30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide50 per cent of all funding for Australia’s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocatoin of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Burr, Mr Clyde Cameron, Mr Carige, Mr Corbett, Mr Drummond, Mr Giles, Mr Hyde, Mr Kelly, Mr Porter, Dr Richardson, Mr Thomson, MrWallis and Mr Young.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fisher, Mr Holten, Mr King, Mr Lynch, Mr Scholes, Mr Short and Mr Simon.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for the funding of rural local roads and urban local roads in New South Wales for the triennium 1977-1980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fife, Mr Hunt, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Sullivan.
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 I.A.C. 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 Dobie.
Parklands in the Australian Capital Territory
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Canberra and electors of the Divisions of Fraser and Canberra respectively showeth-
That we are utterly opposed to the National Capital Development Commissions proposals to erect eighteen town houses on Block 3 of Section 107, Ainslie.
The suggested development would destroy one of the most attractive small parks in Canberra. Section 107. which has been developed and maintained as a park since the original subdivision of the area, provides a variety of opportunities for recreation and relaxation and contributes to the physical and mental health of many people who come to the park to exercise dogs, play games, or simply to enjoy the views and peaceful surroundings.
Town houses would be completely out of character with the existing residences in the area and their construction on Block 3 of Section 107 would alienate the major pan of what is at present an invaluable community amenity.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government take measures to have the entire area of Section 107 gazetted as parkland as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Nepean Community Radio Society of Penrith, N.S.W., has found that a need exists for a community owned and operated radio station to serve the Nepean area. That such a radio station will assist in the development of group and individual initiatives within the Nepean community.
Your petitioners therefore, humbly pray that the Government as a matter of urgency request the Broadcasting Tribunal to hear an application to grant a licence to the Nepean Community Radio Society. byMrGillard.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That experts in the fields of medicine, psychiatry, law and religion together have placed on record the following unpleasant facts about homosexuality:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will preserve and uphold the sections in the Criminal Code which prohibit the practice of homosexual and incestuous acts.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, respectfully sheweth:
That the public library services of New South Wales are inadequate both in quality and quantity and that the burden of provision is placed too heavily upon local government. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr MacKellar.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal income whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1975 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Scholes.
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:
Television is the single most influential medium for the dissemination of information and for the recording and development of our national identity and culture;
Children are the most important section of the viewing public in that they are most likely to be affected by the impact of television;
Australian children, on average, spend more time watching television than in school;
And believing that:
The basic problem behind the lack of programs designed for children is the fundamental divergence of aims between those primarily interested in the welfare of children and the commercial interests of television licenses and their shareholders.
The creation of an Establishment to initiate, research, promote, co-ordinate, fund and produce material for children’s consumption through the medium of television, as recommended by Australian Children’s Television Action Committee in its submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts 1973; The Australian Broadcasting Control Boards Advisory Committee Report 1974 and the Television Industry Co-ordinating Committee 1975, as a positive step toward providing better quality television for Australian children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Shipton.
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Eyre Peninsula in South Australia respectfully showeth:
And your humble petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
-The petition will be referred to the appropriate Minister.
– I inform the House that the Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Adermann, leaves Australia today to lead the Australian delegation to the United Nations Water Conference in Argentina. He is expected to return on 27 March. During his absence the Minister for Science, Senator Webster, will act as Minister for the Northern Territory. The Acting Minister will be represented in this House by the Minister for the Capital Territory ( Mr Staley ).
- Mr Speaker, mayI inform the House that the honourable member for Hughes, the Honourable Les Johnson, has been appointed Opposition Whip.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 1, I shall move:
That a Joint Committee be established to inquire into and report on unemployment in Australia with special reference to:
The extent of unemployment and the degree to which it has become a long term problem;
The degree to which unemployment bears particularly upon certain industries, regions and sectors of the work force;
The social implications of prolonged large scale unemployment;
The applicability to Australia of innovative employment-creating schemes operating in other comparable countries;
The extent to which unemployment could be reduced by implementing and expanding manpower programs:
Other means by which unemployment could be reduced; and
The extent and nature of possible conflict between the objective of reducing unemployment and other policy objectives.
– I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 2, 1 shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that the following question should be put to the citizens of Australia in a poll on the occasion of the next election for the House of Representatives:
Do you approve of industrial action by way of strikes or work bans being carried out by certain sections of the trade union movement when this action has no relation to industrial disputes?
Donations and Subsidies to Political Parties
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 3, 1 shall move:
That a joint committee be established to inquire into and report upon the provision of proportionate subsidies by the Australian Government to political parties and candidates in Federal election campaigns and the disclosure of the amount and nature of assistance by corporations and individuals to these parties and candidates.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 5, 1 shall move:
That, in the opinion of this House, it would facilitate the raising of money for the Government’s capital works program if bonds and annuities were to be on sale subject to the following conditions:
The securities should be fully indexed in accordance with movements in the consumer price index;
The securities should be available only to enrolled Australian citizens;
The securities should be non-transferable bonds to mature only on the death of the purchaser and annuities to be for the life of the purchaser or jointly for the lives of the purchaser and spouse;
The amounts of these indexed securities held by any one person should be limited.
And that the House is further of the opinion that, if properly handled, the issue of set securities would assist in the reduction of general interest rates.
I further give notice that on general business Thursday No. 1 -
-Order! The honourable gentleman may give one notice at a time. The honourable member for Mackellar gave notice for general business Thursday No. 5. Notice had been given for general business Thursdays Nos 1,2 and 3. Did the honourable gentleman intend to skip Thursday No. 4?
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 4, 1 shall move:
That a joint committee be established to examine and report on (a) the operation of and benefits available from life assurance companies; (b) measures for achieving a more realistic return for holders of life assurance policies; and (c) a less extravagant and costly and a more efficient method of operation of life assurance companies.
– I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 6, 1 shall move:
That, acknowledging that the increase of the income tax burden since 1972 has been totally disastrous and noting the stated intention of the Government to promote taxation reform, of which tax indexation is the first instalment, this House is of the opinion that such reform should embrace the following considerations:
Income taxation should be adequate to serve the revenue needs of government and that the increased total income tax revenue should be related only to the increase in the number of taxpayers, productivity and incomes in real terms;
It should be fair as between persons and households:
Marginal rates of tax should be reduced as suggested by the Asprey report and the maximum marginal rate should bc reduced towards 50 per cent as conditions allow.
To recognise the importance of tax concessions in promoting incentive and investment but not so as to make their principal value to the taxpayer dependent on the tux forgone;
The contribution of the rebate system in acknowledging that people placed equally should be treated equally and that many income earners, especially those on the lower tax scales, fail to claim adequately for concessions;
That where rebates are transferred to social welfare payments the transfer compensates for the value of the rebates for each taxpayer or the household supported by the taxpayer; and
The effect of taxation and proposed changes in tax rates upon real disposable income should be acknowledged by the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission and that alterations in the taxation system should seek to abide by these principles whether or not they are accomplished at the one time.
Australian Insurance Industries
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 7, I shall move:
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the Australian Insurance Industry, with particular reference to-
The establishment of public enterprise insurance facilities to compete with private insurance facilities in those Slates and Territories where such a choice does not now exist and to co-operate with the various State Government insurance organisations to achieve inter alia economies of scale and improved re-insurance facilities;
The provision of house insurance cover at premiums comparable with those being offered by the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Defence Service Homes loans schemes;
The provision of adequate national disaster insurance: and
The need for comprehensive legislation on the supervision, regulation and control of the insurance industry in the light of recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission.
River Murray System
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 8, 1 shall move:
That in the opinion of this House a national approach must be adopted to the management and control ofthe River Murray system.
Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 9, I shall move:
That the House of Representatives, noting the report of the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, presented to both Houses on 30 September 197S, and accepting the recommendations made by the Joint Committee, resolves in the terms outlined in the notice moved in similar terms by me and listed for general business on the previous notice paper.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 10, I shall move:
That a select committee of this House be appointed to inquire into and make recommendations to the House within 12 months on measures to reduce the disadvantages incurred by people living in rural areas, particularly with regard to-
Corporations and Securities Industry
-! give notice of my intention to present on general business Thursday No. 1 1, a Bill for an Act relating to the corporations and securities industry.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 1 , 1 shall move:
That in the opinion of this House the system of unemployment benefits should be restructured so that some ofthe current abuses of the scheme can be avoided and, at the same time, more adequate assistance be given to genuine cases in real need.
- Mr Speaker, I give notice of my intention to present on general business Thursday No. 12, a Bill for an Act to make certain provisions with respect to safety and with respect to the rehabilitation of disabled persons and to provide for the payment of benefits in respect of incapacity or death as a result of personal injury.
River Murray System
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 13, I shall move:
That this House notes the urgency of problems associated with the management and control of water in the River Murray Valley and the River Murray Basin.
- Mr Speaker, I give notice of my intention to present on general business Thursday No. 14, a Bill for an Act relating to the prevention of pollution of the marine environment.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 15, 1 shall move:
That, acknowledging that the Federal system is the most appropriate to Australia’s needs, and that a government committed to centralist and socialist policies is not in accord wilh the interests of Australians, this House is of the opinion that the manifestation of that federalism through economic federalism needs to:
1 ) be fair and just as between the Commonwealth and the States;
take account ofthe effects of export and manufacturing industries in each State and their contribution towards supporting the taxable capacity for each state;
acknowledge the net value added to real wealth through the industry of each State;
take account ofthe differential effects of monetary policy in each State and the role played by State controlled banks and financial institutions; and
5 ) take full account of the taxable capacity of each State if and when the States levy their own income tax: and these principles of economic federalism can only hope to find fulfilment within a predominantly free enterprise society.
Australian Assistance Plan
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 3, 1 shall move:
That this House directs the Government to introduce legislation forthwith to provide for the statutory establishment and funding of the Australian Assistance Plan.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 2, 1 shall move:
That in the opinion of this House the end of the era of high interest rates, inaugurated by the previous Labour Administration, is already long overdue, and
That, accordingly, this House is of the opinion that the Government should devise and implement a plan for substantial reduction of interest rates.
-! give notice of my intention to present on general business Thursday No. 4 a Bill for an Act relating to trading and financial corporations formed within the limits of Australia, foreign corporations and certain other corporations.
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 5, 1 shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that in all future environmental investigations involving industrial and rnining projects any recommendation to terminate, phase out or to alter the project be rejected unless the following conditions are satisfied:
a ) the national economic effects of the recommendation have been evaluated in terms of their detrimental effects on employment, income and population support;
b ) the regional and State economic effects of the recommendation have been evaluated in terms of their detrimental effects on employment, income and population support;
where an export industry is involved the ability of that industry to contribute towards the balance of trade and the balance of payments has been evaluated; and
alternative and viable proposals have been made to compensate for the industry or the project recommended to be terminated or phased out.
Privy Council Appeals
-! give notice of my intention to present on general business Thursday No. 7 a Bill for an Act for the abolition of certain appeals from courts in Australia to the Privy Council and to effect certain repeals.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That, in the opinion of this House, the proper adviser of the Governor-General in relation to the discharge of his duties under section 56 of the Constitution, insofar as they relate to appropriation of revenue of moneys for the service of this House, is not a Minister but Mr Speaker.
-I give notice that on some future general business day I shall move -
-Order! The notice is out of order.
-Will you tell me what number it is, Mr Speaker?
-I will not offer advice to the honourable gentleman. He will need to take that for himself.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House and the nation are entitled to better information about subversive communist activities in the community so that people may know who their real enemies are and may be enabled to take measures to protect themselves from them.
– I give notice that as the second motion on general business Thursday No. 6 1 shall move:
To ensure that Australia’s foreign policy is directed to this country’s best long term interests it should:
Recognise Australia’s capacity and obligation to influence events, especially in the Asian region.
Be supported by an adequate defence willingness on the part of the people.
Inform the Australian people of the aims of imperialistic international and national movements, including communism.
Maintain the moral probity, balance and evenhandedness of its judgments and actions.
Deal sympathetically with the hopes and aims of refugees, especially from countries who have been recent Australian allies.
Granting of Supply
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That I have leave to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the granting of Supply on the dissolution of both Houses of Parliament in case of certain deadlocks between them.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the national compensation legislation which was introduced by the previous Labor Government and which provided that people who suffered injury were entitled to receive 85 per cent of their normal weekly earnings. I refer also to the compensation paid to the victims of the Darwin cyclone. Is the Prime Minister aware that the provisions of that compensation legislation were applicable to the people who were injured in the Darwin cyclone? Is he aware that some 30 people have been receiving compensatory benefits in accordance with the terms of that national compensation legislation? Is he aware that the Government has now decided to terminate those compensation payments as from the 31st of this month? Accordingly, as many people have suffered permanent injury- there are 2 paraplegics as a result of the Darwin cyclone in my electorate- will he urgently reconsider the situation in order that these people who suffered permanent damage and also those who are the dependants of deceased people will receive substantial compensation as, in fact, was applied to all those in Darwin who suffered property loss?
– I shall examine the position and see what information can be given to the honourable gentleman.
-Has the Treasurer seen reports on the flooding in north Queensland as a result of Cyclone Otto? Is he aware of the extent of the damage caused by the cyclone in the Townsville, Ingham and other areas in north Queensland? Is the Government able to provide any assistance to the areas affected?
– I have been made aware of the very serious flooding which has taken place in parts of northern Queensland. I am informed that the Queensland Government has already declared a state of disaster in certain areas. I very much appreciate, as I am sure do honourable members generally, the concern which has been expressed by the honourable member for Herbert. I take this opportunity to say that he contacted me at the earliest opportunity to provide me with the latest information which was available directly from his own electorate. The Commonwealth has already embarked upon discussions with officials of the State Administration. I make it clear that any request which comes from Queensland will be dealt with quickly and sympathetically within the framework of the established natural disaster procedures. Under these procedures the Commonwealth is prepared to join the State Government on a dollarfordollar basis in meeting expenditure on the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress, except where such expenditure is of a very minor nature.
I should mention also that in respect of major disasters- it is too early to say whether the present situation will come within this categorythe Commonwealth assists also with expenditures on agreed relief and restoration measures. I give my colleague, the honourable member for Herbert, a very firm assurance that the Commonwealth will be giving consideration of this matter the highest priority during the period ahead. We are waiting for information from officers of the State Administration. My officials are in urgent contact with them now. I hope to be in a position in the course of the next 24 hours to let the honourable gentleman know what the situation will be in respect of assistance.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Does he agree with the statement that unemployment in Australia is a myth?
-The honourable gentleman would well know that the Government’s policies are directed towards achieving a full recovery in the Australian economy that will enable soundly based businesses to operate and to provide employment for those Australians who wish to work. I think also it ought to be understood that for those who want to work and who are unable to find work the personal tragedy involved is a very great one indeed not only for the individual but also for the family as a whole. I hope that every honourable member of this House shares that view. At the same time I think a large number of members of this House are also aware of people who have travelled to certain areas where there has not been much work and who seem not to want to work. The obligation that the Commonwealth has to those who could work but who do not want to work is something which I think honourable members should be able to examine if they feel inclined to have proper concern for the way in which taxpayers’ dollars are spent. There have been widespread allegations of abuse in this matter. The Government would be derelict in its duty if it were not prepared to try to examine that aspect. When we have the results of the Norgard inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service I think we all might be better advised about the facts of the situation.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that proprietors of fish and chip shops, among others, are having great difficulty in obtaining unskilled workers and that these proprietors are being disadvantaged by the present immigration policy of excluding such likely workers coming from overseas on the grounds that such workers are still available in Australia? Will the Minister consider instituting a more sophisticated yet practical classification system within his Department which will relate with greater accuracy and realism all those activities in Australia which continue to experience great difficulties in filling job vacancies including, of course, fish and chip shops?
– I am not aware of the situation that the honourable member describes. Guidelines are, of course, laid down for eligibility for entry to Australia having regard to the previous experience and skills of the applicants wanting to come to this country and the labour market demand for that experience and/or skill. The Commonwealth Employment Service is working under great pressure at present. That position will be alleviated to a considerable extent by the recent decision of the Government in agreeing to an increase of 300 officers in the staff ceilings of the CES. That is a direct result of comments made to me by Mr Norgard during the course of his inquiry which amounts, as the Prime Minister has just said, to a fundamental review of all the operations of the CES. I hesitate to do anything which would add to the work load of the CES in its present difficult circumstances, but nevertheless I will see that the honourable member’s suggestion receives detailed consideration.
– Does the Treasurer accept that the living standards of Australians as measured by the consumer price index have risen by 6 per cent in the December quarter? Does he also agree that as there was virtually no increase in wages in that quarter Australians have suffered a 6 per cent drop in their living standards?
-I really do not know what the honourable gentleman is seeking to get at, but it sounds very similar to the type of fatuous nonsense that the honourable member for Adelaide has been talking about recently in relation to what he calls a fall in real household disposable income. That is the concept at which the honourable gentleman who poses the question ought to be looking. In response to the question about living standards, if the honourable gentleman looks at the latest information available in regard to the movement in the real household disposable income index he will find a rise in real terms over the year to the September quarter. That increase, which is obviously a measurement of living standards, was 3.8 per cent.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He will be aware of the record surplus achieved by the Australian Telecommunications Commission in the last 6 months. I ask the Minister whether he is in a position to have discussions with Telecom with a view to seeing whether that organisation is prepared to take a more lenient attitude towards charging for the provision of services, particularly in rural areas. He will be aware of the significant concern expressed by so many people who live in -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now providing information. I call the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– The likely result for the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the full financial year will probably be a surplus of about $ 1 50m. If one wants to gear that to the capital invested, one is talking about a return of just below 3 per cent. I know that a lot of people say that Telecom ought not be looked at as if it were a business undertaking; it is really part of the government. The Commission has a responsibility to administer its affairs in accordance with the Act. It has to fund at least SO per cent of its capital requirements out of internal revenue. This year the capital requirements of Telecom are about $9l0m. Therefore it must find more than $450m out of internal revenue. All the surplus is allocated to the extension of the network and the creation of facilities for communication for Australians. The Australian community owns Telecom. Any surplus goes back for the benefit of the Australian community. Of course the Government is concerned about costs in rural areas. So is the Commission. The honourable member may know that a committee of Government members and I have had substantial discussions with Telecom. We have taken a number of initiatives to try to improve the service and to reduce costs. I would like him to know that, as a policy attitude, the Telecommunications Commission is determined to try to improve services and to reduce wherever possible costs throughout the Australian rural community.
