involves a further allocation of $7.6m, in addition to the $5 5.7m mentioned above. Consequent upon the Government’s decisions on the Schools Commission’s report, the main Commonwealth appropriations for schools in the States for 1977 will be the subject of a separate Bill to be introduced shortly. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 November, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Hurford had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until it has been redrafted following proper consultation with the State Governments concerning its objectionable features’.
-This is a cognate debate covering 2 Bills, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill and its companion Bill, the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill. Both Bills bring into legislative form the proposals of the Fraser Government with regard to fiscal federalism. I want to begin my remarks this afternoon by drawing to the attention of the House the fact that the whole question of federalism is as much about the distribution of power and initiative as it is about money. The distribution of power in any society is an important element of preserving freedom within that society. If all power is located in one place, in one government or in a small group of people, there is a danger that the freedoms that a country enjoys can be taken away by abuse of that power. Our federal system has as an essential element a number of checks and balances. The power to legislate is divided between State, federal and local government bodies. As a result questions relating to administration also are distributed between those 3 spheres of government.
The present Government is determined to improve the federal system. It has a rational and coherent approach both to responsibility sharing and to revenue sharing. You can achieve responsibility sharing in a meaningful way only if there is a sensible sharing of the revenue resources that are available to governments. Federalism is the very antithesis of centralism. Federalists in Australia want to retain and strengthen the 3 spheres or tiers of government. Centralists want to see an all-powerful central government and they use and abuse the existing Federal system to achieve their ends. Members of the Australian Labor Party when in office caused a rapid degeneration of the working of the federal system. They promoted their centralist objectives while falsely claiming themselves to be supporters of a system which they liked to describe as co-operative federalism. We were told only last night by the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), that the Labor Party is currently working to produce for its next federal conference ‘a workable policy which will minimise the tensions which inevitably arise in a federal system’.
What the honourable member did not tell the House was that unless the conference of the Labor Party makes a fundamental change in that Party’s policies, its methods of minimising the tensions between the spheres of government will be to abolish the spheres of government and to replace them by a unitary, unicameral system of government. The honourable member for Adelaide also told us how he would like to achieve a minimisation of these tensions. He told us that he would provide each tier of government with sufficient funds. That sounds good. He went on to say that he would do that through specific purpose grants in line with the views expressed by his Leader at the Premiers Conference in 1973. A Press release issued by Mr Whitlam when he was Prime Minister stated that he would want the Commonwealth Government to be involved in the process by which priorities are met and by which expenditures are planned and by which standards are set. This is all part of the process of centralising power.
-Who said that?
-That was the present Leader of the Opposition. He, and some of the spokesmen sitting behind him, today seek to pretend that they support the federal system. They do not. They support it only to the extent that they want to use the system to destroy it and to replace it with a unitary centralist system of government. Labor’s brand of federalism, if it can be described as federalism, is not cooperative federalism but coercive federalism. This has been described by Professor Mathews as ‘a federal system marked by centralisation of power, unequal bargaining strength and the distortion of the priorities of the Tower levels of government’.
– Cunning and coercive.
– Undoubtedly cunning and coercive. The Labor Government used specific purpose programs. It used advisory commissions in areas of State responsibility and it used its approach to regionalism to coerce the States. As a result, we witnessed a confrontation and conflict between governments within this country. The Labor Party adopted this coercive approach because its ultimate goal was and still is to establish a unitary, unicameral, system of government. Its aim was and, I have no doubt still is, to do away with the States, to wipe out local government as we know it today and to.abolish the Senate. Only last month the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) claimed that the federal system was archaic. Only last month he again reaffirmed his desire to achieve in Australia a unitary, unicameral system of government. But it should not be thought that the Leader of the Opposition is out of step on this issue with members of his own Party. On a Four Comers program some years ago Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, said that the federal system of government in Australia was on the way out. He also stated:
Our State boundaries are illogical. I think that eventually Australia will have to face having one sovereign National Parliament and a series of County Governments- subordinate legislatures- but the foundation for this is not here yet.
-Who said that?
-That was Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia.
– A Labor Premier?
-A Labor Premier who today pretends that he is a supporter of co-operative federalism. In fact he is a supporter of what I and others have described as coercive federalism. The Premier of South Australia wants to see the Senate abolished. The Chairman of the Grants Commission, Mr Justice Else-Mitchell, in a recent address stated:
Had (the Whitlam Government not been dismissed) it is probable that the stage might have been reached where, as Chief Justice Latham had said in the first uniform tax case, the States would have lost, if not their political independence, a large measure of their capacity to initiate their own policies.
Through our policies political independence of the States and local governments will be strengthened. Their capacity to initiate their own policies will be increased. I assure the honourable member for Adelaide, who doubted this, that transfers of power will take place, but before this can be done the fiscal arrangements between the spheres of government will have to be tidied up. The 2 Bills which we are debating today put into legislative form the fiscal arrangements which were negotiated at 3 very successful Premiers Conferences which were chaired by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Prime Minister stated that as a result of the arrangements negotiated at those conferences the revenue sharing arrangements implemented as a consequence would be ‘the foundation for the future development of federalism, including the basic issue of defining clear and more efficient roles and responsibilities for all 3 spheres of government’.
These Bills put into legislative form the terms of the arrangements agreed between the States and the Commonwealth and negotiated at those conferences. They were held in February, April and June. It is important that we note the dates on which those conferences were held. The Bills which we debate today flow directly from those conferences. At the first 2 conferences, the second of which was held in April, 33 issues relating to revenue sharing arrangements were settled. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard attachment A which was attached to the Prime Minister’s statement following the June conference. It sets out the 33 issues which were settled at the February and April conferences.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. Time does not permit me to deal with all the issues which were settled, but two of them are relevant to this debate. Firstly, it was not only agreed by the
Commonwealth and the States that the governments would share income tax but also agreement was reached as to the manner in which the percentage share of the States would be determined. Paragraph 5 of the attachment states:
The ‘base’ to which the percentage will be applied each year will be personal income tax collected in the year. The percentage figure will be determined by reference to the relationship Between the financial assistance grants in 1975-76 and personal income tax collections in that year.
At the June conference discussions took the form of trying to estimate in money terms the amount which would be available to the States. The Commonwealth Government indicated that on the information then available it appeared that the States would be eligible for 33.6 per cent of income tax. As events turned out, if we applied the formula, the amount available to the States would have been marginally less. The States, -notwithstanding their unequivocal agreement to the formula, used a tricky, superficial argument. They twisted the arm of the Commonwealth to agree to the estimated figure notwithstanding the fact that following the June Conference, where these estimates were given, the Prime Minister had made it clear that the figures cited were no more than present estimates. It was an indication of the Commonwealth’s determination to make sure that the revenue sharing arrangements were done on a basis of inter-governmental negotiation that the Commonwealth agreed to increase the percentage share to 33.6 per cent. That is the figure contained in the legislation now before us. I think it is important to note that every Premier, including the Premiers of the then 2 Labor States, South Australia and Tasmania, agreed with the arrangements that income tax should be shared. Indeed, Premier Dunstan could not have done otherwise because in 1974 he accused the then Prime Minister Whitiam of ignoring the Australian Labor Party and forcing the States to introduce regressive taxes on lower and middle income earners. It is noteworthy that as a consequence of the federalism policy of the Fraser Government, all States including the South Austraiian Labor Government, have been able to reduce many of those regressive taxes. At the same time as he attacked Prime Minister Whitlam, Mr Dunstan went on to say that he believed it to be essential for the Labor Party to decide at its Federal conference for the provision to the States of a share of income tax. He advocated the very arrangements that this Government is today in this legislation putting on to the statute books.
-That was Mr Dunstan?
– That was Mr Dunstan, who advocated the sharing of income tax between the Commonwealth and State governments. Yet last night a member from his own State, the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide, got up in this House and said that he would prefer a restructured version of the old betterment tax formula.
-Hard to believe.
-It is hard to believe, as my colleague says, but it is indicative of the fact that the Labor Party wants to return to its process of coercive federalism. It wants to return to a situation where it can squeeze the States, where it can force them to introduce regressive taxes so that in return the Labor Party can come in with these specific purpose grants and say: ‘Because we are giving you specific purpose grants we must determine where they will be spent. We must determine the priorities; we must set the standards’, thereby taking from the States any influence at all in the legislative process.
– Central power.
-Central power, using the States merely as administrative agents for the Commonwealth Government. That is not cooperative federalism, it is centralism. In the remaining minutes available to me I want to turn to the second Bill, the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill, which provides to local government a share of income tax. It is a Bill upon which there has been a great deal of publicity of late, and at this point I might say that I am amazed at the first amendment moved by the honourable member for Adelaide and by the one he foreshadows for the local government Bill. He wants the Bills withdrawn and redrafted. In the case of income tax sharing as between the States, every State has applauded the sharing arrangements. There has been some correspondence in respect of one issue from one Premier. That issue related, in the case of the income tax sharing arrangements, to the question of the exclusion of surcharges imposed by the Commonwealth from the calculations of the amount of income tax that the States should receive. Assurances have been given by the Prime Minister and by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). The assurances were written into the agreement earlier this year in April. As to the communications that have been received in respect of the moneys going to local government, no local government body has communicated with the Government saying that it does not like the legislation. The States have raised a number of points and indications have been given that certain amendments will be made to ensure that the points of view of those States are taken into account.
As to the suggestion that the legislation should be withdrawn, does the shadow Treasurer want to hold up the share of the additional $89m to the States? Does he want to prevent this Government from paying $140m to local government? He wants to delay it. What is the cost each week of a delay in the payment to local government of $ 1 40m? It is an immense cost, and to suggest that this legislation should be delayed is totally frivolous. This legislation is designed to establish a structure so that intergovernmental relations amongst the 3 spheres of government can be established. Insofar as some State Premiers have criticised the local government legislation as being centralist, they fail to understand that it is legislation to determine the rights between spheres of government. It is not a question of determining the relationships between this Government and a Department of State of any State government.
This Government here in Canberra recognises that there are 3 spheres of government. It wants to see local government have greater autonomy and independence and I draw the attention of the House to a resolution supported by all parties and all governments at the recent Constitutional Convention. The resolution states:
That this Convention, recognising the fundamental role of Local Government in the system of government in Australia, and being desirous that the fulfilment of that role should be effectively facilitated-
Invites the States to consider formal recognition of local government in State Constitutions;
Invites the Prime Minister to raise at the next Premiers Conference the question of the relationships which should exist between Federal, State and Local Government;
The Prime Minister gave an undertaking that he would raise the issue. What we need to do now is to ask all those Premiers and Ministers for local government who have called this legislation centralist whether they will respond to that invitation and give local government constitutional guarantees within the constitutions of the States. The Commonwealth is playing its part. It is providing untied grants to be distributed to local government on a 2-tiered arrangement through local government grants commissions, which under this legislation must be objective and independent, must receive submissions and must make reports. I hope that as a result of the legislation we will see a strengthening of the independence of all 3 spheres of government, and an end to the coercion of any sphere of government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) has quoted a resolution of last week’s Constitutional Convention. The resolution arose from items put on the agenda of that convention by my colleagues in this Parliament and me. The Convention was precluded from dealing with any financial matters concerning State governments or local governing bodies because in February and April this year the Premiers Conference, under the incitement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), had requested the Executive Council of the Constitutional Convention to leave any financial matters off its agenda. The Premiers Conference would not have agreed to such a course after 1 May, when of course the Wran Government was elected in New South Wales. Nevertheless, the best that could be done concerning finances at the Constitutional Convention last week was to pass the resolution which the honourable gentleman has quoted and which arose from an item put on the agenda by my colleagues and me. I am indebted to the honourable gentleman for reminding me- I had almost forgotten- that some Premiers made spasmodic and insipid criticisms of my Government in its financial provisions for the States. Of course, my memory in this matter has been swamped by the sustained and virulent criticism made of the Fraser Government by all the Premiers in recent months.
The Bills with which we are dealing, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill and the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill are the core of the Prime Minister’s misnamed and misbegotten new federalism. After all the electoral rhetoric, all the window dressing involved in the so-called Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations, we are now permitted to see a few of the hard financial details; we are given a glimpse of that fine print of the Fraser philosophy. It turns out to be as dishonest and backward looking as everything else this Government does. These Bills will do nothing to meet the real financial needs of the States and local government. The party pledged to uphold the sacred autonomy and due sovereignty of the States will be shackling them more closely to the authority and direction of the Liberals in Canberra. They will be starved of funds and locked into a new bureaucratic structure more rigid and dictatorial than anything known before.
If we ignore the Prime Minister’s ideological rantings about centralism, big government and State rights, there are 2 central questions to be asked about these Bills. The first is: Will the States and local government, in the totality of the revenues and resources available to them for discharging their responsibilities, be better off or worse off under these proposals? The answer is they will be worse off. That is certainly the case at the moment; the situation for the future is at best hazardous and unpredictable. The second question is: Do the States want these measures? Do they support them? Again the answer is no. The new federalism may suit the Prime Minister and the backwoodsmen in the Liberal Party, but it certainly does not suit the Premiers. No policy has met with such universal resentment and condemnation from the very people it is supposed to assist. And no wonder. It forces this harsh choice upon the States: Either they increase their taxes to meet the shortfall in their revenues or they allow essential community services to decline and new federal initiatives in these areas to expire.
It is now clear that the Prime Minister has on his hands a major rebellion by the Premiers- not from the Labor Premiers alone, but equally, perhaps even more vehemently, from the nonLabor Premiers. Their objections take different forms and have different motivations, but all the Premiers see clearly the real intention behind the Prime Minister’s protestations of high principle and goodwill. The Prime Minister wants to pass the buck to the States for all the failings of governments. Whenever there is some odium or blame to be faced- for raising taxes, for failing to meet people ‘s legitimate needs, for failing to produce sound economic policies, for starving essential services of necessary funds- it is the States which must cop it. That is the objective of the new federalism. The States are in a no-win situation. The Prime Minister may fool some of the voters some of the time and some of his own supporters all the time but he cannot fool the Premiers. High-flown talk about new federalism will not convince the Premiers that a fixed share of certain Federal revenues will guarantee them an adequate and rising proportion of the nation’s financial resources. In truth it will not. Nor are the Premiers convinced that tying their revenues in this way is any less centralist in principle than the arrangements that have served the States well in the past. For the Liberal Premiers, the whole scheme is empty of practical benefits and patently threadbare as an ideological exercise.
The States’ opposition to the Prime Minister’s pipedream has been forcefully expressed from the beginning. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his second reading speech:
Federalism policy and the tax-sharing arrangements central to it were, of course, the subject of Premiers conferences in February, April and June this year. The Premiers welcomed the concept of a genuine, wholehearted federalism … I wish to record the Government’s appreciation of the co-operative and constructive attitude which the Premiers have brought to the discussion and development of the tax sharing arrangements which are embodied in this Bill.
The suggestion that the Premiers are supporting this legislation is preposterous. It is clear that they were never properly consulted about the details, and it was apparent from the answer he gave me in the House on Tuesday that the Prime Minister has no intention of calling a meeting of the Premiers to discuss their objections. Just how co-operative and constructive’ the States have been- that was the Treasurer’s phrase- can be judged from their comments since the new federalism was first announced last year. The former Treasurer of Queensland, Sir Gordon Chalk, observed when the policy was first mooted that it will mean a return to the dark days with each State outbidding each other by way of taxation’.
The Prime Minister’s real confrontation with the Premiers, however, emerged at the Premiers Conference in June. Let us see how co-operative and constructive the Premier of Western Australia has been. Extracts from the official transcript of the June Premiers Conference were published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 7 July and never repudiated. Sir Charles Court told the Prime Minister that the Federal Government’s economic policies were an attempt ‘to put the economy flat on its back’. Sir Charles Court stated:
If you are going to turn off the tap . . . you have to do it with a degree of sensitivity and responsibility . . The figures in the paper which we were given this morning demonstrate that we would definitely go into a period of great recession and we would necessarily have increased unemployment, with effect from 1 July without any question.
The same document reports Sir Gordon Chalk- it was his last Premiers Conference before his retirement- as saying:
I have been here since the days of Sir Robert Menzies and I just cannot believe what has happened this afternoon. I just cannot believe that this is the attitude of a free enterprise government. We have no alternative but to go back and slash employment.
The Premier of South Australia said, according to the transcript:
The States will have $150m to S200m less than required just to keep up with increased costs. There is no way that our programs can take that kind of cut without chaos in the community.
I could reproduce many other comments from indignant Premiers. The point is that, to a man, they feel cheated. They are fearful of the economic consequences of the Fraser federalism. It is interesting that none of the Premiers at their meeting in June expressed the least concern about whether the funds for his State were in tied grants, untied grants, general revenue grants, loan moneys or any other form; they were concerned solely with the overall revenue position of their States, with the basic question of whether they will have the funds to do their work. All of them concluded they could not. For example, the Premier of Western Australia complained of the reduction in funds for sewerage. I pass over the fact that Sir Charles Court was never as vocal in expressing gratitude for my Government’s national sewerage program as he was last June in expressing anxiety about its threatened curtailment. At the Premiers Conference he disputed the Prime Minister’s claim that the States would be getting an extra 16 per cent in additional revenue. He said:
According to my figures we are not getting that because there is this question of sewerage money. It is cut very severely. In our case there is a combination of a reduction in sewerage moneys and urban transport moneys. This will cut down the total increased amount of cash that we will get from both the State works and the semi-government programs. If this is taken into account does it not bite into that 16 per cent?
On which Mr Dunstan commented:
Of course it does. It does not leave us with anything like 1 6 percent.
The particular question of sewerage is revealing in this context because it was in answer to a question on this subject on 19 October that the Government gave the game away. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) let the cat out of the bag. Senator Colston asked him what local councils in Queensland would have to postpone sewerage construction works as a result of the cutback in funds allocated in the 1976 Budget. The Minister in reply asserted that additional moneys made available to local councils under the Commonwealth’s unconditional general revenue grants scheme’- a scheme introduced by my Government, incidentally- would make up for their loss of sewerage funds. In other words, the Minister admitted- he volunteered the informationthat a project funded from specific purpose grants will now have to be funded from general revenue grants. He might have added that every other specific purpose project- funds for the environment, the national estate, area improvement programs, regional employment schemes- will now have to come from general purpose revenue as well. Everything for which he is responsible will now have to come from general purpose grants instead of from specific purpose grants.
So we have this situation: The man appointed to preside over the disbandment of these programs has now stated that the money made available for them by way of specific purpose grants will have to be found from general revenue. Why cannot the Prime Minister be honest with the States and tell them frankly and candidly they are being forced to cut back? The Prime Minister and the Treasurer try to confuse the issue by harping on the share of general revenue grants going to the States and local government. That is only part of the story. Although general purpose revenue grants have been increased by this Government, just as they were increased by my Government between 1974-75 and 1975-76, specific purpose grants have been heavily reduced. The sum total of specific and general purpose revenues available to local government in this year will be $79m less than in last year. In addition, funds to the States for housing have been frozen and the increase in available loan funds will be restricted to 5 per cent at a time of 12.3 per cent inflation. Under these tax sharing measures total funding to the States and local government will be reduced by about 5 per cent in real terms. That is the real measure of this Government’s generosity to the States.
What is missing from the Prime Minister’s and the Treasurer’s speeches is the hidden element in all these calculations- the prospect of double taxation. The Prime Minister is anxious to play down this proposal but it is on the record for all to see. The States this year have quite naturally chosen the easier option of refraining from tax increases to fill the gaps in their Federal revenues, but they cannot continue this indefinitely without gravely damaging the standard of living of their people. The double-taxation proposal was announced by the Prime Minister last year, confirmed by him in February and agreed upon at the Premiers Conference on 9 April. It was spelt out in the agreed text after that conference in these words:
Each State will be able to legislate to impose a surcharge on personal income tax in the State (but not company tax or withholding tax on dividends or interest) additional to that imposed by the Commonwealth.
Clearly the States are invited and empowered to impose a personal income tax. Under the Liberal philosophy it will be paid by wage-earners alone and not by companies or investors; but double taxation it will be.
For 30 years or more, under governments of every persuasion- Liberal Treasurers, Country Party Treasurers, Labor Treasurers- the Commonwealth has made general purpose revenue grants to the States on condition that the States did not impose their own income tax. The present Prime Minister is removing that condition. For decades the Commonwealth has made grants and tax reimbursements to the States which increased year by year. In effect these grants were indexed. They were tied to average weekly earnings and the growth of population and latterly they were supplemented by a betterment factor. For decades the States have been guaranteed a steadily increasing volume of the total Federal revenue. The present Prime Minister is putting an end to this system. He wants to tie grants to the States to a percentage of the Commonwealth’s own income tax collections alone. In other words, the available money for the States will fluctuate with the Commonwealth’s income tax revenues. This proposal would be defensible if Commonwealth income tax revenues were to continue to grow and if the level of specific purpose grants to the States were to remain at the levels established by my Government. But neither of these situations will apply under the new federalism. No less ardent a defender of States’ rights than the Premier of Queensland said on 8 April:
The Treasury is trying to dump the odium of tax raising on the States without dumping any of the money itself. If the Prime Minister is genuine about federalism he will be talking not just about income tax but about a share of all federal revenues.
That indeed is the central flaw in the scheme. It ties the States to a static source of personal income tax receipts rather than to growing general revenues. As the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out before the Premiers Conference in April:
Giving the States a fixed percentage of income tax revenues is not a significant reform at all if the Commonwealth uses other forms of taxation to increase its revenue.
It is unrealistic to expect the States to raise their own taxes to take over functions which they properly see as federal responsibilities. The whole struggle to improve the quality of life of our people since the second world war has largely been a struggle to apportion proper responsibilities among governments.
The Menzies Government after the war established a federal responsibility for tertiary education. It had been assumed during the war by the Labor Government. The present Prime Minister takes the view that except for tertiary education every function performed by governments in Australia must be returned to the compartment it was in before the war. The States were able to discharge their responsibilities before the war because the capital cities were smaller and the new provincial centres based on natural resources- Mt Isa, Gladstone, Wollongong, Whyalla, Port Hedland- had barely developed. In those days everyone in the Sydney or Melbourne metropolitan areas, for instance, was in easy reach of the university, the sports grounds, the cricket ground, the major hospitals, the race tracks, the galleries, the public library, the museums, the concert halls, the theatres. Now half the population lives an hour or more from these facilities and they are inadequate by any standards. There is no way that the States and local governments can bring such basic facilities to the people without the participation of the Federal government. It was done by my Government through joint planning bodies set up in consultation with local government and the States. That was the basis for the Area Improvement Program, the Capital Assistance for Leisure Facilities Program, the Australian Assistance Plan, the local roads programs. We made the funds available for colleges of advanced eduation teachers colleges, technical colleges- the whole range of tertiary education. We did it for schools, primary and secondary, government and nongovernment. We did it for hospitals, health centres, growth centres, land development, recreational and tourist projects, child care and urban public transport. In nearly every case the decisions on locating and initiating these projects were taken by the States and local authorities themselves. They were administered by land commissions and joint hospitals works councils and the like, established by the Australian Government and the relevant State Government in each State. The Fraser Government is now cutting out and cutting down the funds which made this possible. Programs which State and local governments have been able to deliver due to Federal initiatives will now lapse. The Australian people now know that it is possible for a Federal government to make agreements with State and local governments to provide such programs. We now know that the High Court believes they are constitutional. There is no question that the people require and desire them, and they know they will not get them without federal initiatives which can come only from a restored Labor government.
So the new federalism means this: In place of generosity, financial stringency; in place of more local autonomy, greater federal control. For these Bills foreshadow an incredible new bureaucratic colossus to deal with local government The States are obliged to establish and maintain State Grants Commissions which will act as virtual agents for the Federal Government. In addition to the Advisory Council for Intergovernment Relations, the Government proposes 6 State Grants Commissions as well as the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is waste and extravagance on the largest grand scale.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
-I believe it is a sorry day for the Australian Labor Party when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has to resort to 20 minutes of reading extracts of speeches by State Premiers in order to make the substance of a speech to the House. His speech did not contain one original thought and not a single contribution to the debate on the most significant reform the Fraser Government has yet introduced to this House. It was quite evident from what he said that he does not recognise the fact that income tax is in fact a growth tax. This overlooks the simple and blunt fact that in the 3 years in which he was Prime Minister of this country income tax revenues increased by something like 300 per cent.
