30th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speakers and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the IAC and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly, Mr Dobie, Mr Innes, Mr Charles Jones and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris, Mr Antony Whitlam and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones, Mr Les McMahon and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will immediately cease the mining and prohibit the export of uranium until perfectly safe methods of final disposal for radioactive wastes have been guaranteed; will greatly increase expenditure on research into safe, clean and inexhaustible sources of energy; and will aid underdeveloped countries in their efforts to secure a fair share of the world ‘s energy resources, while at the same time honouring its obligations to the future of humanity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann and Mr Hayden.
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 below12 percent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guide-lines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1975 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existing Sunnybank Post Office continue to operate in its present location even after the opening of the new building in Mains Road.
The closing of this Public Service will cause considerable inconvenience to the people in this and adjacent areas who have had the service for many years.
Aged and Invalid Pensioners, housewives with small children, people without their own means of transport will be further inconvenienced in having to travel the additional distance to the new Post Office which is situated in an already congested area with no adequate parking facilities.
There are approximately 40 small businesses and shops consisting of food retailers, grocers, fruit shops, chemists, drapers, shoes, dress shop, solicitor, doctor, dentist, bank, hairdresser, bread kitchen etc. who will find it most inconvenient to operate their postal requirements from the new location.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrKillen.
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 Howard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Capricornia in the State of Queensland respectfully showeth:
Objection to Metrics and request the Government to revert to the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Carige.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That the biological and medical implications created by the mining and milling of uranium are so great as to be a threat to present and future generations of mankind;
That there is no real assurance that safe methods of disposal and storage exist;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray to delay any action on uranium mining and the filling of overseas quotas until a public education program on the medical, social and economic implications of nuclear power has been undertaken.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned employees of the shipping industry in Newcastle, New South Wales, respectfully showeth:
That the socio-economic impact resulting from the decision of the Government in respect to shipbuilding and ship repair facilities at Newcastle Dockyard would be little less than disastrous.
That the region already has the highest per capita rate of unemployment in Australia and any further aggravation to the employment situation will have far-reaching implications on the community as a whole.
That the Government should reconsider its decision in the light of facts presented to the Industries Assistance Commission by the Hunter Valley Research Foundation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House urge the Government to reconsider its decision in respect to shipbuilding and ship repair facilities at Newcastle Dockyard.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
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 instruments 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 New South Wales 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 the500 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.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live way from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
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 we are concerned about the future of the Australian Assistance Plan.
That we request that the Commonwealth Government support the Australian Assistance Plan by providing for legislation and finance for the Plan on a national basis.
That we feel this way, because the Australian Assistance Plan is making it possible for citizens to help themselves, especially those who need help the most, such as invalid, the inarticulate, and others, as evidenced by the work of the Western Adelaide Regional Council for Social Development over the last two years.
That we believe that this represents the best possible use of limited government resources.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament take immediate steps to continue the Australian Assistance Plan as recommended in the report tabled by the Honourable, the Minister for Social Security, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, in Parliament on 4 March 1 976.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
– I ask the Prime Minister: What response did he have to the call he made in the House a week ago for the Mount LyellMining and Railway Company to reconsider its massive retrenchments at Mount Lyell in the light of the devaluation on Sunday week? Has he had a response to his renewed call to the company 2 days ago on the eve of the subsequent revaluation?
– I have had no response from the company to this point. I am somewhat disappointed with that, especially in view of the unanimity and strength of the Senate committee’s report on this matter which made it quite plain that as a result of devaluation the company would be able to continue in full production at no greater cost disadvantage to itself than if it dismissed 400 people and reduced production. Obviously, of course, if world copper prices improved further as a result of the increasing higher production, the company’s position would improve much more markedly than it would if it reduced production. I have not yet had a response and I only hope that the company will be able to respond adequately to the Senate committee’s report.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence. I refer to further allegations made in the Bulletin this week regarding security leaks. I ask: Does the Minister stand by the assertion made by the Prime Minister and himself that there has not been any improper disclosure of classified documents initiated since November 1975?
– I have no wish to seek to identify in persistence a quality hitherto unperceived but I most certainly stand by the assertion made by the Prime Minister and by me to the effect that there has not, to our knowledge, been any improper disclosure of any document prepared after November 1975. 1 notice with some astonishment an article in this week’s Bulletin repeating that allegation. The tense which is used is not the past tense. It is the present tense; indeed, one could say it is the continuing tense. I want to repudiate as explicitly as I can the allegations as they may apply to any time after November 1975. The only evidence- the word ‘evidence’ deserves to be in quotation marks- which the author of the article produces in support of his contention is:
Drafts of the recent so-called White Paper on defence were leaked many weeks before the final governmentauthorised version was tabled in parliament.
I ignore the pejorative and tendentious language which the author uses, but if any draft of the White Paper was leaked I expect that it would have been published. Where was it published? Possibly the author may be persuaded to inform the House where it was published. If there had been a leak I would regard it as passing strange that the draft would not have been published somewhere. There has not been to my knowledge, nor to the knowledge of my advisers, any publication of any draft of the White Paper. Further and finally, I refer to this allegation in the article:
It just does not do to run a little publicity campaign in favour of security for the nation’s defence secrets. You get defamed under parliamentary privilege . . .
I am not aware of having said anything about the author that represents defamation, but if he has any misgiving on the point I will gladly say it outside the Parliament. As further earnest of my attitude on this I understood that the proprietor of this newspaper was a person with a strong entrepreneurial sense. I conveyed to him a message that I would find it immensely agreeable for the author of the article to appear on television, to stand in a witness box and to be crossexamined by me for half an hour. I laid down but one condition- that the television program should be live. I hope that possibly they may reflect on the invitation and take it up. I now understand that there has been nothing but a rather arctic response to the suggestion that I made. I assure the proprietor that I will not hurt the author of the article too much.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Was the panic decision announced yesterday, to revalue the Australian dollar again, caused by the alarming rate of capital inflow? What was the amount of capital inflow since the announcement of the 17VS per cent devaluation? Are our present methods of control defective? Is a new system of control under consideration? If so, is it to be other than the variable deposit ratio scheme? Who is his pet astrologist thos week and will he take notice of today’s forecast for those born under the sign of Leo? It states:
You will catch yourself talking to yourself today, and wonder about yourself. Normal enough, you 11 have no one else to talk to.
-The decision that was taken yesterday on the advice of the Government’s technical committee on movements in Australia’s exchange rate was certainly not a panic decision. The movement in the exchange rate should not have come as a shock in any sense. People who perceive that decision as a shock fail to digest the implications of the statement that was put down on 28 November. As honourable members should recall, I emphasised then-I emphasise it again- that the exchange rate system would be administered more flexibly so as to avoid major shifts in the exchange rate. In this sense there necessarily will be a period of adjustment in which to learn to live with the revised basis. Obviously that process will take time. Most industrialised countries have lived with comparable systems over a period of many years. So far as Australia is concerned, we already have gained considerable experience since we adopted the trade-weighted system in September 1974.
Exchange rate movements do net have to be costly to the trader. As is well known, the risks of exchange rate changes can be minimised by using forward cover facilities that are available through the banking system. In that sense I emphasise to the honourable gentleman that the flexibility of the system ought to be understood and comprehended, even if that understanding or comprehension will take a little time, throughout the general community. There was no sense of alarm about capital moving into the country. I do not disclose the figures here, for the reasons I mentioned yesterday in response to a question asked by, I think, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In responding to that question, as honourable members will recall, I made it perfectly clear that the Government’s arms of policy are available to monitor and control the situation as appropriate.
-The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the concern in the dairy industry that the Government has not announced the continuation of underwriting of skim milk powder, butter, cheese and casein for the final 6 months of the current production year, from 1 January to 30 June 1977. When will the decision be made? When it is being considered will the Minister put to Cabinet that there should be an increased level of underwriting to allow a payment of approximately 65c per lb for fat in milk? Does the Minister agree that, as the firmer trend for exports plus devaluation will mean that the actual government financial contribution to the underwriting will be minimal or non-existent and as the present return of approximately 60c is inadequate, 65c is the more correct level of underwriting?
-I think every member of the House knows the assiduous way in which the honourable member for Murray represents his industries, particularly those which are as disadvantaged as the dairy industry has been. There is justification for examination of the future of underwriting, following the devaluation of the Australian currency. The assessment made by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics is that there is expected to be an increase of about $9m in receipts for the industry as a result of the change in currency values. In addition, there is a quite significant improving demand for dairy products in various world markets.
At the recent Australian Agricultural Council meeting discussion was undertaken between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the future of underwriting. If there is to be an extension it would, of course, be a matter of discussion between the Commonwealth and the States. I trust that in that light, and as a result of the devaluation of the Australian currency, there would be a possibility of providing some extension of the scheme for the first 6 months of next year.
Nonetheless, the Government at this stage has not conluded its consideration of the matter. I take on board the honourable gentleman’s suggestion that there might be an increase in the amount. However, I think it might be said that even at present price expectations unfortunately the returns on export markets will be significantly less than the cost of providing that 65c per lb underwriting. Part of the difficulty in the industry is the need to establish future production levels that might more reasonably meet the expected world demand. It has certainly been a product of State decisions that there is a significant reduction in production this year. But if an undue level of assistance were to be given to the industry I wonder to what degree that might encourage production above that which can be reasonably sold. I take on board the honourable gentleman ‘s suggestion and I will ensure that it is considered by the Government when this matter is before it.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. Does the revaluation of yesterday suggest that under the new currency arrangements very frequent changes will occur in Australia’s exchange rate? Will this unsettle business confidence and create surges of speculative hot money flowing in and out of our reserves? Would it not be better to manage the destabilising capital flows through regulations such as the variable deposit ratio scheme and other banking controls rather than by such confusing exchange rate changes?
-The honourable gentleman completely misunderstands the nature of the new regime. One of the reasons for the new system is to obviate speculation which, as the honourable gentleman ought well to understand, can build up where there are long periods in which there is no movement of the exchange rate, as has been the case in recent years since September 1974 and as was the case specifically during the course of recent months when there was major speculation as to the nature of the move itself. I remind the honourable gentleman that, as I have emphasised on a number of occasions, it was decided to move to a managed exchange system so as to be able to avoid large jumps in the exchange rate which can have very severe and disruptive impacts on the Australian economy. I have mentioned before that of course with a new system of this type there will be a need for time to adjust to it in the market-places at large.
– What about business confidence?
– So far as business confidence is concerned, I have no doubt that the business community will be able to work effectively with the new system because it will obviate the disruption that has occurred under the system which has been followed since 1974.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is the right honourable gentleman aware that the Western Australian Industrial Commission is to pass on the full consumer price index rises for the next 3 quarters to all workers under its State awards? Is not wages policy an important part of any national economic management program? What can this Government do to rectify the ridiculous situation where a major weapon of national economic policy is determined by 6 State wage-fixing bodies moving in their own separate ways, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission possibly moving in another direction, and government policy possibly moving in none of these directions? Is this not further justification for the introduction of a national incomes policy?
-The early reports of the Perth decision may not be completely accurate, because I have advice that the decision of the Western Australian Industrial Commission is to apply the Perth consumer price index to the State minimum wage, not right through the whole wage structure. If that is so, it is something very much less than full indexation and may be what the shadow Minister had in mind when he said on television a day or two ago that the Opposition’s policy was not full indexation. He left that in a rather vague sort of framework. Obviously there are problems when a Commonwealth jurisdiction and State jurisdictions can compete and can leapfrog. On our present advice, the decision of the Perth Commission is not irresponsible but I would like to see full details of the judgment to know exactly what the Commission intends. There are States which claim that their wages boards and wage fixing criteria follow very closely those of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Therefore, that makes it all the more important that the Arbitration Commission set a lead in its determinations and realises that it will be having a great influence not only on its immediate awards but also on awards determined by State authorities. I had discussions with Sir Charles Court about activities in Western Australia because in previous times, and during national wage case hearings, the Western Australian Industrial Commission had gone much further than this last decision. It would appear to me that this is a much more responsible decision than was reported earlier this morning and a much more responsible position than that adopted earlier this year.
-Did the Treasurer, in his devaluation statement, cite wage increases, especially the 2.2 per cent September quarter increase, as a major reason for devaluation? Does he recall that his Budget Paper No. 1 estimated that average earnings would increase by 12 per cent this financial year? How does he reconcile the 2 matters?
-I am not sure that I picked up the point which the honourable gentleman queried. If I did not, I invite him to raise the matter again with me during question time. As I recall what he was querying, it was the basis upon which there were references to the question of wage and salary increases in the context of the decision to devalue. As senior Ministers have made perfectly clear, both in this House and outside, one of the underlying reasons which ultimately led to devaluation was the very heavy lift in wage and salary movements over a considerable period. I refer particularly to the honourable gentleman’s period in government. As I have repeated on other occasions, during the last 6 years wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent, compared with 53 r cent in the United States and 70 per cent in est Germany. Clearly, on any reasonable reading of the basis of the movement in wage and salary levels in recent years, that was a position which was not sustainable. The Government at the same time, because of anti-inflationary strategy, had determined to hold the rate as long as possible. The more recent decision, while in that general context, paid very heavy heed to the inevitability of a movement in the rate which arose from the very significant speculation during the course of the past 3 months. As to the 2.2 per cent, the honourable gentleman ought to be aware that the Budget assumptions bore in mind a continuation of plateau indexation. The 2.2 per cent increase, which was the passing on of the full consumer price index increase in that quarter, would therefore have been inconsistent with the Budget assumptions. For that reason, it was one of the factors which was pointed to the statement concerning devaluation, but it ought not to be seen by the honourable gentleman as a very significant factor against the other areas of consideration that I have mentioned.
-Is the Treasurer aware of the difficulty of some fire brigade boards in finding suitable persons willing to act as auxiliary firemen? Is he aware also that the deduction of 35 per cent of the allowances now necessary under the provisions of the Income Tax Act has caused dissatisfaction and may cause resignations of people who will be difficult to replace? Will the Government examine the position to see whether some way can be provided for payments to auxiliary firemen to be exempted from income tax so as to assist fire brigades in engaging auxiliary firemen and so obtain the necessary manpower in case of fire or other disaster where the fire brigade is called for help?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for raising this question. I am very much aware, as indeed are all members of the Government, of the service contributed by voluntary firemen in the honourable gentleman’s electorate and elsewhere in Australia. I know that they, together with other members of the community, are concerned about the levels of taxation which now prevail. The Government is very much concerned about those high levels of taxation. As the Prime Minister and I have consistently emphasised, the Government is committed to reducing the level of personal taxation as soon as we responsibly can.
The deduction of taxation at the rate of 35c in the dollar from the earnings of auxiliary firemen reflects the fact that under current tax scales that rate, or even a higher rate, is usually the rate that applies when the additional income is included in the person’s end of the year tax assessment Deductions at the rate of 35c in the dollar help to avoid the situation in which people have to face a very large tax bill at the end of the year. The earnings of auxiliary firemen, like the pay and additional earnings of other people giving service to the community, have long been taxable. So in that sense this is not a new principle. The question raised by the honourable gentleman will certainly be given careful consideration. I am grateful that he has mentioned it in the House! That consideration will be given to it by the Government in the general context of the review of the personal income tax system.
-I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that, as he stated in reply to the honourable member for Perth last Monday, devaluation is not inflationary if there is surplus industrial capacity? Is this true of other expansionary policies? Why has the Treasurer never seen this simple fact before?
– That was rather a hodge-podge series of questions. What I said in the House was that devaluation added to the increase in the price mechanism. That is on the record. No Minister of this Government has denied that devaluation does have an inflationary consequence. But what we have gone on to say is that, unlike the action of the Labor Government in its devaluation in September 1974, this Government, concerned about the inflationary consequence of the devaluation, moved to take offsetting action in relation to the fiscal side, the monetary side and in relation to wages policy. Those matters were referred to in the original statement, which has been followed by statements by other Ministers relating to matters which fall within their own jurisdiction.
As to the under-capacity and under-utilisation of resources in particular industries and companies, I said to the honourable member for Perth at the time that, in looking at the inflationary consequence of devaluation, one should not ignore the fact that a large number of manufacturers are working under capacity at the present time and that they would have an ability to raise output and to lower unit costs and therefore to hold prices in their particular industries in the devaluation context. The Government has been advised of some significant areas where prices will be held, but that is a matter of confidence between the Government and the companies concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the wholesale murder of men, women and children which has been perpetrated and which is still being perpetrated by the Cambodian communist regime for the purpose of terrorising the Cambodian people. I ask: What information is available to the Government about details of these shocking occurrences in Cambodia? Can the Minister confirm that, for the purpose of increasing the impact of their terror campaign, the Cambodian communists forbid exit from Cambodia and, as a matter of routine, execute any Cambodian refugees whom they can apprehend? Has the Government any details of the recent incident when 26 Cambodian refugees, including children, were returned across the border by the Thai authorities and are said to have been forthwith beheaded by the Khmer Rouge, that is, the Cambodian communists? Finally, will the Minister see that details of such communist atrocities which customarily occur in Cambodia and elsewhere receive adequate publicity in Australia so that such publicity may nave some deterrent effect upon those who perpetrate these atrocities and so that Australian communists who are associated with this foul movement may receive the detestation and execration which is their proper due?
-I have taken note of the series of questions which the honourable member for Mackellar has asked. We do not have detailed information on all the matters which he has put to me. I take the point made at the end of his question about selective commentaries which are made not only in the media but also by those who take an interest in international relations about the restrictions on human rights and a prejudice even to the right to life in certain countries. It is quite apparent that many countries are selected and commented upon because of the nature of their regime. Others are left aside for that very same reason. The reality, from our point of view, is that we have difficulty in getting accurate confirmation of the charges- some evidently well founded- as to what has been transpiring in Cambodia. It is a fact that the previous Australian Government recognised the present Government of Cambodia, I think on 17 April 1975. It has been the view of this Government that it would not be in the interest of the peaceful development of Cambodia and of the South East Asian region to withdraw that recognition.
I have already indicated in the House that Australia is not represented in Phnom Penh and that formal diplomatic relations have not been established with Cambodia. I have, of course, previously given to the House details regarding this matter and there is probably little to add to the comments I made about it back in April. I pointed out then, as I have today, that Australia had no direct diplomatic representation in the country but that we had received various reports, some of them apparently well sourced. I have said that if the reports were true- in certain instances we believe them to be true- no government, no matter what its political complexion, could condone them. I repeat that we deplore atrocities and breaches of human rights wherever they occur but particularly in regard to the charges which are made about Cambodia. While recognising that there has, in fact, been some decline in reports of atrocities in recent months, nevertheless I shall see whether I can check the matters about exit and entry from Thailand to which the honourable member referred and provide authoritative opinion to honourable members. I repeat that if the reports are true no government could condone the actions.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. I refer him to resolutions carried at meetings of the Australian Legal Aid Office Staff Association which recommend that Association members not accept transfers to State organisations in the light of the arrangements countenanced by himself. Does the honourable gentleman intend to reconsider his hastily conceived plans to transfer full responsibility for the functions of the Australian Legal Aid Office to the States? Further, will he continue to induce transfers of staff from the Australian Legal Aid Office to the commissions established by the States?
– As I have indicated before in this House, the discussions with the States are continuing. Those discussions are designed to preserve the position of the staff involved. No final arrangements have been reached with the State of Western Australia in relation to either the form of the legislation or the conditions and terms upon which staff would be taken over by the State of Western Australia. Discussions are going on with that State and with the State of South Australia. I understand that some discussions will be held later this week with the State of Queensland in relation to this matter. I am going along steadily, pursuing the objective which I indicated the Government had adopted earlier this year- that is, to set up an independent commission in each State. During the discussions officers of my Department will continue to attempt to obtain conditions which will preserve the situation of staff. The staff are being consulted in the course of those discussions and I hope that any final arrangements that are arrived at will succeed in preserving their position.
Some people seem to believe that when the officers go across they will remain Commonwealth public servants. It has always been clear that these commissions will be independent of government and that they will have staff of their own. One of the basic problems with the Australian Legal Aid Office at the moment is that the officers are officers of my Department and on occasions I am in the difficult situation where I am the prosecutor in relation to an applicant for legal aid and at the same time my officers are appearing for him. That is a most undesirable position. I hope that the honourable member for Grayndler would agree with me that it is undesirable and that therefore the officers of the legal aid commissions should be independent of government. It was never my view that the officers would or could remain Commonwealth public servants. However, their terms and conditions of work and their salary structure should be no less favourable than they are at present.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. How did the Government arrive at the figure of 17Vi per cent for the devaluation of the Australian dollar announced last Sunday week?
– In the debate that has gone on over the last few days I think people have tended to forget the options that were given to the Government in the week before the decision was made. Those options were, on the one hand, to borrow $ 1,000m in an effort to stave off a change in the rate or, on the other hand, to devalue. In those circumstances the Government took the course of devaluing, for reasons which I think are now clearly understood. The other course, of borrowing $l,000m, would have left a situation in which there would have been continuing doubt as to whether the moves would be successful, especially in the light of statements by former Treasurers that devaluation would be inevitable at some stage. I am well advised that those statements had been noted overseas. Therefore it was quite plain that the Government had to take a decision of a kind that would end speculation. The decision to devalue by 1Vi per cent was taken after full consultation with official advisers. It was designed to stop the drift that had continued and the views that had been expressed about the value of the Australian dollar. I think that it was infinitely preferable to take a decision of that kind rather than one that would leave continuing doubt, continuing drift and continuing speculation as to whether the rate could be held.
-I ask the Prime Minister how the Government reached its decision to revalue the dollar by 2 per cent.
-The honourable gentleman should be thanked for that question; and so I do. The Treasurer made it quite plain in his original statement that there would be an administered, controlled management of the value of the Australian dollar. Quite plainly, in a situation in which a government is looking at the method of controlling or managing the external value of its own currency a number of options are open to it. It can move to a further fixed point which leads to a situation in which at some time in the future there is likely to be perhaps a significant move either upwards or downwards. This is always accompanied by a massive debate of one kind or another. Or it is possible to have a float as many of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries have as well as the United States, West Germany and Japan, which can be clean or dirty depending on the extent to which the country intervenes in its own markets. But that results in daily movements in the actual value of currencies. Nobody seems to find it particularly surprising that there are daily movements in those rates.
A lot of humbug has gone on about the move that was announced a short while ago by the Governor of the Reserve Bank. It would have been just as relevant to say that a country managing a floating rate would not be allowed to move that rate for one day, for one week or for a certain fixed period of time. It would have been just as much humbug to say in those circumstances that if a currency was floating, as the United States’ is, it ought not to move and that people ought to be surprised if it moved. For people to be surprised at the movement that occurred on the initiative of the Governor and precisely as officials recommended is sheer and absolute humbug. I believe that under these circumstances and having regard to the totality of the situation honourable gentlemen ought to be satisfied and content that on technical grounds it was possible to make the move that was in fact made. It would have been an odd circumstance, having announced an administered and controlled float, if honourable members then felt that there would be no move for 12 months or 2 years. Just what did people expect under the circumstances? There were two or three options. We could move to a fixed point; we could have a fully market-determined float virtually on a daily basis; or we could have an administered and controlled float, as we determined. The changes in that will be taken on technical grounds. For a country in Australia’s circumstance I have no doubt at all that it is the best choice that could have been made.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister was reading from a document. I ask that it be tabled.
– Was the right honourable gentleman quoting from a document?
- Mr Speaker, I was not quoting from a document. I believe it is time that honourable gentlemen opposite ceased these frivolous interjections.
- Mr Speaker -
– Has the honourable member for Oxley a point of order?
– Yes, I have a point of order. In view of the comments of the Prime Minister in his answer I ask whether a speech by the Minister for Overseas Trade on 13 September to the Royal Automobile Club of Sydney, in which the Minister expressed concern about the weakness of the Australian exchange rate, can be incorporated in Hansard?
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– I take a point of order. The Prime Minister was clearly quoting from a document. It was quite visible. He has not claimed that the document is confidential. He has passed it off. In fact he has not answered the question which was asked. We ask that the document be tabled in accordance with the Standing Orders. It is not a frivolous point of order. It is the right of the Opposition to ask that the document be tabled.
-There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Wilmot.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the recent sale of meat to Russia produce any benefit for the meat industry in Tasmania? Can the Minister indicate when the quota entitlement arrangements for the 1977 meat export season will be finalised?
-Unfortunately at this stage, I understand, the consortium of companies that is involved in the latest sale of meat to Russia does not include a Tasmanian company. Nonetheless there is every reason to expect that if the trends that are emerging are fulfilled the Tasmanian industry, which I know has just commenced a new killing season, can expect significantly improved returns on those that were available during 1976. A very profound and extensive examination of the circumstances of the Meat Board proposal for diversification entitlements to the United States market, as it would affect the entitlement of Tasmanian exporters, has been undertaken by the Meat Board over the last few weeks. The Meat Board has put a proposal to me, and there is no doubt that as a result of whatever changes are implemented, the Tasmanian exporting position will be protected. However, discussions are continuing and as a result it has been suggested that it might be preferable to see what is happening with respect to the United States negotiations and with a number of other negotiations before the changed arrangements are concluded. It would be regrettable if, changes having been made, further changes were found to be necessary within the course of a few days or a week. Therefore, it is not possible this morning in reply to the honourable gentleman to tell him definitively the degree to which changes may be applied to diversification entitlement proposals. However, I can assure him that there is a recognition of the disabilities of Tasmania. Whatever the new entitlements, they will be directed so that Tasmanian meat works and exporters will not be disadvantaged in their entitlements for entrance to the United States market in 1977.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has he noticed the caustic findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum in its fifth report tabled 3 weeks ago to the effect that present State proposals on lead phase-down will exceed $500m in capital cost and will add not less than Se a gallon to the cost of motor spirit, whereas the public health objectives now set can be achieved at negligible cost by the deployment of other methods of phasing down lead, and massive expenditure can be avoided without detracting from accepted public health objectives.
– Table the document if you were reading it.
– It was tabled 3 weeks ago yesterday. I am asking whether the Minister has read it. What steps has his Department taken to eliminate the lead hazard more expeditiously, effectively and economically?
– I have not studied the report to which the Leader of the Opposition referred. The matter of the lead content of petrol has been under consideration by the National Health and Medical Research Council. I have not the facts at my fingertips at the moment in regard to the question but I shall supply them in due course.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. In view of the Queensland Government’s intention to abolish death duties as from 1 January 1977 and the stated intention of other States to provide relief in certain circumstances, has the Government any proposal to alter its method of assessment of Federal death duties in order to avoid a greater assessment of Federal duties as a result of the decreasing State collections? Alternatively, has the Government any proposal to extend complete exemption from assessment of estates passing to spouses or to the immediate family?
-The area of State death duties and Commonwealth estate duty is, of course, an area in which personal hardship has abounded and does abound at the present time. In that context the Government made it very clear in the election campaign that it would move to make significant amendments in this area. Those amendments were included in the Budget Speech. They were very significant in reducing the considerable degree of hardship faced by people as a consequence of the imposition of Commonwealth estate duty. However, the honourable gentleman raises the question of the changes which have taken place both in Queensland and in other States. Yes, the matter will be examined, as to both the level of Commonwealth estate duty and the basis of it. That examination will be made by the Government in its overall review of the tax system.
- Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– I rise to a point of order. Mr Speaker, the matter on which I seek your ruling relates to the management of question time. On two of the last 4 days the Minister for Transport has not been in the chamber to answer important questions. No opportunity is given to the Opposition to ask questions other than at question time. I ask that you, Mr Speaker, use your authority to require Ministers to be in attendance at question time.
-I have no authority to require Ministers to be in attendance at question time. I call the Leader of the House.
– For the information of honourable members and because of the completely irresponsible manner displayed -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker -
– … by the honourable member, I advise the House -
– Under what standing order is the Minister addressing the House?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– Which one of us?
-Order! The honourable member for Wills will resume his seat. The Leader of the House is speaking because I called upon him to do so. I understand that he wishes to respond to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Shortland. I call the Leader of the House.
– The father of the Minister for Transport died last night and, naturally, the Minister is unable to be in the House this morning. I think all members of the House would wish to extend sympathy to Mr Nixon and his family on his father’s death.
– I rise to a point of order. With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to withdraw any personal reflection in respect of the Minister for Transport. I was not aware of what had happened. I offer my sympathy to his family. A different situation applied in relation to last
Friday. I certainly was not aware of what had happened yesterday.
– Pursuant to section 14 of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 I present the third supplement to the 25th report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 December 1972, dealing with the progress of the final actuarial examination of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973 I present the fourth report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority, dealing with the general administration and working of that Act and of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 other than Part III for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971 I present the annual report on migrant education for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976 I present the annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board for the year 1975-76.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian Delegation to Habitat: The United Nations Conference on Human Settlements held in Vancouver during the period 31 May to 11 June 1976, together with the official United Nations report on that conference. Due to the limited number available, reference copies of these reports have been placed in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives and in the Parliamentary Library.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), both today in question time and 2 days ago, suggested that I am not in favour of wage indexation. He quoted selectively from a transcript of an interview on State of the Nation on 2 December 1976, last Thursday night. I also quote from that transcript, which reads:
Eric Robinson: Do you think the last decision of the Commission was right?
Chris Hurford: I think it was absolutely inevitable and so does every informed commentator.
As you know, Mr Speaker, that was a full wage indexation decision. The transcript continues:
Eric Robinson: And so you would be in favour of full wage indexation?
Chris Hurford: I am certainly in favour of an incomes policy of which wage indexation is certainly a very important part.
All I suggested in the quotation selectively chosen by the Prime Minister was that no responsible economic policy maker would suggest that any policy is sacrosanct for ever in this area. Policy depends on the state of the economy at the time. Under Labor management and with terms of trade going in our favour, one would hope that wage and salary earners would improve their standard of living by improving on wage indexation.
– For the information of honourable members I present a discussion paper entitled A Natural Disaster Insurance Scheme for Australia. I seek leave to make a short statement relating to that matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-In March 1976 the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that the Government had decided in principle to introduce a natural disaster insurance scheme and had approved the establishment of a working party of officials to formulate a detailed scheme in consultation with the insurance industry. An assessment of the working party’s report has recently been completed and the discussion paper now tabled is based on that report. The paper does not attempt to discuss the question of natural disaster crop insurance which is under separate consideration in conjunction with representatives of the insurance industry.
I should emphasise that, while the discussion paper outlines proposals for a scheme, the Government is not committed to these proposals, as it believes that final decisions on the detailed nature of the scheme should not be taken until all areas of government, interested business and community groups and the public generally have been given every opportunity to make their views known. With this in mind the Government is seeking comments on the proposal and issues discussed in the paper so that it can proceed further with the detailed development of a scheme.
In line with recommendations of the working party, the Government has agreed that technical aspects of the scheme should be worked out by a committee with the relevant expertise. The insurance industry will be represented on that committee. It should be noted that the studies already undertaken indicate that much planning and testing remain to be carried out before a scheme can be devised that will effectively meet the community’s need for adequate protection against losses resulting from natural hazards. Although time-consuming, the Government sees this work as essential to the achievement of its aim to introduce a sound and effective scheme in Australia as soon as possible.
-by leave-The subject of natural disaster insurance has been before this House now for more than 10 years. This is just one more episode in the saga. It can be compared to Blue Hills. I hope that, as in the case of Blue Hills, one day we will have an episode which means that the matter has reached a satisfactory conclusion. I suggest that this is another example of lack of action by the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. I draw attention to the fact that as long ago as 18 April 1967 a member of the present Cabinet, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), as the honourable member for Moreton asked a question of the then Treasurer, the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr William McMahon), on this very subject. The subject has been taken up by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). He asked questions on notice on this matter and received answers on 4 October 1967, 26 November 1968, 26 September 1969, 12 June 1970 and 9 December 1971. 1 am indebted to the honourable gentleman’s prodigious memory for drawing to my attention the way in which this important subject of insuring and providing proper compensation for the victims of natural disasters has gone on and on in this House.
There is no excuse for lack of action on the part of the present conservatives who rule us. They were responsible when we were in office between 1972 and 1975 for stopping legislation relating to the Australian Government Insurance Corporation which contained specific proposals to cover the victims of natural disasters. So we can lay at the feet of the Liberal and National Country parties the fact that inadequate cover is still given to many victims of natural disasters in this country who suffer losses as a result of these terrible events.
I want to commend the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) in particular who has worked persistently since he arrived in this House on the same day as I did at the end of 1969 to bring to the attention of the House the lack of insurance cover in this area. I hope that instead of the establishment of more working parties, more committees and more investigations, which is all that we heard of in the statement made by the Minister, some decisions will be made and some action will be taken so that the victims are properly covered. Every year we get a new example of the need for such cover. I ask that the next time the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) rises to speak on this subject- and I hope it will be very soon- it will be to announce action and not just the establishment of another committee.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I would like to endorse the remarks of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). Subsequent to the setting up of the initial working party I found regrettably that State government insurance offices were not represented on that body. I think that was a deplorable omission on the part of the then Government and Treasurer. I make the plea that the State government insurance commissions have a large slice of the insurance market. There is no doubt at all that because of their contribution, responsibilities and knowledge in this area it is important that they ought to be listened to and that they ought to be heard. I am asking the
Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to ensure that representatives from the State government insurance commissions are included in the technical working party. In my view there is no question at all that the area of natural disaster insurance is a very technical one. So too is the question of crop insurance. But I agree that the latter area ought to be kept separate from the issue before the Parliament at the moment.
-I wish to inform the House of the following nominations of members to be members of the Select Committee on Tourism: Mr Bonnett, Mr Jull, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Sainsbury and Mr Short have been nominated by the Prime Minister; Mr Cohen, Mr Stewart and Mr Young have been nominated by the Leader of the Opposition.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I bring up the Committee’s report entitled Canberra city wastes- A long-term strategy for collection and disposal Due to the limited number available copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave of the House to make a statement in connection with the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory examines and makes recommendations concerning the system of waste collection, disposal and management in Canberra. The Committee has placed particular emphasis on the need to find some alternative to the traditional landfill method of disposal which makes little provision for the recovery and re-use of important resources. The report stresses the need to preserve many resources such as metal, glass and paper which are often indiscriminately disposed of in the existing system of waste collection and disposal. The Committee has therefore examined alternative waste collection methods, both for domestic and other waste materials, and has examined new technology available to separate resources before final disposal or for recycling. It is essential that these matters are constantly reviewed by planning and management authorities so that proposals for the introduction of new arrangements or disposal techniques in the Capital Territory should be the most effective available given the size of the Territory and the related region, which may be associated in this respect, and the need to re-use important materials. This is a responsibility we should be ready to accept and on which we should begin to take action now to preserve vital resources.
There are a number of recommendations concerning recycling and the need for increased public awareness of the benefits of measures to conserve valuable materials which are currently disposed of simply as ‘waste’. This need to recycle resources led the Committee to question some aspects of the National Capital Development Commission’s and the Department of the Capital Territory’s approach to the landfill method of waste disposal. This is not to suggest that any existing method for disposal should entirely replace the landfill method. The need for landfill will remain for the foreseeable future. But a number of measures could be taken to overcome some apparent problems with this means of disposal. For example, ‘tips’ should be sited so as to cause the least inconvenience to the public. Access roads and approaches should create the least possible nuisance to residents either as a result of heavy traffic at particular times or because of litter falling from trailers and trucks on their way to disposal sites. We refer to problems that have arisen, for example, in Belconnen. These sites should also be managed so that they can be converted to community use in the shortest possible time after the landfill process has been completed.
It was also felt that if the authorities encouraged separation of recyclable items for collection and re-use, the impact of landfill could be reduced. This led the Committee to question the ‘total collection’ system suggested by NCDC and the Department of the Capital Territory. This method does not in the Committee’s view do enough to facilitate recovery of resources and might, in effect, discourage separation and recycling,
The Committee has therefore suggested a scheme whereby separate containers would be supplied to householders for the collection of particular classes of waste such as paper, glass and metal. An intensive and concerted advertising and information campaign would be required to ensure the public co-operation essential for the success of the scheme. The Committee has recommended that a pilot study be conducted to test the scheme ‘s feasibility. We do not claim to have found an answer to the waste disposal problem. But the Committee was impressed by the necessity for communities to begin examining and, where possible, introducing systems for the collection and disposal of waste whereby resource conservation, recovery and recycling are seen as essential goals. The Committee is not as concerned that its proposed scheme be implemented in every particular as to be assured that the authorities in the A.C.T. will begin to move in the directions indicated by the philosophy behind the proposals. We consider moves in these directions to be essential and inevitable for all communities. We hope the recommendations of the Committee will be seen as contributing to this process of reassessing assumptions and testing new means of collecting and disposing of the vast quantities of ‘waste’ materials generated by our society.
The Committee was also concerned to find a number of deficiencies in legislation in the A.C.T. relating to the issues before it. These arise in such areas as the enforcement of regulations which deal with littering, pollution of the air and disposal of radioactive waste. The Committee has directed the attention of the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) and his department and the A.C.T. Legislative Assembly to these matters which should be dealt with as soon as practicable.
In this brief statement I have not attempted to deal with all the main issues considered by the Committee or on which it has made recommendations. The subject is one of such complexity that the Committee might well have extended its inquiry. Although this reference has been with the Committee for 2 years, the present Committee had only one of the former Committee among its members. The Committee has also undertaken a considerable work load during the current period of sittings. Members will recall that 2 substantial reports on proposals to vary the plan of Canberra have been presented in the past 2 months. Thus, while the Committee could well hive dealt with some aspects of the reference before it in greater detail, for example the financial implications of various schemes of collection and waste disposal, it was considered that the report should be presented at this stage as a contribution to the growing debate on the issue with which it deals.
I would also draw the attention of members to the bibliography which will be printed with the report. This was prepared by the staff of the Parliamentary Library. The Committee was impressed with the range and comprehensiveness of this bibliography and felt that it should be made available to the Parliament and the public through this report. Unfortunately printed copies of the report will not be available for distribution today. It was not possible for printing to be completed. Copies of the report will, however, become available within the next 2 weeks.
I would like to conclude by thanking all members of the Committee for the time and effort they have put in to producing this report at a time when the Parliament has been particularly busy. I would also like to thank, on behalf of all members of the Committee, the staff of the secretariat who have put in an enormous amount of effort to ensure that this report could be presented before the Parliament rises. I know that all members are aware of the contribution which staff of the parliamentary departments frequently make in such circumstances but I would like to pay special tribute on this occasion to the work of the Parliamentary Joint Committee staff. I commend the report to the House.
