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 as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. 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 Abel, Mr Connolly, Mr Connor, Mr Dobie, Mr Graham and Mr Charles Jones.
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 Keating, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Morris and Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that; the Budget will increase unemployment to unprecedented and crisis proportions at a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians, especially school-leavers, young workers and apprentices, are without work; the Budget completes the dismantling of Medibank as a simple, effective universal health insurance scheme, providing basic coverage for the total community; the Budget, by its heavy cuts in urban and transport programs, will worsen the quality of life available to many Australians; the Budget will compel state governments to reduce their services and increase charges; the Budget reduces spending on Aboriginal affairs by 30 per cent and returns expenditure on Aborigines to pre- 1972 days; the Budget seriously disadvantages migrant groups, most notably in employment and health, and leaves room for concern over the future of ethnic radio; the Budget, despite the government’s earlier rhetoric about defence threats to Australia, continues to hold the size of the armed services at present levels; and the Budget, despite all the above, still cannot be expected to reduce Australia’s annual inflation rate below twelve percent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the 1976 Budget be redrafted to provide for economic recovery within the guidelines laid down by the Australian Labor Government’s 1973 Budget.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr Charles Jones and Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the mean’s test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the mean’s test on all Aged Pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a: ‘Right and not a Charity’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth, that they are deeply concerned with the low standard of the present Hunganan language program broadcast on radio station 2EA.
On behalf of the wide cross section of thousands of Australians of Hungarian origin, who understand the Hungarian language and have a knowledge of the more than a thousand years old Hungarian culture, and have good taste, protest in this way as a last resort, because all our efforts to date for a fundamental change have been in vain.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that this House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should help the Hungarian speaking community to regain confidence in the democratically elected House of Representatives known for its conscientious and wise judgement in restoring peace and faith in the democratic principles,which unfortunately are missing from present management set up of the Ethnic Radio broadcasters. The petitioners aim is to help with advice, and not to contol the broadcasting, and for this we would very much appreciate the opportunity for a small selected delegation to meet the Ministers concerned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The 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. byMrCarige.
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 fairshare 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 Carige.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1 976 does not satisfy the Aboriginal needs for land in the Northern Territory. Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should:
Amend the Bill to ensure:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connor.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That residents of the suburb of Fraser, in the Australian Capital Territory are deeply concerned at the lack of adequate educational facilities to be made available to our primary school aged children.
That plans to remove children daily to other suburbs will cause overcrowding, will force parents to private transport or pay bus levies, and will make a mockery of the frequently quoted A.C.T. Schools Authority policy that primary school students should have access to a school within reasonable walking distance of their homes.
That population trends in Fraser and adjoining suburbs more than adequately prove the need for a separate primary school in each of these suburbs.
That a primary school in the suburb would provide an important focus for an area which currently lacks any identity as a community.
That plans to distribute Fraser students between two to four different schools in adjoining areas may well frustrate the social development of many of these young persons, forcing them into a situation where they must relate to two different sets of peers.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will take urgent steps to revise current plans for the education of our children with a view to the provision of a government primary school in Fraser.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To the Speaker and the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that many Australians are concerned at the recent outbreak of racial riots and killings in South Africa.
We your petitioners do therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hamer.
Residential Development in the Australian Capital Territory
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should bear in mind that:
N.B. In addition, even if available, the existing sports fields are not safely accessible. It is far too dangerous for small children and older children with bicycles etc. to cross the four-lane Yamba Drive or busy Kitchener Street with its already dangerous crossing to the Garran Primary School.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHaslem.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Canberra, ACT. respectfully showeth that provision should be made in the Wireless Telegraphy Act for children to be able to use walkie talkies.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act to allow for the use of citizen’s band radio by children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Haslem.
United Nations Secretariat for the Social and Economic Development Council
To the Honourable 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 deeply concerned by your lack of support for the nomination of Elizabeth Reid to the United Nations Secretariat for the Social and Economic Development Council.
We believe that during Ms Reid’s tenure as Women’s Advisor she gained world-wide support and recognition for Australia’s efforts to represent the needs and interests of all women. Her direction and drive at the United Nations Convention for International Women’s Year in Mexico City helped to unite a divided assembly and lay the groundwork for continued international co-operation towards a goal of full equality for all peoples of the world. Her international reputation is secure.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will decide in favour of wholehearted support for Ms Reid’s nomination, thereby ensuring that the high quality of Australian representatives to the United Nations shall be maintained and augmented.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
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 area, 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 N.S.W. State Government, Local Governments and the community of this region, for the establishment and maintenance of the Hunter Symphony Orchestra, consisting initially of 40 players, located in Newcastle and serving the cultural needs of the 500 000 inhabitants of the region, in accordance with the proposal and budget submitted to the Industries Assistance Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House if 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 main- t ains the confidence of the House of Respresentatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Danny Sankey of 18 Village Lower Road, Vaucluse in the State of New South Wales, Solicitor, respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioner therefore humbly prays that your honourable House will:
And your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrEllicott.
-Will the Minis ter for Primary Industry inform the House officially before it rises the details of the new scheme of quota entitlements for the entry of meat into United States market which was recommended to him by the Australian Meat Board and the exporters of meat more than 2 weeks ago? Will he adhere to his publicly stated views about the independence of the Meat Board and non-interference in its recommendations? Against the background of a strongly rising sellers’ market and even better prospects in the future, does he think it is in the interests of the cattlemen who are struggling to survive that they should be compelled to sell to the less remunerative markets, with less remunerative returns to the producers themselves? In a somewhat humorous vein, would the Minister entertain such a quaint idea if he were selling meat himself?
-I think all honourable members would be interested to know that as a result of the announcement of the present scheme of diversification- that is the scheme presently operating- the prices for meat paid in Japan rose by 10c per lb. So, contrary to the general indication of the right honourable gentleman’s question, it would seem that the change in diversification in fact has provided a direct benefit to producers. I think it is of interest that following devaluation and following the increasing demand in what are known as the opportunity markets, there has been a significant improvement in prices paid for Australian cattle and for Australian meat generally- not only beef but also mutton. I would hope that the benefit of those prices are passed back to the cattle producer and to the Australian livestock producer. I am sure that is a wish which the right honourable gentle’ man would share. One week ago- not 2 weeks ago as the right honourable gentleman suggested- I received advice from the Australian Meat Board that it had accepted that some modifications should be made to the presently accepted diversification plan. Since then there have been dramatic changes in the world market place.
In answer to a question yesterday by the honourable member for Capricornia, I mentioned the benefit that we could see flowing from orders from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I also mentioned yesterday, as the right honourable gentleman will recall, the circumstances of discussions in the United States which are critical to the resolution of meat opportunities for that market- which is what diversification is all about- in 1977. In answer to a question by the honourable member for Wilmot yesterday I mentioned with respect to the disadvantaged markets and particularly exporters in Tasmania, that there had been an acceptance that a change needs to be made in diversification arrangements. However, because of changing circumstances, I am most anxious that no announcement be made of changes in diversification which may need further alteration within the course of the next week or so.
As a result of advice from the Meat Board and from my advisers, I am waiting until we can be sure that whatever diversification entitlement is to apply for the American market in 1977 it should be a final arrangement. As soon as I am advised that it can be a final arrangement, I will make a public statement. I appreciate the right honourable gentleman’s concern. Many honourable members in this House have been concerned for a long time that greater returns could be paid to Australian livestock producers. I trust that that will be possible as a result of whatever diversification regime is finally implemented. I can assure the right honourable gentleman that in any event there is no intervention, nor will there be, in the independence of the Australian Meat Board.
-Has the Treasurer noted the report from the latest edition of the London Economist to the effect that Australia’s devaluation was not justified on balance of payments grounds, will worsen a dangerously unmanageable inflation rate and could spark off a rash of competitive devaluations and/or trade restrictions by our trading partners? Have these criticisms by a conservative economic journal of world repute caused him to doubt the wisdom of indulging in such an enormous devaluation? If not, can he say whether the prospect of retaliatory action by our trading partners is one that he views with equanimity?
– I certainly have noted the views reported in the London Economist. The Government rejects those views and the grounds on which they were based. I can report to the honourable gentleman that my discussions yesterday with international money market people reflect very much the fact that the decision which was taken to devalue at the rate we announced at the time has been widely recognised abroad as appropriate to Australia’s economic circumstances and has been a major factor in dispelling the uncertainty which existed in the months before the decision was taken.
-The honourable member for Gellibrand claims that that is nonsense. Let the honourable gentleman look at judgments abroad as to the soundness of the decision to devalue. I could mention that our executive director at the International Monetary Fund, Mr Whitelaw, has reported that the executive board appreciated the factors behind the decision to devalue. I am informed also that all directors who spoke supported Australia’s decision to devalue. In addition, several directors welcomed the greater flexibility that would be permitted under the new exchange arrangements. I am informed also that there was no suggestion at the International Monetary Fund executive board table that the devaluation could be regarded as a competitive devaluation.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. What ships have been built at the State Dockyard at Newcastle over the past 5 years? What were the original contracted dates and actual delivery dates for those vessels completed? By what amount did the final prices of the vessels completed by the State Dockyard since 1 January 1972 exceed the original contract prices? What investment has been made by the New South Wales Government in new shipbuilding plant and machinery at the State Dockyard, Newcastle, in the last 5 years? Is the Minister able to indicate what time has been lost as a result of industrial disputes at the State Dockyard in, say, the last 2 years? Finally, can the Minister indicate how productivity in Australian shipyards compares with that overseas?
– It so happens that I have the information the honourable member is seeking.
-I take a point of order. What if the honourable member does us the favour of tabling it and then sitting down. Obviously the information has all been prepared.
-There is no substance to the point of order.
– Seven ships and one ship conversion have been completed at the State Dockyard since 1 January 1972. The first of those ships was the W. D. A. Resolution, the original completion date of which was to be 13 May 1971. It was finally delivered on 18 May 1972. The A. D. Geopotes I was contracted for completion on 12 June 1972 but was delivered on 19 March 1973. The Lysaght Enterprise was to be delivered on 23 August 1972 and was finally delivered on 30 May 1973. The Lysaght Endeavour was to be delivered on 23 November 1972. It was finally delivered on 27 September 1973. The Express was to be delivered on 12 February 1974. It was finally delivered on 18 February 1975. The John Hunter was to be delivered on 30 December 1974. It was finally delivered on 12 September 1975. The Bass Trader was to be delivered on 28 February 1976. It was finally delivered on 26 July 1976. The Baron Cawdor, which was a conversion, was to be delivered on 29 July 1975. It was finally delivered on 3 September 1975. The original cost of the 7 vesselsthe contract prices- was $75. 5m. The final cost of the vessels was $93m. There was $45m in subsidy paid for those ships during that period.
-i take a point of order. There have been 2 questions asked this morning from the Government side. In both cases the replies have been extremely lengthy. This is a quite blatant exhibition this morning by the Minister. It is supposed to be an answer to a question without notice. He is reading from a document. It is quite clear that it is a question on notice. I ask that the Minister make the statement after question time or that at least his reply be shortened, so that everybody in the House is given a fair go on the last question day of the sitting.
-I heard what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said. It is not a point of order. I call the Minister. I ask him to bring his answer to a conclusion.
– I will be as brief as I can, but it is interesting information for the House. In 1975 there were 200 stoppages representing 1 74 000 man-hours. To 30 November this year there were 67 stoppages representing 158 000 manhours. The whole point is that the yard’s performance has been abysmal. That has been conceded, the House will note, by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. He accepts that the yard’s performance has been abysmal. The real reason for the high cost is that productivity of the yard is too low. The Tariff Board, in its report, stated that a Japanese yard, for example, could produce more than 12 times the gross tonnage of an Australian yard, using about 8 times the amount of steel. The Australian shipbuilding industry study mission, sent overseas by my predecessor, found that the yards overseas can, on average, produce three or four times as much per man as can the State Dockyard. Finally, Professor Fink said that the Australian shipyards would need to improve their productivity by 75 per cent if they were to have any chance of being competitive. So the House can see the real reason why the Government has put forward firm heads of agreement for the yard to look at if we are to continue to support shipbuilding of that capacity in Australia.
– Has the Treasurer seen the report that members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development regard Australia’s claim that a devaluation was necessary because of a massive flow of funds out of the country as laughable? Has the Treasurer noticed the report of hostile reaction to Australia’s devaluation from governments overseas? Was the rapid decision to reverse the exchange rate slightly the result of pressure from foreign governments and international monetary circles?
– The response on this matter must be perfectly clear. I re-raise the question why the devaluation decision was taken. In the first place, there had been a continuing and indeed increasing lack of competitiveness between Australian industry and industries in so many countries abroad.
-Why was that? Simply because the Opposition, when in government, allowed an escalation of wage and salary costs which was absolutely unsustainable. Between 1970 and the first half of 1 976 unit labour costs in this country increased significantly more than the weighted average of such costs in our major trading partners. If there is any group in this country which must accept responsibility for the underlying reasons which led to that decision to devalue, it is certainly Labor Party members in this House at present. Of that there is no doubt.
Opposition members interjecting-
– We know who the culprits are.
-Order! The House will come to order.
-In short, what I was emphasising was that as a direct consequence of Labor Party mismanagement Australian industry was becoming less and less competitive. Quite apart from the underlying factor to which I have made reference, the speculation to which certain members of the Opposition made a very heavy contribution made that process inevitable during the final period before the actual decision was taken.
I have seen references to comments, unsourced and unnamed, in respect of overseas reporting. I have already said to the honourable member for Adelaide that the executive board meeting of the International Monetary Fund held on 3 December reported that it appreciates the reasons behind the decision to devalue. All directors who spoke at that meeting supported Australia’s decision to devalue. In addition, several directors at that meeting welcomed the greater flexibility that would be permitted under the new exchange arrangements. If any regard is to be had for opinions abroad on this Government’s decision to devalue, one cannot go past the opinion of the International Monetary Fund.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister and it concerns the totally misleading statements that equate devaluation with the permanence of changes to tariffs and quotas. Is it not correct that, since World War II, the speed of response of domestic economic changes to significant currency alterations has increased? Does this not mean therefore that the quickness of response of domestic and export industries to the devaluation changes will all the more rapidly neutralise the so-called equivalent permanent tariff inflationary effects and increase the balance of payments? So, I ask: Can the speed of this response be accommodated by the new managed float arrangements to be determined by the Exchange Rate Review Committee? Finally, since when has it represented good economic analysis to ignore the most pervasive and consistent factor of all economic and financial experience- the speed of responsiveness of the economic community and the time scale of events?
– I think that the honourable gentleman has obviously put a great deal of thought into that question. One of the things that have been quite remarkable over the last few days has been the way in which some commentators in this country have used standards of judgment in relation to the devaluation decision which were utterly dissimilar to the standards of judgment that were used in 1974 when there was a devaluation. In those circumstances it ought to be noted that the then Government also took a number of other measures which at the same time were highly inflationary. To find commentators under those circumstances praising that decision and then using some quite different and obverse standard of judgment at the present time is an odd characteristic indeed. All the information coming to this Government from overseas and the indicators available to the Reserve Bank of Australia and through the normal market forces indicate that the moves undertaken by the Government in relation to devaluation are accepted overseas as wise and sensible. At the same time they are being proved to be a success by the market reaction that has already occurred in Australia. There is no way in which the market reaction in this country and the indicators available to the Reserve Bank give any support for some of the wilder commentaries that are coming from honourable gentlemen opposite.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question.
– A bit of alternative life.
-It is time the honourable member adopted an alternative life. He has had enough of the present one. The Prime Minister will know that I am not one of those people who believe that the Government can make a significant difference to the state of the economy. As I have said many times from that side of the table, it depends on the economic system and the Government is secondary to that I ask the Prime Minister: Will he ensure in the next few weeks when Parliament is not sitting that there is nothing the Government can do that is not done to prevent any need being satisfied, especially in relation to unemployment and loss of income in the country? Will he ensure that no puritanical economic policy, or any other kind of policy, prevents the satisfaction of genuine need, as far as the Government can achieve that?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I think his concern for those in genuine need is widely recognised throughout the Australian community. I believe the Government has demonstrated throughout the course of this year that it has taken a number of actions to direct assistance to those most in need. The honourable gentleman will well know, and I believe he will support, the decision taken to change the previous basis of child endowment payments to the present family allowance system. That system concentrates the benefits of assistance in low income families who just could not take advantage of the previous arrangements. I believe that that change has been widely supported, not only on all sides of the House but also throughout the Australian community. We have also taken decisions to index pensions automatically so that separate decisions do not have to be taken in relation to those matters. That, again, is a demonstration of our Government’s concern and, I believe, of this Parliament’s concern for those who are in a genuine position of need in the Australian community.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has introduced, as the honourable gentleman will recall, a number of programs designed quite specifically to assist young people who have had difficulty in getting jobs and who have, in recent times, left school. Those policies are of a continuing nature. They are already proving to be remarkably successful. I know quite well that the Minister will be monitoring those programs to see where and how improvements can be made. At the same time, certain decisions have been taken because of difficulties in assessing the facts of the situation when somebody leaves school in a particular year. Questions arise such as whether they will go back to school, whether they will go on to some other form of education or whether they are genuinely seeking employment. The House will know of the decisions which were taken in relation to that matter.
At the same time, within the province of the Department of Social Security and of the Director-General there is a capacity to use a discretion in relation to hardship. Where hardship can be properly demonstrated that discretion, I am sure, will be used. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question and for his expression of concern which I believe ought properly to be an expression of concern of the Parliament for those in need. For the Government’s part, where we can see a genuine and proper need we will certainly act. Where I part company from the honourable gentleman is in the nature of policies which are designed on a permanent and enduring basis to overcome our economic ills. I hope that if the honourable gentleman disagrees with me and with this Government on the policies we pursue, he will at least do us the credit of judging the arguments on their merits and not on the basis of imputing improper motives. I believe that the objectives that we all have in the Parliament are similar in relation to economic recovery. There is a very marked difference of opinion on the means by which that process can properly be achieved. The Government has firm views. The honourable gentleman would also have views with which, I am afraid, I could not agree.
– I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development whether he has noted a statement by the Victorian Minister for State Development and Decentralisation that the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation faces a cash crisis and will be out of money in a few days’ time because of a delay in the signing of the appropriate financial agreement. Is this statement correct? If so, what action can the Minister take to remedy the situation?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. I have noted the comment in the Age today. I should make it clear from the beginning that if there has been any delay in signing these financial agreements it is not because of fault or delinquency on the part of this Government. The facts are these: At the ministerial council meeting all governments indicated their intention to sign the AlburyWodonga financial agreements for 1 976-77. At that council meeting on 8 November it was agreed that the financial agreements should be signed before 30 November. I think that all honourable members here would realise that these are complex documents and therefore they have to be scrutinised very carefully by the officers concerned. That was done by the officers of my Department, and the draft agreements were circulated to both New South Wales and Victoria before 30 November. The response to the draft agreements is that the Victorian Government has formally agreed to sign the agreements. Unfortunately as yet the New South Wales Government has not formally agreed to the draft agreements that were sent to it but it has indicated its intention to sign them. As soon as the New South Wales Government gives its formal approval we will take urgent steps to ensure that the agreements between the 3 governments are completed. I am asked whether there is a cash crisis. As the 3 governments have indicated their intention to sign, I think that the usual mechanisms can now apply. That should prevent any cash crisis for the Corporation occurring in the short term.
– Does the Treasurer recollect saying in this House 3 months ago- on 7 Septemberthat devaluation of the Australian dollar would cause higher unemployment? Does he also recollect saying in this House last Tuesday that the devaluation of this week will restore balance between economic sectors? Does he recognise that those 2 statements taken in conjunction indicate a belief on the part of the Treasurer that a balanced economy requires much higher unemployment? I ask him: How much higher?
– How ironic it is that the honourable gentleman, who has been responsible for much of the speculation that took place before the decision and which in fact led to the decision, ought to assume some position of probing in this House. Let me go on the record again as saying that the honourable gentleman more than virtually any other man in this country must accept responsibility for recent events during the period from September to when the decision was made. He is one who ought to have known better and who I believe does know better, but he is prepared to sacrifice a sense of national responsibility for purely party political reasons.
The honourable gentleman asked me about 2 statements. The first was a statement issued by me some months ago, with consistent statements by me, by the Prime Minister and by other senior ministers since our return to Government, about the impact of a devaluation decision. What the honourable gentleman conveniently overlooks is that all the statements which were made up to the time of the decision to devalue, and the statements on devaluation as a matter of Government policy, were made without any reference whatsoever to offsetting anti-inflationary measures. That was a consistent line. No one on this side of the House has sought to deny that the decision to devalue has some inflationary consequence. But I say to the honourable gentleman that, unlike the decision taken by him and his colleagues, this Government has taken a series of offsetting measures which are designed to protect the community against the inflationary consequence of the decision. The honourable gentleman went on to seek from me some estimate of the precise figure of inflation.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Treasurer to quantify the level of unemployment that he projected would follow a devaluation. Once again, he is confused on this issue.
-There is no point of order. The answer needs to be relevant to the question and I rule that the answer is relevant.
– I find it a matter of classic irony that the honourable gentleman should seek in this House precision in areas in which he refused consistently, time after time, as Treasurer to elucidate in this House. I can recall the honourable gentleman refusing to indicate the size of the Budget deficit to the nearest $ 1,000m. That is the record of the honourable gentleman. I have no doubt that he did that because he sought to cover up the fact, as this Government discovered when it came into office, that the deficit was running at about $4 billion. The honourable gentleman talks in this House about unemployment and inflation. One thing that is a matter of record is what occurred during the past 3 years. The Opposition created the legacy of tragedy in both unemployment and inflation. The honourable gentleman, from his own experience, will know that it is not possible at this time to quantify the levels of unemployment or inflation that might follow from devaluation.
-I should like to ask a question of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister would be aware that over the past 12 months or so there have been large scale retrenchments from the gold mining industry in Western Australia. I ask: Has this added significantly to unemployment in the eastern goldfields area? Will the Minister say what steps his Department has taken to alleviate the situation? Were these steps successful? Is there in fact a shortage of skilled workers in the Kalgoorlie region which is severely hampering new development?
– The honourable member was very active and persistent in defending his electorate earlier this year following the phasing down of the gold mining industry. I understand that the Kalgoorlie Town Council last week held a meeting to discuss the unemployment problem in Kalgoorlie. As a result of that meeting the Town Council declared that there was no employment problem in the eastern goldfields area. The local manager of the Commonwealth Employment Service office has indicated that there is a shortage of skilled labour, especially in the metal trades. I believe that the Town Council has made an additional statement that it believes the devaluation of the Australian dollar will further boost employment opportunities in that region. I am further informed that the local secretary of the Australian Workers Union is quoted as having said:
If I could get 100 skilled miners I would be able to place them in employment immediately.
Also, I understand that at this meeting that was called by the Kalgoorlie Town Council a local accountant said that there was a severe shortage of suitable qualified staff for commerce and business and that many employers had experienced difficulty in employing qualified office staff. So I am pleased to be able to report that, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of the honourable member for Kalgoorlie, the employment situation in Kalgoorlie has improved markedly.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs a question. He has been asked several questions during recent months about the entitlement of Lebanese refugees to come to Australia and the facilities for interviewing them overseas. On this last sitting day, therefore, I ask the Minister Has the Government decided to continue the broader entry criteria which he announced would be subject to review at the end of 1976? Has the Government decided to retain in Cyprus the task force, whose operation he announced last September would be reviewed at the end of 3 months? Has the Government yet decided to reinstate the migration team in Damascus? If the answer in any case is that the Government has not yet made a decision I ask: When does the Minister expect a decision?
– The Government has reviewed the arrangements with respect to Lebanese migration to Australia. I will be announcing the results of that review very shortly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Government made a decision on the request from the deciduous fruit canneries to defer the repayment of loans provided by the Government early this year so that fruit growers can receive further payments for fruit delivered almost 12 months ago? The Minister will be aware of the various proposals for fruit cannery rationalisation in the Goulburn Valley. Can he assure the fruit growers of the area that any Commonwealth Government support or encouragement will be directed towards the continued domination of the industry by co-operatives?
– An unfortunate result of the last few years of inflation has been that cannery stocks have not been as readily saleable, either domestically or overseas, as one would hope. Unfortunately, the very high escalation of costs has meant that there have been difficulties in realising the full product of the Goulburn Valley and other canning fruit producing areas. It is important that all honourable members recognise what a significant employer of labour the canneries are so that it is not just the producers in the industry who are concerned but, significantly, the whole community. It is in that climate that this Government picked up the very serious financial position that growers were facing and provided an advance, through State governments, to canneries to enable the payment of a significant part of the proceeds of 1974-75 fruit which, of course, had been avoided by the Labor Government for at least a 6-month period during which requests had been made.
Since the devaluation, the Government is hoping that there may be an improvement of sales opportunities abroad. This will help in the realisation of stocks but it will not overcome the fact that there is still a shortfall in payments, not only in the Goulburn Valley canneries but also in canneries in South Australia and, to a degree, in New South Wales. It is true that requests have been received from the South Australian and Victorian governments for a deferral of repayments of the funds that were advanced earlier this year. At this stage no decision has been taken by the Government, although we are most sympathetic to the approach made and discussions are continuing to determine an equitable basis by which it might be arranged. In the last part of his question the honourable gentleman suggested a rationalisation of canneries. A number of proposals have been advanced, including one within which the Victorian Government instrumentalities have played a notable part. The Federal Government is anxious that there should be rationalisation but that it should not be to the disadvantage of those presently involved in the industry and rather to ensure the long term future of the industry. Whatever approach is made to the Federal Government, that particular objective will be held very much in mind.
– Has the Prime Minister received representations from business firms which import goods not made in Australia but which have obviously been substantially affected by the recent devaluation? Is any consideration being given to methods of easing the problems created by devaluation for such firms? If so, when will an announcement be made on this subject? Will the Prime Minister ensure that any action taken in this matter does not further damage the prospects for survival of Australian industries already under threat because of his Government ‘s erratic policies?
– Details of action taken by the Government in relation to these matters were announced by my colleague, the
Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs a night or two ago. They indicated the extent of the action that the Government intended to take on matters such as those which the honourable gentleman has in mind. I would have hoped that the honourable gentleman would have more concern than he seems to indicate for Australian business firms manufacturing in Australia and providing an Australian employment base. The great solicitude which he seemed to indicate -
– I do not think the right honourable gentleman caught the last part of my question. Perhaps I can repeat it?
– No. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I heard it very well. If I do the honourable gentleman an injustice I have no doubt that he will take advantage of the forms of the House to redress the matter. There was at least an implication in his question which seemed to show great solicitude for firms that were importing goods. Of course, the major objective of the Government is to support and reinforce productive Australian enterprises, Australian factories and Australian employment. I believe that the totality of the Government’s actions in this regard will have a considerable impact.
I think one other point needs to be noted. In the Government’s measures as a whole there is a not insignificant warning for Australian firms that go offshore and export jobs on the basis of what they might regard to be some short term economic expediency. One particular firm established operations somewhere in South East Asia- I do not think I should identify the firm- and then, some time ago when import quotas were placed on the products involved in the overseas production, the firm sought a special import quota so that its overseas operation could be adequately sustained. That gets to the length of absurdity which some people seem prepared to argue for a narrow and a sectional interest. This Government will not have a bar of it. We are concerned with Australian employment in Australian factories. I would only hope that other honourable gentlemen are also.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications will know that applications closed on 4 November this year for a commerical radio translator to be located in the MoruyaBatemans Bay area of New South Wales. The Minister will know also that the population of that region is rapidly expanding. Despite this, it still suffers incredibly bad radio reception. When will the translator licence be granted to the successful applicant?
– The facts that the honourable member has stated are perfectly correct. I know that an application went before the Australian Broadcasting Control Board I think 2 days ago. Originally there were 3 applicants for this translator. I understand that two withdrew. I expect to have a report from the Board very shortly. I will make a decision very promptly as soon as I get it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it true that, during the moratorium on nuclear weapons testing between 1958 and 1961, Australia co-operated with the British in conducting secret atomic ‘trigger’ tests at Maralinga and that waste and debris from these tests were buried at Maralinga? Will the Minister institute an inquiry into these matters? If this information is true, will he recommend that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into all aspects of such tests and the burial of nuclear waste at Maralinga?
– I inform the honourable member that, as a consequence of allegations and reports made in the course of the last few days, urgent inquiries have been set in train to establish precisely what has been buried at Maralinga. That relates to the major point of the honourable gentleman’s question. I am not aware of any explosions that took place between 1958 and 1961. I am aware of certain trials, which I distinguish from explosions, as presently advised, that took place. They were conducted pursuant to an agreement between the United Kingdom and Australia. Nevertheless, I will make further inquiries as may seem appropriate and inform the honourable gentleman. To my knowledge the last explosions that were conducted at Maralinga were in 1955-1956. 1 think there are 4 members of this House who have survived the political explosions in the interregnumthe honourable Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Fremantle, the honourable member for Mackellar and I. We have survived those explosions. That gang of four were in attendance- if I can explain to the honourable gentleman- at operation Buffalo. I think that was the series of tests. I give my friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, an assurance that I will make appropriate inquiries. Rather than wait until such time as the Parliament resumes, I will convey such information as I gather to the honourable gentleman.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister in Women’s Affairs. With the recent international success of films such as Caddie which received financial assistance during the International Women’s Year, can the Minister inform the House whether anything further is being done to ensure a continuing contribution by women to the Australian film industry?
-The policy of the Government is to ensure that there is equality of opportunity and equal status for all people in our society and in order to help to achieve that goal the Government has-
– Incorporate it.
-. . . established a women’s film fund which will provide financial support in the form of investment for films by, for and about women. Film projects such as Caddie were funded by the National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year and returns on investment -
– Put it in Hansard.
-Order! I ask the Minister to resume his seat. The honourable member for Melbourne and the honourable member for Shortland are having a competition with each other in interjecting. I call on them to remain silent or I will have to take action.
– I take a point of order. I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, on an interpretation of standing order 321 which relates to Ministers quoting and reading from documents. I am sure that you recall the difficulty that the Opposition has had in ascertaining whether Minister are reading answers. I require that the Minister table the document from which he is reading.
-There is no substance to the point of order. I call the Minister for Productivity.
-Mr Speaker, I am -
– I take a point of order. I again raise standing order 321. 1 require under standing order 32 1 that the Minister table the document from which he is reading.
-Order! I will call upon the Minister after he has finished his answer. I call the Minister for Productivity.
-I am reading from handwritten notes because I wish to read some names to the House. I am quite happy for the piece of paper to be used as the House may wish. I had reached the point of mentioning that films such as Caddie had been funded by the National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year and returns on investment made during that International Women’s Year will initially be the basis of the fund. The fund itself will be administered by the Australian Film Commission. Applications should be addressed to the Australian Film Commission and they will be assessed initially by Ms Gillian Appleton and Ms Caroline Jones. If those 2 assessors believe that the application has merit, it will be referred to an advisory panel of 4 nominated women which will recommend to the Australian Film Commission whether funds should be used for such a project. The advisory panel will consist of Ms Jill Robb of the Australian Film Commission, Ms Jeanette Hungerford, a member of the former National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year, Ms Jenni Kendall of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and a member of the Women’s Affairs Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. All decisions to allocate money will be in accordance with the requirements of the Australian Film Commission Act.
– Will the Minster table the document?
-I am happy to table the document.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. You will have observed the statements in reply to questions today which have deprived honourable members who wish to put questions of the opportunity of putting them. You also drew to the attention of the House the length of ministerial replies which could easily have been dealt with as ministerial statements. You observed the Deputy Leader of the Opposition today again drawing your attention to this problem. I make no reflections on the customs of this House, the Chair or the Government as to how it conducts question time, but you are Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee and I have no doubt that this matter has been brought to your attention. Will you tell the House what decisions have been made by the Standing Orders Committee concerning the Standing Orders in relation to question time and ministerial statements.
-The Standing Orders Committee has made no determination about the way Ministers answer questions. The matter has been discussed at previous meetings of the Standing Orders Committee. It can be discussed again if the honourable member wishes to raise it with me for discussion by the Committee.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruit Exports Marketing Act 1963, I present the annual report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for the calendar year 1975.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act 1 974, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Wheat Board for the year ended 30 November 1 975.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Dairying Research Act 1972, I present the annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 5 of the Dairy Adjustment Act 1974, 1 present a further agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of New South Wales relating to that Act.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Australian Film and Television School for the year ended 30 June 1974, pursuant to section 42 of the Film and Television School Act 1973.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962, 1 present the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Australian War Memorial for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the sixth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum entitled The Use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas in Australia.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the working party on the measurement of labour productivity.
-Pursuant to section 24 of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 40 of the Australian National Airlines Act 1945, 1 present the annual report of the Australian National Airlines Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 976.
Nr NIXON (Gippsland-Minister for Transport)- For the information of honourable members I present the report by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled A Study of Intersystem Railway Freight Rating Practices.
– For the information of honourable members I present the record of the 19th meeting of the Australian Water Resources Council held in Perth on 27 September 1976.
– Pursuant to section 48 of the Export Market Development Grants Act 1 974, 1 present the first annual report of the Export Development Grants Board for the year ended 30 June 1976.
For the information of honourable members I present the fifth main report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty entitled Poverty and Education in Australia.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974, I present a statement of payments to the
States authorised under that Act for the financial year 1975-76.
-For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Committee on the Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Education relating to that report.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for the year ended 30 June 1976.
For the information of honourable members I present the second report of the Interim Committee on the National Estate.
For the information of honourable members I present the first annual report of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, for the year 1975-76.
Pursuant to section 52 of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 I present the report of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service covering the period from 13 March 1975 to 30 June 1976.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable members I present the report of the interdepartmental committee on policy proposals for freedom of information legislation. I seek leave to make a statement on the matter.
-I would ask the honourable gentleman to wait.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral)For the information of honourable members I present a report of the Copyright Law Committee on reprographic reproduction.
– Pursuant to section 46 of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 I present the first annual report of the Commissioner for Community Relations for the year ended 30 June 1976. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to that report.
-I would ask the honourable gentleman to wait for a moment.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member for Oxley claim to have been misrepresented?
– I claim to have been misrepresented. In the course of an answer to a question which I directed to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) he asserted that almost single-handedly I was responsible for persuading the Government to devalue. I draw the attention of the House to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 September 1976, which was similar in its content to articles which appeared in other papers on that date, headed ‘Anthony casts doubts on the dollar’. The article states:
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, caused concern within the Federal Government last night by casting doubts on the strength of the Australian dollar.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the issue. He is not pointing out where he was misrepresented.
– I want to point out the unfairness of my being attributed with all the strength of influence over the Cabinet while the Deputy Prime Minister is denied any.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
by leave- The interdepartmental committee on policy proposals for freedom of information legislation was convened earlier this year at the request of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to study and report to me on policy proposals for freedom of information legislation, taking into account the report of the interdepartmental committee on proposed freedom of information legislation that was tabled in Parliament in 1974, the implication of amendments to the United States Freedom of Information Act that were made in 1974 and not dealt with in the earlier report and any other matters that might be relevant. The Government decided that this further report should be tabled before the Parliament rises to enable the widest possible public discussion of the proposals made by the committee. The Government authorised me to prepare legislation for a freedom of information Bill. It is intended that that Bill will be introduced in the Autumn sittings next year. Representations that are made upon the interdepartmental committee report will be taken into account in drafting the Bill.
I should say that, in authorising the preparation of a Bill, the Government does not commit itself to accepting the proposals put forward by the committee. I will be examining these proposals very carefully, with particular regard to public comments that are made on them. The final shape of the Bill will be decided by the Government. It is also proposed that the Bill, when introduced, will be left to lie for a reasonable period for public comment on the Bill. The Government is anxious to have the fullest possible public input in determining the final shape of the legislation. The Government regards freedom of information legislation, giving the citizens a right of access to all government records that can properly be made available consistent with the protection of necessary confidentiality, as an important element in making government accountable to the electorate.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) by leave- The report of the Copyright Law Committee on reprographic reproduction deals principally with the question of the photocopying of copyright works. Honourable members may recall that there has been a prolonged campaign by authors and publishing interests to obtain compensation for the reproduction of their works in Australian universities and schools. Complaints have also been voiced by educational bodies, amongst others, that the provisions of the Copyright Act permitting the use of copyright materials for the purposes of education, private study or research were difficult to apply and in need of clarification. The Copyright Law Committee on reprographic reproduction was appointed in June 1974 and received written and oral submissions from educational authorities, teachers, students, librarians, professional bodies, scientific institutions, authors, publishers and editors.
It has long been a problem for copyright laws to keep up to date with changes in technology. Consideration of the issue of reprographic reproduction and copyright has occurred at an international level, without any international solution being reached. The international discussions have left the issue to be resolved at a national level. No country appears yet to have come up with a solution that has achieved wide acceptance. The report of the Committee is therefore likely to be awaited with considerable interest overseas. The recommendations of the Committee, particularly those relating to the scheme for remuneration for copying in educational establishments, require public discussion and comment. I therefore invite submissions on the report, and it is the Government’s hope that the report will be considered early in the new year so that any amending legislation may be introduced into Parliament in the autumn session next year. Submissions should be made to my Department by 1 March 1977. Officers of my Department will, of course, be available to discuss the substance of the report with interested parties. I thank the House.
– by leave- I tabled this morning the first annual report of the Commissioner for Community Relations. I should point out that the views expressed in the report are those of the Commissioner for Community Relations and are not necessarily endorsed by the Government. One particular matter to which I would like to refer relates to the assertion that there is a widespread breach of our international obligations under the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. That particular assertion is in my view unsubstantiated and incorrect. In the interests of Australia’s well-earned reputation for compliance with international treaty obligations the assertion must be corrected. Over 3 million migrants have settled in Australia over the past 30 years. The standards of tolerance and harmony we all desire will be achieved not by a magnification of our shortcomings but by a factual recognition of deficiencies, a realistic appreciation of achievements and a determined commitment to improvement.
-by leave-I wish to complain about the manner in which this procedure of tabling documents takes place and about the position in which the Opposition is placed. The report of the Commissioner for Community Relations has been in the hands of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) for at least 3 weeks. I have not seen the report. I had a brief statement placed on my table this morning. The Opposition is expected to respond intelligently to the contents of the document. That would be absolutely impossible. Even the brief statement of the Minister ought to be criticised. He has a penchant for seeking advice, then bucketing the adviser. The issue of the Handbook of Hate was one such example. Now we have another instance, the tabling of the report by the Commissioner. This report got the same treatment.
This is a most negative approach to what ought to be a very positive attitude. The Government should be giving the lead on this issue. The initiative to combat racial discrimination was taken by the Labor Government. It ought to have been well supported by this Government. There have been widespread breaches of our international obligations because of a literal interpretation of words. There is a moral obligation to carry out what was deemed to be covenants of international arrangements. I make reference to one specific area, namely, migrant women in the work force. It seems to me that we are in breach of international covenants on this issue. Further, I raise the issue of refugees or quasi-refugees. If we apply the literal interpretation of the word, of course the Minister is right. But we have a moral obligation to ensure that we are not in breach of international standards.