In supporting the Bill to provide for personal income tax sharing arrangements between the Commonwealth Government and State and local governments, I intend to demonstrate the outstanding and indelible differences between the course this Government will take to restore true and responsible federalism and the rather sinister and certainly centralist objectives of the Australian Labor Party. Few measures demonstrate more vividly the grand socialist design that drives the Austraiian Labor Party than its objectives in the field of financial relations between the traditional and constitutional tiers of Australian government. Despite the ample layers of sugary icing that members of the previous Labor Party Government applied to the national cake in the last 3 years they could not conceal the course on which they were set. In fact the real wonder is that it took so long for the true realisation of this course to become thoroughly apparent to the Australian people. Of all the assaults that the Labor Party mounted against established and respectable national purposes in its 3 years nothing compared with its assault on the nature and basis of constitutional federalism.
The Bills now being debated are the clear indication of this Government’s firm support for the strengthening of Australia’s federal structures. We are in some respects limiting the powers of the national Parliament. But more importantly we are setting the basis for the maintenance of financially independent State and local governments and for re-defining certain proper and constitutional duties to the 3 established tiers of government- Commonwealth, State and local. The contribution of the Labor Party speakers in this House has again shown their bitter and unrelenting antagonism to any reform which limits the concentration of effective power in the hands of one central parliament, one cabinet and one caucus.
– One man.
– In the case of the Australian Labor Party, this is particularly important because, as my colleague interjects, its members in the Parliament are bound by the Party discipline and by policy laid down not by elected members of Parliament but by machine men outside whose credentials are quite unknown to the voting public.
It is fair to ask why Opposition members regard this Bill with such venom. So far in the debate they have failed to sustain any valid reason for their opposition. The answer is clear to anyone who knows a little of their history. True federalism is the single most severe restraint on their ambition to socialise Australia at the earliest opportunity. I ask honourable members to listen to what the Australian Labor Party Federal President, Mr Hawke, said in Newcastle in September 1972:
I believe that the sensible path to socialism is to say honestly that at the moment federally we have not got the constitutional power to bring about socialism.
He calls it ‘the sensible path’. ‘At the moment’, he pleads. Later he said in the same speech that he had ‘an honest and constitutional way of going about his ambition’. The simple and undeniable fact is that members of the ALP are not only anti-federalists; they are also distinctly in favour of national unification, that old bogey that first crept into their Party platform in the early 1920s and which remains there today in a thinly veiled form. Their prelude to attaining the socialist state is the creation of a unitary state with all effective power- political, economical and financial- at one centre. The ALP adopted this platform half a century ago and retains it today although, of course, members of the Party seek most ardently to deny it.
Listen to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said at Monash University recently:
It is true that the platform of the Australian Labor Party once contained references to clothing the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited powers.
But he said that these references were removed at the federal conference in 1969. One might be tempted to believe that the leopard had changed its spots. The believers may even think so. But the facts speak quite differently. What were the references that he claimed had been removed from the ALP platform? The origins took place after World War I when the ALP broke away from its initial support of federalist policies and joined other national socialist parties in embracing unificationist doctrines. Its members were deeply impressed by the militarised industrial economic and institutional arrangements that the contingencies of war required. They got the notion of the ‘planned economy’, the ‘controlled state’. As a consequence, the Labor Party in this country introduced a series of planning and unification planks to its platform. The Party rejected the concept of autonomous association, which is federalism, and adopted the goal of unification.
Unification meant the breakup of the States and replacement by smaller provincial units which were to become dependent on the central government. Labor’s leadership aimed at unification with all its sinister and desperate implications because ‘by no other means could its socialisation policy be imposed on Australia as a whole’. Supreme control of all Australia under one parliament was deemed necessary. The 1918 Australian Labor Party conference abolished its platform for effective federation and adopted the following platform:
Unlimited legislative powers in Australia to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament with a devolution of adequate local powers upon subordinate legislatures and municipalities.
Later, the Party adopted the fighting platform that called for (a) unification and (b) reconstruction of Austraiian government with centralisation of legislative power in the Commonwealth Parliament. Furthermore, the Labor conference developed this concept to the point of dividing Australia into 31 provinces which, of course, required that the existing sovereign States be abolished. Mr Scullin, who later became a Labor Party Prime Minister, proposed the motion:
A people’s convention be elected to recast the Federal Constitution to provide for the sumpremacy of the national Parliament, the abolition of State parliaments and the creation of provincial councils.
His idea was, as stated at the time, based on the South African example of unification. That is where the ALP idea came from. The Bill we are now debating is the antithesis of the South
African concept and bears far closer comparison to the Canadian provision. Later, the Labor Party conference carried a resolution for an Australia-wide unification campaign which called for ‘unlimited legislative powers for the Commonwealth Parliament and such delegated powers to the States or provinces as the Commonwealth Parliament may from time to time think fit’.
I now come back to the present claim by the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Labor Party has removed his Party’s reference to clothing the Commonwealth Parliament with unlimited powers’. I queried whether the leopard had changed its spots. Honourable members should remember that there is a first time for everything. But the answer is no. While he may seek to boast that the old unification plan has been dropped, the stark fact is that his Party has secretly and furtively dressed it in different clothing. For all his native cunning, the Leader of the Opposition fails to conceal the fact that there is no effective change. While he used to talk of unification and the establishment of provinces, now he remains an ardent centralist and boasts of regions. The current ALP platform places great stress on the establishment of arbitrary regions- regions without reason, as they were described. There was no logic in their boundaries, little similarity of interest and no conclusion with the State or individual municipalities. Yet, again and again emphasis is placed throughout the present Labor Party platform on the significance and the role of regions and regional councils and, indeed, regional governments. These regional councils are simply the modern day manifestation of the proposed provincial governments. They represent stage one of the ALP grand scheme. Even the boundaries were identical in many instances. It was the whole unification policy- the centralist, insular power grab, the instrument of Labor’s unbending socialist goal- crudely disguised by a bunch of Labor Party amateurs in 1969. This is the simple and undeniable reason that the Labor Opposition is so opposed to the thrust of our federalism policy. Honourable members opposite know quite correctly that it spells the end of their socialist dream.
Consider for a moment the role that the previous Labor Government accorded these regional councils. Firstly, take the instance of revenue assistance grants where the only submissions for funding of municipalities had to be made by the notorious regional councils. Secondly, consider the procedures that the Labor Government required for the so-called area improvement grants. The regional councils were required to rate various applications from the constituent councils in order of priority. There is no great logic in this requirement. It was simply designed to promote the regional councils to a status which sought to challenge the role of State governments. It was the first of a series of specifically designed and thinly concealed attempts to establish provincial, or as they were more latterly called, regional councils. There we have the ALP plan. It is time it was recognised in the Parliament. It is time it was recognised in this nation. Honourable members opposite would socialise with their unification the human and the physical resources of this country because they believe it is the trendy democratic socialist thing to do.
But not even the great German democratic socialist, Willie Brandt, for whom the Leader of the Opposition has such great respect, supports this outdated and inept view of centralism. The German Party is more committed than ever to its reconstituted federalist arrangements. It upholds the practice of respecting independent state and local governing units. This is in direct contrast to the theory and practice of their predecessors, the National Socialists. The ALP would be better advised to follow the role that its trendy democratic socialist trendy friends in Germany have adopted.
-They are back in 1 904.
– They will be further back if they proceed with this extraordinary view and seek to contest the great social and national reform which the Fraser Government is introducing in this Bill. I support the Bill.
-The honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) was born into privilege, lives in privilege and he shows in his voice and his whole manner that this privilege involves the ‘we were born to rule’ mentality. He talked about regions. On this question, the boundaries were the responsibility of the then Minister for Urban and Regional Development, as I was, and we set up those regions in cooperation and after discussion with our State colleagues. To completely nail the untruth of this privileged man, the honourable member for La Trobe, in Victoria where a conservative government reigned under Mr Hamer as the Premier and Mr Hunt as the responsible Minister, in rural areas we accepted exactly the regions set up by that State. The same occurred in New South Wales under the Askin Liberal Conservative Government. So much for the so-called regions that were determined by us. They were determined by conservative State governments and we accept their boundaries and worked together in co-operation. I have said time and time again that we should work in co-operation with State Governments because I believe that the only way in which to solve the problems of local government is to work in a spirit of co-operation between the Australian, State and local governments and at the public servant level as well, and not in the way in which this Government is working- by keeping departments and governments in separate boxes. So I want to nail once and for all this spurious argument of these privileged young men on the back benches who do not understand the real feelings of the people.
I support the amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), that these Bills be withdrawn and redrafted. I intend to direct most of my remarks in this debate to the local government aspects of these 2 Bills. At the outset let me say that the Federal Labor Party is reviewing its policies and we feel that our new policies will have wide acceptance and be more farsighted than anything seen in this country before. We will draw on our experience in government. I do not think we can lay down firm policies but from our experience we would like to see programs and policies evolve after broad discussions at all levels of Government. Because of the problems facing local government in its attempts to deal with the grass roots problems facing our community, we believe that any basis for general revenue sharing should be reviewed over a 3 to 5-year period. It is only by continual review and updating of principles that we can come to grips with the problems facing local government.
This assistance which I am proposing began under the Whitlam Labor Government and would be channelled via a modified Australian Grants Commission to local government throughout Australia. It would be used to assist in providing adequate levels of community services, to promote the meeting of community needs on an equitable basis and to provide an easing of the pressure borne by local government through its share of the national debt burden and its requirement to continually raise rates to provide the basic services to our society.
This is not to say that a Labor government would not support a per capita basis for sharing its income with local government but, unlike the current Government, we recognise that per capita grants are not the answer to the problems of local government. The fiscal equalisation principles of the Australian Grants Commission that operated under the Australian Labor Government should still play the major part in revenue sharing mechanisms established by future Labor governments. The current minimum per capita sharing basis which is embodied in this legislation is full of danger for the more needy local government authorities. It is my understanding that 80 per cent of the money allocated to the Western Australian Government has been distributed amongst local government authorities on a per capita basis. The Western Australian Government has paid no attention whatever to the fiscal equalisation principles that the majority of local government bodies in Australia desire. A per capita grant should be given to all councils. We accept that this was a weakness in our Grants Commission legislation. So let there be no doubt about it. We are examining the mistakes we made in our efforts to develop new policies.
The percentage of the total allocation to be distributed on a per capita basis will be determined only after discussion involving federal, state and local governments together with the Australian Grants Commission. Having accepted that mistakes were made, we still contend that the majority of aid paid to local government should be on a needs basis. In adopting such a course a federal Labor government would actively pursue in co-operation with the States and local government organisations and associations the promotion of efficiency and rationalisation of local government services. In determining the level of general revenue sharing assistance we would ensure that this occurred only after consultation with State authorities, public hearings and published criteria and data. In addition to general revenue sharing mechanisms, a federal Labor government would make a significant amount of funds available to local government by reviewed, rationalised and flexible special purpose grants. This system of specific purpose grants affecting local government would express the Labor Party’s national concern for basic community standards. It would demonstrate our sense of responsibility and our priorities.
We would encourage innovation and rationalisation to foster efficiency. We would provide means by which the 3 levels of government might co-operate in a shared responsibility. We are moving to the view that these special purpose grants would be in the form of a block grant with general guidelines agreed upon by the other two levels of government. By these procedures we would try to achieve a balance between prevention, remedy, innovation and maintenance. It would also provide research and evaluation techniques to all levels of government. These are just a few of the thoughts we have. It is an integral part of our philosophy that local government be given a recognised place in the federal system. It is something for which we have fought in the past and for which we will fight in the future. Apart from a firmly recognised place within the federal system of government, we feel that local government should be treated as a meaningful partner in the federal system.
It should have an equal status in necessary areas with both the Commonwealth and State governments. This Government does not even pay lip service to these principles. It refuses to give local government the right to bring matters before the Advisory Council for Intergovernmental Relations. It denigrated the role of local government in the recent Constitutional Convention. In saying this, the Opposition recognises that there needs to be a positive program of improvement and reform of the interests of local government. It is a matter that we in the Australian Labor Party have under active consideration.
The Bills before the House contain further examples of how the Fraser Government allows ideology to interfere with common sense. The Bill dealing with local government is the worst example of this. As it now stands, it is in direct conflict with State legislation. Yet the States enacted their legislation to establish grants commissions only after the April Premiers Conference in accordance with what they were told at that Conference. These grants commissions were to form an integral part of the federalism policy of the Fraser Government, a policy which is now universally recognised as a sham or, should I say, a thimble and pea trick. The Fraser Government’s argument in asking the States to establish these bodies was that this role was not a proper function of the Australian Government. In other words, no Australian Government should be involved in allocating general revenue sharing assistance to local government. This was considered by the Government to be a function that properly lay with the States. It was just one more example of the Fraser Government washing its hands of any real involvement in the day to day lives of the people.
It seems that this Government is determined to return us to the past. We are seeing an attempt to freeze the future pattern of Federal relations into the pattern of the sterile years of 1949 to 1972, an era when the internal debt burden of local government increased by some 2000 per cent.
The debt burden of semi-government authorities, which include the sewerage authorities, rose by some 2800 per cent.
-What is wrong with that?
-What is wrong is that in that period the debt burden of the Commonwealth increased by only 55 per cent. There is no recognition of the basic fact that the federalism policy will work only if the 3 levels of governmentfederal, State and local- co-operate and work together collectively. By that I mean that the interrelationship should be among the 3 levels of government at the Public Service level. Instead, the misplaced ideology of this Government forces it to attempt to put the 3 levels of government into separate compartments. This attempt will fail as it has failed before.
If the Federal Government actively involves itself in programs affecting people at the community level, the federal system can work. But it will not work if the Federal Government refuses to soil its hands with problems at the local level. The removal of the Australian Grants Commission from the area of local government finance is a tragedy. The Labor Government drew on the unique experience of 40 years of the Grants Commission in the process of equalisation of financial assistance to help local government. Its expertise and experience were made available to more than 900 local government authorities throughout Australia. The purpose of this program was to assist the poorer shires and councils whose facilities and services were lagging behind. It was a fiscal equalisation or topping up process.
Undoubtedly, there were defects in the process but the overwhelming majority of councils accepted the Grants Commission and welcomed the substantial assistance it provided. It should be placed on record that the skills, techniques and expertise built up by the Grants Commission were not only attained during the 40-year period in which it evolved but were also developed enormously during the 3 years of the Whitlam Labor Government. The tragedy is that the expertise developed is not now being made available to or utilised for local government. The Grants Commission drew expertise from people with wide experience and from all levels of government. I doubt whether the States grants commissions will be able to provide a similar service, based on this skill and experience. Skilled people with this specialisation are scarce in this country and the setting up of State grants commissions will be a multiplication by 6 times, which is contrary to the so-called policy of not expanding the bureaucracy. By taking this course the Government is further expanding the bureaucracy.
Superficially, local government appears to be better off with the $l40m provided in the 1976-77 financial year under the new formula. This appears to be substantially more than the $79.9m provided under the last equalisation program of the Labor Government. But if we examine this figure closely it emerges quite plainly that local government will be much worse off. For a start, there is a split-up between per capita grants and equalisation grants. This means that the principle of equalisation, of giving more assistance to the needy shires and councils, has been given a lower priority than under the Labor Government. In fact, if one examines the facts to local government- and this is shown in the Budget documents- the actual total allocation to local government this year is 30 per cent less than it was in the last year of the Whitlam Labor Government.
Another future disadvantage for local government is that, like the States, its revenues will be threatened by attacks on the income tax collection basis of their revenue allocations. This will be seen in the application of tax indexation which substantially reduces the value of personal income tax as a growth tax. The States have sought assurances that their new growth tax will not be eroded by inflation. Without direct access to the Commonwealth, local government may not be in a position to press for the same assurances. Even Liberal Premiers like Mr Hamer and Sir Charles Court have joined their colleagues in other States in expressing concern about the implications of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill. The proposed power of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to levy further income tax disguised as a surcharge- and, therefore, not part of the base figure for calculation of entitlements- is a further threat to local government revenues. This is only one reflection of the basic problems with these Bills and the philosophy behind them. That is, they are not federalist at all. They are centralist disguised as the new federalism.
I suspect that the policies of the Government have been motivated mainly by an obsessive desire to destroy all achievements of the Labor Government. The Labor Government’s system of co-operative federalism, with its emphasis on the 3 levels of government acting together as equals, is the latest target of this obsession. Local government is becoming aware of what little regard is paid to it by the conservatives in this Parliament and elsewhere. They first saw signs of this when the conservatives prevented the Commonwealth Government from giving direct grants to local government in the 1974 referendum. They saw it again when the conservatives prevented local government from being represented at the Constitutional Convention. Massive reductions in section 96 specific purpose grants to the States and local government in the Budget is further evidence. This Government and many of its supporters accused the Labor Government of controlling State and local government decisions by use of section 96 provisions. In many areas of government this was simply not true. In areas such as the area improvement program, urban roads programs and environmental programs- just to name a few- the tied grants appropriated for these pro- grams were tied only after full discussions with local government, the community and State governments. We worked together. In fact, if one looks at the area improvement program one finds that these programs grew from the cooperation and involvement of local governments. In those areas local government, in fact, initiated these programs. It was only with the cooperation of the Federal and State governments that these programs were brought to life. The only way in which we will really attain successful federalism is by making sure that the 3 levels of government work together in a spirit of cooperation.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill and the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill. I will not waste time by commenting on the remarks of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). These Bills provide for a major initiative- an initiative unique in the history of this country. They provide for an effective role- a constitutional rolefor the States and an effective and responsible role for local government under the 3-tier system of government in this country. These Bills provide the means by which this Government will be able to support a proper distribution of the powers and functions of government between those 3 spheres so that government may be responsive to the needs and preferences of the community and of individuals. Such a system of government can benefit from the input of local knowledge and talent and provide protection against the excessive concentration of power.
The centralist philosophy of the former Whitlam Government was, of course, directly contrary to this philosophy in that it was the declared ambition of that Government to destroy the States. By the use of blatant or insidious means it sought to further its own centralist philosophy- to the detriment not only of the States but also of local government. Some minutes ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam)- I quote him as best I remember him -said that no policy has met with such universal resentment and condemnation as the new federalism policy of the Fraser Government. I believe that that quote is best applied to his record and to the record of his Government. I ask: If the Australian Labor Party’s concept of federalism was so effective, where is its representation in this chamber from Queensland? It has only one representative. How many representatives does it have from Western Australia? Only one. How many representatives does it have from Tasmania? None. There are 36 tired old men sitting on the Opposition benches in this chamber.
Where is the Labor Party’s representation of the truly non-metropolitan areas- those electorates that are not dominated by a large mining or industrial centre? It has none. Where is its representation on the Canberra committee- the committee that has been appointed by the various local government organisations in the States to represent their views in this Parliament? It does not have any representation and it never has had any representation on that committee. It always has been people from the conservative side of politics- from the Liberal National Country Party side of this House- whom the local government organisations in the States have seen fit to invite to become their representatives in the Federal Parliament.
Last night the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) had the temerity to say that Labor will be returned for its co-operative federalism. I only say that it was returned for its co-operative federalism- returned to the Opposition benches. That is where it will be kept for its co-operative federalism.
– Until its members all die out. Returning to these Bills I say firstly that the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill is most significant in that it provides for the provision of $643m in the current year- 1976-77- which is 2 1 per cent more than was provided in 1975-76 and which in fact represents an increase of $89m on what would have been given under the previous Government’s formula. This, of course, is the first stage of the federalism approach- the second being that of providing the capacity to the States to impose their own surcharges or to grant their own rebates. This Bill guarantees that a set percentage-33.6 per centof the net personal income tax will be returned to the States. It provides that no less than that available in previous years will be available in absolute terms.
The second Bill gives effect to the local government policy of this Government, which indicates that it has a very deep and genuine desire to give local government a real measure of independence and flexibility and to make it a genuine partner in our overall federal system. This Bill gives effect to the policy whereby untied grants to local government have been increased by 75 per cent from the grants of the previous year. It gives effect to a policy whereby, for the first time in our history, grants to local government are tied to a level of personal income tax. That level happens to be 1.52 per cent. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has indicated that he regards that as a minimum figure.
The Bill gaurantees that local government will receive no less than it has received in previous years. It provides a per capita component that is set at a rninimum of 30 per cent and it gives the States the opportunity to provide their own flexibility, to provide their own knowledge and to provide an equalisation component of the balance. The States and the State grants commissions are being given the power to be flexible. We totally oppose the concept that the fount of all knowledge and wisdom lies in Canberra, as the previous Government considered to be the case. The Bill also provides for payments to the States to be made in a single, lump sum form. This will assist local government greatly in that it will avoid the need for bridging finance and will relieve local government of some of its liquidity problems.
Let us look at some of the criticism of the legislation that was beaten up by the media last weekend and that has been very actively held to and grabbed by the Opposition. We have seen statements in the media that a major disputation is looming, that the new federalism policy is a sham and that the New South Wales Premier has called upon New South Wales senators to vote against the legislation. We have seen the federalism policy called unsympathetic and unnecessarily restrictive. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) said that the Prime Minister will have no defence to the criticism from the States which will inevitably follow. I think that the Australian Financial Review yesterday summed up the situation more accurately when, at the beginning of its article on the federalism policy, it stated:
As is often the case, the outraged reaction by the State governments against the form of the Commonwealth legislation on income tax sharing with the States and local government is mainly a sham. The Prime Minister pointed out that it is not intended to be a devious ploy.
I refer to clause 5 of the legislation whereby a surcharge or rebate may be introduced by regulation. The Treasurer announced in his second reading speech that it would be introduced after proper consultation with the States. I suggest that the commentators and maybe the Premiers themselves should have taken firm notice of the statement by the Treasurer that consultation would be effected before any regulation was used to vary rebates or surcharges on taxation. The Prime Minister has pointed out that in fact this was a safeguard for the States so that if any changes were effected, particularly any rebates were effected, it would not mean that the proportion going to the States would decline. I believe that this has been accepted by the Premiers, contrary to the rantings and ravings of the Leader of the Opposition. I ask him: Where have criticisms appeared in the Press of today and yesterday since the Prime Minister made his explanation on Tuesday. I have checked with the metropolitan dailies of every major capital city in this nation- the Australian, the Australian Financial Review and the Canberra Times- and have not seen one mention of continued resentment or of the dire predictions that the Premiers were supposed to be going to continue with as to the supposed sham and disaster of the Fraser federalism policy. They have accepted the explanation.
– You are kidding.
– I heard a lone voice from the back benches of the Opposition. I heard the rabbit once again. They have accepted the explanation. Over the weekend and earlier this week there was supposed to be such an issue. Where is the issue now? The Prime Minister has, of course, explained the matter most succinctly and, I believe, to the satisfaction of every State government and local councils of this Commonwealth. The supposed veto in the local government legislation by the Commonwealth of recommendations of the State grants commissions again is an issue that has been explained. The legislation supports the principle that local government should be able to put its case directly to the grants commissions, that hearings should be held in public, that the evidence of local government bodies on finances should be made public.
There should be due recognition of the funds that the Commonwealth provides. I refer to the announcement by the New South Wales Minister for Local Government on the allocations to various local government councils and point out that that announcement gave no indication whatsoever as to the proportion of money that came from the Commonwealth and the proportion of money that came from the State. In fact, well in excess of 90 per cent of those funds going to local government municipalities and shires came from the Commonwealth. I believe that if it is 90 per cent, members of this Parliament, whether they occupy the Government benches or the Opposition benches, should explain to their electors that this basically and primarily is Commonwealth money.
– That is a reasonable request.
– Of course. I am a reasonable man, like my colleague who represents the Darling Downs. I turn to other claims made by local government organisations which I think are worth canvassing in this House. Claims have been made, and they have been made by members of the Opposition, that the totality of funding to local government this year compared with that of last year has declined from $274m to $195m, a decrease of 28.8 per cent. The honourable member for Reid referred to the decline as being 30 per cent. I believe that is a complete misconception. Admittedly the people who made this comment have said that the reduction is due to the phasing out of the Regional Employment Development scheme and, further, that the RED scheme was discontinued by the Whitlam Government. I believe that is the major reason it can be claimed that the overall quantum of funds for local government has been reduced this year from that of last year. Who in his right mind would want to include the RED scheme as a normal type of funding process for local government? The RED scheme provided assistance of a temporary non-recurring nature. It was a patch up job to cover the disastrous unemployment that occurred during the Labor Government’s regime.