-by leave-I support the remarks of the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) on the report of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. The difficulty with waste disposal in a modern city is something which will come before all of us as Canberra grows. Waste disposal is a very expensive part of the municipal account. In a city such as Canberra, where there seems to be plenty of land, it would be very tempting for those of us who are responsible for the administration of the city and for those who will be responsible for the administration of the city as it is passed over to the local government area to take the cheap way out. This report will be very important to those people in local government as autonomy grows closer, as it indicates the options that are before them so that they can approach the matter in a responsible way. I associate myself with the words of praise of the honourable member for Fraser about all the staff involved in the preparation of the report.
– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The fall in the standards of living under the Fraser Government.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
- Mr Deputy Speaker-
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That Government Business, order of the day No. 1, be called on.
– It is just a question of whether we ask for a division. I gather that this matter will be allowed to come on tomorrow after General Business.
– I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition wants that. It depends which matter of public importance Mr Speaker might elect to take, if there is another one.
– In that case we will not divide. Obviously we do not want to pre-empt General Business on Thursday morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 7 December, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Keating had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘while not opposing the provisions of the Bill the House is concerned that the proposed agreement is restricted to land-based primary industries ‘.
-When the debate on this significant Bill was interrupted last evening, honourable members will recall, I was speaking on that part of the Bill dealing with household support. I was referring to an article written by Mr Ronald Anderson and published in last Friday’s Age. He analysed a report prepared for the Australian National Cattlemens’ Council on the state of the beef farmer in Australia. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures referred to in the ANCC report forecast for 1976-77 that 13 490 producers with 2.83 million head of cattle, with an average herd size of 210 beasts, are in the category of recording annual net loss ranging from 0 to $5,000. The statistics to which Ihave referred reflect considerable human suffering in the rural sectorsuffering which will to some extent at least be alleviated by the household support scheme referred to in part 7 of the Agreement set out in this Bill. I have referred only to beef and milk producers who will have no income in the current year. That will have personal consequences to the farmer and his family and will flow through to the whole rural community- the shopkeeper, the supplier of rural machinery, the rate collector from the local municipality, the bank manager giving consideration to realisation of the bank’s security or considering deferment of payment of interest on the farmer’s loan. The whole community will benefit from the introduction of the household support scheme.
Honourable members will recall the variation of conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefits introduced in May this year. This was an urgent interim measure aimed at relieving the financial hardship of many farming families in Australia. Without that variation thousands of farmers would not have been entitled to this basic social service- a basic income to feed the recipient and his family. One of the new guidelines for entitlement announced by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in May this year stated:
A primary producer who ceases to be engaged on his property to the extent that his personal attendance is not necessary for the continued operation of the property can be accepted as ‘unemployed’ for unemployment benefit purposes. Such a primary producer will have to satisfy the test of being available for employment and of actively seeking employment. This involves registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service and being prepared to take work that becomes available off the property.
This urgent measure was acted upon by many desperate farmers. As at 6 August 2475 primary
Producers were receiving unemployment b enefits which they would not have received without the alteration to the guidelines. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard 2 tables which give the statistical data of the unemployed recipients of benefits, by State and by classification, in the rural sector.
-Is leave granted?
– Has the table been shown to anyone?
– It was shown to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) last evening.
– Then leave is granted.
-Leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– Victorian dairy farmers were the recipients of benefits in 1533 cases out of a total of 2475 recipients in Australia as at 6 August. The effects of the drought in Victoria and of the world glut of skim milk powder are reflected in these figures.
However, my experience was that many people involved in primary industry did not qualify for unemployment benefits, notwithstanding the fact that they were in receipt of no income. For example, many farmers were not able to leave their farms. In the case of carry on finance, some were share farmers who did not have the support of the registered proprietor of the farm in Victoria to offer security for such finance. Many would not even apply for unemployment benefit because they considered that if they did they would be sponging on the community. They should not be condemned for adopting that attitude. The household support scheme will assist many farmers who for a multitude of reasons, personal and regulatory, would not receive income in times of extreme financial hardship. Household support must not replace the farmer’s entitlement to unemployment benefit. I refer briefly to the nature of the assistance. I quote from clause (3) of Part 7 of the Agreement:
Paragraph (e) states:
If the Authority determines that an applicant does not have a viable enterprise he will be eligible for household support assistance, and any interim assistance he may have received will be regarded as household support assistance.
Paragraph (i) states:
At the end of the first period of six months for which a farmer receives household support assistance the advances made to him may be converted by the Authority to a grant.
Paragraph (j ) of the same clause states:
If the farmer adjusts out of farming within three years of the time he first received household support, any advances made to him and not already converted to a grant may be so converted by the Authority.
The benefits contained in this Bill will prove of considerable advantage to the rural community. It is socially desirable that farmers be assured of income when either markets collapse, natural disasters occur, or other matters beyond thencontrol intervene to provide them with a basic income to sustain a lifestyle in rural Australia.
I trust that the Government and the respective State governments will closely monitor the practical application of the terms of the Agreement to ensure that the intent of this Bill is honoured and that the impoverished farmer receives the benefits thereby granted. It is pleasing to note that the Agreement provides for a review in the terms of clause 24, which states:
The operation of the Scheme in relation to all of the States will be reviewed from time to time as appropriate by the Commonwealth and the States in the light of experience in its administration.
The following clause states:
The Authorities of the States and appropriate Commonwealth officers associated with the Schemes for Rural Adjustment will meet together as appropriate and at least once in each year and exchange information on any matters pertinent to the Schemes.
I commend the terms of the Bill to the House and reject the amendment moved by the Opposition.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (1 1.52)- I support the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill 1976, together with the sensible amendment moved by my colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I think I can say that all honourable members would regret the necessity to present a rural adjustment Bill to this Parliament. No doubt it would be a matter of great satisfaction to any government if its Minister for Primary Industry could report to the House that there was no need for rural adjustment schemes and if resources moved in and out of an industry according to the demands of the prevailing market situation.
Although it is admitted that a decline in advancement in market demands does play a big part in the viability of our rural industries, I think it can be said that if resources were put into and taken out of the industry to meet only a current and what could be short term situation, many valuable resources would be wasted and, additionally, the full potential of our national resources would never be properly developed. Because governments recognise this fact, nationally organised and supervised reconstruction and adjustment schemes have been adopted, not only in Australia but also in most other developed countries.
I believe that an examination of the situation in the beef industry indicates the value of a properly organised national adjustment scheme. We had over-production of thousands of heads of cattle and thousands were destroyed so that the healthier cattle could survive and produce the next generation of cattle. There is no doubt that government measures did provide some assistance in this area, but probably if our rural adjustment schemes were conducted on a continuing basis, as is intended with this scheme, greater assistance could be given.
Unfortunately, many people seem to think that primary producers are businessmen, the same as any other businessmen; that they make a business decision to go into extra production and if they misjudge the market situation they should suffer the consequences. This argument does carry a lot of validity. To a large degree, it is exactly what does happen in our primary industries. When I entered this Parliament many farmers in my electorate had properties worth $160,000. Within a couple of years they were heavily in debt and could not sell their properties for $60,000. 1 think this is a good indication that primary producers do take a business risk, the same as any other section of our society. Indeed, they suffer the penalties not only of a bad business decision but also of variations in weather conditions and a lot of other things.
It is not intended that this Bill should beimplemented to change that situation. What it will allow will be some adjustment and reconstruction to take place once farmers find themselves in difficulty as a result of those adverse conditions. It will prevent valuable resources being lost and will permit those farmers to remain in the industry, thereby producing further wealth for this country. The second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) includes a statement similar to the following, which appears at page 3 of the Industries Assistance Commission report:
Much of the adjustment which is necessary and appropriate to the long term economic situation in the rural sector has occurred, and will continue to occur, autonomously.
I have no argument with that. But the IAC report goes on to state: not all resources respond to economic change in a manner which would achieve their more efficient utilisation.
Further on the report points out:
Timely government intervention can provide welfare assistance to seriously affected farmers as well as providing the financial means to ensure that resources continue to be used in those industries where their earning power is greatest.
No doubt the Bill was drawn up with these things in mind. Unfortunately, when worthwhile legislation such as this Bill comes before the House it is not always readily accepted. I believe this is because so many of our rural assistance Bills have provided assistance to the wrong people. Much of the assistance has gone to people who are not in need of assistance. Often little assistance goes to those most in need. Honourable members no doubt remember the situation with the superphosphate bounty, which was a good example of this. Seventy per cent of the assistance provided by that bounty went to 20 per cent of the farmers.
The National Times of 23 February 1976 reported that 472 users benefited by more than $5,000. If we want to go a little further, I think other papers reported that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) received $50,000 in 10 years. I do not know whether that is right; he may have received only $49,000. But it is nice to know that this Bill is not intended for that purpose. I merely mention that to point out that in one part of the Bill this superphosphate mentality shows its ugly head again. But I do not think it is the intention of the Bill to provide that sort of assistance. It is meant to provide assistance to applicants whose prospects are sound but who are unable to obtain finance to carry on and are in danger of losing their property or other assets.
Part 3 of the Bill provides for farm build-up, which provides for the amalgamation of properties, whereby someone on an uneconomic property can buy an adjoining property if he can prove that by doing so he will become viable. I think that this is a praiseworthy measure. Unfortunately, I have some doubt about other paragraphs of that Part which allow an economic property owner to buy an uneconomic property to help him to become more viable or profitable and the other chap on the uneconomic property to get out of the industry. The section about which I have some doubt is that which allows the economic owner to borrow money through the rural reconstruction scheme. The Bill in another Part sets out that if one can borrow money through normal borrowing sources one should do so. It appears to me that if someone is on a farm which is already economic and he wants to make it more profitable, then he should borrow through the normal resources and not take money which is badly needed by people who are struggling to remain on the land.
It seems to me that most of the complaints I get in my electorate are from people who have suffered because of this situation. They point out to me that people who did not need the money, who could borrow money from other sources, have taken the money from this scheme and people in need have been denied assistance. I am not too clear from the Bill whether opportunity has been provided for people in uneconomic circumstances to appeal against the decision. I ask the Minister whether he can explain where provision is made for that. I think the worst section of the Bill is found in Part 7, Household Support. I have no argument about the intention of this Part, which reads:
To provide assistance for up to one year to non-viable farmers having insufficient resources to meet living expenses and who are in need of assistance to alleviate conditions of personal and family hardship while the farmer considers whether to adjust out of farming.
Another paragraph goes on to provide:
An advance provided for one year sufficient to raise the applicant’s estimated future income from all sources to the level of payment which would be applicable to him if he were eligible for unemployment benefits.
I have no complaint about that proposal, either. But I think we see this superphospate mentality in paragraphs (1) and (m). These provide for severance pay of $3,000 if the farmer desires to move out of the industry and if the Authority considers the payment warranted. Unfortunately, the amount of money which the farmer has already received in what might be termed social service benefits to bring him up to the amount he would receive if he were receiving social service benefits is deducted from the $3,000. I think this is an insult to any primary producer. It shows the thinking of the LiberalNational Country Party Government. More than 20 years ago members of trade unions were receiving severance pay. They started off at $5,000 and it was all plus on top of that. It seems to me it is an insult that an amount of $3,000 is provided under this scheme. It could be that a man is on the land and is battling hard to stay there. At last he finds that it is hopeless. Paragraph (m) provides that a farmer has adjusted out of farming when ‘he has effectively disposed of his productive resources’. Probably the money he gets after disposing of his resources has gone to pay his debts. Any money he has received in the build up to equal the amount of the social service benefits is then deducted from the $3,000. It is easy to understand that not a great deal would be left. I think that is an insult. The Government should have another look at this Part- $3,000 is enough- and at least make the amount a straight out payment without any deductions. I am sorry to note that all these things are happening at a time when the primary producers’ income is declining. According to the statement which I received from the Parliamentary Library, in 1970- 71 the average farm income was $4,713. In 1971- 72 it was $5,982. In 1972-73, the first year of the Australian Labor Party Government, the amount rose to $9,342. In 1973-74 the next year of the Labor Government, the amount increased to $15,902.
– Where did you get those figures?
– I got them from the Parliamentary Library. If the honourable member wants to verify them I ask him to have a look at the statement of the Minister for Primary Industry. He made a statement just recently on this matter and his figures correspond with the figures I have here, which I obtained from the Parliamentary Library. I shall incorporate them in Hansard it the honourable member wishes. The amount dropped to $9,672 and then to $9,194. According to Mr Sinclair’s statement of 23 November, which he sent around to every honourable member, the amount is projected to drop to $6,545 in 1976-77. I do not blame the honourable member for singing out because it is a bad record after 12 months of LiberalNational Country Party government that such a situation has arisen. Surely we can say after 12 months of Liberal-Country Party Government that things have never been so bad. Much hope has been pinned on the ITA per cent devaluation.
Just as the primary producers begin to think that there is some hope we see that 2.5 per cent has already been taken off the percentage devaluation. Not only that, but in answer to a question I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) he would not give any guarantee that in a few months’ time the exchange rate could appreciate to what it was a couple of weeks ago. So what great hope has this Government given the primary producer? Also, there has been a big deterioration in the provision of other amenities to primary producers. When the Labor Party was in power 12 months ago we were waiting for a television station at Menindee. It was ready to go into operation within a couple of days but we are still waiting for that. We have seen a reduction in the air service and also in the mail service in the country areas. I could go on to criticise this Government in lots of ways. But it is not my intention to do that because I believe that this continuing rural adjustment legislation is a good idea. We certainly want to iron out some of the anomalies in it. I think that if we are sensible about the matter and adopt the worthwhile amendments moved by the honourable member for Blaxland, and if we have a look at some of the matters I have pointed out, maybe we will be able to assist some of the primary producers who are badly in need of assistance.
-The States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill enshrines the Government’s new rural adjustment scheme. As such it is one of the most important developments in the implementation of a comprehensive rural policy. The Government has been criticised for having no grand strategy for rural industry and for not immediately implementing such a strategy. This is an ignorant and naive view of the complex interaction of local and international economic policies and politics, not to mention the weather and pests which would almost immediately negate any such policy. Further, a generalised policy does not allow for the detailed and particular problems of individual industries, particularly with stabilisation. The Australian Labor Party through its shadow Minister has an equally simplistic view. The shadow Minister implied that the returns which farmers should receive are going to the middle men. He forgets that it is the wages and inflation in this country which are sending up the rates of pay of the employees in the various sectors of the processing industry. There is also the suggestion of virtual nationalisation of rural industry. One can also throw in the attitude of the Victorian Australian Labor Party of doing away with freehold land titles in that State.
Rural industry policy cannot be isolated from general economic policy. In fact, it is due to the failure of the Labor Government’s economic policy, with its consequent inflation, which to a certain extent makes necessary the present adjustment scheme. I shall give 2 examples to highlight this suggestion. The Bureau of Agricutural Economics net farm income figure, to which the previous speaker, the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) referred, indicates that for this financial year farm income will be about half what it was 3 years ago. Even with devaluation, it will be $40 a week less than average weekly earnings. Taken over the full 12 months, it probably will work out at about 25 per cent less- and that has to take into account return on capital, managerial skill and the long hours required in farming.
The second example is that provided by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) in his tariff statement last night. He said: . . in the last 6 years wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent compared with S3 per cent in the United States and 70 per cent in West Germany.
If wages have increased in the manufacturing industry, they certainly have increased at least equally in tertiary industry in this country. So one can see the cost-price problem which agriculture in Australia faces. Because of this, adjustment has been forced on the rural industry to a greater degree than that required by change, which is always taking place in agriculture, and also by the special circumstances following Britain’s entry into the Common Market. The industry is deserving of government assistance because it is government action, or lack of action, in its economic policy that has forced this adjustment upon rural industry. In the past, agriculture has not been assisted with its adjustment and cyclical problems to the same extent as secondary industry has been assisted. Employers in secondary industry can always reduce the number of employees, knowing that the Government will provide for those employees automatically through unemployment benefits and knowing that those people will be available in the labour pool when those same employers or other employers once again can take on labour. Tariff assistance measures also are of greater value to manufacturing industry in controlling the adjustment process.
So, adjustment policy is an essential part of an agricultural policy. However, for a complete adjustment policy more emphasis has to be put on retirement from agriculture, which the Government is now beginning to accept through its household support arrangements, and entry into agriculture. I will refer to this matter again later. The second aspect of a complete package of agricultural policies is welfare policy. In the past, Liberal and National Country Party governments have not placed sufficient emphasis on welfare policy, and I acknowledge the criticism that has come from Labor spokesmen in this regard. But, even though the Labor Party said that it would do more in regard to welfare policy in agriculture, it did not do it. In our 12 months in government we have introduced 2 significant policy proposals for welfare in agriculture. The first has been the extension of unemployment benefits to farmers and the second has been the abolition of the property test for pensions, leaving only an income test, which will be of tremendous assistance to farming people. This was recognised by Professor Henderson in his report on poverty as one of the major social injustices in our present social security arrangements.
The third aspect of an agricultural policy must be a credit or finance policy. Already we have term loans arrangements, farm development loans, the Commonwealth Development Bank and rural credits advances to marketing boards. The carry-on loans, which will be broadened by this new adjustment scheme from just the beef and dairy industries to a general carry-on situation, will overcome the short term liquidity problems for which there has been a gap in our credit policy in this country. It is hoped that it will provide a similar service to that which the Production Credit Associations have provided for agriculture in the United States of America for many years. It is hoped that the introduction of the rural bank and the young farmer establishment scheme will fill other very large and important gaps and provide a better credit and finance policy. The young farmer establishment scheme will provide a more complete adjustment policy by assisting entry into agriculture as well as retirement from agriculture.
The fourth aspect of an agricultural policy must be industry stabilisation. For this to occur, the co-operation of both industry and government is required. Government cannot and should not force a scheme on an industry. An industrybyindustry approach is required, because of the differences among agricultural industries. At the present time we see further developments taking place in the wool industry. The wheat industry for many years has been the best example of stabilisation, but the wheat stabilisation plans suffer from the great weakness of section 92 trading. It is hoped that the levy mechanism in the new dairy plan which is under discussion at the present time will overcome one of the weaknesses of past agricultural stabilisation schemes. There is a great need for further industry stabilisation arrangements for both the canned fruit industry and the beef industry at the present time. An important aspect of industry stabilisation is personal income stabilisation or income stabilisation. The Government’s introduction of income equalisation deposits will play an important part in the farmer’s stabilisation of his own income. I hope that in the next Budget there will be some overdue improvements to the income tax averaging arrangements for primary producers. This will further assist the farmer to help himself through personal income stabilisation measures.
Another aspect of an industry stabilisation policy is the need for disaster insurance arrangements- this was referred to earlier today- for crop failure, flood, fire and so on. We are told that this matter is being investigated at the present time. I emphasise that what we have in this country at the present time- we have virtually nothing- is certainly much less than the wheat growers in New Zealand have had for about 30 years and is less than what is generally available in the United States under its crop failure scheme. I hope that this Government will come up with better disaster arrangements for agriculture for the future. The fifth aspect of an agricultural policy is international arrangements. We must have access to overseas markets and then stability of and continuing access to those markets at reasonable prices.
The final and most important part of any agricultural policy is general economic policy itself. This is of overriding importance to agriculture. It is more important than any of the other individual aspects I have mentioned, particularly with an agricultural industry which is largely an export industry. For the last 10 years farmers have been complaining about the cost-price squeeze. In the last 2 years, with Australia’s runaway inflation, the cost-price squeeze crunch has really hit agriculture in this country. An agricultural policy as a total policy package is essential so that more than the marginally viable farmers can be assisted. Generally, reconstruction measures such as our new adjustment proposals assist only the marginally viable farmers. An agricultural policy is important so that as many farmers as possible can be helped to help themselves and so that the special policies of adjustment are not as necessary as they are at the present time. From the point of view of a rural person, much more is needed than just an agricultural policy. There has to be a general rural policy as well as an agricultural policy. Those who live in rural communities, whether they live on farms or in country towns, need such things as communications, telephones, transport, fuel prices equalisation, reasonable educational opportunities and special health and welfare services.
The new scheme follows on and consolidates several other reconstruction schemes. The first reconstruction scheme of recent times was the marginal dairy farm scheme which commenced in mid- 1970. It was followed by the rural reconstruction scheme in mid- 1971 and the fruit growing reconstruction scheme in 1972. Britain’s entry into the Common Market was one of the major reasons for the introduction of those earlier schemes. Up to the end of September 1976 approximately $224m had been advanced under the rural reconstruction scheme, more than $50m for the various dairy schemes including dairy carry-on loans, $4m to $5m for fruit and $26m for beef carry-on loans, making a total of about $305m. I want to make 2 qualifications to that figure: Firstly, some of that money is State money for the States’ 50 per cent of the carry-on loan arrangements and, secondly it is mainly loan money, not grant money.
In round figures 18 000 farmers have been assisted under these schemes- 8400 with rural reconstruction, 2700 with beef carry-on loans, 1300 with fruit industry reconstruction or the tree-pull scheme and almost 6000 with the dairy schemes. The Government’s commitment for the remaining 6 months of this financial year when the scheme will be operative could go as high as $40m. This will depend on the degree of carry-on loans provided and also the degree of household support which comes from general revenue and is not specifically appropriated under this scheme. That, of course, is additional to what is appropriated for this scheme.
This scheme consolidates four separate and existing schemes if we include the carry-on loan arrangements. It provides greater flexibility in administration. Here I completely differ from the Labor Party’s approach and amendment of providing more control in Canberra for criterion assessment, etc. I have been closely associated with the previous schemes for some years. To me one of the greatest problems has been the buckpassing that has gone on between State administrations and Canberra. They say that really the decisions were made somewhere else. I believe that we should give as much power as possible to the State administering authorities because they have the framework closer to the farming people than has Canberra. They are also more flexible. I hope that better decisions will follow. The experience of this scheme I believe supports that contention. There is also greater flexibility with interest rates. I make the point that the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) made, that with a more general and consolidated scheme as problems develop we will not have to wait for something else to be introduced before assistance can be provided. These matters will be picked up under the umbrella of the existing scheme.
This new scheme continues the basic features of the existing schemes. It introduces several new important provisions such as farm improvements, that is, within the existing farm, and household support. It broadens the carry-on loans eligibility to industries other than beef and dairying. I would like to comment on some of these aspects. With farm build-up in particular the importance of inter-family transfers of ownership and their eligibility within the scheme are quite critical. We have to take account of the necessity for continuing the family farm by transferring it from one generation to the other and the shortage of capital which requires the older generation to obtain cash for the farm when the younger generation does not have the cash to purchase it. In some cases the necessary eligibility has not been given to inter-family purchases of farm land within farm build-up or debt adjustment. Other industries certainly will want to be included in the carry-on loan arrangements. I give notice that at least the canning fruit industry will be on the doorstep of the Minister with a request for its inclusion in these provisions as soon as it is possible to do so. I alert the Government to the fact that I think more finance will be required for carry-on loans than was previously allocated.
Household support is one of the major welfare innovations- it does not matter whether it is agricultural or non-agricultural- of this country. It is the closest thing that this country has to a minimum income scheme. As such it is an innovation of major importance to general social welfare policy not only in this country but also in the Western world generally. It complements the availability of unemployment benefits to farmers. I believe it does not contradict or confuse. There is a clear distinction between the 2 schemes. The same income test is used in both cases, but there is no work test for household support. People are eligible for household support only after failure to pass the viability criteria for other forms of adjustment. After 6 months it is available only as a grant to those leaving the industry.
Household support is living assistance to someone with no future in agriculture. The unemployment benefit is subject to a work test. This assistance is for those with a short-term cash problem who still have a future in agriculture but who, because of seasonal work requirements or a critical lack of finance, make themselves available for work. We are looking at distinctly different groups of people. I believe it is essential that the unemployment benefit continues to be available for agricultural people. I believe the need for the unemployment benefit will be just as great this winter for the dairy industry and the fruit industry as it was last year. I believe the income test is unsatisfactory and unfair, but with a greater understanding by both farmers and officers from the Department of Social Security of how the system works, hopefully the scheme will be more successful next winter than last. At the same time I want to compliment the way in which senior social security officers worked to obtain a viable arrangement for the introduction of this assistance.
In conclusion I would like to say that I believe further consideration should be given for a more comprehensive adjustment policy which includes more specific provisions for entry into agriculture and retirement from agriculture as is the case in a number of Western nations. The particular problems of immobility associated with agriculture have side effects such as reduced productivity and perhaps the entry into agriculture of a future generation to maintain a dynamic industry. I believe we should be looking at a more deliberate program as part of the adjustment policy. I believe there should be speedy implementation of this scheme so that the benefits are available from 1 January. I would like to know, if anybody is replying for the Government, whether final approval has been given by the States for the scheme to commence on 1 January. I reinforce the point that several other speakers have made. We need publicity about the provisions of the scheme so that the rural community is aware of what is available to it. I compliment the Minister and the Government for putting together what I consider to be a great improvement in adjustment measures for the agricultural sector of our society and for some very important innovations and developments in social welfare policy.
– I support the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Bill and the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). There is no question that bringing these support schemes together under one set of guidelines makes them much easier to administer for the various State authorities which are charged with the administrative responsibility. It is a very difficult task to administer a whole range of schemes all of which have different guidelines. I have no doubt that bringing the schemes together will make their administrative task, which is a very difficult one, much easier. This should also lead to a much more equitable distribution of funds under the various schemes and some co-ordination of policy.
Of course the task of co-ordination and integration should have been carried out by the establishment of a national reconstruction board which is the subject of one of our amendments. This should have been the first thing to be done, but the Government has put the cart before the horse and has failed to carry out that very important recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission. I will come back and say more on that later. It is sufficient to say that bringing the schemes together is a good principle. Whether debt reconstruction, consolidation or build-up of farms or farm development is involved, the co-ordination should lead to a much easier program to administer.
Probably the most commendable aspect of the scheme is the question of household support. We applaud this aspect of the legislation. It represents, as the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) said, an attack on a major area of social injustice which was brought out in the Henderson report on farm poverty. There is an inherent difficulty. There is an assumption- I believe the honourable member for Murray made this assumption- that the support is there for people to make up their minds whether or not they want to get out of agriculture. I just make a very pertinent point that that is not always an option. It may have been an option in the past. I know that in this region people were able to move into a rapidly expanding area like Canberra and get a job in private enterprise or the Public Service. In country towns the people involved could find employment or move to a city and get a job in industry. But the ball game has changed. That is not an option for many people now. I suggest that because an assessment has been made that somebody should get off a farm when he does not wish to do so does not mean that the person involved can get off the farm. No category in this legislation has been provided to handle that sort of situation. It may not be necessary at the moment; I just do not know. But I suggest that if the country sinks into a deeper recession or if the world economic position gets worse- many people think that it will next yearthis aspect should be monitored very closely and consideration should be given to looking at this particular category of people who, it has been assessed, have no future on the land but who cannot get off the land. Those honourable members who remember the last depression will know that people who were unemployed and living on farms were often in a better position to sustain themselves than people who were unemployed and living in cities. There is always an element of self-support on a farm. One can always kill a sheep, milk the cow and live on some fruit and vegetables that one may be producing.
It may be a proposition to consider some partial support option for people in that situation rather than to push them off the farm into a total dependency on unemployment relief. I think that is something the Government should monitor very closely and if it becomes necessary, this legislation will need to be altered because it does not really provide for that category at the moment. For all of these reconstruction proposals the basic criterion, of course, is that funds are not available from private sources. These are usually the private banks. I want to say something about the role of the private banks in these reconstruction schemes because I think we need to be very careful that these reconstruction schemes are not used by private banks in order to unload some of their weaker clients. I have had some experience with this in the past and I know that it has happened in the past. A client goes along to his bank and wants some more money. The bank says: Look, we are sorry. We cannot help you but we think you may do better under some rural reconstruction scheme or some debt adjustment scheme’. The private bank then could be seen in the role of a fair weather friend. It is happy to look after its clients while they are making money but if they run into a bad patch, the banks want to unload them onto somebody else. I think we need to be very careful that we do not fall into this trap so that this scheme is provided just as a support for private banks.
Of course, when debt adjustment and reconstruction is undertaken we find that this gets people on to their feet and they are then handed back to the private bank. This is a very handy arrangement for the private banks and I have no doubt that they applaud it very much. But I think it can be fairly said that in a way the private banks, or some of them, have let the rural community down by not providing adequate counselling and advisory services. If they did provide these services, some of the people who have become candidates for debt adjustment and rural reconstruction might not have got into that situation. Some banks, of course, do provide these services. The Rural Bank of New South Wales has district valuers who can advise people not only on technical matters but also on financial matters and counsel them on business matters. The Commonwealth Development Bank also has officers in this category. They do not have to be attached to every bank; they could cover a district which might service 20 or 30 banks. But the private banks do not provide this service. The semi-government banks- the Rural Bank and the Commonwealth Bank- can function and make a profit. They can provide these services and still make a profit and I think that the private banks should be able to do this, too. I suggest that if they did provide a more adequate technical and financial service they might be able to keep some of their clients out of the rural reconstruction process. Often the loans that a private bank manager makes are made on an ad hoc basis. They are made in the office. Sometimes the bank manager does not even look at the property and if he did he would not know whether it was good or bad. They make a loan with such a wide safety margin that they cannot go wrong. They obtain a rule-of-thumb valuation of the assets and then lend SO per cent of the value. So they are sitting pretty. I suggest that the private banks have a responsibility, not just to sit in an office and lend money or say: ‘We cannot lend it’, but to give a back-up service to their clients out in the field. They make enough profit out of this country to be able to do that without suffering any great hardship. If some banks can do it, all should be able to do it.
I want to refer briefly to the amendment. I think that the suggestion that the fishing industry should be brought into this debt reconstruction program is an excellent idea. No other honourable member has commented on this suggestion and said why it cannot be done. The fishing industry is quite an extensive industry. It has approximately 16 000 employees and is worth $100m, yet it does not fit into any of these categories. It does not fit into the primary reconstruction category and it is certainly not a manufacturing industry. I admit that there are all sorts of difficulties with the fishing industry. It is not possible to see what the harvest will be and it is very difficult to forecast what the harvest will be. On the other hand, it is not subject to many of the hazards of rural industries. It is not affected by droughts or bushfires or grasshoppers or anything of that nature. I think we should look at the fishing industry.
It is interesting to note that Australia imports very large quantities of fish, although our own industry is worth $100m. Figures provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 1973-74 show that Australia imported almost $68m worth of edible fish and another $3m worth of inedible fish products, such as fish meal. These imports totalled $71m. If we add the effect of the devaluation adjustment to that amount, we are importing approximately $80m worth of fish products. So there is a great potential for expansion in the fishing industry to compete with the imports, particularly now that devaluation will increase the price of the imports. It is quite a logical suggestion that the fishing industry should be included in this adjustment program.
The amendment to be moved in the Committee stage, which is the most important one, is to the effect that a National Rural Adjustment Board should be established. I hasten to assure the honourable member for Murray that he quite misinterpreted what the Opposition has said about this amendment. This body would not take over the job of the States. I would never suggest that. The States are the appropriate bodies to administer these schemes. They have the expertise and they are closest to their clients. They have had a lot of experience in this area. I would not suggest for a minute that there should be any interference with their administration of the scheme but I do suggest that there is an urgent need for a general co-ordination of policy so that we do not have the crazy situation in which one State is trying to move people out of an industry and, at the same time, another State is trying to build up people in the industry. Honourable members will know that this has happened in the past, particularly in regard to the dairying industry. The Opposition is saying that the national body should be established to co-ordinate policy and to ensure that there is an equitable distribution and use of resources between the States and that they are broadly using the same sort of guidelines which will produce a situation which is in the national interest so that we do not have a situation in which we are readjusting people into producing goods which are already oversupplied.
A national rural adjustment board would have the task of monitoring the schemes, as they are being administered. It would also have the task of conducting research into the effectiveness of the various schemes and generally co-ordinating the overall task. As I said before, the State authorities are much closer to the problem and I would like to pay a tribute to the various State authorities which administer the rural readjustment programs. They have a very difficult task, sometimes a very painful task, in debt adjustment and in trying to reconstruct and sort out people’s problems. I would not want that function to be interfered with in any way. It is certainly not a proposal which the Opposition would put forward. The Opposition says that this should be a very small policy co-ordinating body on which some States, at least, are represented on a rotating basis and that it should monitor results, ensure that distribution is equitable and conduct research into the effectiveness of the measures being adopted. I think the rural reconstruction adjustment board is a most important recommendation, the most important recommendation made by the Industries Assistance Commission. If the Government had been honest about trying to do a good job in this area it would have set up this body first and then amalgamated the various schemes under this legislation which it has now brought forward. I should like to know what the attitude of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is on this question. Will he continue to ignore one of the main recommendations of the IAC report? I support the Bill. I repeat that the household support scheme should be watched very closely. People who want to get off farms but who cannot do so should be catered for in the Bill. They are not catered for at this stage. I expect that if there is not a need for this provision now, there will be one in the future. Apart from that point, we support the Bill. We commend the progress that has been made in this direction and in particular the household support scheme.
– In the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and as one who has been a farmer for a period of 1 S years, I will do my best to reply to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). First of all, it is to be noted that the amendment is an expression of concern and that the honourable member did not move a detailed amendment. Of course, the honourable member well knows that this scheme flowed from the Industries Assistance Commission report on rural reconstruction. No mention was made by the IAC of the fishing industry to which, I understand, the honourable member’s amendment is directed. It is important also to note that the amendment refers to rural adjustment and not to primary industry adjustment. The Schedule to the Agreement in paragraph (a) of Part 1, under the heading ‘General Principles’, refers to the fact that all agricultural, horticultural and pastoral industries are included in the scheme. It is clearly intended to deal not with primary industry but with rural industry- that is, landbased industry.
In principle, of course, there is no reason why the fishing industry should not have a similar scheme. I think it is conceded that the basic differences, however, between the rural industry and the fishing industry are such that separate schemes obviously would be more appropriate. It was an election promise of this Government to establish a reconstruction scheme for the fishing industry similar to the present rural reconstruction scheme. At the moment a reference on the fishing industry is before the IAC and a report is expected early in 1977. For that reason, the Government cannot accept the amendment. I think my remarks sufficiently answer what the honourable member for Blaxland has said. Other questions were raised, and I think I should refer them to the Minister so that he can answer them directly. I note that the honourable member for Blaxland raised a question about interest rates. As he is aware, the Commonwealth Government lends to the States at 7 per cent and the States are free to lend on terms and conditions which they set. On the other hand, paragraph 7 (2) of Part C of the Schedule, under the heading ‘Introduction’, states:
The Authority shall have the right to review the terms of repayment, including interest rates, of individual accounts at any time and shall exercise this right at regular intervals with the objective of the borrower being encouraged to transfer to commercial credit as soon as circumstances permit.
That is all I can add to help the honourable member for Blaxland at the moment. The honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) referred to the inadequacy of the $3,000 lump sum granted under the household support scheme. I think he may have overlooked the existence of the rehabilitation assistance of $5,000 which is not reduced by other assistance received under the household support scheme. I shall refer to the Minister the other matters that have been raised and ask him to deal with them directly.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-On behalf of the Opposition, I move:
At the end of the Schedule add the following new part:
Part 8- NATIONAL RURAL ADJUSTMENT BOARD
That a National Rural Adjustment Board be established.
Composition of Board
an executive Chairman;
two part-time members drawn from rural industry, and
two members, drawn from the States rural reconstruction authorities and selected, on a rotational basis for a term of no more than two years.
Method of operation
consult with State reconstruction authorities and other Federal and State departments on the annual fund requirements of the Rural Adjustment Scheme;
arrange consultation between the State reconstruction authorities and the Australian Government concerning emergency short-term credit requirements when farm incomes are substantially reduced by a sudden market collapse or other severe situation;
discuss with and liaise between State reconstruction authorities and agencies concerned with monitoring market prospects, such as the various commodity boards and Bureau of Agricultural Economics, to ensure that viability assessments are based on the most up-to-date information available;
d ) monitor the progress of reconstruction clients, including those assessed not to have sound prospects of long-term commercial viability;
evaluate the Rural Adjustment Scheme in terms of explicit policy objectives and guidelines; (0 research into the relative effects of various assistance measures in anticipation of responding to continuing adjustment pressures;
conduct feasibility studies and evaluate areas of specific problems m adjustment and re-development proposals suggested by interested parties or other Government agencies,
liaise at the national level with management of banks and other sources of farm credit. ‘.
The Opposition has moved a substantial amendment to this legislation. I was interested to hear the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), acting on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), rationalise away the Opposition’s amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I should like to see him rationalise away this amendment. I should like to say in passing that the Attorney-General is extending more courtesy in this debate on primary industry than does the Minister for Primary Industry. In fact rarely do we have the company of the Minister for Primary Industry in the House during debates on his own legislation. He rarely affords the courtesy of debating primary industry matters with us. I think that the Minister should be here to deal with an amendment as important as the one I have just moved on behalf of the Opposition.
The amendment moved by the Opposition is an important amendment. It is an amendment which flows from the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in respect of the question of a national marketing board. Such a board is needed to co-ordinate reconstruction throughout Australia. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
The rural adjustment scheme is essentially a joint CommonwealthState operation. Broadly the Commonwealth will provide the funds for the scheme while the States will be primarily responsible for the detailed administration of it in accordance with policies agreed between the Commonwealth and the States.
This concept of a national rural adjustment board does not detract from that arrangement. It does not mean that there would be a monopoly in terms of Commonwealth management of reconstruction. It would just mean that there would be a central co-ordinating body which would liaise with the States. This would overcome the position which the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) raised, namely, that in some States farmers are encouraged to move out of an industry while in other States farmers are moving into that same industry. There is no national co-ordination.
If honourable members look at the amendment they will find that under the heading Method of operation ‘ it states:
There is no intention to run this body from Canberra. Sub-paragraph (b) says that this body is to consult with the States in respect of emergency, short term credit requirements. I thought that that would be in keeping with the general intention of the present legislation. Subparagraph (c) says that this body is to liaise with the State reconstruction authorities on monitoring market prospects and the various commodity boards, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the like. The board is to monitor the progress of clients, evaluate rural adjustment schemes in terms of policy objectives, and conduct feasibility studies.
The last sub-paragraph is the important one. It states that the board is to liaise with the banking system and other sources of farm credit. It is not the intention of the Opposition that this national rural adjustment board would be a monopoly, that it alone would hold all the wisdom and would manage reconstruction of rural enterprises in Australia, but just that it would provide a coordinating base. I quote the following from the IAC report:
A statutory body could be established, a suggested name being the National Rural Adjustment Board.