I will not go any further than I have on this matter because the Opposition is at a total disadvantage in endeavouring to debate intelligently such a very important subject. I put it to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that an obligation is on us to consider this report in another way. I believe that there is an obligation on the Government to allow a debate on this report in the new year. Through you, Mr Speaker, I request the Prime Minister or the
Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) to move that the House take note of the paper and so provide the machinery required to enable such a debate to take place in the new year.
-I wish to inform honourable members that Mr Norman Parkes, the Clerk of the House, will retire on 3 1 December. Today is his last day at the table after 42 years of service. His has been a notable career. In 1934 he was appointed to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff as accountant. In 1 937 he came to the House of Representatives as an accounts clerk and reading clerk. Over the years he worked his way through every section of the Department of the House of Representatives. He became a chamber officer in 1949 when he was appointed Serjeant-at-Arms. In this role, with the Usher of the Black Rod, he escorted the Queen to open the Third Session of the Twentieth Parliament on 15 February 1954. This was the first time that a ruling sovereign had opened the Parliament or indeed had visited Australia. He became Third Clerk Assistant in 1954 and Clerk Assistant in 1959. He was admitted to the Order of the British Empire in 1961. In 1964 he became Deputy Clerk and, on 11 December 1971, he became Clerk of the House. He has served under 4 Speakers, each of whom will attest to his capacity, service and friendship.
As Honourary Secretary of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, he has participated in many important Commonwealth Parliamentary Association activities, including attendance at conferences in Nigeria, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He was a member of the steering committee for the First, Second and Third Australasian Parliamentary Seminars which are an important Commonwealth Branch initiative in this region. This year with me he attended the Fourth Commonwealth Conference of Presiding Officers and Clerks in London.
The office of Clerk is an ancient traditional office. I quote from Phillip Marsden:
The long unbroken lineage of the Clerks of the House is more ancient even than that of Speaker, reaching back as it does to 1363.
On 3 1 December there will come to a close the reign of the ninth Clerk of the House since Federation. He follows in the path of his father, Ernest William Parkes, who was the fifth Clerk of the House during the years 1927 to 1937. As far as I have been able to ascertain there is only one previously recorded instance of a son holding the same office as his father in this area. This was not in this Parliament but in the House of Commons.
Mr Parkes as a child remembers the Prince of Wales coming to the Parliament. This is one of his first recollections of his association with the Parliament when his father was the Clerk. During his service he has served, I think, 9 Speakers. Fourteen Prime Ministers have sat at the table during his period of service. He has witnessed 16 elections. I think there is not a member of the House who has been directly concerned with that number of elections. He has seen the Parliament assemble in our tradition after each election without a Speaker in the Chair with the Clerk sitting at the table to conduct the election of Speaker with absolutely no power whatsoever to discipline unruly members.
Earlier this year the Clerk was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. This was an acknowledgment of his great contribution to this Parliament. In earlier days Norman Parkes was a keen cricketer. He is now one of Canberra’s leading bowlers, although he modestly denies that. He will have greater propensity for that past time as from 1 January. He was given a mobile typewriter by the Executive of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association last week.
-Was it last Tuesday night?
-The honourable gentleman will remain silent. He was given a typewriter by the CPA Executive at a dinner given to him as a departure gift. Most of us will wish that he use it to record the ever-changing scene of Parliament as he has observed it over the years. Those who do not wish it to be recorded, at least in relation to themselves, should give the Clerk notice of that fact.
Maida, Mr Parkes’ wife, has been a friend and companion to Norman during his long career. All members of the House wish them a most enjoyable, peaceful and entertaining retirement. Whatever may be said of his career, one could never say of it that it lacked interest. They take with them, and they deserve, our good wishes and our thanks. To a friend, I say: Thank you, Norman; well done.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
- Mr Speaker, I am sure that all members of the House will want to join in the remarks that you have made of the good wishes and thanks that are expressed to the Clerk of the
House. Norman James Parkes has had a very long and distinguished record of service to this Parliament and through this Parliament to the people of Australia. He has come, as you Mr Speaker have indicated, from a family which has traditionally served this Parliament and the people of Australia from the beginning of Federation in 1901. There must be few families with such a long and distinguished record as that.
In his time the Clerk will obviously have seen many changes. He has seen attempts to modernise the mechanisms and procedures of this House. Although he has watched and to a great extent been involved in this process he also has made sure that the essential requirements of the procedures of a House of Parliament have been adequately maintained. He has made sure that where change had been introduced it has been constructive and useful change and not merely change for changes sake, not merely getting rid of old traditions for the sake of getting rid of old traditions.
I hope that I can say, without being offensive to you, Mr Speaker, that, if my recollection is correct, Norman James Parkes, amongst his other services to this Parliament, has broken in- if that is not too improper a term- 4 Speakers, although I think that one of those Speakers may have held that position when Norman Parkes became Clerk. In that case that Speaker would have served his term during the office of 2 Clerks. The Speakers under whom he has served were Speaker Aston, Speaker Cope, Speaker Scholes and you, Mr Speaker. But clearly in the initial stages of occupancy of the office of Speaker- and’ I do not think this would detract in any sense from the authority, status and respect that one has for the office of Speaker-the advice of the Clerk is obviously of significance and importance. Precedents in the management of this House are important to the proper conduct of business. I think that whether we are Ministers, Prime Ministers or Speakers, good advice from official advisers is always of great importance. The Speakers of this Parliament, and through them the Parliament, have been well served by the official advisers, by the Clerk and by the Clerk’s assistants.
Norman James Parkes, I think we all owe you our thanks. We all wish you and your wife the greatest of good health and happiness in your retirement. On behalf of the Government Parties I thank you very much for what you have done for this Parliament to maintain and uphold the honour and dignity of this place. When this place has been let down, it has not been the Clerks who have let it down; it is sometimes members who have not always behaved as they ought. We thank you for what you have done. We thank you for the example you have set. We wish you well in whatever you seek to do.
– I support wholeheartedly but sadly everything that you, Mr Speaker, and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have said about the Clerk. We are today witnessing the end of three-quarters of a century of service to the House of Representatives, to the Parliament of Australia and the Australian people of the Parkes- father and son. All honourable members know that the off-spring of members of Parliament are very likely to become outstanding parliamentarians. That is clearly shown by the.onourable members for Hunter (Mr James), Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam). The same principle is shown very clearly in the case of the Parkes dynasty. You yourself, Mr Speaker, have happily recalled the occasion when Norman Parkes, as SerjeantatArms, accompanied the Queen when she first opened the Australian Parliament. He is recorded in the painting of that event which hangs in Kings Hall. His father fulfilled the same function when Her Majesty’s father, the then Duke of York, opened the first Parliament in Canberra. He too is recorded in the painting commemorating that event, which hangs in Kings Hall.
Norman Parkes’ term of 5 years has been one of extraordinary political and constitutional significanceone might think turmoil- affecting this House and the Senate, this Parliament and State parliaments, this Parliament and the Government responsible to the House and the Viceroy. Throughout this period Mr Parkes has never compromised his office or sullied his reputation. When he has spoken or written as the Clerk of the Australian House of Representatives, whether in the House or outside it he has done so with the most complete sense of propriety and duty. He has been a man of experience, distinction and honour. We have been well served. The present members of the Parliament have been well served by him through his office in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
During his period of 42 years in the Parliament there have been 500 members of the House of Representatives. In that time everybody who was a member has been able to speak with a fair amount of latitude. The Clerk is the only personit applies on this occasion also- who is not able to speak bis own words. The Clerk must listen. He must never interject. He must never volunteer. He may never create his own words. Members of Parliament are not supposed to read their speeches. The Clerk must.
On an occasion like this I may be forgiven for reminiscing. I have known Norman Parkes and Maida Parkes for a very long time- almost half a century. When I was a student in Canberra between 1928 and 1934 his father was the Clerk and he served the community in 2 capacities- in church and state. I am not sure that I should attribute to him any responsibility for my own participation or lack of it in either of those capacities. My eldest son, my colleague, was a colleague of Norman Parkes’ son when they were students together in Canberra. Therefore, with more than usual personal involvement I take part in this occasion when we farewell and wish well a very great servant of this House and nation.
– I too, on behalf of the members of the National Country Party of Australia, associate my Party with the testimony to the retiring Clerk of the House which you, Mr Speaker, have advanced and which has been supported by the right honourable the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). When the Australian Constitutional Convention met in its 3 successive sessions recently we thought that we were examining history in retrospect. Yet in the retirement of Norman Parkes and in the succession of the Parkes family since 1901 when the Australian Constitution was implemented, there is the living testimony of the development of the Australian Constitution through the House of Representatives. It is a remarkable term of service, not just to the Parliament but to the people of Australia. He who sits so silently at the table, as the Leader of the Opposition has remarked, must read his comments while those of us who are participating within the House are normally required not to. The Clerk speaks only on petitions, on notices and on orders of the day. He must also sit and listen to so much repetition, so much of tedium, and yet so often so much of substance and of importance. He is a continuing observer and yet a participant within the parliamentary scene. In the development of the procedures and practices of the House of Representatives and of the Australian Parliament he and his father have played an important part. Those procedures and practices, of course, are not just for members of the House. They are there as protectors of our version of the Westminster system, of the people of Australia and of democracy itself.
Much has been said by the 3 speakers who preceded me of Norman Parkes, his career and his success within it. Essentially, those of us who have been participants within the parliamentary scene know him for the honesty and integrity of advice which he has afforded whether we have been speaking from the Treasury benches or from Opposition. It is in that context, of course, that the office of Clerk of the House is so important. He is there to provide the back up to honourable members so that they can best assert their points of view in representing their electorates around Australia. In that situation and in the service he has provided to the people of Australia, Norman Parkes has been quite outstanding. Whether it is on the bowling green or in the preparation of his memoirs that he seeks to spend his leisure hours, those of us who have been involved with him during his working hours and many others who have passed through this place since he first began his service here so long ago in October 1934 pay tribute to him as a man, as an officer of the Parliament and as a servant of the people of Australia. I join in extending to Norman Parkes and to Mrs Parkes our very best wishes for a very happy, successful and healthy retirement.
-As one of those who has had the opportunity of serving as Speaker in the House I pay tribute to Norman Parkes for the work that he has done and for the manner in which he has supervised the parliamentary Department of the House of Representatives. I do not suppose there are many who have to rely on the skill and advice of the clerk more than those who occupy the position of presiding officer. Most members of Parliament know a lot about the Standing Orders and the procedures of this Parliament and of others until actually put to the test by having to put those procedures into rulings or decisions. Then the amount that those concerned do not know becomes a volume. The advice that I, my predecessor and, I presume, Speaker Aston received enabled us to carry out the duties with which we were charged. It is important to any person in any office to be certain that their advice can be relied on. In many other ways- as Clerk, as an individual and as an officer of the Parliament- Mr Parkes has served this country extremely well. It is a frustrating job, in that the Clerk can advise but he cannot prevent the person to whom the advice is given from making mistakes. Mistakes will always be made.
One other side of the Clerk’s job on which I want to comment briefly is that in many instances members of Parliament take up with the Clerk grievances which properly should be taken up with the Speaker. If the Speaker makes a ruling from the chair, no matter what advice is given by the Clerk- and no one can know what advice is given- it is the Speaker’s ruling and his responsibility. When honourable members take these grievances or supposed grievances up with the Clerk it adds to the pressure and I think it is unfair to the people who serve in that office. If a person accepts the role of Speaker in the House he should also accept the responsibility for his own decisions. I wish Norman Parkes and his wife well in their retirement. I hope that his experiences will not now be forgotten but that he will utilise those experiences in order to inform and to ensure that future generations have the benefit of what has been a very long and distinguished career of service to the Parliament and, as a servant of the Parliament, to the people of Australia.
-Mr Speaker, I desire to be associated with the remarks that you and others have made in regard to Mr Parkes. One of the factors contributing to the progress and the work of this chamber is the attention to duty, the Loyalty and the friendship of so many people who keep the wheels turning. Not the least contribution to that is made by the Clerk of the House. I have known over a long period of time the work that has been done by Mr Parkes during the time that he has occupied the position. On many occasions I have known by the look on his brow that perhaps he has not agreed with what I have said or with what I have done, but he has always been the perfect gentleman and has been polite enough not to indicate with a great deal of strength his disagreement with what I have said. I have also had a very pleasurable association with him in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
I do not want to repeat what has already been said by many honourable members who have paid tribute to him but I would like to express my personal appreciation of what he has done during the time that I have been a member of this House and during the time that I have occupied the chair. We know the work that he has done, the courtesy that he has extended to all honourable members and the assistance that he has given to honourable members on both sides of the House. I join with others in expressing a deep appreciation for the work that he has done and my very best wishes and warmest regards to him in his retirement.
-I would like to join in the comments which have been expressed by honourable members in relation to the service of Norm Parkes to the House over a very long time and in relation to his impending retirement. He has served this House and a succession of governments in this House with impartiality and diligence regardless of the complexion of the government. I might suggest that for too long there has been too much of one complexion of government in this House, but that has not been the fault of Norman Parkes. It has always appeared to me by his appearance and behaviour that Norman Parkes has sought to maintain the composure, dignity and proper conduct of this House even at times when it has fled this House in all other quarters. He has always been cheerful. I suggest that that is a not easy quality to maintain when one is compulsorily chained to the table of this House. Unlike members of the Parliament, the Clerks of the House cannot escape at particularly painful moments when an honourable member is making a speech. Of course, I exclude present company.
Norman has served in the House as a Clerk, wearing the formal appearance of Clerks of the House, of inscrutability, wisdom and- I stress this word gently- discretion. I detected fleetingly a cold tremor of fear rush through the House when reference was made to a typewriter being presented to him on his retirement. Perhaps he is going to write his memoirs and his recollections of the Parliament. If he confirms this, I expect that there will be regular pilgrimages of members of Parliament to his home. I have noted from time to time in the newspapers when it is reported that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron)- perhaps I should not say this because he is not here; on reflection, I probably would not say it if he were here- is in the process of writing his memoirs there is a fresh outbreak of pilgrims visiting his office encouraging him to drink from the sweet cup of nostalgia and to forget about the bitter one. I wish Norm Parkes and his wife happiness and satisfaction in their retirement. He has been a keen and loyal officer serving this House and all parties in this House. On a personal level, I have appreciated his kindness, his thoughtfulness and his helpfulness whenever I have approached him. I repeat with a deep sense of sincerity that I hope that he enjoys a very well-deserved, satisfying retirement with his wife.
-As a former Leader of the House of Representatives I want to add my name very briefly to the tribute. Those of us who have occupied that position know that the House often tumbles quickly into a state of crisis. Although the Standing Orders are written in ex- quisitely fine language, sometimes the nuances of tern are difficult to understand in a time of crisis. At that time a Leader of the House wants some confirmation of his own views or doubts. While I was in that position Mr Parkes always gave that splendidly and quickly. I too wish him and his wife happiness in his retirement.
– I have received a notecharacteristically from the Clerk which says:
Mr Speaker, thank you very much. Would you express my sincere thanks to the Leaders and other speakers for their kind remarks and their good wishes?
That is the closest a Clerk can get to thanking honourable members himself. I contemplated at one stage deferring petitions this morning until after this event so that the Clerk could stand up and read the petitions. It might have given him an opportunity to interject on himself and to thank honourable members himself.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a definite matter of public importance being submitted to the House and discussed at a later hour this day.
– I move:
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on-
The proposal I have put forward is for the establishment of a select committee to inquire into electoral matters. The proposal does not envisage such matters as redistribution and the major matters covered by other electoral legislation, but it envisages a general approach to elections, the conduct of elections, the role and organisation of the Commonwealth Electoral Office, the relationships of political parties to the Electoral Act, and also an examination of the role, recognition and responsibilities of political parties within the electoral laws of other countries with comparable parliamentary systems to our own. Every member of this House and most people who have had experience with elections will be aware of quite a number of unsatisfactory aspects of our electoral laws. Quite a lot of them are archaic and could well be amended. There would be unanimity within the House for such amendments.
Unfortunately, governments from both sides of the House have pursued alterations to the manner in which we conduct our elections. The structure of the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been the personal property of the government of the day. In fact, it is most likely fair to say that the Electoral Act ought to be prepared by people who do not have a vested interest in protecting their positions. Politicians would be about the last people to make an objective judgment on the Commonwealth Electoral Act or on the manner in which they confronted the electors. Be that as it may, it is not likely that any government will accept that proposition. I think it is not unreasonable that the Electoral Act should be subjected to continual scrutiny and recommendation by members of Parliament and that they should seek to acquire general agreement on where the Act could be updated and alterations made to improve and, wherever possible, simplify our electoral procedures.
I should like to make one or two remarks concerning areas in which I think the whole House would agree alteration should be made but in which we have never actually got around to making alterations. The procedures for applying for postal votes are extremely complicated, even though they are meant to apply to people who are sick or aged and to large numbers of people who only once in their life are going to tackle filling in those forms. There would appear to be no justification whatsoever for not adopting a more simplified procedure and, certainly, a more simplified form on which people can apply for a postal vote and return their postal vote for counting.
The placing of names on the ballot paper historically has been almost a case of people with surnames beginning with the letter ‘A’ or ‘B’ not wanting a change to the system but people with surnames beginning with the letter ‘S or ‘V wanting change. I take advantage of the name of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is sitting at the table. Most likely, both he and I could have lost our seats in recent years because of the alphabet.
– What about the seconder?
-I did not know that the seat of Port Adelaide was one in which the Electoral Act would be of much importance. I thought the honourable member who holds that seat would have a majority of about 12 000 votes. It would seem to me to be a fairer proposition- there is no fair propostion, even though we have heard about round ballot papers and the like- if people were required to draw for their positions on the ballot papers. At least then everyone would have a chance of getting a high position on the ballot paper, which is desirable in a tight election and in a marginal seat.
Any honourable member who is interested ought to ask the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) for copies of all the forms which normally are used in the Australian Electoral Office. I think something like forty or fifty of them are used to put people’s names on the electoral roll. There are 3 different forms to challenge people’s rights to have their names on the roll. These should be able to be modified to a considerable extent. Similarly, there is the issue of the ‘How to Vote’ cards. This seems to me to be one of the great wastes of money- it creates a tremendous amount of litter- to provide guidance in a system which we believe is too complicated for the general public to understand. It is not unreasonable that each candidate should be able to put forward his order of preferences to the Electoral Office within a reasonable period of the close of nominations and that that order of preferences should be included in the Act and listed in every polling booth so that when people go into the polling booths they have before them the order of preferences desired by each candidate.
That brings me to the third problem, which is the recognition in the Electoral Act of political parties. A lot of guff is spoken about the incorporation of political parties, etc. It is an accepted fact that there are political parties. It is accepted de facto in Senate elections where groupings are used. It should not be beyond the wit of this Parliament to devise reasonable proceduresproposals have been put before the Parliament in recent years- whereby the names of political parties and the association of candidates to those parties can be recognised at least to the extent that the names can be utilised in an electoral office. It is a strange thing that, whilst we do not recognise that a candidate is a candidate for a particular political party, we require the political party to provide returns on expenditure and other matters in relation to election campaigns. So apparently we recognise political parties but we pretend that we do not. They are things which I think are worthy of examination by members of this House and, wherever possible, unanimity should be sought.
On the matter of the closing times of polling booths, in one or two States now the closing time is 6 o’clock but in the Commonwealth it is 8 o’clock. There seems to be no real reason why some agreement could not be reached on that particular point. These issues relating to the Electoral Act are not terribly important but in total there are quite a number of them. I believe it is proper that the Parliament as a whole should deal with these issues and make recommendations.
The motion which is before us envisages dealing with the matter only as it affects the House of Representatives. I should think that senators would want to examine their own electoral laws as far as the election of senators is concerned. I hope that they will do so fairly quickly because the level of informal votes which is taking place in Senate elections is destroying any claim that the Senate is a representative House. The level of informal votes is running at something like 10 per cent. That is far too high and indicates not that people are not capable of or do not want to vote, but that the system is too complicated and therefore is denying people their right to vote.
I should like to talk about one or two other matters but we have only 12 minutes left for this debate and I should like to leave some time for the seconder to this motion. However, I make the point that in future the problems involved in conducting election campaigns in Australia are going to grow. People are going to demand results far more quickly than they are able to get them now. In the last general election, if I may make the point, it took just on 3 weeks to settle the final seat in the House of Representativesmy seat. If the election result had been close we would not have known who was going to govern the country until that period had elapsed. In a situation of, say, economic or another form of crisis, that would make the position of government impossible. It would place the nation in a rudderless situation.
It should be possible for us to get beyond the horse and buggy stage whereby 10 or 12 days after an election people are not able to say even how many votes there are still to be counted, let alone when they are likely to arrive. In fact, as late as the day of the distribution of preferences in the last general election, 20-odd votes turned up. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs found a very important bundle of votes which apparently no one knew existed. These are areas in which the electoral procedures should be cleaned up and should be cleaned up fairly quickly. I do not suggest that there has been any improper practice, but the Electoral Act needs careful examination and it should be examined by people on the basis of trying to seek agreement on what can and should be done to improve our electoral system.
The other matter, which is going to be one of the big issues in the future, is that of financing election campaigns. If we do not do something about this matter in the future- and it is not a popular subject- we will reach the situation which, I believe, obtains in some countries already, in which the members of the Parliament are agents of those who finance election campaigns rather than representatives of the people who elect them. That would be an undesirable situation. Elections cannot be conducted without money. It will be necessary to look at means by which the amounts of money required to be spent can be reduced. Some of the surplus activity that takes place could well be done away with. I commend the motion to the House. I believe that it proposes a means by which we can seek to have unanimity and agreement on those changes which are necessary or those which we feel are desirable. In controversial matters, or matters on which agreement cannot be reached, obviously the Government has the numbers to enforce its will, but, wherever possible, I believe that an agreement should be reached on electoral matters.
– I second the motion. The mover of the motion, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), has concentrated mainly upon the first 3 matters mentioned in his motion. I want to pay attention to the final two, that is, the funding of political parties and the recognition of political parties. It is a subject about which the Labor Party has made continuous proposals over the last 4 years. It is a subject about which it gave the Government an opportunity to grasp the nettle this year and to do something about this matter in the form of legislation. Again, before this House rises, the Opposition asks the Government to take action at least to appoint a select committee to look at these questions involving the very basis of the operation of political parties in the Parliament, the funding of political parties and the operations of the Electoral Office. It seems strange to members of the Opposition that while the Government has been able to set up committees on a variety of subjects, the latest of which is concerned with tourism, there is always this great reluctance on the part of the Liberal and National Country Parties to look at the question of the funding of political parties, the funding of candidates and the recognition of political parties.
One can only assume that the Liberal and National Country Parties have a great deal to hide about the way they receive their funds and the way in which they are funding their political campaigns. The position in Australia is becoming quite frightening considering the amounts of money that are required for respective elections. It is not just for one election that comes along occasionally. Whilst we separate elections of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the amount of money required by each of the candidates and by all parties in each of the States, taking into account the State elections as well, is becoming enormous. Honourable members know from their own individual experiences or from experiences with the campaign committees of our respective parties, that the amount of money being raised now is an amount which is not recognised by the public. The general public in Australia does not realise the amount of money that is spent on campaigns. There is no effort made by any authority in Australia to try to ascertain the amount of money being spent. As I have said previously in debates concerning this matter, the only way that we can perhaps get some idea of the amount of money being raised is through the annual report of the Broadcasting Control Board when that annual report covers the period of an election. Then we can find out how much money each of the political parties has spent on television and radio.
In 1974 we saw that the Liberal and National Country Parties spent something like $1.4m on radio and television. In 1975, as a result of having witnessed the campaign by the LiberalNational Country Parties, it would be no exaggeration to say that they had millions of dollars available to conduct their election campaigns. People are entitled to know what amount of money is being spent on elections in Australia and they are entitled to know where that money comes from. The day before yesterday in the Melbourne Age, it was stated that the devaluation of the Australian dollar means a hand-out to the Utah Mining Co of approximately $35m in a full year, based on last year’s production figures. The Opposition would like to know whether Utah is a major contributor to the financial pockets of the Liberal and National Country Parties. It has been the understanding in Australian political circles that the mining companies, the banks and some of the larger financial institutions are the big backers behind the coalition parties. The people in Australia are entitled to know what is going on. Otherwise we will run into the same sort of difficulties faced by other countries.
The Opposition is asking the Government to set up a select committee to investigate this matter. We will not reach any conclusions by merely conducting a debate in the House. We will reach conclusions only if a committee of the Parliament is set up to look at all these questions. The Opposition is asking this Government to do exactly the same as nas been done in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany and the United Kingdom. All of these countries have set up committees of their respective parliaments to look at these questions. In every case the committees of those parliaments have recommended in their reports that the funding of political parties be met mainly by the State, that the Governments themselves pay out the moneys that are needed for the political parties to conduct their campaigns. They have recommended that these moneys be based on the percentage vote which parties received at the previous one or two elections. If all those countries are reaching those conclusions, what is wrong with the suggestion that a committee of this House should look at the question to see whether it is working in those countries and to see what sort of corruption that action has perhaps avoided. We have all witnessed the mammoth corruption of the American system in a couple of election periods, not too long ago. It is very fresh in our memories. That situation should be avoided in Australia.
We do not want to put ourselves in a position where it is alleged that there is corruption in the funding of political parties in Australia. The only way to avoid that situation is to bring everything out into the open. The Labor Party is very much in favour of this. Why do not the Liberal and National Country Parties join the Labor Party in this? Why are they trying to hide who their donors are? They will not even go as far as to establish a public register of those who make donations to their parties. When the Labor Government tried to legislate in 1973, 1974 and again in 1975 to establish a public register so that the public could see who made donations to political parties, the coalition parties joined together in the Senate to defeat the legislation. They will continue to be charged with all these sorts of things until such time as they agree that it would be in the national interest for the very basis of the Parliament, the funding of political parties and candidates, to be made clean, because the Australian public is entitled to know who the Government’s backers are. Perhaps this could then be related to some of the actions taken by the Government. The Government must not continue to hide and refuse to recognise the importance of this subject, simply saying that it is going to overcome the problems of the people of Australia by establishing a committee on tourism, or on Aboriginal land rights, or on foreign affairs, or on expenditure. The very presence here of all of us will be in a very grey area until such time as the Liberal and National Country Parties recognise the corruption that can creep into the funding of political parties and the funding of candidates, and until such time as they recognise that something has to be done and that a committee must be set up, as has been done in parliaments right around the western world.
I reiterate that we are not now spending $100 to run a campaign in a marginal electorate. Honourable members on the other side know this as well as the Opposition does. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) knows this. He is probably spending in the vicinity of $15,000 or $20,000 every election just in the electorate of Griffith. If that amount is multiplied by the eighty or ninety seats that are hard fought, the amount of money spent by the candidates themselves, ignoring the amount that is being spent by the head offices of the political parties, shows that the conduct of elections is a multi-million dollar affair. The people of Australia are entitled to know- it would be in the interests of members of Parliament more than of anyone else- where those funds come from. If that were known it might be concluded again that it would be in the best interests of Australia if the funds to conduct elections came out of general revenue. That is the pure way of doing it. That is the best way of doing it. That is the fairest way of doing it. It has been said since Federation that perhaps the Labor Party does not have the ability to raise the same amount of funds as the Liberal and National Country Parties. In relation to receiving very large donations from major companies that is true.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) Order! As it is now 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, consideration of notices is interrupted.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the time for discussion of Notice No. 1, General Business, be extended.
– As I was saying, if we multiply the amounts that are being spent in individual electorates and get some idea of the millions of dollars that are being spent on campaigns this adds to the Labor Party’s case that everybody should come clean on the funding of political parties. We see no reason why the Government will not accept these proposals. The Government can set up a committee upon which it has a majority.
Let us analyse exactly what is going on. The honourable member for Griffith says quite rightly- I believe him; I do not challenge himthat he raises his campaign funds in the electorate of Griffith itself. But the honourable member cannot tell me because he would not have access to the books, how much money is paid into the headquarters of the Liberal and National Country Parties in Queensland. Not only is that sort of information denied to the public but also it is denied to the parliamentarians. Parliamentarians have no idea how much money is raised by their Party headquarters; what money exists in the slush funds all around Australia; or how money is paid to the political parties. All these aspects should be looked at by the proposed committee; then we can debate its report.
The only reason we can see why honourable members opposite will not accept this proposalthey have defeated similar moves over the years to appoint such a committee- is that they must have something to hide. Do honourable members opposite believe that the problems of funding political parties in Australia are any different from the problems experienced by the other countries that I named? Are we presented with different problems? Are we presented with different problems because of the number of political parties or the number of candidates? Why do we not follow the lead of all those other countries? Perhaps we may reach different conclusions, but all the people in Australia would be glad to see that we have come clean on the funding of political parties.
I reiterate that the charges exist. Everybody believes that the big backers of the Liberal and National Country Parties are Mt Isa Mines Ltd, the Bank of New South Wales, the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd and the Utah Development Company. People will go on believing that until such time as they know exactly what relationship exists between all these major companies and the government of the day. The only way we can find out that relationship and rescue ourselves and our reputations in the process is to appoint a select committee to look at these questions. The committee may reach conclusions and make recommendations to this Parliament similar to those of other such committees around the world, that is, that it is not in the best interests of the political system of this country to have private donations at all to political parties. Irrespective of the fact that we all get up and say that there are no ties with the donations that are made to us individually or between donors and political parties, who believes us? The public does not believe us. The public thinks a definite relationship exists between the donor and the political party.
We are putting forward a rescue operation for politicians in this generation and in this Parliament and for future generations and future parliaments. We ask the Government to look seriously at accepting the proposals. The committee may present interim reports and final reports with the result that future elections may be conducted by a new process. Millions of dollars will be spent in the elections of 1978, 1981 and 1984. If the honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) are each spending $ 1 5,000 or $20,000 on each election now in 6 years’ time they will want $30,000 or $40,000. There is no ceiling; honourable members raise and spend as much as they possibly can. If the honourable member for Parramatta is raising $30,000 or $40,000 in 6 years time the political machine in New South Wales probably will want $5 m or $6m.
Where will it all end? Even the United States has put a ceiling on the spending of its Presidential candidates. The United States has had all the trouble of Watergate and the corruption involved with political donations. It is trying to wipe out the corruption. The United Kingdom, West Germany and other countries have moved in this area. But this Government continues to hide behind the present situation which embodies aspects that we really cannot understand or be fully informed on. Why will the Government not accept the suggestion by the honourable member for Corio that a committee of this Parliament should look at the whole question of the operation of the Australian Electoral Office, electoral laws, funding and voting procedures? All these questions are very basic to us. Our operations will be in a grey area until such time as we clarify our position. I make it clear that the Labor Party will not change its views on this question. We will continue to try year after year to get the Government to come out into the open on this question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is really a long time since we have heard so much specious, hollow, hypocritical, insincere humbug as we have just heard from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who has spoken on the funding of political parties. In the history of the Australian Federation no Party has had such a remarkably clean record in government and in Opposition as have the Liberal and National Country Parties. The honourable member for Port Adelaide speaks about donations, which have ties, to political parties. He should remember recent events in his own Party. He is not prepared to listen to this. I notice he is leaving the House. In recent memory is the escapade at breakfast time of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) seeking half a million dollars of Iraqi money to finance the debts incurred by the Labor Party in the last Federal election. What tie was there to be for that money? That was secrecy par excellence in that proposed provision of funding for political parties not from inside Australia but from outside Australia. It was obviously intended to tie the fortunes of Australia to a foreign country. What more despicable conduct by a political party is there than that?
In more recent memory is the $25,000 that the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union paid to the Australian Labor Party as the price for getting amendments to the industrial legislation of the Commonwealth as required by that union. What about the conduct of the Premier of South Australia, which is the honourable member for Port Adelaide’s own State? The Premier turned against the Federal Leader of the Parliamentary Labor Party because when the Labor Party was in government it introduced amendments to the taxation provisions affecting the wine industry contrary to the commitment that Mr Dunstan had made to the wine industry as the price for donations to the Australian Labor Party. What more tied funding of a political party could exist than that?
– Do you not think that that information should be disclosed?
– It is all very well for the honourable member for Corio to interject but that fact would not have been disclosed if the Australian Labor Party, under the leadership of the present Leader of the Opposition, had not turned against the commitment which had been made. Mr Dunstan denounced his leader. That is another example of a secret commitment made to tie political funds to the advantage of a section of the Australian community.
What humbug, hypocrisy and insincerity we have heard from the lips of the honourable member for Port Adelaide. This is a typical example of the way the Opposition goes about its argument in this field. It uses insinuations without any statement of fact whatsoever to support its argument. The Opposition constantly points the finger at this side of the House and says: What have you to hide? You must have something to hide if you are not prepared to agree with this proposition’. Again, it is the kind of approach that is so shallow that I wonder that the honourable member for Port Adelaide has not learned the lesson of good debate. I think that what I have said is sufficient to indicate why the Government is not prepared to accept the argument put forward here today.
The Government wonders- as it has wondered before when the Opposition has spoken on this matter- if the Opposition’s principal motivation is to seek the disclosure of the source of campaign funds so as to invade the privacy of individuals who contribute to political parties other than the Australian Labor Party. That is inherent in the Opposition’s proposition. It wants to be able to have access to names of donors to individual members of Parliament, let alone to political parties. I remind the Opposition that when it proposed this motion when it was in government the former honourable member for Grayndler, Mr Fred Daly, who was handling electoral matters for the then Government, refused to accept a proposition put by us when in Opposition that a parliamentary committee be set up to examine electoral reform and to examine the Electoral Act itself. The then Leader of the House indicated at that stage on behalf of the Government that our proposal was a phoney stunt. If our proposal was phoney, the Opposition’s proposal today is much more phoney. It completely lacks credibility.
I remind the honourable gentleman who proposed this motion that a census was conducted recently on the basis of which there will need to be a redistribution. A decision also is pending by the High Court of Australia on a challenge based upon the way in which quotas are fixed for determining the numbers of electors in electorates. The case before the High Court will determine whether people in the Territories are to be taken into account in determining the quota of electors for fixing the size of electorates. For those 2 reasons alone, it is premature to consider the establishment of any parliamentary committee to examine the Electoral Act. As well as that, the Government has said that a review of the Electoral Act is at present under way by the Australian Electoral Office. Let me remind honourable gentlemen that the Australian Electoral Office is a statutory body, independent of political parties. That body is conducting the inquiry and will advise the Government. So the Government can expect an impartial, objective review of the present provisions of the Electoral Act. When it has received that advice, the Government will consider what amendments need to be made to the Electoral Act. Proposals can always be put forward to fix the order on a ballot paper by ballot or by the alphabet or to change the closing time of polling booths on election day. These were a couple of the matters that were mentioned by the honourable member for Corio but they are incidental. I think that if members of the Opposition had some patience they would find that the review being conducted by the Australian Electoral Office, independent of all political parties, will be a satisfactory objective basis for advice to the Government. With those remarks, I think the debate should come to a conclusion and I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
– by leave- The Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, under the chairmanship of Dr H. C. Coombs, presented its report in July of this year. In announcing the submission of the report at that time, I said that the Government would study carefully and give thorough consideration to the recommendations made by the Commission on the principles for more efficient administration. The necessary machinery has since been established for this purpose and decisions on recommendations will be announced progressively. For purposes of our examination of the Commission’s report, the Government decided that its recommendations could be grouped in 5 main categories on the following basis:
Action has been put in train in relation to each of the 5 categories. In particular, I have asked that Ministers let me have their views on the Commission’s recommendations which have both specific and general relevance to departments and authorities under their control. I have also suggested that their consideration of the Commission’s report could be regarded as a useful starting point for a wide-ranging examination of the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative procedures. In response to my request, the Public Service Board has completed its initial examination of the matters specifically referred to it and I will shortly be announcing the nature of the further action which it has in mind.
The Government has now taken initial decisions on a number of the Royal Commission’s recommendations. The Government has approved in principle the Commission’s recommendations for implementation of a system of efficiency audits. Officials have been asked to report on the details of how such a system might be implemented. The Government also has agreed that the Public Service Board should continue its management improvement functions, including efficiency and staff utilisation reviews, in general accordance with its present responsibilities under the Public Service Act.
The Government also has noted the particular significance which the Royal Commission attached to integrated forward estimates of both financial and manpower requirements. In this regard, I mention that the Government has previously agreed with proposals by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that forward financial estimates should be collected for the 3 years 1977-78 to 1979-80. The development of the Department of Finance will enable these to be pursued with greater vigour. The Public Service Board also has been progressively developing a comprehensive system of forward manpower estimates. Whilst noting the complexity surrounding many of the issues involved and the Commission’s view that development of a satisfactory process might take several years, the Government has decided that action should proceed immediately for detailed examination and report on the Commission’s proposals.
A number of other decisions taken by the Government will, I am sure, be of interest to Public Service Staff organisations. They are:
The Government has also accepted the royal commission’s recommendations that a practice should be established permitting the Leader of the Opposition, before a general election, to confer with the Public Service Board and the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and permitting shadow Ministers to confer with the heads of relevant departments. Guidelines have been developed covering the conduct of these discussions and I have informed the Leader of the Opposition of them. I seek leave to have the guidelines incorporated in Hansard
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Guidelines for Pre-election Consultation with the Opposition
The pre-election period is to date from three months prior to the expiry of the House of Representatives or the date of announcement of the House of Representatives election, whichever date comes first. It does not apply in respect of Senate elections only.
Under the special arrangement, shadow Ministers may be given approval to have discussions with appropriate officials of Government Departments. Party Leaders may have other Members of Parliament or their staff members present. A Permanent Head may have other officials present.
The procedure will be initiated by the Leaders of non-Government parties making a request to the Prime Minister specifying the Departments involved. If he agrees, the Prime Minister will then put the arrangements in hand.
The discussions will be at the initiative of the Leaders of non-Government parties, not officials. Officials will inform their Ministers when the discussions are taking place.
Officials will not be authorised to discuss Government policies or to give opinions on matters of a party political nature. The subject matter of the discussions would relate to the machinery of government and administration. The discussions may include the administrative and technical practicalities and procedures involved in implementation of policies proposed by the non-Government parties. If the Opposition representatives raised matters which, in the judgment of the officials, sought information on Government policies or sought expressions of opinion on alternative policies, the officials would suggest that the matter be raised with the Minister.
The detailed substance of the discussions will be confidential but Ministers will be entitled to seek from officials general information on whether the discussions kept within the agreed purposes.
-The Government has also accepted the royal commission’s recommendations that there should be guidelines governing the briefing of members and party committees by public servants and the handling of requests for information by members of parliament to departments and authorities. The Government has endorsed draft guidelines for these matters and I have referred them to members of the Government parties. I am writing to the Leader of the Opposition informing him of the guidelines endorsed so that he may do likewise with members of his Party. The Government would be responsive to comments from the Opposition or from its own Parties on these matters. I seek leave to have these guidelines also incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Guidelines to Apply to Appearances by Public Servants Before Party Committees
Ministers may authorise officers of their departments to appear before Government and Opposition Party Committees to provide briefings or background material on Government or ministerial decisions and proposals, including details and /or explanations of proposed legislation.