Further criticisms are explained in terms of gross arithmetical errors and in the fact that some of the figures used are not correct. It has been claimed that the Area Improvement Program represents $611 ,000. In fact that is not so. It represents $6,000,111. People who make these criticisms should first check their facts and figures. I believe it is totally erroneous to include moneys allocated under schemes like the RED scheme, the Capital Assistance for Leisure Facilities scheme, the Area Improvement Program scheme, the XYZ scheme, and whatever else they were called, as an argument that funds for local government have been disastrously cut within a period of 2 years.
The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have called on local government to cut its cloth wherever possible, as the Commonwealth and the State governments have had to do, as part of a responsible approach to economic recovery in this country. Nevertheless in some cases councils have increased their rates. In fact in some States they have gone up 20 per cent. We know of some councils which have been extravagant, particularly in providing buildings and facilities for their staff. I believe all honourable members can call to mind instances of shires or municipalities with relatively low rate incomes which have tremendous problems with roads and in providing services, which have been very extravagant in their building programs. I know also that there are many shires and municipalities which have made a very brave and conscientious effort to cut their operating costs and contain their expenditure.
This Government has provided very significant increases under the tax sharing formula for untied general revenue grants. Some shires in my electorate have had increases of up to 200 per cent. They average over 90 per cent and the shires are very grateful. It is interesting to note that some shires have said that they will make an effort to cut their rates by up to 10 per cent in spite of some of the enormous problems that they have. They have to face problems resulting from the changing requirements and expectations of the community as to what local government should be doing. There are demands for social and welfare services. They also have enormous problems because of the system of rating under which many of them have to operate. In some local authority areas a large proportion of the population does not contribute to rate revenues yet it uses the facilities that local government provides. Some areas have severe flooding problems. I immediately think of a shire in my electorate, the Gemalong Shire, which has survived a very serious flood for the fourth time. The last 3 floods in that shire required expenditure of nearly $lm to restore roadworks and bridges alone. Some municipalities have problems with sewerage.
I close by referring to the major problem which I believe exists for local government, particularly in country areas, and that is the problem of roads. The Labor Government’s total disregard for people outside the major metropolitan centres is best shown by the way it treated roads and road funds for local government councils.
Prior to the introduction of the Roads Grants Act in 1974 by the Labor Government we had the old Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which provided S per cent escalation for grants within its program. That figure of 5 per cent is out of date now because of the current inflation rate which we inherited from the previous Administration. Nevertheless the previous Government very effectively implemented the new Act in 1 974 and it resulted in a disastrous decline in funds for local government, particularly for rural arterial and rural local roads. I have some figures which are worth mentioning. In New South Wales the total allocations for rural arterial roads in the past 3 years were as follows: 1973-74, $ 13.7m; 1974-75, $11.2m; 1975-76, $9.7m. For rural local roads the figures were as follows: 1973-74, $21.6m; 1974-75, $15.5m; 1975-76, $14m.
I have just come from a meeting of municipal bodies in Victoria where the situation is even more disastrous than in New South Wales. I was talking to one of the shire councillors in the area of the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). The decline in road financing imposed by the previous Labor Government has been disastrous for rural local roads and rural arterial roads. That Government looked after only the major metropolitan centres.
– You know that is not true.
– The electoral record of the Opposition certainly did not justify the marvellous record the Opposition is claiming for country areas. This happened at a time when inflation, particularly in regard to road building, is running at very high levels of between 20 per cent and 25 per cent. This Government has taken on the task of repairing the terrific damage done by the Labor Government as far as road funds are concerned. We have a long way to go but at least we have supplemented the previous Labor Government’s Budget of 1975-76 by $64m. We have provided further supplementary finance of $36m for the current financial year. It is interesting to reflect also on the fact that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and the Prime Minister requested that these additional funds- $ 1 1.3m in the case of New South Wales- be allocated to local government for rural road building. However the Minister for Transport in New South Wales was very loath to accede to that request. I believe we are facing problems of great significance so far as road funding is concerned. I refer to employment, alleviating the problem of the rundown of plant and equipment owned by local shires, and decentralisation. These Bills provide a base for a unique system of federalism. They reaffirm the constitutional fabric of this country, protect the sovereignty of the States and allow local government to be a completely effective partner in our federal system. I support the Bills and reject the amendment.
-I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) which is in these terms:
That all words after ‘that ‘ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until it has been redrafted following proper consultation with the State Governments concerning its objectionable features.
The honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) is quite a likeable young man but at his youthful age I think he ought to stick closer to the truth otherwise it will be impossible for him to do so when he grows older. I suggest that at this stage he should realise that the States are anything but satisfied with this legislation. That is the very reason we are moving the amendment. I shall make a few major points on this whole issue because I believe that the introduction of the so-called Fraser new federalism is a confidence trick on both local governments and the States. It lays down a fixed percentage of revenue from personal income tax to go to both the States and local government. The Government says that it can amend the fixed percentage from time to time by an Act of Parliament, but it will not necessarily amend it. Accordingly, with the introduction of tax indexation personal income tax will be a no-growth tax.
– What is wrong with that?
– I ask my friend to wait a minute and he will hear. He should not get so excited. If he would talk less and listen more he would be much wiser than he is. The point I am making is that this is an allocation of a fixed percentage of personal income tax which is a nogrowth tax owing to the introduction of tax indexation. The allocation to the States- I ask the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) to listen carefully, not to walk out, and he will find out some information- and to local government will not rise in line with the inflation rate. Therefore, the real value of these funds allocated to the States will decline year by year. The real value will decline year by year because the amount is based on a fixed percentage of a no-growth tax. That is the crunch. In turn, that will force the States to either dramatically cut their programs, particularly their works program, as the real value of the funds received from the Federal Government grows less and less year by year or introduce a State income tax which, year by year, will steadily increase. In other words, this will force the States to introduce State income tax and place a burden of double taxation on the Australian people. This is the crunch of the whole program under the socalled Fraser new federalism. Local government, owing to the reduction in the real value of funds which it will receive from the federal arena, will be forced to either reduce programs, increase rates or increase borrowings. That is the position.
– What is the alternative?
– The alternative is very easy. We should stay with the system which the Australian Labor Party introduced which means that grants from the Commonwealth year by year are indexed against inflation. The grants under Fraser ‘s new federalism will not be indexed against inflation. Allocations to the States and to local government should be a fixed percentage of total federal revenue. This would mean that allocations would be indexed against inflation as is revenue from import duties, sales tax and the like. They are growth taxes. Federal revenue is a growth tax.
– We are doing that.
– The honourable member obviously does not know the Government’s legislation. The Government is not allocating funds based on a fixed percentage of all federal revenue. It is allocating funds only as a fixed percentage of personal income tax. They are 2 completely different things. One is a growth tax. All revenue is a growth tax and therefore indexed against inflation whereas personal income tax will no longer be a growth tax. I think it should never be forgotten that it was a Labor government which was the first national government to allocate funds directly to local government despite 23 years of appeals by the Labor Party when in opposition to successive conservative and anti-Labor governments. No action whatsoever was taken until the Whitlam Labor Government was elected.
Immediately we introduced grants from the Commonwealth Grants Commission, based on need, to local government. Immediately we introduced the area improvement program which was under the administration of the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) who is sitting here today. Once again this was based on the needs concept. It did a great deal to improve the quality of life in the quickly expanding areas on the fringes of the great cities, areas such as Blacktown and Mount Druitt in my electorate in the outer Western Suburbs. We also made available funds from the Department of
Tourism and Recreation. Of course many honourable members know what was done under the community health program. Before Labor was elected in 1972 there was no national community health program. These facilities and great reforms such as community health centres, drug referral units, anti-alcoholism units, home nursing care services and psychiatric referral units were introduced under the community health program. They did not exist before the Labor Government was elected.
By the same token, we did not see the Regional Employment and Development scheme before the Labor Party was elected. With the massive increase in unemployment which is now occurring I believe it will be essential to introduce something of that nature again. One should never forget that it was the Whitlam Labor Government which first introduced the allocation of national funds to local government. This despite the fact that we had asked year by year previous conservative governments, of which this Government is a sister, to allocate such funds. I submit that the funds allocated under this legislation or any funds allocated by the national Parliament to local government should be allocated through the Commonwealth Grants Commission. I make that submission on this basis: For a start, the question of need is paramount. We do no say that all funds should be allocated on the basis of need. We maintain that a proportion can be allocated on a per capita basis.
– By handout?
-The honourable member ought to know. He will find out in a few minutes how the Government is handing out money to areas which do not need any assistance.
– It is 80 per cent in Western Australia.
– Yes, it is 80 per cent in Western Australia. Our friend, the former State secretary of the Austraiian Democratic Labor Party up until 3 years ago ought to know about the DLP in Western Australia. Anyhow, I submit that these funds should be allocated by the Commonwealth Grants Commission because many of the State grants commissions will be under the administration of conservative, Liberal governments which have been notorious in the pastthis is exemplified by the conservative governments in New South Wales under Askin, Lewis and Willis- because they have not allocated funds on the basis of need but mainly on the basis of political patronage.
For that reason I believe it is essential that we have one body allocate these funds. It will have an overall look throughout the width and breadth of Australia and it will allocate the funds on a similar basis. Some funds will be allocated on a per capita basis but the bulk will be allocated on a needs concept. This will be a regular concept right throughout the width and breadth of Australia. Added to that, I submit very sincerely that to give the States the right to raise their own income taxes- and that is what this legislation does in effect- is to weaken the ability of the national Government to manage the economy effectively. After all, economic management in this country today is weak enough as it is, as exampled by the economic policies of this Government. But it will be made all the weaker and all the more difficult to manage if the States are given the right to raise their own income taxes. Furthermore, it is going to have the very serious impact that people will be forced finally to pay double taxation and thenincome tax bill in the long term must increase.
I have been dealing with the question of need, which I think is very important indeed, and I wish to quote from an article in yesterday’s Australian Financial Review by the financial writer, Paddy McGuinness. The title of the article is The hidden bite of Fraser’s Federalism. Would anybody in this Parliament suggest that the Australian Financial Review is a young radical newspaper? I would say that it is a very conservative newspaper, and yet here is a headline: The hidden bite of Fraser’s Federalism. The article states in part:
The new legislation, by allowing for 30 per cent or more of grants to be allocated on a population oasis, amounts to offering assistance to those councils which are not in need of it on any criterion of need.
Thus, of the grants recommended in June 197S, the municipality of Blacktown received the single largest sum -
That is in my own electorate- $1.25m, while certain inner city and suburban councils, such as Woollahra, Hunter’s Hill and Willoughby in Sydney were considered either to be too low-rated by comparison with the standard -
That is to say, the rates that they charged were too low by comparison with the standard- or too well-provided with services, to be in any need of a grant.
The article goes on: the highest average per capita income being in Woollahra, at $6,596 and the lowest in Blacktown, $2,522.
That is per head of population.
Naturally the larger size of families in Blacktown (where in 1 97 1 , 48 per cent of the population was under 2 1 years of age) partly accounts for the low per capita income. The average for the whole Sydney metropolitan area was equivalent in June 1 976 terms to $3,682.
But here is the crunch:
The wealth areas pay, in terms of the UCVs well below the Sydney average and the poorer areas well above it.
Woollahra had a rate burden in terms of UCVs of only 75 per cent of the Sydney average, while Blacktown paid 120 percent, Leichhardt 139 per cent, and Windsor 161 percent.
In other words, the poorer the area in terms of income the greater the rate it pays. Naturally, these were the areas, in terms of the legislation brought in by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he was the Minister, which received assistance because they were in need. The article continues:
Blacktown comes out as having a revenue raising disability of -1253, by contrast with excess revenue raising ability in Woollahra + 1459, Kogarah + 1275 and Sydney City + 1206.
I think those are very interesting figures taken from the Australian Financial Review- hardly a young radical newspaper. It is a very conservative paper, but the article by Paddy McGuinness refers to the hidden bite of Fraser’s federalism.
I think it is very important to consider some of these cases and I will refer to a very good local example of which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be aware. In my electorate, trie Blacktown Municipal Council receives $ 1.87m under this legislation, but it receives that only because the funds, coming as a block grant to the State, were allocated by the Wran Labor Government on a basis of need. Had it been the previous Willis or Lewis or Askin Government, which did not allocate on the basis of need, Woollahra would have been getting the lion’s share of the funds and not areas of need such as Blacktown. I think we should look also at what that Council would have got under the Labor Government legislation. Quite apart from funds for health services, quite apart from funds for road building, quite apart from funds which were received under the Regional Employment Development Scheme and others, this financial year it would have received from the area improvement program, from the funds allocated under the Commonwealth Grants Commission legislation and by the former Department of Tourism and Recreation- and all these funds were indexed against inflation- between $2.1m and $2.2m at a minimum, as compared to $1.87m. Even then, it can get that grant of $ 1.87m only because it has a State Labor Government which allocates on the basis of need. In other words, the Labor Government allocated funds as a major concept on a basis of need. This Government does not believe in need.
This Government believes in privilege. What is more, it believes in maintaining that privilege in the years to come.
Furthermore, the Government goes much further than that. It is deliberately putting a confidence trick over the States and local government by tying the allocation of funds to personal income tax, which is a no-growth tax because of the introduction of tax indexation. Secondly, the Government refuses to allocate these funds tied to a formula relating to the total Federal revenue, which is a growth tax and indexed against inflation. Therefore, if the funds were allocated in that way, they would be indexed against inflation. The last of the confidence tricks on the States and local government is that this Government has laid down that the Federal Government can treat personal tax increases as surcharges. That is, they will not be taken into account in the formula for disbursement of funds to the States and local government. That is the final confidence trick of the lot. For those reasons, I strongly support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Adelaide, which states: the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until it has been redrafted following proper consultation with the State governments concerning its objectionable features.
I strongly support that proposition, because of the confidence trick, which I have already detailed to the Parliament, which is being perpetrated by this Government under the heading Fraser ‘s new federalism’.
-The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) is saying that personal income tax is not a growth tax, really showed the Labor Party at its strength. Of course it is not a growth tax if more people are not put into work, and that seems to be Labor Parry objective. The 2 Bills the subject of this debate are the basis of the Government’s new federalism policy. I think there is little need to go into the problems which arise under a centralist government. We had 3 years of a centralist government, and that experiment was certainly a disaster for Australia, as was shown at the last poll. The criticism of centralism includes the fact that effort is duplicated where 2 governments are in fact doing one job. Resources are wasted where the governments which spend the money without having a part in raising it may not be inclined to spend the money wisely. Clearly the attempts by the Labor Government to govern the whole country from Canberra with a huge increase in tied grants led to decisions being taken by bureaucrats who are not attuned to the real needs of local people.
Federalism, on the other hand, is a return to the basic principles of sound government. It gives financial responsibility to governments both at State and local level in that they will be financially responsible for the services they provide. No longer will they be able to disregard all responsibility and say it is all Canberra’s fault. Probably more importantly it is based on the fact that those nearest the people know best how to spend the money in their area of responsibility. In other words, the basis services required by the community should be provided by the level of government closest to it. It is a more efficient method of distributing funds and hopefully the funds will be used more efficiently. Of course those receiving the funds will be accountable and responsible for their expenditure. It seems at this stage that it is responsibility that certainly the South Australian State Government is most concerned about. The Labor Government in that State, as I shall detail later, has a history of blaming all its failures on the Federal Government.
The basis of the new income tax sharing scheme is that the States will now receive a guaranteed share of personal income tax, being some 33.6 per cent of personal income tax raised. Similarly, local government will have access to 1.52 per cent of personal income tax this year and an amount no less in future years- that is, $140m this year. This is an increase of some 75 per cent over that provided by the Australian Labor Party in the previous years.
– Seventy-five per cent?
– Yes, a 75 per cent increase. As income tax is a growth tax the States and local government will receive an automatic boost in revenue. In fact, stage 1 of the revenue sharing for the States provides a guarantee that for the next 4 years the States can never get less than the Whitlam Government’s new formula, including the 3 per cent betterment tax, would have provided. In fact, in this year under the formula of 33.6 per cent, the States will get approximately $89m more in revenue sharing this year than they would have got under the Whitlam Government. Of course, as revenue from personal income tax increases as productivity grows, so the States’ revenue will continue to grow.
As part of the whole scheme the Advisory Council for Inter-Governmental Relations has been set up. This body is constituted with 5 members from the Commonwealth Government, six from local government- this shows our interest in local government- and six from the States as well as S citizens. The Council will advise the Government on responsibility and revenue sharing as well as provide a medium for consultation and co-operation between Federal, State and local governments in vital areas such as health, welfare, education and community services. This is the basis of co-operative federalism. I think an extremely good example of that co-operation can be found in the foreshadowed amendments to this Bill which have been put forward as a result of representations made to the Government. These amendments relate to clauses of the Bill which could have contained powers outside those envisaged by the Government.
I want to deal now with the money allocated for local government in this financial year. There has been a certain amount of disquiet caused by the Minister of Local Government in South Australia, Mr Virgo, who has been running around the country claiming local government would be severely hurt by the new federalism policy. He has been trying to play politics with gross, blatant, misleading untruths. This year local government will receive total payments of around $ 194.92m. Last financial year it received $ 165.37m. This is a 17.8 per cent increase. This, of course, is made up firstly of $140m being untied lump sum payments to local authorities to be used in accordance with their own priorities and, secondly, other specific purpose payments.
These figures do not include the temporary, non-recurrent payments such as those for the Regional Employment Development scheme given by the previous Government at a time when the country and the economy was on the brink of disaster and that Government was attempting to bale the country out by throwing money around with both hands. That money for the RED scheme and others was never meant to be anything other than money provided on a temporary non-recurring basis. It had been provided for the specific purpose of relieving unemployment rather than to assist local government in the carrying on of its normal on-going function. For anyone to suggest that it is part of local government’s normal revenue is being blatantly untruthful. Such a scandalous abuse of the true facts by members of the Labor Party in South Australia and members of the Opposition in these 2 Houses of Parliament is utterly contemptible. It ought to be remembered that the Commonwealth Government retains the initiative where necessary to make special purpose grants to initiate programs in agreed areas of national need, to encourage innovation and to meet special needs. But the Government has made it absolutely clear that it will not use the special purpose grants as they have been used by the previous Government as a basis for centralism.
Whilst the Labor Party is running around abusing the federalism policy, the local governments in my area are certainly sitting back waiting in somewhat joyful anticipation of the lump sum payments that are due to them. I will give but a few examples. The Victor Harbour Town Council in my electorate will receive $52,000 this year which is a 300 per cent increase. I am told that the Noarlunga City Council, which covers part of my electorate and part of the electorate of the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman)- and he is an excellent member- did not receive any specific purpose payments last year. That Council will receive $425,000 this year compared with $260,000 last year, an increase of some 63.4 per cent. I would like to see the State and federal Labor Party members, who have valiantly tried to discredit this Government, tell the people of that council area how they are going to be worse off under this Federal Government when they receive 63 per cent more money than they received last year, even taking into consideration the special grants that were handed out last year.
– They would put them on a breathalyser if they said it in Tasmania.
-They would indeed. Let us take a look at the South Australian State Government. Premier Dunstan and his Ministers continually attack the Federal Government for every shortcoming of their own State Government’s inadequacies. Only on Tuesday of this week we had a prime example of Dunstan ‘s scaremongering misrepresentation. A report which appeared on the front page of the Advertiser is a prime example of how the Premier is playing politics. The report stated:
Mr Dunstan said yesterday, the Federal Government had made provision in the first Bill which had not been there when the matter had been discussed at the June Premiers’ Conference….. there is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Federal Government exempting further taxes until there is nothing left for the States. And the whole thing can be done by proclamation. The first thing we hear about it is from a notice in the Gazette and that’s it.
Mr Dunstan, supposedly a lawyer and a Queen’s Counsellor, cannot even read the Bill. Clause 8 of the Bill provides for minimum entitlements, so what he has said again is blatantly untrue. Mr Dunstan wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in which he said:
It would not seem that you, the Prime Minister, intend to stretch the term surcharge to breaking point by declaring that it can encompass any income tax at all. If clause 5A of the Bill remains unchanged I suggest that you have not so much introduced a different interpretation as altered the entire concept of your tax sharing scheme.
Dunstan alleges that this Government has altered the entire concept. Let us look at clause S to which he refers. It is this clause that enables the Government to declare a surcharge or rebate so that the yield or cost of these surcharges or rebates applied in appropriate circumstances by the Commonwealth will not be included in the base figure from which the States and local government entitlements will be calculated. This clause is in fact implemented for situations that could be of immense benefit to the States and it is either through Dunstan ‘s naivety or desire to misrepresent the situation for political purposes that he makes such statements. If, for example, tax concessions were given in a mini-Budget, which would in fact reduce the share going to the States unless they were exempted, the States would be worse off. This clause enables the Commonwealth to exempt such concessions from the allocations going to the States. This clause means that the States can have certainty as to the funds that will be going to them in any one year and they can therefore budget on that basis.
It ought also to be remembered that the States were given a guarantee that never in the next 4 years would their revenue fall below the amount that the Whitlam Government formula would have yielded. Of course, they are getting some $89m more than the Whitlam formula would have provided. It is quite clear that Dunstan is talking absolute rubbish and such stupid statements do him little credit. But, of course, his unique ability to distort the facts into blatant untruths is becoming well known. The Federal Government is always the butt of the South Australian Government’s abuse for that Government’s inadequacies in many cases because of that State Government’s gross incompetence. Let us look at one example of Commonwealth Government bashing. An article concerning Hugh Hudson, the Minister for Planning in South Australia appeared on the front page of the Advertiser on 17 August, the day on which this Government handed down the Budget. The article reads:
Mr Hudson was amplifying an address he gave to the biennial planning congress in Adelaide in which he predicted a savage’ rise in the petrol price in today’s Federal Budget and warned of a social disaster for low income and remote suburb families if prices reached $4 a gallon as in Italy.
What absolute rubbish. The surcharge was not even contained in the Budget. We ought to look at what the South Australian Government has received. It has received $9.4m for water supply purposes, something no other State has received. A total amount of $50m has been given for sewerage throughout Australia. I have been told that the South Australian Government has allocated its share to the Labor held seats. If that is true what a fine example it is of an extremely fair State government, I must say.
Let us look briefly at the South Australian Budget. South Australia finished the year with a $2.3m surplus. The estimated entitlement under the new tax sharing arrangements for 1976-77 is $438.3m- $75m more than last year. This is a 2 1 per cent increase. South Australia will receive $9. 8m more than it would have expected to receive under the previous arrangements. South Australia in general is in a better financial position than any other State. South Australia and local government is doing and has done very well under this Government. The sooner the South Australian Government grasps the responsibility that goes with the funds it is responsible for their own spending, the better off South Australians will be. These Bills are in the interests of all States and for that reason I support them.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House that the Government has approved an increase in the first advance payment to wheat growers from $55.12 per tonne, which is equivalent to $1.50 per bushel, in respect of wheat of the 1975-76 crop, to $66.00 per tonne, or $1.80 per bushel, on deliveries from the 1976-77 harvest. The Government recognises that the wheat industry faces the prospect of a substantially reduced crop this season due to a drought. I can understand the support of the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) for this proposition. Despite the increase in the level of the first advance to $66.00 per tonne, cash flow to the industry on delivery of wheat from the 1976-77 harvest will be approximately $435m compared with $5 13m last season.
The increase in the first advance will help offset the industry’s reduced cash flow and give a much needed stimulus to rural areas. I would also point out that stocks of wheat at the end of the 1976-77 season will be negligible and the increase will help to give farmers the necessary confidence to maintain a high level of plantings next year. It will also demonstrate internationally our commitment to world food security. Arrangements have been made with the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank for a drawing limit under Commonwealth guarantee, sufficient to cover the higher level of the first advance and to meet the Australian Wheat Board ‘s marketing expenses on the total quantity of wheat delivered in the 1976-77 season.