The IAC went on to say:
The establishment of such a Board would ensure concurrent contact with the farming community and State authorities and set rural adjustment policy in a non-partisan framework.
That is an eminently sensible suggestion. The honourable member for Fraser said that the Government should have preceded this legislation with legislation to establish such a board. I agree that that should have been the first step.
Finally, I think that the Labor Party, when in government, brought more attention to the need for reconstruction. The various schemes it implemented when in government have led now to a greater understanding and acceptance of the notion of reconstruction and adjustment rather than the other general trend of policy towards stabilisation in commodities which invariably meant overproduction or subsidised overproduction so that finally no real assistance was given to industry and no guidance was given to various sectors of agriculture for the long term future. We believe that there is a pressing need for a national co-ordinating instrument. If it is to be national, it has to be a body established by the national Parliament. We suggest a national rural adjustment board, as mentioned by the IAC. Perhaps I should just deal with the proposed membership. The board should have an executive chairman, 2 part-time members drawn from rural industry and 2 members drawn from the State rural reconstruction authorities on a rotating basis. Automatically there would be this cross-feed of information with the States and with the industry. There would not be a monopoly situation. For the life of me, I cannot see on what basis the Government can reject such an amendment.
I put it to the Attorney-General that he will need to explain very cogently, as I am sure he is able to do, why the Government would reject such a reasonable proposition. It is not a crazy notion. It is something which I think is necessary. It is something which can be defended. I believe that it is something with which the State reconstruction authorities and State Ministers would agree- that is, the establishment of a national rural adjustment board. The Opposition commends this amendment to the Committee. I think I can be bold enough to say that if this amendment is not agreed to the Labor Party, in government, certainly would enact legislation which would lead to the establishment of a national rural adjustment board.
-Mr Deputy Chairman-
– You certainly are well represented today! The National Country Party is here in force! None of its members are here.
– They know their farmers. I rise again to answer the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). I am sure that he has read the Industries Assistance Commission report on rural reconstruction, because he had to draw on it for what is not really an original amendment. He took it out of the IAC report. That report sets down the matters which appear in sub-paragraphs (a) to (h) in the third paragraph of his amendment and it then says:
There are several types of administrative arrangements that could carry out the above-mentioned activities. Two approaches are put forward for consideration. Of these the second is preferred.
Of course, the Commission preferred the approach which the honourable member put forward, namely, a statutory body. We are aware of the desire of the Opposition to set up boards and commissions. Commissions were established time after time in the years in which it was in office. We do not operate automatically in that sense. We look to see whether a commission is necessary. The IAC did not say that this board was necessary. It said that either approach was satisfactory, but it preferred the board. That is clear enough. The honourable member’s amendment is in line with the second approach.
This second approach was discussed with the States. It will be recalled that it was suggested in the IAC report that the States would have representation on this board. Despite the fact that they would have this representation, the fact is that no State authority was in favour of a board. No State authority was in favour of the second approach. That in itself is an indication of their reaction. Some of those States are Labor States, as honourable members will recall, and their reaction was that they did not want a board. Our analysis of the proposal suggests that it would be more costly and would achieve no better results. A very telling point, I suggest to honourable members, is that all the things mentioned in paragraph 3 of the amendment about the method of operation are things that the IAC said could be achieved by a commissioner for rural adjustment appointed within the Australian Department of Primary Industry. There is no need for a board with a large number of members. There is no need for additional administration. There is no need for the additional cost. Therefore, the Government rejects the amendment and indicates once again that it prefers the first approach.
That the amendment (Mr Keating’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair)- by leaveread a third time.
Sitting suspended from 1.9 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 7 December, on motion byMrEllicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a piece of amending legislation and it, too, has some sense of urgency about it. The House will recall that the original Bill was introduced as a matter of urgency on the evening of Thursday,18 November last, because of certain proceedings instituted in the Supreme Court of New South Wales by Westinghouse Electric Corporation in respect of uranium contract litigation. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott), pursuant to the earlier legislation, was obliged to make an order which would prevent evidence being given, as requested. That evidence would have been used by a foreign tribunal, namely a United States District Court. Obviously that order was made on the basis that the evidence would perhaps be used to declare that Westinghouse need not comply with contracts which it had already entered into over a period of years for the supply of uranium. In the context of what I am saying about urgency, the fact that it is uranium creates a climate as to whether the legislation has been effectively drawn. The doubt becomes heightened by the fact that there has to be some amendment to the legislation within a matter of days. No personal criticism is intended here. The House will recall that in the course of the debate we were doubtful about the validity of certain provisions of the Bill as introduced on the evening of18 November, in particular sub-clause (2) of clause 4 which stated:
The validity of any exercise, or refusal of the exercise, of any power of the Attorney-General under this Act is not affected by, and shall not be subject to challenge in any court . . .
At the time we said that that was outside the constitutional power of the Government. Firstly it could not be maintained. Secondly, and more importantly if the Government were to adhere to that concept it ran a great risk of the whole Bill being declared invalid. We were relying on the dicta of Fullagar, J., in what is known as the Communist Party dissolution Bill. As a practical example, we were talking about the mere fact that somebody such as an Attorney-General might deem something to be a lighthouse, an example expressed by Mr Justice Fullagar, does not necessarily mean that it has the judicial characteristics of a lighthouse; therefore it cannot be deemed to be a lighthouse simply because the Attorney-General thought it ought to be. It was in that context that we were saying that while we recognised and supported the legislation there could be many difficulties. I again refer to this case of the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in which it is eloquently expressed that the validity of a law or of an administrative act done under a law cannot be made to depend on the opinion of the law maker or the person who is to do the act that the law or the consequence of the act is within the constitutional power upon which the law itself depends for its validity. In this amending legislation the Attorney-General has deleted sub-clause (2) of clause 4.
In the course of the previous debate it was properly said that there should be some parliamentary knowledge of orders made under this type of legislation. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) raised this matter. He was referring to an English Act which was passed in similar emergency circumstances but which clearly had a provision that any order made would be subject to disallowance by the Parliament. The Attorney has agreed with that proposition in this amending legislation by providing that any decision made would be the subject of investigation by the Parliament in the sense that it would be laid before both Houses of Parliament and they would have a chance to disallow it if they objected to the decision. We concur with that amendment.
The point that is overriding the position at the moment is the predicament of Westinghouse itself. Because of this I shall be moving an amendment in Committee. The Labor Party has considered this matter. The amendment is to amend the principal Act by providing that this Act shall cease to be in operation after 30 June 1977 and shall thereupon be deemed to have been repealed by an Act other than this Act. We are saying that this is still emergency legislation. The Labor Party is not at all convinced that it is now properly drawn. We would like to see the efficacy of it tested by time, even if the time is relatively short, bearing in mind that the matters involved relate to certain difficulties that Westinghouse is experiencing. It is a very high powered company in the United States. Obviously it decided to make a substantial sum by selling nuclear reactors, which it did, with great skill. Iri the process it promised the people who bought the reactors a supply of uranium at a price which was in the vicinity of $6 to $8 per lb. It did not have enough business acumen to know that the price might rise, as it has now done, to some $40 per lb. Therefore it is unable financially to comply with the terms of the contract. As the AttorneyGeneral said, it is facing financial ruin to the extent of about $7 billion.
It has adopted the exercise of filing action in the United States on the basis that these contracts now can be avoided by what is deemed to be anti-trust legislation. It has taken proceedings against 29 uranium producers, of which we understand four could be Australian companies. It is in that context that we want to make certain that justice still prevails. Simply because Westinghouse has done the wrong thing all the way through, we do not want it thought that it must be penalised simply because it is an American multi-national. If we look at the history of the matter, it has certainly created a rod for its own back. In 1972, with the United States Government’s blessing obviously, the United States Atomic Energy Commission authorised the release of SO 000 tons of stockpiled uranium. Westinghouse would be part and parcel of that action. That immediately depressed the market everywhere else. The Government of the United States certainly must be put on notice that Westinghouse must have gained immensely from the fact that a climate was created in which this uranium could be obtained relatively cheaply. That helped to sell all the reactors which Westinghouse wished to sell.
The United States decided to protect its own market. It prevented anybody else from selling uranium to the United States domestic market. It placed an embargo on any penetration of that market. It still has that embargo. Is it any wonder that uranium producers such as Canada and others said that something had to be done to give an orderly marketing concept? In that position we are entitled to say that that orderly concept should be maintained. From the Labor Party’s point of view it is a question of judgment and assessment over a short period as to whether we are maintaining a fair and reasonable price. That is the purpose of the amendment. We want this matter reviewed and perhaps the legislation amended again but certainly reintroduced.
In the Senate there was discussion on the original Bill. The Government amendment to section 3 flows from that discussion. Personally-I say personally’ because I do not necessarily think others will agree with me- I think the amendment to section 3 in which the definition of a foreign tribunal is deemed not to include the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is opening up the opportunity for a tribunal in America to obtain the evidence. I know that the AttorneyGeneral added this amendment to the legislation because the matter was raised by Senator Steele Hall.
Surely the logic of the situation would be as I shall outline. Although the Attorney-General might feel it important to prevent evidence from being obtained by a foreign tribunal from a State court, bearing in mind that the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council could only be dealing with the same evidence one would think that the Attorney-General would deem it to apply also to that particular tribunal. I fail to see how this legislation would be able to prevent such ridiculous situations occurring as would occur if this legislation did apply to a State court and an appeal were made from that State court; if a new hearing were conducted before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as could occur; if new evidence were then taken before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as can happen; and if that evidence were certified as being the evidence and then introduced into the United States of America.
I think that this legislation opens up a problem by placing no embargo upon the Privy Council. It is difficult to legislate in this field. The constitutional difficulties are immense. Basically we are relying upon executive power. We have no specific power to control State courts, nor do we want it. But one does look a little askance at what has been happening in State courts, when they have been insisting all the time that these appeals to the Privy Council and that they should maintain their rights. We could well now find that in what is deemed to be in the national interest a form of appeal could be made to the Privy Council which could well create evidence which would destroy Australian companies operating in the uranium field. I say that only in the semantic sense. It clearly follows that if the Attorney-General has been unable to make decisions in State proceedings, by way of this legislation he would disbar himself from making any decision if those proceedings were taken to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. I should like to think that he will have another look at that.
Again, I am not at all convinced that this legislation will achieve what the Australian Government has in mind and what the Opposition supportsthat is, the concept of orderly marketing. I am convinced that Westinghouse may well start an action in a State Supreme Court on any issue which could be deemed to be a breach of contract, could subpoena all the people in Australia from whom it wished to obtain evidence, could arrange for the production of documents, and that could then be deemed to be the evidence that it wants and they could perhaps in some way or other get that evidence over to the United States and use it to negate contracts. We do not applaud that action, but it does highlight the problems that Australia faces in the hara world of international trade. We cannot afford to have weaknesses in our judicial or constitutional system. Yet we have that very problem.
We have the stupidity of premiers saying that they are autonomous in their own fields, that the Commonwealth is not to interfere, that any interference by the Commonwealth is deemed to be a centralist bogy. This should not apply when dealing with international matters. I think every State premier will be saying to the AttorneyGeneral after the introduction of this legislation: Save our industry and save our companies. If this sort of thing can happen we could be destroyed in the international market’. It leaves one with the clear impression that the sooner we get more constitutional powers in the judicial sense the better. This would be in the best interests of the nation and would enable Australia to protect its interests, in the same way that the United States protects its interests. Australia would not then have the weakness of being deemed to be a composite of 6 foreign little States, all trying to do their own thing, with an appeal court situated some 12 000 miles away. Without more constitutional powers being vested in the Federal Government, this situation will always exist.
The other point I wish to make in relation to this legislation relates to clause 4 of the Bill, which states:
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended-
by inserting in paragraph (a) of sub-section ( 1 ), after the word ‘relate’, the words, ‘being the only proceedings of a foreign tribunal . . .
It has been suggested to me that the word only’ in that context means one or the singular. The Attorney-General might wish to alter that word. It is suggested it might be far preferable to delete the word ‘only’; in other words, to have the clause relate to any proceedings. It could well be that Westinghouse could have some litigation in progress, as it does now in the Richmond Division of the Courts of Virginia, and that it might start another action and seek to obtain similar evidence, in which event there would be 2 proceedings rather than only one. I question whether it is appropriate for the word ‘only’ to be used or whether it would not be better if it were removed.
I have canvassed the various aspects of the earlier debate concerning the urgency of the legislation. We support the concept. We are concerned about whether it has been drafted effectively. Because the emotional issue of uranium is involved, naturally there are opinions which question whether this legislation will affect cartels or orderly marketing by supporting certain companies in this field. We are well aware of the fact that certain evidence could well have been stolen in Australia and transmitted to the United States. What we are trying to say is that we accept that at times there has to be emergency legislation. This legislation certainly falls within that category because litigation is already pending in the New South Wales court and we do not want to see Australian producers and Australian industry affected adversely. We want to see the industry maintained on a viable basis. What the industry had to do to protect itself against the United States in earlier years is perfectly understandable and perfectly entitled to support. The difficulty is to decide the methods and words that we should adopt in emergency legislation to give effective legal support. Obviously, State courts cannot provide this support. We are now put in the difficult situation of trying to do it for them.
In summary, we certainly applaud the fact that section 4 (2) has been deleted and that the Attorney- General will enable any order to be disallowed by the Parliament. Again, overriding the whole concept of this legislation is the fact that we feel that the Parliament of Australia ought to be entitled at the next parliamentary session to look at developments which might have taken place in the courts between now and then. This would provide a better understanding of the legal issues involved, and the Parliament could then either renew the legislation or pass it in an amended form. Basically we support the Bill with the sanctions that I have mentioned. We shall be moving an amendment at the Committee stage in the terms which I have outlined.
-The House is debating the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Amendment Bill 1976. The
Government has moved amendments today which are designed to deal with objections raised and discussed, to some extent in this House but also in the Senate, on a more comprehensive basis a few weeks ago. It is proper for the House to consider the whole matter of emergency legislation because we have not had the most satisfactory passing of this Act and amendment through the parliamentary process. Section 4 (2), which is to be deleted, has been referred to by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). He said that it had questionable validity. He did not stress the fact that it was also a repugnant section which gave the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) an extraordinary power that could have almost no limits within this general field. I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral on being prepared to have that subsection removed, not only because of the doubts which surrounded it, but also because of its intrinsic repugnance.
The other amendments contained in the Bill are designed to enable principally the Parliament to have a greater say in the event of an order being made. There may be a disallowance of an order and it is proper that this Parliament should be given the opportunity to disallow orders which may be made in the future in circumstances that are totally beyond the range of our present vision into the future. We do not know in what circumstances this type of legislation could be used. We only know that there was an emergency situation relating to the Westinghouse litigation. I shall say one thing about the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Obviously, if he is concerned about the practicalities of the situation, as he has indicated, 30 June 1977 cannot be a sound date at all. The likelihood is that the House will not be sitting. If the Act were to expire and if an emergency situation were to arise it obviously would not be possible for legislation to be passed because, as I understand it, the House is due to rise in early June and the Budget session will not start again until August. Even if the amendment were agreed to a potentially dangerous situation could arise, and I am using the word ‘dangerous’ in the context of the Act, namely, an unforeseen emergency. I suggest that if the honourable member wants to press on with this amendment he ought to give some consideration to that very serious practical problem. Senator Durack in the other place pointed out that the Act would only apply where ‘jurisdiction of a foreign tribunal is purported to be exercised outside the ambit of international law or comity of nations or where the Australian national interest is at stake’.
This could be the only basis on which an order should be made. That was the only basis on which there ought to have been emergency legislation. I suggest to the House that it should look at ways in which emergency legislation la the future can be dealt with. I would have thought that where there is complex legislation, such as this Bill even though it is only short, and where there is complex litigation which involves many parties and spans many countries, once the Opposition agreed in principle to the urgency and to allow the Bills to go through, it might be better if Opposition and Government supporters sat down together and hammered out a number of these points before the Bill came into the House. Government supporters were not aware of the full context of the Bill. Some were and some were not. Opposition members may or may not have been fully aware of the context. Despite disquiet the Bill was passed through this House and through the Senate even though a number of honourable members raised serious doubts about aspects of the legislation. But everyone accepted that it was emergency legislation. I am not entirely impressed with the argument that it was emergency legislation which it was necessary to pass on the night of 18 November. Why it could not have come in the day before, or the week before, or the week after, I am not certain. I am a little concerned that in future we should try to devise, albeit informal, mechanisms to enable emergency legislation to go through the Houses without a preponderance of members of Parliament being in the dark about the full ramifications of the Bill.
The debate on 18 November supplanted the debate on the White Paper on Defence. Despite the arguments for an emergency hearing, I think it was most unfortunate that the time of the House had to be taken to displant an extremely important debate. The White Paper on defence calls for the most wide-ranging debate in the community on an extremely important topic which the White Paper points out is the first priority or first duty of the Government, namely, the security of the nation. On the night of 18 November the debate on the White Paper had been launched. The radio broadcast was carrying that debate to the widest possible section of the community which was prepared to listen to it. The debate was stopped half-way through and this legislation was brought in. It has now had to be brought back again with a number of important amendments. The defence debate was shoved over and eventually a few hours will be found for it I think today. It is to be disposed of at the very end of the sitting without the community being able to listen to the broadcast of the proceedings. I think that is most unfortunate.
This leads me to the suggestion that we should do everything possible to obtain clarification of the practical procedures which are to be adopted by the House in passing emergency legislation. Another matter raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith related to the Privy Council. I think the British legislation should cover that. If it does not, we are probably thrown back- as this legislation stands- to, paradoxically, an English amendment. As the honourable member knows, the Privy Council sits as a court of appeals from the States. It is entitled to do that and it is the ultimate court of appeal from those courts.
– What about defence?
-I will not repeat my speech on defence although, no doubt, the honourable member for Lilley would like to hear it again. I stress the importance of looking at emergency legislation from, firstly, the point of view of the forms of the House and, secondly, the need to avoid repugnant sections such as section 4(2) which slipped through.
-In relation to the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Amendment Bill reference was made by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) to it being a matter of urgency and emergency. I question that. Let me say at once to the honourable member for St George that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) is to be congratulated because the amendments which the Attorney-General has proposed in this legislation were pointed out quite forcibly to the House when the initial Bill was dealt with on 18 November. Equally, I note that the Attorney-General in his second reading speech on this Bill stated:
The Government has concluded moreover that the Parliament should be able to disallow an order made by the Attorney-General in the same way as it would be able to act if the orders were made by regulation.
I commend the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) who raised this matter on 18 November. The only factor which is remiss is that the Attorney-General at that time was not prepared to accept either suggestion. In relation to this being emergency legislation, I placed on the notice paper, as far back as 8 September, a question relating to uranium cartels in 7 parts. I shall cite 3 of those points. They are:
On 9 November I put another question containing a number of parts on the notice paper. It is question No. 1507. The question is directed to the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony). I asked:
Have any companies made representations to the Government to pass legislation to validate uranium price-fixing agreements which would otherwise contravene (a) the Trade Practices Act, (b) Article 83 of the Chaner of the European Economic Community and (c) United States of America anti-trust laws; if so, which companies.
I did not know what the emergency legislation was but I suggest to the Attorney-General that he had more than advanced knowledge of what would happen. As a matter of fact, in the week leading up to 18 November I attempted every day of the sitting to ask a question without notice of the Attorney-General. Unfortunately, the only day on which I had an opportunity was 18 November. This is the question I asked:
I draw the attention of the Attorney-General to my questions on notice relating to alleged uranium price-fixing and action being taken under the United States anti-trust laws. Is the Minister aware that subpoenas were lodged in the Supreme Court of New South Wales last Tuesday week? I am led to understand that requests for the collection of evidence of this nature for foreign tribunals would be regulated by the practices and procedures of relevant State courts. Has the Minister considered taking legislative action similar to that taken by the Canadian Government last September where it approved a regulation under the Atomic Energy Control Act to prevent removal from Canada of information relating to this matter? Can the Minister state what effects the action being taken under the United States anti-trust laws will have on his Government’s uranium policies? Finally, can I get an answer to the questions that have been on the notice paper since 8 September?
The 2 preceding questions to which I referred are still not answered. I assume that because of the passage of this legislation they will become largely irrelevant. But I want to deal with the question of price validation because I believe that that was the signal to the Attorney-General that he ought to do something about it. I will deal with that later. The purpose of this legislation is to give some immunity to directors, public officials and companies. As I have pointed out before, we should extend that coverage as this legislation will give immunity only within Australia. That is quite apart from the principle involved in the legislation and the question of national sovereignty. I do not want to canvass at length the excellent speech made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, but I suggest to the Attorney-General not only that people should peruse the statement made by the Canadian Minister for Mines last September but also that they should take the trouble to read the background paper to that statement, which is headed ‘Background Paper on the Canadian Uranium Industry’s Activities in the International Uranium Market’. That is important if one is to understand the necessity for this piece of legislation in the international context.
The other matter I want to raise- I have raised it before, but I have not had an answer from the Attorney-General- is that the question that faces the Government on this issue is not so much the passage of this legislation, important as that is, but that, if this legislation is to maximise the immunity to directors, public officials or companies, the only effective and real way to accomplish that is through a government marketing authority. At the moment we trust that this legislation will give these people and these companies immunity within Australia; but, as I have said before in the House, any individual who gets off a plane in San Francisco and is issued with a subpoena is bound by it. I well recall that at the height of the uranium debate in 1973 it was the Labor Government’s policy that uranium ought to be marketed through a government marketing authority. That was repugnant to the then Opposition and it was repugnant to the uranium producers, but I noted in the Press recently that the uranium producers have changed their tack on this matter now. They would welcome a government marketing authority for no other reason than that it would give them the blanket immunity that they want.
I support the legislation and equally I support the amendment. Again I impress upon the Attorney-General and the Government the need to establish as quickly as possible a government marketing authority, particularly for uranium, not only to protect the people or companies which the Government seeks to protect under this legislation but, above all, to allow for an orderly marketing of uranium and to ensure that any returns from the marketing of uranium will be maximised in the best interests of the people. I support the legislation.
-I would like to reiterate to the House a point that I raised when the original piece of legislation came before us. In a sense the blame must rest on the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), whom I have found to be a reasonable person; but it is depressing to realise that on 18 November this year honourable members opposite agreed to pass a piece of legislation which contained section 4(2) which is now repealed in the amending legislation. To remind honourable members I will read the sub-section which is now being deleted. The first part of the section deals with the powers which the Attorney-General can exercise under the Act. The second part, which is now being deleted, read:
What is the point of putting provisions into legislation if the Attorney-General is then exempted from them? He is the officer who is charged with carrying out the provisions. I am not satisfied with any explanation that I have heard so far. I am depressed about the fact that the present Attorney-General, or for that matter any Attorney-General, was prepared to introduce legislation such as that and to defend it in the House. I am particularly depressed about the fact that obviously an overwhelming number of Government supporters in this House and in the Senate were prepared to pass that sort of legislation which was binding not only -
– What about those on your side?
– The honourable member should look at the division lists that appear in Hansard. One honourable member on his side, the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates), tried to support the Opposition; but he was gagged by the Government Whip when he showed that he had enough guts to get up and indicate that he would support the Opposition. It is extremely depressing also to realise that the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), for example, who practises law, was prepared to pass that sort of legislation, giving that sort of power to any Attorney-General. I hope that, in closing the debate, the Attorney-General will give us some explanation even now, so late in the piece, as to what possible reason there could ave been for section 4 (2) which is now being eliminated.
-in reply-One wonders why the Opposition is not prepared to accept the fact that the Government and I are prepared to look at legislation so that this Parliament produces the most effective legislation possible. That is the reason why this debate is taking place today. I listened to the debate on the last occasion and I took into account what was said. As events happened that night it was not possible to accept any amendments, having in mind the processes of this House and of the Senate. I considered and investigated the matter at the time and, even though I felt that there was some merit in some of the matters that were being raised, it would not have been possible to accept any amendments. It was for that reason that Senator Durack, with my approval, indicated to the Senate that we would take these matters into account.
I hope that while I am Attorney-General I will approach legislation on the basis that the Parliament should produce the most effective legislation possible. For that purpose I personally am prepared to take into account what members of the Opposition say as well as what honourable members behind me say. So, that is the reason why we are debating this legislation and that is the reason I give to the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) as to why the matter could not be dealt with on the last occasion. I was troubled by those who took that point of view, and it seemed to me that in the long run this was a provision that could be left out. The justification for it was to place beyond debate a matter which is a peculiar consideration for a Minister of State- namely, the public or national interest -and to leave it beyond the examination of a court which is not appropriate to deal with it. However, the views of honourable members opposite and those behind me and in the Senate indicate that that sub-section might best be left out. It is for that reason that the Government is minded to leave it out.
There has been some suggestion that the legislation was invalid or unconstitutional. I do not regard the legislation in its existing, unamended form as unconstitutional. As I said on the previous occasion- I repeat it now- if section 4 (2) is left out it will improve it as a piece of legislation insofar as it confers on an Attorney-General- not just this one but also future AttorneysGeneral a power which might be regarded as being excessive. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) made a suggestion. When I first considered the suggestion I thought it was reasonable. He said that m a case such as this where an Attorney-General makes an order the Parliament that produces the legislation ought to be able to review the order. It is for that reason I felt it was appropriate for the provision to go in.
Senator Steele Hall said that he was troubled by the fact that the words ‘ foreign tribunal ‘ could include the Privy Council. There again it seemed to me to be reasonable to exclude the Privy Council where it was exercising jurisdiction by way of appeal from a court in this country. It is unfortunate that these appeals to the Privy Council continue. I remind honourable members opposite that 3 State Attorneys-General are of their political colour and I invite honourable members opposite to say to those State Attorneys-General: ‘Why do you not take the step of removing that right of appeal?’ I have said this in a public speech to one AttorneyGeneral while he was present. If the right of appeal was removed, this question would not arise.
I refer now to the reservation that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has. I do not have the same trouble. The Privy Council is taken out of the definition of ‘foreign tribunal’. When the Privy Council is exercising jurisdiction on appeal it is not likely to be in a situation, as a foreign tribunal, where it is requiring evidence from persons in Australia which would possibly be against the national interest. It would be dealing with a matter within the purview of Australian law, albeit that the Privy Council, as some would see it, is a foreign tribunal. I invite honourable members opposite to go to the State Attorneys-General and see what they say.
Some other matters were raised. I do not feel any threat from my rear, but it was suggested that I had no sense of urgency, that I had interrupted a defence debate. Let me say that since that occurred proceedings have come before the Supreme Court of New South Wales and an order was made by me as I have already indicated to the Parliament. Those proceedings have since been adjourned as a direct effect of the order made under this legislation. I say that simply to indicate that the passing of the legislation on that night was necessary. The letters of request themselves were executed according to my information by a judge of the United States District Court in Virginia on 21 October 1976. The honourable member for Hawker apparently knew- the facts were not easy to discover; it is a pity he did not tell me- that the proceedings came before the Supreme Court of New South Wales on, I would imagine, 7 November. According to the honourable member it was Tuesday, 7 November. That only indicates that this matter was considered in some sense of urgency. On the morning of 1 8 November I said to him- I refer to this matter perhaps to defend myself to some extent:
The matter of whether such evidence should be produced is under consideration at the moment.
I meant that. The question of whether legislation should be introduced that day was determined that day. The final form of the legislation had to be determined that day. I thought I expressed regret- if I did not I do now- that such legislation has to be introduced as a matter of urgency. I do not apologise to the House or to members opposite or behind me for the Government ‘s seeing fit on that night to introduce that legislation.
Perhaps if I deal with the amendment now it may save time at the Committee stage. The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment that this Act operate only until June 1977. The legislation is regarded as satisfactory in its amended form. The point is this: The Parliament is protected because the order has to be laid on the table in each House of Parliament. We are deleting sub-section (2 ) from section 4 of the Act. I say to honourable members opposite that if they indicate to me any matter which troubles them about this legislation and its operation in ensuing months or at any time while I am Attorney-General I will certainly take it into account and give it careful consideration. I would think that that is the way in which to deal with the legislation. It is not opposed by either side of the House. We both see its merit in order to protect the situation of Australia, Australian companies and the like. The honourable member for Hawker says that he wants a marketing authority. That was his party’s view when in government. His party wanted to take over the mining and marketing of uranium through the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. That is a form of nationalisation which honourable members opposite adopt. We do not adopt it. There is no ment, from the Government’s point of view, in what the honourable member for Hawker suggests. I thank honourable members for their comments and I simply again commend this Bill to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– The Opposition indicated at the second reading stage that it wished to move an amendment. I move:
After clause 2 insert the following new clause: 2A. Section 2 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:
This Act shall cease to be in operation on the expiration of 30 June 1977, and shall thereupon be deemed to have been repealed by an Act other than this Act. ‘.
Let me advert to the position. The matter was urgent on the night of 1 8 November. As has been said by both sides of the House, no party had a chance to discuss the legislation. I understood the predicament of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and naturally, as a responsible Opposition, we could not say that we would oppose the legislation. Although we had no notice of the legislation we were on notice. There was litigation in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The following week the House would not sit. Unless the Attorney-General had the facility to make the order it could well have been that what he intended doing could not have been done because there would have been no requisite legislation. We were very mindful of the fact, however, that we regarded the legislation as being defective.
The fact that the proposals have now had to be introduced as an amending piece of legislation convinces us again that some of the matters that have been discussed by our party colleagues have merit. Some concern will exist in certain sections with regard to penalties, the nature of notice and particularly the nature of the exercise of the power in respect of these proceedings in an orderly marketing situation. This was suggested by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who seems to be more on the side of the Opposition than the Government regarding this matter. That is a matter in which he should exercise his rights in the Party room. The Opposition wants to emphasise that by 30 June 1977 there will have been another session of this Parliament. The Parliament may not necessarily be meeting on 30 June but by that time the Parliament should have been meeting for some months. I envisage that it will do so from February onwards. The Opposition may wish to raise matters arising out of orders made. The Attorney says that this could be done by motion for disallowance but we might want to go to the merit of the situation, that is, to the Bill itself. We do not want to be in a situation of trying to continue to disallow orders made under a piece of legislation. The Opposition might well want to amend the legislation and it would want that to be done by the Government.
We need to have some understanding of the situation. I refer particularly to the debate in the Senate where senators, who are always deemed to have more wisdom than we in the House of Representatives, were critical of the fact that the previous Bill was urgent. Apparently the Government did not have enough time to tell Government senators that litigation was scheduled for the following week in New South Wales and, therefore, that the legislation had to be dealt with that night. They were of the view that the legislation should not have been rushed through. So we are all ad idem on that position. The Opposition is still convinced, from a Party point of view, that there may be other matters which ought to be included in this legislation or deleted from it. Accordingly, I have no doubt that the Opposition will be discussing this legislation in the fullest context of calm and reflection before 30 June next year. I trust that the Government would do likewise. The members of the Government who are so hostile to the ambit of the legislation might well encourage a discussion in their party room also. The Opposition is not opposed to the principle of orderly marketing but it is opposed, perhaps, to the suggestion that the Attorney-General, irrespective of his merits or otherwise, can be given powers of this nature. The Opposition is anxious to ensure that justice is always done, whether it be in Australia or anywhere else. Accordingly, as a result of a party discussion, the Opposition does not oppose the legislation itself but opposes the urgency with which the Bill was introduced. There has been no clear time to consider the ramifications of the legislation and the underlying emotional issue of uranium contracts, the prices and the difficulties faced by producers. It is felt that this legislation should be reconsidered. Another piece of legislation should be introduced in the first session, that is, before 30 June 1977, after the Government and the Opposition have considered their respective positions.
I am aware that the Government intends to reject the amendment. The Opposition intends to press the amendment for the very good reason that this is a fundamental issue. I advert again to the fact that the Opposition raised these matters on the evening of 18 November but it accepted the view that if it pursued that issue, if it deliberately prevented that Bill from being passed that night, it could well have destroyed certain Australian companies involved in litigation proceedings in the New South Wales courts. It is a pity that Government members did not understand what some of their Ministers conveyed to the Opposition.
– I second the amendment. I hope that some honourable members on the Government side will support the Opposition on this question. Nineteen days after the Act was first passed through both Houses of this Parliament, a much improved piece of legislation has been introduced. I think that by mid-year next year we could have an even better piece of legislation.
The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) ought to be able to acknowledge that fact. There is certainly nothing unusual about giving legislation a limited life and there will be plenty of time next year in this Parliament and in this House to look at ways of improving this legislation. I think we should discipline ourselves to doing that. This legislation was initially a most unsatisfactory piece of legislation and was introduced in far too rushed a fashion, as the Attorney acknowledges. It has been improved very greatly a mere 1 9 days after it was first introduced and we ought to be able to improve it very much in the months that lie ahead. It can hardly be said that advisers in the Attorney-General’s Department, have, for many years, been vexed about this question of foreign proceedings and the prohibition of certain evidence. It is clear that they have not. This measure has been introduced in relation to one specific proceeding begun in a United States district court. This is a matter which the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) has been interested in and agitated about for a very long time. I think that we can look to perhaps improving this whole question of the taking of evidence for foreign tribunals in Australia. I think that we ought to look at it in a big way, in the large picture.
The concern of the honourable member for Hawker has been very properly about orderly marketing of raw materials. Clearly that is a matter on which Government members take a very different view from members on this side of the House. This is not the first instance in which the United States district courts have directed their processes towards the domestic courts in this country under the United States anti-trust laws and under their reach in relation to the foreign commerce of the United States corporations. It has been in relation to questions such as the manufacturing of television sets, such as in the Zenith and Admiral litigation. I think that a great many members on this side of the House would regard that litigation and the extent to which evidence was able to be produced as a result of letters of request issued to Australian domestic courts as very beneficial to world commerce and in breaking up of cartels of an objectionable nature. This will be an increasing problem. The Attorney-General may well recall that when this matter first came very hurriedly before the House, one of the other aspects that perturbed me was the question of reciprocity and the extent to which other countries would now seek to limit the access of Australian courts to their own courts for the purpose of taking evidence relating to proceedings begun in Australia under Australian laws.
The Attorney-General scored a couple of cheap political points when he spoke about the attitudes of Labor State Attorneys-General to the Privy Council. He will not find any narrow States lighters’ on this side of the House. I suggest that with regard to this question, which involves very difficult questions of international law, the Parliament should look at the rights of States in international law. I refer not to colonies, provinces or sub-units of a national government but to how we are to deal with questions of foreign commerce and trade between all countries of the world, between what we called States’ in international law. It would be a wonderful thing if Australia were seen to take some kind of leading role in this process because, increasingly, it will become a problem. Increasingly, not only the laws of the United States but also the laws of other countries, will try to affect the foreign commerce of corporations incorporated in those countries, which in turn will affect operations in Australia in which evidence will need to be taken in Australia. Increasingly, too, we will see the operation of Australian laws affecting Australian corporations outside Australia. It is not an easy question. It is one about which we should discipline ourselves. It is one to which we could very well give time for discussion during the next session. If it involves nothing more than we have seen in this session, as in the stevedoring industry legislation or simply extending the operation of a current piece of legislation that may be satisfactory. But if this question does not deserve at least as much as the few minutes, hardly hours, that the Parliament has devoted to it this year, I would be very surprised. I commend the amendment to all members and think it deserving of the Committee’s support.
– I rise to support the amendment. I want to draw the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) to the question of what, I suppose, could be termed the validation of uranium prices. This matter is crucial to this legislation, particularly if directors and public officials and companies are to be extended immunity from the claim made that persons who are not United States nationals or residents or persons carrying on a business in the United States, are subject to those laws by reason only of some economic effect of their conduct. I put 2 simple questions to the Attorney. Does he agree that the one way in which blanket immunity can be extended to those people is through a government marketing authority? He would have to agree with that, as it would circumvent United States law. I turn to the second question. I get very annoyed with people who have hangups about cliches. He should do a little more homework and not merely say that the Opposition ‘s policy is socialistic. The AttorneyGeneral should have taken a little more trouble to try to understand our policy. I raised this matter earlier. On 10 November an article appeared in the Australian Financial Review, which stated:
Potential Australian uranium producers are lobbying the Federal Government to move to frustrate the US Administration’s attempts to ensure a free international market for uranium.
I assume from the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral that he believes that Mr Mackay is a socialist. No doubt Mr Mackay will be pleased to hear that. The article continues:
The managing director of EZ . . . Mr G. A. Mackay, has written to the Minister for National Resources .. . raising the possibility of an Australian uranium marketing authority supervised by the government, a move which would effectively protect local uranium producers from US anti-trust moves.
It states further:
The U.S. Administration is anxious to avoid the formation of producer cartels that can fix prices and market shares for uranium on an OPEC model.
It also states:
However, Mr Mackay ‘s letter to Mr Anthony provides an answer to . . . Jacobi ‘s question.
The letter alerts Mr Anthony-
It is a pity he did not read that on 10 November- to the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of uranium producers and he also recommends that the marketing be undertaken by a government backed agency which would help protect Australian companies from U.S. laws.
Whether the cliche is nationalisation or socialism, it is obvious that the uranium producers in Australia regard the formulation of a national policy as sound, and I continue to press it. If the Government wants maximum blanket protection given to companies in the resources sector of this country, the way in which we can afford them the immunity that they deserve is by establishing a government marketing authority. I again ask the Attorney-General to refer this matter back to his Cabinet colleagues for serious consideration.
– I have dealt basically with the matters that have been raised. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) spoke for some time about inserting an amendment in the legislation. I indicated earlier that so far as I am concerned the Government is willing to listen to any amendments put forward by the Opposition. If members of the Opposition examine the legislation in the ensuing months and feel that it is ineffective or unjust, or breaches some basic principle, I ask them to bring it to my attention and it will receive consideration.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) raised the question of reciprocity. He said that we have to consider the rights of States in international law. Well, I guess we have to do that. This legislation is concerned with the rights of Australia in relation to this matter and the intrusion of anti-trust laws in the United States of America into what basically is Australia’s concern, namely, the price at which we will fix our uranium. We are acting in our national interests. That is why we are acting in this way and that is why this legislation ought to remain on the statute books, f can understand the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) being a little sensitive because I referred to him as a socialist. He does not like being called a socialist. When I was referring to him during the debate at the second reading stage, I was referring not to him personally but to the policy of the Opposition when in Government, namely, the policy of mining every piece of metal in Australia and then selling it. That was the previous Government’s method of having a marketing authority. This Government will not follow that course. It has made it quite clear that it wants the mining operations of this country to be carried out by another method- one that is more likely to be efficient and in the national interest.