Briefing of this nature will be authorised on the principle of promoting the freest possible flow of factual and background material to permit informed consideration by the committees and parties concerned of the issues involved, consistent with preserving the necessary confidence of Government and maintaining the traditional political impartiality of officials.
Committee requests for briefing in the above terms will be directed to the Minister concerned. If he agrees, the Minister will authorise his department to put the necessary arrangements in hand. It will also be open for a Minister himself to initiate proposals for briefing of committees, where he considers this to be desirable.
Officials will not be expected or authorised to express opinions on Government policies, policy options or matters of a party political nature. The discussions may, however, include administrative arrangements and procedures involved in implementation of the proposed policies or legislation.
If matters are raised which in the judgment of officials seek expressions of opinion on Government policies or on alternative policies, the officials would suggest that the matter be raised with the Minister.
Where considered necessary or desirable, Ministers may elect to be present at discussions with Government party committees, to deal with questions of a policy or parry political nature.
Where the Minister does not attend the committee proceedings, he will have the right to be kept informed by officials of the nature of the discussions and of any matters not able to be resolved by the officials to the committee’s satisfaction.
Where an official considers that questioning by a committee goes beyond the authorised scope of the briefing arrangements, he should so indicate to the committee, and before answering will be at liberty to raise the matter with his departmental head and the Minister, and if he so desires, with the Public Service Board.
Guidelines Relating to Access by Members of Parliament to Public Servants
Much will depend on the nature of the request. There will, for example, be occasions when a request by a Member of Parliament amounts to no more than a request for available factual information equivalent to any request from a member of the public. In these circumstances, the information should obviously be provided;
there will be other occasions when the request is sensitive, or where answering it would necessitate the use of substantial departmental resources. In such cases it would be appropriate to suggest that the member write to the Minister requesting the information;
the officer should, as appropriate, inform his Permanent Head or Minister of a request for information and of the outcome;
care should be taken to avoid unauthorised disclosure of classified or otherwise confidential information, for example, where a breach of personal or commercial privacy could be involved.
– In response to the royal commission’s suggestion that greater attention is required to the provision of more realistic objectives for staff training and development activities, the Government has decided that all departments should be asked to review their overall arrangements in these areas. In the light of those reviews, the Public Service Board has been asked to review the nature of its own role in relation to training and personnel development matters and to report its findings to the Government by mid- 1977.
The Government did not take up the commission’s recommendation that the special statutory provisions for the appointment of exservicemen in section 47a of the Public Service Act be not re-enacted when the Act is amended. We do not believe that there should be any suggestion of a lessening of the Government s special concern for veterans who have served Australia.
The Government has noted that the commission highlighted the proliferation of Commonwealth statutory authorities, particularly in recent years. For its part, my Government endorses the commission’s conclusion in favour of adopting the departmental form of organisation for government agencies unless a clear necessity can be demonstrated for the functions concerned to be carried out by a body which is wholly, or in some desired way, separate from ministerial and departmental administration. In conformity with this approach, we have decided that formulation of broad guidelines for the creation of statutory authorities would be desirable. Accordingly, a working party of officials is to be established to prepare a guideline document as soon as possible for the Government’s consideration. We would expect that the guidelines ultimately approved by the Government would be applied not only in circumstances where creation of a new statutory authority was being proposed, but also for pur- poses of assessing whether existing statutory bodies continued to satisfy the guideline criteria. This would not preclude Ministers from proposing particular structural arrangements where they felt there were worthwhile advantages to be gained.
As reflected in the terms of the decisions which I have now announced, my Government is conscious of the need for consultation with staff organisation on matters arising from the royal commission’s recommendations which have major industrial relations implications. Such consultation will take place with the peak councils of the staff organisations and with other bodies as appropriate.
Legislation introduced recently on appointment of Permanent Heads of Public Service departments and on early retirement, followed the Government’s acceptance of the main thrust of the Commission’s recommendations on these matters.
Because of the wide-ranging terms of reference of the royal commission it was obviously not in a position to prepare detailed implementation plans for its recommendations. I believe that we nave made substantial progress in our initial examination of the report and have set in train work to prepare such detailed plans. I have no doubt that, when implemented, these reforms will lead to a more efficient administrationa matter which should be of concern to all Australians. I add that as the Government examination of the royal commission’s recommendations progresses, obviously there will be other reports to the Parliament concerning the decisions taken.
Sitting suspended from 12.54 to 2.15 p.m.
-by leave-Mr Deputy Speaker, the purpose of this statement is to inform the House of the further decisions that have been taken concerning the system of trading stock valuation adjustments foreshadowed in the Budget Speech. With the indexation of the personal tax system, the Government has already seen to it that inflation can no longer act as a silent and unlegislated tax on personal income. This represents the most farreaching reform made to the Australian system of personal income tax in our time. It has been introduced at a cost to the revenue during the current financial year of around $ 1,050m, equivalent to $1,2 10m in a full year. By doing this the Government fulfilled, in the space of 6 months, an election commitment that was to be met over a period of 3 years.
At the time of the last election the Government also promised to reduce the burden of income tax on firms and companies which, because of inflation, have had to find increasing amounts of working capital to maintain business activity. During our predecessors’ term of office the capital base of the free enterprise sector was substantially eroded by high rates of inflation. In other words, inflation, acting through the taxation system, was not only the instrument whereby resources were transferred in an arbitrary way from individuals to the Government but also, because of its impact on companies, a central element in the weakening of the free enterprise system that took place under our predecessors. Inflation, in precise terms, adds to the burden of taxation on business enterprises which have to replace goods that constitute their trading stocks, at constantly increasing prices, out of profits which, calculated in the conventional way, are fully subject to income tax. Under existing income tax rules full taxation is imposed on business profits that, for obvious reasons, are not available in a wholly liquid form and that are, to an increasing extent, being tied up in goods held as trading stocks. To put it another way, businesses are paying taxes out of what amounts to no more than paper profits and this has limited, and in many cases depressed, the general level of business activity within the economy.
As a first step in putting an end to this problem, the Government has decided that the impact of inflation on trading stock financing should be taken into account in assessing the taxation liabilities of business enterprises. In effect, a special income tax deduction, measured by reference to the annual increase in the goods component of the consumer price index, will be allowed to firms and companies holding eligible trading stocks for business purposes. Honourable members will know that, under provisional standards issued by the professional accountancy bodies in Australia, accounting profit will be measured in terms of current, and not historical, cost concepts. In relation to trading stocks, the full current cost price of goods sold by a firm will be charged against its profits so that its financial statements will reflect changes that take place in the price structure of the goods and rises in general price levels. The trading stock adjustments, to be made for income tax purposes, are designed to protect business working capital against erosion by inflation in broadly the same way as current cost accounting that is now being taken up by accountants.
For 2 major reasons, the income tax adjustments will be measured by movements in the general price level and not on specific price changes. First, the adjustments are intended to compensate for inflation-caused cost increases and not to reflect changes that may occur even when money values are stable, in price structures of particular goods. Second, the use of the general index will provide a standard basis of measurement of price level changes that can be applied uniformly in the income tax assessments of businesses dealing in goods. Having described briefly the nature of the problems that the new income tax stock valuation adjustments are designed to resolve, I turn now to the adjustments themselves.
The annual adjustment for a firm or company will be made by way of an income tax deduction calculated as a proportion of the taxation value of its trading stock of goods on hand at the beginning of the year of income. The proportion of the stock valuation to be allowable as a deduction will be based on the percentage increase, June quarter to June quarter, in the goods component of the consumer price index. The scheme is to be phased in and, for 1976-77, the first income year for which the adjustment will be allowable, the proportion will be one half of the percentage increase in the goods component of the index. The stock valuation figure will be that adopted by the firm or company for income tax purposes, as long as no stocks are valued at a figure in excess of the true cost. Income tax valuations in excess of cost will have to be converted to cost for the purposes of the adjustment.
An important matter is the range of trading stocks to which the adjustment is to apply. This has been considered carefully by the Government and it has been decided that goods held, and properly accounted for as trading stock for income tax purposes, will be within the scope of the new allowance. Accordingly, the cost price of such property as land, buildings, construction work in progress, shares, other securities and other legal rights, including industrial property such as patents and copyrights, will not be subject to adjustment.
In a business of primary production, or other business in which livestock is held as trading stock, the adjustment will be calculated generally by reference to the cost values adopted for income tax purposes so that where a standard cost has been ascribed to natural increase the adjustment will be a proportion of that figure. In this connection, I add that it is not proposed that a deduction will be available in respect of the cost of racehorses and other animals used or bred for sporting or domestic purposes.
Inquiries have been received as to how the scheme will operate where a company has, with the approval of the Commissioner of Taxation, adopted a substituted accounting period in place of a year of income ending 30 June. Whether such companies balance earlier or later than 30 June, the rates of tax applying in their assessments are those usually announced in the Budget Speech each year, for application to companies generally. It has been decided that, where a company balances on a date other than 30 June, the increase in the general index between June quarter and June quarter used for the purposes of the stock adjustment will be applied to the relevant value of the trading stocks held by the company at the beginning of its accounting period. There will not, therefore, be any special index for these companies.
Difficult questions arise where, during a particular year of income, a business changes hands, the interests of the proprietors in a business change, or the scale of operations of a business is substantially reduced. Generally speaking, it is not proposed that an income tax adjustment be available for a business in the income year in which it is brought to an end. However, where a business is terminated on the death of its proprietor, a special proportionate adjustment will be allowable. Furthermore, if the trustee and beneficiaries indicate that the business will be carried on, a special proportionate adjustment will also be available in the assessments based on income derived by the estate.
Where the scale of operations of a business is substantially reduced during a year so that the value of closing stock is less than its opening stock value, the adjustment will be measured by reference to the closing stock value, as the purpose of the scheme is to assist businesses which want to preserve the same level of operating capacity. If the shareholders or proprietors in a business change during a year but it is established that the same business is carried on for the rest of the year by the new owners, the ordinary adjustment will be allowable. In the case of a business carried on by a sole proprietor or partnership, the adjustment will be apportioned on a time basis between the old and new owners. In a year in which a firm or company commences business and first acquires goods as trading stocks, a proportionate adjustment based on its holdings of stocks will be made.
Finally, if a business conducted by a company is taken over by an associated company, as in the course of a group reorganisation, the adjustment will generally be apportioned between the 2 companies on a time basis, but with provision for the deduction to be allowed to the company acquiring the business where there is agreement that this be done. Honourable members will be aware that some protective provisions will be required to ensure that the new scheme of stock adjustments is not misused for tax avoidance purposes. I do not think it appropriate at this stage to lay undue stress on this aspect, other than to say that our examination has led us to conclude that safeguards, in wide terms, will need to be written into the law to ensure that neither the cost price of trading stock nor its opening value is overstated for income tax purposes.
Other safeguarding provisions will be available to the Commissioner in situations where an unusually or unnecessarily large volume of trading stock is held at the beginning of an accounting period with a view to maximising the stock adjustment.
As foreshadowed in the Budget Speech, amending legislation to provide for the trading stock valuation adjustments will be introduced during the Autumn sittings and will give full particulars of the new system. The details that I have announced’ today- indeed this is the purpose of making the statement to the House today- will enable individual firms and companies to assess the changes that will be incorporated in legislation next year. By giving details of the new scheme now there will, as well, be an opportunity for the Government to take into account public discussion and informed comment before final enactment of the proposals.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I had hoped that on a technical subject such as this the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) would have used words of a non-political nature. But this was not to be. The Treasurer’s remarks have certainly drawn me to my feet. I take the opportunity to condemn supporters of the Government and Ministers in particular for not conducting business, such as the trading stock valuation adjustment statement which is now before us, in an adult way.
The first few paragraphs of the Treasurer’s statement contained some ‘ political nonsense about personal income tax indexation which is totally unrelated to the subject of inflation accounting for the business sector, which is the subject of this statement. What has been said in those paragraphs is quite dishonest. It is no wonder that this Government has hardly an ounce of credibility left. I will give the House some examples of what the Government has done. After saying that it would not meddle with Medibank, the Government did meddle with it. After saying that it would support wage indexation, it then went to the first national wage case and opposed wage indexation. This time last year we heard how there was to be reform of the tax structure, and that there was to be more take home pay for the wage and salary earners of this country. That just is not true. We applaud the introduction of tax indexation. We have done so on previous occasions. I repeat it. But it is not true to say that tax indexation will result in more take home pay for the Australian wage and salary earners.
Tax indexation was able to be introduced so promptly only because of the reforms that took place in the Hayden Budget this time last year. Changes were made to the tax scales in such a way that tax indexation was able to be introduced. It is just not true to say that there is now more take home pay because although there have been adjustments for Inflation under tax indexation we have had offsetting them the health taxes, the removal of rebates for dependants and the abolition of interest deductibility on home mortgages.
Only last Monday night when opening the debate in the Parliament on taxation legislation I gave the example of a man with a wife and 2 children who received a taxable income of $10,000 a year, which is just over the figure for average weekly earnings. I pointed out that after taking into consideration the increased child endowment benefit, this man was now taking home over $5 a week less when adjustments were made for inflation and account was taken of the health taxes and the removal of rebates for dependants. I should note that this calculation does not take into consideration the removal of the deductibility scheme for interest paid on home mortgages which imposed further costs on many Australians. I am bound to make those points because in a dishonest way the Treasurer introduced the subject to tax indexation in his statement on trading stock valuation adjustment.
Having said that I come to the details of the statement. The Australian Labor Party Government set up the Mathews Committee, the report of which gave rise to the measures which are the subject of the statement, details of which have just been given by the Treasurer. I am bound to point out also that this statement gives the impression that the Australian Labor Party
Government was responsible for the level of inflation which has given rise to the measure we are now considering. That too is a dishonest statement. There is not a country in the world, which operates under a system similar to ours, that is not suffering from the level of inflation that we are suffering and that has not had to take measures such as the adjustment measures that we are debating today.
The Opposition welcomes the fact that the Government has adopted in a qualified way some of the recommendations of the Mathews Committee. We welcome the fact that a further statement has been made today clarifying what was promised in the Budget Speech. Let us hope that this statement is not merely a carbon copy of the sorts of statements that were made about investment allowance. We all remember that the Treasurer made statement after statement on this subject in the House in the early months of this year and that each statement gave rise to more confusion than the previous one. I trust that this will not happen in respect of trading stock valuation adjustments.
Trading stock valuation adjustment is, of course, only one element in current cost accounting. I am on record as giving a personal view on current cost accounting to a seminar in Melbourne entitled Dimensions of Current Cost Accounting run by the Business Law Education Centre on 4 November this year. I believe that we cannot continue to allow accounting methods which gave rise to taxation and dividends being paid out of capital. Adjustments have to be made. Adjustments such as these are being made in comparable countries. It is right and proper that they should be made here.
I welcome the fact that the Government has made a move in this direction. Bearing in mind the short notice that I have had to examine the statement, I am not committing myself or my Party to agreement with the decisions taken by the Government as announced in this statement. I believe that we have to make a closer study with our technical advisers of this matter before we commit ourselves. I notice that there are paragraphs in the Treasurer’s statement already showing that there is more in the way of information which has to be given. I draw attention to the paragraph which states:
Honourable members will be aware that some protective provisions will be required to ensure that the new scheme of stock adjustments is not misused for tax avoidance purposes.
It would have been preferable if we could have been given these further details. It would have been even more preferable if the particular legislation could have been laid on the table over this period so that we could then have examined this important subject in some depth. I said last Monday night during the debate on the taxation Bills that in this complicated area the Government should have been giving priority to the Parliamentary Counsel and taxation advisers in bring down specific proposals in legislative form in this House rather than having the Treasurer give us vague statements like this or statements which are not sufficient in detail. It is the actual wording of the legislation which we need to know sooner rather than later. I welcome the fact that we have had a statement. I hope it will be clearer than the initial statement on the investment allowance but I would have preferred that the legislation had been brought into the House. I hope that that will be done soon.
-The Speaker has 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-
– The Parliament is about to go into recess with the nation and the economy in worse shape than when it first met. Twelve months of Liberal government, twelve months of Liberal legislation and policy-making, have ensured a dismal Christmas for Australia and a bleak new year for millions. The fruits of Liberal bungling and mismanagement can be summed up as follows: A stagnant economy, rising unemployment, and a massive devaluation. This is the achievement of the men born to rule, the party of sound economic management. This is the achievement of the most reactionary Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) since Federation. The great Liberal fraud has been exposed.
A year ago the Australian people were invited to get rid of the Labor Government- the Government that had created Medibank and health centres and legal aid, reformed education reformed our servile foreign policies, embarked on creative social programs and raised the living standards and expectations of all Australians.
The people were promised a solution to the economic problems which beset the entire western world. Today those problems are further from solution than ever. The people were asked to make sacrifices to achieve economic recovery. The sacrifices have been made- no doubt about that- but where is the recovery? The people were asked to dispense with health centres and growth centres, with urban programs and transport programs, to restore full employment and reduce inflation. Today unemployment is worse than ever and inflation will be worse under this Government’s policies. The sacrifices asked of the Australian people have been made, and it must be said, made willingly; they have been made for nothing- in vain. In plain terms the living standards of the Australian people are lower today than they were when this Government took office. Australians have suffered a fall in real incomes, in their real living standards, in the quality of their lives, in their expectations for themselves and their children. They are worse off than before. Australia is no longer among the countries where living standards and incomes are improving. We have joined those nations whose standards are in decline.
This fall in living standards- this slide in personal incomes and individual welfare and security- is so novel and dramatic a phenomenon that the Australian people have yet to grasp its implications. The ideas of progress and prosperity, of automatic advancement in national and personal expectations, are so entrenched in Liberal propaganda that it is difficult to imagine a society in which they do not occur. The notion of inevitable rising prosperity and material consumption has been an article of faith for our people since the war. It could be said of previous Liberal administrations that while there were areas of gross neglect and squalor in society, and vast disparities in individual and corporate wealth, the general trend in the economy was upward and expansionary- an increasing satisfaction of material wants and needs, a rising level of material rewards. This rising trend had little to do with Liberal policies and often occurred in spite of them. But the trend was there. It continued under my Government. Under the Fraser Government- for the first time in the memory of most Australians- this is no longer so.
The Labor Party does not see personal prosperity and security purely in terms of cash rewards- of money in the pocket. Wages are crucial; they are not everything. No democratic socialist could argue otherwise. Labor insists that the measure of real prosperity, real security and true well-being is to be found not only in wages but in the services which governments provide for their people and for the whole community. Medibank in its original form represented a positive addition to the material incomes, the living standards of every Australian family. It made possible for all our people services which previously had to be bought and paid for from wages or from a multiplicity of inefficient private funds. There are other things- essential components of civilised life- which no individual can pay for from his private income. No one, however wealthy, can build a new city or a new highway, sewer his house, or erect a hospital, a health centre or a school. In any just society people can no more do without decent roads, schools, health centres or efficient medical insurance than they can do without their weekly pay cheque.
The Fraser Government insists that the sole test of individual prosperity is the amount of personal income. Yet even by that limited test the Fraser Government has failed to deliver. Let the Government that serves Mammon be judged by Mammon’s standards. The personal incomes of Australians are falling. They are falling as a result of this Government’s policies. They are not chance or accidental effects of the Government’s measures. They are deliberate and calculated effects. This Government believes, though it has never made its intentions clear, that by putting men and women out of work and holding down incomes and living standards, the economy can be restored to prosperity. It has simply not happened. The economy has got worse. The real fraud in this Government’s policies is its pretence that Australians have to curb their wages and reduce their incomes for the economy to recover. Leave aside the suggestion that wage earners alone have to carry the burden of recovery; leave aside the suggestion that the doctors, the speculators, the mining companies, the wealthy graziers and Pitt Street farmers are exempt from sacrifice. What the Government conceals from the people is that wage rises have already been curbed, real incomes have already fallen, without any improvement in our economic health. The cure for our problems which the Government and its friends demand of Australian wage earners has already been tried and found wanting.
To put these facts in perspective, to establish this charge precisely, we must look at the effects of the Government’s attitude to wage indexation and its other fiscal and economic measures, including the health tax. The most comprehensive measure of personal incomes is the real household disposable income which takes account of tax payments and social service benefits. Between July and December last year real household disposable incomes totalled $25.3 billion. In the first 6 months of this year they fell by 1.4 per cent and will continue to fall throughout this financial year. The University of Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research anticipates that real household disposable income will fall by 1.5 per cent in 1976-77 compared with 1975-76. The Institute estimates that between January and June next year real household disposable income mli fall to $24.9 billion. In other words, the Fraser Government’s policies will be taking about $400m from the real incomes of Australians. Since the population continues to rise, real income per head is actually declining faster than the broad figures indicate. I seek leave to incor-
E orate in Hansard a table showing real houseold disposable income for each six-month period between the second half of 1974 and today, together with forecasts for 1977, taken from the most recent issue of the Australian Economic Review, published by the Institute.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
From the Australian Economic Review (3rd quarter, 1976) published by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
-The Prime Minister in his policy speech a year ago stated as a firm promise to the Australian people: ‘Our policies will maintain the purchasing power of wages’. That promise has been broken. The Government has never had the slightest intention of maintaining the purchasing power of wages. In the supplementary economic statement issued with the Liberal policy speech the Prime Minister said:
The Government will support the wage indexation agreement in the current economic circumstances.
That specific promise, too, was broken. There was no suggestion that the commitment was partial or qualified in the circumstances of last December. In the light of our experience of this Government’s deception it would be obvious now that the phrase ‘in the current economic circumstances’ was a deliberate loophole; a year ago the Australian people were entitled to take the promise at face value. Yet 7 weeks after the election the commitment to wage indexation was abandoned. Wage indexation was effectively destroyed and with it the essential protection for personal incomes and the essential foundation of trust and co-operation on which economic recovery was based. As a consequence of this broken promise the Arbitration Commission was persuaded to grant only partial indexation in response to the increase in cost of living in the March and June quarters. The effect of this reduction in real wages is substantial for certain groups of income earners. A wage earner receiving $200 a week before these 2 decisions has received an increase of 3.4 per cent compared with the 5.6 per cent he would have received under full indexation.
Real wages have declined as a result of the Government’s policies. Take the case of the average wage earner with a dependent wife and 2 children. Allowing for taxation, including the health tax and social security payments such as family allowances, the net income of such a person when Labor went out of office averaged $1 1 1.64 a week; today it has fallen to $108.54 a week. These figures are based on the Government’s own estimates, presented to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at its September wage hearing. So the Government has been misleading the Australian people about the trend of real wages and the effect of its policies. Real wages are not galloping ahead; they are failing. For the largest group of employees, those on the average income of $180 a week, real wages are back where they were 2 years ago. The Government’s policies are not defending the value of real wages: They are deliberately undermining them. The Australian people will note that every one of the Fraser Government’s attacks on real living standards- on actual money incomes- is the result of a broken promise. The dismantling of Medibank was a broken promise; the abandonment of wage indexation was a broken promise. Yet another broken promise is the decision to scrap tax deductions for house mortgages. The Prime Minister said in his policy speech:
A Liberal and National Country Party Government will continue to support such programs as … (c) The Tax Deductibility of Mortgage Interest.
At a Press conference on 5 December last year the Prime Minister said: ‘The interest subsidies scheme continues’. We know now that it was to continue for only as long as the Government needed to phase it out. It was another typical and stupid deception, and it means a heavy loss to people paying off their homes. The Liberal dogma about the sanctity of home ownership has been exploded. The effect of scrapping this tax deduction for home buyers- a deduction which gave the greatest benefits to those most in needwill be a further cut in after-tax income of as much as $5 a week for the average wage earner. So all these broken promises and accumulated assaults on real incomes will leave the average wage earner with 3 dependants and paying off a house more than $8 a week worse off in real terms while inflation and unemployment continue. Not surprisingly, the poor and the disadvantaged have suffered from the Government’s policies as much as the ordinary wage-earner. Under a Labor Government the real value of pensions increased from 19.2 per cent of average weekly earnings to just on 25 per cent. That was the target I promised on behalf of the Labor Party at the 1972 election. Under the Fraser Government the value of basic pensions has slipped back and the additional allowances have not been indexed automatically. In March the Government increased the cost of drugs and prescription fees under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. The public will now pay nearly $34m in a full year, the heaviest burden falling on the chronically ill and those most in need.
The Fraser Government has attacked living standards on 2 fronts- by reducing the real value of wages and by scrapping necessary investment in community services. It is bad enough that a government, because of its economic mismanagement, should attack people’s wages; it is bad enough that a government should neglect community services which people expect it to provide. It is preposterous that the Fraser Government should be guilty of both. Yet such is its record. Medibank is dismantled: Health care is again a needless worry and a needless financial burden. Growth centres are stunted. Our bulging and bloated capitals will continue to sprawl unchecked. Sewerage programs are curtailed; a fundamental amenity for civilized populations is to be denied to hundreds of thousands of Australians. Funds for urban transport are frozen; funds for hospitals are at a standstill. Legal aid is threatened. The Australian Broadcasting Commission is under attack from a vindictive and remorseless Government. No other country in the world has neglected these areas as wantonly as Australia. No other federal or national government is abandoning and attacking these services as a pretext for dealing with its economic problems. No other government is compounding these destructive policies with an onslaught on the real living standards and incomes of its people.
A year ago the Liberals invited the Australian people to turn on the lights. The man who propounded that slogan said this a couple of days ago:
Turning on the lights has proved a little more difficult than any of us had imagined. The correct combination of switches seems to be elusive. There have been several shocks and short circuits.
In truth it has not been difficult to turn on the lights. In the past year they have been turned on with dazzling brilliance. They have been turned on to illuminate the Government’s incompetence, its dishonesty, its cynicism, its heartlessness; its favours for the wealthy and the privileged; its sustained attacks on the living standards of the Australian people; its ad hoc decisions; its economic disasters; its broken promises; its utter lack of grace and generosity; its mean and blinkered vision for this nation and its future.
-As usual, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has put a facile and superficial case. In fact he has misled this Parliament and the Australian people and he has distorted the true position. Under the Fraser Government the living standards of the Australian people are now on the path to sustained increase. It was under the Whitlam Government that they fell. The Australian people will not be fooled. They were not fooled when they felt the impact of the Whitlam Government, and on 13 December last year they registered their view of the situation in no uncertain terms. The Leader of the Opposition alleges that standards of living this year, under the Fraser Government, have fallen. He referred to a table from the University of Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. I have nothing other than the figures before me and I point out that this table shows, after an initial small decline in total personal income in the first half of this year- that is, real disposable income- an increase in this second half of the year. Only in forecasts- I stress, forecasts- into 1977 do we get the decrease that the Leader of the Opposition alleges. I will comment on that further later.
In the face of that, the latest statistics for average weekly earnings- hard statistics- for the 12 months ended September show an increase of 16.4 per cent. The increase in the consumer price index over the period was 13.9 per cent. So we have a situation of earnings considerably in advance of the increase in prices, indicating an increase in the standards of living of Australians. Since 1 July the Government has limited the impact of taxation in effecting the after-tax position. As from 1 July personal tax indexation has been introduced- that is, the indexing of the tax scales to limit the impact of taxes on wages and salary- at a total cost in revenue foregone in excess of $ 1,000m.
Also we introduced a new system of family allowances to take effect from 1 July. This system greatly increases the amount that was previously paid in child endowment. In fact, under this system the mother in a family with 5 children receives a cheque for an amount of the order of $330 every quarter. It is true that at the same time as this system was introduced the tax rebates for children were abolished. But for the higher income group of people it is practically a line-ball situation; what is received in additional family allowances matches what is lost through the abolition of tax rebates for children. But for people in the lower income group, where incomes are not high enough and insufficient tax is paid to take advantage of the child rebates, the amount received under the family allowance scheme represents a net gain. In that way this Government has been able to assist some 300 000 low income families and 800 000 children of those families. Is this indicative of the living standards of Australians being reduced?
Again we introduced legislation to adjust pensions automatically twice yearly in line with changes in the cost of living. Further let me stress to the Australian people what we have provided even in respect of Medibank. We believe that those people who can afford to pay for their health care should do so and should pay the full cost. We decided that those people on incomes of $12,000 and over-that is of the order of $240 a week or more- should pay the full cost of thenhealth care, but for those people on incomes below that figure the Government would pick up a large part of the tab. Indeed, on average for people on incomes below $240 a week the Government pays something like 80 per cent of the cost of health care. Again, the help is given where it is needed in order to raise the standard of living of all Australians.
What of the standard of living under the previous Government- the Government of the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Whitlam) who has just resumed his seat? I ask, firstly: Whose standard of living? What about the unemployed? What about the future standards of living of Australians which will be affected significantly by the dearth of investment and development which took place under the Whitlam Government? Let me look firstly at some firm figures, not, as did the Leader of the Opposition, at projections which may or may not turn out to be correct. Let us look at the gross non-farm domestic product. In 1974-75 it fell by 1.2 per cent.
– Come on Harry, pep it up.
– I do not need any assistance from the one-eyed member of the Party of blind men opposite. I can do this quite well without his encouragement. In 1974-75 the gross non-farm product fell by 1.2 per cent, edging up by 0.8 per cent in 1975-76. Most of that recovery took place this year, in 1976, under the Fraser Government. The Gross Domestic Product measures the total of real goods and services available to all Australians during the period 1974-75 to 1975-76. It fell and it did not recover to the same level. So how, in a situation where the total of production was stagnant in that way, could there be any increase in living standards? In fact, of course, no overall increase in standards did take place in those circumstances.
I asked a moment ago whose standards of living we are discussing. I asked about the unemployed. I do not deny that within those figures for Gross Domestic Product which I just mentioned there was a significant increase during 1974 and into 1975 in the real incomes of those Australians who were employed- those with a job. Indeed, over that period there was an increase in thenreal incomes of the order of 12 per cent. As Bob Hawke said, there were three or four years of normal growth in wages rolled into one and it could not be sustained. But I stress- and I think the common sense of the Australian people makes them understand only too well- that, as a direct consequence of this, unemployment shot up. I quote from a paper I received on my desk only this morning from the Library. It states that the figure for registered unemployed in December 1973 was 103 000 people, in December 1974 it was 267 000 people and in December 1975 it was 329 000 people. So from December 1973 to December 1975 there was an increase in the number of Australians unemployed of over 200 000 people, bringing the total to over 300 000 people. Although the real wages of those people with a job increased, what about the additional 200 000 Australians- bringing the total to 300 000 Australians-without a job?
At the same time, of course, the impact on the profits of industry, which fell over that period from a normal 15 per cent of gross domestic product to 10 per cent of gross domestic product, was a major factor in that fall-off of investment and development to which I referred previously. This represents a permanent loss- the loss of investment in new factories and new equipment. The lack of exploration for oil has set back the exploration program for years, so that the 70 per cent self-sufficiency in oil that the Australian people have enjoyed in recent years and which was so significant a factor in cushioning the impact of the world-wide increase in oil prices was endangered.
It takes some gall for the honourable member to come into this place and raise this matter of public importance about living standards in the face of the Government’s achievements this year, to which I have referred, and in the light of what happened during the years of the Whitlam Government. I repeat: Over the period of 12 months to September this year there was an increase in average earnings of 16.4 per cent, against a consumer price index increase of 13.9 per cent. I repeat the Fraser Government’s achievements through implementing tax indexation and reducing the burden of taxation on all Australians. I mention again our implementation of the system of family allowances, which is of such great benefit to low income families. These are the significant factors in the standard of living of Australians.
I want to end on this note: Last December we won from the Australian people, and we accept, the responsibility to put right the mess that the economy was then in, to create lasting economic recovery, and to restore growth and thrust and full employment in Australia. What is particularly relevant in the context of this discussion is that the most insidious and potentially destructive legacy that the Government took over from the previous Labor Government was the serious deterioration in the international competitiveness of this country. This was associated with the very great increase in costs to which I have referred. That decline in competitiveness has been measured in various ways; over a period of the last 5 years the Industries Assistance Commission has put it as of the order of 17 per cent for import competing industry. In other words, prices and costs in Australia over that period have risen by 17 per cent more than in other countries, taking an average of their figures.
That is enough to cream off all the potential profitability of much of our export industries and of our import competing industries, particularly manufacturing industries. In the context of the increasing perception, both here and abroad, of this deterioration in position, the Government, as a matter all but of necessity but also, positively, to restore this competitive position, moved recently to devalue the Australian currency. That has created the context in which new investment, new activity and new employment, in the manufacturing industries in particular, in this country can be undertaken. It has created the context in which this country, with the appropriate supportive policies, can begin to move strongly forward again. As it does so, the real incomes and the living standards of the Australian people will grow.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Honourable members on this side of the House wonder why, when the Government is charged with perhaps the gravest charge that can be laid, that it has been responsible for a drop in the living standards of the people of this country, it decides to put up a rejected front bencher, instead of a Minister or one of its spokesmen on economic matters, to say that it seriously believes that the Opposition charge is ill-founded. To engage in pretence by putting forward a back bencher, who served on the front bench in Opposition last year but who was rejected this year as the Government spokesman, is to make a joke of this debate. This debate is no joke. This year was the first year for many years that the Australian people have had lower standards of living forced upon them. This will continue through 1977. The Opposition will be warning the people of
Australia, as will the trade unions, what this Government is about. The only people today who are better off than they were a year ago are some of the very major rnining companies and the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary who received $30,000 in overtime this year. They are the only people who are better off. Members on the Government benches should look at the figures put out by Professor Henderson to define what he calls the poverty line to see where he sets what could be described as the poverty level in Australia. More and more people, as a result of this Government’s policies, have been forced to live below the poverty line described by Professor Henderson.
Average weekly earnings in Australia are now over $180 a week. Approximately 30 per cent of the people in Australia, including those of us who serve in this Parliament, are among those who receive more than average weekly earnings. But the average weekly earnings figure must be exposed in Australia because it does a great injustice to those people who receive less than that amount. That figure is arrived at after politicians and judges and all the professional classes are thrown by the Government into the same barrel as the workers in factories throughout this country. The Government comes up with a figure for average weekly earnings in Australia of $ 1 83. That figure is a joke and ought to be exposed as a joke. The vast majority of people in this country do not receive average weekly earnings. Under this Government more and more people are being forced not just below average weekly earnings but below the poverty line of $140 a week for a man and his wife and 4 children, as described by Professor Henderson.
These are the figures that ought to be looked at. That is the amount of salary that people ought to look at when they talk about the living standards in this country. The only answer which this Government gives continually to the economic problems in this country is to belt the wage and salary earner. He has to carry the burden. I have said twice already this week but I will say again that before devaluation the Government said continually that the mining companies and the rural sector were carrying an unfair share of the burden. So the profits of Utah mining company rise from $132m to $179m while this Government refuses to pay benefits to an unemployed student. That is the Government’s idea of living standards in Australia and all Government back benchers are condoning one of the great crimes of this country by saying to all the school leavers: You will have to live off your parents, live off your own homes, until such time as we decide to give you unemployment benefits in February’. In the context of the standard of living in this country, that is an absolute joke.
Consider what this Government said in its preelection promises. It said: ‘We are not going to have the dole bludgers on the Gold Coast’. What a joke it was to suggest that in the term of office of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 that there suddenly appeared in Australia millions of young people who were living off unemployment benefits and who did not really want to go to work. There are thousands of young people in Australia now- 40 per cent of the unemployed- under 20 years of age who want to go to work. What is the Government providing for them? The whole strategy of the Budget was to retain the unemployment levels exactly as they had been. It now becomes obvious that the figure will increase until the Budget of 1977. What is the standard of living of those people? The school leavers who have been added to the number of unemployed people are not only being denied a job but also are being denied any sort of economic independence. If the Government wants to know whether its policies are working, it should look at the most recent public opinion polls. Why is the Government 9 per cent less popular today than it was one year ago? It is because of the inhumane policies, particularly the economic policies, which have been expressed by the Government, through the Treasury, since December last year.
The Labor Government was the first Government in the history of Australia to keep its promise to lift pensions to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. From 1949 to 1972 pensions, as part of average weekly earnings, fluctuated between 18 per cent and 21 per cent. The Labor Government lifted pensions to 25 per cent and the pensioners throughout this country knew when increases were to take place, in the autumn and in the spring, and they knew that their standards of living would lift along with the standards of living of those people who were receiving average weekly earnings. What is the position today? The honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), who is a former professor of economics, should do some quick arithmetic. The pension now is 22 per cent of average weekly earnings. Already, the old conservative ideology is showing itself in the way that this Government is treating the pensioners of this country. So, from the time a person leaves school till he goes on the pension, this Government has implemented policies which drastically reduce the standard of living of people in this country.
How will the Government deal with the problems for 1977? It has been stated that as a result of the effect of devaluation on inflation, the inflation rate will be at least 1 5 per cent in 1 977. Who is to carry the burden? Are we to ask the mining companies, Utah and Hamersley Iron, to carry the burden? The Government says that the mining companies are carrying an unfair share of the burden and that it will try to lift their profits. It is the wage and salary earners who will be told, in the first national wage case, that they must carry all the burden. Instead of being able to keep up with the cost of living they will be asked to accept half or less than half of the increase in the cost of living that has taken place in the December quarter as a result of Medibank. The Labor Government established a national health scheme to overcome the problems of the 1 500 000 people in this country who were not covered by health schemes. Everybody was covered by Medibank. This Government promised last December that Medibank as well as indexation would be retained. Promises are broken by this Government as if they were never made. They are broken every day. The Government said: ‘We will maintain Medibank. We will maintain indexation’. Honourable members on the other side of the House must use earplugs when Ministers talk to them in the Party room and tell them what they intend to do. The Medibank levy will now increase the cost of living in this country. The Government says that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission must not pass on this cost to wage and salary earners.
The cost of living in this country will increase in 1977 by 15 per cent or 16 per cent and honourable members opposite are asking wage and salary earners to accept a 5 or 6 per cent increase in earnings. By their push to try to lower the living standards of the people they are inviting industrial anarchy in this country. As a Party which has been associated since Federation with all the humane policies that have been brought down in this Parliament, we will fight tooth and nail on every policy which relates to a lowering of living standards that the Government brings down in this Parliament. Honourable members opposite think that the only possible way to come up with a recipe to overcome economic problems is to attack wage and salary earners, pensioners or people who are handicapped. If they can remove the coal levy to help mining companies or if they can devalue to help mining companies and large pastoralists they will do so time and time again. The Leader of the Opposition, by bringing forward this matter of public importance, has exposed to the people of Australia the fact that this is the first year for a long time that we have had a lowering of living standards. It should not have happened. It has been brought about by the direct action of this very conservative, reactionary and anti-wage and salary earner Government.
-The matter of public importance which is the subject of this debate is yet another in a series of attempts by the Opposition in recent weeks deliberately to undermine Australia’s economic recovery and to destroy the confidence of the Australian people which has been rebuilt during 1 976 following the near death-blow that it suffered during the Whitlam Government’s period of office. The hypocrisy of the Opposition in raising this matter today is shown very clearly by the fact that neither the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) the shadow Treasurer, nor the man who primes his bullets, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), are participating in the debate.