This added first advance payment without doubt will help to compensate wheat growers who this year in so many areas have suffered firstly from quite extended drought conditions and more recently from heavy rain. In both circumstances the result is that the wheat growers’ overall returns are expected to be down at a time when their costs are rising. Taking into account particularly the very heavy burden of increased freight rates in most wheat growing areas there is no doubt that this additional first advance payment will prove of significant help in ensuring cash flows not just to wheat growers but to everybody in wheat growing communities.
-The purpose of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill and the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill is-
Motion (byMrBourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Hurford’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Clause 1 (Short title).
-The purpose of clause 1 of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill 1976 is to introduce legislation for the new financial arrangements for the sharing of revenue from personal income tax collections between the Federal Government and State governments and through the State governments to local governments. It also seeks to implement the main sections of the Fraser Government’s centralist federalism policy. In short, the Bill is an answer to a Federal politician’s dream because its idea is to off-load on to the State Governments all the onerous, contentious and unpopular revenue gathering activities and responsibilities and so blame them on the States, and all the easy programs -
– I rise to order. Clause 1 deals specifically with the tide of the Bill and I do not think that the honourable member should be allowed to speak to anything other than the tide.
-The situation at the moment is that we are trying to work out what should happen with this Bill. In the circumstances the honourable member leading for the Opposition was given a certain latitude while the situation relating to the Bill was discussed; so we might allow the honourable member to continue for a period of time until we find out exactly where we are.
– Might I suggest that if clause 1 is put and agreed to we then take clauses 2 to 8.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 8- by leave- taken together.
– It is extremely difficult to try to put a pertinent comment on the legislation before the chamber. The Government already has gagged debate on what is claimed to be important legislation. If the Government Whip would exercise a little flexibility and understanding I am sure that the passage of this legislation would flow much more easily through this chamber and there would be a more conciliatory atmosphere in the chamber. I suggest seriously to honourable members opposite that something be done about the Government Whip before he disrupts completely procedures.
– I rise to order. To what clause is the honourable member addressing himself?
-It was my understanding that this Bill was not to go into Committee. If the Chair is informed of what is happening it might help the business of the House. Although it has nothing to do with the Bill, let me say this: I have never seen the business of this Committee run as badly as it has been run in the last 2 days. The occupant of the Chair has not known from one moment to the next what was going to happen. I believe that there is a need for a little more co-operation and a little more -appreciation in dealing with the legislation before the Parliament. If that were done, there would be no need, for example, for the honourable member for Griffith to rise on a point of order in relation to the subject matter under discussion. I remind the honourable member for Griffith that I have been an occupant of this Chair for 20 years and know a little about what is relevant and what is not relevant. In dealing with the need to see legislation passed, I also try to use a little common sense. Common sense does not seem to be used in some other quarters. At present, the Committee is considering together clauses 2 to 8 of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill 1976.
-I thank you, Mr Chairman, for your lucid comments on this matter. In my earlier remarks, I was responding to the comment that you made earlier. It seems that Government supporters, particularly the Government Whip and the Deputy Government Whip, are determined in any way possible to deny to Opposition members the opportunity to discuss this legislation.
– Talk to the clauses.
-If I could get the opportunity, and if the Committee knew what it was doing -
– Order! If the honourable member continues interjecting, he will not be in the chamber to hear what the Opposition is saying on these clauses.
- Mr Chairman, this is the difficulty I have been facing in the last several minutes. First, there was confusion over what was to be discussed and whether this legislation was to be considered in Committee and then there was the added interruption by the Government Whip. I again put it to the Government and to Government supporters that -
– I rise to take a point of order.
– Here we go again! You do not want to have a debate, do you?
– A point of order, Mr Chairman! I seek your guidance, Sir, whether the honourable member for Shortland in fact is speaking to the clauses before the Committee? You have addressed the Committee on this matter and have made, I believe, a ruling on the subject to the effect that the honourable member should get on with speaking to the subject matter of the clauses rather than attacking the Government.
– Order! In response to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Higgins, I point out that I explained earlier on another point of order that I had been informed that an agreement had been made as to the procedures to be followed in relation to this legislation. I still hope that in this Parliament the honouring of agreements continues to be the standard followed. The Chair is not in a position to know whether or not agreements have been made. In reply to the earlier point of order, I suggested that a certain amount of flexibility was available while I was endeavouring to find out what the true situation was. I understand at this moment that an agreement was made in relation to certain steps to be taken regarding the second reading stage. I accepted what I was told. As I have said, in some instances lately the Chair has not been given information as to what is happening. If the occupant of the chair were to be given this information, his task of trying to control the chamber and assisting in the passage of legislation would be made much easier.
-Again, Mr Chairman, I express my gratitude to you. As I said earlier, I was responding to what I thought was your very wise assessment of the situation. Again I was interrupted by Government members. I am certain that you intended that I make some response to them. Within clauses 2 to 8 of the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill 1976 definitions are included, particularly the definition of special surcharge’ to which I wish to advert. In the last few days there has been considerable discussion and claims by the Government that it is not its intention to declare some sort of new tax a surcharge without proper consultation with the State governments and without the cognisance and the agreement of the State Premiers. Having in mind the record of this Government in the past 1 1 months there is no way in the world one could expect that the Government commitment would be discharged.
There is no doubt whatsoever, within the definitions in clause 4 and the remaining clauses to clause 8 of this BUI, that the revenue available to States will be fixed by adoption of indexation principles. Provision has been made for a minimum entitlement and clause 8 deals specifically with that minimum entitlement of States. But that minimum entitlement does not take into account that, as Commonwealth revenue expands in future years, the share that the States receive will not expand in real terms. Indexation, in effect, will limit in real terms the amount of revenue that the States will receive in future. Quite clearly, the States have woken up to that fact.
There was a great deal of hand-shaking and back-slapping earlier in the year by LiberalCountry Party Pemiers when they thought they had received a good deal from this Government. But now they have woken up to what has happened. They have realised that they have been sold a pig in a poke and they will not receive the revenue funding and the revenue expansion that they expected in earlier times. In the years to come, following the passage of this legislation, if provision is not made for the States’ share to be expanded, States will be forced to levy their own taxes. That is what this Bill is all about. It concerns the reintroduction of a system of double income tax, the reintroduction of State income taxes. We saw on 1 May in New South Wales what the people thought of double income tax. So let us return to the definition of ‘special surcharge’ and what flows from this surcharge.
Behind these clauses and this legislation is the firm determination on the part of the Fraser Government to opt out of its responsibilities, to opt out of initiatives that were properly Federal initiatives and to force them back on to the States. It seeks to force the States to fund those initiatives as it is forcing the States to take over programs such as the school dental health care program and to provide additional finance for sewerage. In order to meet these responsibilities the States will have to introduce a State income tax. So, the Government seeks to return us to a situation that prevailed 35 years ago. This is the great turn-back-the-clock Government. What we are getting from this Government is not cooperative federalism -
– We are on daylight saving.
– Be quiet and learn something for a change.
– We will not learn anything from you.
– You stay in the fowl house where you belong. What we are getting from this Government is coercive federalism, coercion of the States by this Government. We are getting coercion, not co-operation, and the very clear result, commencing on 1 July next year, will be the introduction in a number of States of State income tax. We will see the reintroduction of a system of double income tax which, when Prime Minister Menzies offered such taxing powers to the Premiers in 1951, was rejected by the Premiers. We will see the abandonment of all the progress made under uniform taxation and the return to a position of State income taxes through which individuals, sole traders and partnerships will be discriminated against by this legislator because the provisions of State income tax will apply to individuals and not to companies.
We will see individual income tax earners, partnerships and sole traders attempting to form themselves into companies in areas where they can evade the tax penalties that will be imposed in the States as a result of the legislation which the Government is forcing on the States. The States do not want it. The people do not want it.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Clauses 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 Eric Robinson)- by leave- read a third time.
– by leave- I wish to advise the House of major initiatives that have been approved by the Government concerning the administration of the Australian broadcasting system. A new structure is to be set up that will allow a much greater public and industry participation in broadcasting planning and development. One of the initiatives is to make licensing the sole responsibility of a new independent statutory authority known as the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The Tribunal will have quasi-judicial powers over the issue, renewal and revocation of licences for commercial and public broadcasters, and the authority to hold public inquiries on broadcasting issues. It will have from 3 to 5 full time members and 6 associate members. One of the first inquiries of the Tribunal will concern the matter of self regulation of Australian broadcasting. I emphasise that the matter of self regulation will be decided only after full public discussion and debate.
Under the new arrangements, broadcasting planning will be undertaken by my Department, and I will appoint a broadcasting council made up of national, commercial and public broadcasters which will be involved in planning proposals prepared by the Department. The council will consist of 9 part time councillors. I would stress here that the planning function of my Department will not involve it in the setting of programming standards or in influencing the programming output of the various sectors of the broadcasting system.
At the same time, the independence and integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be maintained. The services provided by the ABC will be subject to a periodic review by an independent public inquiry, with the first such inquiry being undertaken in 1980. The composition of the Commission will continue to be 9 commissioners, but the present legislation will be amended to provide that the Commissioners represent each of the 6 States. And that at least 2 of the 9 Commissioners be women. The appointments to the newly constituted Commission will be announced later. The length of the periods of appointment will be staggered to avoid retirement of a number of Commissioners at the same time.
The government has also decided that while the ABC continues entrepreneurial activities, particularly in relation to orchestras, the real cost of these activities should be reflected and reported by the Commission in its annual reports. The Government also believes that the Australian Broadcasting. Commission should consider setting up formal consultative machinery with a view to achieving the greatest degree of staff management co-operation.
Under the new arrangements, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be disbanded. The rights and privileges of staff affected will be protected and there will be consultations with the Public Service Board and the staff associations concerned.
These decisions follow the report of the inquiry into broadcasting conducted by the Department and headed by Mr F. J. Green. The report will be released next week. I wish to make it clear that the inquiry was concerned with the structure of the broadcasting system- not with program content or related issues. It is intended that legislation to implement these initial decisions will be introduced during the present sitting of the Parliament. The Government is still considering other important recommendations of the Green report. These include matters relating to frequency modulation broadcasting, the operations of Radio Australia and the rationalisation of the Government ‘s total broadcast engineering resources.
In conclusion, may I state that this proposed restructuring will substantially reduce the opportunity for political pressures on broadcasting operations. It will be more economic, efficient and in keeping with today’s conditions and foreseeable future developments.
-by leave-Before commenting on the statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) I must make the observation that I deplore the sneaky approach to this whole subject. Clearly the Green report is of considerable interest to the whole community. For some time the Minister has stalled on the question of when the report will be tabled. Even this morning, in replying to a very specific question by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Minister implied that the report was still being considered and hence could1 not be tabled until next week. I acknowledge that there are certain aspects of the report which are still under consideration. But, given that the basic and, I would take it, most important decisions have been taken and announced today, I think it is a slight mis-statement of the real situation to say that the Government is still considering the report. In essence the Minister is depriving the community of a chance to discuss the report while the Government itself is considering it. I see no harm in community discussion.
I turn to the specific proposals. The idea of an Australian Broadcasting Tribunal that is responsible for the licensing of radio and television stations is in keeping with ideas evolved by me and my advisers while I was Minister for the Media. In fact, a paper containing basically the same proposals as have been now put forward by the Minister was circulated by me a couple of months ago. My disagreement is with the priorities and the order of importance attached to the various new bodies that are to be established.
I had envisaged a tribunal, which I had termed the broadcast licensing tribunal, having quasijudicial powers over the same area proposed for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal- in other words, essentially the same body. I thought this licensing body should be guided by a broadcasting advisory council. I felt that the broadcasting advisory council should consist of representatives from the national, commercial and public broadcasters and the listening and viewing communitythe consumers of the products of broadcasters. But the Minister’s proposal excludes the consumers. It excludes the people for whom theoretically the whole enterprise exists. The Minister’s proposal considerably downgrades the body that he terms the broadcasting council and sees it as being involved in planning proposals prepared by his Department.
To me that is back to front in the sense that it gives a government department the primary responsibility for planning broadcasting. I should have thought that it would be better to have a public body continually investigating the needs, responses and disappointments of the community. This function, as a continuing royal commission, if you like, into broadcasting, I proposed for the broadcasting advisory council. On the basis of this continuing inquiry, the council would prepare plans for consideration by the Minister and his Department, both of whom clearly, of course, will always have the last say. I agree with the suggestion that the Department should not be involved in the setting of programming standards or in policing- censoring- the program outputs of the various sectors of the broadcasting system.
I trust that the commitment by the Minister to preserve the integrity and independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be honoured. However, I found it a bit discouraging then to note that the ABC will be subject to a periodic review by an independent public inquiry. I had envisaged the broadcasting advisory council conducting a continuing royal commission, if you like, into broadcasting encompassing the national, commercial and public broadcasters- the whole range of broadcasters and not just the ABC, which is what the Minister is proposing. I do not object to the ABC being under scrutiny to ensure that it fulfils its functions or alternatively to expose further requirements in the community as far as the national network is concerned, but I see no reason why the commercial and public sectors should be excluded from this continuing review.
I was disappointed to note that the composition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will require representation from each of the States and hence by implication I fear may exclude a Commissioner elected by the ABC staff. I can see that the statement is not explicit on this aspect. So if that issue is still in the balance I would urge the Government to continue to have one of the Commissioners elected by the ABC staff. Given the new arrangements, I can see the Australian Broadcasting Control Board becoming superfluous. For too long it has become identified in the community’s eyes as a policeman for those sensitive souls who object to facing facts, and a censor to those who sought to express unconventional points of view. I object to either role being undertaken in this very sensitive area by any authority or government department. I think it is up to the community itself to determine the standards by its response to whatever the media provides in the same way as community response dictates the ultimate standards of newspapers in terms of the contents of the Press from a censorial or policing point of view.
By and large I do not have serious objections to the basic outlines because, as I have pointed out, many of the proposals are in line with proposals I have been putting. Really the rub is now it is finally implemented. My basic objection is that I think the Government has put the cart before the horse. I think this is wrong in an area such as broadcasting where the continual fear and the continual complaint of the community is that there is too much government control. I think it would have been wiser to let the advisory council do the investigating, to let it formulate ideas in response to what it learns from the community. It ought to be susceptible to community pressure by virtues of the composition I propose, namely, representatives from all the networksnational, commercial and public- as well as representatives from groups in the community such as those interested in children’s broadcasting and television, if you like, and other groups. Let that body formulate its ideas on what it thinks the community needs and then pass those ideas on to the government department which then has the last say. I am not trying to rob the Minister of the ultimate responsibility. I would not have wanted to be robbed of that either. But at least let there be an independent council reporting to the Minister and the Parliament so that the whole community can see its assessment of the community needs. That in my view would be a better guide to what the future of broadcasting in this country should be. For those reasons I have reservations about the Minister’s proposals.
Debate resumed from 14 October, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I wish to move the amendment which has been circulated in the name of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until it has been redrafted following proper consultation with the State Governments and the Local Government Association of Australia concerning its objectionable features’.
The Opposition moves this amendment because it believes that the present basis of this Bill does not meet the requirements of local government. The Bill does not go anywhere near meeting the financial needs that face local government bodies over the next 12 months or span of years. There is a serious problem which requires consultation. It is obvious that the leadership of the Government does not understand the problems of local government. I refer to the statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who is on record as saying that local government bodies should not increase their rates this year. That statement could be based only on a total lack of information. I know of at least one local government body which has taken a decision to try to comply with that request but which has found, having dealt with its estimates, that there is no way that it will be able to avoid increasing its rate this year in view of the grant which will be made available under this type of proposal.
– They received more than Labor gave them last year.
-The average rate increase will be between 10 per cent and IS per cent this year. It is a burden which low income earners in particular will not be able to adequately meet. I suggest that the Government accepts our proposal to enter into consultation with the Local Government Association. The Prime Minister should attend such talks so that he can become acquainted with the realities of the problem. I noted the interjection by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). I suggest that if he is prepared to support the statement that the Prime Minister made, that local government bodies are in a position to meet their revenue requirements without increasing their rates, he can go into his electorate and defend it. I believe it was a statement made in total ignorance of the realities of local government finances. It would do the Prime Minister and the Government good if they accepted this amendment and went and spoke to the people who have to meet those costs. Quite clearly a statement like that indicates that the Government has no understanding of those problems.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Scholes’ amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together.
- Mr Chairman, I have amendments relating to clause 4, which reads:
the membership of the body includes at least one person who is or has been associated with local government in the State, whether as a member of a local governing body or otherwise;
I should like to make a general comment, first of all, about the purpose of the amendments. (Quorum formed.) The purpose of the amendments is to clarify the effect of certain provisions of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill. The amendments have been introduced following comments which the Government received from State Premiers concerning the Bill. The Government has approached this matter in a co-operative way and is satisfied that the Premiers have raised some valid points justifying a positive response. In this connection, I should point out that the Bill was introduced in a week prior to the parliamentary recess for the very purpose of giving the Premiers and others full scope to examine the Bills and to comment. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is writing today to the Premiers to inform them of the Government’s proposals in response to their comments on the 2 Bills.
I should also like to take this opportunity to comment on the representations of the Premier of South Australia, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), concerning the treatment of those unincorporated areas in South Australia that may be incorporated in future years. The basis of the distribution adopted in the Bill makes no allowance for unincorporated areas. Although the Bill provides for review of each State’s percentage allocation of assistance to be carried out prior to 30 June 1981, it makes no specific provision for adjustments if unincorporated areas are incorporated. However, I wish to assure the Committee, and particularly the honourable members for Sturt and Wakefield, that if the South Australian Government were to decide to take action to incorporate those areas which are at present unincorporated there would be no insurmountable problems to carrying out a review in due course of the present distribution with a view to taking that fact into account.
Specifically, the amendments proposed to clause 4 (b), sub-paragraphs (ii), (iii) and (iv) of the Bill, make it clear that at public hearings the opportunity for submissions to be made by local governing bodies and the publication of reports of the local government grants commissions would be required only when consideration is being given to the distribution of Commonwealth funds. I commend the amendments to the Committee.
-The Opposition does not object to the amendments. They are a patchwork job on what is in fact an unsatisfactory total proposal which was drawn up last year as a gimmick and is now being brought into legislative effect in order to save a back-down and the implementation of a more satisfactory scheme. The Opposition does not believe that this is the best way to go about allocating funds. The Government has indicated that this is a policy matter and is bringing it in. The Opposition believes that the Government will find it necessary to make substantial changes to this type of proposal in the very near future. However, the Government is entitled to a trial of what is a substantial financial measure. I do not believe that the proposal meets in any way the prior publicity and the promises which were made for this legislation. Certainly it goes nowhere towards meeting the requirements for a continuing growth tax for local government. It also does not meet what we would have thought was the most substantial requirement, that is, the topping-up type need for under-privileged local government areas.
The other thing which the Opposition would indicate about this Bill is that we believe that in an effort to appear to be adopting a federalist approach the Government has introduced a system of multiple bureaucracies which in the long run will not be in the best interests of the financial management of these or other funds nor in the long run will it be in the financial interests of the people of Australia.
-Speaking to the amendment, I am somewhat provoked by the remarks of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). Inessense, he has implied that this section of the Government’s federalism policy, dealing as intimately as it does with local government, is not bona fide. If I might say so, the honourable member for Corio does not do any service to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or to the 6 State Premiers when he makes such a comment. It is inherent in what the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) has said that the arrangements for local government are not something which have arisen overnight. They were worked out at 2 Premiers Conferences, one in April and one on 10 June of this year.
– And in February, too.
– My honourable colleague reminds me that they were also worked out in February. I want to speak to this matter because I believe that the amendment, even though it is supported by the Opposition, does require some debate. It involves a matter affecting South Australia and it also has a certain effect as far as the State of Tasmania is concerned. The implication of the amendment is that there is a commitment by the Federal Government that local government assistance from the Commonwealth will be a continuing process, that the concrete has not set. There is no known way in which our Government will turn its back on local governments and say that it is not prepared to listen to their particular problems in relation to the federalism policy as it operates over the next few years.
I think that 3 points ought to be made and made firmly at this juncture. The first is that the allocation to local government in each State was determined not by the Commonwealth Government but by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The percentage distributions are set out in clause 5 of the Bill and it will be seen that the various percentages applying in each State are in fact incorporated in the Bill. In order that I do not have to speak again on clause 5, may I just make a passing reference which I will relate to the amendment. I draw attention to the fact that the allocation to Tasmania is 2.8601 per cent of the Australian total. I repeat that that figure, along with the figures for the other 5 States, was determined by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which in fact was responsible for the distribution of moneys to local government under the previous Administration and its charter has been continued under this Administration in the implementation of stage one of the federalism policy. I also remind the Committee that it was our Government that decided that general purpose financial assistance to the local government instrumentalities of Australia should be increased by 75 per cent to a total of $ 140m for the financial year 1976-77. That was a 75 per cent increase on the amount payable to local government under the previous formula employed by the previous Administration.
Every State Premier knew on 10 June this year what the percentage allocation to his State was. I draw attention to the fact that only 2 days ago the Premier of Tasmania had the temerity to make a statement that Tasmania’s share of income tax for local government was 2.86 per cent of the Australian total- less that the State would receive on a per capita basis. Mr Neilson went on to say that Tasmania has been treated shabbily by the legislation we are debating at the moment. I am not prepared to say how I got this information but I am prepared to say that I have had access to certain documents, some of which have been published in certain national publications, as to what went on at the Premiers Conference on 10 June. I want to say quite categorically that every Premier in Australia accepted the allocation for local government in his State. The only qualification by any Premier was a qualification by the Premier of Tasmania when he said: ‘We will accept the allocation of 2.86 per cent for 1976-77 but we would like that to be reviewed by the Grants Commission at the end of this financial year.’ No other State Premier quibbled or cavilled in any way as to the allocation of funds for his particular State. Therefore I believe it is absolutely incomprehensible that the Premier of Tasmania having accepted that arrangement on 10 June this year, should come out on 2 November this year and say that Tasmania has been shabbily treated. This is an indictment of his own performance at the Premiers Conference because at that Conference he pointed out that on a per capita basis Tasmania should be receiving 3.074 per cent of the Austraiian total. My arithmetic is always a little rough, but in very round figures, by accepting 2.86 per cent the Premier of Tasmania had probably cost the State of Tasmania something of the order of half a million dollars in assistance in the form of direct grants to local government.
As the Minister has so correctly pointed out the import of the amendment is to indicate that unlike our opponents, who were inclined to legislate and that was it, our federalism policy is an on-going process. If there are changes in South Australia for example, in areas which are not now incorporated and they do become incorporated, obviously this formula will have to be reviewed. In the case of Tasmania where there is an assessment by the Grants Commission, if Tasmania is receiving less than it would receive on a per capita basis quite frankly that arrangement too will have to be reviewed. I am heartened by the fact that at the Premiers Conference on 10 June the Prime Minister said that the Federal Government was relaxed as to the time for a review. The review clearly will not take place in 5 years time.
For this amendment to have the effect which the Minister and the Government desire it to have, I believe this review should take place at the completion of the year 1976-77. The areas of difficulty which have arisen can then be fairly and openly reviewed by the Grants Commission. Unlike the honourable member for Corio, I believe that the Commission is in a position to make a fair assessment not only of a per capita basis but also on a needs basis. It is very sad that the Opposition, in supporting the amendment, could not resist making the comment that in some way our Government was not concerned with the allocation of funds to local government on a needs basis. We are using the very same Commission that the previous Labor Government used. We are using the same basic formulae that it used when it was in office last year.
In supporting the amendment I want to make some concluding remarks in respect of the Premier of Tasmania because the comments that he has made undermine the very agreement that every Premier in Australia entered into on 10 June this year in respect of the applicaton of the new federalism policy to local government. I believe there is nothing more likely to bring down our federal system than to have a situation in which a Prime Minister and 6 Premiers meet, they reach agreement, they are all content with what has been done and then months later after they have left the conference someone gets up and says: ‘My State got a shabby deal’. If Tasmania did get a shabby deal it got a shabby deal because its views were not put with sufficient force and strength by the Premier of that day.