-Has the Prime Minister said that he is opposed to machines replacing men? If so, why does he subsidise machines by giving a 40 per cent investment allowance, and penalise labour by allowing the continuation of payroll taxes?
– I think the honourable gentleman is simplifying a certain proposition to much too great an extent. Quite obviously there is a process of mechanisation throughout industry and has been for a very long while. The point I was seeking to make was that if Australians- that includes, I would hope, every person in this House- want full employment in this country and want to recapture the circumstances in which everyone who wants a job can get one, some industries, I think, will have to be reasonably labour intensive. If one wants to establish the mechanisms of lack of protection, which makes certain that all those industries disappear from Australia, I believe that this country would be very much worse off because we would not have the kind of employment situation which basically we need. Much of this is bound up with the rate of change. Quite obviously there is a speed of change which industry can undertake in a reasonable and proper manner. If one tries to force the pace of change too much, there will be a very serious situation and many people will lose their jobs. In the manufacturing industry, for example, wages rose by 53 per cent in the 2 years to October, at a time when productivity in the manufacturing industry actually fell. Roughly 100 000 people lost their jobs in manufacturing industry over that period. I hope the honourable gentleman will not try to over simplify matters that have quite complex relationships with each other.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the serious problems facing the Tasmanian export apple industry? Does the Minister know what is happening in relation to the Tasmanian Government’s proposal to establish an authority to market Tasmanian apples this season? Will Commonwealth moneys be used to support the operation of the authority? This is a very serious question.
-I thank the honourable member for Franklin for the question because he has been very vocal since his election to this House in expressing to the full knowledge of every one of us the plight that many of his constituents face in the fairly serious circumstances of the Tasmanian apple industry. The present position has been aggravated, as the honourable member knows and as many others may not know, because last year there were difficulties with fruit that was shipped on consignment, in particular to the United Kingdom from Tasmania, not coming out of the box as well as the importers had hoped. As a result some fairly heavy losses were incurred. As a consequence this year there have been some quite real difficulties in placing fruit both in the United Kingdom and I understand in Hamburg. Fortunately some fairly worthwhile placements have been made in the Scandinavian countries. I understand there is an expectation of some sales to Denmark. The position regarding the Hamburg and the United Kingdom markets and the disposal of fruit on consignment is such that there is a very real worry as to what might happen with fruit exports, particularly from Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Government, I am told, although I have not been advised officially, has decided on the recommendation of a number of protagonists in Tasmania to set up some type of a statutory marketing authority which is intended to handle fruit shipped to the United Kingdom and Germany. The circumstances and character of the proposed marketing authority, the arrangements that are to apply with respect to the financing of the fruit and to the payment of growers are, however, quite unknown to me. It is true that supplementary assistance is to be provided by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States and that discussions are continuing to determine the way by which this might best be provided. However, I have no foreknowledge of this being in any way related to the statutory marketing authority.
I very sincerely share the concern of the honourable member for Franklin at what seems to be a quite critical situation developing in respect of the export of Tasmanian fruit. I assure the honourable gentleman that anything he or fruit growers in Tasmania seek to undertake will certainly receive a sympathetic hearing from the Federal Government. The Chairman of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation and Mr Reg Walker, who I understand is the Chairman of the Tasmanian Fruit Marketing Board, will shortly return from the United Kingdom and Europe. A meeting of the Apple and Pear Corporation will take place in Melbourne on 18 March to consider the situation. I would hope that by that time and after hearing that report the position might be a little clearer and perhaps the State and Federal governments will then be able to consult in respect of the necessary action to be taken. In any event, if there is any action being taken by the State Government it will of course not involve Commonwealth finance without the Commonwealth being aware of it and being agreeable to it.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government decided to review the automatic consumer price index adjustments to pensions and the unemployment benefit embodied in the Social Services Amendment Act of 1976? If it has not, will the Prime Minister give his assurance that the CPI adjustments as currently enacted will continue?
– As the House is aware, the Parliament last year amended the Social Services Act to provide for the automatic indexation of pensions in accordance with upward movements in the consumer price index. The Government has not given any further consideration to the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Council of Social Service has had to dismiss three of its four staff members because of its present financial situation? Is the Minister also aware that the director’s position is also in jeopardy because of lack of finance? Can the Minister inform the House whether QCOSS has approached the Government for financial assistance? Can the Minister detail whether moneys will be forthcoming to enable QCOSS to continue at an acceptable level of service to the community or whether alternative methods of funding are available?
– I am aware from statements recently reported in the Queensland Press that the Queensland Council of Social Service is having difficulty in meeting staff payment commitments it had made. The Queensland Minister for Health stated recently that the Queensland Government had no funds available to it to help the Council. The honourable member will recall that on coming to power the Government allocated a further $60,000 to the Council to enable it to honour its commitments. The Government has no further funds available to it at this time to assist the Council. In addition to Government support, the Council may call upon community and voluntary organisations for support, as one would have thought it would have done already. I suggest that it do that immediately to overcome its budgetary problem. However, I will refer the totality of the question to the Minister for Social Security. No doubt she will provide the most up-to-date information for the honourable member’s benefit.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. He will remember that a fortnight ago both the honourable member for Hunter and I asked questions about the issue of a visa to an American citizen with an established criminal record. I now ask: Is it a fact, as was reported subsequently, that that person was met on arrival and escorted through Customs at Sydney Airport by Commonwealth police officers 2 days before we asked our questions? When did the Attorney-General or the police learn of that person’s pending arrival? Why was it considered necessary for him to be met by Commonwealth police officers? Did the Attorney-General consult with his colleagues responsible for the issue of visas or did the police consult with the relevant departments before it was arranged for the police to meet this visitor?
-I think the question I answered, I answered on behalf of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, who was then ill. The answer I gave was based on the information that I had received. I cannot assist the honourable gentleman in regard to the detail of the question that he asks. I will refer it to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I have no doubt that he will give an answer.
-What about the police?
-I have answered the question.
– Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that the Commonwealth Employment Service is assisting in the recruitment of staff for abortion clinics? Has the Minister any information about the circumstances surrounding an incident in Canberra recently when a representative from a Sydney abortion clinic operated by Population Services International used the offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service at Woden to interview job applicants selected by the CES for a proposed abortion clinic at Phillip? Does the Commonwealth Employment Service look at the industrial relations of the firms to which it sends applicants? Does the Commonwealth Employment Service know that some staff of Population Services International in Sydney resigned recently in protest over working conditions? Did the Commonwealth Employment Service check with the Capital Territory Health Commission before assisting Population Services International, to find out whether the proposed abortion clinic would be within the law and would meet all requirements for health clinics? Finally, if the Minister is not familiar with the matters to which I refer, will he undertake to have them examined by his Department?
– The honourable member has asked a number of questions. This issue has been brought to my attention. As far as I am able to establish, the facts are these: Population Services International originally applied to the Commonwealth Employment Service on or about 21 January this year, calling itself the Phillip Medical Centre- a group of doctors setting up a medical centre at Phillip in the Australian Capital Territory. At that time it lodged requests with the Commonwealth Employment Service for 9 professional, semi-professional and clerical staff. The applicants selected by the CES were interviewed, as the honourable member said, at the Woden CES office on 8 February by a representative of the firm. Final interviews subsequently took place also at the Woden office, I understand, on 16 and 17 February. All the vacancies in fact were filled by referrals from the CES. The CES did not check or consider it necessary to check with the ACT Health Commission before assisting the Phillip Medical Centre in filling its vacancies because the CES was under the clear impression that the centre was, as had been represented to the CES, a medical centre. It was only after the interviews were completed that several applicants then stated to the CES staff that they were not prepared to accept positions with the Phillip Medical Centre because it was explained to them during their final interviews that abortions would be performed at this centre. I might add that the CES has no actual obligation to assist all employers seeking its help to recruit staff but it does assist provided an employer is operating within the law. In this instance the CES had no reason to believe that in fact this employer was not operating within the law. I am not aware of any staff resigning from Population Services International in Sydney over working conditions. I am not saying that that did not happen. All I am saying is that I am not aware of it. The CES does not normally look into the industrial relations of the firms to which it sends applicants. However, if it is brought to the notice of the CES that there may be a breach of a Federal award or of conditions or terms of employment the matter is immediately investigated by the arbitration inspectorate of my Department to see whether appropriate action should be taken. If the honourable member believes and has evidence to suggest that that in fact has occurred at some other branches of this organisation then appropriate action will be taken.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has he been advised that the floating dock at the Newcastle State Dockyards has been declared unsafe and is no longer available for dockings? Is he aware of the serious effect this will have on the future employment of about 200 men who are permanently employed on the dock? Is it correct that 5 firm dockings which would have involved work valued at about $500,000 and which would have provided employment for about 200 men have been cancelled and that further cancellations will now have to follow? Has the Premier of New South Wales, Mr Wran, made repeated representations to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to assist the New South Wales Government to replace the now unsafe dock? If representations have been made, can the Prime Minister give me some indication of his Government’s response? Finally, has the Commonwealth Government been considering making a special grant, similar to the Fraser Island grant, for the Newcastle district to help provide employment for the unemployed dockyard workers following the Commonwealth Government’s decision to place orders in Japan for the building of four 15 000 tonne bulk ships for the Australian National Line? Can the Prime Minister tell the House what is the present position in this matter, bearing in mind that the level of unemployment in the Newcastle district is the highest of any centre in Australia?
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and his Department have, through the normal processes, as I understand it, undertaken to make sure that the services of the Department and the programs of the Government are fully understood in relation to anyone who may be displaced as a result of a continuation of the previous Government’s policy in regard to support for the shipbuilding industry. I think that the honourable member is in rather an odd circumstance because he was the person who ordered 4 large ships from Sweden and Germany respectively.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to order.
– I have not finished the answer yet, Mr Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle is taking a point of order.
– My point of order is that not one of the four 220 000 tonne and 240 000 tonne ships could be built in any shipyard in Australia.
-The honourable gentleman does not have a point of order. He will resume his seat.
-Of course, if the honourable gentleman had been really serious about providing work for Australian shipbuilding yards he might well have been able to order ships that could have been constructed in Australian yards instead of perhaps deliberately choosing ones that could not. I am not aware of having received any approach in recent times from Mr Wran in connection with the floating dock, although I have seen Press reports about it. I must say that it is not entirely unusual to read of these things first in the Press. The other thing that I would like to say, and of which I think this House is already aware, is that the last I heard of Mr Wran being serious about a floating dock was that he was considering ordering a replacement overseas. I have not heard over the last several months whether he has felt able to make a decision in relation to that.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been referred to recent reports that undesirable pornographic literature using children has been on sale in shops in Sydney and Melbourne? Has this literature been imported from overseas? Has approval been given for the importation of the literature? What steps does the Attorney-General propose to take in relation to the matter?
– Reports have appeared in the newspapers and on television with regard to literature which was supposed to have been on sale under the counter in I think New South Wales and Victoria. I have seen some literature. I do not know whether it is identical with the literature on sale, but if it is identical it is literature which bears the mark of having been produced overseas. It is literature which represents children in various sexual poses. Honourable members will be aware that the basic policy of both the Government and the Opposition is that adults should be entitled to hear and see what they wish. In the past films have been brought into this country pursuant to regulation 4a of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations and they are classified by the Film Censorship Board. Literature that is presented comes to officers of my Department. If it is indecent or obscene they will prohibit it under regulation 4A.
I have caused inquiries to be made of officers of my Department and they have told me that, as far as they could ascertain, literature of this character would be prohibited. From time to time articles of this description come before them and they prohibit them. If such items are on sale in Sydney or Melbourne and if they come from overseas, according to my inquiries they have come in illegally. It is very difficult to police the import of articles of this character. They may come in in somebody’s brief case or in a bag as well as in commercial quantities. If they come in they can then be used as the basis for the production of literature for disposal. However in New South Wales and Victoria, and perhaps in other States, I understand all literature, even literature of this character, is available but if it is of this particular character it will be marked for direct sale and I gather that it has to be put under the counter.
Having looked at the literature which is alleged to be of the same character I have certainly formed the view that it is literature that ought not to be available anywhere in Australia because it exploits young children. If any honourable member thinks I am harsh in that regard, I invite him to look at some of the literature. I have some of it in my office. Following representations from New South Wales, I propose to call a meeting of ministers dealing with censorship, to see what steps can be taken to impose some limit on this type of material in the States and Territories so that material that would be prohibited at the point of entry would also be prohibited from sale in shops around the country, whether they be sex shops, newsagents or any other kind of shop. I hope that meeting will take place at an early date after a meeting of officers has been held.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to supplement an answer that I gave earlier in relation to a question about the issue of a visa to a person with a criminal record. I apprehend, from certain interjections that were made when I concluded that answer, that the Leader of the Opposition might have thought that I was responsible for the Commonwealth Police. I will refer to the Minister for Administrative Services, who is responsible for the Commonwealth Police, that part of the question which relates to the Commonwealth Police. I, of course, as Attorney-General, am not responsible for the Commonwealth Police.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Capital Territory. Has the Islamic Society of the Australian Capital Territory been refused permission to build extensions to the Canberra mosque at Yarralumla? Did the Minister take this decision on the advice of his Department? What reasons has he given for the decision? Is he aware that the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is deeply concerned by the decision and that it is regarded by some Muslims as an act of discrimination against the Islamic faith?
– The decision which I made concerning the mosque is in no way related to the matters touched upon by the honourable member. The decision was based entirely upon the residential nature of the district in which the proposed development was to take place. I will be notifying my reasons in writing shortly.
– I address a question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Is he aware of recent falling prices for wheat in world markets? Can he advise what he and his Department are doing to prevent the recurrence of a long period of low prices for wheat with consequent disruption to the wheat industry? Does the recent sale by the grower controlled Australian Wheat Board to the People ‘s Republic of China indicate that the Wheat Board is controlled by growers who are not only world class producers but also top class businessmen?
-I agree with the honourable member that we have a very effective selling organisation in the Australian Wheat Board. It has a great record of being able to dispose of most of Australia’s wheat. There were bad periods in the 1 960s when there were huge gluts but, compared with any other country, I think we do extremely well. The honourable member is correct when he says that there has been a marked slump in the international prices of wheat. This has followed a number of years of relatively high prices. The weaker price situation has been due to increased crops in the northern hemisphere. The attitude of the Australian Government has always been to foster international marketing organisations to try to stabilise and obtain reasonable prices for our wheat. For the past 20 years Australia has been involved in international wheat agreements and international grains arrangements. These fell apart in about 1972 and all Australia obtained was a new international wheat agreement. This contained no pricing or economic provisions but it did keep the International Wheat Council going and this has been a forum for discussion. The Government has been very active in making representations to that body to try to obtain a new international wheat agreement which contains economic provisions. Unfortunately, progress has been pretty limited because of different opinions between the United States of America and the European Economic Community.
I was very heartened at lunch time today when Otto Lang, the Canadian Minister who is a representative on the International Wheat Council, rang me to tell me of his recent discussions with the new Secretary for Agriculture in the United States, who is keen that we have discussions to try to firm up the international marketing situation. As a result of that, I am sending the Secretary of my Department to Ottawa in a few weeks time to have an officials meeting. It is most heartening that the United States is interested in doing something. This, of course, can be an important part of the multilateral trade negotiations which are due to come forward perhaps this year. I think that if we can do the groundwork we have got every chance of getting a new international wheat agreement.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will remember stating on 1 1 November 1976 that he had an express undertaking from the Majority Leader of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly that any draft ordinances complementary to this Parliament s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act would be prepared in consultation with htm and must be acceptable to him. He will also remember stating on 14 November that if the Territory legislation was considered unsatisfactory the Government could refer it back to the
Legislative Assembly for amendment or could recommend that consent to it be withheld. I ask the Minister: Has the Majority Leader of the Assembly in fact ignored his undertaking and introduced the Aboriginal Lands and Sacred Sites Ordinance 1977 without consulting him? Will the Minister reiterate his statement of 14 November that he would ensure that the Territory legislation accords with Aboriginal wishes and that the Government will not recommend consent to that ordinance if it contravenes the recommendations of Mr Justice A. E. Woodward?
– The honourable gentleman correctly restates the statements which I made to this House back in November last year. The commitment then given by the Majority Leader of the Legislative Assembly, through the Minister for the Northern Territory, was that the complementary legislation would be prepared with my involvement and with my agreement. That commitment still stands. There was consultation between Dr Letts and me in December just after this Parliament rose, and then officers held discussions on 28 January. It is a fact that I had not seen the legislation before it was introduced into the Legislative Assembly. I have now seen it. In fact, I saw it today. I am studying it. I spoke to Dr Letts about the matter today. The stand that I took last year is the stand I take now. I give the commitments that I have given previously to the Aboriginal people. Their wishes will be taken into account and the legislation will be studied to see that it accords with Commonwealth policies.
– Pursuant to section 10 of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947 I present the report of the operations of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, insofar as they relate to Australia, for the financial year 1 975-76.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the fifth session of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea held in New York from 2 August to 1 7 September 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on bench or pedestal drilling machines not power fed.
Mr ELLICOTT ( WentworthAttorneyGeneral) by leave- On 25 February 1977 the Senate passed by absolute majorities the Bills in respect of the proposed laws to alter the Constitution-
To ensure that the Senate elections are held at the same time as House of Representatives elections;
To ensure so far as practicable that a casual vacancy in the Senate is filled by a person of the same political Party as the senator chosen by the people and for the balance of his term;
To provide for retiring ages forjudges of Federal courts; and
To allow electors in Territories, as well as electors in the States, to vote at referendums on proposed laws to alter the Constitution.
This House had previously passed these Bills on 17 February 1977. In order to comply with the requirements of section 128 of the Constitution these Bills must be submitted to the electors in each State not less than two nor more than six months after their passage through both Houses. I now inform honourable members that the Government has decided that the referendums for these proposed alterations to the Constitution will be held on 21 May 1977. The Government will be recommending to the Governor-General that the writs issue on 27 April. The electoral rolls for the referendums will close on the day the writs issue.
The conduct of the referendums is governed by the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act 1906. Provision is made in that Act for an argument in favour of, and also against, a proposed law to be forwarded to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer, who is then responsible for having the arguments printed and for posting a copy to each elector. Any such argument must, in accordance with the Act, be forwarded to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer by 25 March 1977. An argument in favour of a proposed law must be authorised by majority of those members of both Houses who voted for it and who desire to forward such an argument. A similar authorisation requirement applies in relation to an argument against a proposed law. The Government is preparing the Yes case in favour of the proposed laws for submission to the Chief Australian Electoral Officer on behalf of those who voted for the proposed laws. In preparing the case the Government will consult with the Leader of the Opposition (MrE. G. Whitlam).