I have no doubt that in the range of policy options that the Government will consider m this matter will be the question of establishing some form of marketing authority. Let me make it quite clear that what the Labor Government did and what previous Government did so far as their participation in any activity which is now thought to be the subject of anti-trust laws in the United States was concerned was exactly the same. The Labor Government did nothing about it. It had an opportunity to do something but it did not take that opportunity. It continued with the policy of the previous Government in relation to this matter. It ill-behoves the honourable member for Hawker to suggest at this stage that we are somewhat in default for not having taken this action when the Labor Government had the opportunity to take it during the 3 years it was in office.
That the new clause proposed to be inserted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr A. W.Jarman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)-by leaveread a third time.
MrVINER (Stirling-Minister for Aboriginal Affairs)-by leave-I move:
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on-
the operation of provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 relating to the identification of traditional owners of Aboriginal land and the means of establishing the views of such owners to the satisfaction of the relevant Land Council;
the adequacy of provisions of the laws of the Northern Territory relating to entry to Aboriginal land, the protection of sites of significance, wildlife conservation and entry to seas adjoining Aboriginal land, and
any other matters referred by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
That the committee consist of the five members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs nominated by the Prime Minister, the three members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs nominated by the Leader of the Opposition, and three Senators nominated by the Leader or the Government in the Senate and three Senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
) That every nomination of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the committee elect as Chairman of the committee one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
That the committee elect a Deputy Chairman who shall perform the duties of the Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee, and at any time when the Chairman and Deputy Chairman are not present at a meeting of the committee, the members present shall elect another member to perform the duties of the Chairman at that meeting.
That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine.
That the committee or any sub-committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to sit during any adjournment of the Parliament.
That seven members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, and a majority of the members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee.
That in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy Chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the Chairman or DeputyChairman have a deliberative vote only.
That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources.
That the committee or a sub-committee have power to authorise publication of any evidence given before it and any document presented to it.
12) That the committee report by 31 May 1977 and that any member of the committee nave power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.
I indicated in my statement to the House on 17 November that the Government proposed to establish a Joint Parliamentary Committee to report not later than 31 May 1977 on the operation of provisions of the land rights Bill dealing with the identification of traditional owners and their relationship to the land councils and on the adequacy of laws of the Northern Territory relating to entry to Aboriginal land, the protection of sacred sites, wild life conservation and entry to seas adjoining Aboriginal land.
The successful operation of the land rights legislation depends to a very great extent on the way in which the land councils are able to reflect the wishes and interests of Aboriginals with traditional interest in land. In particular, where there are proposals for the leasing of land, for exploration of minerals or development of mining on their lands, or the construction of roads, and so on, it will be necessary for the land councils to act in accordance with the wishes of the traditional owners of the areas concerned. To do this properly, the councils must establish registers indicating which people are associated with particular areas of land. The councils will need to employ competent staff to carry out this work and to help consult with traditional owners. These are matters which the Joint Parliamentary Committee will be asked to examine.
In addition, and of equal importance, the Committee will be asked to consider and report on the adequacy of the complementary legislation of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly in the several areas referred to in the land rights legislation. There is a recently introduced ordinance on wild life protection and the Committee may consider whether any amendment to it is necessary to take account of the provisions in the Commonwealth legislation. There is an existing ordinance for the protection of sites and objects of Aboriginal and historical significance and we will be preparing proposals for amending legislation in this field. The Assembly has proposals for new laws in relation to entry to Aboriginal land and access to seas adjoining Aboriginal land. These are all matters of very real day-to-day importance to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory. I cannot overstate the importance of the Committee’s work in these 2 areas. I assure the House that it will have the full co-operation of my Department in its work.
– I move:
Omit paragraph 1 (b) and substitute the following paragraphs:
The operation of laws of the Northern Territory which affect Aboriginal land, in particular laws relating to:
entry to Aboriginal land;
protection of sacred sites;
entry to seas adjoining Aboriginal land;
roads upon Aboriginal land, and
right of entry upon pastoral property. (ba) The effect of mining operations, including exploration and prospecting operations, on aboriginal land or land which is claimed by Aborigines, and*.
I am disadvantaged in this debate because it appears that the terms of reference proposed by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) have not been circulated. If I am correct in saying that, all members are disadvantaged as I am.
– They were circulated at 1 1.30 a.m.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has this tendency to engage in a bit of ad hockery. When it is all said and done the matter about which we are talking is not scheduled to be debated until the House has dealt with the Defence Services Homes Amendment Bill. It is just fortuitous that several members of the Opposition who are actively involved in this matter happened to be in the House at present. This is not the first occasion on which the Minister has sprung this kind of surprise. I think that we are entitled to a little more consideration.
– I rise to order. Could I suggest to the honourable member that if what he says is true, he raises a valid point. Would it not be sensible to adjourn this debate for an hour or so so that we can all be informed on what he is talking about?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)There is no point of order as this is not a matter upon which the Chair can decide.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am not averse to any initiative that the honourable member for Hotham might want to take in that regard. I am prepared to bat on in view of the fact that we are like riding school horses heading for home. The amendment that I have moved on behalf of the Opposition is intended to widen the reference of the proposed committee to include control of roads over Aboriginal land and also to cover the question of entry to pastoral properties. Both of these matters have been referred to extensively by His Honour Mr Justice Woodward. They have been a subject of considerable debate in recent days. They have also been the subject of amendments. It would seem to me that honourable members on both sides of the House would acknowledge that they are questions of very great significance and importance to the Aboriginal people. The amendment proposes an additional term of reference to include in the Committee ‘s functions oversight of exploration and exploitation of Aboriginal lands by mining interests, including those grants made under the proclamation sections of the land rights Bill where Aboriginal consent to mining was mandatory.
The situation generally is that the Opposition is not impressed with the fact that the appointment of this Committee has become necessary at ail. It has been the view of the Opposition that these matters which are to be the subject of the inquiry to be undertaken by the joint committee should have been retained as responsibilities of the Australian Parliament. I might just take the opportunity to mention that on 27 May 1967 the referendum seeking to give power to the Commonwealth in respect of Aboriginal matters was carried overwhelmingly by the people. That proposal sought to remove any ground for the belief that the Constitution discriminated against people of the Aboriginal race and at the same time to make it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to enact special laws for those people. The proposal was carried in all States. A total of 5 183 113 people voted for the proposition and 527 007 voted against. In other words there was a massive majority of 4 656 106 people who said as distinctly and as clearly as they possibly could that they wanted the Australian Government to accept responsibility in respect of Aboriginal affairs.
The fact that this Government has been unprepared to take responsibility in respect of a number of matters gives cause for very grave concern. We have indicated that we have no alternative but to participate in the process that is now being offered to us. If the Government is to turn responsibility over to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory for such important matters as sacred sites and access to Aboriginal lands we certainly would want to be involved in a process of scrutiny. But we do not want to be in it in a half-baked way. We want to get into it effectively in respect of all the issues and not just the ones that the Minister has mentioned.
Why is it that the Minister has excluded from the committee’s proposed area of inquiry the question of the control of roads over Aboriginal land? Why has he deliberately omitted the need for the committee to investigate this very serious problem of Aboriginal entry to pastoral properties? I believe that the whole area of the Ranger inquiry, the question of mining by Nabalco Pty Ltd at Gove, the operations of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at Groote Eylandt and other mining operations in other parts of the Territory could stand the scrutiny of the committee as well. I regard this whole proposition as a backward step. The people of Australia have spoken on this matter.
Only this week when we were talking about winding up the Council for Aboriginal Affairs I drew attention to the fact that the Council had been involved for a long time in co-operating with the States and in arranging for a transfer of power from the State governments to the Australian Government in respect of Aboriginal matters. In October 1973 the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Act was passed. The effect of that legislation is that five of the six States have relinquished almost all of their involvement with Aboriginal affairs, Queensland being the only State refusing to co-operate in terms of the will of the people as expressed in the 1967 referendum.
That is what has been happening; that is what was caused to happen under the Labor Government which gave effect to the wish of the people. To turn these activities over to the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory is tantamount to turning the clock back. It is like giving all of the other responsibilities for Aboriginal affairs back to the States in which case we would get varying degrees of enthusiasm and varying degrees of neglect. There would be an enormous differential from one State to the other. Moreover, there would be financial deficiencies in that some States would not attribute the sense of priority to Aboriginal problems that others might. Obviously the Commonwealth has a responsibility in this respect. On consideration of these matters one can see that the proposed committee has an important job to do.
The Opposition will co-operate with the committee. It is intended that the committee should comprise the eight members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and 6 senators. This means that 14 people from the 2 Houses of Parliament will comprise this joint committee. The Opposition will join the committee and, as it has done in the past in regard to other Aboriginal problems, play its part enthusiastically. But I believe that once we go about our business we ought not to adopt a half-baked approach. I ask the Minister earnestly to consider accepting the amendment that has been put to him in good faith so that we can ensure that all of these matters are thoroughly investigated and the best interests of the Aboriginal people can be adequately served.
-Is the amendment seconded?
-I second the amendment. I will be relatively brief in my remarks.
– You can ‘t.
-Yes I can. It would not take me more than half a minute to describe the honourable member’s inadequacies or adequacies. I support my colleague the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) in this matter. Whilst it is true that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) may by reference expand the proposed committee’s work, I think that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Hughes gives the committee’s terms of reference more precision and more direction and therefore we ought to act upon it. I will not go over the ground which we canvassed during the debate on the land rights legislation. I will not repeat our lack of faith in the capacity of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly to carry out the duties that we think were imposed upon us by the people of Australia in 1967 and in following years.
I think the suggestion to expand the membership of the present Committee to include members of the Senate is a good one. The original suggestion was that a separate committee be appointed. However, I think that the re-creation of the Standing Committee in the form of a special land rights scrutiny committee is a good step towards strengthening the parliamentary committees. I also think it is an interesting step in the role which this Parliament plays. My belief is that the Parliament spends too much of its time considering legislation upon which it has no effect and too little time upon its proper function of scrutiny of the results of that legislation. The new committee will be involved in the scrutiny of legislation which has been passed by the Parliament. I think that is an important step. It may be that the Parliament could turn its attention to other areas as well. The present Committee, with the addition of the senators, will be a fairly powerful one. I think it will have on it at least 4 people who have been Ministers responsible for the general area of Aboriginal affairs. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will agree that the present Committee has some very distinguished and effective back benchers on it. The chairmanship is pretty sound, as long as it is given proper direction.
I note the Minister’s statement that we will get full support from his Department. I hope we will be able to get support from a large number of areas of government, particularly from the House committee staff and so on. Over the last 6 months a number of us have become very deeply involved in the committee side of Aboriginal affairs. I know it has been a very strenuous exercise physically. It has been very demanding intellectually. I am convinced that committees will not be able to work as effectively as we wish unless we expand the servicing of them. The staff travels all over Australia continually. They do their work with great dedication. I am certain that this House is still rather miserly in its approach to the staffing and servicing of committees.
There is one other matter to which I think we ought to turn our attention in regard to the work of committees. I think it is time that we allowed committees to appoint one of their members to investigate a particular aspect of a subject. In any other area of government we are likely to appoint one person to carry out an investigation and report. Sometimes it is a waste of resources to have a number of people- five or six- listening to one lot of evidence or even investigating one area of activity. This is a question for the Standing Orders Committee or perhaps for a special resolution of this Parliament. I know that the activities of the present Committee would have been expanded enormously and would have been carried out with a greater economy of human resources if individual members could have done some of the work that sub-committees do on occasions.
-I am impelled to say a few words about the amendment because I think the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) seriously misunderstands the purport of the motion. Nothing proposed in the amendment is not already contained in the motion which, when passed, will cause this committee to be set up. I fear that when the honourable member for Hughes moved his amendment he included 2 extra subparagraphs, (v) and (vi), in sub-paragraph 1 (b), under the impression that the 2 new subparagraphs are not already included in those matters which may be investigated under the original motion. Therefore I ask him to turn his mind to the terms of the motion. Paragraph ( 1 ) states:
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on-
. . .
. . .
any other matters referred by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
They could quite clearly and quite easily embrace the points made by the honourable member for Hughes. I fear that out of goodwill he failed to understand that. The more he spoke the more I was certain that he misunderstood it. The Committee should be seen as a testament of good faith. It is a testament of good faith. Should there be any doubt about that, there are 2 points on which I wish to comment. The first is the innate generosity manifested by the House of Representatives in respect of any joint committee. Paragraph (2) of the motion of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) makes it clear that there will be 8 members of the House of Representatives and 6 senators. Already the Senate is over-represented. I hope that members of the committee from the House of Representatives do their best to see that the chairmanship authority remains where it ought to remain. If there were any residual doubt beyond that as to the good faith of those who propose the Committee, I refer to paragraph (3) of the Minister’s motion.
– Are you on the present Commitee?
-I am not on the Committee. I suggest that members opposite and members on this side of the House look at paragraph (3) of the Minister’s motion. Paragraph (12) states:
That the committee report by 31 May 1977 and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
If there were any doubt as to the purpose of setting up this committee, that doubt ought to be removed immediately by the paragraph. Members of the committee retain their freedom to come to what they feel are legitimate judgments and to report those judgments. So the committee would not operate in a complete vacuum and do nothing while another legislature passes legislation. It is emboldened and requested to report by 31 May. It may not necessarily be a final report. That merely indicates that the effluxion of time will not become a weapon which would be used to make the activities of the committee null and void and inappropriate to the examination of this legislation and its operation in the Northern Territory. That report has to be in within 6 months. That is not a long period. So I think that the Opposition has, with the greatest of goodwill, misunderstood those paragraphs of the motion which propose to set up the committee and which embrace all those propositions. They embrace an attitude of sincerity and an attitude of goodwill. They retain freedom for members of the committee.
There is one other aspect in the whole attitude of the Opposition to this legislation which worries me. I feel that it has not yet comprehended that the Northern Territory is to be given statehood within 5 years. This is a simple fact. We will not build up the greatest of goodwill or sense with respect to Aboriginal affairs if we seek continually from here to create a barrier between Aborigines and those who are exercising legitimate authority. I hope the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), the honourable member for Hughes and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), if and when he speaks from his position of great authority, will comprehend all those things and will seek to look at them, having in mind goodwill for the Aboriginal people.
Two other aspects of the statements which have been made ought to be borne in mind. I refer to the proposition contained in the amendment moved by the Opposition that the operation of the laws in the Northern Territory should be investigated insofar as they affect Aboriginal land, in particular laws relating to roads upon Aboriginal land and the right of entry upon pastoral property. From the way in which Opposition members have made their statements concerning these matters, one would think that they were not aware of what the legislation here and in the Northern Territory now encompasses. I suggest that they have one or two hangups with respect to these matters which flow from their 1975 legislation. I ask honourable members opposite to look at the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill, in particular to clauses 70 ( 1) and 70 (3), which relate to the entry of people onto Aboriginal land. These clauses are worth while examining. Clause 70 ( 1 ) states:
Except in the performance of functions under this Act or otherwise in accordance with this Act or a law of the Northern Territory, a person shall not enter or remain on Aboriginal land. Penalty: $1,000.
Clause 70 (3) states:
In proceedings for an offence against sub-section ( 1 ), it is a defence if the person charged proves that his entry or remaining on the land was due to necessity.
Under the 1975 legislation there were many roads in the Northern Territory on which an effective toll bar could have been imposed at will. I believe that that is the hangup which still remains when this proposal is criticised. I refer to clause 73 of the Bill, which makes it quite clear that ordinances of the Northern Territory have to coincide with and not differ from, nor contradict, what can be enacted here and those laws which this Parliament retains the right to enact. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) appreciates these things immediately. At the end of clause 73 (1) the following saving provision states: but any such Ordinance has effect to the extent only that it is capable of operating currently with the laws of the Commonwealth, and, in particular, with this Act . . .
So in each of those cases there is a manifestation of goodwill. I would hope that the Opposition would not use this merely to set up bargaining positions, political or otherwise, with respect to Aboriginal land rights. I have a prevailing feeling that the principal aim of Opposition members is to do so, and that would be to the detriment both of this Parliament and of those people on behalf of whom this legislation is being introduced.
Motion (by Mr Donald Cameron) agreed to:
That the question be now put
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 3 December, on motion by Mr Newman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes this Bill. The Bill demonstrates the sectionalism and the narrowness of the Fraser Government’s approach to housing. The purpose of this Bill is to abolish a Labor Government initiative- the Australian Housing Corporation. It is just one more example of this Government’s fear of endorsing anything that the Labor Government created. In support of this measure the Fraser Government states, without qualification, that the Housing Corporation represented an unnecessary and undesirable duplication of services already available and, in particular, services already provided by the various State governments. This must be one of the most naive statements that any government anywhere has ever made. It equals the naivety of the yo-yo devaluation of our currency and the Government’s announcements on tariffs.
This attitude to the Housing Corporation demonstrates once again the Government’s inadequacy and its lack of understanding of the structural inequities in the current housing approach.
We in the Labor Party never saw the Housing Corporation as the beginning and the end of our attempts to make housing policies more responsive to the needs of the people. But it was an important step forward; it was an evolutionary step. We saw the need to establish a housing bank to direct housing finance and assistance to those sectors of the housing market which most needed help. This housing bank was to introduce innovative programs aimed at those sectors of the community that were not and still are not being catered for by any of the existing housing sources.
The programs and schemes that the Housing Corporation was to introduce at the beginning of this year were to complement and supplement the operations of traditional home finance institutions and the State housing authorities. They would not have duplicated any of the functions or programs being offered by any of these bodies. Apart from these innovative programs that were designed to help those in need of special forms of housing assistance, one of the Australian Housing Corporation’s main responsibilities was the ongoing administration of the defence service homes scheme. This responsibility in itself was an important step. It was a step which was intended to regularise and to improve the defence service homes scheme. The Corporation undertook the first comprehensive review of the scheme since its inception 57 years ago.
Until 1975 and the establishment of the Housing Corporation, changes to the scheme were made by ad hoc amendments. This ad hoc approach resulted in many undesirable consequences. In particular, most of the changes meant that the ordinary soldier, the private, the low income man, never really got the benefits. By and large, the people who really benefited were the senior members of the armed forces, the officers and the well-off- those who ‘succeeded’ in life. If the Government doubts this all it has to do is to look at the statistics which have been produced by the Housing Corporation. These statistics clearly demonstrate that the ordinary servicemen, past and present, have not received the benefits that the nation promised thembenefits that they cannot and now never will receive because of the way this scheme has been structured and administered in the past and, no doubt, will be restructured and administered in the future.
It concerns us on this side of the House that the Government has not tabled the annual report of the Corporation, which demonstrates these inequities, even though the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who had the responsibility for the Corporation, has had the report for at least 4 months. The Government is afraid to table this report before this debate because the information and recommendations in it embarrass the Government. The Government, for narrow sectional reasons, is not prepared to introduce the sweeping changes recommended in that report. There actually is a report on the whole war service homes scheme, or the defence service homes scheme as it is now known, which is a report of the Housing Corporation in which certain recommendations are made. The Government has had that report for 4 months. It will get the debate out of the way and then table the report. The Government’s failure to table the report, as required by the legislation, is just another example of its mode of operation. The Government is deliberately keeping the people and the Parliament in the dark. By holding back the report and by ignoring the recommendations of the now defunct Australian Housing Corporation the Government is seeking to ignore the problems which have been apparent for some time in the defence service homes scheme. By holding back the report the Government is denying the Parliament the opportunity to properly debate this legislation. This is one other reason why we should oppose the Bill which is before us. The Government is deliberately maintaining a scheme which discriminates against those it was intended to help, that is the ordinary Australian servicemen, past and present.
The Government is ensuring that this discriminatory practice will continue by replacing what was an 8-man corporation with a one-man body. I mean that the secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will replace the Australian Housing Corporation. The effects of this will be regretted. The bureaucracy will take steps to ensure that the mode of operation and the administration of the defence service homes scheme, as it existed prior to 1975, will be reconstituted. This will result in 2 things. It means that Parliament will not have access to the detailed accounts and analyses of the operations of the defence service homes scheme. It also means that the morale of the officers employed in administering the scheme will be lowered.
The very nature of the Australian Housing Corporation and the innovative programs it was going to administer in every area of housing made accountability and analysis mandatory. In the short life of the Housing Corporation major savings in administrative costs were made. This is something which this Government says it supports. It argues that it supports cuts in administrative costs. Here we have an example of this. The system of decentralised administration and accounting led to significant reductions of about 20 per cent in overhead costs. If the Corporation had continued to operate there is no doubt in our minds that the overhead costs could have been reduced by a further 10 per cent to 15 per cent. But now these savings will be lost as the administration of the scheme is once again centralised in Canberra. In the last 12 months, for the first time in 57 years, people involved in the administration of the defence service homes schemes have been given the opportunity to use their own initiative. In other words, the people in the Corporation were encouraged to use their initiative and to be involved more in the decision making process. This will now be taken away from them.
Another area of the defence service homes scheme which caused the Australian Labor Party in government great concern and which led to the amalgamation of the scheme into the Australian Housing Corporation was the problem of land purchases by the old administrators of the defence service homes scheme and its lack of interrelationship with either Federal, State or local governments in urban and regional development strategies. Under the administration of past conservative governments large parcels of land were bought up in capital cities and in major centres throughout Australia. I do not for one moment say that the purchase of land is not a good thing. But this should be done in cooperation with State and local government and even with other government agencies. It should be done on a rational basis, knowing the time table of development, instead of building up an enormous bank because of a poor accountability system. Currently more than 1 200 hectares of underdeveloped land are held throughout the country. There has never been any responsible development or economic management plans for these estates. Similar parcels of land have been developed in the past on an ad hoc basis. They were developed without regard to the development strategies of local authorities or State governments, or of our overall urban and regional development planning trusts. In some cases their development led to the establishment of enclaves of wealthy returned servicemen. The worst example of this is the development of the North Rocks estate. The price of homes and land on that estate ranged from $35,000 to well over $55,000, with the majority of homes being in the top bracket.
Obviously, when the maximum loan obtainable under the defence service homes scheme was $15,000 the ordinary serviceman or exserviceman on the average wage or even well above the average wage could not afford to purchase a home on such an estate unless he had owned a home previously and transferred the money from the sale of that home into the new war service home. A maximum loan of $15,000 was available and yet the purchase prices ranged up to $55,000. One can imagine the enormous total loan which would be necessary in order to meet that commitment. Later I shall incorporate in Hansard some tables to show the real debt burden remaining because of the high interest rates which exist today. In talking about high interest rates I exclude the defence service homes scheme. After all, if one wants to raise a loan to pay off a $55,000 home, the $15,000 loan is just a drop in the bucket. If schemes like this are to be meaningful and if they are to satisfy the housing needs of the ordinary serviceman or exserviceman, the maximum loan available has to be increased.
– Why did you not increase it?
-The Labor Government in 1973 increased the maximum loan from $12,000 to $15,000. But the latter figure is now insufficient. Today the maximum figure needs to be at least $20,000. With an amount of $20,000 available most of the ordinary servicemen would be catered for. It concerns me that this Government, when in Opposition, was critical of the Labor Government for introducing a waiting period for defence service home loans. But when this Government had the opportunity to shorten that period it refused to do so. In fact, it appropriated a much smaller amount this financial year than we appropriated in the last year in which we were in government. I have already said that the administration of the defence service homes scheme, while an important function of the Australian Housing Corporation, was only one function of that body. The Corporation was established to direct housing finance to those people who were being ignored by the existing housing market. There can be no doubt that everyone in the Parliament is aware of this problem. We know, as the Government knows, that people whose earnings currently fall between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earning cannot obtain housing finance from traditional sources. These people are deprived of the opportunity and benefit of home ownership.
I have explained before, but I think I should explain again, that we were able to meet housing commitments of people earning up to 95 per cent of average weekly wages. We made money available through the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. Previously under the old conservative government, the McMahon Government, this money was made available at the long term bond rate. Of course, written into the agreement was a tax rebate to meet the situation. When our Party came into government we reduced that rate from the long term bond rate to 4 per cent. The long term bond rate is about 10 per cent today. Therefore, that money was made available at a 6 per cent subsidy. People on housing commission waiting lists who earn up to 85 per cent of average weekly earnings can make application for that money. More money should be made available in order to reduce the number of people on the waiting lists. The interest on loans from the advance to the home builders account is at a slightly higher rate than 4 per cent- I think it is An per cent-and there is an administrative charge on that, making the total interest rate about 5 per cent for people earning between 85 per cent and 95 per cent of average weekly earnings. People up to that level have been protected, although the waiting lists are still excessive. But at least there are schemes in existence under which those people can get loans.
The people in difficulties are those who earn between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. Later in the debate I will show that, because of actions of this Government in the last 2 weeks, that level of 135 per cent of average weekly earnings will be extended to 155 per cent. People earning between 95 per cent and 155 per cent will find themselves in a no man’s land when they try to obtain a loan for land and housing. This will be true particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. We all know that banks and building societies do not lend where the rate of repayment exeeds 25 per cent to 30 per cent of earnings. What this means is that people who earn less than 135 per cent of average weekly earnings, or less than $248 a week, are denied the opportunity of home ownership. At least 88 per cent of all wage earners earn less than 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. So one can see that potential home ownership is in a quagmire.
Young people and others seeking a home are facing a difficult situation. The Government knows this but has done nothing to face up to the problem. In fact the Government has refused to do anything for this group. It also knows that the repayment gap problem will worsen because of its mismanagement of the economy, particularly its actions in the last 2 weeks. The Government knows that interest rates will increase in the next year by at least 2 per cent. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, who is at the table, is aware that interest rates will rise by at least 2 per cent in the next year. The Government knows that this will add, on average, between $28 and $36 a month to the repayment gap faced by these people. The effect of this will be to deprive non-home owners earning up to 155 per cent of average weekly earnings of the opportunity to own their own homes. That is what the Government’s economic policies will achieve in housing. Yet, recognising this, the Government goes on with its deliberate intention to abolish the Austraiian Housing Corporation, a body which was established to introduce programs and forms of assistance to ease the repayment gap. That such an organisation was needed was recognised under the Labor Government; such an organisation is needed even more today under the present Government.
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table of monthly repayments and total interest
Said on loans of $15,000, $20,000, $25,000 and 30,000, which has been compiled by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. At the present time average weekly earnings are $ 1 84. A person earning 135 per cent of average weekly earnings is receiving $248 a week. Even the Labor Government found it extremely difficult to meet its commitments to this group. Later I will explain the programs which the Labor Government was trying to introduce to overcome that burden. Those programs were only in the early stages of development, but they were being undertaken by the Australian Housing Corporation.
If one examines the table one finds that on a loan of $20,000 at the existing interest rate of 10.5 per cent the monthly repayments over 20 years would be $199. That is well in excess of the capacity of those on average weekly earnings of $184. People trying to repay that amount on the basis of 25 per cent to 30 per cent of their earnings would be in a very difficult situation. If interest rates are increased next year by 2 per cent or even more, those repayments will represent an enormous burden. In the table which I had incorporated in Hansard and which was compiled on 5 April 1976, I have taken interest rates only up to 12 per cent. I would have thought that a rate of 12 per cent would have been sufficient, but regrettably I will have to have the table reviewed and I will have to show interest rates of up to 14.5 per cent. The Minister at the table, in his cynical way, can laugh. Does he want to put into the record that interest rates will not rise by at least 2 per cent in the next year?
– It is already on the record.
-The Minister says that it is already on the record. We will see how history deals with him. This Government, which has showed complete incompetence in economic management, knows the enormous pressure that this will put on the home building sector. The Government has intimated already that it is orienting all its economic pressure to export incentives and that the rural sector and the export of the minerals sector will be protected by directions from the Government to the Reserve Bank. Enormous pressures will be placed on the home building sector in relation to the availability of finance. If the Government thinks that it can isolate this sector, it is badly mistaken. The Labor Government tried to protect this sector itself. When interest rates rose in the year 1974 by more than 2 per cent, we gave a direction to the Reserve Bank to make sure that interest rates increased by only one per cent. The situation is that interest rates, like anything else, find their own level. Consequently money flowed away from the home building sector because the returns from interest rates in that sector were lower than those in other areas. The Government cannot isolate any one sector from the others. That rise in interest rates will put enormous pressure on the whole home building sector. I say that with great gloom and not with great delight.
The Labor Government in its last Budget proposed to introduce a deferred mortgage repayment scheme on second mortgage loans, to assist those people earning between 95 per cent and 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. The Labor Government appropriated $20m for this purpose in the Hayden Budget. If this scheme had been introduced it would have meant that in the early years of the loan repayments would have been lower than those on loans obtainable from traditional financial sources. The program would have helped the low and middle income families, particularly oneincome and one-parent families, to obtain adequate housing. It was our intention that these funds initially would be made available to families whose regular weekly income, excluding overtime and child endowment, did not exceed 1 10 per cent of average weekly earnings in each State. Recipients would have been expected to contribute no more than 30 per cent of regular gross income of the household to meet mortgage repayments. We did this even though we knew that some building societies were introducing similar schemes. Our scheme was to supplement the building societies ‘ programs.
The building societies’ schemes did not cater for people earning as little as 1 10 per cent of the average weekly earnings. The schemes introduced by the private lending institutions catered only for those earning marginally less than 135 per cent of the average weekly earnings. They did not even get close to those people earning 1 10 per cent of the average weekly earnings. Although our scheme initially was to make loans available to people earning up to 1 10 per cent of the average weekly earnings we intended progressively to increase the figure to 135 per cent of average weekly earnings. We knew that this was a difficult area. We thought that the deferred mortgage repayment scheme was one way to attack the situation. With the coming rise in interest rates and the scarcity of money these private institutions will be forced to abandon the programs they introduced for these potential home buyers.
The Corporation under a Labor government would also have made available first mortgage loans in this financial year, but these would normally have been available only for specific housing developments being earned out on a joint venture basis by private developers and development corporations or land commissions; in other words, for buildings carried out in co-operation with respective State authorities. We recognised that to achieve our urban and regional development objectives specific housing programs of this nature were necessary. The Corporation also had been instructed to look at the possibility of introducing loans to cover the full cost of housing. To achieve this and to allow traditional institutions to lend a higher proportion of the total value of a home it was our intention to amend the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation Act to guarantee low income earners. This form of guarantee would have allowed the low income home buyers to acquire their home loans and to repay them by minimising the financial burden in the early years of the loan. In this way we would have been able to link the income of the home purchasers with a guarantee that they would never have to pay more than 25 per cent of their income as repayments until the home purchasers reached the point where they had enough equity in their homes to be regarded by banks and building societies as normal risks.
It was also our intention to use the Corporation to establish cost rent housing associations. The basic principle of this proposal was that non profit-making co-operatives would be funded in pan or in full by way of loans or if necessary grants to construct, acquire or refurbish housing according to their needs and interests. We allocated $9m to the Australian Housing Corporation in 1975-76 for this purpose. These cooperatives also would have had access to funds from conventional financial institutions. This scheme was developed by the Housing Corporation in the time of the Labor Government. As I said at the beginning of this debate, the Corporation was not the be-all and the end-all. Its establishment was an evolutionary step towards developing working policies to overcome the structural inequities in the provision of housing in Australia. I believe the Corporation was a fine body. I think it had good foundations. It is a great regret that it is to be abolished. I think it would have- made a great contribution to the whole housing situation in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-There is one thing we must admire. Since the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) was elevated to the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition he has certainly been carrying on a rearguard fighting spirit. Perhaps he learned that attitude some 30-odd years ago when he was recognised as something of a first-class soldier. However, I think I should remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the purpose of this Bill is to reconstitute the Australian Housing Corporation in accordance with the Government’s announced policy and to change its name, nature and function so that its sole responsibility will be the administration of the defence service homes scheme. I also remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that it was the stated policy of the Liberal and National Country parties prior to the 1 975 elections that the activities of the Australian Housing Corporation would be critically examined. Following that examination the Government decided that the Corporation should be abolished. The decision was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 2 February this year.
We hear members of the Opposition often criticising the Government because it has changed or not fulfilled its policy or has broken a promise. The intentions are quite clearly set out m the second reading speech of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development ( Mr Newman). Of course, honourable members opposite have become critical of that too. Basically this legislation is a machinery measure. I regret that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) cannot participate in this debate this afternoon. I know that he wished to do so but he has been tied down with other important business. Naturally enough he will attempt to join in the debate before it is concluded.
The legislation gives one an opportunity of examining the issues in a somewhat limited area. It is unfortunate that since the Prime Minister announced the Government’s proposals there has been a great deal of speculation. Fears have been expressed that the principles of the original Defence Service Homes Act will be removed. There have been suggestions of increasing interest rates. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition today forecast an increase of 2 per cent. I suppose he is entitled to make a guess the same as anyone else. I do not know how he arrives at the 2 per cent. I look forward to seeing how far out his forecast is by the end of next year.
One would expect that it is the role of the Opposition continually to throw doubt in the minds of the people outside this place by making wild accusations. Let me refer to portion of the Minister’s second reading speech. This will remove all doubts as to where the Government is going on this matter. The relevant part reads:
One must remember that the original Bill on this matter was introduced way back in 1918. Since that time the Liberal and National Country parties have carried on the principle of preferential interest rates. This applied for all the funds made available in this area up until 1972. With a change of government we saw a change of policy. It is true that the Labor Government increased the amount of the loan. Those increases have to be taken for granted as costs increase, though it is fair and proper that the amount of the loans should increase. The Labor Government did not follow the preferential rates of the time but rather increased interest rates from 3% per cent to In per cent for the amount of loan which exceeded $ 12,000; that is the last $3,000. It is true, too, that the field of eligibility has been widened. There is no doubt in my mind that this has been acceptable to many people. But whilst this has been appreciated by many, I believe it is the general consensus on the Government side that we do not want to see any alteration or interference with the original claimants of the old defence service homes. I want to make that point very clear. I for one would not go along with any interference with those claims because I believe that that was an agreement entered into by the individual claimant and the Government of the day which has been upheld until 1972.
With regard to the question of the upper limit, which is running at $ 1 5,000 at the present time, it is pretty obvious that it naturally has not kept pace with demand and the increased cost of housing. If this was a straight out grant, it would be different. But it is not a grant; it is a loan. No government can make such a loan without having some form of security. Naturally enough it demands security for a first mortgage. Quite often it is rather difficult for recipients to be able to take full advantage of the loan of $15,000 and still have sufficient funds to be able to pay for the premises which they have purchased. There is no need for me to spell that out because it is obvious that one does not obtain any sort of reasonable home costing under, say, $20,000 today. There is no doubt that it would certainly cost much in excess of that amount. I commend this legislation to the Parliament. I do not think there is any need to go into lengthy discussions on it. I do not agree that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition needed to go into all the ramifications of the Housing Corporation. I do not think it is at all necessary.
I conclude by complimenting the Government on carrying out its original promise to do exactly what has been done. I think I can say, on behalf of a lot of ex-service personnel throughout Australia, that they certainly appreciate the importance of the change of name from the old Repatriation Department to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. At the same time, I certainly welcome the opportunity of tying the defence service homes to that Department where, in my opinion, it should have been many years ago.
-The honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) could easily give the unsuspecting the impression that nothing of significance is involved in this legislation. He seemed to convey the idea that we are dealing with an innocuous matter, whereas, in fact, the Parliament at this time is actually taking a decision to abolish the Australian Housing Corporation as it has been known and understood. There is nothing provided for in this legislation at the present time which brings advantage to ex-servicemen in any way. The Bill is designed simply to take that Housing Corporation, with all its great objectivity and characteristics designed to assist people to obtain houses in Australia and to whittle it down to an authority which will do nothing more than administer the Defence Service Homes Scheme. That is the whole essence of the Bill. In other words, we are involved in the Government’s pursuance of devolution, this attempt to brush out of the records the reforms of the Labor Government. We have seen this happen in respect to many other matters. We have seen the mutilation of Medibank and the destruction of the Australian Assistance Plan. This insidious campaign is going on and on.
I remember the great debates that look place when the legislation to establish the Australian Housing Corporation was introduced. I was the Minister for Housing and Construction who introduced the Bill in 1975. On that occasion I said:
The Australian Housing Corporation proposed in this Bill permits us to explore a fresh field of endeavour, that of direct relations between government and private enterprise, and between government and non-prom organisations, in the housing of the large number of ordinary Australian families.
I went on:
It is an anomaly of policy in this country that although the Australian Government possesses a substantial reserve of power in the housing field, that power has never been fully gathered together, concentrated and mobilised for the benefit of the people.
Through the Housing Corporation the Labor Government was attempting to do just that. It was the most significant legislation since the Chifley Government negotiated the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement in 1945. Honourable gentlemen know that over 280 000 houses have been built as a result of that legislation. But, of course, much more remains to be done. The Housing Commissions have concentrated on caring for poorer families, but other forms of assistance for housing are needed in Australia at the present time. I will not go into the figures because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), who spoke earlier, has outlined the difficulty faced by people, even people who are comparatively well off, in obtaining a housing loan.
The Labor Government looked at the constitutionality that was available to it. It was to the effect that nobody would quibble about an Australian Government asserting its role and rights in regard to the housing needs of migrants, servicemen, ex-servicemen, persons living in the Territories, students, employees of the Australian Government or contractors to the Government and their employees. The former Government saw that responsibility and legislation in respect of those categories of people were spread amongst different departments and different enactments. There was a need to contrive a corporation which would be the housing authority of the Australian Government so that this area could be run effectively and so that there would be some consistency of philosophy and benefit. In addition to assisting those categories of people, the Labor Government was able to establish that under the family allowances powers of the Constitution, it was competent for an Australian Government to provide a very wide range of assistance to the average home seeker in the Australian community. That view, which I contrived, nurtured and pursued was finally endorsed by the Attorney-General of the day and, under that general umbrella, the
Housing Corporation came into being. The purpose of the Corporation was to strengthen AustralianGovernment machinery to perform those housing functions for which it has constitutional power. The Labor Government wanted to provide the Government with a vehicle capable of flexible and energetic initiatives to enable current housing problems to be overcome.
The Corporation was primarily to be a lending institution to make housing loans to home seekers within the Australian Government’s constitutional responsibilities, including the categories of people I have mentioned. It was to have powers similar to those contained in the Defence Service Homes Act. Indeed, it was to administer the Defence Service Homes Act. Among the initiatives which the Labor Government had in mind and which I certainly had under active consideration by officers of the Department at the time I ceased to be Minister for Housing and Construction, were initiatives to provide second mortgage loans to cover the deposit gap for young couples; to direct loans to special hardship cases; to provide loans for private enterprise building and to assist in limiting rentals. The Labor Government intended to provide loans to co-operative building societies providing middle income housing. Today, this Government is abdicating its responsibilities in this regard. The Labor Government wanted to do the things I have mentioned. It wanted to cooperate with private enterprise directly and openly and without inhibition in the creation of good standard housing for people with moderate incomes.