Between now and the next meeting of the Grants Commission to deal with the allocation of money to local government there will be an election in the State of Tasmania and I do not have the slightest doubt that that election will lead to the return of a Liberal government in Tasmania. I am prepared to say publicly that I do not believe that a Liberal Premier of Tasmania would have accepted some of the things that the Tasmanian State Labor Premier accepted in relation to these negotiations. I go further and say that Mr Bingham, having entered into an agreement with the Federal Government, will not renege or stand up later and say that he had been conned or given a shabby deal. The point is that the Commonwealth Government’s policies are working much to the annoyance and disappointment of the Opposition. We are bringing true federalism back to Australia. The amendment introduced by the Minister in conjunction with the legislation now before us means that local government is getting the best deal from the Fraser Government than it has ever received in the history of this country. We cannot deny that a 75 per cent increase in one year is something that has never happened before. The size of this increase proves that we are not only genuine but we are prepared to make federalism work in Australia in 1976.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) spends most of his time deprecating the tremendous efforts of the Premier of Tasmania in trying to reduce the level of unemployment in that State, trying to do good things in Tasmania to make it a better State and trying to ensure that Tasmania gets a proper share of Federal revenue. It is not getting a proper share under this Government.
-It is utter rubbish, in the words of the honourable member for Denison, to suggest that the funds being made available to Tasmanian local government this year represent an increase. The funds in total untied revenue grants to Australia as a whole may represent an increase. But the total funds made available to local government last year amounted to $2 72.5m. This year they total $ 195.3m. I do not know what the mathematics of the honourable member or the Government are, but that is a substantial decrease- a decrease of the order of 30 per cent. Although supporters of the Government may fool themselves some of the time it is no good their trying to fool the people. The severe reduction in funds to local government this year will have an impact on councils throughout Australia. The honourable member might sit in this ivory tower and pretend to himself that this reduction will not have an impact on ratepayers. But I can assure him that it will. He can try as much as he likes to convince people that expenditure has increased. But they know that local government will get only $195m in total this year as compared with $272m in total last year.
The honourable member for Denison had much to say about the credentials of Mr Bingham and how he would have handled this situation. I would remind Tasmanians and the honourable member for Denison that the Leader of the Liberal Party in Tasmania is on record as saying that he is absolutely opposed to this Government’s approach and the proposals that it has in mind for the stevedoring industry. That is just an example of the unanimity and the accord -
– That is not right.
-It is absolutely correct. That is an example of the unanimity and the accord that exists between the supposed Tasmanian Liberal leader and this Government. They are at war. I would have thought that Tasmanian members in this national Parliament, rising above party politics, would want to support the efforts of the present Tasmanian Government to raise the level of economic activity and employment in Tasmania. I am sorry that they are opposed to that objective because additional funds to local government would mean that the Tasmanian Government could do just that. Local government is one .area in which an injection of funds very quickly results in an increase in activity and an increase in employment opportunities.
Local government throughout Australia is disappointed with this legislation because the national approach of the Grants Commission to local government has been ended. The record of the conservative parties, State and Federal, has been one of absolute opposition to an increased and expanded voice for local government. It was only when the Labor Government came to office as a result of the 1972 election, followed by the 1974 election, that the conservative parties realised that they had to take into account the voice of local government. Let us recount the record of conservative parties in respect of local government. It was the Whitlam Government that proposed that local government be represented at the Constitutional Convention. The conservative parties said: ‘ No, we cannot have that’. It was then proposed that the local government units be represented on the Loan Council for the very simple reason that it would have meant that local government would have been able to borrow loan funds on the Australian loan market cheaper than at present and for a longer period. Thus a lesser burden would have been placed on ratepayers, and all ratepayers are in some way or another taxpayers. The Government seems to forget that fact. It seems to think that it can distinguish between ratepayers and taxpayers.
When the Whitlam Government put a referendum to the people that local government ought to be able to receive funds direct from the Federal government the conservative parties, State and Federal, in concert absolutely opposed that proposition. They campaigned against it, and that referendum question was defeated. Now members of the conservative parties come into the chamber suddenly realising the importance of local government. They want to hop on the bandwagon. They come into the chamber and say: ‘We will reduce funds that local government received in the last year of the Whitlam Government from $274.3m to $ 195.3m, which is a decrease of 30 per cent, but we want local government to believe that the allocation of $ 140m in untied grants is an increase of 75 per cent. We wish local government would understand that’. They are not fooling anybody. Government Ministers may have fooled their back benchers and honourable members opposite might juggle thenown figures, but the actual funds allocated to local government this year from the federal government are 30 per cent less than last year. Local government was led to believe by this Government that it would receive 2 per cent of general tax revenue. Local government will receive under this proposal about 1.5 per cent.
Let me return to the national approach to local government that the Whitlam Government brought into effect. For the first time in Australian history with the expansion of the activities of the Grants Commission in 1973 there was an analysis of all local governments in Australiathe whole 899 of them. There was an analysis and comparison of the quality of services provided by local government, a comparison of the standard of services and a comparison of the range of services, but naturally everything was opposed. Even the expansion of the Grants Commission ‘s role was opposed by those who sit opposite. For the first time with the expanded role of the Grants Commission under Mr Justice ElseMitchell we started to get a proper view of the role, functions and services that local government provided. People began to see how important local government is.
In many ways I think that local government is more important than Federal and State governments. Local government is close to the people. It sees very quickly the results of its activities, its deficiencies and its shortcomings as well as its credits for the things that it does which are worth while. The people have more contact with local government. For those reasons, as our urban areas develop, local government should have an expanded and increasing role. The role that the Grants Commission started to develop for local government was a long overdue recognition of the responsibility and value of local government. The Grants Commission set the standard with a grant of $56m in the year 1 974-75. It was the first time that local government units throughout Australia were asked to put a submission to the Federal Government. They were asked to relate their deficiencies, their problems with sparsity of population, problems associated with their areas and problems associated with the servicing of the council regions. We wanted to assess the needs in the national view and see what local governments were entitled to from the Federal Government when their priorities, deficiencies and disadvantages were evaluated alongside those of all other councils in the nation. That was only the beginning.
In the second year the grant rose to $80m and untied grants were assessed on a needs basis. Local government started to warm to the operation and to understand it. At last we started to move towards developing a national approach, a national evaluation and a national set of standards to give a lead in local government to see that ratepayers in all councils received similar basic services. This is not the present situation. Some local government areas have quite a range of services that are not available in neighbouring local government areas. The Grants Commission was in only the second year of that very valuable and much needed role in giving local government an expanded voice in developing a national approach to the needs of local government. This legislation will destroy all that by setting up 6 State commissions which, by their nature, cannot have a national view. It must be a State view within a State. There are no comparisons available with other areas. There is no recognition of the difference between local government from area to area.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-To a certain extent it is pleasing at least to find that the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) at least has some knowledge on this subject, although I do not agree with many of the points that he made. It is rather a pleasant surprise because until the speech of the honourable member I had sat here and wondered whether members of the Opposition really knew anything about this subject. The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) must go down as the worst mathematician in this Parliament. He worked out some figures and with regular monotony came up with quite the wrong answers. His arithmetic was terribly hard to follow. One of the main statements he made was that personal income tax was not a growth tax. I think it was the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) who earlier this afternoon pointed out that under Labor’s rule income tax went up 300 per cent. It is hard to imagine anything rising 300 per cent and not being a growth tax.
Let me refer to some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). He was amazed, as I am, that the Opposition said that this Bill has not had sufficient airing. I would quickly like to go over what he said. This matter first came up at the Premiers Conference in February this year- a considerable time ago. Since February Premiers Conferences have been held in April and June. It is rather staggering to note that the Premiers of all the States at each of those 3 conferences substantially agreed with this Government’s federalism policy. This is quite remarkable after reading some of the Press articles that stated that some Premiers were against our federalism policies. It might be noted that as a result of those 3 Premiers Conferences, particularly as a result of the first Premiers Conference in February, many working parties of Commonwealth and State officials have been set up to look at some of the initial principles set down in the Premiers Conference in February, but none of the principles have been altered. Only minor alterations have been made to the details since the Premiers Conference. Yet members of the Opposition have moved an amendment to stop the Bill going through. They say that the people concerned need more time to assess it.
I know that federalism is something new. It is something that has been difficult for many people to comprehend. But, of course, federalism is something quite revolutionary and something very new. We have not any previous comparison upon which to judge it. It is not often that a government brings in something so revolutionary as this with which no comparison can be made. Of course, I disagree with the honourable member for Chifley. Federalism is related to the Bill before us at the moment- the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill- and income tax sharing. It is the sharing of a growth tax. It is a system that automatically distributes increasing amounts of tax among local governments because that is so necessary to retain what is lost through inflation. That is a pretty fair way of giving back to the people in local governmentthe government that the honourable member for Shortland agrees is the government closest to the people.
It is necessary to make sure that those people are lifted beyond the fighting of politics and automatically receive a fair share of income that they deserve. I would be quite amazed if members, alderman or councillors of local government listening to the Opposition speakers tonight could agree with what they have been saying. I know that honourable members on this side of the chamber have had many conferences with people associated with local government authorities in their areas. I have had many conferences with representatives of the municipalities of Rockdale, Kogarah and Hurstville in my area. I know that these people are elated with the surprisingly large amount of money that they have received under this new income tax sharing scheme. I think that one of the best things people can do is to make themselves conversant with the contents of Budget Paper No. 7, which relates to payments to the States and local government authorities.
– The Opposition has not read it.
– The honourable member for Denison said that Opposition members have not read it. I am inclined to agree with him. I do not think that they have. Turning to Budget Paper No. 7, we see on page 101 reference to grants to the States for on-passing as general purpose assistance for local government authorities. Of course, the amount involved has been bandied around a great deal tonight. In the year 1976-77, there is a total amount of $ 140m going to local government under this category. I might add by way of comparison that last year, 1975-76, under the same general purpose revenue grants local government throughout Australia received only $79.9m. The year before, local government received $5 6m.
– What percentage increase is that?
– My colleague the honourable member for Berowra has asked what percentage increase that is. It is a 75 per cent increase. One thing that also tells the story from Budget Paper No. 7 is some of the other money that goes to local government. This same Budget Paper details some of the other money that goes to our State governments. It tells the story of money that comes from the Federal Governmentfrom our Government here- to State and local government for distribution under the block grants or specific purpose grants. So often, State governments particularly jump on the bandwagon and say that the money came from them. If honourable members can bear with me for a short time on this subject relating to local government, some of the people listening may be surprised to learn that the Federal Government gives block grants direct to local government for some of the following purposes: Pre-school and child care services grants are made direct to local government authorities as set out on page 103 of Budget Paper No. 7. This year, 1976-77, we are allocating for distribution by local government authorities an amount of $6.3m.
– What a magnificent amount.
– The honourable member for Shortland says, ‘what a magnificent amount’. But let me tell him how much his Government gave to local government last year for this purpose. The amount was $2.4m. We almost trebled that amount but the honourable member says, What a magnificent amount’. Let me turn over and go into the matter a little further. Let us see whether the honourable member for Shortland wants to make any further comments. Under the heading of grants made direct to local government authorities for home nursing, we have given $199m. Last year, the Government to which the honourable member for Shortland belonged gave $163m. Let us look at another area: Grants made direct to local government authorities for expenditure on aged and disabled persons homes, a social welfare subject very dear to my heart and an area in which many people in my electorate of Barton have need. This year, we have allocated $3. 4m for expenditure in this area. Last year, the Labor Government allocated $2.7m. Honourable members opposite are supposed to be the people who look after those in need. These figures show that we are looking after them. Another area is that of grants to local government authorities under the Aged Persons Hostels Act. This year, an amount of $ 1.4m has been made available. Do honourable members know how much the Labor Government made available last year? It was a miserable $360,000. We have increased that grant by 400 per cent. Another grant made to local government authorities is for delivered meals or meals on wheels, as many people know the service. This year we have allocated $670,000; last year the amount was $5 11,000.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I appreciate the opportunity to try once again to bring the back bench members of the Government away from their Alice in Wonderland fantasy and back to the world of reality. It does not matter how they try to juggle their little items of $6m or how they try to add up the figures. It does not matter which Budget Paper they want to look at. I will speak slower. I can write it down so that even their Whip will be able to understand it. The comparison is this: In 1 975-76, local government under the total range of programs received from the Whitlam Labor Government $272.5m. This year, taking into account the reductions, the increases and the amendments, the total amount of funding from this Fraser centralist Government to local government will be $195m, a reduction of 30 per cent. Honourable members opposite can do their sums. But there are shire clerks, town clerks, aldermen and shire councillors who know that the amount they will receive this year from the Federal Government is considerably less. They will be reporting to their electorates later. They also have rate payers and taxpayers to whom they will report. Honourable members opposite can engage in their Alice in Wonderland fantasies, but the facts are that the amount of money made available by this Government to local government in the current financial year represents a 30 per cent reduction.
– You have not challenged the honourable member’s figures.
-I am dealing in the total figures because that is the proper comparison to put to the Minister. Even the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) is having considerable difficulty in relating the decrease in expenditure from $272. 5m to local government under the Whitlam Government to the $195m made available to local government by this Government. What this Government is seeking to do under this Bill and the previous Bill is to opt out of community responsibilities, to push back on to local government and the States financial responsibility for programs that were initiated in a number of cases, particularly in community services, many years ago by previous LiberalNational Country Party governments. The present breed of Liberal and National Country Party politician wants to change all that. He has some idea that what is being introduced is revolutionary. Revolutionary, as I hear from honourable members opposite, usually denotes something that involves a gun and plenty of blood. That is not much short of what this legislation is in respect to local government. The federalism honourable members opposite talk about is, in effect, coercive federalism because the 2 other parties concerned- local government and State government are not here. They do not have any expression on this. Honourable members opposite are telling them what to do. The nation saw over the last few days their reaction to what honourable members opposite are trying to present as being something that has unanimity in the 3 levels of government. Honourable members opposite know that that is not the case. It is a deliberate misrepresentation. I ought to mention Queensland because the Queensland Government was the Government which virtually danced on the corpse of a deceased Labor senator and brought about the infamous events of last year.
– The Minister ought to look me in the eye. But that is history and it does not matter how honourable members opposite try to wish it away, it will not go away. So much does the Queensland Government think of this Government’s proposal that the Queensland Minister for Justice went away post-haste- even leaving his private secretary on Hayman Island- to London with the parliamentary counsel. I understand that their instructions have been telexed to them. Obviously they are seeking a way around this legislation to ensure that the Queensland ratepayers and taxpayers in future get a proper share of federal revenue. That is the Minister’s own State, the base all honourable members opposite want and the base they all talk so much about. However, Queensland can see the features of coercive federalism that this legislation represents. This legislation decreases the voice of local government and the funding to local government and ties local government to a formula which the Government decides in its party room. Honourable members opposite come in here and want to present it as something it is not.
Let us look at the situation in Canada. Honourable members opposite talk about Canada, which is supposed to be the Utopia of federalism. In Canada the tax rates between provinces- and this flows onto local government so is relevant to the Bill- range from a surcharge as honourable members opposite have chosen to call it, or double income tax, of 30.5 per cent in some provinces to 42.5 per cent in other provinces. That represents a considerable variation. Is that the kind of thing honourable members opposite want to happen in Australia? Do they want people to migrate to other States and to show their income in other States because the surcharge or State income tax there will be lower than in the State in which they earned the income? Is that the kind of efficiency they want?
Now what about centralisation of company taxes? For over a long period company taxes have been gathered by the Treasury on a gradually refined centralised basis. Under this legislation the State income taxes when introduced on 1 July next year will be applicable to individuals, sole traders and partnerships; but not company taxes. So what then -
– Company taxes!
– The honourable member for Barton can explain company taxes although probably he has not thought about it. He wants to defend what the Government is doing in this legislation but the fact of the matter is that he has not looked at the situation at all for sole traders and partnerships are to be discriminated against a result of this legislation.
– The honourable member for Higgins says that it is rubbish. Let him go back to the sole traders and partnerships in his electorate and explain to them why he thinks the situation which will apply after 1 July next year is rubbish and why he thinks they ought to be discriminated against. The other thing which the Government has taken away from local government, and I speak of my own local experience in the Hunter region, is regional representation. We have 899 separate little, middle sized, big and bigger local government units throughout this nation of a population of less than 14 million. The Whitlam Government drew those units together and asked them to come together in groupings. They formed their own regional groupings.
-Not groupers. If the honourable member for Swan wants to be a grouper that is his problem, not mine. It has nothing to do with local government.
– You would be better off as a grouper.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs says that he is a grouper too. Well, I do not mind that either.
– I did not say that at all.
-I wish the Minister would not interrupt and repeat to me that he is a grouper. I do not want to listen to him. I want to continue to debate the Bill. The regional groupings which came together under the legislation of the previous Government gave local government the opportunity to come together, to share and plan together those kinds of projects that have significance for more than just one local government area. There are many situations like that. For too long in this nation local government has developed as 899 separate entities when in many hundreds of cases those separate endues ought to have been operating together and sharing capital equipment, the cost of administration, the cost of services provided to the community and the general increase in the standard of living that has occurred throughout the nation over the past half century. Instead this Government has torn down all that and has destroyed the whole concept of regionalism. It has sent back to the States the determination of funding for local government and for the regional groupings which were functioning.
I realise when honourable members opposite criticise regional groupings that for quite a number of years the New South Wales Government has been trying to draw together local government units into regional groupings for the same reason I have mentioned, that is, ease of administration, economy of administration and an improvement in the quality of services to the ratepayers and taxpayers. However, honourable members opposite do not want those things. What they want is to offload their responsibility as a federal government and to get rid of the nasty tasks. They want the answer to a federal politician’s dream of not having to be responsible for contentious problems. Instead they will be responsible for the reintroduction of a double income tax in this country- a proposition that Liberal-Country Party Premiers rejected in 1 95 1 when taxing powers were offered to them by the then Prime Minister Menzies. Now honourable members opposite will be the heroes who will reintroduce State income tax, or double income tax, which will vary from State to State. That is the kind of revolution they are bringing about. It is retrograde, regressive and against the national interest.
Amendments agreed to.
Clauses, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I have 3 amendments to clause 6 which reads in part:
1 ) The amount to which a State is entitled under section 3 in respect of a year is not payable unless and until-
I move these amendments because in relation to the Bill there has been a misunderstanding by some of the States which feel that there is a desire, by the Government to have an ability to veto decisions. This was not the intent of the Government and, as I said earlier, the whole purpose of having some time elapse between discussions and the presentation of these Bills was to allow a response from the Premiers and interested parties. Having had those responses we bring forward these amendments which seek to make it clear that the Commonwealth has no wish to exercise a power of veto over the distribution of local government assistance recommended by the States ‘ local government grants commissions.
I want to take a moment or two longer to say to members of the Opposition that with the passing of these amendments we will have a Bill which is acceptable to the State governments. In the future it will enable the third sphere of government, the local authorities, to get an increasing share of tax revenue. From my own experience local authorities welcome the initiative of the Federal Government. This is what they have been asking for for years. They will now benefit from it and I am sure that as we move along, if other matters which require adjustment come to our notice we will be only too pleased to work in co-operation with our colleagues in the local government sphere to see that the legislation works to the benefit not only of the authorities themselves but also, and more importantly, of the millions of Australians who live within the multitude of local authorities. I commend the amendments to a speedy passage by the Committee.
-The amendments moved by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) arise from the reaction of the State governments to the initial proposals of the Government. It is all very well for the Minister to suggest to the Committee that those amendments fully cover the requests of the States. The fact is that the Government attempted to put through the legislation in its original form and so bring about an extension of the big brother philosophy they are forcing on the States and local government. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by reiterating those points which I made earlier in this regard. But I make the point, with regard to the submission of the amounts that have been determined by the Grants Commission, that we had a Grants Commission functioning efficiently, effectively and fairly on a national basis; now in its place State Grants Commissions are to be foisted upon the States which do not want them. The States do not wish to establish Grants Commission. There has been genuine opposition by State governments to that proposal. But it is now being forced down their throats by the Government because it wants to offload its responsibility. For the benefit of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson), I take up the point again that no matter how he tries to convince himself and no matter how Government back benchers try to convince themselves, the fact is that in this current year the total funding by the Government to local government in specific purpose grants and untied grants is reduced by 30 per cent, when compared with local government funding in the last year of the Whitlam Government.
– Put a bit of pepper in it.
-I wish the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) would go to his place when he interjects. He is only delaying the Committee.
– You picked the wrong one.
– It was not I.
– The legislation in no way provides for an increase in the amount of funds available to local government. The decrease in funding available this year as compared with last year is 30 per cent. If there is an increase in later years, it will be an increase in absolute terms. But m real terms, because of the indexation provisions, it is certain that there will be no increase of funding for local government unless there is a change in the present proposal.
-If I knew what electorate the honourable member came from I would consign him to the rubbish heap, too. If that is his contribution to a debate on important legislation, he should know better. There is considerable provocation in the chamber, again from the Deputy Government Whip who was responsible for the considerable debacle in the Committee earlier this evening and who is seeking again to interrupt me. I wish he would restrain himself.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Order! The Committee is not concerned with prior incidents.
-It is extremely difficult to speak directly to the subject without interruption from the Deputy Government Whip.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There are far too many interruptions.
-I thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman, for your protection from the Deputy Government Whip. As I said earlier, although the Minister says that there is an increase in funding for local government, that is not the case. He knows it is not the case. I conclude by saying that this proposition is so good that the Government of Queensland has sent its Minister for Justice to London to find a way around it.
Amendments agreed to.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to. Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23 September, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (8.55)- It is not the intention of the Opposition to. vote against this Bill, the purpose of which is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy for another year until 31 December 1977. However, the Opposition is very concerned after all the assurances given by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), that the Government still feels it necessary to introduce such a Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) stated that the Government agreed in principle that the subsidy should by phased out over 3 years, as recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission, but at a rate of subsidy reduced from $78.74 per tonne of nitrogen content to $60 per tonne of such content.
In his second reading speech the Minister gave the impression that this was the only course open to the Government and that there was no need for any explanation of the great change in the policy of the Government concerning the payment of a nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy. But, of course, the Minister and the Government will not get away with this approach. Australians engaged in the agricultural industry will want some explanation of and some reason for this big shift in the policy of the Government. Legislation on the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy and the phosphate fertiliser subsidy has always been introduced into this House at the one time. On the several occasions it has been before the House members of the Liberal and National Country Parties have been very critical of any suggestion from the Labor Party that there might be at some time some reason to reconsider the rate of the subsidy.
I can well remember when back in 1974, the honourable member for New England, the present minister for Primary Industry and Leader in the House of Representatives (Mr Sinclair), was so touchy about this matter that, when the Labor Government introduced a Bill to extend the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy for another 12 months, he said that he was not sure to what degree the intention to preserve the subsidy was genuine or whether it was motivated by a desire of the former Minister for the Northern Territory, Dr Patterson, to secure his re-election. He then went on to say that operation of the subsidy should have been extended beyond 31 December 1975. He said that this type of stimulus to production is a way in which inflationary pressure can be countered.
I want to know where this great fighter for the preservation of this type of stimulus to production and for the preservation of the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy at the same rate as it was during all the years of the Labor Government stands tonight. Does he say now that our horticultural industry no longer needs a subsidy? Does he say that there is no need to give production a stimulus? Does he claim that the Government has found some other way in which inflationary pressures can be countered? Does he just consider that the creation of higher and higher unemployment figures, which seems to be the most prominent result of this Government’s activities to control inflation, will counter the inflationary spinal?
I am told that the Minister for Primary Industry believes that the horticultural industry does need these subsidies. As a matter of fact, I am told that he said that they would not be removed.
Only a little while ago I was handed a paper entitled ‘Policy Makers’ and dated 25 November 1975, which refers to a debate in which he was engaged with Dr Patterson and during which he made this remark:
Our present policy is to maintain the nitrogen bounty at its present level. If Dr Patterson’s concept is to accept the IAC recommendation he will know that that will mean a phasing out of the nitrogen bounty over the next 3 years.
In one of his speeches the Minister said:
We on this side of the House would be most concerned if a continuing incentive to production were not given by those in Government in this place to rural industries.
I was the next speaker in the debate that night and I can well remember his concluding remarks. What a great shift we now see in the Government’s policy from those very fine words which were uttered just before the last election. The honourable member for New England has now changed to the other side of the House and is now a member of the Government. It appears to me that he has also changed some of his ideas about having a continuing incentive to production. Either he does not have any further interest in having a continuing incentive to production or he is no longer interested in the security of his own seat, which is the remark that he made concerning Dr Patterson in 1 974.