The Chief Australian Electoral Officer is required to post the pamphlet to electors not later than 2 weeks after the issue of the writs.
Concurrently with the referendums all electors are to have the opportunity to express on a voluntary basis their wishes as to the tune of a national song. A poll will be conducted on the basis that God Save the Queen is the national anthem to be played on regal and vice-regal occasions, but that on other occasions it will be appropriate for a national song to be played. For this purpose electors will be asked to express their preferences for the following tunes:
God Save the Queen
Song of A ustralia
The Government believes that it is desirable that all electors should be able to indicate their wishes as to which of these tunes should be adopted for our national song and the holding of the referendums to alter the Constitution on 2 1 May will provide an ideal opportunity for this purpose. The electors of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be able to participate in this poll for the national song, although it is not possible to provide for them, at this point of time, to participate in the referendums to alter the Constitution.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s policy of substantially reducing real wage and salary levels.
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-
-When the Fraser Government was elected to office at the end of 1975 it was elected on the basis of various promises made to the Australian people, one of which was to support wage indexation. Of course, as I said in this House a year ago, it took the Government only 2 months or less to break that promise. However, there was some dispute on the Government side at that time as to whether or not it was in fact breaking its promise. In our view it was quite clear, but the Government seemed to want to argue the other way. I suggest that now it would be rather difficult for it to argue any longer that it supports wage indexation. What is happening in the current wage indexation case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is that the Government is arguing that real wages should be cut by 4 per cent in this quarter; that there should be no increase in the following quarter; and that the Commission then should look at the whole issue at the end of the June quarter. Quite clearly, this is a policy to substantially cut the real level of wages and salaries in this country. There is no getting around that fact. If wages are not adjusted for increases in prices, the real value of wages declines. If that goes on quarter after quarter, the reduction accordingly becomes more and more severe.
Already there has been a 2 per cent decline in real award wages because of the failure of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to apply full wage indexation to wages and salaries. This has been mainly at the behest of the Commonwealth Government, which has pressured the Commission to give substantially less than full wage indexation. But that 2 per cent decline will pale into insignificance if the Commonwealth has its way in the future. As I have said, in the current case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Government in effect is arguing for 30 per cent indexation- for a $2.90 increase, and no more. That would mean roughly a 2 per cent increase in wages overall. With a 6 per cent increase in prices, that would mean a 4 per cent cut in real wages and salaries taken overall. With no increase in the March quarter, there would be a cut of another 31/2 per cent or so in the real level of wages. The Government has said in the present case- this might be news to many members of the Government Parties- that its estimate of inflation in the March quarter is 31/2 per cent. So there will be a 4 per cent cut in real wages now and a31/2 per cent cut in the March quarter; and, if there is no further wage increase throughout 1977, there will be a very substantial cut indeed.
In the present case the Government is talking about a minimum of 1 1.8 per cent inflation in 1977. It has said that if there is an increase of only $2.90 a week in this case and no other increases whatever in wages and salaries this calendar year, through either indexation or any other means- either in award rates or overaward rates- the rate of inflation will still be 1 1.8 per cent. This means, in effect, that we will still have double figure inflation no matter what happens to wages this calendar year. In that situation, of course, there would be a drastic cut in real wage standards; there would be a cut of at least 10 per cent. But that is the way in which the Commonwealth Government seems to be arguing. I suggest that this is a matter of enormous importance for this Parliament. For a government to be arguing publicly that there should be a cut of this order in the real wage levels is extraordinary. I cannot think of a previous occasion on which any Commonwealth government has put such a submission to the people or to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Yet here we have it.
An argument that has been put up and that was put up again by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) during question time today against the idea that a cut in real wages in fact means a cut in living standards, which we suggest is certainly the case, is that we have to look at household disposable income and that if we do so a different picture emerges. This is total deception or selfdelusion I am not sure which. But, in any case, it certainly is not the truth. Household disposable income did go up slightly in the September quarter, as the Treasurer mentioned during question time; but, if we look at what has been happening to it and what is likely to happen to it, we see that there is no doubt that it is substantially down. If real wage levels are to be cut to the extent that is in prospect and that has been the case already, very substantial fiscal policy changes certainly will be needed to overcome the effect. Those changes have not been forthcoming.
Tax indexation is the one thing to which the Government can point with any chance of proving its point; but tax indexation does no more than maintain the tax level at what it was in the previous year. It does not represent a tax cut. It is an adjustment made each year to stop the tax burden from getting higher with inflation. So the Government cannot point to tax indexation as a means of adjusting household disposable income to make up for a reduction in real wages and salaries. That argument is just not valid. It is completely false. In fact, if we look at the figures on disposable household income produced by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social
Research in its publication Australian Economic Review 3rd Quarter 1976 we see that in the first half of 1976 under the Fraser Government the real value of household disposable income fell by 1.4 per cent. The Institute estimated then 0.9 per cent increase for the second quarter, but since then it has had further thoughts about that. In the Australian Economic Review 4th Quarter 1976 the Institute became more worried about the prospect of declining household disposable income. It made this point:
Real average male earnings before tax are estimated to fall by 2.5 per cent in the three years to the final quarter of 1977 -
That is with 80 per cent wage indexation and a 2 per cent increase outside indexation- while in after-tax terms (for a man with a dependent wife and two children, and including Medibank payments) the decline over this period is likely to bc 5 to 6 per cent, with the heaviest falls concentrated in the final quarter of 1976 and the first quarter of 1977.
I should have thought that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) would have been interested in this. What he is being told is that for a man with a dependent wife and 2 dependent children household disposable income is falling markedly at present and is likely to fall heavily over the 3-year period, but particularly in the last quarter of 1976 and the first quarter of 1977. That assumes 80 per cent wage indexation. But the Government is not pursuing 80 per cent wage indexation; it is pursuing 30 per cent wage indexation now and virtually nothing for the future. This must mean that household disposable income will decline by much more drastic figures than those I have just quoted. The Government should not try to argue that it can cut real wage levels without it really affecting household disposable income because of what it has done by way of tax indexation and family allowances, which were largely offset by the abolition of tax rebates for children anyway. That argument is totally false; it will not wash. The Government is not fooling anybody but itself. It certainly is not fooling the people, who are starting to feel the impact of the cutbacks in their standard of living and who will feel it much more heavily if the Government’s wage policies and fiscal policies are maintained.
The Government’s rationale for pursuing this drastic and incredible policy of slashing the living standards of the Australian people is that first of all it wants to reduce inflation. We share its concern for the need to reduce inflation. The Opposition is strongly concerned about high inflation in this country. The argument we have with the Government is not about the need to reduce inflation; it is about the means which the Government implements to do so. We have put forward proposals to reduce the rate of inflation. Because we are concerned about inflation we have been horrified by the actions taken by the Government, particularly in relation to Medibank and devaluation, which have had such a stimulating effect on inflation. To add 3.2 per cent to the consumer price index, as the Government has done through its Medibank rearrangements which were made for purely ideological reasons; to add 3 per cent to prices through devaluation- the figure of 3 per cent comes from figures given by the Commonwealth Government in the current national wage case- or to add 6.2 per cent overall through those 2 measures is an incredible exercise for a government which said that its prime aim was to reduce the rate of inflation. What a totally irresponsible set of actions they were in terms of the Government’s stated prime objective.
The inflation figures, which I have mentioned and which were given by the Commonwealth Government in the current case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, show that we will have 11.8 per cent- virtually 12 per cent- inflation with virtually no wage increases this year. That will be partly because of devaluation, partly because of the Medibank figures and, of course, partly because of the flow-on of the underlying inflation rate which the Government has not yet succeeded in doing much to reduce. What this policy really amounts to is that the Government is arguing that wage and salary earners should pay for the mistakes it has made; that the wage and salary earners should pay for the fact that the Government has added 3.2 per cent to prices through Medibank rearrangements and has added 3 per cent to prices through devaluation. The Government is arguing that the wage and salary earners should pay this price by having their living standards cut as this is the only means left to reduce inflation. The policy is incredible, appalling and totally irresponsible. If it had been put forward at the last election honourable members opposite would not have got within a cooee of being elected as a government.
Another part of the Government’s rationale for undertaking this action is the transfer of income from wage and salary earners to profits. The Government wants to bring about this transfer. It is said by the Government’s economic spokesman that it is basic to economic recovery in this country that we have a transfer of incomes from wage and salary earners to profits because only then will companies be stimulated enough to invest and thereby bring about recovery. We say that this is a totally false argument. The fact is that profits have recovered substantially from the trough into which they fell a year or so ago. Profits are now back to 85 per cent of their normal long term share. In the midst of the worst economic recession in 40 years company profits are back to something like 85 per cent of the normal long term share after being 65 per cent at one stage. That is a substantial recovery. With profits at 85 per cent of the normal long term share companies are not doing too bad given that we are in this severe recession. It is always the case in a recession that the profit share falls and the wages share goes up. It is absurd to point to the fact that the profit share is down and to say that that is the cause of the recession. It is much more likely that the profit share is down because of the recession.
The Government in our view is totally mixing up cause and effect. If one looks at what has happened in after tax terms one sees that companies are much better off still than one imagines from looking at the basic shares. In after tax terms the profits that are being earned now will bc taxed much more lightly than profits have been taxed in the past. Company tax has effectively been cut by one-third. So there is a much higher share than appears on the surface in after tax terms for companies.
This policy really amounts to a policy of making recession comfortable for business. It is not just making it comfortable for business; it is also ensuring that recession continues. By increasing the profitability for companies in the recession, the Government is slashing the living standards of wage and salary earners. If their living standards are being cut quarter after quarter it is highly unlikely- one would have thought logically absurd to argue- that they will start on a spending spree. That is the basis of the Government ‘s so-called whole economic policy.
The Budget Papers said last year- I am sure honourable members opposite will recall this - that recovery in consumption was crucial to economic recovery. We agree that it is crucial but it will not be achieved by slashing the real level of wages and salaries. The Government is slashing the real levels of wages and salaries and praying for a consumption recovery. That is just a totally hopeless economic policy and one which just cannot work. It is a guarantee of the continuance of the recession. It is more than likely that the recession will be made worse because it would be startling for consumption to be maintained at present levels with a cut in real wage standards. The Government is hoping for an increase in the level of consumption despite the cut in wages and salaries. We think that is just not on.
The fact is that the Government is trying to implement this crazy policy in various . ways which I do not have time to pursue in detail. Let me briefly say that the Government is placing the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in a quite invidious position. It is holding a gun at the Commission’s head and saying that if the Commission does not abide by the Government’s policy the Commission will be responsible for inflation. The Government is inviting the Commission to ignore industrial relations aspectsthings which it was set up to consider. The Government is inviting the Commission to ignore its basic charter concerning the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes and to look at no more than the economic arguments produced by the Government. The Government is also querying the consumer price index, an index which a standing tripartite commission said on 24 February was quite OK. That commission included representatives of the Government, the Department of -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) for enabling the Opposition’s dangerous and destructive wages policies- the anti-job policies- to be debated in this House. The Opposition pretends to be concerned with inflation and yet blindly persists in advocating policies which are certain to add to it. The honourable member for Gellibrand also, I am glad to say, referred to improved company results. I say in response to that that it is just as well for future employment in Australia that companies’ results have improved. Thanks to the disastrous policies of the Labor Government company profits declined to such an extent that 200 000 people lost their jobs. The Opposition apparently still does not realise that companies which do not make profits do not employ people.
Wages policy is a crucial part of general economic policy and most Australians now recognise that developments on wages have important implications for sustained economic recovery. The very rapid growth in real wages in Australia over recent years has been a major factor contributing to unemployment and inflation. The long term annual average growth in real wages in this country is about 3 per cent. In the 3 years to the end of 1 975 real wages grew by an amount of approximately equal to 6 years of normal growth. The continuing excessively high real level of wages must inevitably retard economic recovery because it forces employers to pass on the increased labour costs in an attempt to lift their profits to a level sufficient to provide an adequate return on investment. Apparently the honourable member for Gellibrand has forgotten some words spoken by his own Leader when he was Prime Minister. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) used these words:
The other thing that I wanted to say in this connection is the cause of unemployment now. And it is, frankly, the excessive wage increases. It’s always unpalatable of course for any Labor leader or any Labor member to say anything about wages and salaries about organised labour because as in Britain and New Zealand there are institutional affiliations between the Labor Party and the employees organisations. But one has got to bc frank in these facts.
Despite this seeming awareness of the Leader of the Opposition, and the undoubted recognition of this very fact as I mentioned a moment ago by the majority of Australians, what do we now find? We find the unions seeking not only maintenance of the excessively high level of real wages but also further adjustments for previous price movements. These developments on the wages front are occurring at a time when the economy is on a moderate growth path but with a continuation of the current rate of inflation posing a threat to sustained economic growth at our long term capacity.
The consumer price index increased by 14.4 per cent in the year to the December quarter compared with 14 per cent in the preceding 12 month period. Notwithstanding these figures there was, in fact, a considerable underlying improvement during 1976. To get an accurate picture allowance must be made for the way in which the changed arrangements for health insurance- the Medibank changes- have affected the CPI. The first effect was to reduce the recorded increase in the September and December quarters of 1975. Subsequently, Medibank changes boosted the recorded increase in the recent December quarter. The Opposition apparently continues to refuse to face the fact that health costs have to be paid for somehow. Abstracting those changes to Medibank, the CPI increased by 10.8 per cent in the year to December 1976, compared with 16.7 per cent from the previous year. The reduction in the underlying rate of inflation is also evident in other price indicators; for instance in the downward trend in building and manufacturing sector price increases. While aggregate demand and output have recently grown slightly the labour market still shows signs of hesitation with unemployment being a continuing cause of concern. Significant improvement in that area cannot be expected until the economic recovery is further advanced and sustained.
The decision to devalue the Australian dollar, forced upon the Government by a deterioration in our underlying external situation and insufficient wage moderation in 1 975-76, is likely to result in a pause in the progress we have made in reducing inflation. Devaluation can have positive benefits as part of a strategy aimed at fostering a balanced, sustainable economic recovery. For instance, devaluation by raising the price for imported goods enables manufacturers of import competing goods to improve their position in the Australian domestic market and in so doing to raise the level of employment in those industries. Exporters benefit in that their real income in Australian currency is increased, and as a consequence they too are encouraged to increase their level of investment and consumption with obvious beneficial effects on the Australian labour market. In addition to these benefits, there are some immediate cost increases which are unavoidable as domestic prices will increase for manufacturers and consumers who require imported goods. It is vital that these rises be kept to the minimum and that flow on and second round price effects, particularly through wage rises, be avoided to the maximum extent possible. For these reasons, the Government will be doing all in its power to ensure that wage increases are kept within reasonable bounds in 1977. The fight against inflation is a battle in which all Australians must be prepared to play their part. Only a concerted, collective effort can ensure successful attainment of the common objectives of economic recovery, the reduction of unemployment and the creation of sustainable prosperity.
I turn now to the elements of wage indexation itself. Principle 1 states that the Commission will adjust wages each quarter in relation to the most recent movement in the consumer price index, unless it is persuaded to the contrary by those seeking to oppose the adjustment’. The Commission has exercised the discretion afforded to it under this principle by awarding less than the full percentage increase in the CPI in 2 of its last 3 decisions. In so doing, the Commission, in the Government’s view, made a positive contribution to the moderation of the wage/price spiral. We consider it unfortunate that the Commission decided to award the full percentage CPI increase in its most recent decision in November 1976. It was, however, significant and pleasing to note that the Commission rejected the claims for increases greater than that movement and refused to apply its decision to over-award payments and allowances generally. Despite this most recent decision and its effect on the process of winding down the rate of inflation, the discretionary nature of principle 1 is unquestionable.
There is likewise a general recognition in the community of the need for wage restraint in the context of the currently existing exceptional and compelling circumstances. In recent cases the Government has submitted that if there was an expectation of automatic full percentage indexationwe have constantly argued that there is no basis for such an expectation, given the discretionary nature of principle 1 -the acceptance of the Commission’s 2 partial percentage decision in 1976 established that such an argument no longer exists. While the Government acknowledges that the Commission regards full percentage adjustment as the object of the package, at present such a policy must be tempered by the realisation that a temporary reduction in the level of real wages would be of benefit to the unemployed, in that they would be able to find work more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. Such an improvement results from the fact that a fall in real wages makes labour relatively less costly to the employer who thereby enjoys a reduction in the real unit cost of production, an increase in the profit margin and so is encouraged to increase the size of his work force. Indeed, in the longer-term less than full percentage indexation now will enable renewed growth in living standards for all, sooner rather than later. However, in light of the likely effect of the Commission’s November 1 976 decision on economic recovery, the depressed state of the labour market and the magnitude of the December quarter CPI increase, it is imperative in the Government’s view that the Commission should not award a wage increase amounting to more than approximately 30 per cent indexation in respect of the December 1976 quarter. That is the basis of the case which we have just put to the Commission.
In a detailed review of the economic situation, the Commonwealth argued that the distortions to key economic relationships in the economy, which had developed during 1973-74 and 1974-75, had been only partly corrected by the end of 1 976. It referred particularly to the excessive growth in wages by comparison with most other elements in the economy. The Commonwealth stated that the speed with which sustained economic recovery and the restoration of high employment can be achieved, remains dependent on the rate of adjustment of real wages to their normal, balanced relationship with other elements in the economy. The quicker this occurs, the sooner sustained economic recovery and increased job opportunities will be achieved. The Commonwealth stated that devaluation of the Australian dollar has restored the competitive positions of export and import competing industries which had been called upon to bear an unfair burden in the fight against inflation. If the benefits of devaluation are to be successfully preserved, and if the capacity of these industries to increase activities and employment are to be realised, it is essential that there be maximum wages restraint. The Commonwealth stated that it was firmly committed to tax reform and tax reduction but only when these can be responsibly undertaken. It also pointed to the indexation of personal income tax, and other measures already introduced by it, which will amount to savings of over $3 billion by 1977-78. 1 stress that figure.