It is 12 months this weekend since the people of Australia gave the Fraser Government the largest vote of support that any government in Australia’s history has ever received. In this vote of support the Australian people made it crystal clear to the Labor Party that they wanted no further truck with a government that acted in a way in which the Whitlam Government acted during its disastrous period in office. In those 3 years the Australian economy reeled from one blow after another to its basic fibre seemingly almost as a result of a deliberate policy of economic wantonness by the forces of socialism, forces that not only ruined the economy but also threatened the very way of life of millions of Australians.
The Opposition is accusing the Fraser Government of responsibility for a fall in living standards. Never have I heard such a hypocritical or preposterous accusation. How can the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and his emasculated backbench claim any vestige of credibility when they make such wild assertions without one whit of evidence to support them.
– They cannot.
-The fact is that they cannot, as my friend says. The Australian people know this as we on this side of the House and I suspect the intellectually more honest members opposite do. Let us look at some of the facts. Under the last 2 years of Labor’s period of office the total level of non-farm output in Australia actually fell; in other words there was a negative rate of growth.
This situation would have been considered unthinkable before the Labor Party took office. This situation had not previously occurred in the post-war period. At the same time the farm sector fell into a state of collapse and the standard of living of farmers declined massively in both money and real terms. The level of unemployment in this country rose by no less than threefold during the same period. This was precipitated by the highest inflation rate that this country has ever known on a sustained basis- an inflation rate which eroded the fixed assets of business and the lifetime savings of millions of Australians and made impossible of lasting attainment virtually all the social goals, many of them desirable, which Labor had set itself on coming to office in 1 972.
It is simply not sustainable to argue as our opponents do that the calamity which befell Australia during Labor’s term of office was a result of the general world economic climate. Certainly, economic conditions abroad played some part; we on this side of the House have never denied that. But the overwhelming reasons for the catastrophic situation which developed under Labor were Labor’s own bungling and inept management of the economy. It was under Labor that the standard of living in this country fell. It was because of Labor’s action that it fell. One only has to ask the small person in the community what happened to his living standard in 1974-75. One only has to ask the pensioners, superannuitants and others on low fixed incomes who earlier this year completed their tax returns just what they think of the monstrous Hayden rebate scheme. This scheme has caused countless thousands of low income recipients to pay exorbitant amounts of income tax as compared with what they were paying previously. One should ask also about the staggering rise in the cost of living in 1974-75 and what that did to their attempts to lead satisfying lives. One should ask the small businessman, the farmer, and the young married couple saving to buy their first home what happened to their standard of living under Labor. Perhaps most telling of all one should ask the additional 250 000 persons- onequarter of a million- young and old who became unemployed under Labor just what happened to their standards of living m 1974-75. They will say, in one simple sentence, that their standards of living declined dramatically under the Whitlam Government.
Let us now have a look at the situation of the past 12 months. First and foremost, inflation has eased even though it still has a long way to go before it is down to an acceptable level. But the trend is in the right direction. What we as a nation must do is to ensure that this trend is maintained. If we do not inflation will destroy us. There is a responsibility on each and every one of us to ensure that this does not happen. This responsibility is shared by governments, employers, employees- in fact, by all Australians. Secondly, while inflation has eased the total level of output has risen. The rate of recovery is slow, but recovery there is. It is a recovery which is sustainable. It is the result of sound and consistent policies of economic management by the Fraser Government.
It has been claimed by our opponents that the recent devaluation marks a reversal of the Government’s economic strategy. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has demonstrated quite unequivocally that this is not so, as has the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). Of .course devaluation has an initial unfavourable cost and price impact, but it is simplistic in the extreme to infer from this that devaluation is therefore inconsistent with an anti-inflationary policy. Let it not be forgotten that it was the destruction of our international competitive position as a result of Labor’s economic mismanagement that led to the devaluation. Devaluation should bring significant anti-inflationary benefits. In particular by stimulating domestic production and encouraging exports devaluation will lead to greater throughput and therefore to a lowering of unit fixed costs. By giving a major boost of confidence to primary producers, the rnining industry and the manufacturing sector- their confidence was shaken to the core by the Whitlam Governmentthe devaluation also should help psychologically a further recovery in the economy.
Nevertheless the Government will need to take all reasonable steps in its power to make sure that the potential benefits are not eroded by any resurgence of inflation. The Government’s review of tariffs will be an important element in this endeavour. So also will be the watchdog role of the Prices Justification Tribunal. Monetary and fiscal policy also will need to be tightly controlled. Further the attitude of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will be of critical importance. Here I make a plea to employers, employees and the Opposition to co-operate with the Government in the tasks ahead. If we do not work together as a nation we will hang together. Far from standards of living having fallen under the Fraser Government the truth is that those standards have increased. In any judgment on a matter such as this, one must look much further than simply at movements in wages, although even wage rates have continued to rise. One must take into account many other items which go into the equation.
The Fraser Government this year has introduced many progressive and reforming measures which have contributed to rising living standards. My friend, the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards), mentioned those. There are many other measures which have been taken by the Government but time will not permit me to elaborate on them all. Many of them are highly desirable reforming and progressive measures which the Labor Government was not prepared to undertake. But when they are all added up and taken into account with the gradual recovery of the economy, there can be no doubt that lIving standards have risen in the past year. The Opposition- a combination of yesterday’s men and tomorrow’s nobodies- has once again in this debate revealed to the House and to the people of Australia that it is a negative Opposition, an Opposition without one constructive idea in the field of economic management and an Opposition which, if it ever crept back into power, as surely as day follows night would plunge this country back into economic darknessa darkness from which in the past 12 months we have slowly but steadily emerged.
-Order The discussion has now concluded.
-by leave-The Third Australasian Parliamentary Seminar was attended by 24 delegates from 19 branches of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in South-East Asia and the Australasian regions. It was conducted in September this year in Parliament House, Sydney; Parliament House, Canberra; the Town Hall, Townsville; and Parliament House, Brisbane. Excluding the delegates themselves there were some 67 principal speakers and panel members, ranging from Presiding Officers to Ministers of the Crown, to academics, to local government authorities, heads of statutory authorities, the Permanent Heads of executive departments, private members of Parliament and members of parliamentary staffs and members of the Press. The formal discussions ranged the whole gamut of Parliament and government including local government, practice and procedure, the administrative organisation of Parliament and Parliament’s relations with the media, but equally with the formal discussions there was a healthy informal exchange of information and views, and I can assure honourable members that the flow was two-way.
Australasian parliamentary seminars are becoming a familiar part of the parliamentary scene in this area, but honourable members will know that they do not just happen. They are sponsored and financed by the Australian Commonwealth and State branches and the New Zealand branch of the Association. They are organised by officers and officials of the Commonwealth and State parliaments, and their success depends absolutely upon the assistance and co-operation of the members of the Australian parliaments and local government authorities, and upon the good will of various community organisations and interests.
In presenting this report, I should, on behalf of the sponsoring branches, like to acknowledge the debt we owe to the Presiding Officers and various Ministers of the New South Wales and Queensland Parliaments; to His Worship the Mayor of Townsville, Alderman Percy Tucker and his staff; to Professor Aitkin of Macquarie University; to the senior officers of the executive departments who gave freely of their time, particularly Mr Lawler, Mr Yeend, Mr Comans and the Acting Chief Electoral Officer, Mr White; to Sir Charles Barton, the Co-Ordinator-General of Works in Queensland; and certainly not least to members of this Parliament and to good friends of the Parliament in the Parliamentary Press Gallery particularly Mr Randall, the President; Mr Allan Barnes of the Melbourne Age; and Mr Ken Begg of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think that the report speaks for itself. Copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and are available from the Bills and Papers Office and I commend the report to all honourable members. As, in these days, a need exists for a closer association of all countries, particularly those in this area, I believe that these seminars are of great importance and will attain greater importance in the years ahead.
-by leave-I should like to support my colleague, the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) who also is a member of the steering committee of the seminar. I certainly endorse his remarks that these seminars do not simply happen. They involve a good deal of hard work by many people. The work is more satisfying when one sees it brought to a successful conclusion. I think that we can say that this particular seminar was a success by whatever yardstick one measures success. The yardstick I use is the level of active participation of the delegates. Every one of the 22 sessions had to be closed by the chairman because time had run out.
These seminars are conducted when both Houses of Parliament are sitting. One might think that it would be difficult to conduct a seminar in Canberra during a busy sitting week. But, in fact, it was not. The reason it was not difficult was that so many members of this branch and other people associated with the Parliament gave so freely and so willingly of their time and were always ready to fill the breach when the bells were ringing. I will not embarrass our own members by mentioning names, but I should like to place on record this branch’s appreciation of the help given by the staffs of all parliamentary departments; by Mr David Combe, the Federal Secretary of the Australian Labor Party; Mr Tony Eggleton, the Federal Director of the Liberal Party; and, not the least, by our volatile, provocative, amiable, erstwhile friend or enemy, as the case may be, Mr Fred Daly.
I interpose here to say that for those members of this Parliament who took part, there was a spin off. Those attending the seminar obviously expected a higher degree of sophistication from this Parliament than occurred in their own. Yet many of the procedures peculiar to their Parliaments should be considered by us. Many honourable members think that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a necessary trapping to the institution. They should show more interest. As a Parliament, we should be conscious of the increasing pressure on Parliament and its members, due to changing technologies, powers and, indeed, the changing number and complexion of nations throughout the world. If we believe in the evolution of the Westminster system, we should be helping that system to evolve. I was deeply involved in an examination of the parliamentary committee system. As a Parliament, I believe we should review continuously our procedures and our method of conducting business and, indeed, what our business should be. It is obvious from seminars such as these that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is a fertile source of ideas. It is perhaps a measure of how .well these seminars have caught on that in places as far away as Townsville, local members, such as Mr Max Hooper and Mr Roy Armstrong of the Queensland Parliament, and leaders of civic affairs, such as the Chairman of the Harbour Board, the Vice-Chancellor of the James Cook University and practically the whole of the Townsville City Council, turned out to welcome delegates and give them as much help as they could.
Finally, I should like to say that it was a privilege for me to have something to do with this seminar as a member of the steering committee and to work with my colleagues, Senator Davidson- the chairman- and Mr Lucock and our Secretary, the Clerk, Mr Parkes, who was a prime mover in initiating these seminars. On this day when tribute already has been paid to Mr Parkes, I too would like to praise him for his role in and respect for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Whilst I am not being strictly relevant to the matter before us I would like to thank him on behalf of the present Deputy Chairmen of Committees, and many past deputy chairmen of committees, for the assistance and courtesy he has shown them in his task and for the guidance he has given to many back bench members of Parliament Anything else that needs to be said is in the report. I commend the report to the House.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I bring up the Committee’s report on the Torres Strait Boundary.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave to make a short statement on the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-At the outset may I say, as Acting Chairman of the Sub-Committee, that I appreciate the chairing of some of the final meetings of the Joint Committee by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) in the absence on some occasions of the Chairman for personal reasons.
In May of this year the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence decided to investigate the boundary between Australia and Papua New Guinea. A sub-committee was appointed to carry out this investigation which to some degree was restricted as the question was already the subject of negotiations between Australia and Papua New Guinea. The subcommittee received evidence, some of which was heard in camera, from a number of witnesses including departmental officers, academics and a number of private citizens. No clear definitive statement of position was obtained from the Government of Papua New Guinea or the State of Queensland. However the Chairman of the sub-committee, myself, and one sub-committee member the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi), did have an informal discussion with the Premier of Queensland.
As part of its investigations the sub-committee visited the Torres Strait area and held public hearings on a number of islands including Yam, Saibai and Thursday Island. As a result of this visit the sub-committee felt it had gained a valuable insight into the attitude of the average Torres Strait Islander regarding any proposals to change the existing border. The report contains a number of quotations of evidence from representatives of the Islanders made to the subcommittee during its visit.
As part of the investigation the Committee considered material relating to the establishment of the 1879 line under the Queensland Coast Island Act of 1879 which delineated islands around the coast of Queensland, including those in the Torres Strait which should be considered as part of Queensland. Since that date this line has commonly been regarded as marking the boundary between Queensland and Papua New Guinea. The report was accepted by the Committee with reservations by Mr R. Jacobi, M.P., and Dr R. E. Klugman, M.P., who each had certain separate reservations. These are attached to the report as separate statements.
The Committee’s recommendations include: The Torres Strait Islands should remain part of Australia; that the Government should, as soon as feasible, make a statement in Parliament setting out its position on the Torres Strait boundary; if a protected zone is established in the area freedom of passage for Australians and Papua New Guineans should be guaranteed, mining and drilling in the seabed should be prohibited until agreement is reached between all interested parties and new commercial ventures should not be permitted in the area unless they are compatible with the environment; and competent counsel should be provided to the Torres Strait Islanders if required by the people of Torres Strait.
-by leaveThere is a growing interest and concern in the community both in Australia and in other parliamentary democracies over Parliament’s effective oversight of the Executive, especially in the field of public finance. The Commonwealth Parliament, on the initiative of Professor Bland, then member for Warringah, established the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts in 1952. as a means by which the Parliament could assert its fundamental responsibility to exercise financial oversight of the Executive. The Committee has carried out its responsibilities since its inception in an atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation which is an essential prerequisite to enable it to examine matters of relevance to the Parliament regardless of the Government in power at the time.
The Public Accounts Committee is a very active Committee as any of its former or present members will confirm. Since early March when members were appointed, the Eleventh Committee has held 32 meetings of which 44 were meetings of the full Committee and 8 were meetings of sectional committees. Eight meetings of the full Committee and two meetings of sectional committees were in relation to public inquiries in connection with the Auditor-General’s report for 1974- 75, the Advance to the Treasurer for 1975- 76 and the operations of the Overseas Property Bureau. The departments from which the Committee has taken evidence during the year in connection with the Auditor-General’s report and Treasurer’s Advance include Aboriginal Affairs, Administrative Services, AttorneyGeneral’s, Capital Territory, Construction, Defence, Education, Environment, Housing and Community Development, Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Industry and Commerce, National Resources, Overseas Trade, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Science and the Treasury.
To carry out its responsibilities to the Parliament effectively the Committee believes it is imperative to maintain liaison with senior officials. Accordingly, the Committee held private discussions during the year with the Auditor-General, the Secretary to the Treasury, representatives from the Treasury and the Public Service Board and Dr H. C. Coombs, Chairman of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, and Sir Henry Bland, then Chairman of the Administrative Review Committee.
During the year the Committee presented 5 reports to the Parliament- the 157th report which related to the Auditor-General ‘s report for 1973-74, the 158th report which dealt with the Treasurer’s Advance for 1974-75, the 159th report which presented Treasury Minutes on the 144th and 146th reports, the 160th report relating to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for 1974-75 and the 161st report which presented Treasury Minutes on the 152nd and 154th reports. The Committee visited the
Australian Government Clothing Factory in connection with its inquiry into the AuditorGeneral’s report for 1 974-75.
The Committee also visited the Australian War Memorial for the purpose of inspecting the facilities available for the storage of exhibits. The Committee’s interest was stimulated by comments made in the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Memorial regarding the inadequacy of the facilities and the deterioration of exhibits. The Committee is concerned that Commonwealth assets conservatively valued at $ 100m are at some risk and expressed its concern to the Minister for Administrative Services. The Committee has been informed that the National Capital Development Commission has let 2 contracts for the design of new air-conditioning storage areas and conservation laboratories and that construction should commence in 1977-78.
The Committee has announced that it proposes to conduct a general inquiry into the use of automatic data processing in the Commonwealth Public Service during 1977. In conducting its inquiry the Committee hopes to assess whether the growing tendency for the use of computers within departments and statutory authorities can be justified. Furthermore, the Committee proposes to examine the Executive’s control over and procedures for the purchase of computers. The Committee has noted with some concern that existing procedures do not apply to statutory authorities. Consequently, although the Committee knows that at 30 June 1 975 the value of computers installed in departments was approximately $83m there is no available information on the extent of investment undertaken by statutory authorities in this type of equipment. The Committee believes that this is but one example of the fact that the Parliament does not exercise sufficient scrutiny over expenditure by statutory authorities.
The Committee considers it important to maintain contact with officers of the Public Service. Accordingly, the Chairman has addressed the New South Wales Regional Group of the Royal Institute of Public Administration, the Canberra Chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors and, together with Mr V. J. Martin, a seminar of Second Division Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service on the Administration’s accountability to the Parliament and on the operations of the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee was also represented by Mr J. L. Armitage at the 1976 Autumn seminar of the Royal Institute of Public Administration on the subject of the co-ordination and implementation of government policy.
The Committee is very conscious of the fact that about 40 per cent of all Commonwealth expenditure is now made through State Government departments or their agencies. Accordingly, the Committee is currently investigating the possibility of arranging a meeting between State and Commonwealth Public Accounts Committees to provide a forum to discuss common problems and the various methods, procedures and techniques adopted by the Committees and perhaps to achieve some coordination of effort to ensure that any waste in the expenditure of funds is kept to a minimum.
A criticism has been levelled at the Public Accounts Committee from time to time that it places too much emphasis on departments spending their annual appropriations and that appropriations are spent to avoid appearing before the Committee. The Committee maintains that no such emphasis exists. The PAC as a general rule interests itself in departmental underspending only when it appears that the principles of estimating are not being followed or there is evidence of inefficiency. To demonstrate that underspending, as such, is not a critical factor when selecting departments for public inquiry, in 1974-75, 1786 appropriation items were underspent, of which 186 required an explanation to the Committee and 13 items only were selected for public inquiry. The Committee’s attitude was further emphasised by its decision not to conduct an inquiry into underexpenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the 1975-76 financial year. In addition, since the 1970-71 year the Committee has included a statement in its annual report on expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund which clearly sets out its views on underexpenditure. The Committee’s view is that continuing emphasis must be given by the Public Service Board and by departments to ensuring that officers in the Public Service are properly trained in financial matters and that their status is sufficiently recognised.
The Committee appreciates the practical difficulties which the present economic circumstances pose for departments in the preparation of accurate and effective forward estimates of expenditure. Nevertheless, the Committee favours the concept of forward planning and the provision of forward estimates which under more normal conditions provide the Government with a comprehensive picture of financial commitments and plans based on existing and proposed policies. Accordingly, every effort should be made to make the forward estimates as accurate and realistic as possible to increase their effectiveness as a tool of economic planning. It is the Committee’s hope that it will be able to give consideration to various matters relating to the form of the public accounts including, for example, an examination of the use of functional classifications of expenditure and one-line appropriations.
The Committee is currently examining possible amendments to the Public Accounts Committee Act which will be recommended to the Government to up-date the Committee’s current role. The Committee is concerned that it does not have specific power to examine the affairs of statutory authorities. The Committee also agrees with the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System that the Parliament does not conduct an adequate scrutiny of the Public Service in relation to personnel. Accordingly, another important amendment under consideration is to amend the duties of the Committee to include the responsibility for examining the annual reports of the Public Service Board and the Board’s investigations carried out under the authority of section 1 7 of the Public Service Act. In this context the inclusion of the term ‘Administration’ in the Committee’s title would appear appropriate. The Committee believes that time should be given for an annual debate in the Parliament on the Committee ‘s reports and activities as the Parliament is ultimately responsible to the electorate for the expenditure of funds by and the efficiency of Government.
At the present time the Committee has 3 reports in the course of preparation, two of which relate to the inquiry into the Auditor-General’s Report for 1974-75 and the inquiry into expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer 1975-76. These 2 reports will be presented early in the Autumn Session. The third report, relating to the inquiry into the financial administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which has taken up a considerable amount of the eleventh Committee’s time, after having been investigated by the ninth and tenth Committees, is nearing completion and it is expected that this report will also be tabled early in the Autumn Session of the Parliament. The inquiry relating to the operations of the Overseas Property Bureau is not yet completed.
On behalf of the Committee I wish to thank the Secretary and staff of our secretariat for the conscientious manner in which they performed their duties during the year under review. All members of the Committee are well aware of the key role performed by our secretariat staff in enabling us to handle a very considerable work load, and I extend to them our sincere appreciation.
-by leave-I present the report of the Australian Delegation to the Sixty-third Conference of the InterParliamentary Union, held in Madrid between 23 September and 1 October 1976.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, 63 national groups sent delegates to the sixty-third Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, held in Madrid from 23 September to 1 October 1976. These national groups were represented by a total of 480 delegates as well as 179 advisers, Clerks of Parliament, group secretaries and 274 wives, plus observers from the United Nations Organisation and other national organisations, making a total in the vicinity of 1000 people from outside Madrid. The Spanish group proved themselves hospitable and capable hosts and, because of this, your delegation and the delegations from other national groups were able to promote the aims of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which is to promote personal contacts between members of all parliaments, constituted into national groups, and to unite them in common action to secure and maintain the full participation of their respective states in the firm establishment and development of representative institutions and in the advancement of the work of international peace and co-operation. Because our Australian Parliament supports these aims and the Australian Branch of the InterParliamentary Union is gaining increasing status amongst the groups, the Australian Parliament and Australians can be proud of the support our Parliament gives to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
We express our appreciation to the Secretary and staff of our secretariat and to various public servants overseas for their support. We remind the Parliament that the spring meeting of the Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union will be held in Canberra from 10 to 1 4 April 1 977.
-by leave-I was privileged to be one of the 8 Australian parliamentarians at the Sixty-third Conference of the InterParliamentary Union. It was the first such international conference which I had attended. I must say that I had my eyes opened. The Conference cost, in my estimation, about $US3m. Being a patient soul, I waited for 3 days of debate, listening to delegates from every conceivable type of autocratic totalitarian country talk about the values of civil liberties and democracy in known democracies such as Guinea, Ethiopia, etc. It was not until the delegate fom Haiti-I repeat Haitirose to glorify the sanctity of the human soul and the sacredness of the human being that I felt impelled, uncharacteristically, to be provocative. I made the point that all the words spoken at that Conference by these nations, essentially black nations- I do not want to be misunderstood here- were criticising the so-called inhumanities of the British, the Rhodesians, the South Africans, the Israelis and the Americans. I said that some of the most monstrous atrocities known to man were being committed at that time in their own countries. It seemed to me that their speeches were so full of platitudes composed by public servants at home that it was time some.ody told the Conference a few home truths. I mentioned the atrocities of Papa Doc Duvalier ir Haiti, the incredible inhumanities of that maniac Idi Amin in Uganda and the atrocities in other places throughout the world that were causing somewhat of a furore.
I hold the view that for too long the Western world has been compliant, even passive, in the international forums of the world, such as the IPU and the United Nations, and that the Western world, possibly through some feeling of guilt because of its past colonial sins, allows man’s inhumanity to man in the newly developing nations to continue without any criticism. The Western world passively gives consent to it. I think that members of Parliament in the free nations of the world ought to remind themselves sometimes that human beings are being murdered in the so-called democracies that are members of the IPU. I hope that delegates to future conferences might remind these nations that there are white racists in the world, contemptible people who are racist and adopt racist policies. The actions of the Papa Doc Duvaliers and the Idi Amins feed those racists because they say contemptibly: ‘Look at the black man in Uganda, Haiti, Guinea and elswhere; when they get power the abuse it’. Those men are holding back the cause of the liberty of coloured people more than anybody else.
As one might imagine, that speech caused some sort of a stir. But I do not think I have ever been as proud to be an Australian as I was on that occasion. That sounds like a cliche, but I was, because every member of that delegationLabor, Liberal and National Country Partyagreed to back me to the hilt in the stand that I took. This was one of those occasions when one goes overseas with a group of Australians from all political parties that one feels rather proud. I thank members of the delegation for that.
– I move:
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Construction of a proposed Supreme Court at Alice Springs, Northern T erritory.
The proposal is for the construction of a 2-storey court building designed to accommodate the requirements of 4 courts and associated public areas, jury rooms, judges’ and magistrates’ accommodation, court reporting facilities, registry areas, and a secure area for persons in custody. Separate access and circulation within the building will be provided forjudges and magistrates, the public, and persons in custody.
The building will be of reinforced concrete frame construction with external walls of concrete block and applied aggregate finished reinforced concrete. The building will be designed to be in harmony with surrounding development. The building will be air-conditioned throughout. Hot and chilled water to serve the air conditioning plant will be piped underground from the adjacent Commonwealth offices. An automatic fire detection system and a security alarm system will be provided. Construction of the works is expected to take a minimum of 24 months. The estimated cost of the proposal at November 1976 prices is $3.2m. I table plans of the proposed work.
– I wish to raise briefly one aspect of this reference. I ask the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay), before this proposal becomes the subject of an extensive and perhaps costly inquiry, whether on the one hand it has been officially decided by the Government that one place or other in the Northern Territory is to be the location of things governmental or, on the other hand, has it been decided that such facilities as that proposed in the reference, governmental services and the like involving the construction of buildings should be distributed throughout the Territory? I know that there is a philosophy to the effect that it would be advantageous to the people of the Northern Territory to have such facilities as courts and other governmental services in one place. There is also the contrary view. Can the Minister say whether in fact this question has been determined and whether the proposal is being put in the context of such a determination.
– In reply- I think the short answer is yes. Earlier in the year we decided that a certain amount of money would be spent in the Northern Territory outside the Darwin area. This decision is in conformity with our policies. This reference has been referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation. One cannot say when construction of the building is likely to proceed. But the location of the building is in accordance with our guidelines and our priorities.
-I wish to say a few words on this matter. I may be able to help the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) by informing him that for years the present courthouse at Alice Springs has been one of the most uncomfortable places that any legal fraternity could inhabit. The quarters occupied by the judge in the courthouse are very cramped and the courthouse itself is far below any acceptable standard. Therefore, I can assure my honourable friend that the proposed building is necessary. The Minister said that work on the building would take place ‘in the future’. I hope that the construction of this courthouse will commence not too far in the future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1-
In Clause 3 in the definition ‘exploration licence’, after includes’ insert ‘ a prospecting authority and also ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
In Clause 40, after sub-clause (6) insert the following subclause:
Sub-section ( 1 ) does not apply in relation to the land described in Schedule 3, being the land known as the Eastern Areas on Groote Eylandt. ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 3-
In clause 43 (2), omit ‘or (6)’, substitute ‘,(6) or(7)’.
Senate’s amendment No. 4-
In clause 43(2), omit ‘agreement under seal with the Land Council for the payment to the Land Council by the applicant of an amount or amounts specified in, or calculated in accordance with, the agreement and the acceptance by the applicant of such other terms and conditions as are provided for in the agreement. ‘
Substitute ‘agreement under seal with the Land Council containing such terms and conditions as are agreed on by the parties having regard to the effect of the grant of the mining interests on Aboriginals, which terms may include a requirement for the payment to the Land Council by the applicant of an amount or amounts specified in, or calculated in accordance with, the agreement. ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 5-
After Schedule 2 add the following Schedule:
All those pieces of land in the Northern Territory of Australia containing an area of 43.96 square kilometres more or less.
Commencing at the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 01 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 01 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 1 4 degrees 03 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 32 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 03 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 45 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 02 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 45 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 02 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 01 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 30 seconds.
Commencing at the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 04 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 28 minutes 45 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 04 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 31 minutes thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 04 minutes 30 seconds with longitude 136 degrees 31 minutes thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 04 minutes 30 seconds with longitudes 136 degrees 34 minutes 15 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 06 minutes 30 seconds with longitudes 136 degrees 34 minutes 15 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 06 minutes 30 seconds with longitude 136 degrees 31 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 06 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 31 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 06 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 05 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 05 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 28 minutes 45 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 04 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 28 minutes 45 seconds.
– I move:
That the amendments be agreed to.
These amendments, agreed to by the Senate, deal with 3 matters and I will explain them shortly to the House. The first concerns the amendment to clause 3 of the Bill, to include in the definition of ‘exploration licence ‘ a reference to ‘authorities to prospect’. The amendment is of a technical nature and will make it clear that any authorisation allowing mineral exploration in the nature of the former authority to prospect and the current exploration licence will be treated in a similar manner.
It was the Government’s intention that all exploration rights should be covered in the legislation. The original authorisation to explore, the authority to prospect, was replaced, by an amendment of the Northern Territory Mining Ordinance, by the current exploration licence, which is the term used in the Bill. There was legal doubt whether the exploration licence as referred to in the Bill was a general enough term to cover authorities to prospect. The definition is important, especially in relation to protection of existing interests mainly mineral lease applications which were referred to in clause 40 (3) of the Bill.
The amendment proposed to clause 40 refers in particular to the agreement entered into by the Commonwealth of Australia with the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd for mining at Groote Eylandt. It has been brought to the Government’s attention that the Bill would not have adequately met the Government’s legal commitments to protect existing rights in relation to that agreement. Accordingly this amendment and consequential amendments to clause 43 (2) and the Schedules will guarantee that the Commonwealth is able to meet its legal obligations to grant further mineral leases known as the ‘Eastern Areas’ under the Groote Eylandt Agreement 1969. The amendment means that it will not be necessary to obtain Aboriginal consent for the granting of these mineral leases but the company will be obliged to negotiate fair terms and conditions with the Aboriginals concerned. That agreement provides that, if the company constructs a smelter before 30 June 1977 or an agglomeration plant by 30 June 1980, additional special mineral leases will be granted by the Commonwealth.
The company has already met its obligation to construct smelting facilities and an agglomeration plant is close to completion. The company is therefore in a position to call on the Government to meet its obligation to provide additional leases. It is considered appropriate that the Government should be able to meet those obligations through the provisions of this legislation. An additional schedule, Schedule 3, is necessary in relation to new sub-clause 7 of clause 40 to provide a precise description of the areas referred to as the eastern areas of Groote Eylandt. The amendment to clause 43, subclause 2 is consequential upon the amendment which I have just mentioned so as to ensure that where additional leases are granted at Groote Eylandt, pursuant to the agreement into which the Commonwealth has entered, they will be subject to the negotiation of fair terms and conditions with the Aborigines. An additional amendment to this sub-clause is proposed to make it clear that while additional payments may be negotiated, it is not mandatory that agreements between land councils and applicants for mining interests should include provision for the payment of sums of money. As originally drafted, payments, even if only nominal, would have been essential in order to comply with the provision. In some instances, payments additional to statutory royalties and rentals may not be sought by land councils. For example, Mr Justice Woodward noted in relation to oil and gas:
The financial interests of Aborigines would be well served by the appropriation of the 10 per cent royalty payment for their benefit.
That appears in paragraph 704 of his second report. That explains the purpose and effect of the amendment but I take a moment extra of the time of the House to say something about the work which has gone into the study and preparation of this legislation before it is finally approved by this House and hence by the Parliament. This legislation and the general subject of Aboriginal land rights, as we know, has stirred strong emotions. We have seen this in Parliament and in public. But I think I can say of the debates in this House and in the other place that the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has shown a consistent dedication to the passage of legislation to fulfil commitments made by all political parties to the granting of land rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory.
I express some words of thanks and of recognition to some of those who have been involved over many years in all the work needed to bring such major and complex legislation to fruition. I mention, firstly, the permanent head of my Department, Mr Barry Dexter and the Deputy Secretary, Mr Jeremy Long. As well I thank the staff of my Department which has worked with the utmost dedication and competence in this field over many years. Mr Dexter, as the House knows, has been administrative head of Aboriginal Affairs since 1968 when the Commonwealth first took upon itself this responsibility, following the 1967 referendum. I can only judge how much work must have gone into this area over the years before I became Minister from the work which has been put into this task in the 12 months since I have assumed this position. The work has been of a most exhaustive and, some would say, exhausting nature by way of study, analysis, consultation with Aboriginals throughout the Northern Territory. I refer to the analysis of the many representations which came to the Government following my introduction of the Bill on 4 June. Much work has been put into the task by the Parliamentary Counsel. Many hours have been spent in dealing with what I have said is complex legislation which is also technical in many areas as well as operating in one of the most sensitive political areas which have come before this House for many years.
I mention the work of Mr Justice Woodward whose intelligence and understanding is reflected in his report which laid the foundation for elevating public discussion and political policies to the reality of legislation. I freely acknowledge that his inquiry was instituted by the previous Administration of the Australian Labor Party. The result of that inquiry in the reports which His Honour put down was quickly accepted in principle by both the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. I thank my colleagues in this House and in the other place who have worked so closely with me and with a sense of duty to the task before them. I particularly mention Senator Neville Bonner who, as we know from our work with him as a colleague and also from what he has said publicly in the Senate, has been dedicated ever since he came into the Parliament to the fulfilment of Aboriginal land rights in legislation.
I mention the work of my colleague, Senator Margaret Guilfoyle, who had the responsibility for the legislation in the Senate. Anyone who observed the way in which she handled the legislation or listened to the debate could only admire the superb way in which she undertook her task. So the task of the Parliament for the time being is now done. But an even greater task hes ahead for the Government and for all members and that is to put the new law into practice so that it may fulfil the aspirations of the Aborigines of the Northern Territory. It is a task which I, the Government and the officers of my Department willingly undertake. We will have the help and the assistance of the parliamentary committee, consituted by members of the Senate and of this House which the Government has proposed. That proposal has already been approved by this House and I expect it will be approved by the Senate. In the further task of putting the legislation into practice there must be the most complete consultation and participation with the Aborigines. I promise them that and I look forward to the opportunity of putting this legislation into practice for their benefit.
-The Opposition does not support the amendments but I take the opportunity to say a few words about them. Although we are in the Committee of the Whole I shall widen my remarks just a little as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) chose to do. I thank the Minister for the explanations which he has taken the trouble to give on this occasion. We appreciate that elucidation. The same kind of support might have been useful through the other processes of debate. The proposals which are now before the Committee are quite consistent with the attitude which the Government has expressed through the course of the debate in this House and in the other place. As I interpret them, they involve tidying up and giving more satisfactory legal effect to the proposals which the Government had in mind.
There are 5 amendments, one to the definitions, one to clause 40, two to clause 43 and one in the form of an addition to the schedules of the Bill. Very largely the amendments all revolve around the Groote Eylandt situation where
Broken Hill Pty Company Limited is exploiting its manganese deposits. I suppose there has been some representation again from the Mining Industry Council seeking to make the matter watertight from the standpoint of mining interests. There has certainly been a very assiduous application to the interests of the miners. I cannot help but feel that there has been some deficiency in terms of the enthusiasm with which the interests of the Aboriginal people have been considered.
There has been a departure in attitudes to mining questions since this Government first introduced its legislation. The Committee will recall that the lead legislation was a Labor contrivance, and I had the honour of introducing it in 1975. That legislation was near to passing the processes of the Parliament when the events of 11 November 1975 occurred. Subsequently the Minister brought down a Bill, and from that point there has been this great intent about safeguarding the interests of the rnining concerns of the Northern Territory. That is what we are really discussing even in the dying stages of this debate. We have heard what the Minister said about Groote Eylandt, that the company has a 2 1 -year lease up there and a 2 1 -year option. The purposes of the amendment, generally speaking, are to ensure that additional leases can be granted. In their totality the amendments have the effect of removing the necessity to obtain Aboriginal consent for expansion of that mining operation.
The Opposition in this Parliament is not opposed to mining in the Northern Territory. It would be very wrong for anybody to construe from anything that has been said in this place or in another place that the Opposition has an unending hostility to mining activities in the Northern Territory. But what we have been encouraging the Government and the Minister to accept and believe is that there is now, as a consequence of this legislation, a new era. There is a new day dawning, or there ought to be a new day dawning, for Aboriginal people. I know that this matter concerns contracts. The Minister has mentioned the fact that the company is honouring its part of the contract, and we appreciate that. It as already constructed its smelter, and its agglomeration plant which does not have to be completed until June 1980 is close to completion. So it is important to honour the contracts.
Today the Minister cited Mr Justice Woodward. There are other quotations relevant to the matter that could be mentioned at this time, to the effect of giving more consideration to Aboriginal mining interests. We do not have any tendency at all to abrogate the contract of the company at Grotte Eylandt but what we emphasise is that in this situation, like all other situations, we ought to accept that there is a new land rights deal. There are other safeguards in the legislation which are to the effect that when the Aboriginal people go together to meet the mining interests and to seek to uphold their own best interests, if this is not achieved in a mutually acceptable way they can resort to an arbitration process. It seems to me that we should be accepting the concept of Aboriginal people having the right to go in and re-negotiate conditions. When a company takes over a great lump of land on Groote Eylandt the lifestyle of the people is affected very substantially. When a smelter or new agglomeration plant is built a new white population has to expand in that situation. There have to be more roads, houses and maybe more licensed clubs. In every respect the well being of the Aboriginal people is affected. Even the extent to which they can hunt over that relatively small island is very seriously affected. In that situation people should be able to sit down and do some effective re-negotiating. Here we have removed the provisions which enable adjustments of money to be made in consideration of these intrusions.
Let me say in a more general way that the Opposition is concerned about the Government’s refusal to accept its constitutional responsibility for Aboriginal affairs which was overwhelmingly supported in the 1967 referendum. These matters have been highlighted by the transfer of 4 important matters to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I will not go into them in depth; I just want to mention them cursorily. The first matter is the transfer of responsibility to the Assembly for the control of Aboriginal sacred sites. That attitude is contrary to the view taken by Mr Justice Woodward. The second matter is the issue of entry permits to Aboriginal land. That is another matter that has been relegated to the Assembly. The question of access to territorial seas adjoining Aboriginal land is the third matter, and the control of entry to pastoral properties is the fourth matter. All of these were recommended for Commonwealth legislation by Mr Justice Woodward. The Committee now knows what the Minister proposes. There is to be a compromise situation whereby the Assembly will do some work on this legislation and the Minister will be consulted. We are to have a committee looking at it. But the point is that it is a backward step. We still feel very strongly about that question.
The other matter of very great concern is the fact that the Government has rejected amendments which would have made.possible grants of land to Aborigines on the basis of need. We say again that this will deprive those Aborigines described as fringe dwellers and those of mixed ancestry of the possibility of occupying or owning their own land. Of course we are very concerned about the deletion of the Tanami Desert from the schedule of Aboriginal land. I take this opportunity of saying that since 1935- some 40 years ago- there have been continuous attempts to have this land declared Aboriginal land. It is desert land. Some wildlife and conservation factors have to be taken into account. No one could take them into account better, under prescribed guidelines, than the Aboriginal people. The Opposition believes that the deletion of this land is an insult to the Walpiri people, the largest tribe in the Northern Territory. I have no doubt that people who are concerned about Aboriginal affairs, people from one end of Australia to the other, will not rest until this land is returned to them.
I join with the Minister in paying tribute to all people who have been involved in the preparation and passage of this legislation. I refer to His Honour Mr Justice Woodward, the Aboriginal Land Councils, the Aboriginal Legal Service and people like Mr Geoff Eames who have been supporting the Aboriginal people in their attempt to obtain a proper understanding and comprehension of this legislation. I certainly hope that, despite our differences, with the passage of time the initiatives which were instituted as a result of the election pledge of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) when he was leading the Labor Party into the 1 972 election, to give land rights to Aboriginals, will come to fruition. Whether it comes to fruition in a desirable way under this Government is not the point. As long as it is achieved we will be pleased that that progress has been made.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-These amendments simply confirm what we said here the other day, that this piece of legislation ought to be renamed the Miners Rights (Aboriginal Lands) Bill. One may ask: When is an agreement not an agreement? The answer is: When it is made for or with Aborigines. As long as it is not put on the dotted line the Government does not need to observe it. I think that the Committee should reject these amendments as the Opposition recommended that it reject some of the features of the Bill in the first instance. For years now the Aboriginal people of Australia have been demanding an absolute land rights situation. It has been an accepted principle of law almost since the first colonial settlements by the British and by the Spanish that no government has ever taken land rights seriously. The issue has always been pushed into a pigeon hole when the government was confronted with some material advantage such as from mining. This legislation is simply a sop to the system.