The second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs does not tell us where the Minister for Primary Industry stands at the present time, nor does it tell us very much else about this Bill. I want everyone to be clear about where I stand on the matter because I want to remain a member of this House and I also want to see the users of nitrogenous fertilisers in my electorate survive. I can assure the House that many of them, particularly those in the dried vine fruit industry and the citrus industry will find it very difficult to survive without some of the incentive to production about which we heard from the honourable member for New England so often when he was in opposition and about which he seems to have forgotten now that he is a Minister and can do something about the matter.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs gave the impression that the only course that was open was to follow the Industries Assistance Commission’s report. We know that the IAC’s report came down as far back as 5 September 1975. One might well ask why the Government took so long to make up its mind about this matter if that was the only course open to it. In any case it must be remembered that the IAC is only a recommending body; it is not a policy making body. If the
Government is determined to adopt the IAC’s report, why does it not adopt the full recommendations. I refer to page 23 of the report. On that page it is pointed out that if income support is needed it should be given in some other way. I again think of all the assistance that could be given to the dried vine fruit industry. People are wanting to get out of the industry so that others who are in it can survive. But the Government is not giving them enough assistance to get out of the industry.
Some supporters of the Government may consider our attitude to this Bill to be contradictory to our attitude to the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Amendment BUI, but I can assure them that this is not so. There is a difference in the spread of the benefits from this Bill. I do not have to remind anyone in this House- it has been pointed out time and time again- of the types of people who were gaining many thousands of dollars out of that subsidy. I do not want to take up any more time. I know that my colleague wants to speak on this matter.
-My purpose in rising to speak on this BUI is certainly not to speak in favour of the reduction of the bounty. To the contrary: I do not wish to be associated with it in any way. To find out the reasons why, I believe that we must go back and look at why the bounty was introduced in the first place. It is therefore necessary to go back to the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy BUI that was introduced in 1966. When presenting that BUI to the House the then Minister for Primary Industry had this to say about the bounty:
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s decision to introduce a subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers used in Australia and is further evidence of the Government’s policy of promoting primary production in this country. I know that honourable members on both sides of this House recognise the vital importance to our national economy of healthy and growing rural industries, not only to meet the needs of our own people but also because we must continue to expand exports of rural origin and increase our export earnings if we are to be able to maintain both our present rate of development and our standards of living.
The then Minister for Primary Industry went on to say:
The purpose of the subsidy on nitrogenous fertilisers is therefore twofold. In the first place, it will have a cost reducing effect for industries which have been the major users of nitrogen.
Later he said:
The second important purpose of the nitrogen subsidy is to encourage the use of nitrogenous fertilisers in newer fields such as cereal growing and pasture improvement.
I have read the then Minister’s statement at that time fairly closely and nowhere can I see that the bounty was intended to assist the actual industry that produces nitrogenous fertilisers in Australia What disappoints me is that in 1976-77 we are going to phase out the bounty because of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the industry that produces the nitrogenous fertiliser and have not gone back to the reasons for the bounty’s introduction in the first place. I ask: What about the farmers? Let us go back to 1966 again and look at what the Australian Labor Party had to say about this matter at the time. The then honourable member for Griffith, in speaking to the BUI, said:
The Australian Labor Party is known throughout the Commonwealth as being prepared readily to make available its support to any project that will assist our primary producers.
I will comment upon that later. That was stated in 1966. In the same debate the then honourable member for Lalor said:
The Australian Labor Party supports the proposal to pay a subsidy on the production of nitrogenous fertilisers.
Later during the third reading debate the honourable member for Lalor said:
I have been intrigued and gratified with the consensus expressed tonight. Honourable members are unanimously in favour of the payment of a bounty on the production of nitrogenous fertilizers.
I repeat: ‘unanimously in favour’. I am disap- pointed in the honourable member for Darling Mr Fitzpatrick). He began his speech by saying that it was not the intention of the Opposition to vote against this BUI.
– Are you going to vote against it?
– Given the opportunity. The history of the Labor Party as far as subsidies are concerned is deplorable. I turn now to Public Authority Finance, a booklet put out by the Aus.tralian Bureau of Statistics covering 1975-76. It states quite clearly the subsidies given to agriculture in 1971-72 and the subsidies given in 1975-76. It covers the years in which the Labor Government was in office. In 1972, the last year of the Liberal-Country Party Government, subsidies to agriculture amounted to approximately $237.2m. In 1 975, the last year of Labor Government, those subsidies had been reduced to $50m. Do not let anyone tell you that the Labor Party is committed to this philosophy. The honourable member for Darling is 3 years too late in standing in this House and stating that he is opposed to this sort of thing.
Unfortunately, the farmers who need this nitrogen fertiliser Will be the losers. Back in 1966-67 the average weekly earnings were $61.70. Average farm incomes, by comparison, were a staggering $123 per week, almost double the average weekly earnings. In 1973, at the time the Industries Assistance Commission report was prepared, average farm incomes were almost at record levels- about $280 plus per week. Next year average weekly earnings for Australians are going to be more than $ 1 70 per week while average farm incomes are going to be down to $126 per week. There will be a 36 per cent drop in average farm incomes in one year. In 1966 when it was decided that a fair subsidy was $80, the cost of those 2 important fertilisers which contain nitrogen, urea and sulphate of ammonia, were $85.20 per ton in the case of urea and $5 1.60 per ton in the case of sulphate of ammonia. The value of the bounty on urea, which contained 46 per cent nitrogen, was $36.80 per ton and the value of the bounty on sulphate of ammonia, which contained 21 per cent nitrogen, was $ 1 6.80 per ton. The price of urea now is $ 1 46.60 per ton and sulphate of ammonia costs $105 per ton. Those figures were obtained today from Brisbane.
The reduction of the bounty by one-quarter obviously will have a significant impact upon the ability of farmers to pay for nitrogen. That is the story the farmers want to get across in this House. Recently a man recognised in the Victorian Press as being capable of writing a story which told a fairly accurate picture had this to say about the man on the land:
I know of men who for years have had fire in their bellies. They have been the born radicals, always agin the establishment, the existing policy, or the proposed course of action. But today most of these men are apathetic, tame tabbies beaten not in a fair fight, but by the insidious erosion of despair.
Or defeated by physical and mental weariness … by the struggle of working 40 hours a week at an off-farm job they hate, hurrying back to the farm at night and at weekends, struggling to keep it afloat, to preserve at least some of its physical assets m the fast-fading hope that it can’t last’. But it can. It has.
And in the- for many- futile struggle, these men are deteriorating faster than their farms. There is more grey in their hair, lines where there were none before. And they are not laughter lines … not for men who have long abandoned their cherished beer at the local pub, who have given up smoking, whose hair is hacked off by their wives rather than pay the cost of a haircut.
-I think I should warn the honourable member that he may not reflect on the Chair.
-No matter what figures are taken, this desperate picture comes across quite clearly from one end of the rural industry in Australia to the other. For the morale of these people on the land, this is an inopportune time to reduce in any way the bounty on nitrogenous fertilisers. For the sake of their morale this is the time to increase it, not reduce it.
I cannot think of one argument in favour of reducing the bounty. For example, overseas earnings from agriculture, despite dropping to 45 per cent of our total earnings last year, was a staggering $4,20 lm. Minerals are growing in importance certainly, but they represent only 30 per cent of our earnings, a sum of $2, 739m. Our manufacturing sector represents $ 1,937m or only 21 per cent. I am at a loss to know why the Government has seen fit at this time to reduce this bounty. I want to quote from appendix G of the Industries Assistance Commission report which sets out the historical background of this matter. It states:
In August 1966 the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Act was introduced. The Act provides for the payment of a subsidy on manufactured nitrogen sold for use in Australia as fertilizer or as a supplement to stock feed. The main purposes of the subsidy are to reduce costs to users and to encourage the use of these fertilizers.
The 30 per cent fall in the price of nitrogen to farmers which followed the introduction of the subsidy stimulated the application of nitrogen on all crops. Between 1965-66 and 1967-68 the consumption of nitrogen for all agricultural uses doubled, with the largest increases recorded in pasture and cereals.
So the introduction of the bounty was justified, quite clearly, by what happened to the man on the land. I am saying clearly that a reduction in this bounty will have not only a deteriorating effect on the morale of the farmers of Australia, it will also have a significant impact on the quality of products produced on the land. We cannot afford to do this when we still get 45 per cent of our export earnings from this sector. They are the simple facts of this matter. The IAC report went on:
The consumption of nitrogenous fertilizers peaked in the 1968-69 season, when a record area of wheat was sown. With the imposition of wheat quotas for the 1969-70 and subsequent seasons, low commodity prices, and the depressed level of rural activity generally, the consumption of nitrogen as a fertiliser fell substantially in subsequent seasons, but has remained above the 1 966-67 level.
The facts are that right now farmers’ costs have reached the stage where they have broken a tremendous number of farmers. In the last 4 years we have lost 20 000 family farmers off the land. It is the sort of action proposed in this Bill which will have an adverse effect on the remaining farmers. I would not stand here and make a plea on behalf of these people if it were not for the simple fact that the export earnings of this country are still very much in the hands of the rural producers. Despite claims to the contrary, this will be so for the foreseeable future. There can be no question about it If the rural industries of Australia collapse, Australia will follow very shortly afterwards. There can be no time left to recognise this pertinent fact.
Little more needs to be said to get the point across that we cannot afford to bring in a measure such as this for the very reasons I have mentioned. I repeat that we are taking the bounty away not for the reasons for which we brought it in but for different reasons altogether. It was never suggested that the nitrogenous fertiliser production industry was the reason for the introduction of the bounty. Hansard of 1966 is full of reasons given by honourable members on both sides of the chamber. They said quite clearly that the bounty was introduced to assist the farmer. The bounty was set in those days when, as I have said, the average farm income was double the average weekly earnings. In 1976 the average farmer on $ 1 2 6 a week is getting $50 a week less than the average weekly earnings and is now expected to pay out more for his nitrogenous fertiliser.
It is totally unfair, unjust and uncalled for that this measure should be brought in. The farmers in my electorate, the rice farmers, the farmers who grow wheat, the farmers who grow stone fruits, the farmers who grow vegetables and the farmers who graze sheep all have a need for nitrogenous fertiliser. This is why I must say in the House that I am totally opposed to the reduction of the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty in any way at all.
-In speaking to the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Amendment Bill (No. 2)1 first of all refer to some remarks made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan). He passed remarks about the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) and said that the Australian Labor Party was too late. This is a rather strange thing to say in relation to the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy. The only time it has looked as though the bounty is to be reduced since it was introduced is now when the Liberal-National Country Parties are in power. How can the honourable member say that member’s of the Labor Party are too late? Today we heard the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) announce that the first advance payment to wheat growers would be increased. Of course, that is the first time that the Liberal-National Country Party Government has increased that payment since 1966. 1 do not know how it can be said that we are too late. Over the last few years we have heard some criticism of the Labor Party.
I compliment the honourable member for Riverina because he is at least being consistent. He opposed the phasing out of the subsidy when everybody else has said that the Labor Party might phase it out. Everybody else has apparently changed his mind but at least the honourable member is standing firm in his contention that the subsidy should remain. In 1 974 when the previous legislation was introduced and again last year during the election campaign, the Australian Labor Party came in for quite a lot of criticism. People went up and down the countryside, in areas where nitrogenous fertiliser had some benefit, and made statements about what the Labor Party would do. One of those persons was the present Minister for Primary Industry who was then simply the honourable member for New England. It might pay us to retrace some of the things which have been said in the past. In 1974 the Minister then in Opposition, speaking to the Nitrogenous Fertilizers Subsidy Bill, said:
We on this side of the House believe that, when the Government came out with its undertaking to extend the nitrogenous fertilisers bounty, there was far too little said by the Government of the very short period of extension that it intended to provide. Indeed, I believe that the whole purpose of what the Government did was to offer those who use nitrogenous fertilisers a carrot expecting them to fall for the fact that the Government was really caring for their wellbeing. But the Government was trying to find a device by which it believed the subsidy could be reduced or eliminated. I suspect that, in the present hearing before the Commission, the Government is really hoping to goodness that this might be a way by which those recommendations of the Coombs report which the Government was intent on implementing can perhaps be adopted by a circuitous form.
I do not know how honourable members will comment about what has happened, now that the Government has introduced this legislation. It has taken the first step in the introduction of the Industries Assistance Commission report and it will reduce the nitrogenous fertilisers subsidy. So I ask: Who is phasing out the subsidy now? We were accused that we would phase it out but it is this Government, which was so strong on the matter in 1974, which is going to take the first step in phasing out the subsidy. Further on the Minister, who was then in Opposition, stated:
The Government provides on the one hand a nitrogenous fertiliser bounty with these magnanimous statements of how generous it really is, and on the other it takes the bounties away so that the rural sector is really left so much worse off. For all this piece of legislation which this House and which the Opposition supports, we regard the Government’s support of it as being perhaps one of the most cynical political acts it has committed in the time it has been in office.
Who is being cynical now? It is that Opposition which is now in Government which is taking steps to reduce the subsidy. Perhaps we should see what a few more National Country Party members had to say at that time. One honourable member stated:
The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) drew attention to the fact that the nitrogenous fertiliser matter is to be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission.
We submit that matters of such great national importance should be matters for the national Parliament.
I ask: Who is adopting the IAC report of which the then honourable member for Darling Downs was so critical? We could go on for quite some time and quote what various honourable members said. Another member of the Country Party stated:
What 1 am concerned about is that the Government, for reasons best known to itself, sought to take away from the national Parliament the right to make a decision which rightly belongs to that Parliament and sought to give the right to make that decision, which affects the life of so many people, to a team of public servants who would have no practical appreciation of the great difficulties involved and the great hardship suffered by so many people.
This was a reference to the IAC report. Who is accepting the recommendation of the IAC which is contained in this legislation? Yet another National Country Party member stated:
We are looking for a continuance of the support which has been provided in the past. We have misgivings as to its ultimate fate within the framework of the Industries Assistance Commission. That particular Commission increasingly is corning under great pressure. The volume of its business grows every day. One can be excused for imagining that the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy is subject to the threats, one of which is to the fundamental competence of the Commission to attend to its task in the spirit of the operation and the other of which is in relation to whether or not it is in itself a device for the purpose of selling the industries down the river.
Now, who is selling the industries down the river? It is the same people who are represented by the honourable member who made that remark. The honourable member for Darling mentioned what was said last year on the Policy Makers program in which the honourable member for New England and the former honourable member for Dawson who was then the Minister for Agriculture were both interviewed. Perhaps it is worth repeating something which was said in that interview:
Well everyone else has had a say can I just say two other things as far as the nitrogen bounty is concerned. The second is that our firm policy has not been to eliminate the nitrogen bounty.
There again are some contradictions from the present Minister. Perhaps the main thing at which we could look is a Press release put out by the Country Party prior to the 1974 election. It bears the name of the Australian Country Party National secretariat and is a statement headed Sinclair warns Labor will take away Nitrogenous Fertilisers Bounty if Re-elected. ‘ After some comments about the superphosphate bounty, reference is made to the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty:
Labor has said it will keep the nitrogenous bounty. However, the Labor Government has 2 recommendations before it to cancel it, said Mr Sinclair.
He went on to talk about the recommendations in the Coombs report and referred to the Green Paper. Probably the most interesting thing in the paper is the last paragraph, wherein the honourable member for New England, then a member of the Opposition, stated:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the Country Party, that in Government with the Liberal Party, we will restore the bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty continues.
Tonight the Minister has introduced legislation to reduce the subsidy. This is the first time it has been reduced since it was introduced in 1966. In view of that, perhaps what he said is worth repeating:
I can give an unqualified assurance on behalf of the Country Party, that in Government with the Liberal Party, we will restore trie bounty on superphosphate and ensure that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty continues.
He went right across the Austraiian continent, making that statement anywhere he thought it could have political impact. He said in the statement that Labor would cancel the bounty on fertiliser. Of course, that would have had some effect in some electorates, but it was based on a lie. It was based on something which he must have known- that if the Liberal and Country Parties got back into government they would do the very thing they were accusing the Labor Party of doing. I congratulate the honourable member for Riverina on the stand that he has taken, but I feel that a hypocritical stand has been taken not only by the present Minister but also by those other honourable members opposite who were so critical of the Labor Party and who are now going to support this measure.
– in reply- Very briefly, in reply to those who have contributed to the debate let me say that if ever a party disqualified itself from weeping tears of blood over the plight of people in the rural areas of Australia it is the Australian Labor Party. When the Labor Party was in office it demonstrated, both by its policies and subsequently by its electoral performance, how completely out of touch it was with the needs and requirements of Austraiian rural industries. I should make it clear, because some confusion has been demonstrated on this point during the debate tonight, that the Government has not accepted in toto the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission on this subject. In a report dated 5 September 1975, the Industries Assistance Commission recommended that the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty should be phased out over a 3-year period, and that the first stage in the phasing out process should be a reduction from some $78 a tonne then prevailing to $60 a tonne for the year 1976.
What the Government has done, and what is implemented by this measure as foreshadowed in the speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), is an acceptance in principle of the recommendation regarding phasing out but a quite significant change so far as the manner of phasing out is concerned, the period involved and the amount of subsidy to be paid during the years of the phasing out. The Government has not indicated the period of the phasing out. All that has been done is an acceptance in principle. The Government has not applied the IAC recommendation to the effect that $60 a tonne should be paid during 1976. Rather, the rate prevailing at the time of the IAC report, namely, $78.74 a tonne, I think, will prevail in 1976 and the new rate of $60 will commence during 1977.
I do not think that anybody who listened to this debate could dispute the essential thrust in the speech of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) regarding the plight of many people in the rural areas of Australia. It is easy on occasions, during debates on such matters in this House, for members of the Opposition to pour scorn on some of the contributions from people who represent rural electorates. The truth of the matter is that nobody in this Parliament has a monopoly on concern for the problems of people; nobody has a monopoly on indignation. To treat lightly, as some members of the Opposition tend to do, the problems of people on the land in Australia at die present time is to do a great disservice to a large section of the Australian community. There is no doubt in the world that the contribution made to our export earnings by the rural sector of the Australian economy is enormous, and it will remain an enormous contribution. Those who imagine that the days of the rural industries of Australia as a principal export earner are numbered are very mistaken. Those who imagine that this Government is prepared to take second place to any other political party in Australia in its concern for the rural areas of Australia is also very mistaken. We have made it very clear, time and time again, how concerned we are about the rural areas of Australia. We will continue to express that concern.
I think the sincerity of the stand taken by the Government parties on this matter was demonstrated at the end of last year when the Australian Labor Party was able to win only one seat which could in any sense be classified as representing a genuinely rural area of Australia
– Because you promised to keep this subsidy.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide can interject as much as he likes about subsidies in rural industries. He ought to remember the boastful way in which the former Prime Minister, now the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), held up the IAC report on the superphosphate bounty, a report which by a majority had recommended a reintroduction of the bounty. In his usual pompous fashion the former Prime Minister said: ‘Of course I support the minority report’, which was a recommendation against reintroduction of the bounty. The truth of the matter is that the Labor Party, by its performance when in Government and its posturing now when in Opposition, has no right to claim that it represents the concerns and the aspirations of the rural community of Australia. It forfeited that right a long time ago. People have spoken in this debate about hypocrisy. It was absolute hypocrisy on the part of any member of the Labor Party to get up and criticise the performance of this Government in relation to the rural areas of Australia.
In his contribution the honourable member for Riverina criticised the decision of the Government to accept in principle the recommendation on phasing out. By implication and also directly, he criticised the decision to reduce the amount of the subsidy. I recognise the concern expressed by the honourable member for Riverina. Any decision of a government to reduce any kind of support is obviously going to be greeted with some concern by those affected by the decision. Out of deference to the business of the House, I should like to say this very briefly in reply to the honourable member for Riverina: The thrust of his argument- and I think he might appreciate thiswas directed in the main to considerations which ought to apply when one is considering income support for rural areas.
The view of the IAC- and I am not suggesting that that body or any other body advising government is infallible- in this report was that a phasing out of the bounty was unlikely to raise total farm costs by more than 2 per cent for farmers applying large amounts of nitrogen or by more than one per cent for the majority of nitrogen growers. The IAC went on to say that the subsidy component represents an insignificant proportion of total production costs, from 2 per cent on sugar cane to 0. 1 per cent on tobacco. Even if the present subsidy were doubled this would have only a small effect on costs. I thank honourable members who have contributed to the debate.
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.
Debate resumed from 9 September, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill is to amend the Air Navigation Charges Act 1952 firstly so as to increase by 15 per cent the charges levied under the Act for services provided to aircraft operators by the Department of Transport. These services include items such as airway facilities, the use of aerodromes, meteorological, search and rescue services. Secondly the Bill introduces a new concept of charges for international flights arriving or departing from Australia related to the actual distances flown within Australia and implementing the user pays principle. Thirdly, the Bill provides for an interest charge of 10 per cent to be levied on accounts which are 45 days overdue. Fourthly, provision is made for altered procedures in respect of adjustments for pre-paid fees on the sale of aircraft and minor procedural amendments related to the administration of the air navigation charges scheme.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, there are several points that the Opposition wishes to bring to the notice of the Australian community. This Bill provides for the second increase of 15 per centin air navigation charges within 12 months. It is a direct repudiation of the policy of the conservative parties when in Opposition. So that there is no misunderstanding I will quote directly from their policy when they were in Opposition. The policy states:
Because of the serious and detrimental effect the 80 per cent recovery policy is having on aviation, a Liberal National Country Party Government will immediately halt-
I emphasise the word ‘halt’- the program until proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery with other forms of transport are made.
As I said a few moments ago, this Bill provides for the second increase of 15 per cent, or a total increase of a shade less than 30 per cent in a period of 12 months from a government which when in Opposition said that there had to be a halt to increases. The Opposition at that time promised that if it came into office it would carry out an inquiry.
I want to make a comparison firstly of the results of the increases. There has been an increase in revenue. The amount that is expected to be gathered under the collections for the present year as set out in the Budget will be in the vicinity of $63.1 m. This compares with a collection of $53.547m in 1 975-76.I think that the proportion of the total charges paid by the various airlines is of interest and is worth repeating for the benefit of the House. In 1975-76 the total revenue received from air navigation charges, as I have said, was $53. 5m. Of this amount 16.3 per cent was paid by Ansett Airlines of Australia; 17.6 per cent was paid by Trans-Australian Airlines; International Airlines paid 58.6 per cent; General Aviation, including commuter services, paid 5.5 per cent; and other domestic airlines paid 2 per cent.
The present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), when in Opposition had much to say about the composition of the cost recovery program and the justification for it. He had much to say about the various propositions that were put forward by him on behalf of the airlines at that time, which included the proposition that the return from the intercapital routes was well in excess of 80 per cent. As I understand the situation, a reasonable comparison is to assume that the total revenue from Ansett and TAA represents what is roughly the return on air navigation charges from intercapital trunk routes. In this case it means that 33.9 per cent or $ 1 8.2m in total revenue in 1975-76 came from intercapital trunk routes. As I have said, the revenue for 1976-77 is expected to be $63. lm, which is an increase of 9.6 per cent. Though the Budget Papers indicate that as being a recovery rate of 6 1 per cent, I notice from the evidence given to Senate Estimates Committee C that that figure has now been increased to 62.3 per cent. This is not a lot but it is considerably above the amount indicated in the Budget Papers.
It is worth while also to try to make a comparison between what is happening in Australia in the field of cost recovery and what is happening in other countries. I notice that this matter was also raised by the Senate Estimates Committee C when it was dealing with the estimates for the Department of Transport. The question was raised: ‘How does the rate of recovery of charges dealing with the current year compare with rates in New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States of America?’. A reply to this question was given in writing in a letter sent to senators at a later date. It was explained in the letter that it is difficult to make a valid comparison between our cost recovery programs and those of our trading partners because of the multiplicity of various service charges that are levied in other countries and the differing range of authorities that collect those charges. I think it is rather unfortunate that we cannot get this information. It would have been of benefit to the Australian scene if we could have had some kind of valid comparison which would be a better basis on which to frame any policy in respect of cost recovery.