The Commonwealth responded to the comment by the President of the Commission during the first day’s hearing raising doubts as to the appropriateness of the CPI for wage adjustment. It stated its view that there were obvious deficiencies in the use of the CPI for this purpose and asked the Commission to acknowledge this. The Commonwealth further submitted that less frequent national wage case hearings would be less disruptive to the economy. Finally, the Commonwealth submitted that no more than a flat amount of $2.90 should be awarded in the current case. This would equitably compensate wage and salary earners for cost increases in respect of basic medical and hospital services under the revised Medibank arrangements. As members are no doubt aware the President of the Commission raised a number of significant matters during the course of the present national wage case hearing. He sought the views of the parties to the conduct of an inquiry by the Commission into the appropriateness of the CPI and further as to whether we should revert to a system whereby a wage has 2 elements, one which is perhaps called a primary element, as it used to be called, which is altered at fairly frequent intervals and one which is called a secondary element which is altered at less frequent intervals. I do not propose to place the Government’s views before this House until after our response has been given to the Commission. I am certain members would agree that to do otherwise would be inappropriate. We attach fundamental importance to the responsibilities which the parties to wage determination have in the process of restoring economic stability and progress. Failing the acceptance of that responsibility, particularly since the decision to devalue was taken, means that the achievement of the economic objectives to which all Australians aspire- the elimination of inflation, the creation of new jobs to employ a growing workforce, the reduction of unemployment and the restoration of strong economic growthwould be put in peril.
The Government notes that the Commission will continue to provide a forum for consensus in the wages area. Before the last national wage case we participated in discussions under the chairmanship of the President of the Commission and put forward a proposal for the consideration of the major parties. The Government’s proposal did not find acceptance at that time but, as we have said before, we remain available to participate in any discussions that are approached by the other parties concerned with a positive and genuine desire to explore what common ground may be available. In the absence of any such consensus, decisions in the wages field in 1977, including those to be taken in the national wage indexation case, will be of crucial importance to the nation. The Government recognises that there are factors other than economic considerations involved in the determination of wages, especially social and industrial considerations. However, the prevailing conditions make it abundantly clear that the Commission must give greater weight to economic considerations in its adjudications in the forthcoming hearings. The plain facts are that the unemployment situation has improved only marginally and economic recovery is still in its rather fragile initial stages. With the passage of time, therefore, there is a continuing necessity for the position to be treated most cautiously.
– I support my friend, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who raised this matter of public importance. I congratulate him upon an excellent expose of the Government’s hypocrisy on economic matters, particularly on industrial relations matters. During the period September 1973 to September 1974 the share of the gross domestic non-farm product that went to wages increased by 6.2 per cent. It was a record increase in any 12-months period since Federation. It was more than industry could afford to meet every year, but it was not more than industry could have afforded to maintain because for many decades prior to the period September 1973 to September 1974 the share of the gross domestic non-farm product going to wages was very much less than it should have been. If one goes back over the statistics one finds that for nearly 60 years the share going to wages fluctuated only a point of one per cent one way or the other, going up some years and going down in others. But at the end of that period it was no more than it was at the beginning in spite of the fact that the number of people in the work force had increased considerably, that there had been a considerable increase in population participation in the work force and that we had the benefit on top of all of these factors of technological advancement and change.
What we ought to understand is that the expression ‘average weekly earnings’ is really a misnomer because people believe that when we talk about average weekly earnings of $ 1 90 a week the average wage earner is getting $190 a week. But he is not. The number of people whose award rates equal $ 1 90 a week is less than 30 per cent of the total work force. More than 65 per cent of the total work force is getting wages, inclusive of over award wages and overtime payments, of less than the average weekly earnings The number of people who are getting the mere minimum wage or average award rates is well over one million. Anybody who is trying to live on a minimum wage of $ 101- from recollection I think that is the figure and I note that the honourable member for Gellibrand agrees with me that that amount is correct- and having to rear and educate children just cannot possibly get his head above the poverty level. So we have the situation in Australia today that there are one million people who are in receipt of age or invalid pensions or some other form of social service benefits. On top of that are more than one million who are getting less than the average award rates. We have 250 000 people whose only income is the unemployment benefit. Another 200 000, though not in receipt of the unemployment benefit, are idle when they want to work and are being maintained by either their parents or spouses.
The Treasury is calling out for consumer led recovery. How on earth can we have a consumer led recovery when the situation I have just outlined exists? What the Government does not seem to understand is that it has created an economic climate in which something like 2½ million people are living either below or just above the poverty line. Those who are working are too afraid to spend their money in case they will join the queue. That is why there are record savings bank deposits. Every month sees the breaking of a new record because the situation boiled downand I repeat it- is that those who are working are too afraid to spend and the rest who are not working do not have any money to spend anyhow.
I watched the almost obscene extravagance of last night’s revelry here in Parliament House. I looked at people guzzling the finest wines and eating oysters that were still alive to ensure that they were fresh. As I looked at that gathering I subtracted the people who were Labor members of this Parliament and I realised that 98 per cent of the rest were those who supported this Government’s contention that workers getting $101 a week should not receive the full benefit of the 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index. How hypocritical can the Government become! How blase can it become when it squanders that amount of money on the kind of obscene extravagance that we saw last night. If Her Majesty the Queen had known that more than 2 million of her subjects in this country were near or below the poverty level she would have been absolutely disgusted to think that her elected representatives in Parliament were parties to this kind of extravagance.
The position of the South Australian and Tasmanian governments is one that I believe is much fairer than that adopted by this present Government. Their attitude is that the 3.2 per cent increase in the CPI that was due to this Government’s decision to introduce a compulsory Medibank levy should go only to people who are earning up to $12,000 a year. Their argument is that no one should make a profit out of Medibank. Yet if this Government was to have its way and the 3.2 per cent increase was applied right across the board we would find that Mr Jonathan Stone, a Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, would make a 900 per cent profit on the amount that he pays to Medibank. Even on an after-tax basis he would make a 300 per cent profit. The South Australian Government is against that. It believes that no one should make any profit out of that portion of the CPI that is due to an increase brought about by Medibank.
I agree with the South Australian Government. But that Government then goes on to say that 2.8 per cent of the balance of the 6 per cent ought to be applied to everybody according to what his wages are. The great mistake that the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission made in the first national wage case in May 1974 was this: If the Commission had then introduced wage indexation on the basis of automatic adjustment every quarter with a plateau at the average award rate as the Australian Council of Trades Unions then asked for- the ACTU ‘s claim was a little higher, $7 a week higher than the Goverment was asking for- and also had taken care to see that industries like the metal industries were given a proper starting point for the new indexation system we would not now be in the position we are in.
When the metal trades case was before the Commission in May 1975 a fitter was getting an award wage of $26 a week less than he should have received because, ever since Mr Justice Higgins had tied the fitter’s rate to the carpenter’s rate more than 60 years ago, the fitter’s and carpenter’s margins have been identical. Yet we find that the award rate for fitters had dropped by $26 a week. Until the fitter’s award rates are increased we will never get peace in industry, and the Government does not deserve it. We will never get enough skilled tradesmen. One hundred and fifty thousand skilled tradesmen have left the work force already in the last 5 years. Who will be stupid enough to become a tradesman when he can get three times as much for being a clerk?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The matter of public importance introduced by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) states:
The Government’s policy of substantially reducing real wage and salary levels.
This is not a motion. It does not express or condemn anything. When one reads it carefully one can see that it is really rather a flat statement. I want to begin my speech by referring to a Press comment that appeared in the Melbourne Age on the morning of 28 February purporting to report a section of a speech made by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), who is the Labor spokesman on Treasury matters. The article stated:
The shadow Treasurer, Mr Hurford, said last night that the Arbitration Commission might have some justification in not passing on the full 6 per cent CPI rise.
All that, of course, is in complete contrast with what has been put to us by the Labor Party spokesman today. The newspaper itself commented, I think pertinently:
Mr Hurford ‘s remarks are the first by any Labor politician or union leader to indicate that less than the full 6 per cent flow-on may be acceptable.
That shows that there was a hesitation in his mind. Of course, there are substantial reasons why the 6 per cent consumer price index rise should not flow on. When this House met in the last week of the last Parliament, which was only 2 weeks ago, that matter was debated fully and the Government’s position was made known. I must say that I do not think the Labor Opposition’s attempts to tackle that argument really stood up.
The honourable member for Gellibrand said in passing that the Australian Labor Party was equally concerned about inflation; that the only quarrel was about how it should be dealt with. Then he made this intriguing statement: ‘We have put forward our proposals’. He was referring to anti-inflationary proposals. I cannot let the opportunity go by without asking: To which proposals was he referring? Surely he was not referring to the proposals of the Opposition spokesman on Treasury matters, which involve so much increased spending. Surely they are not the anti-inflationary proposals to which he was referring. We know that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) are big spenders. Really, they have never made much secret of that fact. They believe that the way out of all problems- social problems, economic problems and so on- is to spend money. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in 1974, when Labor was in power and tried that method, it failed, as it must fail. When France tried it last year, after its inflation rate had started to fall, if found that inflation went up again. This is what the present British Prime Minister, a Labour Prime Minister, said recently:
We used to think that you could just spend your way out of a recession and increase employment by cutting taxes and boosting Government spending. I tell you in all candour that that option no longer exists and that, insofar as it ever did exist, it worked by injecting inflation into the economy.
Further quotations along the same line by the British Prime Minister were published recently.
– That was a Labour man?
-That was the British Labour Prime Minister. To be fair, what he said is in line with what was said by the former Prime Ministerthe present Leader of the Opposition- in the speech which has been quoted by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and others in this House.
Let me quickly make a few comments about real wages and consumption. Recent experience shows clearly that consumption cannot be boosted by increasing wages. For example, in 1974 male award wages were increased by over 16 per cent between the March and December quarters, and real average earnings went up by 10 per cent. Over the same period consumption spending rose by less than one per cent. What happened was that savings, as a consequence largely of increased inflation and inflationary expectations, rose sharply as a proportion of income. Cleary inflation plays a key role in determining consumers’ spending. This is also shown in the United States of America, where the saving ratio began to fall as soon as it was obvious that inflation was under control. Getting the real wage increases down is necessary in order to control inflation and to expand economic activity and employment. As this happens, consumers will regain confidence and spend more rather than less of their incomes. The assertion that consumption growth cannot take place without growth in the real wage is clearly at odds with the evidence from other countries. Furthermore, the obverse- that increases in the real wage are necessary for consumption growth- was tested and found wanting in 1974. The last Labor Treasurer explicitly recognised the real wage problem in his 1975 Budget Speech, when he said:
It does employees generally no good to get higher and higher money incomes if the results are just higher prices, a severe squeeze on profits, a slump in new investment and a contraction of job opportunities.
Obviously he was right. Finally, I refer to the words of the present Leader of the Opposition at the 1975 Young Labor Conference, when he said:
Inflation today is undoubtedly and almost solely due to wage claims and increases.
The cost of wage increases and stoppages on jobs is important to us and central to this matter raised by the Opposition. Australians surely must be concerned about the level of industrial disputation in the community and should support strongly the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission’s view that each union member and each union official must evaluate the impact that any stoppage, ban or limitation may have on the viability of the existing wage indexation package. The cumulative effect of disputation must worsen inflation and further prolong the plight of the unemployed through a retardation of economic recovery. The latest figures available- those for December 1976- indicate that, in 1976, 3.8 million working days were lost in 2055 disputes. The number of working days lost was the second highest number recorded since 1929. Excluding the Medibank disputes, the figures would be lower than in each of the 4 preceding years. However, when one comes to analyse the effect of the level of industrial disputation on the economy, one cannot put aside such political disputes. The Commission, in its 22 November decision, said: . . strikes no matter how they orginate or for what purpose may be relevant to economic considerations. Strikes over matters such as Medibank may or may not be in breach of the guidelines but, be that as it may. the 2 057 000 mandays lost over Medibank must have an adverse effect on production and on the economy as a whole.
Another point is that certain types of industrial action which have been pursued- for example, overtime bans and work-to-regulations limitations- can and do have serious effects on economic capacity and the level of employment but are not reflected in dispute statistics. These actions must have implications for the future of the current wage indexation package. In addition to this aspect, it is a matter of record that the recent industrial situation has caused concern overseas about our ability to meet contractual and export obligations. In the longer run continued high levels of industrial disputation must place at risk the whole future of a rational system of wage fixation in Australia. The Government’s case presented before the Commission is in the national interest. I conclude by quoting the words of a former Labor Treasurer:
One man ‘s wage rise is another man ‘s job.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Mr Groom, for the committee appointed to prepare an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen presented the proposed Address which was read by the Clerk.
That the Address be agreed to.
At the outset I sincerely thank honourable members for according me the honour of presenting the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen in opening the second session of the Thirtieth Parliament of the Commonwealth. I feel it is an honour which is shared by my constituents- I stand here representing them- and I believe by the Tasmanian people. It is indeed wonderful that the Queen should see fit to find time to visit Australia in this the Silver Jubilee of her accession to the Throne. I feel that as the Queen travels around the country she will soon realise that the vast majority of Australians hold an abundance of affection for her and what she stands for. I know that she will get a sincere welcome wherever she goes in Australia. Last night at the official reception Her Majesty mentioned that she would be visiting every State in the Commonwealth as well as the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. As I have said, I am sure she will receive a very sincere and warm welcome when she visits other parts of Australia.
Despite what the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said earlier I would like to congratulate the Government for the very appropriate reception given to Her Majesty in the form of the parade yesterday and the official reception last night and also for giving the people of Canberra the opportunity to see Her Majesty and His Royal Highness. I think the functions were most appropriate and for me- I take it honourable members on both sides of the House would agree with this- it was a unique experience to be present at them. I think that goodwill was shown by honourable members from both sides of this House and by honourable senators from both sides of the other chamber.
Her Majesty’s Speech was short and my speech will also be short. The Speech outlined in brief form the Government’s legislative intentions for the remainder of the current Parliament. It confirmed the Government’s firm commitment to restore economic prosperity to this country and to give social justice to all our people. In particular Her Majesty mentioned- I feel I should also mention it- the Government’s concern for the Aboriginal people, the original people of Australia. There was emphasis in the Speech on the economy and that would not surprise any of us because we in this place and those who are involved outside in the decision making process seem to spend most of our time dealing with economic matters. In the Speech Her Majesty said:
Australia has experienced economic difficulties in recent years; my Government has given first priority to restoring the economy and will use all the resources at its disposal to achieve this goal.
The Government of course must seek economic justice for all Australians, and this is our essential aim at this time. But when one goes around the electorate, around the traps as we call it, and speaks to the ordinary people in the street one finds so many people wondering whether this concern with the economy might be misplaced. There are people saying that they have never had it so good. When they say ‘they’ they are usually referring to someone else, not to themselves. When one looks for visible signs of a recession in the economy they are not easy to find. That is the way I see it anyway, and others might agree with me. If one looks at the evidence on paper produced by all the outstanding economists that we have around the place and all the economic indicators, the indices of one kind or another, one certainly would be satisfied that we are in a bad way economically and that we are suffering from an economic recession, but it is difficult to find the tangible evidence, the real evidence of this recession. This is a serious point I am making.
One must acknowledge that many people in the community have suffered very dramatically indeed in recent times, especially- I hope that this does not sound political- between 1972 and 1975 when inflation was so rife and when prices got out of control. During that period the poor in the community who are not able to protect themselves against inflation, particularly the elderly people on fixed incomes, suffered so dramatically and the farmers of Australia suffered their worst plight for many, many years. As well as the problem of rising prices the farmers had the problem of falling incomes and the two together made things extremely harsh and difficult for them. If one goes around the pubs, into the bars, there seem to be just as many people there. One sees the number of people at the racetracks. The TAB turnover is as high as it has ever been. Records seem to be set year after year in every State. It is the same with the soccer pools, Tattslotto and all these other things on which we spend our money. Attendances at sporting functions and fixtures are also high. There are some exceptions, but this is generally true.
There is evidence in the form of economicindicators to suggest that the recession is not perhaps as bad as many would make out. For example, in 1 97 1 an average family comprising a man, his wife and 2 children received a real income of $68.30 a week. Based on the same dollar, that is the 1966-67 dollar, average weekly earnings for that family in 1976 were $78.20. I am talking about real terms; real money. There was this increase. If one looks at the ANZ Quarterly Survey put out in January 1 977 by the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd one sees further evidence of the increase in real earnings in recent times. The document on page 5, under the heading ‘Business Indicators’, reads:
In August, -
That is, August 1976- adult male minimum weekly rates payable for a full week’s work (excluding overtime) were 16.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.
Concurrently the consumer price index increased by 13.9 per cent, indicating that ‘real’ wage levels were maintained to employees on minimum weekly rates . . .
Those sorts of figures have to be interpreted in context and properly analysed. I think that they are significant. Those figures which indicate a gradual increase in real earnings, are supported by evidence of purchases and consumption by the people of Australia. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a number of tables which indicate a gradual incline, not decline, in consumption in many key areas including beer, tobacco, cigars, cigarettes, gambling taxes- which are open to some doubt because of the rates of taxpurchases of television sets, both blackandwhite and colour, electric stoves and motor vehicles. When we are talking about durable items such as motor vehicles and television sets we have to realise that the per capita increase is quite remarkable because these are purchases of new television sets and new motor cars. There is normally something that is being replaced and that item, whether it be a television set or a motor car, remains in the community.
-Is leave granted for the incorporation? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The tables read as follows-
When these statistics show decline they are still ‘up’ on the previous year.
– There is evidence to show that our standard of living has not declined to the extent that one would gather from reading the newspapers and from listening to what we politicians are saying. I am endeavouring not to be political because I do not think that that would be appropriate in moving this motion. But I think the point must be made that no benefit is being gained from all this talk of a serious recession. Some people are saying that the situation is similar to the depression of the 1930s. From looking at these figures one can see that our standard of living is improving. At the reception last night Her Majesty said that she believes that Australia is still a vital country and that people are coming here to seek their fortunes.
– It is again.
-That may well be so. The point is that we are back on the tracks again and the economy is improving. It is a gradual and steady improvement. As the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said earlier, at the moment the situation is fragile but the improvement is gradual and it is steady. I am sure that with this Government we will achieve true economic justice in time.
Whilst the people of Australia do not see much evidence of the recession when they look around them, one great issue which is concerning them is unemployment. That issue is concerning the Government. I was pleased to hear Her Majesty say in her Speech:
My Government’s economic program is designed to overcome unemployment.
Some people say that the Government is not concerned about unemployment. That is complete nonsense. The Government is desperately concerned about it. Members of both coalition parties are concerned about the subject. We must be concerned about it. There is nothing more tragic than seeing young people out of work and their time unoccupied. We must strive to achieve again a situtation of full employment in Australia. The only way to do that is to attack inflation. That is the root cause of our problems and the root cause of our unemployment.