There is no doubt that in the last few weeks the mining interests of Australia have brought pressure to bear upon the Government and upon the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). We are now protecting the interests of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd- one of the real suffering groups in the community! That is bad enough, but the whole principle behind this issue is offensive. The agreements were made with BHP back in 1969, 1 think. They were made for a term of 2 1 years, with a right of renewal for another 21 years, which will take us through to the year 2011. So the dead hand of history is going to he upon Groote Eylandt for another 40 years or more. I do not think this House or the Government ought to permit that. I think the time has come when we should not surrender basic human rights to such things as mining for material advantage and to what is apparently the even more sacred right- State rights- which is implicit in attitudes towards the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I appeal to the House to take a good hard look at this legislation and to reject it. However, I have no doubt that it will not do so.
We might ask why legal rights transcend moral rights. We heard this afternoon my colleague the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) saying a few words about the hypocrisy of the people at the Interparliamentary Union Meeting in Madrid. They spoke about democracy, human rights and all the rest, yet they represented some of the most repressive governments in history. We are being repressive this afternoon. We are confirming the rights of the possessors of power in the form of wealth and the mining companies over the rights of the Aboriginal people. Let us consider Arnhem Land. It was proclaimed an Aboriginal Reserve back in 1931, 1 think it was. To those of us who were concerned with Aboriginal affairs over the years before 1963, or thereabouts, Arnhem Land was believed to be inviolate. It was very difficult to visit the area. People had to have special permits to do so. But as soon as minerals were discovered there in substantial quantities in the early 1960s an invasion began at Yirrkala. Subsequently the same thing happened at Groote Eylandt and it will happen at other places also if this Bill comes into force. I appeal to the Parliament to take a second look at its moral obligation and to place moral obligations before legal obligations.
This piece of legislation comes at the endperhaps it is only the beginning- of a long series of negotiations and campaigns for Aboriginal land rights. I suppose that in another sense it is the beginning because this might be the point from which we advance the cause further. I should like to say something about some of those people, humble in the world at large as they are, but on occasions exalted as one became recently, in their campaign. I suppose the campaign about land rights was generated in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Land rights became an issue to Aboriginal people of Australia. Some of the people who were active in the campaign then are still around. His Excellency Sir Douglas Nicholls, the Governor of South Australia, was one of those active people who kept the spirit of Aboriginal progress and advancement alive and was active in such causes. Mr Joe McGinness, who now works with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Cairns, is another, and Mrs Faith Bandler, who lives in Sydney, was another. They are Aboriginal and Island people who sowed the seed of understanding among the rest of the community. The campaign for land rights flowed from there. People such as ourselves, the Woodwards, the Viners and the departmental officers, are the heirs to that campaign.
In this debate I suppose one should pay some tribute to the Gurindji people, who some years back walked off the Wave Hill property to indicate that they intended to have land for themselves. From such humble beginnings the great movement for Aboriginal land rights has grown. We recognise the serious challenge that land rights makes to our whole legal system and our whole land property system. Generally speaking, we are inclined to think that we own the land but we do not own the minerals. It is the Oppostion’s view that the Aboriginal domain should include the right to the minerals for and on behalf of the Aboriginal people. We have to consider also what we should do about providing land for Aborigines beyond providing such places as the existing Aboriginal reserves. That will create great difficulties, as it has done in Canada and in the United States of America. The Opposition rejects these amendments. We feel that they represent a continuation of the surrender of the interests of the Aboriginal people to the mining companies of Australia.
On a matter that concerns the parliamentary system, I think it would have been helpful if, instead of having just this jargon- as it might be called- which describes the land in question, we had had a map circulated with the explanatory memorandum. I requested a map of the Northern Territory from the Library so that I could locate the land exactly, but unfortunately the only map I could get rapidly was an atlas which does not define the land. I am not blaming anybody in particular for this, but this land could have been more adequately defined for my benefit, if not for the benefit of the rest of my colleagues, whose understanding of geography would be so precise that they would be able to tell me exactly where the spot is. The land is defined as:
Commencing at the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 01 minutes with longitude 136 degrees 30 minutes 30 seconds thence proceeding to the intersection of latitude 14 degrees 01 minutes with longitude 136 degrees . . .
It goes on further. No doubt, that is precision carried to the ultimate, but it is not very helpful to understanding. So, in presenting documents to this Parliament for consideration of such matters, I think it would be a simple courtesy to give us every explanation that is necessary. When we are dealing with matters relating to land, I think a map might even be included.
– I should like to warn the Government that if these amendments are accepted it is quite possible that the position of the Aborigines ideologically in relation to land could be more significant in respect of this country’s position in the world than are the rights of mining companies or miners. In British colonial history there has always been a conflict between what I might call: The white man on the spot who knows the “nigger” and the government at home’. I believe that the latest instalment in that was the Rhodesian affair, where the white man on the spot knew and the government at home was dismissed as very theoretical. We now have another version of this in the passing of affairs to the Northern Territory Assembly. What the white man on the spot knows is what he is interested in knowing, which usually concerns some economic resource. He knows little of the motive and cares less.
I had the privilege of taking with me to Switzerland 2 distinguished AboriginesGalurrwuy Yunupingu and Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra- to visit the Swiss company which had taken up interests in the Gove area. When in Switzerland I thought that one of the top Swiss men to whom I spoke was rather flippant about Aboriginal land. He was interested in money. As we were travelling together in a car I told him about Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra, who had refused to be used to lead a group of demonstrators for Aboriginal land rights in a procession in Melbourne. It was pretty well known that that group might have clashed with the police and Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra was opposed to any violence in the matter. I pointed out to the director of the Swiss company that if Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra had not had that perception and had led the group and been hit by the police with batons while demonstrating for his land rights the company director and all his public relations would not have made as much impact in the world as would have the violence directed against an Aborigine while demonstrating on such a matter. Yet Wulaymbuma Wunungmurra did not want to use that method to gain publicity. Others were trying to use him for that purpose. Undoubtedly the rights of the Aboriginal people to land will be swept under the carpet, just like South Africa’s apartheid and many of the other racial issues which were ignored in the past and now have become major world issues. The Government has shown sensitivity to mining companies and their interests will not count nearly as much in the world’s evaluation of Australia as will the extent to which Australia recognises the dignity and rights of these Aboriginal people.
I am not sentimental about land never being developed and I do not think the Aborigines are so deluded. However, I would be very careful about brushing aside serious concerns of the Aboriginal people either for the special considerations of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, whose existence, in my opinion, is a misfortune, or for the consideration of these
E articular companies. The amendments are on a ne with the whittling away that has been characteristic of the amendments to the original legislation that was introduced last year. But, for heaven’s sake, the Government should have seen enough of the world now to know that race issues are very vital issues indeed. There is a very simple reason. If you reject a man on the grounds of his politics or his religion, he may change them to please you, but if you reject him on the ground of race in any way whatsoever by discrimination in regard to his land rights, there is no way in the world he can change his race to please you.
Many peoples in the world regard this whole question of race relations as the litmus test of what other nations are really on about. That is why I believe that, ideologically, all of this sort of legislation is immensely significant for this country. We will be judged as to whether we fully accept the dignity of the Aboriginal people. The States have never accepted it. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) knows that Queensland does not accept it. He knows that the claims of land rights have never been accepted by the Queensland Government and that this is quite serious for this country. If anyone liked to research the history of race relations in certain phases of Queensland’s history, he could build up a more disastrous case than could be built up against South Africa. I can well imagine the sort of propaganda that might be directed against us. Before the referendum in 1967 the Aboriginal question had never been properly dealt with. It had been dealt with in a piecemeal fashion by the 6 States. The people at that referendum asked the national Parliament to recognise the full dignity within the nation of the Aboriginal people .
We have given them voting rights, drinking rights and fornicating rights that they never used to have inter-racially, all of which did not cost the Treasury a farthing. But this question of their land rights may cost something; it may take something from the mining companies or from us or from our future prospects. I believe that the Minister is sensitive to these issues. I have very great respect for him but I think that these amendments are unfortunate if they again represent as a result of pressures that have come from mining elements, an insensitivity to what Aborigines feel about their land. If these elements are able to influence and control the Government, there will be a situation like that in Queensland and the Aborigines will get nothing at all. Most Aborigines who are working for their rights think it is unfortunate that these sentiments have developed in the Federal Parliament about the Northern Territory. They work with the State governments to try to ensure that this does not happen in States which have significant numbers of Aborigines and potentially significant land questions. With regard to this issue, the Commonwealth Government must offset the insensitive, blind and racially irresponsible policies of governments like the Government of Queensland which does not care tuppence- except on tuppeny-ha ‘penny issues about governorswhat image this nation projects to the outside world.
I believe that all the legislation the Commonwealth has attempted over the last couple of years has done something to offset that unfortunate impression. If we retreat now I believe that, ideologically, the image projected by this country into the world will be one that will be quite damaging to us. It is worth something, in our relations with a good many other countries, that we should ourselves be above suspicion on race questions.
– in reply- I wish to reply briefly to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and other Opposition members who have spoken. As I said before, through this legislation is reflected the task which this Government set itself concerning Aboriginal land rights. I am quite satisfied that the Government will be well judged by what it has done in this legislation. It has balanced the interests of the Aboriginals, which it has always aimed to sustain, with certain interests which no government can refuse to acknowledge. It has balanced one against the other. I think by any measure it will be found that the Aboriginal interests are supreme in this legislation. There will be no retreat by this Government from the task that it set itself in Aboriginal affairs, as is reflected in this legislation.
Amendments agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
-The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment.
Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill 1976.
States Grants (Aboriginal Assistance) Bill 1 976.
-by leave-Throughout this year the Government has had one clear goal in front of it. That goal is a sustainable economic recovery which will lead Australia towards sustained economic growth and increasing employment opportunities. A prerequisite for achieving that goal is the control of inflation. The dominant goal of our whole economic strategy has been, and remains, directed towards the control of inflation. In this statement I want to set the measures of the last 2 weeks in the context of that strategy. A realistic assessment of the impact of those measures must take into account the effects of policies already implemented during the year. These policies have already achieved a slowdown in the rate of inflation and in the growth of wages and salaries. The increases in each of the last 3 quarters in the Consumer Price Index were lower than any increase for 2 years, leaving aside the effects of Medibank. In the September quarter, the increase was 2.2 per cent, the lowest since the March quarter of 1 973.
Components of the index show very encouraging trends. Other price indicators have also been encouraging. For example, the price index for materials used in house building rose by 0.5 per cent in October, the lowest increase since November 1972. Similarly, the price index of materials used in building other than housing increased by 0.4 per cent in October, which was again the lowest increase since November 1972. Figures published recently show that Australia’s rate of inflation is now broadly in line with the average of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In fact the Consumer Price Index, expressed as a compound monthly rate of 0.7 per cent, is actually marginally better than the 0.8 per cent for the OECD countries as a whole during September. While other indicators are mixed, there are encouraging signs. Among these is the index of industrial production, which has firmed since July, and in October was 9 per cent above its low point of June 1975. Recent figures show that investment spending on new buildings and structures in the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by some 31 per cent in the half-year to December. Some of the distortions inflicted on the economy during 1974-75 are beginning to be corrected. For example, business profitability has grown; the savings ratio has declined; and the shake-out in stocks appears to have run its course.
Despite this progress we could not put off facing the problem posed by our loss of reserves. On coming into office, the Government faced an exchange rate which was already susceptible to speculation and uncertainty. In the weeks immediately following the election in 1975, several hundred million dollars of private capital flowed out of Australia mainly due to a widespread belief that the Australian exchange rate was overvalued. In the 3 months to the end of November 1976, the decline escalated. Our reserves fell by over $700m if official borrowings by the Government in this period are left to one side. The decline in reserves continued despite the additional monetary measures of 7 November. The continued outflow of reserves stemmed from the fact that most observers in Australia and overseas believed that our currency was overvalued.
The week before last the Government ‘s official advisers jointly presented 2 options to the Government: Overseas borrowing of around $ 1,000m or immediate devaluation. The
Government looked at these options with a number of facts in mind. One central fact was the uncompetitive position of Australia’s export and import competing industries. In the last 6 years, wages in Australia’s manufacturing industry increased by 130 per cent compared with 53 per cent in the United States and 70 per cent in West Germany. The Industries Assistance Commission estimated that the general competitiveness of the Australian import-competing sector fell some 17 per cent between 1970-71 and 1975-76. One drastic consequence of this and related factors is that employment in Australian manufacturing industry fell by almost 100 000 between May 1974 and the end of June 1976. What a terrible legacy for the Australian Labor Party that pretended to support people in trade unions who work in the factories of Australia
Government supporters- Where are the Labor Party members?
-They have gone home. There has been a growing tendency for some sections of manufacturing industry to move offshore to minimise cost disadvantages. This export of jobs had to cease. These facts were of deep concern to this Government. They could not be ignored. Further, uncertainty about the exchange rate was causing new projects involving overseas investment to be deferred. There was continuing and growing belief overseas about the inevitability of an Australian exchange rate adjustment. Increasingly, the overwhelming view in international circles was that the Aus.tralian exchange rate was overvalued, and that sooner or later an adjustment would have to be made.
Throughout this year the Government has done everything possible to protect the exchange rate as part of the fight against inflation. Ultimately the point was reached where the rate was no longer sustainable. By the time this decision was unavoidable we had been able to bring each of the other major arms of policy to focus in the fight against inflation. Policies in these areas must now be tightened further. In all these circumstances the first option of borrowing around $ 1,000m including funds from the International Monetary Fund, presented substantial risks. A borrowing of this magnitude would not have ended speculation against the downward movement of the dollar because people were looking as much at our underlying cost position as at the balance of payments position. To take just one example- as the chief international economist of Morgan Guaranty has said: ‘You simply lost competitiveness because of the amount of inflation. This situation has been widely recognised over the last year’.
Since Australia began in the battle against inflation only in December last year, further borrowings in the situation which had arisen would not have provided the change in attitudes the Government was determined to achieve. It would not have removed the uncertainty about the exchange rate. It could indeed have accentuated that uncertainty. Without a change in attitudes the strengthening economic recovery would have been threatened and the eventual devaluation or further borrowing could well have been greater. In these circumstances it would have been nonsense for Australia to have gone to the IMF. The Government was not prepared to put Australia in that position.
Once we had made the inevitable decision to devalue there were a number of options open to us on the extent of devaluation and on the form of the new exchange rate system. We could have moved to a new fixed rate which would, perhaps at some future time, require a further significant alteration up or down in the exchange rate- a move which, as the devaluation demonstrated, is attended by major public concern. We could have a market-determined float which would make fluctuations possible on a daily basis or, in the case of some other countries, even within a day. We could have an administered and controlled management of the exchange rate. A further question requiring very careful consideration was the magnitude of the initial change in the rate which would have to be made.
The choice before us was to make a move which would decisively end further speculation against the downward movement of the dollar or a move which would leave the way open for speculation about a further devaluation perhaps in the not too distant future. The Government took the view that it was essential to end definitively further speculation against the dollar and to establish a regime which would in future permit the exchange rate to adjust smoothly to changing circumstances. The decision therefore to devalue by 17V4 per cent was made after full consultation with the Government ‘s advisers and on the basis of a technical evaluation of the magnitude required to achieve the Government’s desired result. The magnitude of the devaluation indicates the seriousness of the cost disadvantages which had been weighing with increasing heaviness on Australian manufacturing industry and on Australian employment. It should awaken all Australians to the serious weaknesses in our economic situation which will require a concerted national effort to overcome. It is important that there should be a much wider understanding than now exists of the implications of adopting a managed regime.
In taking this decision, the Government has brought Australia more into line with the system adopted by other major trading countries. It needs to be understood that most major countries have tended to adopt exchange arrangements that permit more flexibility in rates in response to changes in economic circumstances. The experience of a number of countries, including the United States, Germany, Japan and Canada, has clearly demonstrated the important role that a managed exchange rate can play in the pursuit of domestic policy objectives. In this context, it is interesting to note the comments of the IMF in its 1 976 annual report:
Faced with substantial uncertainty concerning future balance of payments developments and exchange rate patterns, and aware of the persistence of marked differences among national economies, in particular with respect to rates of inflation, interest rates and levels of economic activity, as well as of structural changes, the major industrial countries have continued to permit their currencies to float. Indeed, as underlying economic conditions have continued to differ among countries whose currencies are floating, frequent exchange rate variations have been a major form of balance of payment adjustments.
Some people have expressed surprise that under the new system of a managed exchange rate the first change in the rate should have occurred so soon. I regret to say that this indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of an administered exchange rate. Suppose that we had adopted a fully floating exchange rate, under which it is not unusual for rates to fluctuate daily. If under such a float the rate had moved upwards on the first day, would anyone have suggested that it should not have done so? I hope not. Under the regime we have adopted not infrequent changes are likely to occur in the ordinary course of events. That is deliberate. The regime is designed to avoid the large jumps, as the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has so often repeated in the last few days, that have occurred in the past. This is, indeed, the purpose of adopting a managed exchange rate.
The initial decision was taken in the context of the adoption of such a system. Critics of the 2 per cent revaluation are tied to the past. They have not understood the nature of the change that has been made. For example, some critics have asked why all the criteria used by the bank in making decisions about the rate should not be made public. Such a course would only advance the cause of the speculator. There is no responsible Reserve Bank in the world which would give the precise grounds on which decisions about changes in the rate would be made or, for those on floating rates, about daily interventions in the market. As understanding of the new system grows it will be fully accepted as a great advance. Devaluation inevitably means that a number of other difficult decisions had to be taken. It is a decision with some inflationary consequences which can be countered only by a tightening of policy in other areas. Devaluation makes it more necessary than ever that the antiinflation strategy we have pursued throughout this year be persisted with. In the light of the seriousness of the situation made clear by the devaluation, that strategy will be pursued with renewed intensity. The Government has already announced a number of measures designed to counteract the inflationary impact of devaluation.
On the fiscal side, a review of expenditures aimed at identifying scope for further savings through the deferment of expenditures has been put in hand, through the new Department of Finance. The Government is determined to hold government spending firmly in check. This is essential to reduce the pressure on monetary policy. Let me emphasise also that responsible further relief in income tax also is highly dependent on success in this area. Further to this, in the preparation of forward estimates of expenditure for next year- now under way- Ministers have been asked by my colleague, the Treasurer, to identify any increases in existing programs so that these can be looked at separately in the same way as entirely new proposals. Keeping a very tight grip on government spending continues one major line of the anti-inflation strategy we have been pursuing with success. It is an unpleasant reality that if we want to beat inflation and restore employment opportunites, the pressure on national resources from high and unreasonable government spending and high deficits must be reduced continually. There are widespread calls for further tax cuts. The Government, in principle, accepts this. But if these tax cuts are to be made responsibly, they must be matched by further restraint in government spending which can only, in the ultimate, make such tax cuts possible. This year, we have shown that we are prepared to take the decisions required in this area. We intend to demonstrate that determination again in the coming months and in the preparation of next year’s Budget.
On the monetary side, action has been announced already to help to make sure that monetary conditions do not become accommodating to increased inflation but, at the same time, providing adequate funds to underwrite economic recovery. Yields on Treasury notes were raised by 0.5 per cent on 29 November. Subscriptions to the notes have been encouraging. Non-official holdings presently are more than $ 1 ,400m- about half of which is held by the non-bank public. Subsequent action by the authorities has brought about an adjustment of similar magnitude in yields on short-dated bonds with consequential adjustment- on a diminishing basis- of yields on other securities. The long term bond rate has been increased by 0.3 per cent to 10.5 per cent. The yield on savings bonds has been increased to 10 per cent. Bank lending will be monitored so as to prevent any increase in inflationary pressures. Normal financing requirements of business will be met.
I should not need to emphasise that wages policy has assumed an even greater importance in the post-devaluation context. To allow the rate of increase in wage settlements to escalate as a result of devaluation would be to negate the beneficial effects which will otherwise flow from devaluation for the competitive position of Australian industry and for Australian- as opposed to off-shore- employment. The Government, therefore, will be doing everything within its power to make sure that any identifiable effects of devaluation on the consumer price index do not flow through into wages and salaries. The wages area is one where- as both the Treasurer and I have emphasised throughout the year- the Government cannot achieve success on its own. In this area, particularly, it will take a commitment by all sections of the community to take up the fight against inflation and to restore employment opportunities.
It is somewhat ironic to recall that we were attacked earlier in the year for arguing as strongly as we did in our first submission to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Even then, there were those who predicted that if the Government based it policies on economic common sense, the result would be confrontation with the trade union movement. Unfortunately, too much credence has been given to the threats of extremist union leaders to create further conflict. In this area, there has been a capitulation to threats instead of recognising economic common sense. Not enough weight has been given to the great common sense of the vast majority of the rank and file trade union members who know full well the importance of restraint at this time. I believe most of them and most Australians are fed up with the disruptive tactics of a few who are not supporters of the democratic system in this country in many cases.
This Government will not allow an unreasonable burden in the fight against inflation to fall further on any section of the community including wage and salary earners. The Government deliberately has taken a number of major measures designed to encourage wage and salary restraint and to protect potentially disadvantaged groups from the costs of inflation. These measures include the automatic adjustment of pensions for inflation, the family allowance scheme and full personal income tax indexation. These measures, which are of continuing benefit, should provide an important support to wage and salary restraint. Further, the Government’s submissions before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are designed to protect lower income earners. There should be a recognition that the important fact to the wage and salary earner should not bc gross income but final real disposable income. These measures provide a totally reasonable basis for wage and salary restraint.
It is in this context that the Government intends to argue more strongly before the Commission for recognition of the absolute importance of wage and salary restraint. Beyond that, the Government will be taking every step within its power to secure restraint. The Treasurer, for example, will be discussing with the Premiers the impact of wage levels on the State loan programs at the Loan Council meeting next week. Quite clearly, with wage restraint the States can achieve more effective loan programs, larger loan programs and the greater employment of people. This, again, is part of action to tighten the main lines of the strategy we have followed throughout the year. In addition to action on the budgetary, monetary and wages front, action also has been taken on the prices front.
The Prices Justification Tribunal has been asked to pay special attention to price increases consequent on devaluation. This will not be limited to companies technically covered by the Act required to notify. The purpose is to make sure that devaluation is not used as an excuse for unjustified price increases. The Government’s legislation regarding the Prices Justification Tribunal will, in fact, increase its surveillance capacity and its ability to investigate areas where there is evidence of price abuse. The Prices Justification Tribunal will report progressively to the Minister. At the end of 3 months, the Government will review its requests.
In the external area, as a result of the devaluation of the Australian dollar, the Government has examined the Australian tariffs. We have not made across-the-board cuts in tariff but we have acted selectively to reduce inflationary effects arising from the devaluation without negating the improved competitive position that devaluation has brought to Australian industry. Let me repeat: It was firmly the Government’s intention to put Australian industry in a much improved competitive position, and in the Government’s judgment that was necessary after the results of recent years. This improvement is greatly needed by Australian industry if jobs are to be created and industries are to be discouraged from going off-shore. Our decisions on tariffs have been the right decisions taken at the right time.
An across-the-board tariff cut would have been foolish. Selectivity was necessary and therefore it was imperative to take advice before there could be action. In this case advice could not be sought until after devaluation was announced. To have done otherwise would have been imprudent, to say the least. It would have extended beyond reasonable bounds the circle of people who knew about the devaluation. Accordingly, the decisions on tariffs had to be taken after devaluation. We were fortunate to have before us an Industries Assistance Commission report and recommendations, and we acted on those recommendations.
The Government’s decision, as my colleague has announced, has affected over 900 of the 2750 items covered by tariffs, the value of the trade in these items being around $2,000m. The reason for the selectivity of the tariff reduction, for our refusal to engage in across-the-board cuts, is clear. Manufacturing industry in recent years has had its competitive position eroded by rising wage costs, a dollar which was until recently over valued and the shocks imposed by the Labor Government’s 25 per cent across-the-board tariff cut. What needs to be understood is that the competitive position of Australian industry had to be restored. Devaluation will achieve that. At the same time we have sought to reduce the inflationary impact of the decision.
Thus, following devaluation the Government had acted with respect to each of the major arms of policy. On monetary policy there have been adjustments to interest rates on Treasury notes, Australian savings bonds and other government securities. On tariffs there has been a review of temporary assistance arrangements followed by measures announced to offset the inflationary impact in certain areas. On budgetary policy there has been a further review of Government expenditure aimed at holding real expenditure levels. We will also maintain pressure on the wages front and we have acted to establish conditions in which wage restraint is possible and reasonable. We intend to persist with our antiinflationary strategy in full measure.
In the circumstances that Australia faces it is disappointing to note that some people, who should by now know better, continue to promote policies which would only add greatly to inflation. The vast majority of Australians realise that it is no longer possible to spend our way out of inflation and unemployment. One consistent feature of all the alternatives offered by the Labor Party has been the willingness- some might well say eagerness- to vastly increase public spending once more or to pump up the size of the Federal Budget deficit. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) some weeks ago urged the Government to adopt measures which would increase the deficit by $ 1,000m. The Premier of Tasmania followed with an extravagant 24 point plan. The Premier of New South Wales outshone both with proposals for almost $2,000m more in Federal spending. Others have urged, and continue to urge, tax cuts and inflationary spending.
It would seem that these proposals are made in total disregard for their consequences under present circumstances. Each of these proposals, without exception, would be inflationary. The overriding need of this country is to conquer inflation. What the Labor Party is proposing would create yet more inflation. Surely it understands that by now. Throughout its period in office the Labor Party failed to develop -
– What are you going to do?
– We are going to keep the honourable member for Lang where he is until he retires from this Parliament or until we take his seat in the next election. The honourable member for Lang should be the last person to interject in these matters. There are certain things he should say in this Parliament which he has not said. All the Labor Party’s essays in economic policy this year have been designed to give a further spur to inflation- all the essays of the Labor Party. Every new expenditure means a higher deficit which must be paid for in some way.
Let me explain in plain terms how this happens. It needs to be explained even though it should not. It can be done by the Reserve Bank printing money which adds further to inflationary pressures. That, of course, is the easiest choice and that is just what the Labor Party would accept. Secondly, it can be paid for through higher interest rates which can lead to a credit squeeze on business and a loss of job opportunities in the private sector. Thirdly, it can be met by increased taxes, but I understand no one is proposing that. All these alternatives are inflationary. The clear consequences of further increases in spending are unacceptable at this time.
When people propose policies of this kind they must be prepared to follow through the full consequences of those policies. Unfortunately too often this is not done. The Government rejects these as desirable or viable alternatives. Higher Government spending, larger deficits, would do nothing whatever to correct the imbalances in the economy. Such an approach would further damage the private sector, increase further government’s demands on the nation’s resources and add to unemployment. Those who propose to solve our problems through yet higher government expenditures are in fact, whether they know it or not, perpetrating a cruel deception on the people of Australia.
Contrast those policies with the effects of devaluation. It does not add significantly to the deficit. It will reduce the burdens on those sectors which have been hardest hit by inflation and which have not been protected by some form of indexed returns, which have not had guaranteed selling prices for their products. It will create conditions where jobs can be created. It will reduce the reason for Australian companies to move offshore. Overseas and domestic investment projects will start moving again.
The real possibilities of increased production for domestic industries constitutes a substantial benefit from devaluation. Many manufacturing firms are able to expand their currently underutilised capacity. At present their fixed costssuch as plant and equipment depreciation, capital costs, rent and salaries- represent a high proportion of total costs. In this situation, increases in demand and production can produce quite significant reductions in unit cost. It is worth recalling the words of the 1975 Jackson Committee report which stated:
Australian manufacturing industry is in acute financial crisis. Unemployment is high. Factories are running below capacity …. Their profit record and prospects make it hard to raise equity.
The Jackson report also mentioned the damage caused to manufacturing industry by recent adjustments in the exchange rate and the levels of protection. Our company tax measures have made a contribution to alleviating this situation, but beyond this devaluation presents an opportunity for much needed relief in the problem areas identified by the Jackson report. The alternatives to devaluation would have been massive subsidies or even higher tariffs. Those who criticise the decision to devalue fail to appreciate the continued thrust for more and more tariff protection which carries its own inflationary impact, and which was present before the decision to devalue.
In the last few weeks there has been a remarkable unwillingness on the part of some commentators to assess the decisions objectively in their full ramifications. One well known economic commentator writing on the devaluation of the Australia dollar has made the following points. He stated, firstly, that: . . most spectators would have felt the devaluation would have been timed for some time next year. The Government, by getting in early before speculative pressures built up, has avoided a haemorrhaging of Australia’s international reserves through capital outflow.
The same commentator stated:
The extent of the devaluation will be sufficient to convince potential foreign investors in Australia that there is unlikely to be any further devaluation.
The third statement was:
The devaluation will give a breathing space to some Australian industries now suffering from severe import competition.
The economy is running below full capacity, so the extra stimulus to domestic demand and employment will hopefully take up some ofthe spare capacity.
Finally from the same commentator
The devaluation will give a fillip to business confidence.
There could be no better description of the positive aspects of the 1976 devaluation. But these comments were made about the 1974 devaluation, which was undertaken in an inflationary context and was accompanied by a number of highly inflationary measures. The same commentator condemned the 1976 decision, neglecting his earlier arguments and assessments, not to mention the completely different policy context within which the 1 976 decision has been taken.
Many of the statements being made in recent days about the devaluation are quite out of touch with reality. They are sheer humbug. Wild assertions about interest rates, the availability of credit and the exchange rate confusion are not based on a considered assessment of what has actually been occurring in the market, in the place where it counts. Information available to the Government suggests that transformation to the new interest rate yield curve has been successful. The greater indications of support for Government Treasury notes are encouraging. A cautious observation of the stock market indicates strengthening since devaluation. The Government welcomes renewed interest from overseas in portfolio investment. The changes made in the exchange rate have halted speculation against the dollar and the haemorrhaging of our reserves. The massive inflow of capital that some have predicted has not occurred.
Much of the criticism failed to understand the changed nature of the regime and its consequences. This week’s adjustment reflects no more than the success of the initial move. Commodity markets have also shown continuing strength. The hysteria and humbug coming from certain people in relation to events of the last 2 weeks are not supported by the evidence available. The Government condemns the hysteria and the humbug. The Government believes that the movements that have occurred are responsible and are appropriate and that as each day passes more and more people will come to understand that. But what a contrast to the domestic critics are the more measured reactions from overseas. In accordance with normal practice, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund, as the Treasurer indicated this morning, has considered Australia’s decision to devalue. The Board appreciated the factors behind the decision. All directors who spoke supported Australia’s decision to devalue. In addition, the greater flexibility that would be permitted under the new exchange arrangements was welcomed. What greater support could a country have than that, especially coming from the organisation whose business interest in this matter is second only to that of this Government? There was no suggestion that the devaluation could be regarded as a competitive devaluation.
Most international reaction to our measures has recognised the soundness of the decisions which have already been taken. The New York Morgan Guaranty’s chief international economist described the 17.S per cent devaluation as a very correct amount and noted the wide recognition of Australia’s international uncompetitiveness. Milton Friedman has observed, postdevaluation:
Australia is very well regarded internationally because now- and this is comparatively rare amongst Western nations at the moment- it appears to be pursuing a mature and steady course.
Our Ambassador to the United States has reported that our emphasis on the anti-inflationary objectives accompanying devaluation is being applauded and that the devaluation has been seen as removing a significant disincentive to investment in Australia.
In balancing the arms of economic policy, the Government considered inflation as the No. 1 priority, but we have never contended that it was the only priority; nor has it been argued, to my knowledge, that it ought to be the only priority. In a number of decisions such as the introduction of family allowances, full personal tax indexation, the investment allowance and the allocation of moneys to Aboriginal and welfare programs, the Government has moved to help sectors of the community hardest hit by inflation, and to encourage activity. If inflation had been the only priority there would have been no family allowances, no indexation and no increases in money for social programs. There would have been no Budget deficit, and there would have been more extensive cut-backs in government programs. If inflation were our sole objective we should have had a balanced budget. I do not recall the Government being urged to bring down a balanced budget on this last occasion. The reason is obvious. The hardship in other areas would have been vast and much too great. In other words, there must be a balance in objective, although there is one major objective.
The fight against inflation, although our dominant objective, cannot be conducted with an utter disregard for its effects on other areas of social and economic policy. The fact that devaluation has taken place does not mean that combating inflation has lost its place as our first priority. The fact that the Government has been forced to take a decision which has some inflationary consequences can no more be adduced as evidence that the anti-inflationary strategy has been abandoned than can the fact that the Government did not plan for a balanced budget. The reverse is the truth. The devaluation decision requires us to redouble our efforts to get on top of inflation, that there be no let-up, that we press ahead with our announced strategy more strongly than ever before.
Let me review the year’s major economic decisions. In February $360m worth of savings resulting from expenditure reviews were announced. In January decisions were taken to soak up excess liquidity in the financial system. In May a package of fiscal policy decisions was introduced- tax indexation, $2,600m savings to forward estimates and family allowances. In the Budget, spending was held and the deficit contained, monetary guidelines were laid down and strategy for recovery was firmly implemented. Let me state again the main elements of that strategythe most rigorous restraint on government spending to rein in the bloated public sector and to free resources to productive private enterprise, the provision of a wide range of incentives to industry to resume expansion and to provide employment, seizing every opportunity to emphasise the importance of restraint in wage and salary demands, establishing, through a variety of measures, a climate which will make wage and salary restraint possible. This is essential to keep down costs and to create conditions in which employment opportunities can be expanded. We always said that the strategy would take time, that it would be a full 3-year program. It is the only strategy that will work.
Let me state the Government’s attitude to inflation, so there can be no misunderstanding, as there has been in some quarters in recent days. Inflation is the enemy that Australia must and will defeat. It undermines security, it destroys the value of savings and incomes, it hinders the expansion of jobs, it erodes our position in the world and in the end it eats away at the vitality of our institutions and our way of life. Twelve months ago Australia as we know, was in great economic disarray. In office we were faced immediately with the worst unemployment since the 1930s, an actual decline in gross domestic product, a depression in company profits, a decline in business investment to its lowest level in 3 years, a desperate situation in the farming sector and an inflation rate that was 14 per cent. It was higher than it had been a year before and was showing no substantive indications of dedining. In the past year we have focussed the arms of policy on the problem of inflation and have achieved improvement in Australia’s position to a significant extent.
The fact that it was not possible to avoid devaluation shows the magnitude of the problems which still face the Australian economy and every one of us as Australians. Some people appear to believe that devaluation was a soft option. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the hardest option of all. If we do not take advantage of the opportunities that devaluation offers us, if we do not bring every weapon of policy to bear on inflation, the future will be a grave one for Australia. We may not get another opportunity.
– You will be out, my friend. I will be sorry not to see you on the Opposition benches because unlike some of your colleagues you are a friendly face. The present situation facing us all demands a concerted national effort. All Australians, all sectors of the community, have an overriding national interest in achieving a soundly based economic recovery. We have made a beginning and we must not squander our national opportunities and our national strengths.
The Government’s measures have been the right ones, but the Government cannot do it alone. In the battle against inflation any government needs the support of its own community. We need to find a national will and determination to overcome inflation. Too often our institutions seek to sharpen differences in the community, to pursue an adversary relationship with each other for temporary advantage rather than emphasising the common interests that all Australians share. This is a time when all of our institutions and all Australians- business, trade unions and everyone in a position of leadership in this community- must seek to set aside narrow interests in favour of the overriding common interests that we all share. Devaluation should underline for every Australian the seriousness of the problem that confronts us. It also gives us an opportunity that we as a nation cannot afford to lose. The fight against inflation is a fight that we are going to win.
-Mr Speaker I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We have just heard a feeble and overlong effort seeking to stem the tide. But all the huffing and puffing that we have heard will not make an ounce of difference. Like the Arab, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would be better advised to fold up his tent and slink off into the night. The Prime Minister did not even enthuse the sycophants behind him. He could not get even an ounce of enthusiasm from them. The tide has turned. The credibility of the Government is nil. Government supporters know this; it shines from their faces. They are on the slide to oblivion and we intend to give them a further push.
If only Government backbenchers would realise what the true situation is instead of trying to find some enthusiasm or sitting in this place like schoolboys behind their leader. I know that they do not want an election to be held right now. In fact the Opposition would challenge the Government to an election but the Government would not agree to hold one. But knowing that will not happen what Government supporters can do for Australians is to make sure that they change the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). If ever we heard an empty excuse ibr the incompetent economic management of this country, we have just heard it in an overlong statement of about 40 minutes which sought to try to persuade us that all was well. Of course, it is not well.
This Government started off its term of office with its so-called anti-inflationary strategy, a strategy which is now completely in tatters. Before developing that point, I inform the House that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was not given much advance notice that the Prime Minister would be making his statement at this time. The Leader of the Opposition had another appointment. He is not able to be here. But at least he deputed someone from the front bench of the Opposition to take his place. This is in sharp contrast to what happened earlier this afternoon when 2 Government backbenchers spoke on a discussion of a matter of public importance on the subject of the fall in the standards of living under the Fraser Government. The Leader of the Opposition had given 36 hours notice that this matter would be dealt with today. However, if ever words summed up what has happened this year, it is the words of that matter of .public importance certainly did. Instead of a Minister being deputed to answer these grave but truthful charges against this Government we found that 2 Government backbenchers were given the task.
If there is one statement that sums up this year of the Fraser Government it is that the living standards of Australians have been reduced. This is the first time in my living memory that this has happened to our country. This situation has been perpetrated on our nation by a group of men who believe that they were born to nile. These men grabbed power on the excuse that they knew how better to manage the economy. The Australian people have learned in one year that that was the greatest truth ever perpetrated on them. The Government has gone from bad to worse.
The Prime Minister was stupid enough to give us a litany of the economic decisions which he had made. He started off wrongly by slashing government spending and by slashing a Budget which was already a correct mix. This action has ruined consumer confidence in this country to the extent that we have now lost the confidence of overseas people and investors. That explains why there was the rapid outflow of funds which gave rise to the damaging devaluation. All the huffing and puffing of the Prime Minister will not make an ounce of difference to the inevitability that the package on monetary, fiscal and wages policies, which must come in the wake of devaluation, will do further harm to this country. I am afraid that the only Christmas message that anybody objectively looking at the economy can give to the Australian people is that, after a year in which their standard of living has been reduced by the incompetent and inept economic policies of the people who rule us, we will have another year of similar wrong and inept policies.