All honourable members will be aware of the conditions that prevail at the present time. The predominance of financial resources available for housing from the Australian Government goes to people on a limited income- people whose income does not exceed 85 per cent of average weekly earnings, and people who qualify for assistance from the State housing authorities. Those people whose income does not exceed 95 per cent of average weekly earnings can qualify for loans from the terminating building societies which are financed by the Australian Government. Today there are people whose income is higher than the levels to which I have referred- people who are on the average weekly earnings and even above the average weekly earningswho are unable to attract a building loan for reasons enunciated in detail by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren). For example, if one had a loan of $22,500 from a building society repayable over 20 years to 25 years at 1 1 per cent, the repayment rate is $220 a month. In order to pay $220 a month a family would need to have an income of $220 a week if the objective of not requiring people to pay more than 25 per cent of their income for housing purposes is to apply. Of course, there are many people whose income does not reach that level and they will need assistance.
The contention has been made that the Australian Housing Corporation would duplicate the efforts of the States, despite the repeated assurances that I gave on behalf of the Government when I introduced the Australian Housing Corporation legislation that that would not be the case. We readily acknowledged the important work being done by the States and greatly increased allocations for housing commission purposes from about $160m to $385m a year. We recognised that there was another tier of people who needed assistance. The Housing Corporation was going to set about that kind of process. The Labor Government would have supported people -
– How big do you think that tier was?
-I think it is the predominant tier in Australia at the present time. It is probably about 80 per cent -
– Eighty per cent of all people seeking homes?
– I would say so, yes. I notice that the Government Whip is looking impatiently at me and I suppose he will want me to conclude my speech in about 5 minutes from now. The Labor Government certainly wanted to assist people overcome the deposit gap because one in five of Australian families at present have to go to finance companies. There are many ways of providing second mortgages. We could have provided second mortgages up to $5,000 to first home buyers who were unable to bridge the deposit gap. Those people could have paid back the loan at low interest rates over an extended period of time. We would have assisted people who are suffering hardship as a result of interest rates increasing or as a result of unemployment.
In short, the many initiatives that the Labor Government had in mind were emulative of the initiatives being taken in other parts of the world. Before I introduced legislation dealing with this matter in 1975 I went to the United States of America and to Canada to study the bodies which were operating in those countries and which were comparable to the Australian Housing Corporation. The proposition that is being put by this Government seems to me to be incredible. It is to the effect that Australia can go it alone as a country without competent Federal authorities to fulfil the housing needs of the Australian people. In many respects the Corporation that I proposed was similar to the corporation that operates in Ontario and similar to bodies operating in the United States of America. I say to the Minister that he cannot continue on this destructive course. Australia will face grave housing problems unless this Government starts to show initiative and take effective action in relation to the housing problems in Australia.
This legislation is disastrous in that it takes away from the Australian Government and the Australian people an instrument which could have been extremely effective in moderating housing activity around Australia, sustaining a degree of construction buoyancy and levelling out the funding of housing by way of assisting those people with the type of support they need to get into the home buying and home renting processes. I deplore what is happening today and I am sorry that we do not have more time to deal with this matter. I assure the Parliament and the people that on the re-election of a Labor government the Austraiian Housing Corporation will be re-instituted. It will be supported generously with government funds and it will assist young people and others in Australia to obtain adequate housing.
– in reply- I want to respond to a few points made by the Opposition. I should like to deal firstly with the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) whose speech, as usual, was spattered with his usual exaggerated terms and words. The Government’s position on this legislation has been clear for a long time. Just for the record, I will recall what that position has been. When the Australian Housing Corporation Bill 1975 was debated in this Parliament the attitude adopted by the Liberal and National Country Parties, which were then in Opposition, was that the Australian Housing Corporation was unnecessary and undesirable and that it duplicated services that were available in many other places. When we came back into government we found that there was no evidence to the contrary that would have shown that our argument, when that first debate was held, was wrong. The existing financial institutions, the functions of the Federal Government, the functions of the State governments and good economic management fulfil all the functions that the Labor Government then designed for this Corporation.
I should like to make the record totally clear. When we went to the polls at the 1975 election, we made it perfectly clear that the activities of the Australian Housing Corporation would be critically examined. Following that examination we have found that there were no reasons for not abolishing the Corporation. I turn now to some of the very important points that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) tried to make. I refer first to the annual report of the Australian Housing Corporation. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that for some mysterious reason the Government had tried to prevent the tabling of the report in this Parliament. The reason is very simple: Under section 46 (3) of the Australian Housing Corporation Act, the Auditor-General is required to report the results of his inspection and advise the Minister. The simple facts are that the AuditorGeneral’s report for 1974-75 and 1975-76 have not been received by the Minister and that is why the report of the Austraiian Housing Corporation has not been tabled in this place.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also had a few words to say about the North Rocks estate. I find this rather peculiar for 2 reasons. First, despite his criticisms of the North Rocks estate, it was his Government that proceeded to build, I believe, 300 houses in that area. If the government of the day was not satisfied with that program, why in heaven’s name did it proceed to build so many houses over such a long period? Secondly, the more interesting point that was raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition concerned the value of those houses. To examine the record of North Rocks estate is to examine the record of the Labor Government in office. If I can use a word that has been used by both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Hughes, the Labor Government’s record was ‘disastrous’ for what it did to the cost of building a house- the terrible inflation that it inflicted on this country. For example, at the outset the cost of building a house on a block of land in the North Rocks estate was $25,000 to $30,000. It now costs between $35,000 and $50,000 to build a house in the North Rocks estate. That is what I mean by the sorry record of the Labor Government.
Again to make sure that the record is absolutely clear in Hansard, I point out that in August 1975 the Labor Government provided only $ 1 22.5m in its Budget, and that was substantially less than the amount required to meet the anticipated demand under the defence service homes scheme. That is when the present waiting period of 1 1 months began. I was staggered to hear the
Deputy Leader of the Opposition talking about waiting times and Budget allocations. I say once again that it was the last Government which produced the waiting time of 1 1 months for defence service homes. We at least have managed to provide appropriations which will not extend that period. We would like to have reduced that waiting period, but when we came to office the financial situation we faced as a result of the mismanagement of the last Government prevented us from doing so.
The honourable member for Hughes and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to accuse us of vacating the field of housing, of not accepting responsibilities and of not taking any new initiatives. Our record shows that that sort of comment is totally wrong. In fact we have adopted several initiatives. The debate last Friday on the Homes Saving Grant Bill and this debate today have been totally negative debates in the sense that the Opposition has not produced one positive measure that it would adopt to correct the terrible situation that potential home owners now face in this country. It is beyond me that members of the Opposition should criticise us.
I might add: If this matter is so important to the Labor Party, where are all its speakers? The honourable member for Hughes and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were the only people who spoke. I want to list once again what this Government is doing about home ownership.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Minister is accusing the Opposition of being irresponsible in not having speakers available. I think it is important to say that the Government Whip informed me that I was not allowed to talk for more than 10 minutes; otherwise I would be gagged. Obviously other speakers are not available under those circumstances.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)There is no substance in the point of order.
– I have just been informed by the Deputy Whip on the Government side of the facts. The Opposition was restricted, and I apologise.
I want to list what we are doing about home ownership. First of all, by decent and proper economic management we will provide the best chance that a potential home owner will ever have to own a house in this country. In the long term that involves reducing interest rates and sustaining them at proper low levels. Secondly, we introduced the homes savings grant- this will begin from 1 January-and it probably will mean that 50 000 or 60 000 home owners a year will benefit. We are examining the functions of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation so that arrangements may be made for improving the insurance cover for home buyers. We have introduced the home allowance voucher experiment, which I hope will benefit between 4000 and 5000 people seeking decent accommodation under rental arrangements. By negotiation with the States, I hope, we are improving the present allowances we make to the States under the housing arrangements of 1973-74. Finally, both Opposition speakers made much of a deferred mortgage scheme. We are talking to the financial institutions- the banks, the permanent building societies and so on- and encouraging them to introduce that very scheme. In fact it does exist now in several States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Newman) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 December, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
and the ministerial statement relating to the tariff structure review. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit those 3 matters to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 matters? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-We are discussing 2 Bills, which are largely machinery measures to deal with events that took place some time ago, and a statement aimed at undoing most of what was done as a conscious act by the Government in relation to tariffs throughout the year. The major matter before the House, quite obviously, is the statement made last night by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), and the ramifications of that statement and the events which led up to it. Some things in the statement deserve more explanation, and I think the House ought to consider other areas.
The decisions to devalue and to revalue obviously have consequences for manufacturing industry, which is the substantial recipient of tariff protection under the Industries Assistance Commission. Those decisions obviously confused the situation and they could have very serious long term effects on the Australian economy. Unfortunately the statement by the Minister does not clear up all that many of the effects on manufacturing industry. Certainly, in the short term, superficially at least, industry will benefit by an addition to the protection. I understand that in technical terms the Government’s decision will bring the levels of protection back to approximately those which existed in about 1970. That may be true of some industries but not of others.
One of the things I would like to hear the Minister explain is the change in the tariff for the passenger motor vehicle industry. As I understand the statement, the additional 10 per cent protection, which was introduced as a result of a Temporary Assistance Authority report some time ago and confirmed as a permanent feature by the Government, is now being removed, but in fact the Government is retaining the quota levels of 80 per cent or will operate the quotas if imports exceed 80 per cent. The statement of the Minister appears contradictory, but I think that what I have said is most likely the effect of that decision. I draw attention to the fact that there is a considerable number of cars in bond in Australia. Those cars will be at a considerable trading disadvantage when they are released, because of the change in the tariff arrangements. The tariff on them will’ not have been paid. I wonder whether that fact has been taken into consideration. In the short term at least there will be some advantage to certain importers who brought their full quotas of vehicles into the country- the number of these vehicles may not be as high as it was- in order to beat the emission controls. When those controls were to be introduced there was a substantial influx of vehicles and these were held in bond for sale after the date of the introduction of emission controls.
Another area where obviously the Government is not taking any action but in fact is removing certain things is that covering the British preferential tariff. The British devaluation has in fact altered the relative position. As I understand it, the removal of the British protective tariff merely restores that country’s position to what it was prior to Australian devaluation. I am concerned with that part of the Minister’s statement which indicates that certain industries, namely, footwear, clothing, textiles, domestic applicances, files and rasps, fine papers, plywood and orange juice will retain the additional temporary assistance which they were given previously. I am not sure of what the actual effects of this will be. However, in all probability it will mean that there will be an equivalent increase in
E rices to the consumer. In fact the Government as decided effectively to increase tariffs in that area beyond the level that the Temporary Assistance Authority had in fact recommended and which was adopted.
One area that I would draw to the attention of the Minister encompasses the wool textile industry and carpet manufacturing industry which have both been disadvantaged in a manner that, as I understand it, has not occurred in other areas of the textile industry. The wool textile manufacturers did not gain the benefit of the tariff protection to the same extent as did other areas because of the change in the domestic price of wool which was immediately increased by 17Vi per cent by direction of the Minister. As a result the cost of this industry’s major raw material increased forthwith. The industry thus lost a substantial proportion of the benefit of the temporary assistance it received plus the benefits created by the changed currency situation.
The wool carpet industry is similarly affected in that it imports most of its raw material from overseas. A small quantity of carpet wool is grown in Australia but most of this material is imported. The cost of the industry’s basic raw material has been increased by the devaluation decision. The industry has received no assistance comparable with that received by other sections of the textile industry or by its competitors which are making carpets from synthetics. Therefore, as the Minister would realise, the industry is already in considerable trouble. It is now placed in an adverse trading position compared with its Australian competitors which have not suffered the same price rise in respect of raw materials. The whole question of protection for manufacturing industry is one which I believe needs to be studied in far greater depth than is the case at the moment.
The measures before the House seek to validate a series of Industries Assistance Commission reports that have been adopted by the Government and a statement which almost invalidates all of those reports because the Government has determined to take action unilaterally which alters totally the considerations on which those reports and the legislation we are validating were established.
I am concerned about employment in Australian industry. I do not think that I have ever made any secret of the fact that I believe in levels of protection which are adequate to ensure that employment can be maintained and that Australian industry has a fair chance of operating, given that the conditions under which it operates are quite different from those existing for many of our trading competitors. I would challenge one statement made by the Minister; that is, that those industries which are aggrieved can seek assistance from the Temporary Assistance Authority. That is not a fact. Industries are able to seek assistance from the Temporary Assistance Authority only if their application to do so is agreed to by the Department of Industry and Commerce. That can be an extremely protracted and difficult proposition. The record of the IAC in this area is not good. I think that out of 13 applications that went before the IAC for temporary assistance last year 13 were rejected and a number of the industries concerned disappeared totally from the Australian scene. A number of applications have been made this year.
In at least on case of which I am aware the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated that an application should be made because the Goverment had decided to adopt the IAC’s report on commercial vehicles. This major Australian manufacturer was told that it could make application to the Temporary Assistance Authority for additional protection if it thought that such action was necessary. The application was made in March. The application had not been completely processed by the department concerned as late as August. It was never agreed that the decision on the application would be forwarded to the manufacturer concerned. In fact the decision finally came out when a new IAC report on the industry was called for.
I would suggest that temporary assistance, which by its very nature means urgent assistance, is not readily obtainable if an organisation has to wait for something Uke 8 months for a decision to be made on whether a reference to the Authority will be made in the first place. We also have to take into consideration the time factor required for the Authority to produce a report. It is reasonable that the Government should have some control over references. The legislation provides- and this requirement was insisted on by the present Government- that the Government cannot alter a recommendation on temporary assistance as opposed to a general report. But I would suggest to the Minister that an industry which is in trouble and which has to wait for 8 months to find out whether it will get a reference is hardly in a position to say that it is being dealt with fairly. Nor can we say that in such a case urgent assistance is obtainable. The Minister’s statement appears to indicate that any industry that finds itself in trouble can in fact make an application. I would suggest that the position is something less than that.
I want to make only one other comment in this debate. I refer to the general pattern of IAC reports and the general pattern of action arising from those reports. At the moment it appears that the Government’s POliCY and the general conclusions of the IAC are at some variance. References to the IAC, interim reports and final reports of the IAC, which are no longer always published before decisions are made, and Government decisions are almost always at considerable variance with each other. This situation must create serious problems in decision making within industry. An industry may first of aU see an interim report which indicates, as it sees it, all sorts of disruption. The final report may lead that industry to draw somewhat similar conclusions. This is the norm. But then the Government’s decision may be quite different from the IAC recommendation. Such a situation must create planning problems within industry. The decision making process is usually spread over a fairly long period.
The textile industry has been dealt with fairly kindly in the Minister’s statement. However, action taken by the Government may or may not save the industry because I do not think that a 17Vi per cent change in the currency rate will alter the competitive position of the industry in respect of imported goods. In fact I think that devaluation will make little difference to the margins on which importers operate, particularly in the case of the majority of cheaper textiles which are being sold over the counter. Devaluation will make a difference to the price that the public pays, but the margin between the Australian price and the price of imports in a number of areas is far greater than 20 per cent. In fact I think that a 100 per cent increase in the currency would be needed to make the industry competitive. Although such a situation would be completely unacceptable to the public, it is a consideration that obviously the Government and everyone else has to take into consideration. As I have pointed out, industry is faced with uncertainty over very long periods. The Government will have to keep this fact in mind if it is to encourage industry to implement more efficient processes.
We hear almost repeatedly in this House and outside blame being placed on employees for the difficulties in which industries find themselves. We are told that employees have gained a greater level of wages than some people think they are entitled to. I think we should also look at the fact that a considerable amount of Australian industry is geared to make a living for the management or the shareholders, without any real attempt to create a viable industry with long term prospects. Quite a lot of our industries are inefficiently structured. Much of the middle management is at least as blameworthy as the employees, if the employees are at all blameworthy. I suggest that no long term planning in any industry can take place while the degree of uncertainty that exists is repeated each year. No government is blameworthy in this area because no one can make up his mind, really, where he wants to go. In the early part of this century governments were made and broken on protection issues. At the moment it is a little different but not much different.
Certainly industry does not benefit by the IAC pursuing a policy which is diametrically opposed to that of the Government. The Government might have to lay down its policy requirements so they can be taken into consideration when the inquiries are taking place. At least the inquiry would be based on a situation in which the recommendations have some chance of acceptance by the Government. It seems unreal to me that we should have this situation with an organisation with the expertise and competence of the IAC. I do not deny the expertise and competence of members of the IAC. I disagree with most of their basic philosophies. There is no question of their competence and expertise in the field. If it is going through a substantial exercise of inquiring into an industry on a basis which it is known in advance the Government will not accept, this seems to me to be a complete waste of resources. It seems to me that somewhere along the line, if the Government’s policy is different from the general philosophy being pursued by the IAC, there should be some way of bringing the two together. Useful reports, reports which are likely to be adopted, are far better than reports which are disruptive to the industry and which cause all sorts of disruptions and campaigns to be mounted. In the final result, the
Government overrides them anyhow. This is becoming a pretty regular pattern. I suggest to the Minister that some coming together of the Government and the IAC on their aims would greatly benefit all Australian industry. I think the statement by the Minister does little to clarify the situation relating to the future tariff policies or the effects of devaluation but, in view of the confusion that reigns supreme not only in industry in the country at large but also in the Government, I think it is the best the Minister could have made.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, it is not unusual for me to be heard talking in this House about tariffs. Originally when I started out in this House on this rather lonely campaign to get a more sensible and responsible attitude towards tariffs, I tackled it from the point of view of the damage that unwise tariff protection was doing to my rural constituents. As my thinking developed and as I was led along the road by other people, I realised that even more important than that was the question of resource allocation so that we could use our limited resources in the best possible way, so that the standard of living of the people generally could be raised. I will not talk about either of those 2 matters today, because today I am interested only in the impact on inflation of the Government’s decision to devalue. The cost of living is the long winded way of saying it. I do not pretend to be one of these high fliers or high steppers. I am a modest man by nature, with a limited kind of intellect. I do not pretend to be able to take apart an economic problem in the same way as some people can.
I believe- I have been told- that inflation is the number one problem which the country faces. It was not hard to understand this. It is the kind of thing that a man of my intellect can grasp. We had the example set by the Australian Labor Party when Dr Jim Cairns was grinding out the money down in the bowels of the Parliament, and the rate of inflation was rising and the level of unemployment was rising also. It was clear- anybody could see- that a country which has a high rate of inflation will not attract investment. A country which has an inflation rate akin to that of a banana republic will not attract investment. Everybody said to me that we had to get the rate of inflation down. I could see those kinds of problems clearly. There was something that was kind of pathetic, I suppose, in that attitude.
I have been a member for a long time. I have seen these brilliant young people going past me in a steady stream. I often wondered why. Then I realised what I must learn to do. I had to polish up my footwork and forget the things which I had been told were important if I were to get on in this political field. Until now, because I do not have this wide ranging and eloquent way of looking at life, I stuck with the problem that is clearly before us. Inflation is the number one problem. That is what they told us, and that is what I believe. I think if one looks at what is happening around the world it is not hard to realise it, to echo it and to mean it sincerely. We must do something worth while about inflation.
Then the decision to devalue was made. From where I sit, I am not in a position to criticise that decision. One needs to be in the Cabinet to know whether it ought to have been made and, if it were made, how large the percentage ought to have been. I waited around because I knew the Government was dedicated to the task of defeating inflation. I knew that shortly there would be some strong, competent, anti-inflationary action taken. I knew there were only a limited number of things which it could do. I knew that one of the limited options was to have an appreciation- to get rid of the problem by going back to where we were previously. This has started to happen. I think it is very sensible. I am not trying to be funny. Of course the exchange rate must rise. It is one of the things. Revaluation is one of the things that can save us from inflation-one of the limited options to get us away from this dreadful problem of inflation which everybody is saying is so serious.
Another option is to work out some way- this is where I am well outside my sphere of knowledge- in which, when the money comes flooding back in, it is grabbed and put in a particular yard. That is the kind of word which I would use. People with the competence of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) would have a finer, flowing phrase for it. Either that or interest rates will be put up so that the money is kept in the Government’s hands and is saved from sloshing around on the cowshed floor and upsetting inflation again. I am sorry if my more rural illustrations offend the Minister, but that is the way I think. These are 2 options.
The third is to freeze wages and prices. I have heard of that suggestion previously. It is the kind of thing that everybody talks very wisely about. It was tried in the United Kingdom. We know it did not work, except for a short while. It would not be easy in Australia because we have constitutional problems of division of responsibility between the States and the Commonwealth.
However, that is one option. We must do something. My belief is that if the Government really means what it says it will do something about inflation. That is the third of the limited options.
The fourth option is to take some action on the tariff front. There are 4 options. There may be others. Maybe brighter people here will think up another one or two. They are the four which I have on my list. We know that if we do not use one we must use one of the other three. We must do so more courageously because they are limited options. If we are earnest, as I assume we are, in our determination to beat inflation, one of those 4 measures has to be used. I repeat them: Revalue and grab the money, raise interest rates, freeze wages and prices, or take tariff action.
Things can be done with tariffs that will affect inflation. We know that the price of imported goods is going to increase by about 20 per cent. About 60 per cent of these imported goods come in duty free and the prices of these goods will rise by about 20 per cent. Indirectly most of these goods go into manufacturing goods. So obviously the people who use those manufactured goods will have to put up their prices. We know also that a devaluation of IVA per cent increases the level of the barriers to imported goods by between 70 per cent and 75 per cent- one cannot be specific. In many cases the extra height of the tariff wall will stop the flow of goods coming into Australia; and the price of the Australian goods might not necessarily rise to the duty paid price, although in many cases it is likely to do so. So there will be an increase in the price of tariff protected goods.
Even more importantly, behind this greatly increased tariff wah is the opportunity for sweetheart agreements between people who now have a great deal more fat to use- who have a great deal more room to manoeuvre than they had before. Sweetheart agreements can then be made with the workforce. This was a chronic problem prior to the review of tariffs. That is why the metal trades were always likely to be leading in any wage demands. We know what happened with General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd who demanded and indeed received from the Government an increased protection which enabled them to negotiate a sweetheart deal with their people. One can always pick a person who is dining out on an expense account by the enthusiasm with which he summons the waiter. The fact is that in this area people can make sweetheart deals because someone else pays for them. The impact of this is likely to be devastating on the wages front.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs said in his second reading speech that the Government hopes to stop such agreements by telling companies that if they do that kind of thing they will not receive tariff protection. Being a youthful person, the Minister would not remember wartime when we used to have rationing and the like. We were trying to stop the supply and demand pressures from working naturally. In those days we had the flame of patriotism to reinforce the edicts of the law, but those measures did not work at all well.
Honourable members might remember the story of 2 doctors in a hotel lounge talking about their practices. One said to the other: ‘I have 6 cases of meningitis in this district’. The chap sitting behind him patted him on the shoulder and whispered: ‘Look, 111 take the lot’. With the best will m the world, nobody can pretend that any arm of government can control the pressures of supply and demand for long. Perhaps it can be done with the big companies, but we all know of ways to beat the system. I am looking at the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who is smiling knowingly. In his time he has used most of those ways to beat the system. Of course, he would not talk about them now, but from his past he would be well aware of what is done and will be done again to beat the government system. I knew that tariffs were important and that something could be done in that direction. Of course, I knew that the Government had the stern example of the United Kingdom before it, knowing that if something is not done following devaluation the country will go down the economic drain. Maybe it will go down with its eyes shut and its mouth open but, whatever happens, a government must be tough after devaluation. With the example of Britain clearly and sadly before it our Government must have been determined to do something. I sat back waiting. I thought: Now the Government means to do something about inflation. On 3 December I asked the Minister whether the Government was still keen to do something about inflation. With typical eloquence he spelt out the position yet again. So I waited confidently for the statement that I knew would shortly come.
I was not confident about across-the-board tariff cuts, because I must admit that I think that the Government has almost believed its own eloquence about the damage caused by a 25 per cent tariff cut. I find that I often have to defend the Whitlam Government’s decision on this because the nervous Nellies of the Labor Party- I think honourables members have heard of them before- are not willing to take up the challenge. But I shall do so because the nonsense that we have talked on this side of the House about a 25
Eer cent tariff cut is now doing us a great deal of arm. I hope the Minister will listen to what I have to say. I hope that if he can challenge my figures he will do so. If he does not do so, I hope he will stop talking as he does about the damage done by the 25 per cent tariff cut. All of us who are in the game and who have studied the matter know that the 25 per cent tariff cut was the equivalent of about a 4 per cent alteration in the exchange rate. When the Labor Party was in government it altered the exchange rate by 20 per cent, which influenced industry about three times as much as did the 25 per cent tariff cut.
We know that the main reason why secondary industry is in trouble lies in wage increases. We could take the knitting industry as an example. The 25 per cent tariff cut damaged that industry to about the same extent as an increase of about 13 per cent to 16 per cent in wages, depending upon whether they were male or female wages. Actually, wage rises during that period amounted to 60 per cent. So to blame the problems of the industry onto the tariff cut is demonstrably wrong. I am sorry to have to come again to the aid of the nervous Nellies on the other side of the House, but I am sorry that we have made goats of ourselves by talking with great eloquence about the 25 per cent tariff cut when most of us knew we were wrong in doing so. So I did not really hope for across-the-board tariff cuts but I felt that something significant would happen.
Then last night the Minister made his statement. To say that it backs away from the problem would be putting it at its mildest. There are so many things in it that are nonsense. The Government is going to reduce the tariff barriers on black and white television. Honourable members can imagine what an impact that is going to have. I think it missed out on wagon wheels. If we go through the tariff quotas we find that Government is making great fellows of itself. But do honourable members realise that the tariff barriers on cars are now about 100 per cent? We would have to crawl up the tariff wall in a fourwheel drive car or push our way through with a bulldozer. That is the only way we will get cars into Australia over this tariff wall of immense magnitude. The Minister says: ‘We will take off the quota restrictions. But if any more cars come in we will put the restrictions on again’. That is a very statesmanlike position to adopt!
I will not go right through the matter again. There is no doubt that the Government has not used the tariff as an effective weapon against inflation. The Government has not made any worthwhile difference to the situation. Anybody who has studied the question will know that there are no effective anti-inflationary pressures from this area contained in the speech of the Minister. So more has to be done in other fields, I assume. I go over these fields again: Interest rates, money control, wages and prices or revaluation. It may be that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) will give us one or two other options. But they are the other options I have, if the Government is going to do anything about inflation.
– Tax cuts.
– Tax cuts have been mentioned by some of the more brighter ones in the community. I will stick with the matters I have spelt out. The options are closing in. If we are to do anything about inflation we have turned away from using the tariff as an effective antiinflationary measure. There have been only a few tinkerings with the tariff. If the Minister can prove how much will be done in the antiinflationary field by tariff adjustment I will be interested to hear from him afterwards. If he cannot do so, he ought to be able to do it. So more will have to be done in relation to other options. I repeat that my other options are interest rates, wages and prices squeeze or revaluation, or will we let the inflationary fires run? Are we going to back away from a problem about which we have been so eloquent? Are we going to say ‘I know we meant to, but it was too hard’? In a year’s time, we may look back on 7 December, with a great deal of sorrow and regret because we have let an opportunity pass us.
-After listening to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) what can one say? All this year I have taken the opportunity in my role as shadow Minister in this area to speak in debates before the honourable member. Today I took the liberty to speak after him. I think that is probably one of the best speeches the honourable member has made all year. On some occasions when he has spoken I have had to leave the chamber to attend committees or to do something else. I have enjoyed listening to him today. If the honourable member thinks that the talk about tariff cuts stirs up the nervous Nellies amongst supporters of the Government, as he described them, I suggest that he should ask them how they feel about increasing interest rates. He will find that it is usually the same group of people. If it is true that there were nervous Nellies among the supporters of the previous Government, only the faces have changed. The same number are still on the other side. We will have to put up with the same problems.
I do not want to see out my years in the Parliament battering away at the walls as the honourable member for Wakefield has done. Obviously, he puts forward lots of views to which some of us in the Parliament-from both sides- listen, although I am not too sure about honourable members from the Government side who will speak after him. I think they may have views different from those of the honourable member for Wakefield. The Government, of course, has avoided the problem. Over and over again it raises the issue of devaluation. There can be no camouflaging of the effects not so much of the statement which the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) made last night but of the Government’s decision on tariffs. There can be no doubt that earlier predictions about the effect of devaluation on inflation still exist. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has continually said that he cannot quantify them. All of us could say without fear of contradiction that the effect of devaluation on inflation will be substantial.
Although the fact is that tariffs may have been removed from a small portion of our imports, overwhelmingly the cost input is still there and the consumers in Australia will have to meet it. The missing link from the contribution of the honourable member for Wakefield to these debates of course is the structural adjustment element which is required with tariff reform. In the safe seat of Wakefield with every little industry, sometimes one can take liberties which are a little foreign to the problems than can be taken by the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) who sits beside the honourable member for Wakefield. I am sure that the honourable member for Kingston would not be at liberty to say some of those things about industry and what could and could not be done in Australia. The honourable member would find that to express a view like that would bring him into conflict with the views which may be held by the manufacturers and the workers at Chrysler Australia Ltd.
I think that we have probably had as many discussions on tariffs this year in the Parliament as we have had in most years. I cannot go back too many years but 1976 seems to have been a good year in that people have been given the opportunity to discuss these questions. I would think that the honourable member for Wakefield and others would have had their fill in relation to tariffs for the year 1 976. But be that as it may, it is impossible to talk about the need for reform if we do not talk about structural adjustment. If we talk about stuctural adjustment we are talking about industry as a whole and about the absence of the White Paper. As I said last night, until we can discuss all these matters there will be a great fear among the working people of this country that tariff reform merely means that they will lose their jobs. If that is the fear which is held by working people in this country, tariff reform will never come about because governments will never have the courage to introduce reforms. It seems to me to be such a simple exercise for us in Australia to come up with the design to look after those people who lose their jobs and perhaps the manufacturers who may have to be shifted or, in some cases, closed down. I think it is important always when discussing what may be the problems of high tariff in Australia also to discuss the welfare and the wellbeing of the people who are involved and affected by decisions which are taken by governments
Far too often these things are ignored. I reiterate what the honourable member for Wakefild said about the 25 per cent tariff cut. For honourable members in the House who take some interest in the matter I suggest that they should forget forever trying to say that the 25 per cent tariff cut completely dismantled Australian industry. At the same time as the 25 per cent tariff cut took place there was such a thing as structural adjustment. People could apply for their full wage for 6 months if the employer signed a document stating that the employee had lost his job as the result of the tariff cuts. Very few people were paid their full wage. There were very few people for whom the employer was prepared to sign the document saying that they had lost their employment as a result of the 25 per cent tariff cut. It did not put 100 000 people out of work. It did not put 10 000 people out of work. It put perhaps a few hundred people out of work. It is nonsense to go on saying that the 25 per cent tariff cut had that sort of impact. All honourable members have to do is read the annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission, and argue with that.
– You will be sorry that you put that into Hansard.
– It is true and it has been said from this side of the House on a number of occasions. It is so much hogwash for the Government continually to use the 25 per cent tariff cut as the basis for saying that the Opposition does not think about the welfare of industry or the people who work in it. What the Government is saying is so much nonsense. In the past fortnight we have become accustomed to listening to Ministers telling us that there are 4 arms of the economy with which they are dealing. They say.’This is one arm. That is another arm.’ and finally the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) get on to the wages arm. As the honourable member for Wakefield has pointed out, what can the Government do in the field of wages? Obviously it is in a quandary as to the attitude it should adopt at national wage case hearings. It takes the view that one of the ways to overcome the problems is to see that wage increases are kept to an absolute minimum.
Let me cite the figures of Professor Henderson. He says that the poverty line for a man and his wife with 2 children going to a man and his wife with 4 children with the wife not working can go from $120 to $140 a week, averaged throughout Australia. There will be some slight variation depending on the location, but that is a very high amount. Professor Henderson says that that is the poverty line. How on earth can the Government convince the wage and salary earners of Australia that the way out of this economic malaise is for the working people to accept all the burden? Devaluation was extremely generous to some of the vast mining companies in this country. People read in the newspapers about the advantages that flow to those companies as a result of devaluation and they wonder why the Government can say to them: ‘You are not going to get $3 or $4 a week increase at the national wage case hearing because we believe that if we can convince the Commission that you should accept less the country will be better off’. At the same time they are reading that devaluation can take the profit of the Utah Development Co. for this year, if it is converted, from $132m to $179m. It seems to me that the argument is balanced all one way.
Obviously, as Bob Hawke has pointed out on a number of occasions on behalf of the trade unions, if indexation is destroyed at the Arbitration Commission we will go back to the old system under which the strongest unions can get the increases they desire and the unorganised workers- the other 30 per cent or 40 per cent of the work force which is not organised into associations or trade unions- will miss out. Perhaps that is the Government’s purpose. Perhaps it would prefer some of the strong unions to be able to bargain their way out of the problems while a substantial number of wage and salary earners stay as they are. It is the system that applied for a long period of history before national wage case hearings in Australia. People talk about the problems which industry faced in 1974 and 1975. Let me remind them of what was considered to be a substantial wage lift in 1974. The substantial wage lift at that time was the $24 rise. Earlier in the year the metal workers received $15 and later in the year they received $9. In between those 2 hearings the transport workers received $24.
All the blame is apportioned to the trade unions for receiving those increases in salaries. Most of those decisions were given by wage fixing tribunals. In other cases, because industries were doing so well out of what they considered to be the economic boom, there was very little dispute about what was then considered to be a quite massive wage increase flowing right through industry. So industrial relations, in terms of bargaining, almost disappeared. But why the Government blames the trade unions more than it is prepared to blame industry astounds me. Industry gave the increase because it considered that it could afford it. The wage fixing tribunals gave it. It was not just a case of the trade unions going out on long strikes or industrial struggles to achieve it. It was given as soon as it was asked for. The blame, if there is any blame, for the jump in wages that occurred in 1974 belongs to the community. It belongs to both sides of industrial relations. As we know, there is no benefit in wage earners receiving wage increases of that size at a time of inflation, which bring about higher inflation, because they lose the value of them. So 1974 was a particularly important year as far as industrial relations were concerned, but it was not the fault of the unions that those wage increases were handed out.
I want to refer to a couple of other matters in relation to our industries. I have spoken very briefly about structural adjustment. I think that that is one of the important matters that have to be looked at by the Government. It certainly is being looked at by an Opposition committee, to see what we can do and how we can encourage the adjustment that must take place in this country in view of what may occur, particularly in relation to our educational standards and our population, between now and the year 2000. There is nothing magical about the year 2000; it just happens to be a convenient time scale on which to work, in view of the long term policies that are required for industry in this country. Continually we hear talk of companies in this country going off-shore and the suggestion that all the problems of the companies that go offshore are the problems of high wages. It is not quite as simple as saying that wages are the only things that are driving companies overseas.
Many companies in Australia have gone overseas willingly. There is no way that we can discuss rationally Australian industry competing with the industries to the north of this country. To speak of it as if we could wave a magic wand and get the textile industries, the shoe industries and perhaps some of the component parts of the car industry back into Australia is to talk nonsense. It cannot be done.
Many of the countries to our north are making provisions and doing everything in their power to attract industries. There are many other alternatives under which companies operate overseas and under which they cannot operate here. I refer particularly to the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Trade Practices Commission and some of the other mechanisms which government can put into being here but which do not operate in countries such as Taiwan, Singapore or South Korea. Obviously when they look at their own countries or regions they find that not only do they have an enormous work force now but also by the year 2000- the magical yearthey will have another 800 million people. Are we expected to say that we will do what we can to see that they cannot get jobs? It is not just industries from Australia that go into those countries. Industries from all the developed countries are in those areas. Industries in the United States of America go across the border into Mexico or Canada. That is a phenomenon that has come out of all the developed countries. So, to talk about being able to prevent it with some magical solution is nonsense. Things will change, as everybody says and as all the Government departments say whenever they provide the Government with any sort of document. It is a question of finding the solution in order to accept change. It is a question of taking away the fear that people have of losing their jobs and living on the dole. It seems to me that we should have reached the stage where we can overcome these problems.
It is not a question either of just using the old cliche that we believe in a strong, viable manufacturing industry. Nobody can explain or interpret that cliche. No one is quite sure what it means. To the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten) a strong viable manufacturing industry relates to all the industries that are in the electorate of Indi. I suspect that if I used that term people would say I was referring to all the industries that are in Port Adelaide. If the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) used the term he would be held to mean all the industries in Brisbane.
The fact is that change will occur. We are put here to try to find some solution to the problem, to see how people accept the change in the best interests of Australia and to develop industries which have a long term future.
The only industries that will perhaps have a long term future are those industries which have natural protection or perhaps can be built up as an industry exporting to those regions to the north of us. I think that we have had a reasonably good year for tariff debate. I am sorry that the year ended with a statement from the Government on Pearl Harbour Day. Nevertheless, 1977 may be a better year for us.
– I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) summed up his speech in one of the words that he used- hogwash. For the shadow Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to say that only a few hundred people lost their jobs as a result of the decision made in December 1973 by the then Labor Government is absolute clap-trap. Thousands of people have been put out of jobs in this country by a decision which was made by the Labor Government. That is not the type of concern that this Government shows. The decisions made last night and announced in this House by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and in the Senate by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) are very important to the future of this country.