The Senate Estimates Committee C also dealt with meteorological services. Looking at the estimates submitted by the Department in respect of this area and the answers that were given to questions asked, again it is difficult to try to determine what is happening. According to page 373 of the Hansard report of Estimates Committee C, Mr Birch from the Department of Transport said:
At present we have a committee within the Department working in conjunction with the airlines review committee, reviewing the requirements of the meteorological services, and I am able to say that a degree of agreement has been reached as to what is necessary.
I find the next paragraph rather puzzling. He said:
This will not reduce the services so much as it will improve them, as far as the industry is concerned. In other words, it is an attempt to update a system which has been operating in a certain fashion for a considerable number of years.
That means one of two things. Either a surplus of services has been available for a long time or there is to be a reduction in services previously thought to be justifiable. If there is a surplus of services the responsibility for that ought to lie fairly and squarely with the present Government which developed the Department of Civil Aviation as a separate Department.
The present Minister was very strong when in opposition on the retention of a separate department of civil aviation. The argument put by the present Minister when in opposition was that because of the special nature of the services provided by the Department of Civil Aviation it ought to have its own administration. One would think that with its own specialised administration it would have been able after some 27 years to determine what meteorological services were necessary, what were efficient and what were worth paying for. It seems from the evidence given on page 373 of the document that the Department has only just come to realise that there could be a surplus of services. Hopefully the Minister may have something later to add on that or maybe some further information could come forward for the benefit of the Parliament on this subject.
A new system of charges for international airlines is being introduced in this Bill. I am pleased that the Minister communicated with me on an earlier occasion the discussions he had with representatives of the International Air Transport Association. I am not aware of any reaction from IATA or from any international airline disagreeing with the proposals put forward. One must remember that the total amount of revenue will be little changed as a result of the new system of charging. One must also remember that the impact of the new system will fall more heavily on those airlines, such as those from the West, which traverse great lengths within the confines of Australian control. It seems that a balance will be achieved for those airlines by the Pacific nights. They would have a lesser rate to pay on their arrival in Sydney. Certainly I can see the advantage to be gained by those airlines which come in from the seaboard and leave again by the seaboard traversing only little distances across our own space.
As I said earlier I have no knowledge of any reaction from international airlines. The Minister indicated to me in earlier discussions that he was quite prepared to look at any other proposition that LATA may put forward. I assume at this stage that IATA has not put forward any other proposition.
– That is right.
– The Minister agrees with what I have just said. Another of the alterations brought in by this Bill is the interest charge of 10 per cent which will apply after 45 days from the due date. I think this is a reasonable if not a generous arrangement as far as the levy of interest on overdue accounts is concerned. As I interpret the Bill and the Act the position is that an interest charge of 10 per cent is to be levied on accounts which are overdue after 45 days from due date. The due date does not occur until 28 days after the end of the month in which the landing or take-off was completed. That amounts to 73 days. If the event occurred in the middle of the month another 17 days can be added giving around 90 to 100 days for payment without incurring an interest charge. I think that is a reasonably generous arrangement in comparison with commercial practice.
I return to the examination of the cost recovery program. In documents associated with the Senate Estimates Committee there is an analysis of revenue gathered from various air services regarding services provided to airline operators. There is no corresponding analysis of expenditure. It is quite clear that one can look at business concessions, parking stations, air navigation charges and airport rentals and determine what amount of money is being gathered by the Department from those activities, but there is no information whatsoever on the breakup of expenditure in providing ground services. It could well be that the cost of providing ground services is the area in which the total cost recovery program is deficient. It could well be that the revenue being gathered for services provided above the ground is in excess of 100 per cent, and the revenue being gathered for services provided on the ground is well below 100 per cent. Unfortunately that information is not available.
As I mentioned earlier the Minister when in opposition wanted an inquiry into aviation, but said nothing should be done until a comparison had been made with other modes of transport and other costs. Earlier this year the Minister appointed Sir Lenox Hewitt to chair a committee. I understand it was called the Aviation Industry Review Committee. I have sought unsuccessfully from the Minister to have the report of that committee tabled in this Parliament so that a proper public, informed and responsible discussion about the recovery program can be conducted. Unfortunately that is not to be the case. I want to remind the Minister of the views he expressed in Opposition just under 2 years ago. In a similar debate on an air navigation Bill- it is recorded at page 3871 of Hansard of 71 November 1974- he criticised the then Minister for Transport, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) because he believed the Minister was going to reduce staff within the air services group. The present Minister said:
I believe that the Minister, if he is so mad keen to cut the air services group within the Department of Transport down to size as he seems to be, ought to set up a special committee of the House of Representatives to study the question, instead of going off on an ad hoc basis closing down fire services and reducing safety standards in general
I think the Minister was clearly and responsibly expressing a view that the subject should be looked at responsibly and accurately so that the community can be informed and so that we do not have a government making decisions based on cronyism as appears to occur at present.
– Everything you say will be taken down and used in evidence against you.
– I am offering the information for the Minister’s consideration.
– I am saying a word on your behalf.
-I thank the honourable member for Newcastle. If the present Minister had the same flexible approach to the problems of the industry and was prepared to set up that committee now I think a great service could be done for the airline operators in this country. We could than have informed discussion and consideration of the subject based on fact rather than on guesswork. Let me go a little further. I have said that any public debate on the present subject under these conditions has to be deficient. In answer to a question I put on notice seeking the tabling of the Aviation Industry Review Committee report he said that it was being considered with the Administrative Review Committee report and that the reports had to be correlated. Unfortunately that has not come to pass. We have not seen either report.
We also have the scandalous committee being chaired by the chairman of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, Sir James McNeill, which is looking into government transport undertakings, again including airlines. One airline involved pays 18.2 per cent of all air navigation revenue. I ask the Minister to consider this matter on the basis that there must be some kind of discussion on the proper government decision for the nation. I do not mind his flying off the handle and calling me fancy names. That is part of the way he operates and it does not worry me at all, but I think for the consideration of Parliament and the Australian community it is time he took a hold of himself and started to bring before the Parliament the kind of information that those committees must be handling. I can see no justification whatsoever for maintaining this iron curtain of secrecy around the activities of those committees and the information with which they must be dealing.
The Minister has criticised me in the past on any occasion in which I have raised questions relating to air safety. I make it quite clear to the Minister and to the Parliament that I do not regard safety issues as sacrosanct. I know the Minister opposite does not. I do not see that safety aspects of air travel are any different from safety aspects of train travel or motor vehicle travel. It suits the media to publish garish pictures and for television stations to show bloody, gory film of train accidents. In fact, such film always gets the headlines in the news because of its goriness. This does not prevent television stations from televising the results of such accidents or of motor vehicle accidents and this matter ought to be looked at. I want to see it dealt with and I will not be stopped from raising the issue. The Minister himself has raised the issue in the past. I skip the part about the Minister’s bare back riding, but page 3872 in the same debate on 2 1 November 1974, the Minister said:
Safety standards in civil aviation are not a matter for political point scoring; they are a matter of great public interest and should not be tampered with without proper consideration and debate.
I put it to the Minister that if we are to have that proper consideration and debate he should let us have some facts and figures to deal with, a huie less emotion and some responsible anwers to questions on that subject when they are raised in this Parliament.
I turn again to the Senate Estimates Committee hearing because in the Civil Aviation Operations Division of the Department of Transport there is to be a reduction of 4 per cent in staff as compared with an overall reduction of 3 per cent in the Department of Transport. The net reduction in average staffing in the Department of Transport for the current year is 346 and 340 of those are to come from the Civil Aviation Operations Division. I have placed questions on notice and, I regret to say, have received from the Department non-answers in most cases. When I have raised those matters for further definition by the Minister he also has declined to answer them. If that is the way debate concerning safety is to be conducted then it will be on a deficient basis.
I asked the Minister in question on notice No. 1096 why a reduction of 340 staff was to take place in the Civil Aviation Operations Division. I ask the House to remember that this Civil Aviation Operations Division is the division about which the present Minister was so trenchant in his criticisms of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) in 1974 and called for the establishment of a committee of the House of Representatives to bring out in the open why there was to be a reduction in staff in the Civil Aviation Operations Division. Now the Minister has refused to answer a question on notice on the same subject. In his answer to a question on notice the Minister said:
The estimates have been made taking into account the likely effects of non-replacement of wastage in respect of staff engaged on non-essential tasks. In order to ensure that only essential positions are restaffed throughout 1976-77 each position is being carefully reviewed prior to any decision being taken on filling the vacancy.
There is nothing in the answer to indicate what is an essential position and what is a non-essential position. If that is the basis on which he is sacking staff I hope that somebody in the Department of Transport knows what is a non-essential and what is an essential position so that it is not being done with a pin. I refer again to Senate Estimates Committee C and to the answers to questions given by Mr Birch as recorded on page 369 of Hansard where it states:
Senator COLSTON Have any reductions been made which will affect the present level of air safety supervision?
Mr Birch No. We are being extremely careful to see that this does not occur. We have recently arranged to recruit about 70 air traffic control trainees to ensure we have continuity of staffing in that area.
Senator COLSTON Are any positions vacant in the Civil Aviation area due to staff ceilings?
Mr Birch At the moment the establishment, so called, is considerably over the staff numbers we have at the present time. There are positions vacant.
There is nothing in the answer to the question on notice I quoted earlier to indicate that an additional 70 air traffic control trainees were being taken on. It is a fact, and I referred it to the House some weeks ago, that at the end of June two out of three positions in the Civil Aviation Operations Division of the Department of Transport dealing with the issue of airworthiness certificates were not filled during the March to June quarter. Those positions were vacant.
In my question on notice No. 1 172 I sought information from the Minister related to the casual factors of the 1031 accidents in general aviation which occurred between 1971 and 1975. Quite a number of those- 250 or 16 per cent in fact- related to matters I believe would have been covered by the issue of airworthiness directives. Again the Minister did not see fit to answer my question in a responsible way. I do not mind him calling me names. That is par for the course for the Minister but from the point of view of responsibility and as far as the Parliament and the operators of aircraft are concerned, he has a responsibility to supply that information and to clarify the issue so that we can have proper debate.
I turn now to the report in the Australian of 7 October. It dealt with the increasing fatality rate in general aviation accidents. I am accepting the accuracy of these figures. The article states:
More Australians are dying in aviation accidents because of the increasing popularity of bigger light aircraft.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said yesterday: ‘In the old Moths you had only one passenger and in the early Cessnas up to three. But now aircraft carry six to eight. ‘
The eleven fatal air accidents this year have taken 37 lives, with an average 3.36 deaths an incident. In 1974-1975, the
Department of Transport reported 39 deaths in IS accidents, a 2.7 fatality average.
There we have a considerable increase in the fatality rate. Putting aside politics and the refusal of the Minister to supply information so that we can have a responsible and accurate debate, they are the facts. They are the lives that are being lost and when one looks at the delay in the Senate of the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Government Liability) Amendment Bill which increases the limit of compensation from $30,000 to a completely inadequate $45,000, one can see that there are a considerable number of Australians who could be disadvantaged as a result of that Bill not being passed and as a result of a deficiency in air safety services which are being provided by the Department of Transport.
I have quoted for the Minister the figures from his own Department’s estimates and have referred him to the Hansard report of the Senate Estimates Committee where the matter of air safety was dealt with and questions were asked. I again ask him not to deal with it in his usual flippant manner and certainly not in the flippant manner he exhibited to hang gliders earlier this year. In March I was astounded when the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) asked a question, almost making an appeal for something to be done about hang gliders, and the Minister said: ‘It is no different to hanging five; it is the boys having a lark’. Since then several Australian families have suffered tragedy as a result of the Government, which should have been responsible, not being responsible. Air safety is not an area to be glossed over by financial statistics. The information sought should be readily available to the Parliament and I hope the Minister will make that information available.
– I raised that matter, not you.
-In fairness to the honourable member for Casey, I credited him with raising it. I said that as I recalled he raised that matter in March. I hope I was correct but if I was not I invite him to correct me.
-We seem to have got off the subject a little in the last few minutes. The Air Navigation (Charges) Amendment Bill 1976 seeks to facilitate a 15 per cent increase across the board of charges relating to aircraft use of aerodromes, technical facilities, weather and search and rescue operations and these increases will be effective from 1 December. The costs of services allied with the aviation and aircraft industry are enormous and for many years now they have been of serious concern to various Commonwealth governments. Although there has been some objection in some areas of the airline and general aviation industry to this proposed 15 per cent increase across the board it should be remembered that this is a lot less than the increased proposed by the previous Government which was thinking of an increase in the vicinity of 300 per cent for general aviation charges. Civil aviation is vital to Australia because of the very nature of the country. One of the biggest problems faced by the Government is the fact that we must provide a full range of world class facilities in nation of small population where the volume of traffic is very much lower than it is in other countries. As well, we are faced with a situation where there are long haul internal routes, for which air transport facilities must be provided and maintained. Our costs here, too, differ considerably from those of other countries. Despite the problems faced by the Government in providing and maintaining these facilities, Australia’s record in this area is a very proud one. We are regarded as having the toughest regulations in the world but, obviously, this toughness has paid off as demonstrated by our safety record over the past 50 years.
If we are to maintain this standard and improve our facilities, we must be prepared to look at all ways of financing the proposals. There are many areas of growth and improvement that have to be under constant review. I would like to give one or two examples. One example, of course, is the announcement by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) of discussions he is to have with the New South Wales Government on the future planning of the Sydney airport facilities. Sydney Airport is indeed a real headache. Even now both Ansett Airlines of Australia and Trans-Australia Airlines have half of their fleet scheduled through Sydney Airport between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. every day. As well, because of the curfew arrangements, this is the peak hour for international arrivals. Often aircraft have to hold for long periods because of the density of traffic in the area.
Australians tend to travel early each day on our domestic airlines. This fact emphasises the difficult situation in Sydney, especially as airline timetables are hinged to traffic movements in Sydney. It would seem to me that the provision of dual runways and runway extensions into Botany Bay are essential. However, the cost involved is tremendous. The cost factor has already been made very obvious in the situation of the proposed new Brisbane Airport complex. One can only hope that the Minister has that plan constantly under review. It seems to me for a number of reasons, not the least among them being the cost factor, that the Brisbane Airport plan must be adopted as soon as possible. All Queensland Liberal members have a full knowledge of this proposed complex and, I am sure, share with me the utmost concern about getting the project under way as soon as possible.
The Commonwealth has the land for the project; it has the designs; it has the support of the people of Brisbane, especially the people of the Wynnum North district in my electorate who live under one of the airport’s flight paths. The proposed complex would enable all take-offs and landings to be made over Moreton Bay. Brisbane would become a curfew free airport and this would open the way for the full range of international aircraft regardless of their loadings or weight. The safety factor involved at present also would be overcome. At the moment many take-offs and landings are facilitated over the city. There is a very real danger, should an aircraft such as a DC9 lose an engine on take-off. An emergency plan has been instituted by the Department should this occur. There is a particular problem in this case with the high rise buildings being built in Brisbane. Cranes used on these constructions often intrude into air space. One hopes that the Minister will be able to give the go-ahead for the new Brisbane Airport complex as soon as possible.
These are just 2 examples of projects that must proceed. Of course, the funds that would be involved would be considerable. If this Government were to undertake a program that was based on an entirely ‘user pays’ principle, Australian airline passengers would be priced out of the air. Even now the domestic airlines are going through a non-growth period and operators are worried by the present price structure of airline fares. The consequence has been rationalisation of services by the major operators to try to remain at a profitable level of operation. One wonders just what would have happened if the formula under the previous Administration for air navigation charges had been applied by it. Actually, there are indications of a small growth returning to the domestic operators in coming months and the decision to increase the air navigation charges by only 15 per cent should help this slight recovery to occur.
I say this because the 15 per cent increase in the charges will add only 06 per cent to the total cost structure of the operations and, therefore, should add only a small amount of the cost of an airline ticket. One of the interesting aspects of this legislation is a revised scale for charges to the international airline operators. A new scale of charges is aimed at the recovery of the cost of airway faculties in proportion to the actual use of the facilities. Therefore, an operator flying from Singapore to, say, Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne will be paying at a greater rate than on a New Zealand-Australia east coast flight. This system will be in operation for 12 months and, I understand, will be reviewed at the end of that period when the air navigation charges come up for review again. Another change proposed to be introduced by the legislation is the 10 per cent interest charge on airline operators who do not pay their air navigation charges within 45 days. This is designed to provide an easier workload for the Department as well as an incentive for a quick payment of the fees involved.
One criticism that has been levelled in recent days at the cost of Australian air navigation charges has come from some members of the tourist industry who claim that the charges contribute to a great degree to the high cost of passengers coming to Australia and travelling by air within Australia. There may be some justification, to a degree, in some of these charges. Our landing charges are higher than those of most other countries. For example, the cost of landing a Boeing 747 in Sydney is $3348 compared with a cost of $2,465 in London, an all-up price of $ 1 , 1 39 in San Francisco, and $976 in Athens. But it would seem to me that there is a little more involved than just these charges. One has to look at costs of fuel and staff in Australia. These factors really help to make the difference. However, it is worth bearing in mind that they do contribute to a degree to the high cost of internal air fares. Bearing in mind the great problems faced in financing our airline facilities, we do try to help to stimulate tourist traffic, both into and within Australia. Airlines claim that they pay one-third of the entire costs of Australia’s meteorological services through air navigation charges. They say that this is perhaps a little unjust. If this claim is correct, perhaps there is room for adjustment in this area.
No doubt this and other measures to assist the airline industry and, indeed, the tourist industry will be recommended in the reports of the Industry Review Committee. I think that the Minister should be congratulated for establishing and supporting this committee which, of course, is headed by Sir Lenox Hewitt and is comprised of such leaders of the aviation industry as Sir Reginald Ansett. I know that the Committee is looking towards a reasonable contribution from the industry to pay for a percentage of the cost of facilities. It is a most significant inquiry as so much of the development of the nation, including its defence capacity, depends on a strong and viable aviation industry with its support facility. Aviation cannot be denied to the people of Australia. Aviation is not the fat cat that it has so often been reported to be. I believe that saturation point has almost been reached and that the industry can do little more to pay its way. I think it will be recognised that the measures proposed in this Bill are equitable for all concerned. Certainly the domestic operators have accepted the proposed formula and the moves have been welcomed by the general aviation industry.
The international carriers through the International Air Transport Association, have offered no alternative to the proposed formula although they have been asked to submit one which is equitable to all airlines operating into Australia. The Minister, I believe, made this offer at an IATA meeting in August but no formula has been forthcoming so far from the international airlines. I am sure that all honourable members will eagerly await the reports of the Industry Review Committee. But in the meantime we support the new charges as an equitable solution to the problem. I commend the Bill.
– I ask the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) to take note of the fact that this Government has been in office for 10 months, has presented its first Budget, and still there is no sign whatsoever of any activity around the Brisbane Airport, about which the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has spoken so often. Now that he is in a position to do something about this matter, he does nothing. Nothing nas been done by the honourable member for Bowman about the Brisbane Airport. I invite him to consider what was done by the Whitlam Labor Government in this matter in the very short period in which it was in office. I mention the new international terminal that is meeting a requirement in Brisbane. I refer also to the reasonable access roads that were provided by the Whitlam Labor Government. Nothing has been done by the present Liberal-National Country Party Government. When honourable members talk about the Brisbane Airport, they should thank the Labor Government for the improvements that have taken place there.
The Bill before the House is the usual Air Navigation (Charges) Bill which forms part of the Budget. I know that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has again backpedalled on one of the Government’s election policies. The Government has picked up the policy of the
Whitlam Labor Government and imposed a 15 per cent increase. I notice that the Minister has introduced in this legislation a new provision for the imposition of a 10 per cent surcharge if the aviation industry does not pay its bills on time. He has thereby applied another screw to the aviation industry.
Those are the actions of a government that was critical of some of the things that were done by the Whitlam Labor Government. There has been no relaxation of any of the charges that have been levelled against the aviation industry. There has been a re-arrangement of the operations of overseas airlines in Australia. I congratulate the Minister on pursuing once again another of the Australian Labor Party’s policies. I refer to an article in the Australian Financial Review of Wednesday, 3 November headed: Rents to Rise 500 per cent at Sydney’, which reads:
Persistence has paid off for the Commonwealth Department of Transport in its determination to increase rents at Sydney Airport’s international terminal building to what it calculates is an economic level.
When I wanted to do that I was criticised. It was said that I was persecuting the airline industry. I congratulate the Minister for picking up another of my policies on transport. He is not called Charlie Nixon’ for nothing. I agree that they are charges that should be levelled on the industry. The cost of cleaning the terminal at the Sydney International Airport was only just paid for by the rentals that were received from the airlines. The rentals went nowhere near meeting the other charges, which came to well over $2m. I think that the decision of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in this respect was a good one. The rental charged is a fair one.
I return to the subject of cost recovery. Mr Speaker, I have before me a table in relation to which I have sought the approval of the Minister for Transport for its incorporation in Hansard. It shows the cost recovery figures in millions of dollars from the years 1971-72 to 1975-76 and uses the Minister’s forecast of the estimated deficit this year. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-That table shows very clearly the deficit that has been incurred over the years to which I have referred in relation to the cost recovery figures of what was previously the Department of Civil Aviation and what is now the air section of the Department of Transport. The table shows a deficit of $53.2m in 1971-72; $59m in 1972-73; $65.8m in 1973-74; $80.2m in 1974-75; $72.7m in 1975-76; and an estimated deficit this year of $70m. The table shows that the costs recovered represented some 49 per cent of the operations in 197 1-72 and had risen to an estimated 60 per cent this year.
I think that what is being done as far as the 15 per cent increase each year is concerned is the imposition of a fair and reasonable charge on the industry. In fact, what I would like to see the Government do- I believe that it is long overdueis proclaim the Inter-State Commission Act. The Minister for Transport agreed to the legislation concerning that Commission. The then Opposition supported without opposition an amended Bill in this respect which finally went through both Houses of the Parliament. The Inter-State Commission Act should be proclaimed and the Commission should be set up. If ever there is a country that needs an InterState Commission to determine the most economic forms of transport it is this country, with its wide open spaces.
The honourable member for Bowman said that we should be subsidising the aviation industry because of the great distances between our various centres of population. I do not agree with him. I believe that we should be asking an independent expert authority, such as the InterState Commission, to carry out a study of this industry and determine what is the most economic form of transport. During my term in office I saw 3 ships pulled off the east coast-west coast service because they could not compete with rail transport. I personally do not accept the statements by the various railway commissioners that their railways were operating at a profit. I do not think that they were, but I could not prove anything as I did not have access and the Government of Australia did not have access to the
States’ figures. Therefore I had to accept the unsubstantiated statements of the State Ministers, who in turn were advised by their various railway commissioners. There is a need for the Inter-State Commission. Let us determine what is the real score.
Recently we saw a ship taken off the Sydney to Hobart, Devonport and Burnie run- I refer to the Australian Trader- because it was operating at a loss of some $1.3m to $ 1.6m a year. A considerable number of men were put out of employment or had to find employment on other ships. Nobody really knows- I do not know and I was the Minister for 3 years- the real amount of subsidy that is paid to air travel throughout Australia. We have those figures on a broad basis but when it comes down to figures that spell out the actual details there are no such figures available. We- when I say ‘we’ I mean this Parliament- may have been responsible for depriving Tasmania of what could have been the most economic form of transport for those people who cannot afford air travel. Should the Empress qf Australia continue to be subsidised at the amount at which it is now subsidised or the amount of subsidy that we introduced initially, being the first government ever to give any subsidy to transport as far as transport between the mainland and Tasmania is concerned? The same question can be asked insofar as the Australian Trader is concerned. A body like the Inter-State Commission is required to carry out an inquiry and, based on the expert knowledge that would be available to it, determine the best and most economic form of transport.
We have the situation today of competition existing between air transport and rail transport. We have the State railways slashing interstate fares so as to try to get into a competitive position with the airlines. We had a situation with the central Australian railways in which the commissioner was saying that the railways could not increase fares because if it were to do so it would not be able to compete with the airlines. At the same time, according to the figures that I have read out tonight, the Australian taxpayer is subsidising air travel. The Australian taxpayer is also subsidising rail travel and the State governments are subsidising their railways. Nobody really knows which is the most economic form of transport. This country is not wealthy enough and is not large enough to be able to carry various forms of subsidised travel. It might be possibleit might even be necessary- to use air conditioned long distance buses in the place of trains or air travel for that matter, if that is what the people want, at the true cost.