We are now promised that there will be further slashing of government spending. Of course the savings ratio is increasing. Of course that squirrelling will continue if this foreshadowed action is what we have to put up with in the months or year ahead. Because of their lack of confidence the Australian people will not spend. As a result the business confidence that is necessary for investment decisions to be made to get the economy moving will not be created. It is a domestic led recovery which in the end will be the answer to the economic ills that we are suffering. Instead we have a Government which started off believing that an investment led recovery was required. We had the expensive and expansive investment allowance which was an almost complete waste of Government funds. Then the Government said that perhaps it ought to try to persuade people to spend. But it did not put forward the policies to urge people to spend. Rather, the Government pursued policies that increased unemployment Of course, this has given rise to a lack of confidence. Now, by some grand but wrong gesture, last Sunday night the Government decided to devalue the currency. Apparently the answer to the country’s ills is to be an export led recovery. The Government is groping from one area to another. All of its policies are equally wrong and have equally been mistakes.
I draw to the attention of the House and the Australian people the alternative strategy put forward not only by myself and the Leader of the Opposition in the packages that he has prepared but also by the Premier of a major State, New South Wales, and also the Premier of Tasmania. I shall focus for a moment on Mr Wran’s plan. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that that plan has been endorsed in great detail by many sectors of private industry in this country. It was put forward following the alternative Budget strategy suggested by me and later by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The plan is: It is only by increasing government spending modestly- stimulatory spending-and by reducing indirect taxes, particularly sales tax, that we will bring a necessary return of confidence to the Austraiian consumer in order to get the economy moving. So much of what the Prime Minister has said in the statement was dishonest that it is hard to pick out one area. But to suggest that any member of the Opposition was suggesting a $1 billion increase in the deficit is just patent dishonesty.
-Order! I take it that the honourable member does not mean that the Prime Minister is dishonest. If he does, he will have to withdraw that remark.
– I suggest that some ofthe allegations in the Prime Minister’s statement which has just been read to the House are completely wrong. But I will not impute motives to him. I have drawn some conclusions. If those conclusions are unparliamentary and, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you want me to withdraw, I will. But I think I have got my message over. I say that the proposals of the Australian Labor Party Opposition have been modest. We realise that there cannot be a limitless increase in the money supply. We realise that a very great increase in the Budget deficit cannot be financed without increases in interest rates. What we have been putting forward as the alternative economic strategy has been a modest plan. If that plan had been adopted earlier this year we would not have the lack of confidence which pervades the community. We would not have had that lack of confidence spreading abroad with all the dire consequences leading up to devaluation.
I end on the note that the Government members could not be enthused by this statement because they know that the tide is turning. They know that their credibility gap is too great All these promises of not meddling with Medibank have been broken; the promise of not interfering with wage indexation was immediately broken. There was a suggestion that there would be more take home pay after taxation and there is less. All these things have added up to a completely incompetent economic management of this country over the last 12 months by these men who grabbed for power on the excuse that they could manage the economy better. They have not done so. This statement by the Prime Minister which is meant to hoodwink this country into believing that they have done so is completely pathetic.
-I present a report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-I have received a message from the Senate concurring in the resolution of the House relating to the appointment of a Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory and agreeing that the resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Debate resumed from 18 November, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this Legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Historic Shipwrecks Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures?
– I ask the Attorney-General whether the reasoning underlying the proposal to make this a cognate debate is that if the Captains in charge of those historic shipwrecks had been good navigators the ships would not have been wrecked? I cannot see any other relevance between the 2 Bills.
-I do not think I need to answer that question but I can explain why I make this proposal. There is a reason.
-I think agreement has been given. I shall allow the Bills to be debated cognately.
-I shall take the opportunity to comment on the question asked by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley). I think there is a relationship between these 2 Bills. If there had been an Australian ship reporting system operating in those days we might not have had any historic shipwrecks. I also take the opportunity, before I debate these Bills, to express my gratitude and appreciation to the retiring Clerk of the House, Norman James Parkes. I wish to say how much I appreciated, as a new member, his courtesy and assistance and kindly attitude to the problems which new members faced. I wish him well in his retirement and a long and happy life.
The Navigation Amendment Bill 1976 is similar in many aspects to the Navigation Bill 1975 which had not passed the Senate when the infamous sacking of November 1975 took place. Hence the Bill lapsed.
– The honourable member will lapse without a sacking, so he should not worry. The essential difference between the 2 Bills is that this Government has deleted those sections of the 1975 Bill which dealt with the operation of off-shore vessels and collision regulations. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill but it notes that the Government has delayed this legislation for more than a year. Despite the deletion of sections of the 1975 Bill relating to collision regulations, it is encouraging to note that at the meeting of the Marine and Ports Council of Australia held in Surfers Paradise on 26 November 1976 the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) advanced the proposition that a single unitary law should apply to all shipping on the Australian coast instead of the present fragmented method whereby 7 separate governments are all involved in regulating shipping. While the Minister did not achieve complete success in having his proposal accepted by the relevant State Ministers, at least they recognised that advantages were to be gained from uniform shipping legislation and the matter is to be further discussed at the next meeting of the Marine and Ports Council of Australia.
More positively, the Council agreed that the Australian Government should legislate to implement on the widest possible basis the international collision regulations which, in effect, are the rules of the road at sea but leaving to State laws the administration of navigation rules for vessels within harbours. Apart from the large number of miscellaneous amendments which I shall touch on later, the 4 major changes made to the principal Act, the Navigation Act 1912, are: Firstly, it raises the limit of liability of owners of seagoing ships for loss of life or property, for example, from $20 per ton to $189 per ton for personal claims and from $1 1 to $61 per ton for property claims by adopting the provisions ofthe international convention relating to owners of seagoing ships which was signed at Brussels in October 19S7 and which came into force in 1968. Secondly, consequent upon the provisions of the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act 1970, Part II of the principal Act is amended to redefine visiting British ships so as to exclude British ships visiting Australia in the course of an international voyage.
Thirdly, new Division 14 is added to Part IV of the principal Act thus giving legislative force to the unique ship reporting system introduced by the previous Minister for Transport on a voluntary basis. Fourthly, following the passage of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill it is necessary that reference be made to its provisions concerning compensation when rights to a shipwreck are altered. The basic legislation governing the activities of Australian merchant shipping is the Navigation Act 1912-1972. This Act was the result of discussions during the years immediately after federation when At was sought to adapt existing British legislation to Australian conditions. The base legislation was the British Merchant Shipping Act 1894 which, in many ways, reflected attitudes at the end of the 19th century. In the period since 1912 numerous considerations have been given to updating the Navigation Act to bring it more in line with the needs of a young and growing maritime federation. The most recent attempt to review the Act was the appointment by the then Minister, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), in 1973 of the Maritime Industry Commission of Inquiry under the stewardship of Mr Mai Summers to report on ‘The need for revision and modernisation of existing legislation’. His comprehensive report was tabled in the Parliament some weeks ago.
From time to time differing views have been expressed as to how government should go about updating Australia’s maritime laws. One view is that a completely new Act designed to meet Aus.tralian conditions should be enacted. Another view is that the existing Navigation Act should be updated by a series of gradual amendments. The Bill before us represents a stage in that second view. As far as the Summers report is concerned the Government has yet to indicate its intentions. So far the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has said only that the Government is giving consideration to the report. For all practical purposes it may be simpler for the industry if the gradual amendment procedure is followed. However, it is a poor reflection on our Constitution and our progress as a Federation that, 76 years after attaining nationhood, our shipping industry is regulated in the main by British legislation drawn up to meet the needs of a 19th century colonial empire. Mr Summers reported that there is a need for urgent action to enact Aus.tralian legislation relating to the registration of ships in Australia’. He noted that legally there are no ‘Australian ships’. At law they are British ships registered in Australia under the U.K. Merchant Snipping Act. He goes on at page 5 of his report to say.
The bar to effective legislation by the Australian Parliament has been the Australian Constitution which it was believed did not give the Commonwealth Government power to enact provisions comparable to those contained in Part 1 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1 894.
The years since Federation have seen a number of great changes in the Australian shipping scene. Sails gave way to steam, coal-fired vessels to oil-fired vessels, then to oil-powered motor vessels and gas turbines, and maybe on the horizon nuclear-powered vessels. Coastal passenger vessels were displaced by surface and rail transport, which was followed by the motor car and the aeroplane. Sea-borne general cargo has lost out to surface transport while bulk carriers have brought a new dimension to sea transport. Yet through all these changes Australia has held fast to the principles of the 19th century British Merchant Shipping Act.
John Bach in A Maritime History of Australia, which was published recently, referred to the activities of the Imperial Shipping Committee which was established in 1918 and which functioned between the 2 World Wars. Describing the argument of the Dominions as to the extent to which they were still bound to observe British maritime law within their own waters, he said:
Indeed, for Australia this question is still not resolved, since ship registrations still have to be referred to the Central British office at Cardiff, United Kingdom, for final approval, a remnant of the 1 894 Shipping Act that infuriates some and enchants others.
There would be many Australians who would be infuriated to learn of that. In his second reading speech and in the explanatory notes attached to the Bill the Minister details the provisions of clause 34 which substitutes a new Part VII for the existing Part VII of the principal Act. As in the Bill of 2 October 1975, the clause provides for the exclusion of sub-paragraph (c) of Article 1 of the 1957 International Convention. The effect of this exclusion is to remove the opportunity for ship owners to limit their liability in respect of damage to harbour works or for wreck removal. The inclusion of this clause is surprising, because when the 1 975 Bill was debated the present Minister for Transport, then the Opposition spokesman on transport, objected to the exclusion of sub-paragraph (c) of Article 1 of the Convention. He claimed that this would impose a further burden on Australian ship owners. At page 2175 of Hansard of that date he said:
The practical effect of this is that ship owners in Australia will have to pay massive amounts in liability insurance to cover these increased risks. This will lead to significantly higher sea transport costs within Australia.
As the sponsor of this Bill he may care to explain to the House what has caused the dramatic reversal of his previous opinion in respect of subparagraph (c) of Article 1 of the Convention.
In the same debate he embarked on his usual union-bashing exercise by claiming that the wage levels, crewing requirements and living conditions which have been imposed on Australian shipowners make it quite uneconomic for Australian vessels to compete against vessels flying foreign flags. A little later in that same speech he contradicted himself by saying:
It seems that basically we are not a maritime nation. There does not exist in Australia the incentive for men to go to sea and earn their living.
One would have thought that if conditions on Australian ships are so well paid and so luxurious as the Minister would have us believe, there would be a wild rush of landlubbers to go to sea. But that is not the case. He ignored also the fact that some Australian general cargo vessels have operated profitably and with increasing success on the Australia- Japan service. He often slams seamen for their wage levels and working conditions, but the 1975 annual report of the Australian National Line shows crews’ wages and allowances as 20.1 per cent of expenses. The 1976 annual report shows crews’ wages and allowances as having reduced to 18.5 per cent of expenses. Clearly, total crewing costs are an important factor but the Minister was overstating the case.
I would like to take the opportunity to refer to that part of the Summers report under the heading of ‘coastal shipping’. In paragraphs 6 and 17 the Commission says:
The coastal section of the Australian shipping industry faces serious problems at the present dme. Shipownerswhether in general cargo, bulk trades or in tankers- say that these problems are labour problems. Shipowners say also that there are too many unions and that they act irresponsibly.
Then in paragraph 1 8 the Commission says:
The maritime unions do not agree with these statements.
If we move to paragraph 19 we find the Commission saying: it has been too easy to blame industrial matters for lack of development in the shipping industry in the past.
I commend very strongly to the Minister and to the Government the next paragraph because it represents a constructive and positive approach to the problem. It says:
Nevertheless industrial attitudes between owners and unions require a strong effort, which the Commission believes only the Commonwealth Government can make, to bring both sides to a better working relationship. Failing this the Commission would expect that we shall continue to see the demise of major parts of the coastal shipping industry.
I believe that that is the responsible way to go about it because I see the role ofthe Minister for Transport as being that of a good broker, not of an agitator and certainly not of inflaming already delicate and difficult conditions between employers and employees.
Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill amend the definition of ‘visiting British ships’ to take into account the consequential effects of the UK Merchant Shipping Act 1970. The provisions of that Act extend to masters and crews of British ships visiting Australia in the course of an international voyage and are different from the provisions of the Australian Navigation Act. The amended definitions exclude from the category of visiting British ships those ships that have Australian connections, that are chartered or based in Australia and those ships which by regulation are declared not to be visiting British ships, such as vessels operated by the British Phosphate Commission, which are registered in London but whose operations are based on Australia.
Clause 4 ( 1 ) (d) extends the references in the principal Act to the owner of a ship to include a reference to the operator, except in a few specified circumstances. The many minor amendments in the Bill cover such items as adjustments to incorporate the metric system. I draw the attention of honourable members to the fact that a nautical mile is now declared to be 1852 metres. The amendments include the appointment of superintendents or deputy superintendents where there is no mercantile office, procedures concerning production of competency certificates, procedures concerning character reports of seamen, administration of discharged seamen’s wages, administration of deceased seamen’s estates, accommodation, and numerous other items which time will not permit me to detail.
I want to move now to clause 23 of the Bill because it is a very important provision for which the Department of Transport, the previous Minister for Transport- the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones)- and the Australian Government can take a great deal of credit. Clause 23 of the Bill creates a new division 14 at the end of Part IV, which gives legislative force to the Australian ship reporting system, AUSREP. AUSREP was established on a voluntary basis by the previous Minister for Transport following the loss of the ‘Blythe Star’. This ship reporting system is unique in the world and stands to the continuing credit of the honourable member for Newcastle. It is an excellent example of Australian initiative in the field of navigation and marine safety, like the aviation interscan system now under development.
The present Minister for Transport ridiculed the honourable member for Newcastle during the 1975 debate on this issue for claiming AUSREP would be a world first, but again he has had a change of heart, I am pleased to note, and it has remained part of this Bill. The wide acceptability of the ship reporting system, even on a voluntary basis, and its importance is evidenced by the fact that the Marine Operations Centre was involved in 1327 search and rescue coastal surveillance and general maritime incidents in 1975-76, which represents an increase over the previous year of 49 such incidents. Searches were carried out in 41 of the incidents. Of the 994 ships that participated in AUSREP in 1975-76, 720 were foreign-owned vessels.
The disturbing factor in the report of the Marine Operations Centre is the high frequency of incidents involving pleasure craft. In fact, 308- or 23 per cent- of the 1327 incidents reported concerned pleasure craft, the largest single category. Much more needs to be done by State governments to ensure the safe operation of pleasure craft off our coastline. In many cases powered craft are taken to sea at weekends by people with little or no knowledge of seacraft. It is not unusual to see off our coast people fishing in very small open boats- boats down to the size sometimes oft I would guess, 9 feet, but certainly no more than 10 feet and powered by 3 horsepower motors. In some cases, I suggest, they would be 20 years old, but with 3 horsepower or 6 horsepower outboard motors. In many ways this practice is an invitation to disaster, and when difficulty does occur it also involves, in the aggregate, a great deal of public expense. Governments have a responsibility to protect people from themselves by much closer supervision of pleasure craft that put out from our foreshores.
I want to turn now from the Navigation Amendment Bill to the companion Bill in this debate, the Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1976, which originated in the other place. The Opposition welcomes this legislation, particularly as, like the Navigation Amendment Bill, it was initiated by the previous Labor Government. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) looks at me, but a decision was made by Cabinet on 2 June 1975 to appoint a committee and that resulted in this legislation being drawn up. I think he now agrees with me; he has nodded.
– There are other historic wrecks around.
-Is the Attorney-General suggesting that the legislation is a historic wreck?
– I am suggesting that the Opposition is a historic wreck.
-I am suggesting that the Attorney-General is a historic wreck in the making.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had commenced my remarks relating to the Historic Shipwrecks Bill. As I said, the Opposition welcomes this legislation, because, like the Navigation Amendment Bill, it was initiated by the previous Labor Government. It is a sad reflection on some Australians that legislation should be necessary to protect our historic relics and evidence of early visitors to our shores from the maraudings and the destruction of irresponsible vandals. The provisions of the Bill will enable protection to be given to the many relics and wrecked vessels that lie off the coast of our continent. No federal legislation exists to cover historic shipwrecks, although the Navigation Act has some powers related to shipwrecks. The passage of this Bill has necessitated amendments to the Navigation Act which I mentioned earlier in this debate. The legislation provides controls for the recovery of wrecks and relics declared to be historic and for their disposition.
Clause 3 of the Bill provides for the inclusion in Schedule I of the agreement between the Netherlands and Australia concerning old Dutch shipwrecks which was signed at The Hague in November 1972. In that agreement the Netherlands transferred to Australia all its right, title and interest in and to wrecked vessels of the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC, lying on or off the coast of the State of Western Australia and in and to any articles thereof to Australia which shall accept such right, title and interest. Article 4 of the agreement provided for the establishment of a committee of 4 persons, two nominated by Australia and two by the Netherlands, to determine the disposition and subsequent ownership of the articles recovered from vessels between the Netherlands, Australia and the State of Western Australia. Honourable members will no doubt be aware of the West Australian Maritime Archaeology Act 1973 and the challenge to its validity now before the High Court. The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has indicated that should the Court’s judgment impinge on the Bill before us, the Bill will be reviewed in the light of that judgment.
Briefly, this legislation gives the Minister the power to declare as historic shipwrecks or historic articles the remains of ships or articles taken from them that are of historic significance. Persons in possession of or finding such items are required to notify the Minister, who may then direct how they are to be dealt with. The Minister may also authorise the exploration for a recovery of shipwrecks and articles under appropriate conditions. The environs of a declared wreck or article may be protected by the Minister declaring that area a protected zone and applying controls to any activity in the zone so declared. The report ofthe Committee of Inquiry on Museums and National Collections, set up by the Whitlam Government on 10 April 1974 and chaired by Mr P. H. Pigott, established the importance of the mass of historic material that lies beneath the sea off our coastline. It shows that soo identified shipwrecks have been located, the oldest of which is the Tryal, an English East India Company merchantman lost in 1622 off the West Australian coast, 66 years before Dampier reached Australia. I would like to take this opportunity to pay a tribute to Mr Pigott, who chaired that Committee of Inquiry. He performed an excellent service to the nation and to those who follow us in drawing attention to the valuable material that we need to take account of and to preserve and examine. I think I can do no better than to refer to Mr Pigott ‘s report. Paragraph 14.2 states:
Marine archaeology, moreover, is a vital source for those Australian museums which belatedly are investigating and exhibiting maritime history. The Committee is concerned that the legislative powers and procedures at present in force cannot protect historic shipwrecks in Australia from indiscriminate looting. Future research in marine archaeology will be severely impaired because of the scores of significant shipwrecks which have been pillaged, damaged or disturbed by amateur archaeologists and treasure seekers in the last two decades. Since the invention of the aqualung in 1943, and the subsequent popularisation of underwater activities, diving in search of shipwrecks has become a popular sport and, on parts of the Australian coast, an unsystematic industry. In some wrecks relics have been recovered in a responsible manner. In other wrecks the divers have looted what they assessed as marketable and have blown up or discarded the remainder: often the remainder has been more important, historically.
In paragraph 14.3 he continues:
As the earliest wreck off the West Australian coast is the earliest known contact of European Man with Australia- 66 years before Dampier’s voyages and 148 years before James
Cook’s discovery of the east coast- it is disturbing to learn of the wanton destruction that has occurred. In 1622 the Tryal sank in fairly deep water and hence escaped battering from the waves. When she was discovered in 1969, she seemed to be virtually as she was when sank three centuries previously. In 1971, however, a museum expedition found that the wreck had been recently blown to pieces. Apparently charges had been placed along the hull and in the mouths of the ancient cannons, and the resulting explosion had not only scattered the relics but had also brought down a cliff, thus burying many of the remains.
Further on the report refers to the wreck of the Gilt Dragon which was wrecked off the West Australian coast in 1656. It also was damaged recklessly by explosives 3 centuries later. The report of the Daily News of 14 October 1963 described the condition ofthe vessel when it was found. It also deals with the condition of the wreck after it was damaged. Mr Pigott stated, in relation to this wreck:
These are not isolated incidents of underwater vandalism although they may be the most serious.
Reference is also made to the activities of skin diving clubs. A magazine called ‘Skin Diving in Australia’ describes how divers found a ship’s money box, but realising that the box contained only old paper money and documents, threw it back into the sea.
– It sounds like the Labor Government.
– The way you are going, you will need it before long. You might go into the sea with it. Another excellent publication called The Treasure Divers Guide’ presents up-dated information on sunken treasures throughout the world. Australia gets a good mention. The publication states that pirating of wrecks is increasing rapidly along the Australian coast. I commend to honourable members a perusal of that report to see what information could be gained on our early history. The surprising feature is that of all the vessels that must have arrived off the west coast of Australia, surely some persons must have survived and reached shore. Yet there seems to be no evidence whatsoever of the existence of white man or of the cohabitation of white man on our western coast. That is something which later investigation and research may reveal. It is certainly a very interesting subject and something that we as a nation should be preserving and devoting a lot more attention to. I can only request those people who participate in skin diving and underwater activities to have the utmost regard to preserving whatever relics they may come across. As I said earlier, the Opposition supports the view expressed by the Minister in his second reading speech on this Bill. The
Opposition hopes that the legislation will adequately serve the purpose of protecting an important part of our national heritage.
– I am glad to have a few moments to discuss the national treasures that are lying off our coast, not only the west coast but also in Victoria. This is a moment, of course, to congratulate the Pigott Committee for what it has discovered and what it has done to bring the attention of the nation to marine archaeology and to a sense of responsibility for our early history. Off the coast of Warrnambool there lies what is known historically as the Mahogany Ship. About 8 years ago Dame Mabel Brookes drew my attention to this particular ship and suggested that further exploration should be undertaken in that area. I went down to see what remained of the Mahogany Ship. Of course, all honourable members want to know what the Mahogany Ship is supposed to be. Spaniards based on Lima made very many voyages to the South Pacific. One vessel, the Santa Isabella, from Mendana’s expedition was lost in 1393. The question is: Did this ship happen to go aground east of Warrnambool? The Captain in charge of Belfast or, as it is now called, Port Fairy, Captain Mills, recorded in his annals having seen the ship on the hummocks east of Gorman’s Lane. Therefore, I went down to look at the area and to find out as much as I could about this very early boat. The boat’s galley lock was produced from Warrnambool museum. A shaving was taken from the lock -
-Do you mean from the ship?
– I mean a metal shaving from the lock. I am referring to the galley lock of the ship. Does the honourable member for Newcastle understand my meaning?
– Yes, of course I do.
-The honourable member for Newcastle is a tremendous sailor. A shaving from the galley lock was sent to Birmingham University to ascertain the actual date of the metal. I was surprised to learn that the metal of the supposed galley lock of the Mahogany Ship could not have been earlier than about 1770. One then researched the wood. The story is that the early whalers down there pillaged the ship. I do not really believe that happened, but that is the story. One would find in the various houses of the early whalers evidence of this ship. I visited 2 houses and with the permission of the house owners I took a shaving of the wood. Also I moved across to Captain Mills’ house. It is sad to think of it. The house of the early harbour master of Port Fairy or Belfast, whatever we wish to call it, is just a ruin. I went into it to try to understand why the National Trust had not preserved it. The Trust just had not bothered. The wood was interesting and seemed to compare with that of the old houses belonging to the whalers. Shavings of this wood were sent off to Princes Risborough in Britain, where wood and trees are analysed to determine their age. The wood was analysed and it was found that the wood was not earlier than about 1720. The wood which I found in the house of the whalers was of much later date, about 1870. It was a Tasmanian hardwood. This proved, as far as I was concerned, that the early whalers, the Mahoneys and the Hentys, and the other families there, had not pillaged the ship.
Let me now discuss the question raised by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). Had anybody from a white nation come ashore and entered Australia? I draw the honourable member’s attention to the book Riders of Time by Dame Mabel Brookes. She notes that a black gin, Jim Caine ‘s second wife Nellie, had completely divergent features and colouring- not that of the usual half caste. She was from the Yangary tribe. Nobody yet has been able to prove one way or the other whether this ship came ashore and whether the Yangarys had Spanish blood in them. It would be very useful if some research was done into the matter by universities. Of course, those who went out as settlers travelled with all the implements necessary for farming and to set up a colony. It is presumed therefore that people coming ashore from any ship would be allowed by the Aborigines to work in peace. There is quite a lot of research work to be done in this area particularly with relatives from the Yangary tribe.
This Mahogany Ship caused a great deal of excitement. It was viewed in 1836. It was viewed again in 1849. The Royal Geographical Society in 1891 set aside an enormous sum of money- £50- as a reward for anybody who discovered anything more about this vessel. What am I getting at? I know that people from 2 universities nave been down to the area with buckets and spades. I have seen signs of other school expeditions in the area. I have discussed the matter with Sir Alfred Oppenheimer from South Africa. We think that the only way to find the ship is to use a sand pump to take away the sand and thereby uncover the ship. I suggest to the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) that he takes the greatest possible care to declare the area east of Gorman’s Lane one of the areas where they may or may not be one of these famous ships which will be important to our history.
What further research did I undertake? It seemed to me that local stories were quite extraordinary. It has been established by the Colonial Office, for example, that an official naval officer was sent down to write a report concerning the Mahogany Ship. That report was never published in the Colonial Office. A Spanish sword, found in Belfast Harbour, was to be sent to the Mitchell Library in Sydney. That sword never reached Sydney. Spanish corns were found as a gift in the local church. It all goes to show that there is something of interest to us in that area.
I do not think that Dame Mabel Brookes got it exactly right. I feel the ship was built in 1 8 12 and was involved in the Napoleonic Wars. By her construction I would think she was probably built in Panama. The big mahogany panelling on the side of the ship puzzled Mrs Manifold and baffled the early harbour master. I think therefore the ship could have been constructed in Panama. That conclusion would seem to fit in well with the time factor. She probably ran aground during the Napoleonic Wars. She was probably carrying Spanish coin and coming back towards Europe at the time when Spain became involved in the Napoleonic Wars.
This is not the only wreck of importance off the coast of Victoria. Off the entrance of Port Bay Bay there is a large number. I do not understand why Victoria does not have an Act of Parliament similar to the one in Western Australia. I suggest that the Minister consult the Victorian Government to endeavour to have the left and right heads of that harbour declared another zone where only people who are authorised can go and look for what they think to be treasure. Unfortunately those people’s idea of treasure is not the same as that of a marine archaeologist. All they want to do is see whether there is a quid in it, or gold coins or something there which they can exchange. We need most of all more accurate information where these ships lie and in particular their age. I think the research should be handled by universities or by those who are competent to do the work. I am not against any amateur organisation joining up with a university team and doing the exploration work.
I do not want to detain the House any longer. I think the Bill is an extremely valuable one. I must congratulate the Opposition for appointing the Pigott Committee and for its part in bringing this Bill before the House tonight. I hope that what I have said shows that most Australians, including myself, are deeply interested in our history and would hate to think that something of value was lost through the negligence or incapacity of a person to understand what he was actually handling when using his diving kit and going into a ship.
I suppose it would be polite if I extended my congratulations to the Clerk of the House who will retire before this House meets again. He is the third Clerk with whom I have worked. The others were Sir Edward Fellows, Sir Barnet Cocks and now Mr Norman Parkes. The only advice that a Clerk of the House ever gave me as a member is one which I always remember. It was: ‘When you are thinking of the Opposition or those who oppose you, you are only opposing their opinions; you are not opposing them personally’. In that spirit, on behalf of myself and my electors, I extend good wishes to the Clerk of the House and to members of this honourable House. I have enjoyed participating in the debate on this Bill. I look forward to taking part in other discussions at a later time.
-The Bills before the House are the Navigation Amendment Bill 1976 and the Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1976. 1 congratulate the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates). I did not think I would ever be in a position of agreeing with him. However, I am pleased to say that when we are considering matters of historical interest and environmental matters oft-times party barriers disappear substantially. I congratulate the honourable member for Holt on his contribution to the debate this evening. I join with him in his comments about the Victorian Government. I do not want to be political. All governments in Australia should have a greater awareness of the need to protect the history of this country and not allow relics to fall to pieces or be destroyed. I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Holt.
I congratulate the Government for introducing a first-class Bill into the Parliament. The Bill is almost identical with the Bill that was introduced into this Parliament in October 1973 by the Labor Governmentr. Once again, the Government has adopted Labor legislation- first-class legislation- which is in the interests of people involved in the maritime industry. I am disappointed, of course, that many important parts of the 1975 legislation are not included in this Bill. I will deal with those matters later. I turn now to the important sections of the 1975 legislation which have been included in the Bill. A considerable number of amendments are proposed to the
Navigation Act. I always find navigation legislation interesting and intriguing to deal with. Unfortunately, amendments to the Navigation Act are not brought before the Parliament often enough. It is outdated legislation sadly in need of updating. It was the objective of the Labor Party in 1975 to update the legislation when it introduced amendments and new initiatives, some of which are now contained in this Bill.
The main provision contained in this Bill concerns the limit of liability of owners of seagoing ships for loss of life or property. We adopted the provisions of the International Convention relating to the Limitation of Liability on Owners of Sea-going Ships signed at Brussels on 10 October 1957 and they became law in 1968. Part II of the Act deals with the crews of ships and their conditions of service. This will no longer apply to visiting ships, the conditions of whose operations in Australia were governed by the United Kingdom Merchant Shipping Act. Visiting ships no longer will be governed by the Australian legislation because of improvements which the British Government has provided. Our law will apply only to ships under charter in Australia
New Division 14, which is to be added to Part IV of the principal Act, makes it mandatory for a ship’s master to submit plans of a ship’s voyage in Australian waters and to report its movements. I will deal with that in detail. It is a provision of which I am very proud. Part VII of the Navigation Act deals with historical wrecks and wrecks as a whole. The definition of ‘historic wreck’ is to be included in the Navigation Act. This is necessary because of provisions in the Historic Shipwrecks Bill. Proposed new Part VA deals with special purpose ships and special personnel. That is a broad outline of what the Navigation Amendment Bill is about.
So far as the limitation of liability is concerned, Part VIII of the Navigation Act limited the liability of ship owners for loss or damage in accordance with the provisions of the Imperial Act known as the Merchant Shipping Act of 1894. This Part subsititutes a new Part VIII which gives the International Convention relating to the Limitation of Liability on Owners of Sea-going Ships the force of law in Australia except that the liability relating to salvage operations or damage to marine facilities and waterways cannot be limited. The effect is to increase substantially the liability of ship owners. The figures referred to by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) in his second reading speech have been updated since 1975. They have increased, for liability for personal claims, from $20 per ton to $189 a ton and, in the case of property claims, from about $1 1 a ton to $61 a ton. With the recent revaluation, these figures are not out of date. They will continue to fluctuate.
The International Convention, to which I referred, is included in the Bill as Schedule 1 and approval is given for its ratification. Proposed new section 59b states that an owner cannot limit his liability in respect of loss or life or personal injuries sustained by crew and other people who have duties on the ship. One aspect of this provision which concerns me is that the Convention was signed in Brussels in 1957 and it became law in 1968 yet this Government, when in office between 1968 and December 1972, did absolutely nothing about implementing or bringing into operation the terms and conditions of the 1957 Brussels Convention. When I introduced similar legislation 12 months ago all that the present Minister for Transport did was to severely castigate the Labor Government for what it had done. He was most critical of our actions in bringing forward amendments. However, I am pleased to say that in the 12 months in which he has been the Minister he has seen the light of day and has had enough sense to pick up what we initiated and what we suggested at that time.
– Charlie Nixon?
-Charlie Nixon as he is called. If we do not tell the Minister what to do, he does not do anything. If he does not have our legislation to refer to he does not do anything. The new Convention signed recently increases the figures to which I referred earlier by about 400 per cent. I hope that the Government will not wait another 12 months- it will certainly not have 23 years or as long as it took to adopt the recommendations of the 1957 Conventionbefore it adopts the new Convention. The Government should get on with the job and get away from the present archaic system of limited owner liability. It applies to aeroplanes; it applies to the maritime industry. It is something that belongs to the bad old days. It is time that governments got rid of it. My one disappointment is that when I was the Minister I was not able to get rid of it because its retention could have harmed our own shipping industry. The sooner the Intergovernmental Maritime Consultative Organisation gets rid of this limited liability, the better. At least governments can then get on with the job of implementing decisions made by IMCO and at international conventions.
– Your Government did not.
-We did. The honourable member for La Trobe will be voting on our legislation tonight. I hope that his Party does not delay this legislation in the Senate. This legislation is similar to the legislation introduced in October 1975 by the Labor Government- it is almost word for word. I hope the honourable member has enough sense to vote for it. His Minister has had enough sense to introduce this legislation and to get on with a job which is sadly overdue. I hope this Bill will not be delayed any further. I will give an example of how little people can be hurt by delaying legislation of this type. I think we are indebted to Jimmy Ramsden of the Australian Financial Review for an article which he wrote and which appeared yesterday, 8 December. Honourable members can read it. He gave me a bit of a dig and he gave the Minister for Transport an even bigger dig. In that article he drew attention to a crewman of a fishing boat who severely injured his hand and lost a number of fingers. That man received as compensation a paltry sum because he did not belong to a union that had the muscle to be able to get mm what he was entitled to. This is a clear case which shows how little people can be deprived because parliaments are too dilatory and are not prepared to act. It is obvious from the attack on me 12 months ago by the present Minister that if we had not embarrassed him into the position of having to reject that section of the Act, the possibility is that he would not have gone on with it. So we have these cases where little people can be hurt.
In the case of the new amendment, proposed new section 59B which will be written into the Act, trade unions are able to get over the problem of limitation by reason of their industrial strength. We have had numerous cases where seaman have received just compensation. In the case of the Birchgrove Park they would have received virtually peanuts under the provisions of the old Merchant Shipping Act if the limitation of liability had applied. In the case of the Blythe Star fatality in Tasmania a few years ago, those women received their just entitlements under the then compensation Act, but under limited liability provisions they would have been deprived of many of the benefits. Where the unions have strength they can get away with it; but where they have not, such as in the case I quoted or in the case of the fisherman, there is nobody to fight for them. That fisherman lost out and finished up with a very paltry amount of compensation. So much for the matter of limited liability.
The next matter I want to deal with is the reporting of shipping movements. The Labor Party is entitled to be proud because of this amendment being written into the Act. I am pleased that the Minister left this amendment in the Bill. Australia will be the first country which will have compulsory filing of sailing plans and position reporting every 24 hours for Australian ships or other ships on the Australian coast. The maritime industry throughout the world is very keenly interested in what is going on. Some of the moneybags are concerned about it because it might cost them some money, but if this section had been in the Maritime Act and had been in operation when the Blythe Star fatality occurred, in my opinion those men who lost their lives would still be with us today. The Transport Commission did not know whether that ship was going up the west coast of Tasmania or whether it was going up the east coast of Tasmania. It did not have a clue about whether the ship sunk on the Friday night, the Saturday or the Sunday. It did not have a clue because the captain was not required to report his position or to lodge a sail plan. Every pilot who takes off in an aeroplane, whether it is a single-engine aeroplane, a 4-engined jumbo or a Concorde has to lodge a flight plan so that controllers know where the aircraft is. The same principle will apply to shipping.
From discussions I had with people overseas I know that the American Coast Guard is very interested in this idea. It has a voluntary system working but it is most interested in seeing what happens with this idea. My hope is that very shortly this legislation will be extended further to cover fishing vessels and pleasure craft. The honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) drew attention to the number of fatalities that occur with pleasure craft along the coast of this country. We have a beautiful coastline but it is also one of the most dangerous coastlines. The weather can change so very quickly and people out at sea can be in trouble unless somebody on shore knows where they are or where they should be. I cannot understand why any owner of a boat going to sea, whether it be a 14-footer, an 18-footer or bigger boats up to 30 feet or 40 feet, is not prepared to lodge a sail plan and to report his position regularly. I will never know why that is so. It is in his own interest and for the welfare of the people with him that he do so. The same can be said for fishing vessels.
I was going to deal with historic wrecks but I am watching the clock on the wall. I know that my friend the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) will be speaking on this subject so I will pass it by. The next matter I want to deal with is visiting British ships. The British Government has updated the Merchant Shipping Act and we have kept pace with it. Therefore we have excluded British ships from the Australian Navigation Act, except when they are on charter here.
The other points I want to mention relate to items omitted from the Bill. They concern me greatly. The first I want to deal with is the deletion of amendments relating to vessels and other structures engaged in offshore industry and activities associated with it, such as exploring or exploiting the natural resources of the continental shelf of Australia or the seabed off the Australian coast I am referring to those fixed structures and mobile units used in industry of this kind. There are going to be more and more of these units at sea. I tried to obtain agreement with the States about the operations of oil drilling rigs which have been engaged off the Australian coast for about 15 years. The former Department of Shipping and Transport tried for 15 years to get agreement with the State governments on laws to apply to offshore shipping. When I was Minister my Department tried to get agreement with them and I made a similar attempt at a meeting of the Marine and Ports Council. It was just not on. Following the Press statement dated 26 November and recently released by the Minister, in relation to navigation laws, I hope that he can get some agreement with the States. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a page out of the 1975 Navigation Bill which sets out proposed amendments relating to offshore shipping arrangements.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
a barge or like vessel fitted with living quarters for more than 12 persons and used or intended for use in connexion with the construction, maintenance or repair of off-shore industry fixed structures, shall be deemed to be an off-shore industry mobile unit
the seabed, or subsoil of the seabed, of the Australian coastal sea.
the manning of units;
the providing, equipping, operation and use of offshore industry vessels used, or for use, in association with units.
-I thank the Minister and honourable members. That page sets out the things that we proposed would be brought within the jurisidiction of the Australian Navigation Act. Unfortunately they are not included in this Bill lto they will not be included in the legislation until some future time when the Minister is satisfied that he cannot achieve those matters by agreement with the State governments. State governments are terribly difficult on these things. All I say to members of the Government is this: Just be wary that as a result of your actions or those of your Ministers there is not another Sedco Helen on your consciences. That was one of the most blatant cases relating to foreign ships which were operating in Australian waters off our coast but which were not within the jurisdiction of the Navigation Act. Just be careful that it is not on your conscience that you have kept this out of the legislation. The amending Bill was in order and its validity was covered by the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. The amending legislation was drawn up in the belief that the Australian Government was going to win a case then pending before the High Court. It did win. That is all I can say on that matter in the time allotted to me. I hope that the Minister will not be side-tracked by the State governments, that he will get on with the job and put into legislation the matters to which I have referred. I say that because, believe you me, that industry is in a mess. There is a problem as to whether State laws apply or Federal laws apply. The industry as a whole has got over some of its problems of late but it still has a long way to go.
The next matter I want to refer to is the deletion of section 187A, a provision which was in the 1975 Bill and which related to the endorsement of the 1972 convention on internation! regulations for prevention of collisions at sea. That convention will become operative in July next year. There will not be a Marine and Ports Council meeting until April of next year and we are going to find ourselves again dragging the chain in regard to a most important international convention. The Department of Transport tried to negotiate an agreement with the States from 1973 on. It still has not got an agreement. I doubt that it ever will.