The positive aspects of this decision are already being seen. After a few telephone conversations it has come to my attention that one manufacturer in a country town in Victoria will be increasing his employment from 50 people to 100 people. This will be followed on by the action of another manufacturer just outside Brisbane who between now and 1 February will increase by forty the number of people he is currently employing. Another manufacturer in Melbourne City itself till last night was not intending to employ 29 school leavers. Following the decision that was announced last night he is going to employ a further 3 1 school leavers. This decision is part of a series of decisions which this Government is taking to fix up the economic mess which we inherited on 13 December 1975. 1 am sick and tired of the crocodile tears which are shed in this Parliament by the Labor Party. It shows a complete lack of understanding, regard and concern for this nation and the people who have been employed here for so many wonderful years. I would like to quote from the editorial of the Australian Financial Review of Tuesday 7 December. In the debate this afternoon some outmoded and outdated policies have been announced. Some of these go back 18 years. The editorial reads:
As the Governor of the Reserve Bank recently pointed out, 25 years ago, about 15 per cent of our labour forceemployed plus self-employed- worked in the rural sector. The proportion is now less than half of that figure . . . In 1949-50, 87 per cent of our exports were of rural products; in 1975-76, the break-up was 44 per cent rural, 38 per cent mineral, and 1 8 per cent manufactures. ‘
This shows a dramatic change. I am pleased to be part of the Government which is concerned about the unemployed people of Australia and about the industries which we believe have built up quite successfully over a number of years. One of the reasons that we have had the difficult position in relation to unemployment over the last few years is the decision taken by the previous Administration. One of the advantages of being in the Liberal Party is that it does not have a Caucus. I believe that the type of across the board decision which is made by the Labor Party does not show any degree of concern for the unemployed people in this country. The decision announced last night by the Minister shows a concern which has never been shown by the previous Government. The Labor Party’s involement in 1973 was the darkest day in Australia’s manufacturing history. It showed that had little understanding, little knowledge and little managerial responsibility.
Sitting suspended from ti to 8 p.m.
-I rejoin this debate this evening after having enjoyed a very pleasant dinner with the seventy-fivers and I would like to assure the House that we did not have any cake this evening. Some assertions have been made in relation to the so-called free trade in tariff areas. Certain aspects of the assertions which have been made on numerous occasions do not show the truth of the matter. In actual fact the free traders are not thinking in the long term context. The Government decision, announced by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) last night looks at the long term situation. In the last few years we have seen a country, Japan, which, for a number of years has been considered an area of cheap labour, imposing for the first time in the latter part of 1975 quotas and tariffs on imported goods, particularly clothing. The second area of concern if we did not have protected industries in this country, is how we would obtain the goods that are supposed to be imported. It would be extremely difficult to get them through the demarcation disputes which have been occurring on the major wharf areas in Australia for some years.
Only this year, for a period of 6 weeks, every container that arrived in this country was held up on the wharves. That meant that those people throughout the community who had business commitments were placed in a difficult situation of having orders to fill but not having the goods. The importance of the protected industries in this country has been that throughout the 1950s and 1960s and into the 1970s Australia has been able to supply to the Australian market goods which were manufactured by Australians, which were sold to Australians and which, for a number of years, until the changes to the export incentive schemes in 1973 and 1974, were exported throughout the world. Austraiian industry has created for itself a reputation for high efficiency. This has come about, particularly in the Australian market place, as a result of the very deep and important consideration of efficiency and high standards. The legacy of the previous Administration in one area, that is, the garment textile industry, was that in March of 1974 approximately 147 000 people were employed in that industry but as a result of decisions taken by the Labor Government the number of people employed in the industry were reduced to 116 000.
– It was the tariff cut.
-It was the tariff cut that was responsible for that drastic increase in the number of unemployed people. Allied with this was the fact that an unfair section of the trade union movement pushed wage demands beyond all comprehension. The situation has now been reached in Australia in which the average weekly wage paid is $47 a week more than the average weekly wage which is paid in the United States of America. At this stage we do not have the same level of productivity, which is necessary and which must come and will come in this country under the good management of this Government. It has been said on numerous occasions that the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is something that should be taken into consideraton more and more. The GATT agreement has been conveniently forgotten by the United States, Sweden, France, England and West Germany on numerous occasions when nationals of those countries were in danger of losing their jobs. Only recently, beef quotas have been imposed in the United States and Japan contrary to GATT.
In the aftermath of the Second World War and under the wise leadership of 2 great men, Sir Robert Menzies and Sir John McEwen, this nation has been built up with the introduction of a system of import replacement. That import replacement policy meant very simply that we manufactured goods in Australia and provided people who were employed in those industries with a reasonable standard of living, a reasonable wage and a degree of protection from nations in our immediate region and also around the world. That was the legacy that was passed on to the previous Administration in 1972. There was little or no unemployment and a very low inflation rate. After careful consideration, our tariff policies had made sure that industries within Australia were protected and were able to employ our fellow Australians. The academic theories to which I referred previously destroyed the jobs of numbers of people. They destroyed a number of industries and as a result of the cut in 1973, they created a situation in which some industries have been lost for a number of years. These industries have unfortunately moved offshore. However, the advantage of having industries offshore manufacturing in cheaper labour areas is only a short term advantage.
The union movement in Australia is a very important part of our social and economic structure, and the conditions and wages which apply for our fellow Australians, determined as a result of negotiations between the unions and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, have created a climate in which, quite frankly, Australia is the envy of the world. The Liberal and National Country Parties upon coming to office on 14 December 1975, reinstated a partnership not only with the union movement but also with labour intensive industries. In the main, those industries are protected. Australia cannot compete with other areas throughout the world; nor should it. Our standard of living is unique to Australia and we do not need to lower our standard of living to prove a point. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister who announced the decision last night and the Minister in the other place have made a decision on this matter which is of vital importance to Australia’s future and to its confidence. Industry today, under the new arrangements for tariffs, can go forward with a great deal of confidence. It can invest and produce with full expectations of a strong future. It must now follow the Government’s lead and positively attack home markets.
I am delighted with the response I have had from numerous people concerning this matter. I believe that Ministers concerned and the Cabinet as a whole have received responses welcoming the decision which was made in relation to continuing temporary assistance in the most important secondary manufacturing areas. It is with delight that I announce to the House the receipt of a telegram from the Womens Clothing Section of the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers which arrived in my office during the dinner recess. It says:
On behalf of the womens apparel industries I applaud and congratulate you on the intelligent and realistic approach you have taken regarding devaluation and tariff I am certain that as the weeks go by most Australians will see the wisdom of your decision that will undoubtedly lead our country back from the Whitlam days of disaster and darkness.
After I received that telegram I checked it out further. Those people have told me this evening that they will be going one step further. Their program in the New Year will be to employ 280 extra people in their 3 plants which are situated outside city areas in Victoria. At the present time about 13 per cent of the garment textile industry is situated outside the major city areas. This has been one of the means of keeping together a number of important country towns which rely on the industries which are located there. They rely on payments made to the people within the towns. I look forward with confidence to the fact that those people will continue to be employed.
Tariffs have become an emotive issue on numerous occasions. I am deeply concerned that in certain quarters the understanding and the realisation of what the Government does with tariffs is being misconstrued and misunderstood. Tariffs must be, and have been for some hundreds of years, a means of protecting certain industries in certain countries. It has been the wise use of tariffs which has assured the future of the industries within those countries which need that degree of protection. I should like to refer to the situation in the foreseeable future in countries such as Japan and Hong Kong. Only recently in Hong Kong there was a 300 per cent wage increase. Admittedly, the wages paid in Hong Kong are much lower than the wages we pay in Australia. At the same time, that is a substantial increase in wages. That increase in wages already has put up the prices on most imported goods. Let us put Australia’s position into perspective: We are not a big importer in the world market scene. We represent about 1 per cent of the total export market from Hong Kong in the garment and textile area and that includes a lot of areas which are not normally referred to.
The future of our country must lie with tariffs. It must lie with protecting industries which, for a number of years, have seen fit to spend their capital in investing in difficult areas. But that would produce in our community a situation in which, in the event of a change of government in certain countries which are no longer favourably inclined to Australia and our way of politics, we would not have a source of supply. We must be able to withstand any type of economic strain placed on us in that situation. We must have the means in Australia and in our industries by which we can supply the needs that we must have in Australia.
I am pleased that I have the opportunity to speak on these important Bills before the House and on the statement which implements the Government’s decision. I believe it will create confidence in a number of areas in which, for the last 4 years, there has not been a great deal of confidence. The Government had a difficult decision to make in the last few weeks. That decision has been made and it is a wise decision. The legacy that we have had during the past few years has meant most decidedly that unless we made that decision the confidence which the people placed in this Government on 13 December 1975 would have not carried forward. I am pleased to say that as a supporter of the Government I am connected with this legislation and I am involved in a decision which will ensure the future of Australians and increased employment in a number of areas throughout the Commonwealth. I shall conclude my remarks at this stage because my friend and colleague from Queensland, the Deputy Whip, has requested that I do so to enable another debate to commence earlier tonight.
-The Bills before the House raise important issues of protection policy in this country. I hope to be able to put them into a little more perspective. It seems to me that the first point to make is that the protective effect of the devaluation of 17V£ per cent was equal to an 80 per cent increase in tariffs, which is a mammoth increase and which certainly creates a new situation for protection in this country. However, it is important also that the statement in relation to tariff cuts made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) yesterday does very little to reduce that very substantial increase in protection. The overall effect is equivalent to a VA per cent across-the-board cut in tariffs if we take for gospel what is reported in this morning’s Press as coming from Government sources. On the Opposition’s quick analysis, that would seem to be something like the case. Taken with the subsequent 2 per cent revaluation, there has now been a reduction in that 80 per cent increase in protection to a 70 per cent increase in protection -still a very substantial increase in protection in the last couple of weeks. The reason for not doing more is said to be the need to restore the competitive position of industry. I think this is a crucial issue and I will come to it in a moment.
However, I should like to make a point about the difficulties created by exchange rate fluctuations of which we have had 2 notable examples in the last couple of weeks. Firstly, it makes the job of the Industries Assistance Commission extraordinarily difficult. How can it possibly decide on what are the appropriate levels of protection when the exchange rate is jumping up and down the way it has done in the last couple of weeks? It is an impossible situation. I suggest to the Government that it virtually has made the job of the IAC almost impossible in terms of providing any rational basis for tariff setting in this country. We are told that the exchange rate will move quite frequently in the future- I suggest that it certainly will and in that case the job of the IAC becomes amazingly difficult.
Further, the Government also has created a situation in which there is uncertainty in business. This goes directly against what this Government has been saying from the time it achieved office was its fundamental aim. I said it would create an environment in which business could be certain about what was going to happen. It could look forward and plan on the basis of certain government policies. What it can look forward now is continuing changes in the rate of exchange and, therefore, continuing changes in protection policy in this country. That will do anything but create certainty and the kind of environment in which there will be substantial investment. I suggest that the exchange rate is likely to continue to alter frequently in the near future. The reason for that is that there has occurred a fundamental structural change which cannot be offset by devaluation.
This Government is attempting the impossible. It is attempting to offset a loss of competitiveness which is due not to increased wages in the main, as the Government contends, but mainly to revaluations which cannot be offset by subsequent devaluations. I will substantiate that thesis in the 7 minutes I have left to speak. When this Government decided to devalue it did so because it said that we had a loss of competitiveness. The loss of competitiveness was due to a revaluation which was brought about by the Labor Government in 1972-73. Those revaluations were absolutely essential if we were to bring the balance of payments into equilibrium.
I remind honourable members that when the Labor Party took office we had a situation in which the money supply was increasing at an extraordinary rate. Overseas reserves were increasing amazingly. They more than doubled in 1972 when Labor was not in office. The effect of that was that there were very substantial implications for the money supply. In the last 6 months of 1972 the money supply increased by 17 per cent- an annual rate of 34 per cent. The reason for that was the speculative inflow of funds which were coming in on the basis that there would have to be a revaluation. That speculation, in turn, was brought about by the fact that the balance of payments had been continually moving into a more excess situation in the late 1960s and early 1970s and that, in turn, was due to the fact that the mining industry in Australia was bringing about a total transformation of the structure of industry in this countrysomething about which this Government seems to have no concept. The fact is that in the period 1964-65 to 1970-71, mining exports increased from 9 per cent of total exports to 26 per cent of total exports- a phenomenal increase in such a short period. That brought about a fundamental change in the structure of our balance of payments which had to be affected eventually by some change in the exchange rate.
In case it is suggested that revaluation was not the basic cause of the change of competitiveness, I suggest that honourable members should examine the IAC annual report for 1975-76. When referring to the period 1970-71 to 1975-76 at page 25 of that report, the Commission states:
Most of the decline in competitiveness was caused by the exchange rate appreciation, which reflected general developments in the economy.
I suggest that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs would be well occupied in studying that section of the report. At page 26 of that report there are tables which analyse the loss of competitiveness in that period from 1970-71 to 1975-76. It shows that there was a 17 per cent loss of competitiveness in that period. If honourable members examine the tables in the report they will see that there is a breakdown of the 17 per cent to which the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) referred in his speech, as did the Minister. The Minister was deceitful in that he suggested that the loss of competitiveness was mainly a cause of wages. If he had studied this report produced by a section of his own Department, he would have seen that of that 17 per cent, 2 per cent was due to a higher inflation rate in Australia compared to our trading partners; 4 per cent was due to the across the board tariff cut; and 1 1 per cent- by far the major proportionwas due to revaluation of the currency. We are looking at a situation in which we have suffered a loss of competitiveness due to a revaluation. That revaluation is the major cause of that loss. Wage increases and tariff cuts represent a relatively minor part. That is absolutely crucial to protection policy and exchange rate policy right now.
The Government seems to have no concept of what it is about and does not seem even to read its own IAC reports. It is quite impossible to offset the adverse effects of a necessary revaluation by a subsequent devaluation. We all know about the adverse effects. Firstly, in the rural sector I hope that members of the National Country Party are listening- the adverse effect of revaluation is that the returns that the farmers get for their exports are reduced and therefore they are worse off. Manufacturers are worse off because import prices are lowered and they are much more vulnerable to import competition. We cannot offset that by a devaluation. If we try to do it by devaluation we create balance of payments disequilibrium again and that balance of payments disequilibrium will bring about fundamental changes in this economy, which will take us back to 1 97 1 -72. Then we will have monetary problems which eventually will bring about the need for balance of payments revaluation again.
This has happened already. Only 9 days after the first devaluation we had a revaluation. I forecast now that further revaluations are absolutely inevitable. I say that because this devaluation was quite excessive. It was aimed at trying to compensate for revaluation, which in turn is the result of the unplanned and extraordinary growth of the mining industry bringing about a fundamental change in our balance of payments. We simply cannot ignore that fact, but apparently the Government is doing so.
If we try to offset the money supply problems and a direct inflationary stimulus which comes from a devaluation, which was brought about to try to offset the effects of a revaluation, we find that we have to take various measures. For instance, we have to impose a credit squeeze. Let us not mess about with terms such as ‘credit restrictions’; there has to be a credit squeeze because our balance of payments will be in disequilibrium. That means that we will get a steady build-up of overseas reserves through the process of the balance of trade being continually in excess and also because of capital inflow. Eventually it will generate even more capital inflow on a speculative basis. That might already be occurring. So we will have this inrush of money and we will have to offset it somehow. If we do not change the exchange rate we will have to continually tighten credit internally. The result of that will be that the recessionary processes will be generated internally, which will create greater and greater unemployment. That is not the way out, and it cannot last. It will not last, because no government can afford to have it last.
Another option might be to squeeze wages, but that will not work either. Squeezing wages, if we can do it, will keep inflation down, but it will not overcome the monetary problem and eventually that is going to break out. We just cannot do it if our money supply is continually building up. The only real alternative is to revalue or to slash tariffs. If we revalue we will take away some of the advantage we have given the rural sector and will take away some of the competitive advantage we have given the manufacturing sector. If we slash tariffs the whole burden of restructuring the balance of payments to get it into equilibrium falls on the manufacturing industry. What all this comes back to is the fact that we just cannot overcome the adverse effects of a revaluation, which is the consequence of a build-up of the mining industry bringing about big structural changes in our economy, by devaluing. It is just not on. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that we can do it. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that the loss of competitiveness is due to our high rate of inflation. The IAC report says that it is not so.
The efforts that this Government is now making to foster another mining boom should horrify people in the National Country Party. If we do have another mining boom it will mean that we will build up $7,000m worth of projects which have been approved by the Foreign Investment Review Board to come into this country, mainly mining projects. If that happens our balance of payments will move further into excess and we will have to have further revaluations- and that will be very damaging to the National Country Party. Members of that Party must understand that the unplanned excessive growth of the mining industry is a disaster for farmers. They are doing them no favour whatever by supporting that sort of policy. In fact they are bringing about the destruction of the very people they say they are here to represent. The same is true of those people on the Government side who say that they are here to represent manufacturing industry. The Government will destroy manufacturing industry if it brings about another mining boom. Already they have to pay for the effects of the first one. If the Government brings about another one, it will drive the rural sector and the manufacturing sector further into disaster.
-Fancy hearing a member of the Australian Labor Party worrying about the country areas of Australia. This is the first time in 4 years that I have heard a member of the Labor Party express any concern for anyone outside the capital cities in this country. I am disappointed that the dme for which I am allowed to speak has been cut down tonight, but I understand the exigencies of the House. Mainly I propose to speak about the textile industry. At least the decision by the Government yesterday has meant that the textile industry has a reprieve, or a breathing space in which to take some advantage of the devaluation situation and the decision not to cut tariffs on textiles. But the battle for the textile industry is not over by any means. I know it and the textile industry knows it.
The Bills which we are debating cognately tonight and about which I am given 10 minutes to speak embrace several Industries Assistance Commission reports. In the time available I want to relate my remarks particularly to the knitted and woven apparel report which was dated 20 April and which was released and approved by the Government on 9 June. It was reaffirmed by the Goverment in August. I intend to use statistics and statements that I believe to be correct. If the IAC or anyone else can prove otherwise, I will be very pleased to hear what they have to say.
The announcement on 9 June of the implementation of the IAC report on knitted and woven apparel completely confounded part of the textile industry. In my electorate of Indi, part of the textile industry has been damaged very severely. At the Wangaratta woollen mills alone 1 10 people out of about 350 were sacked as a result of the report. The IAC, in its recommendations on textiles and in all other recommendations, must have regard for Government policy. The industry could not understand the paradoxical reaction of the IAC in first acknowledging in this report that previous restraint measures had been ineffective in overcoming market disruption and then recommending as a solution import quota levels that were substantially higher than those applying previously. We already import a much higher percentage of textiles than practically any other Western country. My information is that Australia imports 60 per cent of its textiles. Compare this figure with the United States, for example, where less than 10 per cent of the total textile and apparel market is available to imports, and Japan where only 20 per cent of the market needs can be imported.
I shall take some figures from this report on knitted and woven apparel. In the section for knitted tops, the largest section- this section is typical of all sections under review in this report- the amount of imports for 1974-75 was 34.4 million units. The new quota level is 37 million units- an increase of 7.5 per cent. This is despite repeated statements in the IAC report that severe market disruption was occurring and that restraint action would be necessary to prevent further disruption. How can an increase of 7.5 per cent be classed as restraint action? This is the pattern right through the report. In section after section of the report the IAC found that market disruption was occurring. The phrase market disruption’ is mentioned 62 times in the first 50 pages of the report. ‘Market disruption’ includes the ‘threat’ as well as the existence of serious damage. That is the IAC definition, not mine. What is the IAC solution- an increase in the import quota levels? Further, the report seems to have completely disregarded the submission by the industry. In the same example of knitted tops- and again this is synonymous with the other articles under review- the industry’s request was for 20.5 million units to be imported. But what is recommended by the IAC and accepted by the Government? It is thirty-seven million units allowed to flood the market.
Another error appears to be that the IAC overestimated the total market demand in Australia for knitted and woven apparel. In fact the industry’s thoroughly researched submission on this point indicated that market supplies required for this financial year would be lower than those supplied for 1975-76. This assessment of expected market growth seems to have been disregarded by the IAC. The Commission’s recommendations for higher tariff quota levels were apparently based on an expanding market which in fact is non-existent. But it is not only the important quotas that have caused the crisis in most areas of the textile industry. They are a very substantial added imposition on an industry that was already facing severe problems. Most of these problems started with the Whitlam Government’s 25 per cent tariff cut across the board in 1973 which is generally regarded as the worst and most stupid economic measure ever perpetrated in the history of Australia. Further to that the Whitlam Government abolished import quotas in February 1974. The actions of the Labor Government were unbelievable; they were a really shattering blow to the textile industry.
It seems that it is the opinion of the IAC that all industries that rely on a high level of assistance are inefficient. It is apparently of negative importance to them that the textile industry in Australia has always been dependent on a measure of government assistance, as it the case with many other industries in this country, not only secondary industries but also primary industries. Every developed country in the world provides much more protection for its textile industries than does Australia. We just rely on tariffs, and lately on quotas. The United States of America, Japan and the European Economic Community not only have tariff duties and quotas; they also have exchange controls and complete bans on the imports of textiles. These countries have far bigger domestic markets than we have.
My time is running out. As I said earlier, there is an arrangement between the speakers taking part in this debate to limit their time to 10 minutes instead of taking the normal 20 minutes. I particularly want to refer to pages 3, 4 and 5 of this year’s annual report of the LAC. These pages purport to be an expression of IAC philosophy. To me the words contained in these pages can be described only as an unsurpassed collection of vague statements relating to the transfer of resources towards low cost industries.
I said earlier in my comments that I would be very pleased to listen to anyone from the IAC or anywhere else who could correct any statement that I can make tonight. The words on pages 3, 4 and 5 of the IAC annual report are so vague and theoretical that it is impossible to assess the judgment and wisdom of members and staff of the IAC. There is no point in the IAC saying that resources should be allocated if it cannot or will not say where they should be allocated. What are these new low cost industries about which the IAC talks? The IAC ought to stop writing vague statements. That body has a responsibility to name these low cost industries. The Chairman and other members of the IAC say that they do not have this responsibility. I say that subsections 22(1) (b) and (e) of the Industries Assistance Commission Act put the responsibility squarely on the IAC to name the low cost industries to which resources ought to be transferred. If the IAC cannot put up the list it ought to shut up and stop talking about the transfer of resources to low cost industries. Where are these low cost industries. I want them named; I want a list of them. I think that the Government ought to insist that the IAC put out a list of low cost industries that it has in mind.
Before I conclude my remarks I want to mention 2 more matters. There has been talk about restructuring and retraining. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in an interview reported in the Melbourne Herald of 10 November emphatically stated that this is not the time to restructure industries in Australia. How are we to face the people in the country areas such as Albury-Wodonga, Wangaratta and so on, and what jobs are we to put them into? I ask the Government once again whether it will make a more definite statement about the textile industry through the appropriate Minister who said in February this year that this is a significant industry. That is going a little way but it is not going far enough. I believe that the Government, through the appropriate Minister, ought to make a definite statement to the effect that it thinks that the textile industry in Australia is a vital and essential part of the manufacturing structure of this country and essential to our economy, particulary in the decentralised areas of this country.
– in reply- I shall endeavour to be brief because, like the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten), a quota is placed on my time in this debate. This has been a very interesting debate. I think it is appropriate for me to ask the House what precisely has been said. The first area at which I direct that question is the Opposition. Where does the Opposition really stand on the statement of government policy made last night? What precisely is the attitude of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) to the declarations made by the Government last night regarding the position of Australian industry? The honourable member for Port Adelaide, to start with, cannot make up his mind whether the decision that was announced last night is going to damage or is going to be beneficial to the Australian car industry.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide ought to know, as a person interested in local industry in his own State, that the Government has made it very clear over a period of some months that it intends to preserve for the local car industry of Australia some 80 per cent of the domestic market. Perhaps the greatest gem of all that was produced by the honourable member for Port Adelaide was his statement that the 25 per cent tariff cut made in July 1973 cost only a few hundred Australian jobs. He said this very deliberately. It did not just slip out. It was not one of those frenzied responses to an irritating interjection. He said it quite deliberately. He said that it did not cost 100 000 jobs; it did not cost 10 000 jobs; it cost only a few hundred jobs. Maybe the honourable member for Port Adelaide, and other people who share the view that the honourable member expressed during this debate, have forgotten the text of a report issued in 1973 which dealt with recommendations to the Government regarding the 25 per cent tariff reduction. That report was issued by a committee chaired by the former chairman of the Industries Assistance Commission. As I understand it, it was on the public record. This is the very committee on whose recommendations the then Government took the decision to reduce the tariff by 25 percent.
That very committee, on whose recommendations the decision was taken, estimated that a 25 per cent tariff cut would cost 30 000 jobs over a full year. Its estimate was not a few hundred jobs as was mentioned by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, not even 10 000 jobs as was mentioned by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, but 30 000 jobs over a period of a year. That was not a figment of the imagination of someone who has highly protectionist attitudes. It was the very report of officials on whom the Government’s own decision at the time was based. As I have said, the Committee estimated a reduction of 30 000 jobs as a result of the 25 per cent tariff cut. For the honourable member for Port Adelaide to suggest in this House that the 25 per cent tariff cut had no impact on jobs is absolute nonsense.
There was reference to reports of the Industries Assistance Commission during this debate. I refer to page 78 of the annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission for the year 1974-75. A table headed ‘Notified Retrenchments in Manufacturing Industry due to Structural Change between 1 July 1973 and 30 June 1975’ shows a total of 27 298 people. That is strangely close to the estimate of 30 000 people in the report of the committee on whose recommendations the Government’s decision in July 1973 was based. So the suggestion by the honourable member for Port Adelaide, unfortunately echoed by other speakers in this debate, that the 25 per cent tariff cut had minimal employment implications flies in the face of all the advice available to the Government at that time and flies in the face of all understandingpsychological, economic, social and otherwiseof the industries affected by that decision. Undoubtedly the decision by the Government which was announced last night will be of enormous benefit to manufacturing industries in Australia. It will be of enormous benefit to labour intensive industries in Australia. It will give to those industries a confidence and an ability to invest and to re-employ that they have not had in Australia for many years. The Government makes no secret of that. It makes no apology for that. It will not be reluctant in saying that, because that is the reality of the decision.
Understandably, honourable gentlemen who are interested in this subject have expressed a desire to have further details of the decision which the Government took regarding the recommendations of the IAC dealing with multilateral trade negotiations. Those details will be available within the next day or so. They will indicate to honourable gentlemen the precise detail and extent of the reductions in this area. The Government has never denied, since the decision to devalue the dollar was announced, that there would be cost implications so far as import prices were concerned. We do not deny that. We would never deny that. The effect of the decision announced last night will have some moderating impact on those price increases. It will have that moderating impact in concert with the enormous benefits to the competitive position of manufacturing industry in Australia.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) developed an argument that the entire non-competitiveness of Austraiian manufacturing industry in recent years has been due to revaluations of the Australian dollar. I do not want to do the honourable gentleman an injustice. He referred to the great bulk of the noncompetitiveness of Australian manufacturing industry. He looked a little concerned when I used the word ‘entire*. I will say that the great bulk of non-competitiveness of manufacturing industry in recent years has been due to revaluations of the Australian dollar. In some measure I am not arguing with his proposition that revaluation of the dollar causes competitive problems for a local industry. Equally, devaluation of the Australian dollar improves the competitive position of the local industry. Once again I quote from a source on which he relied during his remarks, and that is the most recent annual report of the IAC tabled in this House. It referred to the competitive position of Australian manufacturing industry and indicated that according to a combined index, including currency variation, domestic cost pressures and tariff reductions, there had been a net decline over a period of something like 4 years -
-It is 5 years.
-I thank the honourable gentleman. Over 5 years there had been a decline of about 17 per cent. The truth is that the most significant movement of the 3 elements that make up that index during that period was the one thing from which the honourable member for Gellibrand and his colleagues want to run away. That is the enormous escalation of wage costs in Australia during that period. They want to run away from it. They will not face it. During the last 6 years average wage increases in
Australia went up by 130 per cent, compared with 53 per cent -
– I take a point of order. If the Minister opens up another second reading debate, we will open up a second reading debate on the other Bills when they are called on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is no substance in the point of order.
– The sensitivity of the honourable member for Corio demonstrates very dramatically the fact that the Opposition refuses to face the implications for the competitiveness of Australian industry of wage escalations over the past few years. My quota has run out. I thank those honourable gentlemen who contributed to this debate. I commend to the House the statement of government policy last night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4 November, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 December, on the following paper presented by Mr Howard:
Tariff Structure Review-Ministerial Statement, 7 December 1976- . and on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the paper.
-A large number of members on this side of the House agree essentially with the remarks of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) but we have not had an opportunity to speak.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I present the ninth report of the Publications Committee, sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report have been circulated to honourable members.
Report- by leave-adopted.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to rationalise and coordinate provisions relating to the retirement and redeployment of staff throughout various areas of Commonwealth employment. The legislation will be able to be applied by regulation to virtually any area of Commonwealth civilian employment. Without wanting to get into a debate on the justification for giving some government functions to statutory authorities rather than to departments of state, I think there is increasing recognition of the need to avoid unnecessary or artificial distinctions in relation to the staffing of the various parts of the Administration. This is certainly a recurrent theme in the report of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. In the particular area that is the subject of this Bill, these are by no means just theoretical considerations. Where staff, for whatever reason, can no longer be effectively employed in a particular department or authority, their future as Government employees ought not to be artificially inhibited by a largely irrelevant consideration, namely, the particular government sector in which they are employed. Accordingly, the Bill will give the Public Service Board appropriate responsibilities to endeavour to redeploy staff in other areas before retirement can become an issue. I believe that this is a desirable objective with which there would be common ground with both management and the trade union movement.
The Bill will apply initially only to the Public Service, with other government employment areas being added by regulation. However, it would be the Government’s expectation that authorities etc. will become part of the scheme unless there is some compelling reason why this should not be so. Another preliminary point I should make concerns the types of staff who will be covered. In the Public Service Act and some other areas of Commonwealth employment, formal distinctions are drawn between permanent officers and temporary employees. In practice the distinction is not so clean Persons often serve in a so-called temporary status for many years, whilst distinctions in the conditions of employment of temporary and permanent staff have been narrowed considerably. The major exception to this concerns retirement, since only permanent officers have continuing tenure to the specified retiring age once their appointment has been confirmed. Temporary employees, no matter how long they have actually been employed, are normally liable to have their services dispensed with at any time. The Bill now before the House makes a major change to this state of affairs, in that applicability of retirement provisions will depend, in the main, on duration of work rather than a technical staffing category. Thus, so-called temporary employees will normally be covered unless their employment is for a fixed or otherwise limited period. This approach is consistent with recommendations of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration concerning categories of employment.
I turn now to the basic redeployment and retirement provisions in the Bill. These cover 2 main areas- age retirement and management initiated redeployment or retirement. Staff covered by the Bill will be entitled to retire on attaining an age prescribed for that purpose. The Government has in mind, as pan of the total scheme reflected in the Bill, that the age to be so specified initially for all staff would be 55 years as recommended by the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, rather than the present generally applicable age of 60 years. The Bill will also enable a maximum retiring age to be prescribed by regulation- this would normally be, as at present, 65 yearsalthough there are provisions, similar to those already in the Public Service Act, enabling staff, with their consent, to stay on beyond the maximum age where this is in the interests of the Commonwealth.
The need for appropriate powers in relation to management initiated redeployment and retirement has, of course, always been recognised, and has been an accepted qualification to the permanent status of Commonwealth public servants since Federation. For example, the Public Service Act presently includes provisions enabling management initiated redeployment or retirement of excess officers and inefficient or incapacitated officers, and management initiated retirement of any officers who have attained 60 years of age. A frequent criticism of these pans of the Public Service Act is that they do not adequately protect the rights of individual employees through, for example, formal rights of appeal and perhaps a more direct relationship between the powers and their clear purpose, namely, the efficient and economical functioning of the Service. Additionally, as I mentioned earlier, there are formal barriers which hinder effective redeployment efforts throughout the Administration. The Public Service Board has for some years been pursuing the possibility of change, and the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration has now made several recommendations for change. It unanimously and specifically concluded that there was a need to retain provisions covering redundancy and compulsory early retirement.
The Bill takes a new approach to management initiated redeployment and retirement, aimed at overcoming these deficiencies through improved and co-ordinated processes. I would now like to briefly mention the main features of this approach. Clause 7 requires that any action taken is to be directed towards ensuring, to the greatest extent practicable, that departments and authorities make efficient and economical use of their staff. Retirement is only to become a possibility where redeployment would be impracticable or unreasonable. Whilst departments and authorities will have the prime responsibility for keeping their own houses in order, Public Service Board involvement will mean consistency and co-ordination of the procedures they follow. The Board will determine procedures and criteria for the Public Service, whilst authorities will be required to consult with the Board before determining their own procedures and criteria.
Where there are staff whose services cannot reasonably be used by the department or authority in which they are employed, whether on grounds of excess numbers, incapacity or otherwise, the Board must be informed, and will then have a duty to take such action as is reasonable and practicable to arrange for redeployment within the Administration. The Board’s duty will be backed up by appropriate provisions concerning, for example, appointment and promotion powers of both the Board and authorities. Only where redeployment is not practicable can the question of retirement arise. Affected staff will have clear rights to have decisions affecting them reviewed. There is no such right now. These review rights will cover the initial decision of a department or authority to identify the employee, any redeployment action, and any decision that redeployment is not practicable. In the long term, the Government envisages that the outcome of the review initiated by the Public Service Board of appeal arrangements generally, taking into account relevant Royal Commission recommendations, will lead to the development of new grievance review machinery having application here. Pending development of that machinery, the Board will be discussing interim arrangements with employee organisations, prior to the making of regulations as envisaged by the Bill. The Board has already been discussing the issues involved with those organisations.
Finally, I wish to explain the purpose of clause 19. Honourable members will see that it enables regulations to be made for the payment of special benefits to persons retired at the initiative of management. I mentioned earlier that we intend prescribing 55 years as the minimum age for voluntary retirement and we have in mind that, in specified circumstances, persons at or above that age who are retired at management’s initiative will receive special benefits. The nature of such benefits, and the circumstances to give rise to them, will be the subject of discussions between the Board and employee organisations prior to decisions being taken. In this context, it is relevant to note that the Public Service Arbitrator has under consideration issues which, when resolved, could have a bearing on this queston. These new approaches are a significant improvement over existing provisions. The latter do not include effective criteria, but go as far as section 85, which allows the compulsory retirement of any officer over 60 years of age without specifying any reasons whatever. There is no such potentially arbitrary provision in this new scheme.
The Bill traverses an area which is, understandably, of particular concern to employee organisations. Since early this year there have been various discussions on this topic with those organisations. This Bill is a logical consequence of the various proposals and suggestions made in recent years that I mentioned earlier. In recent discussions with the Public Service Board, the organisations have expressed a strong concern to have an opportunity to study the legislative proposals before they become law. The Government is confident that the scheme in the Bill is equitable, and is therefore anxious to see it become law as soon as possible, though it would not wish to be seen as acting with undue haste. Accordingly, it is our intention that the Bill not proceed past the introduction stage for the moment so that there will be adequate opportunity for debate and so that consultation on the total scheme between the Public Service Board and staff organisations can continue. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned. .
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
In April this year the Government established a committee to review the Trade Practices Act. That committee reported last August and the report was immediately made public. This Bill implements certain recommendations of that committee. It is the intention of the Government that the Bill be exposed at this time to allow detailed examination of its provisions by all interested persons. We invite submissions on any aspect of the Bill.
Restrictive Trade Practices and Mergers
The Trade Practices Act will continue to deal with anti-competitive agreements, monopolisation, exclusive dealing, resale price maintenance and anti-competitive mergers. As I will outline later, this Bill makes some adjustments to the laws on these matters and, importantly, to the procedures for their administrative adjudication. However, the Government has accepted the recommendation of the review committee that the prohibition of price discrimination be repealed. That prohibition has worked to inhibit price flexibility, and has not encouraged competition. In fact the review committee stated that this law has actually been used as a pretext to abolish discounts and effectively raise prices.
The law on anti-competitive agreements is altered by this Bill, substantially as recommended by the review committee. This should clarify the operation of the law. The test of restraint of trade- with its undesirable common law connotations- has been omitted. The previous differing tests of competitive effect has been eliminated in favour of a single test. The
Bill prohibits collusive price agreements and collective boycotts. However, except for price agreements for goods, which are prohibited outright, these matters may be granted authorisation if a net public benefit is shown to exist. The Government has not adopted the recommendation of the review committee that price agreements for services be prohibited outright. In some service industries, price agreements may be considered analogous to the determination of wage and salary levels.
The Bill recognises the special contribution of joint ventures to the economy of Australia. In particular, it recognises that joint decisions as to the marketing of the joint venture product- including pricing decisions- are often inseparable from the decision to establish the joint venture in the first place. Appropriate distinctions are made in the prohibition and authorisation sections of the Bill. In substance, the relevant question is now whether the joint venture as a whole substantially lessens competition in a market Even in that event a joint venture will still be able to seek authorisation on public benefit grounds. This Bill also places joint acquisition schemes in a more favourable position. Such schemes have played an important role in containing price increases to the consumer, particularly in retail industries.
The law of monopolisation is clarified by this Bill. It makes it clear that only purposive conduct by a market dominating concern comes within the prohibition. It also states expressly that capital investment can never, of itself, constitute monopolisation. Section 47 of the Act, that is the general prohibition of exclusive dealing, has been restructured as recommended by the review committee. A distinction has now been drawn between normal commercial requirements contracts and requirements contracts which have been entered into for an anti-competitive purpose. The Bill provides immunity for exclusive dealing conduct notified to the Trade Practices Commission, until the Commission makes a positive determination that the conduct is both anti-competitive and without net public benefit. This procedure is available either as an alternative to, or in addition to, authorisation. The new procedure of notification for exclusive dealing recognises the concern of the business community as to the backwash of section 47 casting legal doubts on ordinary commercial contracts not intended to be dealt with by the Trade Practices Act.
The Government has generally adopted the recommendations of the review committee concerning the use of land as a means of effecting restrictive trade practices. Those recommendations particularly related to the use of covenants running with the land and the use of leases and licences of land containing restrictive provisions. These matters are expressly included within the scope of this Bill. The present Act has been criticised as being unduly harsh on mergers involving the acquisition of small companies. For example, it has been criticised as severely ham.pering a small businessman seeking to sell his usiness and retire. It has also been criticised as being unnecessarily concerned with insignificant corporate acquisitions. This Bill provides a threshold test of $3m annual turnover by the company being acquired. Mergers involving the acquisition of companies with a lesser turnover would be exempted from the Trade Practices Act, unless the acquisition was part of a systematic pattern to acquire a number of companies in an industry.
In addition the Bill implements the preelection undertaking of the coalition parties to remove the discretionary power of the Minister under the Act to compel the grant of the authorisation of a merger by the Commission.
Commission Procedures for Restrictive Trade Practices
Experience has shown that the clearance procedure provided by the present law has involved the Trade Practices Commission very closely in the daily operations of Australian business. Whatever justification this may have had in the early days of the legislation has now disappeared. To continue the clearance procedure would perpetuate unnecessary interference by Government in the exercise of individual initiative. This Bill abolishes the clearance procedure, except in relation to mergers, to which special considerations apply. The authorisation test in the present law has been widely criticised as unnecessarily harsh. The review committee recommended that the test be altered to reflect a simple balance between benefits and detriments to the public flowing from the conduct. The Government supports this simple, but highly desirable, change which will bring a better perspective to the application of trade practices aw.