It is worth while looking carefully at the figures showing the level of unemployment during the Australian Labor Party’s period in office. As I said, I do not wish to be political. I simply state the facts, and the facts are accurate; they are there to be seen; they can be proved beyond any doubt. When Labor came into office there were 136 769 people unemployed. When Labor left office in 1975 the number of unemployed had risen to 328 705. The number of unemployed in the community went from 2.4 per cent to 5.4 per cent, an increase of 150 per cent or 191 000 people.
– What about now?
-Be patient. I will make that point in a moment. During Labor’s reign 191 000 Australians lost their jobs. I wonder whether honourable members opposite are proud of that record. Youth unemployment almost doubled, from 80 395 to 152 543. That is a tragic situation. The important point is that this Government has arrested the trend towards higher and higher unemployment. If Labor’s record had continued there would have been seven or eight times more people unemployed in the last 12 months than there have been. It is worth noting that in 1976 over 95 per cent of the previous year’s school leavers were placed in employment. That is significant.
Not only has the Government attacked the fundamental cause of unemployment, namely inflation, but it has also created and initiated a number of important manpower policies. I will refer to them very briefly. The National Employment and Training scheme has been completely reorganised and is undoubtedly a major success. When we came to government 7500 people were training under the NEAT scheme, the majority of whom were taking full-time formal courses. There are now more than 1 3 000 people in training under NEAT, over 10 000 of whom are receiving in-plant training while engaged in productive employment. Under the Special Youth Employment Training program more than 3000 young people between 15 and 19 years of age are involved. The CRAFT program, the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Fulltime Training scheme, is a completely new apprenticeship scheme. Under this pre-apprenticeship and accelerated training scheme the Government has made $25.4m available to the States. The Community Youth Support Scheme is now getting under way. There are some 40 programs in operation all over Australia. The relocation scheme is another important scheme. I have seen it in operation in Queenstown in my electorate where some 60 people previously employed by the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited have received benefit under that scheme. Increased funds have been made available for technical and further education. The National Training Council is recasting its programs and terms of reference. An important inquiry is being conducted into the Commonwealth Employment Service.
One subject with which the Government needs to be concerned- I know that it has given consideration to it- is whether people receiving unemployment benefits should be required to do some work for those benefits. This is not Government policy but I raise the matter here because there is a strong feeling about it in the general community. There seems to be a consensus of opinion that people receiving unemployment benefits should do some work for those benefits. I concede that there are tremendous administrative problems involved in developing such a scheme. The International Labour Organisation convention on forced labour raises a problem. For my part I would not concede that that convention has any relevance to a work scheme for people receiving unemployment benefits. This would be a voluntary scheme, in the sense that a person could work under the scheme or not work. If he worked he would receive his benefits and if he did not work he would not receive his benefits. So there is a choice. I cannot for the life of me see how that could be interpreted under the convention as forced labour. This question is affecting the community in a number of ways. Working people are concerned that some people are receiving these benefits. It is tragic that they are unemployed. For many people the benefit they receive is a mere pittance. At the same time, a married man with 5 children would receive over $6,000 including his family allowance. That is not very much these days when prices are so high and goods are so costly. It is not very much on which to keep a family of that size. I appreciate that.
But that is not the point. The point I make is that perhaps the person concerned should do some work in return for receiving those benefits. I believe there is something immoral in paying out huge sums of money- at the moment I think it is over $600m being paid by the Commonwealthby way of unemployment benefits for no return when people who receive those benefits are fit and able to do some work. I think the work would help them; equally, it would assist the total community. So I believe that the Government must be concerned about this matter and should give further consideration to it. I realise that there are problems but those problems can be overcome if there is a will, and an appreciation, of the depth of feeling in the community about this particular problem. The question of the amount of unemployment benefits which people receive has been raised. That is a different and a very sensitive subject. For many people the unemployment benefits are not very high but take the case of a young person of 16 or 17 years of age, who has received a couple of dollars a week in pocket money while at school. He or she suddenly leaves school, is not required to do any work and receives $36 a week if under 18 years of age or $42.50 if over 1 8 years of age. That is a significant amount of money. I simply ask whether this is giving proper incentive to our young people. I am not sure of the answer and I hope this is the sort of thing Mr Norgard ‘s inquiry might examine.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is an honour and a privilege for me to rise to second the motion that the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to. It is also a pleasure to support this motion which has been moved by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom), a new member of this Parliament who has gained wide respect from members of this House. In seconding this motion I note that this is the third Commonwealth Parliament which Her Majesty has opened and that there have been only these 3 occasions in our history when a reigning monarch has opened our Parliament. It is therefore a most historic and significant occasion. When Her Majesty first opened the Parliament in 1954, some 23 years ago, the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, in moving the Address-in-Reply said:
How prophetic the Prime Minister was on that occasion. We now have the pleasure of Her Majesty’s presence in her silver jubilee year. Her Majesty also opened the Commonwealth Parliament in 1974 and I have noted the AddressinReply speeches on that occasion. It was with more than passing interest that I observed that the seconder to the motion on that occasion was the honourable member for Diamond Valley, whose surname, as honourable members will recall, was McKenzie. I sincerely trust that in seconding the Address-in-Reply in 1 977 1 am not destined for the electoral demise that my namesake experienced at the subsequent election.
Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity of extending to Her Majesty the expressions of loyalty and good will of the people of Australia and particularly those people in the central western region of New South Wales. Her Majesty will recall her visit to the city of Orange in April 1 970 and I assure her that her gracious presence on that occasion is remembered with affection by the people of that city.
Australia is, in my view, approaching a most significant and potentially difficult period in its short history. We see many divisions in our people and in our society. We have conflicts between employer and employee, between governments and trade unions, between the Commonwealth government and State governments, between technologists and artisans, between young people and their parents and between country and city, to name but a few. We have been through periods of rapid expansion in our industrial and manufacturing capacity, of rapid population and immigration growth, of stock market booms, of unprecedented minerals and resource discoveries and of significant recognition by the world community and, in particular, by many of our Asian neighbours. We have also, in more recent times, discovered that many of our traditional values and beliefs are under challenge. The strength of our family unit is being eroded and our national spirit and identity and endeavour appear to be waning. We are in danger of becoming a complacent, insular, selfsatisfied and satiated society. We are also becoming a welfare orientated hand-out society. It has been said on many occasions that we as Australians are an ‘I am all right Jack’ nation. I believe that a new dimension can now be added to that. We now say: ‘If I am not all right Jack, you have got to bail me out’. Jack, of course, means the government, the taxpayer, the employer or our fellow Australians -anybody but ourselves. Where is our independence, our initiative, our capacity for tightening our belts and working our way out of our economic difficulties? The welfare philosophy is making huge demands on our budgets, on our national finances and on our prospects for economic recovery. Our demands for higher and higher wages, shorter working hours, extended annual leave and all the other provisions are only exacerbating the twin national problems of inflation and unemployment. I remind this House of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) concerning excessive wage demands when, as Prime Minister, he addressed the Australian Young Labor Conference in January 1975. He said:
The fact is that wage claims in the last twelve months have so greatly reduced the profitability of employers that they have ceased to employ as many as they used to employ. Now this is the fact, you can’t make people employ. And while things are as unprofitable as they are now: That is as long as wage and salary claims take up so much of the take and reduce profits so much as they are, then there is going to be great unemployment in Australia. We may lament it, we may condemn the situation but you have got to face the situation. The simple fact is that every excessive increase in incomes for one man takes a job from another man.
-Who said that?
- Mr Whitlam said that. On the same occasion, with regard to wages and inflation, he said:
There is no point in going over the history of inflation. I don’t say that the inflation at the time that we came in or even in 1973 was due- let alone primarily due- to wage increases and claims. But it is indubitably primarily and almost solely due to wage increases and claims today.
In January this year I was fortunate enough to visit Japan and China as a guest of those countries’ respective governments. It was a most rewarding and valuable experience and I am sure my colleagues who visited those countries would join me in expressing appreciation to those who were responsible for hosting us. I only wish more Australians had a similar opportunity so that they too could gain some understanding of where Australia stands in the Japanese and Chinese perspectives. I remember only too well viewing a map of the world at Peking University. The projection was centred on those longitudes that cover China and which, of course, include Australia. The Americas were represented as a disproportionately small strip squeezed into the right hand margin of that map with Europe and Africa treated likewise on the left hand margin of the map. One wonders what those students of the English language in China conclude when they see their country with 900 million people, a quarter of the world’s population, and they compare it to Australia, a country of somewhat similar size with 13 million people. I wonder also what they would think if other criteria, such as the rate of population growth or resources or energy consumption per head of population were superimposed on that map of the world in Peking University. I wonder also what Japanese students think when they look at our energy resources, both of fossil fuels and uranium, when they know that they have virtually no internal sources of energy themselves and that their country has to import 98 per cent of her oil requirements.
The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, recently returned from Japan and made some scurrilous claims which, in my opinion, need to be refuted. Firstly, he said that the Japanese automotive worker was paid more than a worker in Australia. This, I believe, was an attempt to justify the wage levels of the Australian automotive industry. Mr Hawke conceded that Japanese productivity was higher but he did not give us the full picture. He did not say, having visited the Tochigi plant of Nissan, which we also visited, that Japan was producing as much in one plant as was our whole automotive industry- 30 000 motor vehicles a month. He did not say that wages consisted of a base wage, plus 2 half-yearly bonuses- bonuses which are dependent upon the productivity and profitability of the company. He did not say that wages contributed to health, sickness, accident and unemployment insurance. He did not talk about the capacity for work of the Japanese people. They work 6 days a week, 8 hours a day with 10 minutes off twice a day out of their own time and 40 minutes for lunch out of the company’s time. They receive virtually negligible holidays. Also he did not draw our attention to the levels of protection in our own Australian automotive industry.
Mr Hawke was also at pains to play down the problems of industrial relations as they might affect Australia’s reputation as a supplier and a trading partner. Yet he told the Japanese that companies in Japan which were considering setting up operations in Australia or investing in Australia should consult the trade union movement before doing so. No wonder Japanese businessmen are concerned as to who is running Australia. I believe that the Government must convince our trading partners that the unions are not going to destroy our trading capacity.
Mr Hawke conferred with the President of the Confederation of Japanese Automotive Workers Unions, as indeed did our Party. He did not talk about the harmonious relations that exist between companies and labour unions. He did not talk about the concern of unions for the financial and competitive position of their companies. He did not talk about how unions voluntarily forego their bonuses in order to assist their employers and their companies in the event of difficult circumstances, such as those which were created during the strike of the Storemen and Packers Union of Australia which withheld wool supplies for mills in Japan, which nearly closed some mills, and which, of course, put what are supposed to be its own colleagues out of work in Japan. He did not talk about the policy of Japanese companies of life time employment- a very good, sound mutual relationship between labour unions and company management- and the near absence of industrial strikes, demarcation disputes or bans, let alone employees having a day off when the weather gets too hot.
Mr Hawke accused the Australian Government of using the unions as a smokescreen and a scapegoat. But his assurances were hardly convincing to the hard headed Japanese. The greatest single problem in Australia- Japan relationsJapan is our greatest trading partner- is in the area of industrial unrest and disputation. We were told by the Confederation of Japanese Industry- Keidanren- that what it was looking for in its trading partners, and especially in Australia, was stability, reliability and predictability. How can we expect Japan to sign a contract when it does not know whether in fact the commodity it is purchasing will even be delivered to the wharf, whether it can use its own ships to transport that commodity, or whether it will take delivery and, if so, when it will take delivery? Industry in Japan is most efficient, but at the same time it operates on relatively small margins. Consequently time is a very important and critical component of those operations.
– Did the ship builders go on strike?
– They would not know what strikes are. Japan is looking towards many countries for the supply of her raw materials. Those of us in Australia who believe that we have some hold over Japan because of the resources that we have and that they are obliged to purchase from us need to think twice. We have already seen, following the industrial disputes and the unreliability that has occurred in the Western Australian iron ore fields, that Japan is not only looking to other suppliers but also is actively supporting them and investing in those countries. The amount of Japanese money that is going into Brazil and Mexico in the development of iron ore mining is very significant.
In summary, I think Japan is really dependent on Australia for only 3 basic commodities: The first is wool, the second is coal, and the third is access to fishing grounds. Otherwise I believe that unless we can assure supply and be a reliable trading partner Japan will pass us by in relation to the other commodities that we have to offer. Unfortunately I do not believe that we can ever compete with Japanese industry. I refer to its automotive industries, its steel industries, its ship building industries, its nuclear power generation, and its consumer goods industries. Japanese technological expertise and capacity are vast. The personal capacity of the Japanese to work, their attitude to work and productivity, their ability to work for themselves as well as their company and their nation- it reminds me of the old saying that they are all employees of one company called Japan Incorporated- and their nationalism and pride in their own achievement and their country’s achievement make that nation one from which I think we can take some lessons. As has been the case in the past, Australia’s trading future will continue to be in our raw materials and our resources, both in the minerals and energy field and in our great agricultural industries. Australians generally must recognise the importance of those industries. We must recognise the need to be a reliable supplier. We must recognise the need to establish mutual relations of trust and co-operation with the Asian countries with whom we share this region.
I have dwelt on Japan at some length because I believe it has some very significant messages for Australia and for the direction in which we might be heading. We as Australians must recognise our apathy, complacency and indolence. We must recognise that we enjoy a standard of living that we may not deserve. We must recognise that work’ is not a dirty word. Furthermore, we must realise in which direction our future lies, both strategically and economically, in the world. In my view, we need a confirmation of our national identity. We need a rekindling of the Australian spirit that pioneered this great nation- that spirit which has carried us through recession and prosperity war and peace, conflict and consensus, and which has managed to get us even through the period when we have had Labor governments.
Her Majesty’s visit to Australia, her opening of Parliament yesterday and our participation in the celebration of the silver jubilee of her reign provide an opportunity for us as Australians frankly and honestly to examine ourselves, our country and the direction in which we should be heading. It also provides us with the opportunity to reflect on our traditions and our history and to re-affirm our allegience to the monarchy which has served us so well. Finally, this occasion gives us the opportunity to congratulate our Queen of Australia on her 25 th year of accession to the throne, to welcome her and to wish her and her family health and happiness. Mr Speaker, I second the motion.
-The previous 2 contributions can best be described as apologist speeches. The honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) said that the Government was concerned about unemployment. I should remind him that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and the Minister Assisting the
Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) said that unemployment in this country is a myth; it does not exist. Surely the honourable member for Braddon ought to take notice of that. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) goes one further and says: ‘Yes, there are some unemployed’. But when he was asked earlier today whether he agreed with the Minister Assisting the Treasurer he evaded the question. He sought to denigrate the people who are unemployed rather than to recognise the magnitude of the problem. It is very interesting that the Government uses past figures on the number of recipients of the unemployment benefit to criticise and to discuss the record of the Labor Government. But in regard to the contemporary situation it says that those figures cannot be relied upon. Surely, if the present figures are inaccurate the earlier figures must suffer from the same deficiency. This is another subterfuge by the Government to try to conceal the problem of unemployment rather than to recognise it and to have some compassion and concern for the people who are unemployed.
Let us consider now the attitude of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) to employees and unemployment. His attitude is known nationwide. He has told the people of the shipyard industry and the people of the Hunter region -I am pleased that the honourable member for Paterson (Mr 0 “Keefe) and the honourable member for Lyne (Mr Lucock) are here to listen to and to share in the debate- that if they do not go on strike they will have work but if they go on strike they will have no work.
– What is wrong with that?
-I think, and I believe that most fair-minded Australians would think, that what he recited was a ghoulish limerick. There he was on television seeking to entertain millions of Australians by denigrating people who were out of work. By his own deliberate choice he was putting these people out of work; yet he sought to gloat over them. That in fact is what he was doing: He was gloating over the people he had put out of work. I know that all honourable members opposite support that view.
– No, we do not.
– Honourable members opposite do support that view by their presence in this chamber. Government supporters support gloating over the people who are now out of work as a result of this Government’s deliberate decision and deliberate policy to expand unemployment. The honourable member for Braddon has rapidly left the chamber, having opened this discussion on unemployment. The Government Whip (Mr Bourchier) is seeking to interject. I think the Government could do with a better Whip. We would have much more harmony and constructive discussion in the House if we had a change of Whip, Mr Deputy Speaker. At this stage I seek your protection from the Government Whip. If he is determined to enter the debate I suggest that he put his name on the list of speakers and enter the debate. He would be very welcome.
The honourable member for Braddon sought to embroider the situation even more. As we follow what the Minister for Transport has done and said nation-wide and what the honourable member for Braddon has suggested, the following situation emerges: The Minister for Transport has put people out of work; the honourable member for Braddon now says: If those people who are out of work seek some level of assistance to pay off their homes to feed their children and to educate their families, is it not reasonable that they should go out and dig some holes in the road, clean up some parks, or do some other kind of public work? That is a very fine attitude to adopt towards men who have spent 25 years at the top level of our naval design staff, skilled artisans- people who have spent a whole lifetime with a pride in their career! As I said, the honourable member for Braddon now says to them: ‘If you are out of work, even though we put you out of work if you do not want to starve you should go out and cut some lawns’. That is what the honourable member for Braddon indicated very clearly. That can be defined in one very small phrase- ‘forced labour’. That is what this Government is about.
Let us look at a few of the case histories involved. I know that honourable members opposite do not want to be frank about this subject. It upsets them to go back to their electorate offices and to face their constituents who are out of work and who have had problems with the Department of Social Security because of the understating of and the staff ceiling applied to that Department and the Commonwealth Employment Service. I know that when they go back to their electorate offices they do not like facing up to these problems. I know also, Mr Deputy Speaker, that, like you and me, they have constituents who come to them when they need the assistance of their Federal member of Parliament. Let us look at some of the case histories of the individual people concerned, not at the generalities that honourable members opposite want to discuss. I draw to the attention of the chamber the case of a family with 4 children. The constituent concerned wrote to me and said: ‘I have been employed for 20 years 5 months and 22 days and now, as a result of this Government ‘s policies, I am out of work ‘.
– In my electorate I have thousands who are out of work because of the policy of the previous Government which you supported.
– I am pleased that the honourable member for Evans acknowledges the problem.