Another important feature that has been deleted is the operations manual. This was one of the important points that came out of the Blythe Star inquiry. The officers did not know how to operate their ship or how to calculate the stability of their ship. We brought in this provision for an operations manual. I cannot understand why the Minister has deleted it from the Bill. It was a simple procedure. Ships today are all different. Construction, layout, technology and characteristics of shipping today are different ship by ship. There is a need for this sort of thing. For the Minister to delete it is, in my opinion, criminal.
– I have only one point in relation to the Navigation Amendment Bill, and that concerns the national maritime college in Tasmania. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott) will recall that by some miracle the Bill setting up that college was one of the educational measures which the Senate did not delay or defeat, as it did with the technical education proposals, the legislation dealing with the Karmel funding and the Schools Commission legislation. The Bill relating to the national maritime college went through very quickly. I understand the site has been selected. Yet the construction of the college is being delayed. I think this is a mistake. It is important to have a first class navigational and maritime college in Australia.
I turn now to the Historic Shipwrecks Bill. The study or knowledge of some of these early ships can have very important implications per revaluing Australian history. I mention in passing D ‘Entrecasteaux and the French navigators who left France in 1788, the last year of the ancien regime to try to find traces of the Compte de la Perouse who had disappeared with his ship
L’ Astrolabe. When I was on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies we received information from Paris that the journals of that French expedition, which had been cast to the four winds for reasons which I will explain in a moment, had very important references to Aborigines. As D ‘Entrecasteaux sailed up the east coast of Tasmania he met Aborigines. He went ashore at one place. The Aborigines stood around a pile of dried faggots. They offered him a burning brand. Assuming he was invited to light the fire, he lit it. He got. a hail of spears. He stopped any of his men from firing. They got back to the ship. When they were travelling up the coast he considered what happened. He assumed, I think, being a very sensitive man, that he had indicated an intention to stay and to take possession, by lighting the fire. He decided that next time, if there were a next time, he would not do that. Sure enough, within 2 days there was a next time. He was handed a burning brand. He handed it back. The result was that they were received as friends, given crayfish and so on.
D ‘Entrecasteaux did not survive the voyage. He died and was buried at sea. The expedition came back under the command of D’Auribeau. All of these French naval officers were aristocrats. They knew nothing about the French revolution. They got back in 1 793, the year of the terror. They were promptly arrested. I think some of them were executed. Their work was treated with contempt. It was in the phase when the French were prepared to guillotine the great chemist Lavoisier on the ground that the republic had no need of chemists. It had no need of anthropologists or navigators either. D’Auribeau ‘s and D ‘Entrecasteaux ‘s books were cast to the four winds. They have only lately been brought back into the French maritime museum. A French-Canadian lady who had been studying Australian Aborigines went to Paris to look at this material.
The wrecks are important. I think the decisive part of this Bill is clause 13, which states:
Except in accordance with a permit, a person shall not- (a) damage or destroy a historic shipwreck or a historic relic; (b) interfere with a historic shipwreck or a historic relic; (c) dispose of a historic shipwreck or a historic relic . . .
All of this, I think, comes from Western Australian experience. Some prize specimens have blown up wrecks that other people have discovered, got together the silver coinage, were prepared to melt it down and fake, with the old silver, silver coins, to try to sell them at a high price as having been in a rather better state of preservation, naturally, than the ones that had been lying at the bottom of the sea. They did this to get a good deal of money. What they were doing to what one might almost say were important files of Australian history was quite tragic. In 1963 Dr Philip Playford of Perth advised the discoverers of the shipwreck of the Dutch East Indiaman Vergulde Draeck, or Gilt Dragon, that their proper course was to assign all their rights in this wreck to the Western Australian Museum. This, he said, would be proper because evidence of Australia’s history of that era, the seventeenth century, was so important that it should be preserved on behalf of the nation. The discoverers were a journalist James Henderson and his sons Graeme and Alan and their friend John Cowan. I am very glad to say that they accepted the advice of Dr Playford. A deed of assignment was drawn up by the Crown Law Department of Western Australia and duly executed. Artefacts brought up from the wreck by this group were handed over to the Museum.
Unfortunately the Western Australian laws were shown as hopelessly inadequate to protect this shipwreck-it was a shipwreck from 1656- from plunder by people whose object was quick profit from the sale of silver coins and other items which they retreived by blasting the site with gelignite. To complicate matters, the wreck site was about on the limit of the 3 miles from shore, giving some doubt about the application of Western Australian legal jurisdiction. Some people in Western Australia sympathised with the shipwreck plunderers. I think the people of Western Australia regarded them as another sort of miner. The people sympathised with them on the basis that they were entitled to rewards for the risks they took and for the time spent in the sea. It almost sounds like Lang Hancock, if I may say so, but I do not think it was. Over a decade or so, political parties, both Labor and anti-Labor, developed the firm view that the historic wrecks -all those of pre- 1900 vintage- should be preserved from commercial or other exploitation. So the wreck legislation emerged and was strengthened.
The doubts about State legislation persisted, and it was difficult to enforce the law in relation to remote coastal areas. But the Western Aus.tralian Museum, through its energetic Maritime Archaeology Department, embarked on a continuing campaign to educate public opinion to support the concept of preservation of historic evidence. It was fortunate that some of the discoverers were very good journalists. It carried out careful, scientific surveys and then conducted . archaeological excavations of the wrecks ofthe Gilt Dragon and the Batavia, which was wrecked in the Abrolhos Islands area in 1629. So the Batavia is a very old wreck.
The discovery of a wide variety of artefacts was published to win public interest and sympathy for the serious, constructive work. That is in sharp contrast with the destructive effects of the plunderers who had made great profits from the sale of seventeenth century silver coins throughout Australia and overseas. Some of the coins were conterfeited in rare and more valuable forms by melting down silver blasted from the wrecks. The Gilt Dragon wreck site was severely blasted for the plunder and pillage of its many thousands of Spanish silver coins which themselves provide an important study of sixteenth and seventeenth century history.
The first English ship wrecked in Australian waters, the Tryal, in 1622, was so badly blasted that there is some doubt whether the remains will warrant a future excavation by the Western Australian Museum. That is really a tragedy for it represented the beginnings of English navigation which was ultimately to be very significant. Probably the historic shipwreck in most danger now from the plunderers is the Dutch Zuytdorp off the Murchison coast of Western Australia. This shipwreck has already been visited by divers after its rich hoard of silver coins. Records of the proceedings of the Western Australian Court of Petty Sessions, the Supreme Court and the Criminal Court and more recently the High Court of Australia leave no doubt about who is the plunderer whose activities have made the Western Australian and Commonwealth laws to protect the historic shipwrecks necessary.
The legislation currently before the National Parliament is the culmination of many years of advocacy by Dr Philip Playford and James Henderson, his son Graeme Henderson, who is now the Assistant Curator of Maritime Archaeology at the Western Australian Museum, and the dedicated work of the Maritime Archaeology Department at the Western Australian Museum. The Department established at Fremantle what is now regarded as one of the finest maritime museums in the world for its special areas of interest. An excellent exchange of interest and information has been developed between Australia and The Netherlands whose archives contain a priceless collection of rare exhibits and documents reflecting on the life and times of the beginnings of European discovery of Australia. Western Australian skin divers are encouraged to take an interest and to participate under supervision in some of the Museum’s maritime exploration and excavation with excellent results -in terms of responsible community attitudes. Several valuable historical books have been written in recent years both in Holland and in Western Australia as one of the products of interest in Western Australian history. James Henderson conducted research in The Netherlands in 1975 and is now working with a Commonwealth literary grant to complete a book dealing with a 17th century voyage between Western Australia and Java.
By the new Commonwealth legislation which is now before us, Australia established an international role of significance in the recognition and preservation of history. In fact this legislation places this nation among the world’s leaders in this field. It is to the enduring credit of the people who have influenced this legislation in the State and Federal Parliaments, and it will be to the enduring credit of members of both sides of the House, that this legislation has been developed and accepted without delay.
– in reply- I wish only to thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate. I think that everybody will agree that it has been a most constructive debate. It was interesting to listen to the honourable members for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and Holt (Mr Yates) who spoke on the historical aspects of this legislation. Their historical research indicates the significance of this legislation. As we develop the continental shelf or the economic zone around Australia, it is essential that we protect the historic relics that lie off our coast.
I think that a great deal of credit must go to Western Australia for having the foresight to preserve these historic relics. This legislation precedes a great deal of development that I believe all honourable members believe will take place off-shore in the future. It is a good thing to have legislation which will stop the pillage that has been going on. I gather that the Mahogany Ship about which the honourable member for Holt spoke is not in the sea at all but is up on the beach.
– It is up in the hummocks. It is well off the beach.
-I refer the honourable member to the fact that this legislation relates only to the sea or so much of it as is outside the internal waters of the State of Victoria. So, the matter raised by the honourable member is one for the State of Victoria. It is perhaps unfortunate if that State has not acted to deal with the Mahogany Ship on the hummocks referred to by the honourable member. But we are indebted to the honourable member for the interest that he has shown in this matter.
The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) spoke tonight with the extraordinary vigour to which we are accustomed and claimed great credit for amendments to the navigation legislation. He referred to operational manual provisions that had been omitted. I can only say to the honourable member that I regret that I cannot in the time available to me find those provisions. I have not been able to locate them in the Bill that was introduced into and passed by this House last year. I think that theonourable member may have been mistaken but he may be able to refer me later to that provision.
The honourable member for Fremantle spoke of the Maritime College. The honourable member will know that the site for the College has been selected by the Government at Launceston and some steps are being taken in order to establish it there. Hopefully the College will go ahead in the next financial year with greater speed and zest than will be the case in this financial year. I again thank honourable members for the contributions that they have made. I will pass those technical matters which relate to the Ministry concerned to the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). I am sure that he will pay attention to them. If they require answer, the Minister will answer directly to the honourable members concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Sub-clause 2(4) states:
Section 25 and 26, sub-section 29 (2) and section 33 of this Act shall come into operation on the day on which the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1 976 comes into operation or, if the Act has come into operation before the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, those sections and that sub-section shall be deemed to have come into operation on the day on which that Act came into operation.
At the end of sub-clause (4), add ‘but the amendments made by sub-sections 26(1) and 29(2) of this Act do not apply in relation to a wreck situated in waters (including waters above the continental shelf) adjacent to the coast of a State until the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 applies in relation to those waters ‘.
The addition of these words will have the effect of ensuring that proposed new sub-sections 26( 1 ) and 29(2) ofthe Bill do not apply until the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976 comes into force. As a result proposed new sections 25, 26 and 29 which refer to the Historic Shipwrecks
Act will come into force when that Act comes into force.
-The amendment is straightforward. It is consequential upon the passage of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill. The Opposition concurs with the amendment.
-In questioning clause 2, could I try to obtain some understanding from the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). Would this legislation apply to an area that was submerged in 1802 but is not submerged now? Would that land which is now not submerged come under State jurisdiction?
-Land which appears above the low water mark becomes part of the State of Victoria. Any land reclaimed which is above the low water mark becomes part of the State of Victoria. As land is reclaimed, of course, the continental shelf goes out a little further. This would be an interesting way to get more of the seabed.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)-by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 7 December, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have 4 amendments which refer to clauses 9, 1 7 and 23 which read in part:
Clause 9. (l)Where-
a notice applying in respect of the article is published in the Gazette under section 5 or 6, the person shall, within 30 days after the date of publication of the notice in the Gazette, give the prescribed notice to the Minister in relation to the article.
5 ) A person shall not-
-Is leave granted to move the 4 amendments together? There being no objection, leave is granted.
In clause 9, after sub-clause (4), insert the following sub-clause: (4a) It is a defence to a prosecution of a person for an offence against a provision of this section in relation to an article if the person proves-
The first amendment is simply to correct a small drafting error. The next amendment proposes to add new sub-clause (4A) to clause 9. The reason for this amendment is that it has been suggested that as the clause stands at present a person who quite innocently and legally has in his possession an article which comes within the protection of the legislation may be prosecuted for failing to notify the Minister that he has that article, despite the fact that he did not know that the article was protected. The proposed amendment will overcome this objection.
– What is that?
-I am sure that the honourable member for Newcastle who interjects will think quite quickly that that was a very fair amendment to make. The next amendment is to clause 17. It is proposed to add to sub-clause (2) the words: ‘or proves that he had reasonable grounds for believing’. This sub-clause sets up a defence for a person who fails to give the required notice with regard to the discovery of a wreck. It makes it a defence against a prosecution if the person charged can prove that someone else had given the necessary notice. It has been suggested that it should also be a defence if a person has reasonable grounds for believing that the necessary notice has already been given. The proposed amendment will provide this additional defence.
The last amendment inserts in clause 23 new sub-clause (sa). It is proposed to spell out expressly that self-incrimination constitutes a reasonable excuse for the purposes of sub-clause (s) thus confirming that this is a defence to a prosecution for failing to comply with a requirement to answer a question under subclause ( 1 ). This reflects, as do the other amendmentsparticularly the second and the thirdthe Government’s continuing concern to ensure that our civil liberties are protected. Clause 23 provides in sub-clause (5):
A person shall not-
without reasonable excuse, fail to comply with a requirement made of him by an inspector in the exercise of a power under this section . . .
The power includes the power to require a person to answer a question. An interesting question of law could arise- and this has been answered in Victoria- as to whether it would be a reasonable excuse not to answer if one felt that the answer might incriminate one. In Victoria a supreme court single judge has held that it would be an excuse. But it was felt that we ought to put this matter beyond doubt and so we have added subclause (sa) to make it clear that this will be a defence.
-The Opposition concurs with the amendments. I draw the attention of the Committee to clause 9 which, as a result of the amendment which substitutes the word ‘or ‘ for ‘and ‘ now reads:
The other 3 amendments are welcomed by the Opposition. In another place Opposition senators, Senator Cavanagh and Senator Douglas McClelland, brought these matters to the notice ofthe Minister for Adminstrative Services (Senator Withers). It is good to see that the undertaking which the Minister gave there, that he would give consideration to the comments of the honourable senators, has been carried out and that these amendments have arisen from that undertaking. Senator Cavanagh in another place in relation to new sub-clause (4A) of clause 9, quite rightly drew attention to the fact that a person could have an article or object which had been handed down through the family or which had been given to him by another person. The owner of the article could be completely unaware that it was an article declared as being of historic value. That person could be completely innocent of any intention to contravene the Act. Even though it was pointed out in reply that advertisements would be published about such articles and so on, that is a valid point. I am pleased to see that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) has taken this up and that new subclause (4A) of clause 9 takes account of that matter.
Likewise, in relation to the amendment to clause 17, sub-clause (2), a reasonable proposition was put in the other place. People could have reasonable grounds for thinking that notice had been given to the Minister and that they had complied with the provisions of the Act. The amendment to clause 23, the insertion of new sub-clause (SA), arose from a reference to clause 23 which deals with the powers of an inspector. This matter was dealt with at some length. It is worth noting the powers that an inspector has under these conditions. If we look at sub-clause (2) of clause 23 we see that it states:
Where an inspector has reason to believe that a person has failed to comply with a notice given to the person under subsection 11 ( 1 ), the inspector may make application to a Justice of the Peace for a warrant authorising the inspector, with or without persons and equipment to assist him, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the person has failed to comply with the notice-
to enter any specified land or premises; and
to search any land or premises so entered and to break open any cupboard, drawer, desk, box, package or other receptacle, whether a fixture or not, on the land or in the premises.
It was in the context of discussion on that clause about the powers of the inspector that the Attorney-General has quite reasonably brought forward the amendment at which we are looking. It brings into legislative form the possibility of self-incrimination as a reasonable excuse for failing to answer questions asked by an inspector. Under the circumstances the Opposition welcomes the amendments and supports them.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Ellicott)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 14 October, on motion by Mr MacKellar
That the House take note of the paper.
-The report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties is one of the most important documents in the field of education to come before this Parliament. It is concerned with a single aspect of education- the group which does not achieve ‘minimum acceptable standards’ in numeracy and literacy. It is a humane and compassionate document, containing practical and worthwhile recommendations, many of which could be quickly implemented with little expense, to deal with the vital question of under-achievement in the basic educational skills. But while it is not acted uponthere is little evidence to suggest other than passing notice by the Government- it remains another ‘interesting’ document and the problem of under-achievement remains unassailed. The fact that there is no Minister at the table to hear my views on the issues arising out of the document is not to the credit of the Government.
The reason I rise in this debate is to ask the Government why there has not even been the beginning of action on the Committee ‘s recommendations. One sees from the report that the Aboriginal community organisations course at the Swinburne College of Technology is about to be discontinued. The funding for that course will cease in 1977. There have been about 30 applicants for the course for 1977, including 4 Aborigines from as far away as Roper River in the Northern Territory. The Government has shown scant respect for the very important work that should be got under way in the near future.
Together with the report of the Australian Council for Educational Research, the report of the Select Committee forms the basis of an alliance for literacy. The Opposition welcomes the report of Dr Ronald T. Fitzgerald entitled Poverty and Education in Australia which was tabled today. So we have ample evidence of the problem and a range of recommendations which would give some serious government ample opportunity to do something about the problem. Until the emergence of these reports, research material on these subjects was sparse. Having got them, let us do something about them. The Opposition urges the Government to take urgent action to implement at least some of the recommendations of the Committee and to commit itself to the longer term objectives of the report.
Let us look at the problem in its most fundamental human terms. Failing to teach a child to read is among the more serious injuries which one human being can inflict upon another. The child has closed to him the excitement and information of the world of books. He also has closed to him most of his chances of taking full advantage of the opportunities which education could otherwise have afforded him. The following figures come from the nationwide survey of literacy and numeracy in Australian schools carried out by the ACER, and they are stark: Twentynine per cent of Australia’s 10-year old children and 27 per cent of 14-year old children are unable to understand written material which is no more difficult than the text books and reference books they use in their classrooms. Up to 20 per cent of 14-year olds are unable to comprehend either the literal or inferential meaning of passages taken from daily newspapers. Between IS per cent and 25 per cent of children are passing from primary school into secondary school and ultimately leaving school altogether without ever acquiring an adequate mastery of the basic educational skills which they need in order to function successfully as citizens and as members of the work force.
Children who are not brain damaged or otherwise the victims of a major handicap should have picked up the mechanics of reading by the time they are aged seven. Teaching a child to read is the most fundamental responsibility which is owed to him by bis school and by the education system generally. Unfortunately, one thing which can be said with complete certainty is that enormous numbers of today’s children are not mastering the reading skills which research shows clearly could be taught to them. Britain’s Bullock Committee report called A Language for living had this to say:
If children are apparently unable to learn, we should assume that we have not as yet found the right way to teach them.
But in Australian schools these children are as likely as not to be classed as dyslexics, and the moral responsibility for teaching them is offloaded on remedial reading staff outside the normal classroom. Many will have left school before an actual remedial reading place is so much as offered to them. There are, of course, many areas and levels in the community where the problem of under-achievers can and must be tackled. These include parental education, pre-school education and television.
Let me for a moment tackle the very core of the problem, and that is teacher training. At school level the most important factor setting literacy back has been a disastrous collapse in the practical content of teacher training. According to the British Bullock report, preparing a teacher for the passing on of reading skills should occupy at least 100 hours of training course time, and preferably ISO hours. But the Select Committee discovered that in Australian teacher training colleges the following was the position:
The median values are quite low, at 10 to 20 hours, and even the maximum values of 60 to 75 hours are less than internationally recommended standards.
As the Select Committee was told, it is not dyslexia or specific learning difficulties which have landed us with the literacy problem, as much as teaching which fails to identify precisely where breakdowns have occurred in the child’s acquisition of reading, to tackle them, and then retest to make sure that success has been achieved. As the Committee’s report makes clean
The teaching of reading, numeracy and language should be the responsibility of all teachers. A child who is failing in subjects such as geography or history because of difficulties with basic skills should be taught these skills within the subject areas of the subject teacher.
From the research evidence, the whole idea of taking children out of their classrooms for separate remedial teaching should now be seen as deeply suspect. The Select Committee was told that, while there had been spectacular initial gains in performance on the part of great numbers of children, often in the long term these gains declined or even disappeared. Too frequently, withdrawal from the normal classroom setting leads to the child ‘s problem being seen as in his own ability or personality rather than in the qualities of the teacher or of the classroom itself, as is so often really the case. When the remedial process has run its course, the child simply returns to the conditions which gave him his difficulties in the first place.
Increasingly, the remedial teacher who works apart in a room of his own has to be supplanted by the resource teacher whose programs are conducted shoulder to shoulder with the classroom teacher on a team basis. So long as there are not enough resource teachers to go around- this seems bound to be the case for some considerable time- there has to be a way open for parents to come in and help free the classroom teacher for the actual business of instruction if that is going to be necessary in the first instance. Parents are the great untapped resource of the education system as far as meeting the slow learners’ need for warmth and individual attention is concerned. There are problems. Problems were thrown up in the course of our deliberations and in the evidence taken by the Committee. But in the short term, if we do not act and act quickly, children are going to be committed to a lifetime of the emptiness that goes with failing to achieve progress in the literacy and numeracy area. Failing to mount a major research effort into getting the best from parental involvement in classrooms has been a major oversight on the part of the planners and administrators of Australian education.
There is room here for a general comment to be made on educational research. What Australia is getting back from its educational research dollar reflects more the preoccupations of staff of the universities and colleges of advanced education than it does the problems facing teachers in their everyday work. New funding arrangements should be made. These require a setting of priorities each year for educational research by the national Government. Each year a list should be prepared of specific projects which the Education Research and Development Committee lets out to research workers on a tender basis. Research funds should be split between these national interest projects and the proposals which researchers continue to put forward to the Committee on their own initiative.
Let us turn to the report of the Select Committee. In 2 years the Select Committee received more than 400 submissions and took more than 4000 pages of evidence. After all that work, which was conducted in an atmosphere of goodwill and understanding, the Committee came to a general belief that the levels of achievement are acceptable only when they enable the individual to compete in society in such a way that he can, with reasonable effort, obtain for himself a reasonable livelihood, dignity and reasonable social intercourse. The Committee went on to say in its report:
The reason for under-achievement in a young child or person greatly in need cannot set aside his entitlement to extra teaching resources. It should be the aim of our educational system to bring every person to a level where he can at least be a functional member of society. We believe that this objective would be shared by most Australians.
That is a very important quotation from the report. Let me say that the Opposition shares this objective and it cannot see why there should be any delay in implementing the recommendations of the report so that such an admirable objective can be achieved. It is no Utopian objective of equal opportunity for all; it is simply a matter of trying to establish a situation in which the disadvantaged get a run in the race which every day is being made more difficult by the economic obstacles erected by this Government. After asking 2 questions on this matter of the Minister representing the Minister for Education, I received an inane reply that the Government did not have any time to talk to the people in the State. It would not have taken a great deal of time to talk to the people in the State. It would not have taken a great deal of time to implement some of other available recommendations that could have been put into effect very quickly.
Let us look at some of the specific recommendations of the Committee. In chapter 2 of the report the Committee recommends that the incidence of learning difficulties among Australian school children should be determined at regular intervals by a nation-wide survey based on similar principles to the ACER study on ‘Literacy and Numeracy in Australian Schools’. It states that the survey should be developed so that it will provide information on an assessment of the comparative performance of school systems and schools to establish whether, historically, standards are improving or declining and to determine the comparative performance of Australian schooling with schooling in comparative countries. The report goes on to state that an organisation such as the ACER should be funded by the Australian Government to conduct the survey and that further funds should be provided through the ERDC to enable research to aid in the development of survey techniques. This is not a radical approach; it would simply find out more about the problem we are trying to solve by using apparatus that is already established
Chapter 3 of the report goes on to propose cooperation between the States and the Australian Government. For God’s sake, do we not need it?
It proposes amendments to the legislation of some States which denies the responsibility of education departments to provide educational services to handicapped children. It states that education departments should provide such services. The Committee suggests that funding for special education should be undertaken, as far as possible, through recurrent grants programs. As can be seen, this Select Committee went deeply into the subject and came up with recommendations on a very broad front to tackle the problems of literacy and to make life more fruitful for a vast number of people who at the moment just do not make the grade.
One of the latter chapters of the report deals with teacher education. The Committee has made recommendations which provide for integrated activity by a number of existing institutions. These proposals involve interaction between State departments of education and teacher organisations, the Australian Universities Commission and the Advanced Education Commission, and teacher training institutions. One would have thought that on an important issue such as this the very least the Government could have done at this stage would have been to set the wheels in motion. If they have done so, the Opposition can only be agreeably surprised that there has been any movement at all. If they have not, we can only say that the delay in adopting the recommendations of the report is unforgivable. The longer the delay the greater the number of children there will be whose futures are blighted and whose development will be stunted. Politicians should believe- many very likely do believe- that the way is open for parties to speak out and to make clear whether there is a place for ‘the right to read’ in their platforms.
There needs to be room for that in political platforms to cover all the issues that are contained in the report. It is a very good report. It is well researched and clearly set out. It provides a blueprint for what the Opposition believes is a very desirable ‘alliance for literacy’. Let me conclude by once again quoting from the general conclusion of the Committee in the foreword to its report. It states:
It should be the aim of our educational system to bring every person to a level where he can be at least a functional member of society. We believe that this objective would be shared by most Australians.
Let me say that every member of the Opposition shares this objective. It hopes that every member of the Parliament supports that objective and that there will be no further delays in implementing the recommendations of this most vital report.
-I rise with great pleasure to speak on the report entitled Learning Difficulties in Children and Adults’, which is the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. May I say at the outset that I think the report reflects the bipartisan approach of Opposition members and Government supporters. It was a great pleasure to work on that Committee with people such as the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), who has just spoken. However, I did find myself disagreeing with some of the things that he said tonight. I do not refer to the things that he said about the report, but I think he was completely unfair, with great respect to the honourable member, in indicating that this Government denied people the right to read. I think that to use those terms is completely unforgivable. To be fair, he quoted only one case and the report was tabled m this place only in October. I agree with the honourable member for Melbourne, that it is a most humane and compassionate report. It contains a number of recommendations upon which governments, both State and Federal, have to act. I suggest that I have as much interest in getting things done as does the honourable member for Melbourne.
– A great deal more.
-I thank the honourable member for Moore for bis interjection. We on this side of the House say that there is important work to be done. But let us give the Government a go and let it get programs into action. I can say to the honourable member for Melbourne that I for one on this side of the House will be using the influence that I have to see that things are done as a result of this report.
– I said that when I was in Parliament for 1 1 months, too.
-If I might say so, I think the honourable member who interjected has his eyes closed. I think that this report adds to the state of knowledge on the problems of literacy and numeracy in Australia. The Committee collected evidence and made its inquiry all over Australia. It has done good work. It commissioned the Australian Council of Educational Research survey to which the honourable member for Melbourne referred. I shall refer to certain of the results of that survey, firstly, those concerning reading. I shall quote from the report as it relates to the school room. Paragraph 2.32 states:
In terms relevant to the schoolroom, the survey indicates that one child per classroom in 10 year olds is virtually unable to read and one child in every three or four classrooms of 14 year olds is still unable to read in any independent manner.
That is quite frightening. With regard to numbers paragraph 2.37 states:
The most disturbing finding was that 4 per cent of 14 year olds did not substract 9 from 17 correctly, 4 per cent did not multiply 7 by 6 correctly and 8 per cent did not divide 56 by 7 correctly.
With regard to learning problems the survey reported:
Fifteen to 20 per cent of students in normal schooling were seen by their teachers at both 10 and 14 year old levels to be in need of remedial instruction in reading and number.
This information was supplied from a teacher questionnaire in the report. All the information in the report is quite frightening. I think that the community at large as well as educatorsparents, school teachers and the total communityneeds to study and debate this report. I might comment on the word ‘dyslexic’ because it was raised by the honourable member for Melbourne. I do not know whether he would agree, but I started my work on the report thinking that dyslexia was the real problem. I came away with the conclusion that the word ‘dyslexia’ did not mean anything. In fact, it is a word that is likely to mislead if it is used in this area. There are problems of learning difficulties, but if the word dyslexia’ is used to describe a supposed medical problem or supposed learning problem, that is dangerous in itself because it will lead parents and teachers to think that a particular child is dyslexic, and, therefore, something is different about that child, whereas the child may merely have one of the many criteria of learning difficulties that we discovered.
For instance, migrant children have problems, as do non-migrant children. But I think that the problems of migrant children are perhaps more magnified than the problems of many Australian children because when children of migrant families go home at night, they probably converse in the native tongue of their parents. That is a right and proper thing to do but it means that they do not practise the language that they learn at school. Perhaps their parents are unable to help them with their homework and are also unable to read them a bedtime story. I am old-fashioned enough to believe that this is fairly important in the process of teaching children to read.
– You are a good father.
-I thank the honourable gentleman for that compliment; I might reciprocate. I think there is perhaps a shyness involved as well with members ofthe migrant community.
In relation to migrant children, the Committee recommended:
The Committee would like to be sure that departments of education make great efforts to recruit teachers, preferably from the relevant ethnic groups, who were proficient in minority and migrant languages, who could converse with schoolchildren from ethnic minorities in their own languages and with understanding of their backgrounds.
The Committee drew the analogy of customers of banks who can talk with tellers and interpreters in Greek, Italian and Yugoslav at many banks because these languages are spoken by bank officers.
I recommend to the Government that more courses should be established to re-train migrant teachers in Australia. There are many migrants in this country who are, in fact, trained teachers in their countries of origin and who come here and take up other vocations. I have found from my own experience that it is better to re-train these people in Australia rather than to go overseas and specifically recruit teachers. In my electorate, at the State College of Victoria in Toorak known as Stonnington College, there is a course for re-training migrant teachers. It is a special bridging course to train migrants with overseas qualifications in Victoria. One of the upsetting aspects of even that course is that it only re-trains teachers by giving them a conversion course in the English language for 6 months and then a 12-month education period of study. The course qualifies them to be primary teachers only. I think there is a great deal more to be done in this area. I commend the work of this particular State college to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and to the Government.
I have referred to the problems of migrant children and migrant education by way of teacher training. I now turn to the problems of migrant adults because they have perhaps more problems than many other people. I suggest that migrant adults, like all adults, need to read and write for some of the most basic forms of employment in society today. To drive a truck one needs to be able to read a street sign and a street directory. I think that we must all ensure that there are more courses and that migrants are motivated and encouraged to train and teach themselves to learn to read and write and understand English.
The problems of all adults are quite severe. The Committee visited a course at Footscray Technical College. To me this was quite a remarkable experience because I saw there adults who could not read or write, learning for the first time. I think that more needs to be done in this area also. I remember one man who told me that he had worked in a store and that he had got on very well until metrication was introduced. Before metrication his mates helped him with the invoices and the paper work; but metrication completely beat him. I found that rather sad. Fortunately he found this course.
Another man on that course said to me: ‘I have been waiting 20 years for this course. I cannot read or write. I am a paper hanger and painter and I have my own business’. I said to him: ‘How did you do that? How did you give a quote?’ He said: ‘I just walked into a room and made it up in my head’. I think there are perhaps more people than we realise in this situation in society. There was another man from an Italian family who had not learned to read and write and who was being restrained. All parliamentarians in all parliaments in Australia, who have responsibility for education, should look at this report and at the work that needs to be done as a result of it. In conclusion, I trust that this report precipitates a debate amongst educators and teachers. With regard to teachers, the report states:
The classroom teacher is the person to be encouraged. In fact many more problems can be solved in the classroom than we think. The classroom teacher admittedly needs to have support by way of remedial teachers and other aids. But more and more problems can be solved in the classroom.
To do that we need to change the syllabus of existing teachers’ colleges all over Australia and we need to make sure that existing teachers in the teaching work force are retrained so that they can better understand the nature of the problems mentioned in this report. The concludes all that I wish to say on the report.
I crave your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, for one minute to refer to the imminent retirement of the Clerk of the House, Mr Norman Parkes. In the year that I have been here as one of the 1975 crop of new members, Mr Parkes has been of personal help to me and I know to others. He has a wry smile and a charming wit. I am reminded of one occasion when I was sitting next to Mr Parkes at lunch. I thought I would perhaps be impertinent enought to ask him how we were getting on.
-He should have given you a backhander.
-He did not give me a backhander. I will tell the honourable member what he said. He said: ‘You are a pretty good lot but perhaps in your direction the honourable members for La Trobe and Higgins do interject a little more than they ought ‘.
– I have been misrepresented!
-The honourable member for La Trobe says that he has been misrepresented. I think perhaps it might have been fair comment. It was greatly appreciated. I feel a personal link somewhat with Mr Parkes. Whilst his father was the Clerk in this place before him, his son was wise enough to venture south to the electorate of Higgins. Perhaps in his retirement we might see Mr Parkes on the streets of Armadale when he visits his son and his family.
– Is that ‘Spanner’ Parkes, the notable Melbourne golfer?
-The honourable member for La Trobe interrupts and asks whether it is Spanner’ Parkes. In fact it is Graham Parkes, the son of Mr Norman Parkes.
– A first rate fellow.
-Yes. We look forward to seeing Mr Norman Parkes in Melbourne.
-I understand that a question of privilege is to be raised. Therefore I move:
That this debate be adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I rise on a question of privilege. The House will recall that, this morning, a certain petition was presented to it asking that reports of some of its debates be made available in certain court proceedings. I now move:
That the House, having considered the petition presented this day, 9 December, by Danny Sankey regarding the making available in court proceedings of reports of its debates, r” ves permission for the Hansard report of its proceedings on July 197S to be adduced in evidence as desired by the petitioner and for the necessary arrangements to be made for its verification in court.
I so move knowing that quite important matters are in question. There is precedent for this action both in the House of Commons and in this House. So far as the House of Commons is concerned, I refer this House to proceedings on 9 December 1975 where the House of Commons, on petition, ordered that leave be given to the proper officers of the House to attend the trial of a said action and to produce said minutes of evidence and reports of debates and that leave be given for reference to be made to the said minutes and reports. In this House a similar motion was passed, I think, in regard to a matter raised by Mr Daly, who was then the honourable member for Grayndler. This was on 7 May 1 963. The precedents are not numerous but there are some other precedents for this action. I think the position is established that it is right to give this permission provided that the circumstances warrant it. It is a matter, I believe, for the proper discretion ofthe House. There is a reason -
-Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to provide me with a copy of the motion.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I have it in written form here. I was hoping to have it typed. Sir -
-I ask the honourable gentleman to wait until I have seen it. I must say that I have the greatest difficulty reading it. I will return it to the honourable gentleman, so that he may read it again.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker. I am not a doctor! It reads:
That the House, having considered the petition presented this day, 9 December, by Danny Sankey regarding the making available in court proceedings of reports of its debates, gives permission for the Hansard report of its proceedings on 9 July 197S to be adduced in evidence as desired by the petitioner and for the necessary arrangements to be made for its verification in court.
-I rule that the honourable gentleman must give notice of the motion. If the honourable member gives the motion to the Clerk notice will appropriately be taken of it. The honourable gentleman has no right to speak unless he moves successfully to suspend the Standing Orders.
– If I could explain, I would not be more than 2 minutes. May I have your indulgence, Mr Speaker, to speak for a period not exceeding 2 minutes?
-I will give -
-I rise to a point of order, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member for Mackellar will resume his seat while I hear the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
-I suggest, Mr Speaker, that what you are saying is right; I think this should conclude the matter. Notice should be given of any motion and there should not be any further debate. I make the point that it is somewhat surprising to think that a petition apparently was presented signed by a Minister of the Government who is not taking any action himself.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is debating the matter. He should make his point of order.
– My point of order relates to a question of privilege suddenly arising. This question of privilege should have arisen surely at the time when the petition was presented.
-I accept the point of order in that sense. I have given my ruling. Nobody is capable of being absolutely certain. Therefore I propose as a matter of indulgence to permit the honourable gentleman to say a few sentences if he wishes to argue why I am wrong. If he does not persuade me to his way of thinking, I will persist with my ruling. I give the honourable gentleman a short period of latitude.
– I am most appreciative. I refer of course to standing order 96. The reason my motion should be approved relates to the introductory remarks of the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam) on 9 July 1975 in this matter. He said:
This House has been recalled so that once and for all the people of Australia may hear and judge any allegations of impropriety, illegality malpractice or malfeasance against the Government or any Minister.
This challenge was put out by the present Leader of the Opposition when Prime Minister. I believe that in view of the nature of the challenge it would be very wrong if any legal point were used to prevent the full facts coming out in court. It would be very wrong for the Leader of the Opposition to be able to take refuge as a trick lawyer when his whole veracity is in question.
-Order! I will not permit any further indulgence. The honourable gentleman is transgressing not only the requirement to give notice of motion without debating it but also the sub judice rule which applies in this case. The honourable member referred to standing order 96. 1 do not feel any necessity to explain in detail my reaction to that. Although the honourable member mentioned the standing order, he did not argue on it.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Federal Court of Australia Bill 1976. Federal Court of Australia (Consequential Provisions) Bill 1976
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1976
Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1 976. Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976
Bankruptcy Amendment Bill 1976 Patents Amendment Bill 1976 Trade Marks Amendment Bill 1976 Judiciary Amendment Bill 1976
Income Tax Assessment Amendment (Jurisdiction of Courts) Bill 1976
-I should like to ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) who represents the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) whether the Department of Education has reacted to the report of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties. I imagine that the report has been submitted to the Department of Education and to the Australian Schools Commission. It is likely that by this time there has been some reaction from them. If the Minister is not in a position to indicate to the House what their reactions are to the report, I would be grateful to receive from the Minister for Education a letter indicating the reaction of the Education experts of the Commonwealth Government to the recommendations of the Committee. In the opening part of its recommendations, the Committee referred to an important point. It stated:
The incidence of learning difficulties among Australian school children should be determined at regular intervals by a nation-wide survey based on similar principles to the ACER study 1 Literacy and Numeracy in Australian Schools ‘.
When I was the Minister for Education I authorised the investigation into the literacy and numeracy in Australia-n Schools, particularly directed at 11 -year olds and at 14-year olds. It is possible to stand up in Australia and say that reading standards are improving; that reading standards are getting worse; or that mathematical standards are improving on getting worse. There has been no base year to make comparisons. The report of the Australian Council for Educational Research made available this year- as a result of decisions made when I was Minister for Education last year, has given us a base year. But we are not yet in a position to make comparisons. I contrast this situation with paragraph 585 of the report entitled Children and their Primary Schools- the so-called Plowden report- published in the U.K. It states:
Successive investigations into reading ability undertaken by the Department of Education from 1948 to 1964 make it clear that, despite the dismal reports that appear from time to time in the press, the standard of reading m the country as a whole has been going up steadily since the war. Children of eleven have advanced by an average of 1 7 months since the first report was made, and backwardness now has a different connotation from that which it had in 1948. For this improvement the schools can take much of the credit, but it does not dispose of all the questions asked about reading. The most important which remain are: what can be done to help the minority of children for whom learning to read is a slow business and for a few never achieved? What use is made of the skill once it is acquired?