This Bill also provides a right for discussions with the Trade Practices Commission before the determination of authorisation applications or exclusive dealing notifications. The lack of direct contact between the Commission, applicants and other interested persons has been a major deficiency in the operation of the law to date. The availability of such discussions, which the review committee recommended should be a matter of right, is essential. Public hearings before the Trade Practices Commission in authorisation matters are abolished. The heavy cost of these hearings- both to parties and to the Commission itself- is not warranted. The possibility remains for a full public hearing before the Trade Practices Tribunal on appeal.
Actions of Employees
The present wide exemption for restrictive practices by employees is substantially modified by this Bill. The exemption is now to be limited to matters of remuneration, conditions of employment, and hours and working conditions. In addition, the Bill prohibits secondary boycotts by employees which substantially damage the business of a corporation. These boycotts have been used by some trade unions in this country to dictate the business arrangements of independent businessmen. In some instances these boycotts have resulted in higher prices to the consumer. The most common instance of a secondary boycott occurs where a group of employees collectively acts for the purpose of interfering with supply of goods and/or services by their employer to a company.
Honourable members will be aware of instances of this occurring in respect of petrol and bread deliveries. In addition, it has occurred in the stevedoring industry where employees of a port authority have interfered with container deliveries to particular companies and most recently in Sydney where employees of a newsprint supplier interfered with deliveries to John Fairfax and Sons Ltd. Under the Bill, businesses affected will have a similar redress against employee secondary boycotts as they already have against boycotts organised by other companies. The Government recognises that some sections of the community might argue that provisions of this nature should be included in other Commonwealth legislation such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The Government retains an open mind as to which legislation is the relevant one and will be particularly interested in submissions or comments it might receive on this issue.
The review committee recommended that the present provisions of Part V of the Act should generally continue to operate, subject to certain improvements. The Bill provides for these changes. The definition of consumer has been changed in a way which will give small businesses a measure of protection which they previously did not have. The conditions and warranties implied by Division 2 of Part V of the Act will now be implied into a wider range of transactions. The present Act is pointedly deficient in protecting consumers in land transactions. Major abuses have occurred in the past in relation to the promotion and sale of land- particularly major subdivisions promoted on an interstate basis. The Bill extends protection to the consumer in these matters. At present there is no quick method for the Government to ban the sale of unsafe consumer products produced in Australia. The marketing of unsafe products is a major concern of the community. Provision is now made in this Bill for the making of orders banning the sale of unsafe goods.
The Government considers that the present sanctions and remedies for consumer protection contraventions are unsatisfactory. The Bill makes a number of important changes in this area. The penalty of imprisonment is abolished. More appropriate defences are provided. The court may now make a wider range of corrective orders designed to assist the consumer in a practical way. For example, the court may order affirmative disclosure, corrective advertising or repair of goods. The review committee recommended substantially greater involvement by State government agencies in the administration of the consumer protection part of the Trade Practices Act. It was considered that consumer complaints could best be handled on a local basis, through State consumer protection agencies and State courts. The Government is also of this view and is currently discussing the proposals in detail with State governments. In the meantime no provision has been made for these matters in the Bill.
An area of major concern to Australian business has been the multiplicity of State and Commonwealth laws implying non-excludable terms into consumer transactions. The review committee considered this multiplicity to be a source of cost and confusion to Australian business. It recommended that the Commonwealth legislate in the area so as to cover the field to a significant degree. The Government has accepted this recommendation in principle and will naturally explore proposals for its implementation with State governments. Indeed, the recommendation has already been discussed by a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers. The review committee also recommended that the Trade Practices Act be extended to provide for manufacturers to be liable directly to consumers for breach of implied terms in consumer contracts.
Some State laws already provide for such liability. The Government has accepted this recommendation in principle and is examining details of its implementation.
Governments are increasingly involved in commercial activities, often in direct competition with private enterprise. It is anomalous that the Trade Practices Act should apply to private enterprise and not to government enterprise of a commercial nature. The Government has decided in principle that its commercial operations should be subject to the same restraints of the Trade Practices Act as apply to like operations of private enterprise. It is recognised, however, that some exceptions on national interest grounds might have to be made to this general rule. At present an interdepartmental committee is examining the detailed implementation of this proposal. Appropriate provisions will be inserted into this Bill to give effect to this policy before the Bill is finally enacted.
The review committee made recommendations on a number of matters which are not contained in the present Bill and which I have not mentioned previously in this speech. I note, in particular, the recommendations on the rights of franchisees, the liability of financiers for breach of consumer conditions and warranties, and the application of the Act to professional activities. The Government has taken no decision on these matters, pending further study of them. In the case of professional activities there is an obvious question of constitutional power. This is a matter which will need to be discussed with State governments. At the start of this speech I indicated that this Bill has been introduced at this time to allow study of its provisions by interested persons and members of this Parliament. I emphasise that the Government does not intend to rush into amending this technical legislation without adequate consultation with and study by the community. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18 November, on the following paper presented by Mr Killen:
Australian Defence- Paper, dated 4 November 1976- and on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the paper.
Upon which Mr Hayden had moved by way of amendment:
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 this day, entitled Australian Defence’, 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. ‘
– I am most grateful for the opportunity to speak on this very important subject. I spoke briefly on it in the Grievance Debate last week, but I was limited because of a very correct ruling by the Deputy Speaker that I could not mention the White Paper at that time. At the expense of some repetition I want to expand on my theme of last week. I must say that I was very encouraged by the support for a bipartisan defence policy which was expressed by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). This issue is far too important, as a national issue, for partisan party politics. It is an extremely complex subject. There are no simple answers, and we should not look for simple answers.
I would like sincerely to congratulate the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the Government on the White Paper. Many other members have spoken on it, but I believe that it is a valuable guide for discussion and debate. It contains a calm, sensible and frank strategic assessment. It is the most comprehensive document on defence produced in this Parliament. Inevitably, it leaves some questions unanswered. I have some understanding of the constraints under which such a paper is written- security, of course, being one great problem. After more than 30 years of wide and varied experience in the defence forces, I know very well the immense complexity of the issues and how little any one man can know and understand unless he is engaged in this field full time. The details are for the Government’s expert advisers, both military and civil. In this Parliament we can best contribute to the defence of Australia by a broad and informed understanding of the wider issues and by using the Parliament as a forum in which to impress on the nation the vital importance of the defence forces and their place in the national and international scene.
I do not propose to speak in detail or to deal in any depth with the White Paper. Other speakers and sections of the media have done this already. I wish to confine myself to 2 major issues: Firstly, national aims and objectives and, secondly, the provision of an effective deterrent to armed attack on this nation. Because of the vital importance of the security of the nation and the immense cost of effective defence, it is of the first importance that the national aims and objectives should be stated clearly and simply. All those concerned with the defence of the nation are facing a fundamentally new, challenging and exciting task. Generations of Australians have been conditioned to a forward defence policy. Our organisation and equipment have always been similar to those of our major allies, although their resources were incomparably greater and they operated within a much wider global context. Today in Sydney I attended the opening of a memorial to the Royal Australian Regiment in which I served for many years. It was a sad, moving and significant occasion, but it brought to mind the fact that battalions of that Regiment served continuously overseas from 1945 to 1972 -a total of 27 years. Since 1972 all battalions of that Regiment have been serving in Australia, concentrating on the defence of this country.
Previously, the shape and size of our forces were decided on financial grounds not necessarily related to our strategic requirements. Our contributions to other forces were token and often arbitrary. Now, for the first time, we as a nation have a firmly stated and accepted responsibility for the defence of the whole continent. It takes time to change national attitudes. Perhaps it is too soon to have achieved a complete reassessment of our aims and objectives based on our new responsibility to defend ourselves. There are major questions of approach and philosophy to be decided. Until these are decided we cannot get the right answers on the shape and size of our defence forces or on the most effective level of technology and the related problems of logistics and local defence production.
Our national and strategic objectives should be a combination of military, political and economic factors, preferably compatible but often conflicting. For example, in 1965 and 1966 Australian servicemen were fighting Indonesians in East Malaysia during confrontation. At the same time we maintained diplomatic relations with Indonesia and continued to give aid. As one closely involved in that small war I, and all other servicemen involved, realised that this was the right approach for Australia’s future relations with Indonesia. Potentially, it was a much more explosive issue than the present argument over Timor.
We must now take a hard and realistic look at our present situation. We cannot always in the future depend on the protection of a great power. In differing sets of circumstances we may find that the interests of our major allies and our interests are not the same. The key to our defence policy remains the strength of our alliance with the United States and the ANZUS Treaty. Yet this alliance, however strong it may be, must not lull us into a sense of false security. We cannot rely on treaties alone to protect us. John Hobbs, the eighteenth century philosopher said: Covenants without swords are but words’. At present Australia has too few swords to back its covenants. Our swords are blunt. We do not have sufficient capacity to sharpen our own swords or to make new ones. The provisions of the White Paper, when implemented, will greatly increase our capacity to back our covenants. We cannot expect the United States to help us in a defence emergency unless we show that we are prepared to do our utmost to defend ourselves. This is clearly stated in the Nixon or Guam doctrine.
Our main concern must be with those powers whose lesser strategic importance to the United States may inhibit United States assistance or deterrent action. If there is no United States deterrent we may be forced to make concessions unless we are prepared to develop our own deterrent posture. Therefore it is imperative that we should have an independent defence against potential threats in our area or neighbourhood. These threats may not necessarily be identified as potential threats to the United States. Most of our neighbours are not potential enemies of the United States, but in some circumstances we could be in conflict with them. These circumstances add greater emphasis to the importance of an independent defence capacity. If we accept that the United States may not always be willing or able to support us we must be capable of conducting an independent military defence and of possessing a credible, independent military deterrent.
Our first priority is to provide forces for the most effective independent defence of Australia, its islands and its seas, within our capacity to do so. I stress, within our capacity to do so. The second priority is for our defence readiness in situations where we would have the support of a great power. The defence of the Australian continent requires very different forces from those required for our old posture of forward defence in co-operation with major allies. Our position is unique and calls for unique solutions. These new priorities must make us question the whole structure of our forces and their support from within our own resources.
The high cost of modern defence equipment makes a clear definition of national strategic aims and objectives so important. Without clearly stated aims there always will be the temptation to purchase better and more expensive equipment to replace dated and aging equipment. This tendency is known as the replacement syndrome. It may well be valid that we do need more of the same, but this is not necessarily so. There will always be constraints on the freedom of action of our defence planners in that there must be limits to defence spending. These are set by the state of the economy or by the limits of public interest and understanding. I am grateful that in my electorate in the far north of Australia there is no lack of public interest. We all believe up there that we live in the front line of Australia, and recent events have made that only too clear.
-Real men and women live up there.
-I thank the honourable member for Darling Downs for his constructive comments. We live in a very uncertain and rapidly changing part of the world. It is impossible to define the time limits to be set on any proposals which we make. Our planning must be sufficiently flexible to take into account all sorts of possibilities. This calls for very sound contingency planning by the Services. The shape, size and equipment of the defence force must be able to cope with quite unexpected emergencies at very short notice. Because of the lead time for the manufacture and purchase of many equipments, decisions must often be made many years in advance.
I have considerable respect for the procedures within the Department of Defence which evaluate policies and requirements and advise the Government. I wish to make one point about defence planning. In the organisation chart of the policy divisions of Defence Central I note that there are very few senior military planners and large numbers of senior civilians. There seems to be an imbalance which is reflected in parts of the White Paper. This could perhaps lead to inadequate military input into defence policies and planning. Unless the national aims and objectives are clearly stated by the Government these defence planners must work with inadequate guidance. In these circumstances there is a temptation to give undue weight to the replacement syndrome and the desire to maintain the state of the art in a wide range of capabilities which may not be relevant to the national aims. It may be that all the decisions made are the best possible in the circumstances. However, there will always be a difficult argument between the conflicting desires to have a few technologically advanced and very expensive equipments and the counterargument that our independent defence capacity would best be served by having a larger number of cheaper and less sophisticated equipments. I do not know the answers. Only the defence experts can provide them, but they will be assisted by a clear direction from the Government and an informed and concerned Parliament and people.
Two major decisions mentioned in the White Paper which must soon be made are those on the replacement of the tactical fighter force and whether HMAS Melbourne is to be replaced to give Australia, as a great maritime nation, a seabased air capability. The White Paper recognises the great difficulties in reaching the right decisions on these problems. I hope that my few points on the need for clear national aims and objectives will help to kindle debate and interest in this major issue. I now wish to deal with my second major point- our ability to deter any threat. The White Paper mentions this only briefly. I have said that we have a unique situation. It is fashionable to compare Australian with Sweden and Switzerland. This comparison is not relevant. Our strategic circumstances could not be more different. We are a great island continent and an enemy can reach our shores only by air or over or under the sea. Therefore our most important national strategic objective should be the capacity to deter or to defer the mounting of major operations against Australia. The priority should be against the higher levels of threat. If we deter the higher levels we should be able to handle the lower levels, difficult as many of these may be.
The best way to achieve this military objective would be to cause a would be aggressor to face the problem of mounting a large scale tri-service operation by air and/or sea. Provided Australia has adequate air and sea surveillance capacity any such invasion force would be very vulnerable to attack far from our shores. This situation emphasises the importance of the Air Force and Navy contribution to an overall strategic deterrent force particularly in the roles of maritime strike and air superiority. This does not mean for a moment that the importance of the Army, as part of the deterent force, should be underrated. The capacity and structure of the Army will determine the capacity, quality and quantity of the men and materiel an aggressor would have to deliver and sustain in Australia in a conventional military operation.
Therefore the essence of any effective defence policy is the provision of a credible military capacity to deter the possibiltiy of attack and invasion. As a middle rank economic power we need to develop a military capability with a limited range of selected characteristics sufficient to persuade even a vastly superior military power that compromise is more realistic and desirable than conflict. Sweden and Switzerland have thenthreats on their doorstep. Their strategic response is governed by the fact that as soon as hostilities commenced they would be locked in a close quarter tactical battle. Their potential aggressors have the power and the initiative. Not so for Australia. We have the initiative. We can dictate, by the size and shape of our deterrent, the force needed by a regional power to attack or invade us.
If we possess a credible deterrent there are few powers which have the capacity to threaten us. It must be made too difficult. This strengthens our position in foreign negotiations and makes it less likely that we will be forced into political and diplomatic actions which are not in the national interest. I have not talked about the most important part of our defence force- the men and women of our services. I wish I had more time to spend on this matter. I conclude with a quotation:
Nothing has ever been made until the soldier has made safe the field where the building shall be built: and the soldier is the scaffolding until it has been built, and the soldier gets no reward but honour.
-Mr Acting Deputy Speaker -
– Not the honourable member for Chifley after a good speech like that.
– At least I do not have to read every word of it. I rise to support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden).
Honourable members interjecting.
-The House should not pay any attention to past confusions or antagonisms. The previous speaker was heard in peace, by one honourable member, and I insist that this speaker, too, be heard in peace.
– I take it as a very great compliment that when I rise they all get stirred up.
-If the honourable member is going to be provocative I will have a hard job protecting him.
– The amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley states:
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 this day entitled ‘Australian Defence’ be referred to the Standing Committee on Expenditure so that the fiscal implications of the proposed program, especially in relation to its effect on other programs and its requirements for additional revenue collections -
-I rise to a point of order. I noticed when the honourable member for Chifley was reading from a prepared speech that he had his feet on the seat. I ask: Is that a dignified manner for a member of Parliament to act. After all, he is not at home.
-There is no point of order. I am sure that the honourable member for Chifley will make himself comfortable in his own inimitable fashion.
– The amendment continues: 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 1977.
At this stage I want to make it clear that I was not reading my speech. I was reading the actual amendment moved by the honourable member for Oxley. More and more people and members of this Parliament are coming to realise that Australia is not getting value for its defence buck, for a dollar spent on defence in this country. There have been a number of occasions recently to be concerned about this aspect. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament- I am not giving away anything confidential because these were public inquiries- I can only say that I was shocked, and I know that other members of the Committee were shocked, at what could only be termed the complete inability to appreciate the need for tighter accounting systems. I know that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) is loyal to his Department and that he has some conscience in these matters. I think it would be a good thing if he could go through the transcript of evidence taken before some of these public inquiries. We are simply not getting value.
Most honourable members have heard about the recent case of $34m worth of spares for the Mirage aircraft which were mentioned in the report of the Auditor-General. This matter is going before the Public Accounts Committee for investigation. I raised a question in the House concerning this matter. The Minister replied to me on 13 October. He stated:
I have examined the Auditor-General ‘s comments-
– It is confidential.
-There is nothing confidential about this matter. It is extraordinary that although the Minister and I are on different sides of the House there is a large element of trust between us. The letter continues: and find there is no case for instituting the investigation suggested in my Department or the Services, on the basis of the matters to which you refer.
The reference in the Auditor-General’s report concerns accounting responsibility of the former Department of Supply (now the Department of Industry and Commerce) for raw materials and lead-in supplies for the manufacture of the Mirage aircraft.
My colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce is making a thorough investigation of the manner in which this situation developed and will make a statement in due course. However, it should be noted that the aircraft built from these so-called ‘lost’ parts were completed and delivered to the Air Force some years ago.
– What was the date of the letter?
– The letter is dated 13 October 1976. It is from the Minister for Defence to me in amplification of a question which I raised in this Parliament. I have read the report of the Auditor-General and I think it should be remembered at all times that the AuditorGeneral is a person who is above the control of this Parliament and the Executive. That is to say, he submits his report annually and he makes his own decisions as to what is investigated. The report is delivered to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, not to a Minister, and is presented in this Parliament. It is a very admirable system, one which is above politics and above the Executive. But the facts are that he has reported, despite what the Minister says, in very scathing terms indeed. The Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament would have no alternative but to carry out a full scale inquiry. I will give another very small example. It deals also -
– Speak to the amendment. What are you talking about?
-The honourable member for La Trobe will cease interjecting.
– They have had too good a party tonight.
-The honourable member will not reflect in any way upon any other honourable member.
– Tell them what you were doing on the verandah.
-I warn the honourable member for Hume. If he continues to disobey the Chair I will deal with him.
– I discovered, purely by accident, that members of the Australian Women’s Army Service working on telecommunications equipment and activities are being transported daily, irrespective of whether they are on day shift or night shift, from Victoria Barracks and Remington-Rand, which is, I think, in Elizabeth Street or Castlereagh Street in Sydney, to and from their homes. In other words, ordinary workers, people undertaking normal activities no different from those of a person working in any other organisation, receive this very special privilege of being transported by Army car or by private hire car, as m the particular instance of which I was informed.
– It would be a waste of money.
– As the honourable member says, it is undoubtedly a waste of finance. I think these activities, as there is very strong opposition from the Department of Defence at the present time to removal of their fleets of cars to the control of the Department of Administrative Services, should be investigated. Of course, the Department of Defence is opposed to it; the lurks are too good. The Department of Defence wants to maintain them within its own responsibility.
– Would the honourable gentleman provide me with details of that?
– By all means. I am only too pleased to provide the Minister with these details. I came upon this situation purely by accident. I am happy to give full details of the matter to the Minister. It is for this reason that I believe that many people are very deeply concerned about the financial accountability of the defence services generally and the Department of Defence. They are deeply concerned as to whether we are receiving full value for our defence dollar. It is a question of how much more could be done in carrying out an activity more effectively and efficiently. At the same time a sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has been set up to inquire into the industrial back-up required for our defence Services. In fact, in correspondence coming to me I have noticed that the committee has been named the Hamer committee’ after its chairman. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) is a member of this House. The facts are that this committee is carrying out a full-scale inquiry, as the Minister for Defence is aware. It has gone to a lot of trouble. During the last recess of the Parliament, the committee spent considerable time visiting both government and private defence and semi-defence establishments throughout
Australia which provide industrial backup for our defence services.
I think it is important that we should examine the merchant ship building industry. I am particularly interested in that subject at the moment. I have certain responsibilities in this regard and I should like to make it clear to the House that at this point of time I am expressing a purely personal opinion. I am not expressing the opinion of the committee which still has to make its final determinations. I think it is reasonable to say that I have formed the firm opinion- I think others have also- that there is a very definite need for a merchant ship building capacity to be retained in Australia. I should like to point to the reasons why our ship building industry has become inefficient. Undoubtedly, as it stands at present it is inefficient.
– It has defence potential.
– I will deal with the defence potential of the ship building industry in a few moments. I think it is most important to point out why the ship building industry has become inefficient. The reason is that the necessary capital has not been injected into the industry. The facts are that since the mid 1960s there has been doubt about the retention of the industry in Australia. Accordingly, capital has not been invested in the industry and the industry has not been updated in terms which are comparable with its overseas competitors. This is the sort of thing which happened to the British ship building industry for exactly the same reasons. This is the reason why other countries took over the British ship building industry. In addition, industrial unrest has occurred in the industry. Demarcation disputes have arisen because if a person ‘s job is on the line he will fight to keep his job. If a person from another union wants to take it over -
-Order! I ask the honourable member to tie-in his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I am very much tying in my remarks to the motion before the Chair. The merchant ship building industry basically is a party of our defence capacity. The facts are, as honourable members will find when the report of the Committee is tabled in this Parliament -
– Respect the Chair!
– It will indicate that our merchant ship building industry is a defence requirement and that in the event of a high level attack on Australia it will be an essential part of our defence. If, for example, Australia were cut off from other countries we would experience difficulties in obtaining supplies. The ships which ply our coast bringing food and so on sail under foreign flags.
– Address the Chair.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Holt that the Chair can look after itself. I do not need any suggestions from him.
– I rise to a further point of orderMr DEPUTY SPEAKER- I did not know that the honourable member had a point of order but if he has I ask him to tell the Chair about it.
– I was making no reflection on the Chair. I only asked that the honourable gentleman on the other side of the House address his remarks to the Chair. That was all.
-The Chair is not being helped by certain interjections in deciding what is relevant.
– I want to make it clear that on 2 occasions this week I have risen to speak in this House and on both occasions I have been interrupted by continuous points of order. It is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to stop me from voicing an opinion in this Parliament.
– I rise to order.
– The Government will cop it from me.
-The honourable member for Chifley will resume his seat.
– The honourable member for Chifley is not relating his remarks to the subject matter before the Chair. If he wants to make a personal explanation he will have the opportunity at a more appropriate time to do so.
– I think the Chair will decide that issue. The honourable member for Chifley is attempting now to tie in his remarks to the debate on the defence statement. The Chair will judge in a minute or two whether his remarks are relevant.
– It will not be very long if you look at the clock, Mr Deputy Speaker. My time has been taken up by this crowd and I assure them that I will pay them back.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Every country’s strategy is determined largely by its geography and this is the case with Australia. The needs of our geography and of our pattern of trade dictate that this country should pursue a maritime strategy. Any country pursuing a maritime strategy must be prepared, at least for a time, to pursue its ends largely on its own. This is the most important change in the new defence White Paper. It clearly states- ( Quorum formed.) As I was saying, our geography and pattern of trade dictate that we should pursue a maritime strategy. This requires a capability to act on our own, if necessary. This concept is not new. I can remember, as a member of the joint planning staff in 1959, putting forward such a concept. At the time the Government quite properly asked what would be the consequences of this change in strategy on our force composition. This was duly provided and, by one of the neatest pea and thimble tricks of which I have ever heard, the Government accepted the force structure and rejected the strategy assessment on which it was based. Times have changed since then and now this concept is an idea whose time has come. It is helped, too, by another change in recent defence planning- that is, the announcement of expenditure of $ 12,000m over 5 years to provide for the defence of Australia which, for the first time, allows the 5-year rolling program to be effective.
I hope that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) will draw the attention of his Cabinet colleagues to the fact that devaluation will necessitate an increase in this amount for the equipment to be derived from overseas because the undertaking was that $A12,000m would be in 1 976 prices. It is very important that we should not cut back on necessary overseas equipment. When we are providing the defence forces with equipment to do what we have to do on our own it is important that they should be equipped properly but not excessively for this role. The forces then might not make an ideal contribution to an allied force but they would be capable of doing that which we must do on our own. That should be their role. What might the defence forces have to do on their own? The first thing they might have to deal with, of course, is lowlevel threats- such as guerillas, confrontation over seabeds, confrontations over rights of passage in the air or on sea, or even conceivably the dispatch of an overseas force to prevent from taking place in our area events which we would regard as contrary to our interests. In this area I find that the White Paper is rather gentle. It shows all the hallmarks of being a committee document. One remark to which I would like to draw attention appears in paragraph 28 of chapter 3 and is as follows:
Our assessments of the international situation have not revealed any present likelihood of our being called upon to provide any direct military assistance to our allies or other defence associates. Were this sort of situation to arise in future, in certain circumstances we would be able usefully to support local forces by making available equipments or skills in which they were deficient
Well, that is true; but I hope that where necessary we will be able to do a great deal more than provide equipments and skills, because these operations might be vital to our security and our survival.
The second doubt I have about an understatement in the White Paper concerns Indonesia. I refer to paragraph 38 of chapter 2, which states:
The Indonesian archipelago, together with Papua New Guinea, would be an important factor in any offensive military strategy against Australia.
Those countries are more than important; they are vital. Any defence strategy which does not recognise this is not truly founded. I am sure that the Minister for Defence does realise this. However, I think we should state clearly in this House that the Indonesian archipelago is the key to our defence and we must always recognise that fact.
We must, of course, be able to co-operate with our allies. I would like to draw attention to the remarks in the White Paper about the Indian Ocean. They are not overstated, as alleged by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). In fact, I think they are a true statement of the situation. I welcome the decision made by this Government to expedite the construction of the naval base in Western Australia. This is a very important step forward. I also welcome the support this Government has given to the establishment of the base at Deigo Garcia. I do not think anyone in this country wishes to see a confrontation between the super powers in the Indian Ocean, but it takes 4 to 5 years to build up the infrastructure which makes it possible to base a fleet in that Ocean. The Russians have such an infrastructure now at Berbera; the Americans do not. What we should do now is encourage them to build the infrastructure, to build the base, so that if they need to do so they can base a fleet in the Indian Ocean. It is no use waiting until the requirement is there to start building one’s infrastructure. It is very important that this country, as one of the countries most affected, should make this clear to the Americans.
The other level of threat we must consider is that of actual invasion. I do not think anyone could envisage this at present, except in a situation of world chaos, probably in the aftermath of a nuclear exchange. In our defence planning we should look at this situation. Again I think that the defence White Paper is a little bland in this area. This is what it says about the possibility of a nuclear exchange:
Given the enormous risks from military conflict, on all traditional calculations the restraints on use of force between the 2 powers-
That is America and Russia- and the framework of their co-operation should endure.
Well, I hope so; but I do not think that is necessarily the belief of either Russia or America. I think they take the risks of a nuclear exchange very much more seriously than that, and we must look at what our situation would be in the aftermath of such an exchange. I do not believe that we would be a target, except possibly for North West Cape and installations in central Australia. We would not be a target; we would be a prize. We have to examine what our defence industrial situation would be in the aftermath of such a nuclear exchange. This is an area which the defence White Paper does not explore, perhaps for security reasons; but I think it is one that we should keep in mind.
Despite my strong support for the main thrust of the White Paper, I have a number of qualms about it- mainly in areas we have inherited from the previous Government, although in other cases they have been going on for some years. I am concerned about some of the implications which are read into the core force. The core force, as I see it, is the regular force which must be prepared to deal with the immediate low level threat and which also must be capable of expansion to meet a higher level threat. There is a great danger, though, in our staff structure, that this core force will be equipped with a tiny number of highly sophisticated weapons which would be too elaborate, too expensive and too few for the task the core force would have to do on its own and which would be an unsuitable basis for the mass expansion that would be required to build up the major force. I am sure that the Government is aware of this and I believe that it must take the necessary steps to control this inevitable escalation. Risks must be run in peace as well as in war.
I also am suspicious of one aspect of the core force when we talk about having this to keep up with the state of the art. It is one way of keeping up with the state of the art, but in many cases it is a wildly extravagant way of doing so. I cite one example: The British invented the tank and between the 2 world wars they kept a core force of tanks in operation. The Germans were forbidden tanks by the Versailles Treaty, yet when the Second World War came they were far ahead. They were able to be in that position because they had studied the subject, they had seconded their officers to other countries such as Russia, in particular, to operate with other people, and they had husbanded their resources. They were able to expand on a much better basis than a country which had kept a core force in existence. I merely draw to the attention of the Minister for Defence the fact that the state of the art does not necessarily dictate that we should have a tiny force of highly sophisticated weapons of every type.
I want to refer now to suggestions we hear about Army operations on a large scale in northern Australia. I think we get involved in a circular argument. There is no way in which we could maintain, say, a division in northern Australia, except with supply by sea. If we can supply it by sea, that means that we have command of the sea. If we have command of the sea, the requirement for such a large force does not arise. We have to be very careful that we do not get involved in a circular and totally irrelevant argument. I believe that the role of the Army in northern Australia is to be sufficiently mobile and quick reacting to cause any potential invading force to concentrate in such a way that it would be destroyed by our maritime forces. This was the role of the British Army prior to 1 9 1 4 and it is a very proper and effective role for our Army. A battalion there before a landing is very much more valuable than a division going there 3 weeks later. We need a small, highly mobile and efficient Army.
With regard to deterrents, on which the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) touched, by far the most efficient deterrent to an invasion is a submarine force. I draw the attention of the House to a fact that we must consider soon, namely, that any future submarines we order almost certainly will have to be nuclear powered. There are no diesel electric powered submarines of a modern type available in the world now. If we want to get a new type of submarine it will have to be nuclear powered.
I would like to make a couple of remarks about the Department of Defence. I think it is well known that I do not entirely approve of the structure. I am delighted that the Minister has established the Defence Council. I hope that it soon will grow into a body established by statute and one which has collective responsibility for all the affairs of the Department of Defence; that its members will be chosen on a functional basis; and that the number of professional people on it, when its structure is changed, will be appropriate to the profession of arms. I would like to say one other thing about the Department of Defence: We seem to be getting an enormously top heavy structure, with deputy secretaries, first assistant secretaries, and so on. Unfortunately, this is being matched by a similar rise in the uniformed personnel. One could not fire a revolver down one of the corridors of power at Russell Hill these days without knocking off about 50 stars. If we look at the proportion of senior officer in our Armed Services- that is brigadier and above- we have one to every 697 men. The Unites States has one to every 2127 men. That country proportionately, has one-third of the number of senior officers we have.
I shall take a different example in the Australian setting. In the Second World War we had a Navy of 40 000 and we had 3 admirals and 3 commodores. Now, with a Navy of 16 000 we have 8 admirals and 12 commodores- three times as many. The structure is getting out of line. I give one further example: A DDG manned by the Americans has one commander among the senior officers, while one of our DDGs has one captain and 4 commanders. The reason is that because we have this high structure ashore we have to provide suitable sea billets for people of all ranks. The top heaviness of our structure ashore means that it is the tail wagging the dog. I think we have to straighten this out in the interests of the efficiency of our Services. If we have too many senior officers we will become regarded as the army of Oz. Also there are things in junior ranks one can learn and do which people promoted too high can no longer do.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The White Paper on Australian Defence is a significant and important document. It marks a turning point, or perhaps even a starting point, for modern realistic defence thinking and planning in this country. In the time available to me, I wish to comment on the nature of this thinking and planning, its importance to Western Australia and finally what is necessary to ensure its realistic effectiveness.
Not since the days between Federation and the First World War has an Australian Government in time of peace, established a coherent, intelligent or intelligible defence policy. Between the 2 world wars there was simply an empty void which was perhaps understandable because memories of the appalling bloodbath of World War I were quickly followed by the depression. Since the Second World War we have had a socalled forward defence policy based on great mobility, until of course the events in South East Asia, and more particularly Vietnam, demonstrated the weakness of this stance. Irrespective of its morality, militarily the main problem with this confused thinking was that we did not possess the substance to maintain a worthwhile defence policy and even less the capability of mobility to sustain it.
In the light of these facts, the White Paper is in a sense an apology for the past 30 years of neglect and lack of planning. However, building on this implicit apology the White Paper more importantly now provides the basis for a coordinated defence policy which is the first that Australia has had since the period of 1901-1914. It is a basis which is surely needed considering the almost complete run down of our national defence over the last few years. The policy is of course based on the concept of the continental defence of the Australian homeland.
The pleasing aspect of the White Paper from a Western Australian point of view is that there is recognition that the continent is more than just the south-east corner. There has existed in Australia since the Second World War a Brisbane line mentality. If one doubts what I say one only has to look at the present deployment of the 3 Services in Australia. It is true that the southeast corner of the nation contains the majority of the Australian population, but can anyone seriously suggest that an external threat is likely to come from the direction of New Zealand? The White Paper recognises the existence of the north and the north-west. Perhaps in due course it will be further realised that the most vulnerable place in Australia is the Pilbara which has enough basic services to sustain an occupation army, quite beside its wealth in natural resources. It was very pleasing to see that there was a defence exercise in the Pilbara this year. Western Australia has 2.5 million square kilometres of territory and a population of just over one million, strung out along 12 500 kilometres of coastline.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed).
– I rise to order. In doing so I apologise to the honourable member for Tangney. I draw your attention, Mr Deputy Speaker, to standing order No. 303 which states:
If any Member has-
persistently and wilfully obstructed the business of the House-
Or some Other things- he may be named by the Speaker . . .
I further draw to your attention the outright challenge made by the honourable member for Chifley before he resumed his seat when he said:
I will disrupt your speakers on your side of the House’. He has now called 2 quorums and he is encouraging his own members to leave the House so that he may do so. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to rule that he has wilfully and persistently obstructed the business of the House.
-Order! As I read standing order 303 it refers to an honourable member who persistently disrupts the procedures of the House. I would not take the view that the perfectly legitimate right, according to Standing Orders, to call a quorum conforms with standing order 303. I thank the honourable member for his advice and I will watch to see whether there is any degree of disruption.
-The Pilbara is an immensely wealthy area containing some of the richest deposits of iron ore and other vital minerals in the world. Yet my State, the size of India, is defended at the moment largely by some 300 men of the Special Air Services Regiment, one small patrol boat based at Fremantle and a squadron of Macchi jets at Pearce. Thankfully and rationally the White Paper contains indications of impending improvements to this ludicrous situation.
Defence infrastructure and relevant civilian infrastructure are still limited in the north and the west. The White Paper recognises this and hopefully recognition of a deficiency is the first step to correcting it. The White Paper further recognises and ranks high in infrastructure development plans the need to develop airfields and patrol craft bases in the more remote areas of Australia, particularly in the north and northwest. Related to this, and especially welcome, are the plans to develop increased fuel storage at the Royal Australian Air Force base at Learmonth and to develop the existing interim patrol boat bases at Cairns and Darwin. The White Paper further indicates the establishment of patrol boat facilities on the north west coast to cover the gap between Darwin and Cockburn Sound.
The Federal Government has already decided to accelerate works at Cockburn Sound, to enable HMAS Stirling to be commissioned in 1 978. Berthing is already available and the additional facilities planned include a wharf and depot. When these works are completed, the establishment will be able to provide for the deployment of 4 destroyers and 3 submarines and give support to visiting Royal Australian Navy task groups and allied ships. These and other improvements are welcomed in the west as a start in a real policy of continental defence. To have a real policy of continental defence our defence improvements must be relevant and, above all, we as a nation must be self-reliant. Western Australians feel isolated and there is real concern for defence there.
A principal theme of the summer school at the University of Western Australia in January 1 976 concerned Australia’s defence. It was an outstanding success due to the quality of the speakers attracted and the efforts of the director, Mr John Burman. It was ably chaired by the distinguished Australian military historian, Peter Firkins. The threat to Australia presented by the speakers varied between the ebb and flow of international politics, as suggested by Sir Arthur Tange, in contrast to the clear conviction by Brigadier F. P. Serong that there would be a major conflict between Russia and China within the next five to ten years and the side effects that would take place as a result. Dr M. Teichmann considered that the developing nations in the region were likely to assume communist type governments of various shades, but that did not pose a significant threat to Australia, and that it was a development that Australian governments should accept and learn to live with. He also considered that Austraiian governments had grossly exaggerated the threat of Indonesia to this country and expressed the view that they never had been a threat and were not likely to be in the foreseeable future.
Dr Teichmann also expressed the view that the Government of Papua New Guinea was likely to dissolve into a series of secessionist movements, and the same could well occur with Indonesia during the next 10 years or so. In dealing with the various shades of threats submitted by the speakers, the following courses of action were suggested.
Dr K. Foley was critical of the lack of direction given by Australian governments during the post- World War II period as to what the country’s defence posture should be. He suggested that no clear and co-ordinated or rational direction had been given, either to the armed Services or to the defence bureaucracy, as to what its political or strategic policies were. Such lack of direction had very serious consequences in a wide variety of directions, not the least of which was the unco-ordinated manner in which the 3 armed Services still made their equipment procurements with little or no consideration of the overall political, strategic or tactical situation. Dr Foley also commented that the Defence Department, whilst probably relatively efficient, was simply not effective and, as a consequence, the defence planning as presently constituted was in disarray.
Dr Robert O’Neill was also highly critical of the procurement methods practised by the armed Services, largely for the same reasons submitted by Dr Foley. Dr 0 ‘Neill outlined the various options available to Australia in the type of defence structure most suited to its requirements, ranging from a nuclear deterrent to the use of highly trained irregulars who could be used to harass enemy occupation forces. However, he recommended the development of highly trained conventional forces possessing a high technology capacity, backed by effective territorial forces, as something that would have to be strongly considered. Dr O’Neill also supported the view that Australia should develop its own highly sophisticated intelligence services, particularly attuned to the South East Asian area, so that it did not have to rely on information from other countries’ services in this delicate area.
Rear-Admiral A. Synnot outlined the present structure of the Australian armed forces which he regarded as more than a match for any nations in our immediate vicinity. He considered the basic policy of core-force experts, who could be used to expand effective forces in time of threat or general mobilisation, as being best suited to present requirements.
Dr M. Teichmann strongly attacked the lack of confidence generated by successive Australian governments that had espoused the need to rely on big and powerful friends, and the incapacity of the nation to defend itself, and the resultant breakdown in the will of the people being prepared to defend their country. In more simple terms, this type of political cliche has tended to destroy any sense of patriotism in the Australian people- a sense that historically has been very strong.