-Order! Will the honourable member hold his reply for a minute? The honourable member for Evans should not interject. The speaker has been provocative at times, but he is perfectly entitled to his point of view. The Chair is here to see that he is respected in that regard.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member is deliberately misrepresenting the facts. He is casting aspersions -
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If conveying to Government supporters the case histories of some of my constituents is provocative to them, I apologise for nothing, have a responsibility to put the case histories and the problems of my constituents to this Parliament. If honourable members opposite choose to regard them as frivolous and to ignore them, they should go back to their electorates and tell that to the people whom they represent. The constituent to whom I refer was not a shipyard worker; he was a highly skilled clerk in a shipping firm. He is out of work and has been unable to get work for the past 6 months. He is out of work as a result of this Government’s deliberate policies. Let us move to case No. 2, which relates to a family with 2 children. The gentleman concerned suffered a heart attack in September of last year.
– You visited him, did you?
– The honourable member for Riverina cannot help himself. He chooses to denigrate people. I should like him to come with me to Newcastle, to interview this family and to see the circumstances and difficulties that they are facing because of this Government. That constituent was unfortunate enough to suffer a heart attack. I do not think that is a matter for frivolity and I resent the interjection from the honourable member for Riverina. He is not in the Army now. I hope he knows where he is.
That constituent is experiencing great difficulty, with the present level of sickness benefit, in simply meeting his day-to-day commitments for educating his children and making his house payments. Let us move now to case No. 3, relating again to a average young Australian couple- a tradesman with 4 young children who has been thrown out of work by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and who is unable to get work. BHP is a major contributor- to the funds of those who sit opposite. There are many other qualified tradesman like this constituent who now, after a long period of unemployment, is facing foreclosure proceedings on his home. When honourable members opposite denigrate the unemployed I ask them to try to have a little compassion and to realise that there are Australians- human beings- who have young families -
– We know that. They existed in the time of your Government too.
– The present Government is deliberately following a policy of expanding unemployment in this country. The honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie) talked of handouts- that is the term he used- to people who need assistance. If Government supporters choose to regard the assistance as handouts they should go out into the community and say so; they should have the courage to say that to the people and to deny assistance where it is most needed. The honourable member seems to be satisfied to regard genuine, responsible Australian families as being the recipients of handouts when they are in need and in trouble. Yet we can give money to assist overseas mining corporations. The money comes from the same source; it all comes out of Consolidated Revenue. The Government believes that it is all right to give this money to foreign shareholders. It says: ‘Let us look after them, but for heaven’s sake do not let us have any concern for our own Australians’.
The honourable member for Calare also was concerned about communism. We have heard much of the attitude of the National Country Party towards communism; but this afternoon I could not help chuckling to myself when I heard that Dorothy Dix question from the National Country Party about wheat sales. In this place and in the community we hear the National Country Party denigrating communism and denigrating our potential customers; but when National Country Party members are lucky enough and have begged and grovelled enough to get an order they cannot come up quickly enough to try to gain some sort of credit for obtaining the order and to express their pleasure.
This is an exercise in duplicity and dishonesty. The latest exercise, which followed the recent visit by the ‘Gang of Four’ to Japan, was to threaten Japan with the withdrawal of port facilities unless it bought more beef. In the last week of the previous session of this Parliament we had a debate in this place on amendments to the Trade Practices Act to prevent trade unionists from doing exactly the same thing. That was another exercise in double standards and duplicity on the part of Government supporters.
Let us consider now the Government Parties meeting which was held earlier today. We return to the problems of those who are out of work and who need assistance. Today’s meeting discussed a proposal from some members of the Government parties to freeze the rate of the sickness benefit and the unemployment benefit. This naturally must lead to the freezing of pension rates. That is proof of the concern of honourable members opposite for people who are out of work. Why do honourable members opposite not have the dignity and honesty to stand up and say that? The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) evaded a question on his matter which was asked at question time today. Quite clearly it has been known for some time that the Government is moving to freeze unemployment benefits. Honourable members opposite should explain to the people of Australia, to those who are genuinely in need of assistance, why they have a virtual hatted of those people and why they want to see them crushed. That is exactly the Government’s policy.
Honourable members opposite are pursuing a policy of deliberate expansion of unemployment that they did not put to the people in 1975. This has been quite effective. It is working well. In a way honourable members opposite are supporters of a record government. It has the highest level of unemployment ever recorded in a February since the Depression. Honourable members opposite are not to be congratulated, though. This year they will achieve the highest level of inflation ever recorded. They will also achieve- in fact they have already achieved it- the highest level of deficit. I am amazed at their attitude towards the deficit. It seems that a large deficit is quite OK now. They can have a deficit and their colleagues in Queensland can chase the funny money abroad. Let me come back to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications who is sitting at the table. As far as he is concerned the record level of unemployment is a myth, it is not there. He has a wish away policy. I know that he does not mind if I refer to him- I have said this to him before- as Eric in Wonderland.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to a point of order.
-Order! I think the Chair had better intervene. Ministers and members of the House must be referred to by their official titles or their electorates. I remind the honourable member for Shortland of that. Does the honourable member for Evans wish to proceed with his point of order?
– No. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, have covered it.
-I think you, Mr Deputy Speaker, appreciate the atmosphere in which the comment was made. The Minister was smiling with me. Since the Minister does not raise any objection I do not know why the honourable member for Evans -
– I was smiling at you, not with you. I could never smile with you.
-Let us say that the Minister smiles more or less indefinitely. The record level of unemployment which honourable members opposite have established is one which they were seeking to attain. As the Minister has said unemployment is a myth. The Minister has a wish away policy. He says, in effect: ‘If you keep on wishing long enough you will wish away unemployment. Let it keep on going and every thing will be solved by itself.
Let us return to the gang of four which went to Japan and threatened the withdrawal of port facilities to Japanese fishing vessels, and took the opportunity while abroad to denigrate Australian citizens and the performance of Australians. That was a very fine exercise. Let us compare that with the exercise of a Japanese Minister and Japanese businessmen telling Australiansin many cases Australians who fought to defend this country- how they ought to run their affairs. I am quite sure that if an Australian parliamentarian went to Japan and sought to tell Japan how to run her domestic affairs and her industrial relations policy there would be very strong reaction. What has happened in Australia? A gang of 4 Ministers is supporting and encouraging that type of thing. Let us add to that the remarks of the retiring United States ambassador. He used the opportunity of his departure to tell Australians how to run their affairs. I can recall, early in 1973 when the honourable member for Hindmarsh made some criticism of American policy the outcry from the conservatives opposite. They said it was most improper, undignified and an insult to our strongest ally. Here we have the retiring United States ambassador, a public servant, telling Australians in their own land how they ought to manage their own affairs. Let me make it clear to Government supporters. Many millions of Australians believe that the management of Australia’s affairs should be in the hands of Australians. They do not want Australia to be another State of the United States and certainly they do not want Australia to become the southernmost island of Japan. The impropriety of the remarks of the Japanese gentlemen concerned and the United States ambassador should have been something to which the Government supporters and Government Minister took exception; but they did not do so. I would like to refer to a quotation from Hansard which I think best deals with the performance of the Government to date. It reads:
It is not reform by Government that is needed in Australia. It is an awareness by Government of the Australian people and Australian conditions, and a source of positive direction from which all Australians will benefit. It is pointless pursuing the short term ends- the redress of what this Government sees as imbalance in this society- when the achievement and realisation of those ends leads to the inability of the nation to progress further
This Government has done nothing to inspire the people of Australia to fulfil their full potential. There has been no unleashing of the latent power of the work force to increase productivity. There has been no incentive offered to people to produce more. In fact the reverse has been the case. In most areas of the productive sector Government policy has been designed to reduce rather than actively to promote increases in productivity.
Those are the words of the present Minister for Transport spoken in this chamber on 12 March 1974. 1 throw those words in his face. As a senior Minister in the Cabinet he has had a direct part in the unemployment policy that this Government is pursuing.
Yesterday afternoon I could not but admire Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Australia when she delivered the Speech that we are now debating. I congratulate her for the excellent manner in which she delivered that Speech. I could feel only sympathy for the task that she faced in trying to instil impressiveness into that flimsy, shallow, inaccurate document which was prepared for her by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. It goes on record as probably the poorest, briefest speech ever handed to a Head of State for delivery at the opening session of an Australian Parliament. The remarks of the 2 previous speakers, the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Calare, bear that out quite well. They were in difficulty in trying to find some subject matter in the Speech. The Speech occupies a mere 3 columns in Hansard and, as one of the news journals reported today, it appeared to be a patch up of previous Sunday night addresses by the Prime
Minister. It is remarkable for its cynicism and callousness towards those hundreds of Australians who are suffering personal hardship as a result of the deliberate policy of expanded unemployment pursued by this corrupt, conservative Government, a government that came to office on the shoulders of a conspiracy. That is what honourable members opposite are stuck with now. The Speech is remarkable also not for what it says but for what it does not say. I will have more to say about that on a later occasion. We hear much from the Prime Minister about reform. I want to make it clear that the Prime Minister’s definition of reform should be treated as regressive change. Reform has a connotation of something good about it, but the reform being pursued or disguised by this Government has nothing to do about progress.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to be able to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). I would like, firstly, to make some comments about the economy and the policy being undertaken by this Government as outlined in the Queen’s opening Speech. The Opposition and a substantial section of the media seem to wait expectantly, even eagerly, for bad news. Therefore before speaking out about some of the principles behind the Government’s economic strategy I would like to spend some time looking at the positive results so far achieved. Firstly, the control of inflation has been accepted by this Government as the first prerequisite for restoring the private sector, for returning the economy to more normal levels of activity and for reducing unemployment. This causal relationship between inflation and unemployment has been recognised by responsible economic institutions and governments throughout the world.
The nexus between unemployment and inflation has changed in recent times and their simultaneous occurrence is relatively new. Traditionally a trade-off between inflation and unemployment was possible. Either of these factors could be improved but at some expense to the other. This occurred during the 1960s in Australia and led to fairly predictable and workable economic policies. In the past few years this relationship has changed. We have seen record levels of inflation and unemployment occurring together. Attempts by the previous Government to reflate the economy led only to higher inflation rates, higher interest rates and higher unemployment levels. Quite obviously we live in a new economic order. No longer is there the price and wage flexibility of years gone by. The economy is now more rigidly structured, with consumers, employers, employees and governments having different attitudes and expectations. All behave much differently. All possess a greater capacity to impose their individual will on the economy, irrespective of the consequences. Ten years ago it would have been unheard of to seek record money wage increases in times of record unemployment, as is happening now. Conversely it would have been unheard of to consider massive tax cuts in times of high inflation. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, in its latest survey of business indicators, referred to the fact that in recent years movements in aggregate demand no longer give rise to predictable movements in prices and wages. If one accepts, as most do, that inflation is the basic cause of our present problems, then it is inflation which must be tackled.
The results to date are quite heartening. In annual terms the rate of inflation, with the Medibank component removed, was 10.8 per cent last year, compared with 16.7 per cent in 1975. In making this comparison I feel it is reasonable to omit the levy. We should be comparing fundamental economic relationships. The Medibank levy involved a political decision, a philosophical commitment to make people personally accountable for a portion of their health costs. It is not a result of economic forces leading unavoidably to higher health costs. For that reason, if one is comparing key economic indicators, such independent variables should be omitted. Other indicators show that the economy is beginning to move in the right direction. Between the December quarter of 1975 and the September quarter of last year there was an increase of Vh per cent in real gross non-farm product. This trend appears to be continuing, with industrial production increasing strongly in the last half of 1976. 1 think it is worth remembering in this context that in the last half of the term of office of the Whitlam Government real output actually fell. There was a negative rate of growth.
The demand indicators give some reason for optimism. Exports, private expenditure on dwellings and stock building have contributed to this economic growth. Businesses have indicated that they expect new capital expenditure in the December quarter to exceed the September quarter level considerably. Real private investment in plant and equipment, seasonally adjusted, responding to the Government’s investment allowance, increased by 4.3 per cent in the 6 months to September, following a 3.6 per cent decline in the 6 months to March 1976. Furthermore, company profits, the basis for future investment and future jobs, increased by 26.2 per cent in the 6 months to September 1976, as compared with almost no change at all in the 6 months to March 1976. These are some of the positive aspects of the economy at present. There are soft spots, but I think we should look at some of the indicators in a realistic light. If we do we must come to the conclusion that there are some grounds for optimism at present.
I would like to place our economic strategy within the perspective of recent comments by Opposition spokesmen on the economy. The trade union movement and Labor spokesmen in general have criticised the Government for its wages policy. They have done so again today. In this context I quote from the annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia for the year ended 30 June 1976:
In the 12 months to December 1974, average weekly earnings rose by 28 per cent, consumer prices by 16 per cent, and so real wages by some 10 per cent- cramming into 12 months the normal trend growth of real wages accruing in about 3 years- and this in a year in which average productivity fell as output contracted.
In recognising the need for money wage increases and productivity increases to maintain some kind of balance, the Reserve Bank stated:
The need is for the main aims of stabilisation policywages policy, budgetary policy and monetary policy- to keep moving firmly towards restraint.
This has been the cornerstone of the Government’s domestic economic strategy. It is interesting to note, in relation to the Reserve Bank’s call for moderation in wages policy, that the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, is a member of the Reserve Bank Board. When he is wearing other hats he could hardly be called a strong advocate of wage restraint. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has also sought to criticise the Government’s endeavours to bring about restraint in wage and salary increases. In 1975 he clearly stated that inflation in Australia was primarily and almost solely due to wage increases and claims. So it is little wonder that Labor’s socalled new economic policy makes no reference to the all important area of wages policy.
Another suggestion put forward by Opposition spokesmen in their economic policy is to reduce taxes as a means of stimulating consumer spending. This, in my view, ignores recent experience regarding consumer behaviour. During Labor’s period of office, particularly in 1974, when award wages rose at record rates and the savings ratio also reached record levels, consumer spending did not react at all. There was an increase in that year of less than one per cent. All that happens is that tax cuts, when associated with government expenditure increases, lead in turn to larger deficits, higher interests rates, higher inflation rates and, of course, higher unemployment rates. Contrary to what was the case, this leads to the consumer squirrelling effect because of the known likely impact on future employment prospects. Rather than spending in order to hedge against inflation, consumers save against the possibility of future unemployment. In this respect I see tax cuts, as a means of stimulating the economy, as possibly being counter productive. But I advocate the need for tax reform on equity grounds, as does the Government. The question really is one of timing and waiting until the inflation rate comes under control.
The Opposition has stated that it would indulge in selective government expenditure increases as a means of stimulating the economy. In fact its lack of statements on wages policy, together with the recommendations for increased government expenditure and reduced taxation, have a very familiar ring. In my opinion, it is a recipe for disaster because it leads to inflationary pressures. To suggest that increased government expenditure would help to reduce unemployment is also to ignore the lessons of our recent past. This, as I have said before, may have been a useful remedy in the 1960s, for then high unemployment was generally accompanied by low rates of inflation and could be corrected without putting undue pressure on prices. That is no longer the case. Resource and commodity prices now respond to factors other than demand and resource utilisation. The period 1973-75 should have shown once and for all that massive public sector expenditure as a part of economic strategy does not necessarily reduce unemployment. Record levels of government expenditure and unemployment occurred at the same time. Further, to suggest, as the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) suggested, that a government would deliberately create unemployment to reduce inflation ignores, firstly, the fact that unemployment and inflation are no longer alternatives, and, secondly, ignores the fact that under Labor record levels of unemployment did not reduce the inflation rate. In fact the relationship was the other way round. The record level of unemployment was caused by record levels of inflation. I am pleased to support the Government’s present economic strategy. I trust that the Government will maintain its resolve to make the control of inflation its number one priority.
Another aspect of the Speech by Her Majesty which I support is that section in which she stated that the Government would continue to assist those people most in need. The Government’s strategy of reducing the rate of increases in government expenditure has been accompanied by a genuine concern to concentrate its resources on those who need help the most. This, in my opinion, is most commendable and should be the basis of any social welfare system. I believe that if the ability to pay is used as the basis for collecting revenue through progressive taxation, it is only logical that the means of disbursing such revenue should be based on the criterion of need. Other countries which have adopted universal schemes have recently found that they are cumbersome and intractable and that they prevent maximum benefits from being directed to those most in need. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada, through recently published white papers, have expressed the opinion that selective benefits may better serve their needs. So I support the view that greater emphasis should be placed on anti-poverty measures as a basis for welfare action.
Not only does Australia according to a recent World Bank survey have a more equal distribution of income than almost any other country in the world but also I believe there is merit in the suggestion that Australia’s adoption of a basically selective approach to welfare is largely responsible for the fact that the incidence of poverty in Australia is lower than in any country with the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries. This approach to welfare allows a greater degree of flexibility for the Government to address itself to new areas of need as they arise.
The Henderson inquiry into poverty in Australia recognised, for example, the plight of large low income families and the Government immediately introduced the family allowance scheme in order to provide greater help to those who needed it most. Under the previous tax rebate system the greatest benefit went to those who needed it least. I hope that the Government will continue to move into other areas of need as and when they are recognised. In particular I again support the need for assistance to lone fathers. This is a matter which I have already discussed in the Parliament at some length. I also return to the need to up-date the various subsidies which are available under the Homeless Persons Assistance Act which have not been increased at all since the Act came into force. These and other areas of need I feel sure can be better catered for by the flexibility which is inherent in the Government’s needs based welfare policy.
The only other matter I wish to raise at this time is the question of tax reform, particularly for elderly citizens and married couples who receive a part pension. In the latter part of 1976 thousands of age pensioners who were not solely dependent on the pension for their income received greatly increased tax assessments for the year 1975-76. Outside the issue ofthe economy, I believe that this is one of the biggest social issues in Australia today. I have been inundated with complaints from pensioners who are facing tax assessments which represent a doubling, trebling or even quadrupling of their tax liability. Many are facing commitments they either cannot meet or if they do meet them they will drastically have to change their life styles. The amounts involved are substantial and, because they were not budgeted for by these people who live on tight budgets, this problem has created widespread distress. I stress that these problems stem from the 1975-76 financial year and not from the policies of this present Government. I think this is one of the more unfortunate legacies of the Labor era, and particularly of the 1975 and earlier Budgets. I am prepared to be charitable and to give the Opposition the benefit of the doubt. I do not think that these difficulties were fully envisaged by the Labor Government and I think that they may even have got under our belt. Although this problem was created between 1973 and 1975 it did not emerge fully until the latter part of 1976.