Members of the Government should not be afraid to face up to a full inquiry by an expert group such as the Inter-State Commission to determine what is the true cost of the services that are being provided. That is why I have been disappointed to find that the Minister and his Government, after agreeing in Opposition to the terms of the Inter-State Commission Bill, are not prepared to face up to the fact and to let us find out the true costs and what are the real economics of the transport situation in Australia so that the most economic form of transport can take over. I fear, as I said earlier in relation to the removal of the 3 ships off the Melbourne to Fremantle run, that the most economic form of transport has been removed and that the more inefficient form of transport, namely road and rail transport, has been retained. Those are some of the hit and miss decisions- the haphazard decisions- that are taken from time to time by governments in this Parliament. The shipping industry meets the full cost of its navigational charges under the Lighthouse Act. That industry pays approximately 100 per cent of the cost of providing all the navigational aids throughout Australia, but the aviation industry, according to the Minister’s figures and this year’s Budget, pays only about 60 per cent. Therefore an unfair advantage is being obtained.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
-As I was saying to honourable members, the maritime industry meets the full cost of all maritime charges, even port dues. Most of the State governments make a profit out of their various maritime services boards, harbour authorities or whatever they are called. The maritime industry meets the full cost of its operations while the aviation industry meets only 60 per cent of its costs. Only an interstate commission with the power and authority that such a body holds is capable of carrying out the investigations needed to get over this problem.
Another matter I want to deal with very quickly- this involves air navigation chargesrelates to an agreement between the Australian Department of Transport and the Government of Papua New Guinea. I seek leave to incorporate the whole of that Agreement in Hansard because part of it cannot be dealt with out of context. I have taken this Agreement from the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation for 1973.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The considerations of Ministers set out below are subject to final approval by the Papua New Guinea and Australian Governments.
Date of commencement
Ministers agreed that a commercially viable national airline should be set up as quickly as possible, on or before 1 December 1973. It was felt by Ministers that it would be appropriate that Papua New Guinea should go into selfgovernment with its own national airline.
It was agreed that the Papua New Guinea Government would take up 60 per cent of the equity in the national airline, that the Australian Government nominees would take up 24 per cent and that 16 per cent would be offered to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd.
The Papua New Guinea Ministers pointed out that ATI was a private enterprise which has considerable investments in Papua New Guinea. This indicated confidence in the country’s future. It was therefore considered appropriate that ATI be offered an equity in the new national airline.
Papua New Guinea Ministers were also conscious of the contribution that had been made by the Australian Government through Government airlines and the Department of Civil Aviation in establishing efficient aviation services and facilities, and the Ministers welcomed the involvement of the Australian Government in the new airline.
The Australian Government would give immediate consideration to financing the Papua New Guinea equity purchase by providing a special low-interest loan. The Papua New Guinea Government would have the right to acquire the shareholding of the other participants, at par as and when it desired to do so, proportional to their percentage holdings.
On the assumption that ATI agrees to participate in the airline that company would have the right to nominate one member to the board of the national airline, the Australian Government would have the right to nominate two members, and the Papua New Guinea Government would have the right to nominate four members to the board, including the chairman whose appointment would be agreeable to all parties.
The Ministers agreed that any significant change in the operating principles and policy of the national airline, as specified in the terms of this communique, would be subject to the agreement of both Governments.
The Ministers agreed that managerial skills already available in Papua New Guinea should be fully utilised. As agreed between the previous Australian Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea in September 1972, the top management of the airline should be provided by Qantas.
Employment and training
It would be the responsibility of the national airline to absorb all existing TAA and AAPNG staff in Papua New Guinea who seek to continue employment with the national airline. Further, there is to be clear understanding with the unions that where initial over-manning of positions occurs it shall be agreed that, in time, this will be adjusted by natural wastage.
It was re-affirmed by the Ministers that training programs would be intensified so that the move to complete control and staffing by Papua New Guineans would be achieved as quickly as possible.
Task force to set up airline
Both Governments agreed to the immediate establishment of a task force to work out the detailed requirements for bringing the airline into operation by the target date.
Australia offered to help provide any specialist staff who might be required for this purpose.
Australia-Papua New Guinea route
Pending independence, at which time a bilateral agreement governing air services between the two countries would be negotiated, the Australian Government agreed to the Papua New Guinea airline operating under its own identification on the Port Moresby/Brisbane route, with capacity equal to that of Ansett and TAA combined. It was envisaged that the Papua New Guinea airline ‘s share of capacity would be leased from the Australian carriers. The Ministers agreed that no Australian domestic airline will be permitted to operate international air services out of Papua New Guinea.
The Australian Ministers also agreed to explore with Qantas the the possibility of a pooling agreement with the Papua New Guinea airline, covering Papua New Guinea/ Australia traffic carried on their combined services following independence, and with the Australia domestic operators prior to Qantas ‘entry onto the route.
DCA agency and facilities
The Australian Government re-affirmed its willingness to provide, on an agreed agency basis, aviation facilities and services and skilled personnel as required.
Papua New Guinea Ministers noted the contribution that was being made by skilled DCA personnel, both in daily operations and in the development of training programs to provide for localisation as soon as possible.
DCA would transfer all its existing aerodromes, navigation faculties and other assets, mutually agreed, to the Papua New Guinea Government at no cost. The total value of these assets is approximately $24.5m. Aerodrome works at Port Moresby and Nadzab, involving an estimated expenditure of $ 13.5m, would proceed as planned, with costs being met by the Australian Government.
All Ministers expressed satisfaction with the agreements which had been reached and looked forward to continued close co-operation in the establishment of an efficient national airline and civil aviation system for Papua New Guinea.
19 May 1973 Port Moresby
-I thank the House. This was an agreement entered into between the then Department of Civil Aviation and the Government of Papua New Guinea for the setting up of a joint airline to be operated by Qantas Airways Ltd, Trans-Australia Airlines, Ansett Airlines of Australia and Air Niugini. The basis of representation on the board was that the 2 government authorities, TAA and Qantas, would receive 24 per cent of the shares, Ansett would receive 16 per cent and Air Niugini would retain 60 per cent. At that time Papua New Guinea was offered the full operation but it wanted to involve Australia. The agreement included the following:
DCA would transfer all its existing aerodromes, navi- gation facilities and other assets, mutually agreed, to the P apua New Guinea Government at no cost. The total value of these assets is approximately $24.5m. Aerodrome works at Port Moresby and Nadzab, involving an estimated expenditure of $13.5m, would proceed as planned, with costs being met by the Australian Government.
All those things are a charge against air navigation charges. They are part and parcel of what is met under this legislation. What concerns me is that after that agreement was reached between the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Minister for Transport in Papua New Guinea, and 2 Australian Ministers, Mr Morrison, Minister for External Territories, and myself, the Minister for Transport, we now find that the Papua New Guinea Government is trying to get out of that agreement. I feel strongly about this matter. The agreement was made between the 2 governments and it was clearly understood. Everyone was in agreement. We now find that the Papua New Guinea Government, the Government of a country for which Australia has done a considerable amount and has provided substantial financial assistance along the lines I just read to honourable members, is trying to get not the whole Australian involvement but just the Australian Government involvement.
This is all part and parcel of what an airline operator in Australia has been doing over the years- duchessing people and influencing people- so that his airline would get preferential advantage over other people. When the Minister for Transport makes a decision on this matter he can be assured of my maximum support in saying to the New Guinea Government that if it wants all the Australian airlines out that will be OK, we will accept that, but it is either all out or all in; never mind picking the eyes out of it. It was good enough for Papua New Guinea to take the money of the Australian people in the form of airports and the navigation facilities that were provided. A new airport was built and the main airport at Port Moresby was upgraded so that it could take modern international aircraft. Now, having got all those things, Papua New Guinea wants to kick TAA and Qantas out of the operation. The whole thing smells as far as I am concerned. I say again to the Minister that if he is big enough and if this Government is big enough to say that all the Australian operators will be in or out, I will strongly support that stand.
There is another matter I want to deal with in the last few minutes available to me. It is the question of landing charges on an international level. Once again I seek leave of the House to incorporate a table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? These being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. I am referring to that section of the Bill dealing with international charges. On 1974-75 figures we are recovering 94 per cent of the cost of international operations. For domestic trunk airline operations the recovery rate is 72 per cent, for rural airline operations it is 22 per cent and for general aviation it is 1 7 per cent. No doubt those percentages will increase slightly as a result of these new charges being introduced. According to the 1974-75 figures the total recovery rate is only about 54 per cent whereas the new figures will result in 60 per cent recovery. It is time that the international airlines, as well as the domestic airlines, adopted a more reasonable and rational approach to their operations. At present Pan Am and Qantas operating on the Pacific route have full aircraft but over a 12-months period their seat factor is running at between 45 per cent and 50 per cent. In other words, on the whole over the full 12 months they are operating at about half capacity. The air navigation charge for a 747 aircraft landing in Sydney represents about $1 1 per passenger. While the operators complain about the air navigation charges, they could reduce their fares by anything from $50 to $60 per flight if they adopted a more rational approach and filled their aircraft. They would be able to reduce their fares in that way. That is a more sensible and reasonable approach than whingeing and bitching about air navigation charges as they do. The charges represent a reasonable assessment of what it costs to operate airports and air routes and to provide all the facilities that are so important and so necessary for air operations throughout Australia.
The Opposition does not oppose the Bill but once again we draw to the attention of honourable members that the Government has welshed once again on one of its election policies because this was one of the issues that it was not going to pursue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Dr Paul Ehrlich Demonstration at Flemington Racecourse, Australian Rugby Union Team
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Today I read a statement made by that professional chatterbox Paul Ehrlich who I understand is an expert on butterflies. What does this prince of pseuds have to say to us on his latest visit to Australia? He says that Australia, like the United States, already is badly over-populated and should continue to restrict its population growth. What is most regrettable is that an Australian university - Macquarie University- has money to waste on a pedlar of this puerile nonsense. Believe it or not- thank God this is in New South Walessome academics are prepared to support this situation. I think it is regrettable that Ehrlich has been given this temporary post. I hope its temporary nature is for about only 24 hours, but it will probably be for a little longer than that. He has been given the post of visiting professor of environmental studies. As if there are not enough of them in the country already.
There is no doubt in my mind that in the immediate future the prophecy will be fulfilled that Ehrlich is here for one reason only: He is here to try to destroy the Australian uranium industry. He failed completely in the United States. All honourable members are aware of the result of the recent Californian referendum on nuclear energy. They are also aware of the referenda which were run in conjunction with the presidential election and of how unsuccessful the anti-nuclear lobby has been in the United States. It was done like a dinner. I believe that we will do the same here. I hope that when the time comes for us to argue this matter out Paul Ehrlich will receive the same sort of reception in Australia as he received in the United States. He is supposed to be an expert on butterflies, I understand. I hope he feels that he would like to fly home on those gallant wings when we have finished with him. In any case, this man has made a disastrous start on his latest package tour here by making these ridiculous statements about population growth. He is telling us, as one of the largest countries in the world with one of the smallest populations and some of the greatest riches, that we cannot have extra population. I think this logic will certainly commend itself to the Australian people!
– Some of the best brains, too.
– Yes, as my friend behind me says, we have some of the best brains too. But, after listening to the debate this evening, I must say that they are all on this side of the House. I think that Ehrlich ‘s statements are an insult to the intelligence of every Australian, even to people on the Opposition side. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) would have to confess that perhaps this time Ehrlich is wrong. I believe that Ehrlich being given a job in this country is an affront to every single taxpayer. After all, all of us contribute. Probably all of us are paying a small segment of his salary. I think that in another vigorous age he would have been run out of town.
– Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about you.
– Ehrlich probably would have had a good companion in the honourable member for Corio. But we have grown soft. We tolerate. We even applaud mountebanks and charletans as long as they can talk at a great rate of knots, even if the talk is meaningless. I would like to know who is responsible for giving Professor Ehrlich a job, however temporary. I would also like to know whether the Australian Conservation Foundation, for which I think honourable members know I have not a great deal of time, has had anything to do with Professor Ehrlich ‘s visit. Perhaps the ACF and Professor Ehrlich could join the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) in his Canberra carnival in December for the birthday suit brigade. I understand they are going to dance and bay at the moon. That is a suitable activity, I think, for Dr Ehrlich and for all that he stands for.
-On 6 September 1936 a bouncing baby boy was born into a well-established Victorian family with a name prominent and well known in that State. The child grew up normally. He was long spined. He therefore had a two-fold privilege. He was able to carry his head high and when he grew to adulthood the top portion of his body was far removed from the lower part of the anatomy. This was some deal of an advantage. The child was a little slow in walking but he showed great skill in crawling. I believe he still has those qualities. The child was named Marshall Baillieu.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will not reflect upon another member of the House.
– I mentioned a name but I did not reflect on a member of the House with that remark.
-You have. If you continue to do so I shall rule you out of order.
– The person grew up and became one of Kerr’s men. He entered the Parliament last year as the honourable member for Latrobe. Today, after lunch, a division took place in the House. Members of this side of the House had to cross to the other side. The honourable member for Latrobe occupied the seat of the acting Opposition Whip. While he was there he was seen to unfold -
-Order! I remind the honourable gentleman that under Standing Orders he may not reflect upon another member of the House, except by substantive motion. 1 have stopped the honourable gentleman at this point. I warn him that if he does reflect I shall have to deal with him.
– A person from the Government side occupied -
-Order! The honourable gentleman has already identified the honourable member about whom he is speaking. He will not reflect upon another honourable member.
– I withdraw the name of the person and substitute: ‘A person from the Government side’. He occupied and opened private documents -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
That the honourable member for Hunter be heard.
I believe that this is unfair. It is a true act and I -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
That the honourable member for Hunter be heard.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to move that he be heard. I call the honourable member for Indi.
-Mr Speaker, I think you dealt adequately-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not pass any comments about the conduct of the Chair.
– I wish again to speak about the effect that Industries Assistance Commission recommendations can have on a textile city such as Wangaratta. The largest textile mill in Wangaratta is Bruck Australia Ltd. There are 2 other substantial factories, namely, the Wangaratta Mills Ltd and Yakka Pty Ltd. They employ about 1200 people altogether. The comments I am about to make apply broadly to all manufacturing industries, not just the textile industry. The dependence of Wangaratta on the textile industry is such that, more than any other collective community in Australia, its fortunes are inseparably tied to the protective levels of tariffs and quotas on textiles as, I add, are many other towns and industries outside the capital cities of Australia. The textile industry maintains certain distinct characteristics which differentiate it from other industries. I mention several aspects of that industry. It has a high labour concentration with a high proportion of female labour. It has a high proportion of migrant labour. It has quite a high age structure for the operatives employed with a relatively low level of qualifications being necessary. It has a high dependence on decentralised communities. Finally, in the past and now, it depends on varying degrees of protection from governments.
These characteristics contribute, in varying degrees, to the industry’s current disability on an international price basis. But, at the same time, the industry also carries very great national and regional socio-economic benefits. The industry, being labour intensive, is admirably suited to the concept of decentralisation and regional development. In Wangaratta the establishment and subsequent growth of Bruck Australia Ltd has been one of the principal determinants in the growth of the city. It follows from this that there is a high correlation between the levels of textile imports and the economic and social wellbeing of Wangaratta. Bruck Australia Ltd, the largest producer of woven manmade fibre fabrics in Australia, has been Wangaratta ‘s largest single employer of labour for over a quarter of a century. At the present time Bruck employs one in eight of the work force in Wangaratta. The importance to the textile industry of the female work force in Wangaratta is highlighted by the fact that 26.8 per cent of females employed at June 1976 were textile employees. If there were no textile industry in Wangaratta, these women would be unemployed because no alternative employment is available. In regard to migrant labour, the employment at Bruck mills of people of non-English speaking extraction is 37 per cent. If one takes into account the other 2 textile mills in Wangaratta the migrant percentage in the textile industry there would be over 50 per cent.
With those few facts, the implications of any IAC recommendations relating to textiles for a city such as Wangaratta become abundantly clear. If the textile industry is not to be protected, then unemployment must increase dramatically. What will happen to these jobless people in a place like Wangaratta? Do they move to the mythical areas which have the mythical low cost industries to which the IAC constantly refers but never specifies? I conclude by quoting some remarks made by the chairman of Bruck Australia in his annual report, and I agree completely with him:
Unless Australians are prepared to accept a standard of living very much lower than we are currently enjoying, Australian manufacturing industry must be protected. We can enjoy the low cost products of low standard of living countries only if we are prepared to export jobs and create massive unemployment.
I ask the Government again -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– … to make clear the importance of the textile industry to Australia and that it is determined that this industry will be retained.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I must warn the honourable member for Indi that I called on him twice to resume his seat but, notwithstanding that, he kept on talking. If I have to do that again I am afraid I will have to deal with the honourable member.
– I apologise, Mr Speaker.
– I want to make some comments this evening on the remarks of the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr). Although I do not agree with the sentiments he expressed, I do think he raised an important subject, one which could do with far more airing in the national Parliament. It has to do with the future population of Australia. Obviously Macquarie University has made a very wise decision in inviting Dr Ehrlich here because he has already provoked the raising of his name in the national Parliament. If people who are invited to Australia can wake us up a little to some of the problems with which we are going to be confronted in this country then their presence here ought to be welcomed. The type of sarcasm that was cast at Dr Ehrlich by the honourable member for Swan will not be accepted by the majority of people who follow the speeches and activities of Dr Ehrlich while he is in Australia.
Conservation and population are extremely important issues, but they have only a fraction of the importance that they are going to have in 10 to 20 years’ time. While some people might say that we should have less people in Australia than we have at the present time- the honourable member for Swan would say that we should have more- no one is quite sure of what is occurring. With great thanks to my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), who has been doing a great deal of work on this matter following the report of the Borrie committee, I think it is about time that the national Parliament had a close look at what is going to happen to the population in Australia and perhaps give some guidance to it. According to the very simple formula that has been put to us about the population of Australia, if we maintain the 1973 Australian fertility rate and if we are able to achieve a net gain of 50 000 migrants a year between now and the year 2000, we will reach a population of only 17.6 million, not the 21 million which may have been projected 10 or 20 years ago. So our population is going to be far less than was predicted some years ago and the words of the honourable member for Swan are not going to change that.
The other difficulty we are going to run into, of course, is that we cannot fill the boats with migrants as easily as we might have been able to do late in the 1940s, in the 1950s and the 1960s. Such a policy might not be as welcome these days as it was then. Of the 17.6 million an additional 480 000 are going to be over 65 years of age. An additional 48 per cent of our population will be living off social security. That will present an enormous problem to governments of the future in Australia and I do not believe that we are going to be able to convince people in Europe, from where our traditional migrants come, that it is a good thing to come here. Firstly, recent example has shown that most people who want to migrate from Europe prefer Canada to Australia. Secondly, many of the countries are facing exactly the same problems as we are going to face in maintaining a work force and they are intent on keeping people in their own countries. When someone says that Dr Ehrlich is mad, that he is wrong and that he should go home, I say that we should welcome Dr Ehrlich ‘s presence here and argue with him if we think he is wrong. The way to end the argument is not the traditional Democratic Labor Party way of saying that people should not have the right to speak.
In conclusion, I ask honourable members to remember that with the present birth rate in Asia there will be an additional 790 million people to our north. If the honourable member is worried about population, there will be a lot of problems in which he can share without saying that perhaps we should follow the same path. Governments of Australia are going to have sufficient problems without anyone saying that we should not have the debate, the controversy, the additional advice and the expertise of people with a reputation like that of Dr Ehrlich.
– I wish to make an appeal tonight to all Australians to keep politics out of sport. Having been devoted to the sport of racing for 12 years, I want to say to this Parliament how disgusted I was at the pitiful attempt by a motley band of ratbags and yahoos to disrupt the presentation of the Melbourne Cup at Flemington racecourse last Tuesday. Veteran racegoers, track watchers and dockers swear that they had never seen them at Flemington before. But those interested in politics recognise them as the same old gang of cave dwellers who, like a travelling circus, follow the Governor-General around the country like a bunch of twits, annoying and disturbing. They have got about as much charm and appeal by now as the Andrews sisters. They are fast running out of an audience. Yet there they were, never having been seen at Flemington before, standing in water up to their hocks in a childish attempt to denigrate the Governor-General. They made complete and utter fools of themselves and, watching it on television, I wondered what Van der Hum thought about it all. I would not mind betting that if Van der Hum were allowed to speak he would say that none of them were fit even to muck out his stall. At the same time, I would suggest that none of them went there to watch the Melbourne Cup or the presentation but went there for the purposes of cheap political propaganda to denigrate a great Australian.
The stewards displayed a considerable interest in them. The chief steward advised subsequently that he believed it was odds on that if they had been swabbed each one of them would have produced a positive swab on anything from morphine to hashish or heroin. The jockeys declared those of either sex to be unfit to ride. The trainers declared them to be chaff bandits and wasters, and the true thoroughbreds present- Sir John Kerr, Sir Alex Creswick, the Robinson brothers, Mr and Mrs Abel and jockey Bob Skelton- had the last laugh. I suggest that Sir John Kerr was absolutely magnificent in the way he handled these people in the remark he made to the New Zealand owners that it was not the horse and it was not the New Zealanders who were the object of the odd noises. The final comment at Flemington was that it was 10 to 1 on that they would not be seen at Flemington next year; that all present hoped that Sir John Kerr would be there next year and the year after to present the cup to sportsmen in the presence of sportsmen and that they would not again have the disgraceful situation of the magnificant turf of Flemington being desecrated by ratbags and yahoos who had no right to be there and who did no service to themselves or the people of this country.
-Getting away from politics and on to sport, I draw the attention of the House to the present Australian rugby union tour of France. It is common knowledge that this side is not faring too well on the playing fields of that country, having been beaten quite resoundingly by France in the 2 tests played to date.
-That is a sad note on which to finish. It being 1 1 o’clock, the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday next
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
What progress has been made with plans (a) to lease Grimwade House as an official residence in Melbourne and (b) to pool the resources of Admiralty House and Kirribilli House as official residences in Sydney.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Two guided missile frigates of the Oliver Hazard Perry Class (FFG ‘s).
The estimated total project cost of the two guided missile frigates is $A330m (at January 1976 price levels). This figure includes the cost of ammunition, spares, helicopters, royalties, research and development and Australian industry participation.
The U.S. Government has also inserted a contractual clause in Requests for Quotations for Government Furnished Equipment to be supplied to the FFG program requiring the contractor to solicit Australian industry for the supply of components, material and equipment.
am asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
On what dates and for what ports did the (a) Victorian and (b) Western Australian Governments set up the safety organisations recommended in the document entitled Environmental Considerations of Visits of nuclear powered Warships to Australia tabled in the House of Representatives on 4 June 1976 (Hansard, 8 September 1976, page 794).
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Ban on Unapproved Child Restraints (Question No. 1241)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What action has he taken to implement the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Road Safety to ensure that (a) the Australian Capital Territory legislates to ban the sale and fitting of unapproved child restraints and (b) legislation is enacted to require the wearing of restraints by children in the Australian Capital Territory.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Consideration is at present being given to introducing restrictions on the sale of unapproved child restraints and to the feasibility of legislation requiring the wearing of approved restraints where fitted.
Naval Units U.S.A. and U.S.S.R. (Question No. 1252)
asked the Minister for Defence, on notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The information requested may be obtained from current editions of The Military Balance, Jane’s Fighting Ships and Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. There may be some discrepancies in terminology between that used in the question and the current terminology used in Jane’s and therefore the honourable member may care to use the following ship types terminology:
Spelling of Word ‘Program’ (Question No. 1287)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided me with the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Report of Australian Delegation to Thirtieth Session of the United Nations General Assembly (Question No. 1312)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The draft report of the Australian delegation to the 1975 session of the United Nations General Assembly was received in the Department of Foreign Affairs, from our Mission to the United Nations in New York, on 2 February this year. The draft report was edited in my Department and was held over for tabling in the Budget session of Parliament, and to enable Members to consider it prior to the opening of the 3 1st session of the United Nations General Assembly on 2 1 September this year.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I do not propose to depart from that principle.
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.
No pension is to be reduced by reason only of the change from the merged means test to the income test.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer .to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Unemployment in Electoral Division of Prospect (Question No. 1155)
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761104_reps_30_hor101/>.