In the light of the White Paper, I believe Australia is unlikely to repeat past mistakes or irrelevance. Our defence forces need to be specially geared for continental defence. Without going through all the improvements listed in the White Paper, I believe we are equipping ourselves in this vein. We simply need more of everything. However, it is self-reliance that holds the real key. With respect to our alliances, I do not wish to underplay their continuing importance even for a moment. The ANZUS Treaty will remain an essential element in Australia’s defence considerations, but one could not have understated the true position more subtly than the White Paper. I quote:
Both countries (the United States and New Zealand) are important to us; but it is prudent to remind ourselves that the United States has many diverse interests and obligations.
It is indeed prudent to remind ourselves of that and I would suggest that we do so often. By all means we should continue to draw on our allies, Great Britain and the United States, as important sources of intelligence and assessment of military doctrine and defence science and technology. We must continue to rely on them, too, for advanced weaponry and equipment. Yet it is in this area that I feel we should be looking to supply more and more of our own hard heavy equipment. Not even during World War II, with total mobilisation of national resources, was Australia able to approach a position in which supply for its forces came solely from within.
The White Paper recognises realistically that until a position is reached in which we can supply our defence needs from within self-reliance cannot be spoken of with confidence. Put simply, external aggression is not necessary if the object of conquest is being slowly but surely destroyed from within. It is unfashionable to talk of fifth columnists and the adverse effect that thenactivities are having on Australian security, both internal and external, yet this is perhaps the one deficiency of the White Paper- its failure to discuss those in our midst who for traitorous reasons or out of idealistic ideological allegiance to some new Utopian world order would gladly sell us down the drain for 2 bob. However, the call to increase our defence manufacturing, which I make, will bring them out of the woodwork. The victory of one over the other will decide whether Australia can be really self-reliant.
I have spoken previously in this House on defence, welcoming government initiative to improve the security of our nation. I have spoken now and will speak again on defence in future with more confidence. It is a confidence based on the White Paper which I believe presents a sound basis for this country’s defence planning. All that remains is for us to get on with the job
-This is the first debate on a White Paper on defence that this Parliament has had for very many years. For that reason I commend the Government for providing the opportunity for such a debate. I also commend the Government for the broad thrust of the White Paper. I pay a compliment to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) for arranging its organisation and for being there to listen to the debate tonight. It is a subject on which we in Australia have a very great need for much more public debate and for, I believe, a bipartisan approach to the subject. Speakers from both sides have adopted such a bipartisan approach. I am very sorry that the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) was guilty of one of the most cynical, hypocritical and childish performances I have ever heard in this House. It may be that in terms of Standing Orders he was not guilty of wilful and persistent disruption, but anyone who listened to this debate tonight and anyone who read the record of this debate will have no doubt that that is precisely what he has been wanting to do, what he had doing and what he has been doing throughout this year. (Quorum formed.) The quorum that has just been called for simply reinforced what I was saying before it. The honourable member for Chifley might want to act in this way and to portray his Party in this way, but I do not. I want to talk about some serious matters in relation to the White Paper. I want to mention two or three main issues in which I have a particular interest.
First, I think it is necessary to quote one or two very telling phrases from that White Paper because I think those phrases really determine how we ought to approach any debate and further thinking on the subject of defence. I can do no better than quote the first sentence of the White Paper:
The first responsibility of government is to provide the nation with security from armed attack and from the constraints on independent national decisions imposed by the threat of such attack.
The section of the White Paper which I think is very important- I shall come back to it later- is in the introduction and reads:
The national defence effort is expensive, and it counts for a substantial proportion of the Government’s annual expenditure. Notwithstanding the priority given by the Government to its efforts to reduce inflation and revive the national economy, it has undertaken to increase the Defence Vote over the next five years, the period the Defence Department uses for its forward programming.
The other extract from the White Paper that I should like to mention, and it is the only other extract to which I shall refer, comes from the section where the White Paper discusses the changing world in which we live. It makes what I think to be a very telling point when it states:
Change does not necessarily mean insecurity.
The statement that change does not necessarily mean insecurity is a statement with which I totally agree. What I think it means is that we need to have a very close review indeed of our basic thinking in relation to our defence posture and our defence requirements. It is this aspect that I want to concentrate on tonight very briefly because I think some important issues are involved.
Firstly, there is the issue of what sort of preparation time a nation such as Australia needs if we are under potential threat of attack or conflict in the period ahead. People make various estimates on this. One can read studies which say that the preparation time and the warning time is a period of 10 years. Not many people say it is more than that, but many do say it is 10 years; others say it is less. I have recently read a study analysing the preparation time, as distinct from the warning time- there is a difference between the two- of all the major conflicts in the world between 1939 and the mid-1970s. The study indicated that the preparation time involved for the countries concerned has been a maximum of about 2 years and 3 months. In fact, many countries have had a considerably shorter preparation time than that.
I think that turns us to a very significant factor, that is, Australia’s own domestic capacity to defend itself in times of potential danger. I personally have doubts as to how much a country such as Australia is likely to come under early threat. But any Parliament that basically ignores this point and the need for preparation is open to very considerable disputation. Because of Australia’s situation in the world we have to look very closely at our domestic defence capacity. Many people say that what we need to have is a vast array of defence industries. That is a simplistic view because, in my opinion, the greatest defence capacity that any nation can have is a sound and broadly based industrial structure. Too often we separate the economics of development and the development of our manufacturing sector from our defence requirements. I believe that the 2 aspects are very closely tied. What that in turn means to me is the need for a much greater co-ordination and a much better relationship between the defence sector of our economy, in terms of the Department of Defence, and private industry than we have had in recent years.
Like the honourable member for Chifley and others who have spoken in this debate, I am a member of a sub-committee of the Parliament which is looking at industrial backing for Australia’s defence requirement. I think we have all been impressed, as we have moved around Australia looking at this matter, at the lack of communication which appears to exist between the private sector of the economy and those within government who are involved in the defence industry. To my mind there is perhaps no more important issue that we need to focus upon, and I hope that the Government will do this in the period ahead. I know that it is closely looking at the matter.
There are many other aspects that I should like to speak on tonight. I know other speakers wish to participate in this debate, so I shall simply conclude by saying again that I congratulate the Government on die preparation of the White Paper. I believe that it forms a very useful basis for public debate, both within and outside this Parliament, on the whole subject of defence. I hope that it is the forerunner of a much greater debate in the period ahead.
-There is not a great deal of time left for this debate and I do believe that the issues of defence have been fairly well canvassed in this long and protracted discussion. I should like to remind the House that today is one day after the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour. A lot has been said already by honourable members on both sides of the House. There are a few old diggers on the other side of the House as well as on this side and, as one who is grateful for his whole skin, I think it is reasonable to thank the old diggers on the other side of the House. Although I have condemned some of them in the past, I know that some honourable members opposite have as much interest in defence as we have on this side of the House. We should like to see a bipartisan attitude adopted towards defence, but there are particular reasons why honourable members on the other side of the House cannot adopt a bipartisan attitude. These reasons go away back into the past, and honourable members opposite are all too familiar with them. I shall not canvass them now.
I emphasise to the House that everything that is said in this debate must tie up with what happened at Pearl Harbour all those years ago. The fact is that the democracies have never been ready to defend themselves. No matter what we try to do to convince the Austraiian people, and even to convince people within this House, this is still the case. I do not want to be the conscience of the peace, but I do not think that this debate has been treated with the seriousness that it deserves. It was interrupted several times. There is nothing more serious to which our attention should be directed than the matter of defence.
– You are a warmonger!
-Yet there are people on the other side of the House who always misrepresent our intentions by calling us warmongers, fascists and so on.
– That is right. You love war.
– If wanting to defend this country is being a fascist -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The honourable member for Burke must cease interjecting.
– He is still a warmonger.
-Order! I call upon the honourable member for Burke to withdraw that remark.
– Withdraw that he is a warmonger?
– Well, with due deference to you, Mr Speaker, I do withdraw the remark; but he is still a warmonger.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw the remark unqualifiedly.
– I withdraw unqualifiedly.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I am sorry to have provoked the honourable member. If I did, I did not intend to do so. Indeed, if there is going to be any more such conduct, Mr Speaker, may I crave your indulgence at this season and ask you not to worry about it because I do not worry about it at all.
-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 that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– If I have to accept the epithets from the other side of the House in order to speak about defending this country, I am pleased to do so. Somebody has to do it. If I am going to be a target, that is well and good. But somebody has to speak about the problem which this country is facing. We are still unready, even with the White Paper and all the things it has told us. I approve of all the things in the White Paper but we are still unready for any sort of an attack. We are surrounded by potential dangers. There is no question about the main line of danger to this country. There is no doubt at all that it comes from the communist countries. We cannot do a great deal, I suppose, to retaliate against a direct attack. But there is much that we can do to ensure that we are properly defended within. It seems to me that the responsibility of this House and of the people in it is to give the message to the Australian people. Somehow or other we have to get them out of the feeling of apathy which they have at the moment.
-Mr Speaker, I ask you not to worry about the interjection.
-Order! There is too much conversation in the chamber. I remind the House that this is a debate on the defence statement. The honourable member for Swan is speaking. He is entitled to be heard. I do not want to take disciplinary action but if I need to do so then I will do it.
– I am pessimistic about the whole situation surrounding us. I think my colleague from Tangney (Dr Richardson) alluded to a speech by Brigadier Serong, and I agree with a great deal of it. I do not think we are in the position where we can sit back and do nothing. We have a tremendous problem. We are alone in this part of the world. It is all very well for us to base our present defence ideas on being helped by allies. But I think, as the defence White Paper admits, we cannot really rely on anybody. We are on our own, probably for the first time. I think honourable members in the House have to develop a Churchillian attitude to matters of defence.
– What about Santamaria?
– I think Mr Santamaria is doing a wonderful job. If only honourable members opposite would listen to him they would be better informed.
-Order! I want to maintain order in the House. I will take care of the interjections if the honourable member will continue with his speech. If he replies to an interjection he encourages a continuation of interjections. I call upon him to continue his speech.
– We are on our own. We can no longer rely on anybody. That is the message which everybody in this House, including honourable members opposite, have to take to the Australian people. I am a great believer in going about and talking with the people in my electorate. There is no door at which I do not present the case for Australian defence. I can say without any equivocation that the people in my electorate want the country defended. There is no doubt about that. When I speak to people as individuals I find that they want the country defended. We have to take the message to them and keep on telling them just how much it will cost and what sacrifices they will have to make. If we do this I believe that we will lay a foundation for the yean of danger which we will face in the terribly alone situation in this part of the world.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Chilean Refugees-Identity Cards- Aircraft Accident- Aids for the Deaf -Newspaper Report
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise this evening to discuss the plight of Chilean refugees who face deportation at the hands of this Government. On 18 November the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in response to a question which I placed on the notice paper some months ago stated that deportation orders had been signed against 30 Chileans who were illegally resident in Australia and that other cases were under consideration. He further stated that there was no evidence to suggest that those persons would be subject to persecution if they were returned to Chile. The Minister must live in some sort of fairyland and perhaps to the right of that. What he proposes is the equivalent of sending Jews to Germany in 1940. The members of the Chilean regime will go down in the annals of history as one of the most vicious cliques of people to ever hold power anywhere in the world at any time. If the Minister or anyone in the House is in any doubt about that they have only to browse through the many totally authoritative reports prepared by Amnesty International. Information made available in August 1976 suggests that approximately 3800 political prisoners currently are held in detention in Chile. This figure includes only those who can be accounted for. It does not include the number of prisoners who have disappeared since the date of their detention. Between 1500 and 2000 prisoners have disappeared since the military coup on 11 September 1973. More than 1000 persons have been detained at some time or another for political reasons.
People continue to disappear and this massive persecution affects a wide spectrum of political groups as well as large numbers of other opponents of the government such as lawyers and social workers who are involved in assisting political prisoners and their families. The Chilean secret police- the DINA- has refined torture and totalitarian control to a degree of which Goebbels would have been envious. Yet this regime which is one of the most inhuman the world has ever seen even has some supporters in this House. One honourable member made a speech protecting the regime. He rejected the concept that it was an inhuman regime. I direct his attention to the absolute matters of fact which are available. I am sure other speakers will support me in this. Mr Abel- I cannot draw to mind his constituency- is the man who made the speech.
– The honourable member for Evans.
– For example, on 16 September the honourable member for Evans- that is his constituency- made an impassioned speech in which he defended this monstrous government because, after all, it is anti-communist. If you wear a pair of red underpants around the place honourable members are looking sideways at you. The fact that the Marxist orientated government was democratically elected whereas the present group of ruling thugs was not, does not concern him or any of the sabre-rattling individuals on that side of the House.
– Name them.
-I have named the individual-the honourable member for Evans. He is not here this evening, but he is a sabre rattler and a fascist, like the rest of them.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw it. Part of his defence of these butchers consists of the claim that the Chilean economy is now recovering. In fact the Chilean Government, under the guidance of the University of Chicago, engaged Mr Friedman to lead it into salvation from its economic situation. It is not my intention to launch into a major discussion of the evils of the current Chilean Government’s economic policies. What I want to do is to impress upon the Minister -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-. . . that the sheer humanitarian quality of listening to representations ought to be considered in its right perspective -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat.
-. . . and those considerations ought to be dealt with on the basis of the answer which he gave to me.
-Order! I warn the honourable member. If he insists on defying the Chair in the future I will forthwith warn him and, if necessary, name him.
-That will be up to you, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is showing discourtesy to the Chair. If he continues to do so, there is only one solution, and that is to name him.
– I have been disturbed in recent weeks as I have noticed from newspaper reports that some State governments are considering the introduction of identity cards. The application of ID cards can go far and wide. I want to convey to the House some of the uses to which various governments throughout the world require ID cards to be put. They may be required for the simple act of voting. On many occasions they are required by police. They may be required for social security or tax purposes. In one country a person needs an ID card even to go to school. They may be required for travelling in a country or for internal security purposes. I think it is in Laos that they are required for obtaining government rations. ID cards may be required for census purposes and for a host of other reasons.
Some have been introduced simply for the purposes of voting, to identify a voter at the poll, ut they have been developed within those countries as a general identification card. Some countries even require a person’s fingerprints, as well as his photograph, to be set out clearly on the card. In some cases there is the likelihood of arrest and prosecution if a person fails to carry his ID card at all times. In the United States of America one is not required by law to carry an ID card at all times, but in that country I, perhaps like a number of other members in this chamber, have been called upon to produce an ID card and have even been refused service because of my inability to identify myself properly.
– What about your gold pass?
-What a silly interjection! I ask permission of the Opposition member at the table to have incorporated in Hansard a paper prepared for me by the Legislative Reference Service of the Parliamentary Library. The incorporation has been cleared by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). I did not know that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) would be at the table.
-Is leave granted?
– I have not seen the document.
– It truly has been cleared.
– I will ask the honourable member for Griffith to continue speaking.
-While the honourable member for Melbourne examines that complex document, I will mention that in many instances it traces the history of the initial introduction of ID cards, seemingly for innocent purposes, but their extension later to become as indelible upon a nation’s lifestyle and as permanent as a number tattooed upon the citizen’s hand. The ills of this nation are of an economic nature and not of internal subversion.
In the moments that remain to me I make a plea to all honourable members of this chamber to ensure that they resist any attempt, whether it be by a State government or by a Federal government, to introduce identity cards. When the day arrives that each and every Australian has to carry an ID card this nation certainly will have lost a lot. I assure you, Mr Speaker, that I have been interested in what is broadly described as civil liberties ever since I arrived in this place, and after10 years my determination to ensure that those liberties are preserved is in no way diminished.
– Order! The honourable member for Griffith asked for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard.
– Leave is granted.
-There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Department of the Parliamentary Library
Question: All information available on any countries where identification cards are required to be carried. What are their uses? In which situations are they demanded?
Reply: The only way that this information could be obtained was to ring each individual embassy. However, because of the scope of this job, it was decided to attempt only a partial survey by ringing those embassies located in Canberra. The information that was subsequently obtained varied greatly in detail. Some embassies were more cooperative than others.
The following embassies were contacted and those that require their citizens to have some sort of identity card are indicated by an asterisk:
*ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT: Compulsory for all citizens over the age of seventeen. Used for banks, places of business etc.
*ARGENTINA: has a number of identity cards. There is a national identification card which is used for general purposes of identification, to vote and for military purposes. There is also an identification card which is required by the police. This has a person’s personal particulars. Local police also demand identification card.
BURMA: National registration card.
CANADA: Sincard. A social security card for everyone subject to the social security legislation. It is therefore not universal. There is a separate identity card for the armed forces.
*CHILE: Required for tax purposes, and in order to vote, to work ana to go to school.
*CHINA: Identity cards are issued by the unit of a person ‘s work. It is required for travelling within China.
DENMARK: Every *person is issued with a card bearing their social security number.
*FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY: Identity card for internal security purposes.
*GHANA: At present only those living in the border areas are required to have identity cards. Eventually they will be universal.
*IRAN: Everyone is required to carry an identification card, the information on which is culled from a person’s birth certificate.
*ISRAEL: Identification cards are used both for internal security reasons and to obtain social security benefits. At birth everyone is issued with a registration number and, from the age of sixteen, the identification cards have to be carried at all times.
*ITALY: Required to be carried but a person is not penalised if he does not have it on him.
*REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Used both to obtain social security benefits and for internal security purposes.
*LAOS: Required to be carried. Used mainly to obtain government rations each month. It is also used for census purposes.
*LEBANON: Has to be carried at all times. If not carrying one a person is liable to be arrested and prosecuted.
*MALAYSIA: Required to be carried at all times. Used for general identification purposes and as an internal security measure.
*MALTA: Used to obtain social security benefits and to vote.
*MEXICO: An electoral card only. Has a person’s fingerprint on it. Not compulsory nor universal.
*PAKISTAN: Required to be carried at all times.
*PERU: Three types of card: (i) military for men and women over eighteen years of age. (ii) electoraloriginally used only for electoral purposes but now used as a general identification card. Has to be carried at all times. (iii) taxation card
*PHILIPPINES: A number of identification cards: (i) Voters’ ID card; (ii) Students ID card for those that are not old enough to vote; and (iii) ID card for those that do not possess citizenship.
*POLAND: Compulsory. Similar to a passport in that it is used for travel within East European countries.
*PORTUGAL: Used for general identification purposes. It does not have to be carried at all times. Requires a fingerprint and a photograph.
*ROMANIA: Must be carried at all times. Contains all personal details plus a number.
*RUSSIA: Used as an internal passport.
*SINGAPORE: Each citizen has an identification card for official reference purposes. Has the same number as that on a person ‘s passport.
*SOUTH AFRICA: Required to be carried at all times. Different cards are issued to identify the different racial groupings and to control the movements of non-whites.
*SPAIN: Identity card with name, registration number, fingerprint and photograph is compulsory and required to be carried at all times.
*SRI LANKA: Each person is issued with an identity card bearing a registration number. It is used for official transactions and for general purposes of identificaton. It is not compulsory to carry the cards.
*SWITZERLAND: Cards are issued and, although they are not compulsory, it is advisable to carry them. They contain only that personal information necessary to identify a person. In some cases they can be used for travel instead of a passport, e.g. for travelling to Germany.
*THAILAND: Have to be carried at all times. Two types: (i) identity card issued for government employees; (ii) identity card for the remainder of the population.
*TURKEY: Each person is issued with a birth certificate, (actually a booklet), at birth. Further information is added as required, e.g. marital status. It should be carried at all times.
*UNITED STATES: Everyone who works is issued with a social security card which is used to register social security benefit accreditations. They are not required to be carried at all times.
*VIETNAM: In May 1975 identity cards were issued to citizens to identify them as to their position in the previous Government. Information is not available as to the present situation. However, having spoken to a representative from our Foreign Affairs Research Group, it is likely that they are still in existence.
*YUGOSLAVIA: Compulsory at all times. Used for citizenship identification purposes.
– I would like to compliment the Legislative Reference Service on the excellent job it did in the preparation of the document which has been incorporated.
– I wish to raise the question of the need for a full judicial public inquiry into the accident investigation report dealing with the crash of the Connair DH114 Heron aircraft, registered number VH-CLS, which crashed adjacent to the Cairns Airport in Queensland on 23 October 1975. On 6 December I directed a question to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and sought from him an assurance that a full judicial inquiry would be held. I received a very evasive answer from the Minister who said that the matter would be investigated, that it was being examined and that he would advise me. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that the report was prepared in August 1976. That is the date that appears on the report. From then until 6 December 1976, surely the Minister had sufficient time to receive advice as to whether a full public inquiry should be held into this incident.
It occurred during my time as Minister for Transport, and at that time I indicated to the Department that when the inquiry by the air safety branch had been concluded there would be a full public inquiry into it, because the idea of just the Department holding an inquiry and finding out as best it can what was the cause of the accident, and then putting the report into a pigeon hole somewhere, is just not good enough. Some years ago there was a crash of an Ansett Airlines of Australia Viscount aircraft at Port Hedland in which a considerable number of people lost their lives. No inquiry was held. Numerous people wrote to me when I was the shadow Minister for Transport, complaining that no inquiry had been held and wanting to know the circumstances that brought about the deaths of their daughters and sons. Yet the Government of that day was not prepared to go on with it. When my turn came to make decisions on it I said that I believed that an inquiry should be held.
A number of small matters in the report are worth drawing to the attention of honourable members. If they want to go ahead and read the report, they can do so. First and foremost, the pilot was a man with some 3000 hours experience. He had made 42 flights from Mount Isa to Cairns, 37 of them at night time. He had made 10 instrument landing system approaches, but not one ILS approach, as far as I could make out from the report, had been made in weather con.ditins similar to those prevailing on that particular night, when there was a bad thunderstorm, torrential rain in some parts, heavy rain in some parts and light rain in other parts. The pilot officer who was with him was not qualified to fly the aircraft in question. All that he was able to do was give radio communication assistance. Eight passengers and 3 crew lost their lives. Three air traffic controllers were rostered for the time that the aircraft was scheduled to land at Cairns. Yet two of them had been given permission to leave the control tower. Only one air traffic controller was left in charge of the airport. Page 2 1 of the report reads:
Nevertheless, it is considered that greater use of meteorological surveillance radar facilities should have been made by the air traffic control system.
There was a heavy storm. If honourable members look at the map displaying the flight path of the aircraft they will see that at no stage was the aeroplane ever on the correct line of approach and at no stage was it in line with the runway.
-I do not know. That is why I want a full public inquiry. The honourable member for La Trobe should bear in mind that this report gives no indication whatever why at no stage was the aircraft on line with the instrument landing system. If the honourable member had a look at this map he would see that it is obvious that the pilot was trying to find the ILS to as to come in on the correct approach. In these circumstances there is a need for a full public inquiry.
– I would like to speak tonight about a matter that has been brought to my attention by a number of my constituents. It concerns the possible introduction by this Government of special telephone services for use by deaf people. I refer to the Magsat telephone typewriter which is manufactured by the Magsat Corporation. I think the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) mentioned this matter during the Estimates debate a couple of months ago. I commend him for that. I often get the feeling that the deaf people are not as well catered for by governments as are other handicapped people. This is partly due to the nature of their disability. For a start, because of their affliction, the majority of the prelinqually deaf have to work in unskilled employment and therefore do not have normal earning capacity. Also because the deaf are employable they do not receive any special benefits or concessions from the Department of Social Security. They do not individually possess the capacity to meet the costs of financing developments, such as these communication devices, which would simplify and improve life for the deaf.
Briefly, the devices I refer to are telephones which operate on the teleprinter principle. They are small, lightweight and portable. When the telephone is connected a display light glows informing the user that the line is open and ready for his call. If the person being called is deaf his telephone ringing indicator system will activate a flashing light. The device can also attract a hearing person in the normal way. Therefore it can be used for deaf people to communicate with members of their family, their relatives and their friends who do not suffer from this affliction. Once this has been done the 2 parties can type to each other and the letters will be displayed simultaneously on both screens. This to my mind is a magnificent technological advance designed for the sole purpose of helping partially to overcome the difficult communication problem of deaf people. In my representations to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) I was pleased to learn that several of the devices which can be used in this regard are being obtained by Telecom Australia for evaluation to assess their suitability for use within the Austraiian telephone network.
I am also informed that some of these types of equipment are fairly costly. I certainly understand that. They represent very sophisticated electronic advances. The Minister has informed me that the Australian Telecommunications Commission intends approaching the various social welfare departments- the Department of Social Security, the Department of Health and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs- to investigate whether or not they will be prepared to assist possible users financially by subsidising purchases or rentals of these devices. I submit that these people are just as entitled, and probably much more entitled, and deserving of tele- phone services at a cost no greater than that borne by other individuals in society for the installation and renting costs of telephones.
The Government has a very substantial obligation to provide these services to these handicapped people. If capital costs are very substantial perhaps a pilot scheme could be introduced linking such telephones to emergency services such as hospitals, police, fire brigades, and the ambulance services. This could subsequently be extended, if it is possible financially, to include a communication network between all deaf people and between them and their families, relatives and friends. If costs are such as to make the Government equivocate on introducing such a scheme I suggest that it lay faith in the well deserved reputation the Australian public has of raising money for charitable purposes. I emphasise that this is essentially a government responsibility. I ask the Minister to give this project top priority. It would not only greatly benefit the 8000 prelinqually deaf people in Australia- I think there are more than 400 in Western Australiabut also it would benefit those people who have sustained a severe hearing loss later in life and who cannot use the normal telephone services. I urge the Minister, the Government and this Parliament to take a compassionate view in this matter.
-On 17 November I made a strong speech in which I attacked a member of the Press, a Mr Trevor Kavanagh, for what I thought at the time to be a grossly misrepresentative article. I do not wish to go into the details of the matter. The article was about uranium. I had been given misinformation in a telephone call from Adelaide in regard to the article. The headline in the article concerned stated that the Caucus had made a decision regarding uranium. It turned out that the person who telephoned me gave me misinformation. It was the shadow Cabinet which made the decision regarding uranium. It was later changed by the Caucus. The reason I raise this matter is that Mr Kavanagh on numerous occasions has written a large number of very distorted articles which are grossly untrue and which are marked by beatups
First of all, let me say that I apologise to Mr Kavanagh for my speech on his article. I have never yet attacked a person in this House without reason. However, Mr Kavanagh wrote a letter to me. It was a private letter. He criticised me in quite strong terms and called me a craven coward or something to that effect. I assure this House that whenever I have been wrong I apologise, and I apologise in this case. Let me say however that I do not withdraw my remarks about
Mr Kavanagh as a journalist. I was so incensed by him because of a series of articles that were grossly distorted and in many cases untrue. Early on 22 December 1975 1 was moved by one of the most dishonest articles that I have ever seen. It was headlined: ‘Labor Delays Decision on Leadership*. I was so moved that I sent a telegram to Mr Kavanagh telling him what I thought of his journalism. I would like to go through the article and pick out all the errors. It reads:
The meeting became extremely heated as members of the shattered Labor Party levelled abuse and criticism at some leading figures.
This did not occur. It is untrue. The article went on:
It is understood Mr Whitlam himself came in for considerable criticism for suggesting he should stay as leader only until Mr Bob Hawke, the President of the ACTU, can enter Parliament and take over.
That did not occur. There was no criticism of Mr Whitlam. The next section reads:
Mr Whitlam ‘s supporters hit back with rebukes against Dr Cairns and Mr Cameron, the 2 sacked Ministers who criticised Mr Whitlam ‘s leadership after the election debacle.
That did not happen. Neither Minister was attacked or criticised at that meeting. The article continued:
Dr Cairns was rebuked for stating that Mr Whitlam ‘s leadership had been ‘elitist’.
Dr Cairns did not say that, nor was he rebuked in any way. This is typical of the articles which have appeared written by Mr Kavanagh. I said previously that he was a fool or a har. I said that anyone who wrote an article which was totally fictional and imaginary had to be either a fool or a liar. I could go through the article and pick out more inaccuracies. Though I apologise profusely to Mr Kavanagh for the error I made before I do not withdraw by one iota my criticisms of his journalistic standards.
-It being 11 o’clock, the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is not uncommon for a commentator in legal matters to express disagreement with a decision of a court, or with the reasons for a decision. It is not appropriate for the AttorneyGeneral to express an opinion, in an answer to a Parliamentary question, on the legal merits of the particular decision of the High Court.
Having regard to the decision of the High Court in the case referred to, it must be taken that, as a matter of law, section 78 of the Judiciary Act does not confer on an applicant for special leave to appeal to the High Court a right to be present personally in the Court and to argue his case on the application for special leave. Whether section 78 should be amended in any respect is a matter that will be considered by the Judiciary Act Review Committee now examining the Judiciary Act and the Committee will report to me on this matter in due course.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Certain operational functions of the Department must remain fully staffed at all times. Conversely some administrative support tasks and lower-priority research or developmental projects can sometimes be deferred or abandoned without short term disruption to important functions.
The test of essentiality applied to determine the need for re-staffing of any vacantposition is largely a judgment by senior officers of my Department, taking into account the comparative merits of other existing vacancies and the current status of the Departmental staff level against the approved staff ceiling. Generally, decisions on re-staffing of vacancies are based on assessment of the likely consequences should the position remain vacant.
Report on Law and Poverty in Australia (Question No. 1397)
asked the Attorney-General upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Recommendations involving human rights especially the rights to privacy and individual freedoms are within my responsibility and the Government is vigorously pursuing a policy of protection of individual rights and freedoms so far as it has power to do so.
The Report contains many important recommendations on legal aid. I have been conducting a review of legal aid in Australia and the Government is co-operating with the States in the establishment of Legal Aid Commissions. Draft legislation establishing Legal Aid Commissions in the Territories is currently under consideration.
In considering the impact of the criminal law on poor people, consistently with the recommendations of the Commission, the vagrancy laws in the Northern Territory have been repealed and a Report recommending their repeal in the Australian Capital Territory is before the Legislative Assembly.
The Commission pointed out that further research is needed on the representation of poor people throughout the criminal justice system. The Australian Institute of Criminology is an appropriate body to carry out this type of research and I shall take up this question with the Director of the Institute at an early date.
In summary, I understand that there are no recommendations of the Sackville Report for which I have primary responsibility that are not the subject of proposals for implementation or receiving consideration.
With regard to the recommendations that are the responsibility of other Ministers I am aware that full consideration is being given to the action that should be taken. I understand that an announcement will be made at an appropriate time.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) The population of the area (approximately 17 500) is served by the Melba Health Centre and private practitioners.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What were the titles of these publications, and what was their country of origin.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Is any review likely of the legislation relating to wills in the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory by introducing legislation relating to formal validity of wills and adoption of the international will.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Legislation relating to the formal validity of wills already exists under the Wills Ordinance 1968 of the Australian Capital Territory and the Wills Ordinance 1938 of the Northern Territory. So far as my Department is aware no action is currently being taken to review this legislation and no action has yet been taken to implement the Convention Providing a Uniform Law on the Form of an International Will. I would propose to discuss the implementation of this Convention in due course with the State Attorneys-General.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
Is any review of the law relating to personal property likely insofar as it applies in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
So far as my Department is aware no general review of the laws relating to personal property in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory is presently contemplated. The Australian Capital Territory Law Reform Commission has recently reported on a reference concerning a review of the laws relating to real and personal property in the Australian Capital Territory in the context of reform of the law in that Territory relating to conveyancing. The reference to personal property was included to cover leasehold title to land. Particular aspects of personal property are also under consideration in relation to the model Credit Bills in the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
Procedure in Courts of Petty Sessions (Question No. 1436)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
When are the recommendations of the A.C.T. Law Reform Commission on procedure in Courts of Petty Sessions likely to be implemented.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Report on the Civil Procedure of the Court of Petty Sessions presented by the A.C.T. Law Reform Commission in September 1972 was made in response to the following reference-
The review of the civil procedure of the Court of Petty Sessions with a view to recommending amendments that would be desirable if the present monetary limit in the Court’s civil jurisdiction is increased by several thousand dollars’.
The Law Reform Commission made recommendations as to the civil procedure in the Court of Petty Sessions appropriate for claims up to $5,000. The Commission also recommended the establishment of a separate procedure for small claims. This latter recommendation was implemented by the Small Claims Ordinance 1974.
No substantial increase in the civil jurisdiction of the Court of Petty Sessions has been made. It is now proposed to increase the limit of civil jurisdiction of the Court from $ 1 ,000 to $2,500. 1 am also considering the question of a new lower court structure for the Australian Capital Territory. A revision of the rules of civil procedure based on the Report of the A.C.T. Law Reform Commission will be considered in the context of these proposals.
Expenditure by Overseas Visitors in Australia (Question No. 1469)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What progress has been made with the review of quarantine procedures and penalties for breaches of regulations which he announced in August 1976.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A review of Australian quarantine arrangements has been completed and is currently under consideration.
Quarantine personnel requirements and resources throughout Australia are being reviewed as a priority task in my Department.
All penalties in relation to bleaches of human, animal and plant quarantine requirements are currently being examined. Specific proposals to increase these penalties to more realistic levels will be brought forward for my consideration as soon as possible. In the meantime all quarantine personnel have been instructed to rigorously enforce quarantine requirements and to proceed with prosecution action in the event of a breach after an initial warning.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Since 1972 the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) an advisory body to States and Territories, has made a series of recommendations on PCBs relating to their usage, waste disposal, their existence in certain microscope immersion oils used in laboratories, precautions necessary when used in totally enclosed systems, and poisons scheduling limitations.
The Australian Environment Council has also expressed concern over these substances and has made several recommendations regarding importation and disposal of PCBs.
PCBs are therefore presently controlled at the point of entry, and through adoption of NH&MRC recommendations by State legislation. In the longer term they will largely cease to be available as the major manufacturer and distributor, the U.S.A., phases out their manufacture.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Overseas Visitor Arrivals in Australia (Question No. 1462)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
-The Minister for Industry and Commerce has provided the following answers to the honourable member’s questions:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable member to the answer provided to Question No. 1284 which appeared in Hansard of ‘2 December on page 32 14.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Every effort has been made by the Commonwealth Government and by Australian officials to expedite processing of migrant applications by people from the Lebanon. Arrangements have been made with the Cypriot authorities to enable an orderly flow of Lebanese seeking entry to
Australia to proceed to Cyprus so that they can be interviewed there by a special task force of experienced Australian officers which is operating in Nicosia.
Lebanese who proceed from Lebanon to other Australian posts in the area have their applications for entry to Australia dealt with at those posts. This has been the only practicable procedure because of the difficult conditions in Lebanon in recent times.
The figures I have given indicate a substantial and increasing movement of Lebanese to Australia. Preliminary figures for October show arrival of 767 Lebanese in that month.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) This relates to a basic part of the tax system, on which the Asprey Taxation Review Committee has made recommendations. The suggestions of the Australian Taxpayers’ Association will be considered when the Government examines the Asprey recommendations.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australia, which sees as one advantage of the International Fund for Agricultural Development the attraction of resources from non-traditional donors, was a co-sponsor of World Food Conference Resolution XIII which proposed the establishment of the Fund and was active in the negotiation of the Agreement whose signature by participating countries will make the Fund operational.
In common with a number of other participants, Australia has had doubts regarding the usefulness of the Consultative Group on Food Production and Investment in Developing Countries (CGFPI) but agreed at the Third Meeting of the Group, held in Manila in September 1976, that it should continue to function for a further year to enable a better assessment of its role and potential to be made.
Australia has consistently supported UNDP’s central coordinating and planning rofe within the UN system.
It is the largest multilateral source of technical assistance in the world operating in 147 developing countries and territories. In addition, UNDP is now responsible for coordinating the United Nations multilateral technical assistance program. It also provides important planning and advising services to developing countries which often have not the manpower or expertise to undertake these functions.
As one aspect of this, FAO collaborates with the World Food Council Secretariat in the preparation of background material and reports for use at meetings of the Council.
In regard to the co-ordinating of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, it is intended that it will channel resources through existing institutions, mainly for purposes directed to increasing food production in developing countries. It is expected that FAO, together with other international and regional multilateral organisations, will have a not insignificant role in the appraisal and execution of projects financed by the Fund.
FAO, the IBRD and UNDP are the co-sponsors of CGFPI and share equally the costs of its small secretariat. The three sponsoring bodies are represented at meetings of the Group and prepare studies and information papers on request.
FAO, as already indicated, is an executing agency for UNDP and as such FAO is accountable to UNDP in relation to those projects funded by the latter.
However, it is a constant consideration of governments, including the Australian Government, to ensure that overlapping and duplication of functions by bodies within the UN System are minimised. Within the System there is machinery for inter-organisation consultation and coordination. As a means of seeking maximum efficiency under changed and still changing conditions, the whole framework within which the economic and social activities of the UN System are carried out is currently under review.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
With reference to his statement of 6 November 1976, how does he expect the economic recovery to bring about a greater private investment which the Government claims is necessary for economic growth.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I assume that the honourable member’s question refers to the monetary measures announced on 7 November.
These measures, and those taken subsequently, will contribute to the financing of the Budget deficit in a noninflationary manner and so contribute to the over-riding objective of controlling inflation. Unless inflation is moderated sustainable economic recovery will not take place. Unless such an environment is established private investment cannot flourish.
International Covenant on Civil Rights (Question No. 1589)
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
Is he able to say which bodies, companies or individuals comprise the membership of the Australia-Indonesia Business Co-operation Committee.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No. The Australia-Indonesia Business Co-operation Committee has advised that it is the policy of the Committee that information regarding bodies, companies or individuals which comprise the membership of the A.I.B.C.C. is not publicly divulged. The Committee nas also advised that this decision was taken for the purpose of maintaining commercial and corporate confidentiality.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2 ) and (4). A group of officials led by a senior officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs departed on 22 November for informal discussions on nuclear safeguards matters with government officials and with international organisations in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, the United States and Japan. The discussions will be concerned with international measures which are applied to nuclear material supplied for peaceful purposes to verify its non-diversion to nonpeaceful or explosive uses. The matters to be discussed will encompass the preliminary thinking of the government in this area as outlined to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, the measures proposed in the first report of that inquiry and recent international developments both in this field and in relation to other initiatives for the strengthening of the international non-proliferation regime.
asked the Minister for Overseas Trade, upon notice:
What restrictions against the importation of Australian cheese are presently in force, or threatened, in those countries upon which Australia has imposed anti-foot and mouth disease restrictions on the importation of certain varieties of cheese.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Available information on measures which could restrict the importation of Australian cheese in countries affected by Australia’s anti-foot and mouth measures relating to cheese is set out in the attached table.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 December 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761208_reps_30_hor102/>.