Briefly, the history of the problems stemmed from the previous Government’s decision to tax age pensions. This was a step which was taken in conjunction with its policy to abolish the means test. Abolition of the means test is a matter over which there is still a great deal of debate. There are strong arguments for and strong arguments against but it involves a political decision. Both of the major political parties in Australia have this principle firmly wedded with their policies. Notwithstanding that, if the abolition is proceeded with it is generally accepted that some claw-back through taxes is necessary in order to preserve some element of the criterion of need. I think that is a reasonable proposition, but much depends on how it is done, and this is where the problems emerge.
One problem, of course, is that only some age pensioners benefited from the abolition of the means test and they were the people of 70 years and over. But all pensioners, except those fully dependent on the pension as their sole source of income, suffered from the taxing of the pension, particularly after the age allowance was abolished. Further difficulties were created by replacing concessional deductions with the general rebate in the 1975 Hayden Budget. Perhaps most important of all, increasing pensions, which are now automatically adjusted, and increasing superannuation payments, in the absence of tax reform, have meant that all pensioners with substantially increased money incomes but not increased real incomes have been confronted with higher marginal tax rates, and this has placed thousands of elderly Australians in a very serious financial position.
Although the problem was created by the previous Labor Government it is no good simply apportioning blame. That is of small comfort to the people involved. I hope that the Government will investigate the severity of what is a quite complex problem. I am not recommending special tax treatment for aged people solely on the basis of age and without reference to need. But I suggest that the living standards of this very large cross-section of people have only recently been adversely affected by the fiscal events of earlier years. I ask the Government to examine this matter and, if necessary, consider appropriate reforms to redress this situation. I have pleasure in supporting the motion moved by the honourable member for Braddon.
- Her Majesty’s Speech is not of great length although it is of major significance in terms of some of its content and some of its omissions. In terms of printing what is deemed to be the Government’s program occupies a mere 3 columns of Hansard. I think that eloquently expresses what we deem to be the major deficiencies of the present Government. The honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), who has just spoken, adverted to facts that we all know exist. Members of the Opposition wish to place on record that the Labor Government was elected to promote the welfare aspects of our society. One of those welfare aspects was the abolition of the means test for age pensioners. We heard much about this concept from a former Liberal-National Country Party government but very little was done. The Labor Government attempted to do something about this matter. I remind the House that supporters of the Government, including the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), on many occasions in the past agitated for the abolition ofthe means test. But the point is that we agitate for these reforms on the basis of what is best for Australia and how we can best utilise resources. We do not see the same concept or philosophy coming from the present Government.
As an example, in the speech made by Her Majesty great emphasis is given to a housing voucher pilot scheme. We would all be very impressed on the basis that obviously this scheme will help many thousands of people in need, as indeed they are in need. But I have found that the Budget provision for this proposal is $75,000. The housing supplement by way of rental subsidy in my area and in many areas of Australia today in many cases should be at least $20. If we were to apply that yardstick to this alleged magnificent scheme we would find that the scheme would help 75 families in Australia. This proposal was outlined in a speech from the throne. What a magnificent effort we are making in this area! I would think that we should be hanging our heads in shame when we consider what is the real problem of housing. Why is it that the young people in whom we are so interested cannot get proper accommodation? It is of little value for honourable members opposite to pat themselves on the back about a favourable family allowance scheme when families have nowhere to shelter. These are the sorts of problems that arise. Pensioners who pay rent are paid an extra $5 a week for housing subsistence allowance. This is costing us $4.3m. I just want to make a comparison. We provide $4.3m for elderly pensioners at a time when hundreds of thousands of young people are to be offered a housing voucher pilot rental scheme for which we give a paltry and miserly $75,000. 1 am disappointed to think that this scheme even received a mention in the speech from the throne.
Let us have a look at some of the fundamental issues that face Australia. Some reference was made to the need for change and I am pleased to say independence of spirit. Honourable members would have noticed yesterday the independent spirit that is prevailing in Australia at the present time. It is against not the monarchy but the fact that we are saddled with an outmoded Constitution. Some reference was made to the tinkering with the Constitution in which we are about to indulge. It is hoped that the Australian people will pass some referendums in May next, but they will allow only very minor adjustment to a greatly outmoded Constitution.
The Constitution is undemocratic. It favours the old establishment class of the 1890s. It has in it the concept that we are still subject to colonial domination, guidance and advice. It is contrary to democratic principles on which a country such as Australia should be able to say its Constitution rests. In the United Nations we as a nation applaud the freedoms that are there espousedhuman rights, the protection of the individual’s life and property, the freedom of countries from aggression, and so on. Yet in our own country we have a Constitution over which we as a national Parliament have very little power. It is apparent to those who attend Constitutional Convention debates that those who represent State governments feel that we should not have even the power we have. They believe that the States are best able to manage this country. At present Western Australians are more interested in talking about secession, as they were in the 1900s. They believe that they have the money and that they can do the job better than the Commonwealth. It is something like the Bougainville situation. Because there is a copper mine on Bougainville the residents there believe that they ought to secede from Papua New Guinea.
Let us look at the matter from the Australian point of view. This talk of secession is caused by the dreadful confrontation that can take place within the ambit of the Constitution. The Senate is determined to run this country in future. The Senate is an undemocratic institution in the sense that it is not elected directly by the people on an electorate basis. It is elected on the basis of proportional representation and on the basis of the States. The Senate is firmly convinced that it should be running the country. Well meaning people on the Government benches think that this is proper. It is even suggested that if in future Supply is refused there should be a double dissolution to determine the issue. Let us assume that we adopt that course and there is a double dissolution following refusal by the Senate to pass the first Supply Bill. Assume that after an election the Government retains power in the House of Representatives but still faces a hostile Senate. Is the outcome of the next Supply Bill to be determined on the same basis? Are we to have double dissolutions every 6 months? That is how often Supply Bills go before senators, and they make their decision not on what they think is best for the nation but on what they think is best for the parties they represent.
Is it not about time we realised that even our forefathers did not have such lack of foresight? As I have mentioned before, they clearly provided in section 87 of the Constitution that threequarters of the revenue collected by the Commonwealth Government should go back to the States and that out of the remaining quarter of the revenue, which was very limited in those days because it came only from customs and excise duties, the Commonwealth was to provide also section 96 grants. The States were not very worried about the refusal of Supply. They had their money apportioned under section 87. So, why make a legal provision that the Senate is so powerful that it can refuse Supply, thus depriving the Government of any money? Of course, as was known in the past, the High Court wisely said that this Parliament ought to control the economy. The provisions of section 87 need not have prevailed, certainly after 1920. After 20 years of that sort of nonsense we got out of that position. We then had the advantage of being able to run the economy as a nation. In 1974 an attempt to defeat the then Government by threatening to refuse Supply failed. In 1975 a second attempt was successful. The reason was that people were put into the Senate not by the electors but by Premiers of State governments hostile to Labor. The crunch of the situation is that in future, no matter what government thinks it has the will of the people, the government will not be able to govern unless it has the will of the Senate. No mention was made of this reform.
Tinkering with the Constitution is likely to lead to further delay in drafting a new Constitution. It is about time we had a new Constitution. This is what the blue flag with the white insignia which we saw in front of Parliament House yesterday represented. Australia should be standing up as a nation. A new Constitution has to be drawn up. It is very significant that the majority of those under the age of 30 years favour a new Constitution. I am not talking about a Constitution that says that we have to get rid of the monarchy. The monarchy can remain. A new Constitution should clearly state that the powers of the people are vested in the House of Representatives, that this House is responsible to the people and that all legislation passed by both Houses can be accepted as being passed in an intelligent way. It should clearly state that there is only one House of finance, as there is in most other worthwhile countries. That would be the House of the people, the taxing House. Then we would not have this confrontation, this nonsense, this charade as to the power of the Senate and how it will dictate what is in the best interests of the economy.
If we look at it from the point of view of what is in the best interests of the economy, we as members of the Australian Labor Party must bear in mind that we were removed from office by the senators ostensibly on the basis that there was high inflation, high unemployment and a lack of economic management. If that was the yardstick, why is the present Government still in office? Today we have even higher inflation, even higher unemployment and a malaise, as evidenced by the Jackson report, permeating the whole of our industrial base. So let us talk about what should be done to help this nation in a crisis, which is what we now have. Let us not have a very limited speech from the Monarch telling us that we will make great economic progress and that we are developing our characteristics in a proper fashion. We are failing the Australian people because we are not giving them the opportunity of stable government or government of a democratic institutional nature. We are saddling them with the old idea that the establishment always knows best. The Government is very much wedded to the establishment of this country- the limited few who feel that they should be able to wield power and dictate what should be a reasonable profit for themselves.
We hear from the Government an indictment ofthe trade union movement and what is wrong with the wages policy the Labor Party is espousing. When we said in December 1973 that we wanted the power to fix prices and incomes, the then Opposition opposed the idea, as did the trade union movement, for wrong reasons. The opposition was on the basis that the States could do the job, that they had the power and that there was not need for this sort of exercise. What nonsense that was. How it has been proved by subsequent events that this is about the only national Parliament without the ability to control its national economy. Is it any wonder that there was a wage explosion in 1974? When the Labor Government was trying to hold the front line on wages, who was negotiating agreements across the board? It was the banks, the insurance companies, the local government clerks -
– And Reg Ansett.
– And Reg Ansett. They were negotiating the lot. The Mayne Nickless Ltd $24 a week for transport workers wrecked the metal trades award arrangement under which there was a $ 1 5 ceiling. Honourable members opposite solemnly come into the chamber now and say that it was the Labor Party’s fault. In the referendum in 1973 they denied us the opportunity to control prices and incomes. They must accept the blame for the wage explosion in 1974. We fought hard for wage indexation in 1975 and they opposed it. Full indexation was the best thing going for this country because it guaranteed an effective margin of control in the wages area. Honourable members opposite are taking credit for reducing inflation in the last 12 months. The reduction has been due solely to indexation, which we brought in. The Government has only one argument to put. Before the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission it argues that there should not be any increase in workers’ wages, despite the fact that the cost of living increases. How can it justify that? Of course its justification is that wage increases affect profits. But the worker gets no benefit from the profits. He makes the profits for others and he is taxed on what he earns. Many companies are able to use all sorts of interesting devices to avoid tax. The investment allowance is a bonanza for some of them- not those that are struggling, but those that have plenty of wealth.
The Government’s problem is that it is unable to identify needs. It is unable to legislate effectively to bring about proper tax reform. At least the Labor Government started to do something in this area. We legislated to make tax deductions uniform instead of giving a higher deduction to a man with a higher income. We are very fearful that we will see, particularly in the education field, a return to the old philosophy that the man who spends more money on the education of his child, which he can do only if he earns more, should get a larger tax deduction. The Karmel report clearly shows the obvious discrimination that there has been in education in Australia for many years. The poor have received the worst end of the deal.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-In continuation of my speech which I commenced before the suspension of the sitting I now wish to address my concluding remarks to the laws which the Government intends to put before this Parliament and to law reform generally. Firstly, I would like to mention the Australian Labor Party’s proposition to introduce a national compensation scheme. This has been prevented from coming to fruition because of the Government’s opposition to our legislation. The most practical demonstration of the worthwhile characteristics of that legislation is, as I indicated at question time today, that about 30 people who were permanently injured or who suffered bereavement in the Darwin cyclone tragedy are being paid benefits in accordance with the principles of that legislation. The tragedy of the present Government’s mean and miserly attitude is its decision to discontinue to pay compensatory benefits to those people from 31 March. There are paraplegics, families who have lost the bread winner and people who have suffered permanent injury. All that will be given to these people is a paltry, insignificant invalid pension- some social benefit which will go nowhere towards meeting their needs. If honourable members look at the budgetary provisions relating to the Darwin cyclone disaster they will see that some $600,000m has been expended in restoration in full for property damage and other worthwhile compensatory factors, but certainly nothing is more worthwhile than life and limb and the ability of a person to survive and enjoy a reasonable standard of living. While the Government is anxious to give itself plaudits for a somewhat doubtful housing voucher scheme costing $75,000 a year I am now prepared to say that it will extract more than that amount of money from the benefits that it should continue to pay to the victims of the Darwin cyclone disaster. It is important that this Parliament should understand the need for national compensation legislation of the type that has been put forward. I hope that on the next occasion this legislation is introduced this Parliament will recognise the worthwhile nature of its contents and approve it.
Another matter to which reference has been made is the human rights legislation. Honourable members will recall that the Labor Government introduced the Human Rights Bill in 1973. That Bill clearly espoused the rights. It was in accordance with the covenant adopted by the United Nations. It meant that we as a Parliament would legislate to guarantee that people had rights. Personally my own view is that those rights ought to be spelled out in the Constitution itself, but it is important for them to be incor- porated in legislation and to be enforceable in legislation. All that the Government is saying is that it will establish a human rights commission. That commission will not have the same force and strength as the proposal put forward by the Labor Party. The Human Rights Bill of 1 973 was defeated by the present Government with its numbers in the Senate. That Bill had the ability to enforce rights. This Government’s proposal is merely to establish a commission which will investigate complaints. The commission will not have the same strength or effect as our proposal. We were relying on the external affairs powers in respect of our legislation so that this Parliament would be able to say right throughout Australia that rights could be guaranteed. The proposed commission will be relying merely on federal law or federal power which is somewhat weaker than our proposal. It will not be as strong and it will not encompass all rights. So again we can see that there is no effective effort to bring about law reform in this area.
Finally, time and again we have attempted to introduce national securities legislation into this
Parliament but it has been defeated again and again by the Government with its numbers. On what basis can the Government justify the continuation of the graft, corruption and blatant stealing of money that is being perpetrated under the existing company legislation in the States? This Parliament has the power to legislate in this field. The Rae Committee, as it is known, clearly established that people were being defrauded. A recent report on Patrick Partners tabled in the New South Wales Parliament discloses deceit, fraud and corruption of the greatest magnitude but nothing is able to be done about it. Auditors have been deceiving people; trustees have not been acting in accordance with their responsibilities; creditors are coming to members of parliament saying: ‘ Can ‘t I get some justice? ‘ It is quite clear that there is an urgent need for law reform in this area.
This Parliament has some say in respect of bankruptcy but it is a bit late to take action against a bankrupt when the cause of the bankruptcy could have been dealt with. It is important that we quickly establish that this Parliament can give people assistance in this area. The Patrick Partners case is a prime example of how negligent the Parliament has been in legislating in the field of corporate securities. We can save people money. We can name the crooks and we can prevent them from continually being re-elected to companies. Again we make this plea: At the moment there is no more urgent legislation than the corporations and securities exchange commission legislation. If that legislation were in force we could have saved many people. We could have saved their entitlements. We could have proved that this Parliament is at least interested in these problems.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As a member of this House I am delighted to have the opportunity to be associated with the passage of the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech. While the economy remains a major matter of national importance, it is by no means the only subject which should involve this Parliament. We have reached an emotional watershed in Australia’s history. I am concerned that there appears to be a growing national malaise. Perhaps our very affluence has robbed our people of ambition and in its place we hear with monotonous regularity the litany of what is the Government going to do about every problem whether it be large or small? It is a fundamental contradiction for people to speak of a society based on free enterprise and individual initiative while at every opportunity seeking the involvement of the Government and then complaining that taxes are too high and that the creeping hand of government interference pervades all. The alternative is for people to be prepared to do more for themselves. There is an obvious equationless or more efficient services equal less taxes. The people must make this decision for themselves.
I believe national and personal goals tend to lack perspective, for too long governments of all colours have tried to encourage people to believe that the objective of their existence is to obtain greater quantities of physical possessions. In fact, our affluence has made today’s luxuries tomorrow’s standard goods. But the tragedy of all this is the disappointment of achieving goals based entirely on possessions. Workers and management alike have been encouraged to think that provided their profit is greater this year than last, and provided the income per worker is higher than previously, that with the effluxion of time all must be well. But the experience of 3 years of Labor above all else demonstrated the fallacy of that case. With the expenditure of over $3,000m on education alone, with the acceptance of the right of all people to have a high standard of education- one must question education for itself or education for specific jobs- we have still failed to find many so called educated people work commensurate with their conception of their abilities. Therefore we have allowed frustration to become a dangerous element in society.
Despite its desire to attain high educational standards society has failed to decide who is going to be around to do the menial jobs. We cannot all go to universities, nor should we. We cannot all achieve a status in society. But we still want our community services and there is a certain level at which a machine cannot do this type of work. It has become quite clear that we need a manpower planning policy which can be applied in Australia. That is one of the objectives of the present Government through its inquiry into education, one of the objectives of which is to examine whether people are going to be available and trained for the jobs which hopefully will be present in the economy in future. The real problem is that we are running the risk of allowing people to be super educated yet at the same time unemployed. President Lincoln once said:
If we first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it.
We know that geography and history have placed Australia in a clearly defined relationship with the rest of the world. We also know that we have clear comparative cost advantages, especially in primary and mineral production. Because of our excessive fear born in our isolation from the other Western countries of Europe and North America and from the impact of 2 world wars we have allowed ourselves to believe, almost as a matter of holy writ, that somehow or other we must become a virtually totally self-sufficient people. This tendency is all too simplistic to be allowed to continue. We expect the world to buy from us but apparently we do not have to buy from the world, and we believe that behind our high tariff barriers we can continue with the fallacy that it we give enough protection to enough industries jobs can be found for all regardless of the cost and regardless of the limited size of the Australian market and of the high cost structure which makes it difficult in many areas of production to sell abroad.
It is perhaps a peculiarity of our Westminster system that governments and oppositions rarely agree about major national policy objectives, yet there has been a consensus for many years, among the Australian people at least, that they expect from their governments near full employment. To achieve this it is quite obvious that jobs must be generated, and employees given a sense of confidence in the future, and here of course we have a division of philosophy. Successive Liberal-National Country Party governments have believed, and rightly so, that the private sector which generates most of the goods and services used by the Australian people must be the source of major employment opportunities. The Opposition, on the other hand, being more tied to a dogmatic socialist approach, has tried to have a foot in both camps. It wishes to build up a strong government sector as it attempted to do between 1972 and 1975. By its pace-setting policies it was largely responsible for pricing many Australian workers out of their jobs. Yet the absurdity of this whole exercise rests on the fact that governments alone cannot create jobs which are uneconomic and expect the Australian taxpayer to pay the difference indefinitely.