Without putting it quite so specifically, the Select Committee has really been aiming in Australia at trying to find the answers to those questions. It is important to note what has happened in the United Kingdom since the Plowden report in 196S. When I was in the United Kingdom in June and July of this year I went to the College of Education at Edgehill and also to the Thomas Coram Child Research Unit of the Faculty of Education of London University. I learnt a number of things. One was about the standards of reading in the United Kingdom. I learned that the standard of reading had stood still since that revelation in the Plowden report. It had not gone back, it had not gone forward, but the demands of people in the United Kingdom had risen. For instance, in 1948 it required a reading age of nine to read the London Daily Mirror. Even the London Daily Mirror, which is about as revolting as the Sydney Mirror in its standards, now requires a reading age of thirteen. That increased requirement has really gone through the English Press. A tertiary reading age is required to read the London Times, but the reading age required to read it in 1948 was not so high. They have been making assessments of what is required.
Amongst the most difficult reading, of course, is any sort of instructional or inquisitorial reading such as forms. A person who died in the United Kingdom in 1975 in his lifetime had filled in 17 times as many forms as a person who had died in 1945. Therefore there is a considerable demand on reading skills. I have already mentioned in this House that sometimes a difference is made between requirements of reading skill in technical education and in academic education. These differences are quite false. For instance, if one reads the house manuals of Mercedes, Ford or Holden, such as are studied by a person doing mechanical engineering at one of our technical schools, one will quickly find that the. reading requirements of those motor firm manuals are fully at tertiary level. Even if someone is doing a chef’s course at the Canberra Technical College- a very important course- the instructional reading m books of recipes and so on has to be understood. There is almost no sector of education which does not require reading skills.
I hope that the Department of Education will take note of the recommendations of this year’s and last year’s exercise of the ACER in its report on literacy and numeracy in Australian schools. I hope its study of the capacity of Australian children in that regard will be noted. If it is we will then have objective tests of whether reading is advancing. A report has been issued to us today entitled Poverty and Education in Australia. Dr Ronald Fitzgerald, who was the commissioner, when referring to the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission stated:
The terms of reference directed to the Interim Committee-
That is the Karmel Committee- . . to determine the minimum needs ofthe schooling system and to define those needs according to the extent of cognitive, physical, social or economic disadvantage of students. In its report of the following May, the Committee redefined equality of opportunity in the Australian context. First, it rejected the established principle of uniform provision of services and asserted that governments should discriminate positively in favour of disadvantaged groups. Second, the Committee argued for diversity and asserted that criteria other than academic success ought to be accepted for recognising student achievement
Looking back on my experience as a Minister I can remember being under fire about schools. The truth about our Australian community is that the most articulate sections of the community regard education as a weapon to their advantage and to the advantage of their own children over other children and not as the instrument of every child’s dignity. I was never attacked about expenditure on universities. Let us face it: Expenditure on universities represents shifting purchasing power upwards in the community. It costs $67m a year to run the Australian National University for 6000 students, which is $1 1,000 a head. There are many taxpayers who are much poorer than many of the students at the university and who are paying taxes for the students’ education. I believe it is very important that university education is free. I am not attacking that principle. I am stating that there is a social effect on shifting resources upwards in the community. It is significant that the Labor Government was never under attack about that. But my goodness, the attacks that came when a differential was made between, say, a Geelong Grammar school and a Marist Brothers college in the non-government sector were significant. That was where the real battle came in. If a government does anything in education expenditure that starts shifting resources downwards in the community it will find itself under fire from articulate sections ofthe community.
I say one thing about what is, after all, a superficial look at Fitzgerald’s report. I dislike his imprecise use of the word ‘elitism’. I believe that the Specific Learning Difficulties Committee avoided confusion of terms. I believe it is elitism in education if you are trying to socially privilege an economic or social group. For instance, Palmerston, in his days at Oxford University, was considered to be a man of exceptional selfrestraint because he did not take out a Master of Arts degree to which he was automatically entitled as a peer. Being a peer and just breathing the atmosphere of Oxford entitled him to an M.A. immediately. That is what I would call elitism in an extreme form in education. But when people start talking about intellectual capacity and say that it is elitism, if someone for instance a student at a secondary college in Canberra, with high intellectual capacity can go ahead at his own pace, what they really are speaking about is academic and intellectual skill. If they are going to attack that as elitism I think they are making a mistake. Of course, it is elitism if you try to confine opportunities to socially privileged groups or if you leave others to rot because they are not in socially privileged groups.
I think we would be very wise in the field of education to confine the expression elitism to the question of social and economic privilege and not make it an instrument of attack on quality. After all, if I am going to be operated on by a surgeon I hope to God he belongs to an elite and can do the operation skilfully and with good discernment. There are many things for which we require the services of an elite
The Specific Learning Difficulties Committee was trying to find reasons why some children do not succeed. They are not all economic reasons. At the Thomas Coram Research Unit, Professor Tizard had students who had done a survey of English children at Dagenham. They had excluded from the survey children of West Indian background or Indian and Pakistan background because their command of English was different from that of the general run of English children. They analysed the reading capacities of English children in the Dagenham area and they found this very interesting thing, that children who read regularly to their parents now were in the top reading group. Children who read occasionally to their parents now were in the second best reading group. Children who had regularly read to their parents in the infants group, but had not done so since were in the next group, and children who had read occasionally to their parents in the infants group were next. The children who had never read to their parents were in the last group. This is a very interesting aspect in establishing a correlation between the factor of parental interest in listening to the child’s achievements and the child’s results. In other words, children and young people do catch from adults a value placed on education.
The secondary colleges which came into existence in Canberra this year have a number of things about them which have led to them being very intense learning communities. One is that children have deliberately chosen to transfer to them because they want to get on with work. Secondly, under our adult secondary student scheme, adults who missed secondary education opportunities may come back to school. So there we have 2 1-year olds and 25-year olds who have come back to matriculate in those colleges. They, as young adults, put a high value on the opportunities which the 17-year olds and 18-year olds get naturally. The younger students have caught these values from the older students and the presence of these older students has been a tremendous factor in motivation. It is the same thing with the parental stimulus. We cannot eliminate that factor, but the vital parts of this report do speak of the quality of teachers of the handicapped. The beginnings of a transformation in that area came about by the funding which arose out of the Karmel report.
There are many comments in this report on specific learning difficulties which are extremely valuable and that is why I would like very much to have the reactions of the Commonwealth Department of Education and the Schools Commission to it. I am not an objective viewer, being a member of that Committee, but I regard this report as being a very valuable educational document brought down by a committee of this House.
– I also am a signatory to the report of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties and therefore I will not speak to the subject matter of the report. Obviously I agree with it. I can do no better than recommend to anyone who wishes to take up the subject a reading of that report. It was a type of inquiry that probably was not particularly suited to the parliamentary forum in that it was technical rather than political in nature. Nonetheless, the Committee dealt with a very serious problem. In some cases the results of the problem were nothing short of heart-rending and the problem of learning difficulty undoubtedly has deprived many people of an opportunity to enjoy our Australian society.
The attitude of the Committee was bipartisan. I can give a ready example of that. The previous speaker, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), described the problem of the definition of elitism. I envy him. I had that word written in my notes at one stage and, frankly, I crossed it out. I thought there was no way that I could explain to the House the problems of the definition of elitism without painting myself into a corner as a hopeless right-winger in the view of those who did not listen carefully to what I said. Sometimes there is an advantage in speaking from the Opposition benches and from the side of the Labor Party. I will overcome the problem simply by saying that I agree with every word said by the honourable member for Fremantle.
There is a problem in deciding how resources will be allocated. A society allocates resources to some people in disproportionate amounts because they can provide things that society needs. There is no better example than the doctor about whom the honourable member for Fremantle spoke. The group of people with which we were concerned consisted of people at the other end of the scale, those who had difficulty in reaching a basic minimum standard that I think society should believe is the right of everyone. I refer to that minimum standard that will let people compete in society at a level where they can live reasonably happy lives, where they can have a sense of fulfilment, and where they will not feel that their lives have been pointless, fruitless and in vain. Obviously, competing in today’s society is very difficult if you cannot learn simple arithmetic, simple reading, simple literacy and simple numeracy. How much of society’s resources ought to be provided to bring children and adults with the more difficult learning problem up to that level where society will see them live reasonably full lives?
That is the subject matter of this report. We have tried to decide how those resources can be better applied to fill these very minimum needs of individuals so that not only will they find employment but also they will find mates and some appreciation of the things that are around them. Many things are not understood- it might even be true to say that most things are not understoodabout the difficult problem of learning. We know the problem is widespread. We have no criteria against which to measure our success. It is essential that anything that is done- many things ought to be done- is evaluated carefully so that not only will we help some children in the immediate future but also we will build up knowledge with which we can help children in the more distant future. It is absolutely essential that populations be tested, that progress be carefully monitored and that the techniques by which this is done are studied. The process and technique of evaluation are inadequately understood.
There is a problem of bad teaching and, I am afraid, bad teachers. I am glad that the report by Dr Fitzgerald also mentions that problem. We had one or two harsh things to say about some teachers. That is not to say that other teachers do not give to their profession in a manner and a degree that can bring only credit to themselves. It is a problem of bad parents, of bad environment and of bad luck.
One question I have had asked of me since the report came down is: ‘Where do we go from here?’ In the first instance, the report is advice to the Parliament. It is advice to the Australian public. I went through the recommendations. I found that it was advice to no fewer than 23 different organisations involved with education-the 3 arms of government, the research institutions, the Schools Commission and many other organisations which have responsibility for the education of our children- including obviously, the State Education Departments. The advice m the report, if it is taken up- I hope and believe that it will be, as I did not sign the report idly - will be taken up piecemeal by many organisations. It will also be taken up over an extended period. It is my hope that the next Schools Commission report, for instance, will be influenced by the things that we said. It is my hope that we will be able to measure, when we look back at this time from 10 years hence, the progress that we have made. I thank the House.
– If it is some comfort to the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), I will stop early enough for him to have a say, as a gesture to a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties.
– As you did not put your name on the list of speakers, I think you should.
-Do not let me embark upon that kind of an argument. I have been a member of this House for long enough to be able to qualify to speak in debates without having to apply to the Whip of the Government parties. As a nonmember of the Committee, I thank the Committee on behalf of all the non-members of it for the competence of their work and for the dedication which they put into it. I take up the remarks of the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) about the fact that the Committee embarked upon a program which was certainly not in the normal field of parliamentary endeavour inasmuch as this was a highly technical subject. However, I have a great deal of faith in members of Parliament en masse, and sometimes individually, and in their competence to examine subjects of great technicality and to produce adequate understanding of them. In this case I believe they have done so.
I ask the Government, insofar as it is likely to take any initiative about anything at this stage, to apply itself to having the recommendations of this Committee carried out. Perhaps it is time we had some system of parliamentary audit by which committee reports which are brought before the Parliament are examined and continually sent along the way. Something must be done inside the parliamentary system to make this part of it effective. This report would not be the first report which has been before Parliament and which has been completely ignored. A committee has recently been looking at matters concerning Aborigines. It discovered that around Australia something like 45 reports have been ignored.
I want to refer briefly to 3 matters which interest me particularly. The first matter is on the first page of the recommendations. The first one is that we do something about legislation in some of the States which denies the responsibility of education departments to provide educational services to handicapped children. This has been one of the most callous areas of Australian education- the ignoring of our duty to handicapped children and to the parents of those children. It has created great hardship. It has been an area of neglect over most of Australia, and it will be only through the action of some supranational authority that we will get equal opportunity in that field for those children.
The second point is item (c) of the recommendations which is in chapter 3. It states that we should make every effort to recruit teachers, preferably from the relevant ethnic groups, who are proficient in minority and migrant languages, and so on. I speak about this matter with some depth of feeling because my electorate has one of the great concentrations of migrants in Australia. Three million people have come to this country, thousands of them with a faintly literate background of their own. Mostly they have been poured into the industrial areas of Australia. Their future education has been ignored. I think this has been a very serious area of neglect. It ought not to have been tolerated. The Government of which I was a member attempted to introduce a program and started it along its way. I do not think the Victorian Education Department applied itself with proper vigour to the task. In this instance we will need special classes, special equipment and special teachers. We have a Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs responsible for the question. We have a Department of Education. There is no excuse for our not pressing the State departments, making the necessary grants and getting on with the job. I think this is one of the most important areas of educational activity.
The third point is the situation of the Aboriginal children of Australia. Governments pre- 1972 took some steps which gave some hope to the Aboriginal children in that they established, I think, secondary grants. In the 3 years in which we were in government we took a lot of steps to establish programs to overcome the particular difficulties of Aboriginal groups. I appeal to the Parliament, to the Government in particular, to take urgent steps to implement these recommendations. It is quite pointless the Parliament appointing committees which put a lot of work into their subject and which travel the country at great length, listen to a large number of competent people who produce mountains of submissions and evidence, if nothing then happens. I appeal to the Government to forget for a moment the theology that it calls economic theories. It should start to apply some vigour to this. Today we heard the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) saying that it was absolutely essential that we reduce government expenditure. This is such an enormous social contradiction that we cannot tolerate it. The people of Australia ought to be alerted to the contradiction between the pretensions about social policy and philosophy of honourable members opposite and the economic theories being followed.
I remind the House that Australia’s record in public education is probably as good as that of any other country. At the end of the last century we established a free, compulsory and mostly secular education system. That was basically in the 1870s. At that stage not much more than 50 to 60 per cent of the community was literate. According to the census returns, by 1900 Australia was basically a literate community. That was a remarkable achievement. It had the great advantage of a simple objective, that is, to obtain literacy- to be able to read and write. Unfortunately we still have no clear objective in secondary education, for handicapped people or for specialist groups.
I propose to finish at that point although there are a number of things that I would like to say, particularly to my friend the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). I think it is inordinate impertinence on his part to think that he shall decide whether or not people shall speak in this House. He is one of those fortunate people who is a temporary member of this Parliament. On this occasion I sit down to pay a proper courtesy to my friend, the honourable member for Darling Downs who, in this instance, happens to be right, but who is mostly in a situation of grievous political error. I remind the House in doing so that it is very rarely that that kind of courtesy is paid to myself or anybody on this side of the House.
-At the outset, I express my personal and sincere thanks to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) for being courteous and kind enough to allow me to be associated with the debate on this report. I was a member of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties which heard public evidence and received various submissions. The report which is concerned with the learning difficulties of children and adults consolidates some 4000 pages of public evidence and 400 submissions.
I suppose it is true to say that the Committee embarked upon a voyage into uncharted waters. Very little had been done not only in Australia but also in most of the world to define the problem and to establish guidelines to overcome the very serious hardships and the great personal traumas of people who are afflicted with what we term, in a general sense, learning disabilities and/or difficulties. It is interesting to recall the great sense of concern and goodwill shown by all people who came before the Committee. They were united in their task of isolating the problem and overcoming an area of great personal tragedy.
The recommendations and conclusions contained in the report are somewhat unique in a modern political era insofar as they do not of necessity advocate that more finance should be pumped into a particular stream -in this instance, the educational stream. But there must be a reallocation of resources and this is a matter which is open for debate by the Parliament, by the people of Australia and by all people interested in education. It must be admitted that some States are doing a great deal to overcome the problems of learning difficulties and in the provision of remedial and resource teachers to identify this problem. Some States are doing very little in these areas.
I express the wish that people should be associated with the efforts of governments to overcome the problems. Only today I had the privilege of meeting at lunch some people who are represented in this Parliament by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). It was brought to our notice that one of the local service clubs in the small Queensland country town of Cunnamulla had donated $1,000 for the provision of a remedial teacher to bring this type of education to the children of the outback. That type of community outpouring of goodwill, concern and identity should be encouraged. These matters should not of necessity be left to governments to provide the services.
I express the hope that when governments get around to doing something positive about this matter they will do something about the requirements of isolated children. I support the remarks of previous speakers who also made a plea in this regard. I hope that governments will not just think of children in the metropolitan areas but they they will also have regard for children in isolated areas and the children of the Aboriginal community. The needs of these children are very important and they are entitled to receive an adequate amount of resources to upgrade their education requirements.
One of the salient features ofthe report which came through with crystal clarity and continuous purpose was the correlation of the home, the school and the teacher. The report pointed out that each of these 3 different areas has a great part to play in helping children as well as adults to play a useful part as members of the community and to develop fluency in expression, arithmetic and all the associated arts.
– The home is fundamental.
-I am delighted to hear that remark from the honourable member for Swan. The home is vital because whatever the school achieves, however dedicated the teacher is, if the home environment to which the child returns does not place emphasis on correcting a serious problem and if no encouragement is given to the child to progress, in the final analysis very Utile progress will be made.
It is interesting to note that 25 per cent of children are in need of special assistance. It is most regrettable that 10 000 children will leave school each year without the simple skills and 20 000 children will not have the ability to do simple multiplication, subtraction and so on. I believe that these are very salient considerations. Much criticism was expressed of teachers and teaching institutions. A query was raised whether the modern teacher is motivated sufficiently and whether he or she is sufficiently accountable. The standards that are being demanded of our teachers are intolerably high. They will become higher in the future. A vast amount of public money has been expended in the area of teacher education. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that we turn out teachers who not only are educated people but also know how to teach the fundamental 3 Rs. This requirement is of vital importance.
Evidence taken by the Committee revealed that the older ‘type’ of teacher was better equipped to isolate the problem initially and to inculcate into the child a better understanding of the needs of education and how to achieve the desired ends.
– Through discipline
-It is possible that in the old days teachers were more disciplined. They were taught to become teachers rather than academics in the educational sense. It was found that only one teaching institution in Australia allocated a reasonable number of hours for teaching teachers the fundamentals of numeracy and literacy. What do we do in that situation when overseas standards indicate that at least 100 hours of lectures, and possibly a maximum of 150 hours, are required in this area? We have reached the intolerable situation where one college of advanced education in one of the States devotes only 2 hours to what one might call the absolute foundation of educational teaching. A chorus of witnesses drew attention, as they saw it, to the problem of the inability of teachers to teach children.
I conclude on 2 simple notes. I hope that the Australian Council of Education Research will continue its research into the problem and that it will monitor progress. It is simply not good enough to say that standards have not declined. We have to know what the actual standards are. My final comment, on a subject which has not been referred to, relates to the problem of adult education as far as literacy is concerned.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 18 February 1 976, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I wanted also to say something on an important matter which has not been commented on by previous speakers in the debate. It concerns the problems of adults. We have to be concerned about the children but let us spare a thought for the adults who have a problem in this regard also. I would hope that the Minister for Education not only would relate Government activity to the area of children’s problems but would also devise special means to find adults with problems and, having found them, have programs designed and set up in certain areas in order to allow the adults concerned to overcome their very serious hardship. My final comment on behalf of the Committee is to express to you personally, Mr Speaker, our thanks for giving us the germ of an idea and for the support that you were able to rally around us from the whole Parliament
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I inform the House that the Governor-General in Council this afternoon agreed to my recommendation and appointed the Deputy Clerk of the House, John Athol Pettifer, to be Clerk of the House of Representatives on and from 1 January 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Defence Report 1 976.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask leave of the House to make a very, very short statement regarding the defence force retirement benefits legislation.
-Is leave granted?
-i make it quite clear that the only condition on which we will give the Minister leave is if there will be an adjournment debate. Otherwise we will not give him leave.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition -
– The Leader of the House will have to make his position quite clear, otherwise we will not give leave at this time.
– I will be forced to move suspension of standing orders if that is the basis on which the honourable member for Reid wishes to do things.
-Order! I inform the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that I cannot engage in any bargaining across the table. Is leave granted? Does the honourable member for Reid agree to the granting of leave?
-i want to make it quite clear that unless the Leader of the House makes the position clear we will not give leave.
-Leave is refused.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– I move:
That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Defence making a statement regarding the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund legislation forthwith.
-This is a quite unnecessary motion. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) simply had to say yes and agree that there would be an adjournment debate. There is no reason why we should not have an adjournment debate. Yet, through sheer cussedness, he will stop us on this side of the House from speaking on this matter. All he is doing is inviting retaliation. I ask: At what stage of the game do we start to treat one another with proper courtesy in these matters? There is no difficulty. The House sits until 1 1 o’clock. Ministers have the right of reply until ten past eleven. In this instance all he had to do was sit down and to let the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) have his say, and honourable members on our side have their say on the adjournment debate and there would be no trouble. It is no wonder that the place is faced with continuous chaos. It is because the Leader of the House goes on with nonsense. He continually sabotaged the Parliament while we were in government and he is continuing to do it now.
-We oppose the motion. It has been put to prevent the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) from raising certain matters. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) is well aware that the honourable member for Reid has certain information about the Government which he wishes to raise tonight. He has certain information about policies which the Government has adopted. Although there are some 25 minutes available for an adjournment debate the Leader of the House is seeking to prevent any adjournment debate taking place.
-Order! The honourable gentleman must confine his remarks to matters relevant to the motion. He is speaking about a different situation, that is whether there will be an adjournment debate. The motion before the Chair is whether standing orders should be suspended. I cannot allow him to speak about something which is not relevant.
-The situation is that there have been more than adequate opportunities in the course of today for the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to be presented to the Parliament. It was shown to me quite early this evening. There would have been adequate opportunity in the period from early this evening until before 10.30 for the statement to be presented. The fact is- I do not care to go into the reasons why- that the Minister found himself unable to present the statement before this very late hour. There were no reasonable reasons why he was unable to present that statement. It is a short statement I would wish it to be presented to the Parliament. But it should not be presented to the Parliament at the expense of the rights of honourable members of the Parliament who wish to use the adjournment debate to present issues of significance to them individually or, in the case of the honourable member for Reid, to present an important issue about which he has learned and which refers to politics.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now being irrelevant.
– I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that the relevance of the point I am raising is that the Minister for Defence could easily have presented his statement. From the look of it, it would take no more than about 5 minutes or 6 minutes.
– One or 2 minutes.
– Well, one or 2 minutes. There would still be some 20-odd minutes left for an adjournment debate. But the Leader of the House is absolutely determined to prevent any adjournment debate taking place at ail.
– On the contrary. I have said nothing and I will give nothing -
-The Minister said very clearly that he would give no undertaking. It is a very simple thing.
– I suggest that if the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) will give an undertaking that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition -
– I will give no undertaking. I will do nothing under threat. I have not refused -
-Order! It is perfectly obvious to me from this position that the Leader of the House is unwilling to respond to what he believes is a threat.
– That is right.
-I believe that if the threat were withdrawn- if there were such a threat- we could get back to the point where the statement could be made by leave. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make it clear that no threat was implied.
- Mr Speaker, I can assure you that I do not make threats against anyone. All I sought was an undertaking, which is quite a reasonable request from the Opposition, that the Leader of the House would allow a debate on the adjournment. That is all.
-I ask the Leader of the House to respond.
-I am quite happy to allow an adjournment debate to take place if the House can be adjourned before 11 o’clock. The last 10 minutes have been taken up in a pointless debate regarding a refusal to give leave to my colleague the Minister for Defence to make a statement. I am quite happy to have an adjournment debate providing the House can adjourn before 11 o’clock.
– We give you leave.
-Is leave granted to the Leader of the House to withdraw his motion? Leave is granted.
-I withdraw my motion.
-The Minister for Defence has sought leave to make a statement. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am under heavy obligation to the indulgence of the House. I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has decided upon permanent methods of annual adjustment to Defence Forces Retirement Benefits and Defence Forces Retirement and Death Benefits pensions. In both cases, the index of adjustment will be the movement in the consumer price index during the 12 months period ending 3 1 March of each year. The adjustment will be payable from the first pension payday in July of each year, including 1976, in respect of the March 1975-1976 period.
For DFRB pensions, the index of adjustment will apply to the total pension. For DFRDB pensions, the index will apply to the pension remaining after a pensioner has to the maximum extent, or could have, taken part of his pension as a lump sum. These methods of adjustment are consistent with those currently applying to Public Service pensioners and thus the long-standing principle of comparable treatment amongst former employees of the Crown is maintained.
Legislation to give effect to the Government’s decisions will be introduced promptly in the next sitting of the Parliament. Payments will be made shortly thereafter. Legislation will also be introduced to remove from the legislation an anomaly which is detrimentally affecting the pension entitlements of a number of late entrant officers transferred to the new scheme in 1973.
Mr Speaker, may I turn around and thank the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) for his magnificent persistence on behalf of those who are affected by the scheme. Gratitude is not a discipline practised in this world. May I, on behalf of the Government, thank the honourable member for Herbert for what he has done and may I presume to thank him, on behalf of all those affected by the honourable member’s persistence, for what he has done. The Government is grateful. Those who will benefit from the Government’s decision are grateful. The honourable gentleman has done a singular service to the country.
-I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-We welcome the statement of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). The proposals are appropriate and in many ways they should have been implemented at an earlier stage. That is no criticism of the present Government and even less so of the previous Government which had even more sterling qualities in so many respects. I note that the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Bonnett) has been commended for doing what he usually does- nothing, but with more style and elegance than he has done in the past. I am unaware that he has displayed any more interest, depth or penetrating awareness of the issue than anyone else in this House. Nonetheless I am prepared to accept the acknowledgments of the Minister for Defence for what they are worth. As we are now in a state of devalued currency, I will leave it to honourable members to work out.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement.
– About what?
-About matters which are traditionally discussed at this time of the year.
– There has been an undertaking -
An honourable member- Sit down, you dill.
– There has been no undertaking.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker -
– Please resume you seat. I do not know who made that comment. If I knew I would call for it to be withdrawn. It was unparliamentary and totally unnecessary. I call the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– The last thing I would want to do in this Parliament is to refuse leave to the Prime Minister of the nation to make a statement to this House, but there was an undertaking, and you are aware of it, Mr Speaker, that an adjournment debate would be allowed.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is, I gather, seeking to raise a matter before the House. I have no idea on what basis he raises it. I have intimated to the House, with your indulgence, that provided the House adjourns before 11 o ‘clock there will be an adjournment debate.
– I have been informed by a Clerk of the House that the 1 1 o ‘clock rule does not apply. Therefore it appears that the Leader of the House is binding this House to the 11 o’clock rule, I make it clear that I do not want to refuse leave to the Prime Minister to make a statement. At the same time I think, as a matter of courtesy, the Leader of the House should give an undertaking that we on this side will be able to raise matters on the adjournment. That is what I am seeking.
-The orders of the House provide for the putting of the adjournment motion at 10.30 p.m. The question was put. It was negatived. Now it will require for the House to adjourn that the motion be put: That the House do now adjourn. When that motion is put it is subject to debate. Of course, the debate can be closed by a motion. The Prime Minister has asked leave to make a statement. That request for leave can only be answered ‘Aye’ or ‘No’. The right honourable gentleman has asked leave to make a statement Is leave granted?
– With your guidance, Mr Speaker, I will give that leave, because the Leader of the House was incorrect in saying that the House would adjourn at 1 1 o’clock.
-At this time of the year I think it is appropriate for honourable members to turn their minds away for a few moments from their own narrow affairs to those people in and about this building who make the operation of this institution of Parliament possiblethose who can make the Parliament work. This morning a number of us had something to say about a Clerk of the House who has given long and distinguished service to this Parliament He and his father have done so since Federation. I believe that the Clerk and his family typify the service of people in and about this Parliament. It is not just a question of people who work in this chamber. There are many people who are essential to the comfort and wellbeing of members of Parliament. At least at this time of the year, with more charity in our minds and hearts than politicians often have, I believe that we ought to remember them. I refer to the attendants, the drivers, the people who make the communications work, the voices on the switchboard that belong to people whom honourable members probably never see but who with great efficiency seem to be able to connect members of Parliament to people at other ends of telephones in remote parts of Australia
I think it is appropriate for members of the House of Representatives to pay particular tribute to Gordon Pike, who for as long as I can remember has given notable service to all members of Parliament always making sure that they get to their avowed destination, sometimes when they probably do not deserve to do so. He has carried out his part of the bargain on each and every occasion. He has made sure that people get to this chamber in the morning, that they get home at night and that they get home on the weekends. He is the sort of person whom members of this Parliament I believe, ought to cherish very greatly indeed. He is also a cricketer of no mean note. I have never had the good fortune to see Tony Street bowl him out on one of those significant occasions when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations takes part in his old sports and habits, but I think that also is one of the activities that ought to be cherished by members of this House.
There are the cooks who feed the members of Parliament and the waitresses who see that we get served and fed in the dining room. There are cleaners who make the place habitable after members of Parliament have left it at night. There are carpenters and the mechanical staff who change rooms and make them more appropriate to Ministers’ needs and to the needs of Leaders of the Opposition so that they and their staffs can be better housed, in better comfort, and therefore can better carry out their particular duties. Earlier today we paid a tribute to Norman Parkes and I remind the House of that. Earlier this year we paid tribute to the Chief Hansard Reporter, Bill Bridgman, for long and significant service to this Parliament and again, through the Parliament, to Australia. Paddy
Ward, an attendant on the House of Representatives side who retired in May will be remembered by many people who have been in this Parliament.
A special thanks is owed, I believe, to the Library staff and especially to those ladies who produce a year of newspaper clippings at the twinkling of an eye. We are especially grateful when they have the clipping we particularly want on the top, which enables us to make a point against our opponent in the way in which we want to make it. The Library staff has been enormously strengthened in recent times. The research part of the Library has been greatly strengthened to service the needs of members of Parliament and to enable them better to carry out their responsibility and duties. I think one of the things that members of Parliament in parties from both sides of the House have great confidence in is the fact that the people who work in and around this chamber and in this building work with no regard to the political Party from which a particular member comes but merely with a regard to carrying out their particular obligations, services and functions in relation to a member of Parliament. I believe they do this to the best of their ability, no matter what Party and no matter what the political leanings of a particular member may be.
At this time of the year I think we can thank a very large number of people, many of whom are not seen and many of whom, I suppose, in the business of the day are hardly noticed in a normal working week, but without whom this Parliament could not function, without whom this Parliament would fall apart. Just as our own wives might sometimes become a little tired of the times we come home late because of the sittings of the House or a little tired of the long weekends which, by the time we have looked after electoral functions and other matters, become pretty short weekends, so too the people who work in and around this House when Parliament is sitting work very long hours. The wives must be patient indeed to put up with it year after year. I think it is an appropriate time for all members of this House, with charity and warmth in their hearts, to offer good wishes, a happy Christmas and prosperous new year to all who serve us as members of Parliament. We owe them our thanks. I hope that as the lights of this Parliament go out, some of the bitterness of the debates which is often too much generated between politicians can be forgotten and that some of the characteristics of Australians can be remembered.
– This is the only adjournment debate in the whole year when it is regarded as acceptable for the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the National Country Party to take up the time of the House. Earlier today -
– This is not an adjournment debate; you are speaking by leave. You can speak until breakfast.
-I have assumed leave.
– I have learnt to be careful about those with whom I have breakfast, just as I gather honourable members opposite have learnt to be careful about those with whom they have dinner. Your guests will always be disclosed sooner or later. Sometimes there is difficulty in finding the names of the protagonists or the guests on these occasions, but gradually they are ascertained.
I did not want to speak in a facetious manner on an occasion like this; I wanted to pay due tribute to you, Mr Speaker. I must say, you are looking better every day. I wanted to pay tribute also on behalf of my Party to all those who have backed up, as they have for many years, well led by the Clerk to whom we paid tribute earlier. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke appropriately, graciously and warmly about all those men and women- hundreds of them- who work in this place. It is a great delusion to think that this arena is the whole of the Parliament. This arena, well or ill conducted as the members may be, would be a shell but for the men and women in their hundreds who work here less conspicuously throughout the year. I join the Prime Minister in his tribute to them and in his tribute to their families. I join him also in wishing well to all the members on both sides of both Houses and their families too. Politicians’ families are probably the most long-suffering in this country and none of us could do our jobs as well as we do- whatever degree of effectiveness or virtue there may be in our performance- without the support of our families.
If it were not so late I would very much have enjoyed speaking on some of the matters which have been raised earlier tonight or earlier today. I found that some of them concerned me. I shall not weary the House with any of those matters. I am aware that from time to time I have been unjust to some honourable members on the other side of the House with whom I have served for very many years. I am delighted to see- I have not yet been able to read- the defence report which my good friend, the honourable, learned and gallant Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has tabled tonight. I do not believe he had adequately conveyed to the Australian people the sacrifices that he has made in his portfolio. Interesting though the document which he has tabled tonight may be, it in fact tells only a portion of the story. Another document has come into my hands tonight. Presumably it is authentic because it is authorised by Tony Eggleton, Federal Director of the Liberal Party -
– Order! The honourable gentleman is transgressing upon the leave of the House which was to speakin terms of the appreciation of members of the House for service that has been given. There will be an opportunity later for the honourable gentleman to raise matters of this nature on an adjournment debate. I do not think that the leave that was granted was granted in the expectation of a speech of this nature.
-Mr Speaker, can you be sure there will be an opportunity later? Surely it is not out of order for me to pay a tribute to a Minister or several Ministers or to the Ministry as a whole. I want to pay a tribute to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) because I find that he has cut the 5-year defence program, which he announced -
-Order! If the honourable gentleman wishes to pursue this line I cannot prevent him. He has been given leave to make a statement but he is misusing the forms of the House to do so.
-Mr Speaker I will not trespass very long. I thought you would enjoy what I was about to say. I want to pay tribute to the Minister for Defence for the economies he is achieving in the administration of his portfolio. I am assured, on very high authority, that he has cut the 5-year defence program from $ 12,000m to $ 1,200m. This really will put this country in a very much better economic position. I am not relying on any scurrilous information, such as defence leaks in recent copies of the Bulletin. I am not relying on anything that Norman Minister for Defence might have said at the National Press Club today- and I appreciate his tributes to me.
– They were desperately earned.
– I am paying tribute to the honourable, gallant and learned gentleman for the great economies he is making on behalf of the Australian people in the administration of his portfolio. I find, on the highest authority, that he has effected economies in the administration of his 5-year defence program of 90 per cent. He has cut the 5-year defence program- emphasising new equipment, too- from $12,000m to $ 1200m. Many Ministers are making great economies. For instance, I find, and it will be announced in the next couple of days that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- frankly, I think people have been far too beastly to the Treasurer in this House and in the Party room in recent weeks- is effecting great economies in the civil field. I gather that we will learn next week that there will be no new expenditure entered into; that all departments must look at further cuts that can be made to an existing expenditure program; that all departments are to report to the Treasurer on those areas where under-expenditure is occurring; and that all Departments must report to the Treasury Department and/or the Department of Finance on all these issues by 13 December. I am quoting from Cabinet decision No. 1971.
– When was that?
-The decision was made last Tuesday. It will be announced in a day or so. All those cuts in civilian expenditure pale into insignificance-
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition is transgressing upon the practice of the House. He well knows it.
– I want to conclude my remarks by saying that I appreciate on this occasion, as I have done on so many occasions during the year, your own forebearance, Mr Speaker. I trust that the next year will be an even better one for you. In the meantime, I trust that all of us in the bosom of our families will have a very happy Christmas.
– by leave-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has referred very kindly to an economy that even the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) did not expect to be able to achieve. However, he who spoke reminds me of the days when he was in office and of a ditty that I believe originated from the Parliament. I am sure that it must have been in the days when the Labor Party was in office. It runs something like this: ‘Australia is a land of milk and honey. The cows go into Parliament and the bees take all our money. ‘ The Government is trying to give the money back and that has been the substance and the motivation behind the last 12 months. If the Leader of the Opposition cares to read E&OE- errors and omissions excepted- in the issue of the Bulletin, he will realise that the progress report from which he quoted sets down a very worthwhile and productive summary of the achievements of the first Fraser-Anthony
Government. It is in that light that I think we are reviewing the year’s proceedings tonight.
Mr Speaker, to you and your assistants I would like to extend my thanks, on behalf of those of us who have been responsible for running this place, for the way in which the business of the Parliament has been conducted. To Mr Norman Parkes, whose retirement we spoke about earlier today, I would like to wish not only a happy retirement but also to him and his family a happy Christmas and a prosperous and contented New Year. To his successor, Mr John Athol Pettifer, whose appointment has just been announced- a very merited appointment that all honourable members are delighted to see- I would also like to extend congratulations and best wishes on his new appointment. We are all sure that his will be a very effective tenure of office.
Mr Speaker, through you, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader ofthe Opposition each referred to many people who, m this place, have made their contribution to its effective operation. I do not seek to repeat the individual names but I would support very strongly the testimony that has been given to their contribution to this Parliament. However, there is one whose name has been omitted and to whom I would like to refer tonight. I understand that, with promotions and changes within the Public Service he does not expect to occupy his office in the next Parliament. I refer to Mr Arthur Dyster who is the Principal Parliamentary Liaision Officer, and whose unusual tenure has extended through the days ofthe Labor Government and then through the first 12 months of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition. Those days in the Parliament, oi course, have been very passive and anyone who can survive must have, I think, an extraordinarily strong and vigorous constitution. To Arthur Dyster, on behalf of my predecessor, Mr Fred Daly, and on my own behalf, I would like to say a particular thankyou. The functioning of this House, more than many members are perhaps aware, depends very significantly on the advice, consultations and assistance that he provides. Mr Speaker, I know full well that you, as a former Leader of the House, would recognise the contribution that he makes.
I would also like to extend my thanks to one other officer of the Parliament who is, of course, a parliamentarian. I refer to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who is the manager of Opposition business. He also has facilitated the conduct of the affairs of the House of Representatives and to him I would like to extend my own personal thanks. I would like in closing not only to wish the members present but also those absent, including my own leader, a merry Christmas and a happy and healthier New Year. I trust that in the New Year those who are not with us will be able to return refreshed for the fray during 1977. 1 know that all of us have been very sad that Doug. Anthony, the right honourable member for Richmond and the Deputy Prime Minister, has been ill for so long. In particular, on behalf of members of the National Country Party I would like to wish him a speedy recovery and an early return to our midst.
-I would like to add my own thanks to the staff of the House of Representatives, to the Clerks at the table, to the SerjeantatArms and to all those people in green uniforms who attend to the wishes of all members of the House. I thank all members of the staff. Within the House I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who is the manager of Opposition business for the way in which they have permitted the business of the House to go forward. I wish to thank all of the Whips who have conducted themselves most meritoriously. I do not single out the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). I also pay tribute to Mr Arthur Dyster, the Parliamentary Liaison Officer, who liaises most effectively. I thank him for his work.
The Joint House Department has a very large staff which cares for our needs. The staff feed us, keep us from thirst and generally take care of us. I thank all the ladies and gentlemen of the Joint House Department. We are all greatly indebted to the staff of the Parliamentary Library. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) referred to them. I add my thanks. I turn to the Parliamentary Reporting Staff. I often wonder how it is that Hansard is able to provide such an accurate description of what occurs here and how it makes our speeches read much better than they sound. I thank the broadcasting staff and the technicians for relaying the proceedings of the chamber to the nation. I thank all honourable members. In my first year as Speaker, you have been very kind to me. You have been very gentle. You have allowed me an easy year. I hope you repeat that conduct next year.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the House at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday, IS February next, at 2.15 p.m., unless Mr Speaker shall by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day of meeting.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
House adjourned at 11.13 p.m. until Tuesday, 15 February 1977 at 2.15 p.m. unless Mr Speaker shall, by telegram or letter addressed to each member of the House, fix an alternative day or hour of meeting.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 December 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1976/19761209_reps_30_hor102/>.