I believe there is evidence to sustain my belief that at this time in our nation’s history there is a great opportunity for the major political parties, ibr management and for unions in particular to reach a consensus that the future welfare of our citizens will depend to a large extent on giving them the opportunity to work and thereby to live productive and useful lives. Agreed guidelines must be achieved to make this possible. I am not one of those who take the view that everybody in a pluralistic society has to work, but I certainly believe that those who do not wish to work have no right to expect their fellow Australians to support them in their life style indefinitely. Much has been said here tonight about the need to make people work in return for unemployment benefits. In this regard may I suggest that consideration be given to establishing in Australia an unemployment insurance scheme on the German model which requires the worker as well as management and the state to make a contribution to the fund. In return the voluntarily unemployed are expected to take whatever jobs are offered to them or risk losing their benefits. The Germans also have a form of national service in a civilian capacity for those who cannot find work within the normal structure of the economy.
The Government might do well to consider the re-establishment of a somewhat improved Regional Employment Development scheme under which it could offer to local government bodies the equivalent of the unemployment benefit in return for jobs being given to the unemployed. From the soundings I have made with local government I believe that there is some prospect that some thousands of young people in particular could be employed, if only on a part time basis, in activities of general use to the community. Perhaps consideration could also be given to trading off the 40 per cent depreciation allowances against a cut by the States in their pay-roll tax thus picking up the marginally unemployed. The Government is to be applauded for the scheme which it has introduced to overcome this most pressing problem, but regrettably we are facing the probability that unless we are prepared to accept fairly radical changes in the industrial profile of Australia, full employment could well be a dream of the past. As has been clearly pointed out by previous speakers, the unskilled workers in particular were priced out of employment through the policies of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the previous Labor Government. Even the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) realised this when he said in January 1975:
As long as wage demands continue to cut profits, then there is going to be unemployment in Australia. Every excessive increase in income for one man takes the job of another man.
Those words have proved to be so true. The average employer is well aware of the fact that the unskilled unit of labour is more expensive than investing in plant and machinery, which does not go on strike, which does not require holidays nor 17½ per cent loadings. Who can blame him? The clear lesson of the Industrial Revolution has been that where men are naive enough to believe that they can pit themselves against machines they have always lost.
I have no doubt that we shall see a continuing trend towards greater technological innovation in Australia in the decades ahead. Australian industry associated with a greater reduction in employment opportunities, especially for the unskilled, showed quite clearly in the census of 1954 where 38.9 per cent of all labour employed was in the manufacturing industry. In the last census of 1975 this had fallen to a mere 32.6 per cent. It is significant that the rural sector’s requirements for labour fell from 15.1 per cent to 7.9 per cent over the same period, but unlike secondary industry there was a far greater increase in productivity. On the other hand, employment in the tertiary sector increased substantially. In 1954 it was 45.9 per cent and in 1975 it had grown to 59.4 per cent, an increase of over 14 per cent in that period. Quite obviously what we are going to require is a more technologically trained population- people who can compete in a highly computerised world and take their place in the many and varied service industries which will continue to grow as the demands of a more complex society expand.
The problems that I have outlined must also be seen as challenges to our nation’s future. If the estimates in the Borrie report prove to be correct, Australia has not only a seriously declining birth rate approaching zero population growth but with it a progressively older population. This must require more capital intensive industries in the future, and the only prospect of changing the trend would appear to be the reintroduction of a much more positive immigration policy combined with family development policies to encourage more, young people to have larger families. Even this will not change the fact that with an ageing population we will require new policies and new opportunities to enable that section of our people to live a meaningful life. While the current trend is towards early retirement, it may well be necessary to reverse this trend in the future.
Our technological revolution which has taken man to the moon and into space has brought with .it fundamental changes in our lifestyle. Regrettably, in this country at least, there does not appear to have been any substantial development of our vision, or a consensus among our national leaders. I refer to not only political leaders but to commercial leaders and leaders from virtually every other section of our community. We must seek to develop our national resources for the benefit of Australians and ultimately for the world. This does not mean that we should simply sell raw materials for others to manufacture and sell back to us at higher prices. Surely in the areas of processing of minerals and agricultural products there is potential for both capital investment and job opportunities. I am firmly of the view that in the past we have failed to use our comparative cost advantages to the maximum extent possible. Within this context every effort must be made to encourage management to be more imaginative. As I said earlier, free enterprise should not mean protection from the Government at every turn any more than freedom means licence. Similarly, management today, together with labour, have a responsibility to encourage job interest and to build up self respect and dignity in the work place.
Employees at all levels, not just the executive, should be encouraged to identify themselves with the company that employs them. Surely Fletcher Jones is an outstanding example of what can be done in this regard.
Despite the enormous achievements of our nation in the last 25 years and despite our extremely high standard of living compared with many countries, the Henderson report identified areas of major concern and deficiencies in the social welfare structure, This was despite the universal philosophy of spending money on welfare. In 1976-77 all levels of government spending reached $2,339 for every man woman and child in this country, out of which social welfare alone accounted for over 30 per cent. This should have taught us the same lesson as we found in the field of education, which I noted earlier, that often massive financial expenditure does not equate with efficiency of service or with equality of opportunity. Today there are still some one million people in this land who are living below the poverty line. The introduction by the Government of family allowances and the new experimental housing allowance voucher program for housing are major initiatives to give money to those people in need with a minimum of bureaucratic interference in the hope that by helping those in need directly we are giving them dignity, self respect and the opportunity to decide for themselves how this assistance should be spent.
Among the many benefits which we have as Australian citizens is the fact that this whole continent belongs to one nation alone. In that respect we are unique but time is not on our side. Unless all Australians are prepared to start thinking of themselves as pieces in the mosaic of the nation, we run the very real risk of wasting our precious human assets in futile internal strife in a world in which the gaps between rich and poor are growing day by day and in which a nation’s right to exist will not depend on the rule of law so much as on the might of its right arm.
Much has been said in the past about Australia ‘s low productivity and that Australians are lazy and will not work. This is a judgment which I for one do not accept. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the average Australian worker today is supposed to work 40 hours a week. How many could truthfully say that they do that while being perfectly happy to take their 4 weeks annual leave, plus 17½ per cent holiday bonus, plus one week long service leave per year and probably 2 weeks sick leave per year. In addition there are some 24 public holidays per annum. Thus the average employer has to pay for some 12 weeks during the year when, in fact, there is zero productivity. As a nation we have an obvious choice. We can expect a higher standard of living with low productivity, higher deficits and higher inflation and the ultimate collapse of our nation, or we can equate our sense of achievement with higher living standards and higher productivity. At this time, lower wage demands are essential more in keeping with the capacity of the economy to absorb them.
I now turn to the question of defence and foreign policy. The Government must be congratulated on its publication of the White Paper on a defence policy for Australia. Nevertheless care must be taken to ensure that there is an appropriate match between policy and the availability of forces to put it into effect. At the present time, because of financial restraints, there are some difficulties in this area. For example, there is a real danger of the replacement syndrome becoming too evident in our repurchasing policies. The mere need to maintain or upgrade the state of the art should not be taken as the raison d’etre for buying equipment simply because our major allies also have it. The size and physical characteristics of our continent require a unique defence capacity which cannot be achieved simply by grafting onto accepted doctrines ad hoc concepts which may or may not meet our requirements. It must not be forgotten that in our purchase program, due to the Labor Government’s deliberate decision to cancel arrangements made by the McMahon Government in 1972, we are now some 4 years behind in the purchase and resupply of desperately needed equipment for our armed forces. Although the Government has announced that $ 12,000m will be spent towards this objective, the continuing unsatisfactory level of inflation both here and abroad could well mean that additional funds will be required if we are to meet even our most basic requirements for new equipment. Vital decisions for all 3 Services have yet to be made, and foremost among these of course is the question of a fighter replacement for the air force.
There is nothing more certain than that in the ultimate analysis the Australian people alone will be responsible for the safety and security of our land. The perspective in which Australia’s defence needs to be examined cannot ignore the relationship between the great powers or the likely impact of changing circumstances in South East Asia, the Pacific and the Indian Ocean areas in particular. As Australians we must continue to be vitally concerned about the welfare of our neighbours. With the virtual removal of the United States defence umbrella from South East Asia, the continuing incursions being made into Thailand from both Laos and Cambodia, the reemergence of a clandestine communist movement in Malaysia and the potential problems which could emerge in Indonesia, it is abundantly clear that Australia cannot cut itself off from the region in which we must form a part. The Government’s aid programs are but one manifestation of our continuing interest in the welfare of these peoples. But the trend announced by President Carter in his decision that in future United States aid will be predicated by the requirement that recipients maintain acceptable standards of human rights could well prove to be an initiative of the greatest significance which Australia will have to watch with considerable interest. It is far too simplistic to divide the world into communist and non-communist powers and to take the view that was taken during the Dulles era that the Free World included such outstanding despots as Papa Doc of Haiti and the military dictatorships of Latin America. Today, of course, we have similarities with General Amin in Uganda. While countries like ours espouse the view that states should not interfere in the domestic affairs of others, there is obviously a point where, if the crocodiles are allowed to run amok, it will not be long before their appetites seek for prey on the other side of the river. Surely the world learnt this lesson from the rise of Adolf Hitler. Undoubtedly there will be others. We have reached a watershed in our history. It will be for future generations to judge how best we handled it.
-I hope the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) will forgive me if I do not answer him at length because it is not necessary. It was the usual Liberal litany- up with profits; down with wages; the worker will not work, although he denied that at the end of his speech. That is not what he meant although that is what it sounded like at the beginning. I refer to a couple of points that he made. First of all he quoted some figures from manufacturing industry which show that the percentage of employment in that area is declining. He also quoted figures from primary industry which show that the percentage of employment in that area is declining and that the area of activity was transferring to the tertiary industries. That is apparent to most of us but the biggest contributor to the tertiary area is government and the whole theme of this Government’s economic policy is to reduce government activity. The honourable member is flying in the face of his own analysis of the situation and producing further misery as far as I can see. I think that is a pretty important thought for the Parliament and for the honourable member. Fifty per cent of his sentiments were reactionary and SO per cent seemed to be commendable, an improvement on some of his colleague perhaps. The facts are, of course, that investment will continue and productivity per worker will continue to increase.
It is a piece of mythology of Australian life that the productivity of the Australian worker is at a minimal level. It would be worth while to examine some figures with regard to productivity. At the Commonwealth Brickworks, which is a public activity, I calculated from some figures I received that the 35 workers employed there produced on an average 700 000 bricks per week. This is about 20 000 bricks per week per worker which, at a calculation of the standard average rate of about $120 per thousand, means $2,500 worth of production per worker in that institution. This includes the typist, the manager and the people on the floor. They are costing about $150 per week to do that. I understand that in the coal mines it is of the same order and that in some areas in the coal mining industry each miner is producing up to $400 of coal per day for an average wage of perhaps $30 per day. I think it is time that the people who are complaining bitterly, such as the honourable member for Bradfield, and the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee), whom I noticed on television the other night repeating the same furphies, made an analysis of exactly what is the productivity of the Australian worker in relation to everybody else on this planet.
I wanted to talk tonight about the struggles of this Parliament to assert its own rights and its own power against forces that flow down through history which have betrayed the reasons for its very existence. I believe that 1 1 November 1975 was a serious defeat for this Parliament, not because I was one of the by-products or victims of it. If it means that we start to think about the constitutional structure of this country in the constructive way of some of my colleagues, particularly my friend, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who spoke earlier this evening, it probably has been worth while. There are noises coming from the other side of the House which indicate that Government supporters feel the same. The long history of Parliament, of course, has been a continuing struggle of the institution to survive against those who would subvert it and against those people who controlled the power structure of countries. We are the inheritors of the British parliamentary system. It is instructive to look at the struggles of the 17th century in which the Parliament asserted its rights eventually against the monarchy, against Charles I by his ultimate execution, against James II by his ultimate abdication and against any future transgression by monarchs in the arrangements that it made with William and Mary in 1688. It is instructive to read an Act which was passed at that time entitled an Act for the frequent meeting and calling of parliaments. It states:
In those days monarchs had access to funding from different sources and they could get along without parliaments and rule by decree. The struggle these days is to assert the right of this Parliament to be free from undue interference by others, whether it is the Governor-General acting in his capacity or the Senate acting in its capacity. I believe that the people of this country elect a House of Representatives to govern Australia. It is the executive instrument of the people of Australia and it ought to have the right to be able to do so unchallenged during its term of office. It ought to have a duty to get on with it.
So I am speaking this evening to suggest that we take a close look at the question of constitutional reform and consider why the march to constitutional reform has been a slow march indeed. It is one of the miracles of this country that in the 1890s our predecessors in the various parliaments were able to arrange the gathering together of the colonial parliamentary representatives and produce a document which, up until recently, I though was fairly adequate in many areas as far as actual governmental techniques are concerned. Now, of course, we know that they are not.
I know that some honourable members opposite think that the events that occurred on 1 1
November 1975 were reasonable. It is not a bad idea to remember what they were. In the ordinary course of events the then Treasurer in August 1975 produced a Budget which passed through this House and was sent to the other place. That place, realising that there were opportunities for political gain, started to play ducks and drakes with it. It neither passed it nor refused to pass it; it neither deferred it nor made judgment upon it. It simply held the country to ransom over weeks of discord. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), of course, does not believe in discord in the community, and I am surprised that he supported what was going on at that time. Eventually the GovernorGeneral exercised the authority which he presumed to have, which honourable members opposite presumed him to have and which we on this side of the House say that he has no right to have- nor does he have it- and dismissed the Government, and in this House an act, I think, of what one could almost call parliamentary treason occurred.
The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) stood up in his place and said that he had been appointed the Prime Minister. The House passed a vote of no confidence in him forthwith. What ought any parliamentarian of honour have done? He should have told the GovernorGeneral that he could not carry on under any circumstances whatsoever. It might be said that, after all, he had organised it and that he would not do that. What surprised me was that a large number of his colleagues were willing the next day to accept commissions under those terms. I believe they acted in betrayal of their parliamentary duty. The 12 November Ministers, as one might call them, I believe have got a black mark on their record which they will wear while they are in this Parliament and while they are out of it, because they breached totally the parliamentary tradition. If you are going to be a Minister who administers you must have the confidence of the lower House, which in this case is the House of Representatives.
So that brings me to the question: What are we going to do about it? I just want to say a word about the current fantasia, one might call it that or the philological exercise of saying that the problem will be solved by denning the country as a republic. One dictionary tells me that a republic is a state in which sovereignty does not reside in an hereditary ruler. Sovereignty in this place does not reside in an hereditary ruler. I suppose one might say that Her Majesty has denied that it was possible for her to intervene. She has informed my friend, the honourable member for
Corio (Mr Scholes), of that in eloquent English. I can admit now that on the evening of the day on which we were removed from office I rang Buckingham Palace and spoke to her secretary. I told him what was going on to make my point about it. I think it was quite obvious from whatever came from Britain at that time that Her Majesty the Queen said: ‘It is your own affair out there’.
So who does rule this place? He is certainly not an hereditary ruler. He is an accidental one perhaps. Let us hope he is just an incidental one. So what are we? We are not a republic, I suppose, because in theory we have a monarch. We are not a democracy because we have an appointed official who answers to no one and may do what he will with this Parliament, as he did the other week when he prorogued it. It is worth while reading the implications of section 5 of the Constitution. Just imagine what would happen if, say, the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) had that power to exercise over his electoral committee. The next time the matter of preselection came up he would dissolve the committee, prorogue it, prevent it from meeting, and so on until he had satisfactorily solved his precarious situation. We are inheritors ofthe feudal concept in the very acceptance of the fact that one man can have that kind of authority.
– You have hurt my feelings.
– I am almost gratified. I reached the conclusion recently that the honourable member did not have any. We have an executive fixation in this country. We have some religion about Cabinets. This is not the twentyfifth government, or whatever the figure is; we have got the Fraser Government here. Previously we had the Menzies Government and we had the Whitlam Government. I think it is an oddity in the Australian scene that we should identify governments by the names of people. I regard this republican fervour which is currently running through the country as irrelevant. It is a total misunderstanding of events of 1 1 November 1975 to think that the situation as we see it would be solved by suddenly calling ourselves a republic. Unless we change the power base in the Constitution there is no point in calling it anything at all. My own view is that we have the Commonwealth of Australia and that we should change the present structure.
So I am advocating this evening the passage of a Supremacy of Parliament Act- call it what you will- to make provision for 3 things in particular. The first is to alter the Constitution so as to provide that Ministers shall have the confidence of the House of Representatives. I do not think we need to alter the Constitution to do that. A member of this Parliament is a creature and the creation of this Parliament. It should be possible to define the duties of members of this Parliament in carrying out any administrative act. It is true that His Excellency the Governor-General may appoint a member of this Parliament to some particular function, but it is also true that we could have it included in the rules that that also meant automatic expulsion from Parliament. I believe that is a very important principle and we ought to assert it.
There is one other proviso that I think we must have, and that is in relation to the duties of public servants. One of the depressing things about what occurred on 11 November 1975 was the readiness with which we all accepted the authority that had flowed on that occasion. I did and the officers of the department which I administered did. But it was not for a couple of days, I suppose, that I realised the inherent dangers in that- that simply a handing down of a message from on high meant that everybody accepted it and that there was a total change. The public servants who had been administering the country under the Labor Government, immediately accepted the orders of the newly appointed Ministers, none of whom had the confidence of this Parliament. I think we should make it clear in the Public Service Act that the Public Service administers its responsibilities only under authority stemming from Ministers who have the confidence of the House of Representatives.
Then we come to the relationship between the 2 Houses. Surely it is time we got on with that. On my first afternoon in this place, 15 February 1956, the Governor-General said:
The election has left my Government with a substantially larger majority in the House of Representatives but with a Senate in which the Government will by July not have a majority.
Then he went on to describe the complications which arise from that situation. He went on to say:
The present position is that any conflict between the 2 Houses can be resolved only by the slow, cumbrous and not very satisfactory procedure of a double dissolution such as occurred in 1951. My advisers believe that the relations between the 2 Houses should be reviewed. They are of opinion-
Some of them are sul! sitting here- that a government requires a reasonable term of office and a reasonable period of stability in which it may give effect to its long-range plans for the nation.
That was said 20-odd years ago. Subsequently a Joint Committee of Constitutional Review was appointed. Honourable members might find it instructive to read the pages of the report of that Committee which refer to the settlement of deadlocks. Some of the people sitting on that committee were the Prime Minister at the time, the Rt Hon Sir Robert Menzies, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and Senator Wright. The Committee recommended that in the event of a dispute between the 2 Houses the Governor-General, acting on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, should call a joint sitting straight away. That would seem to me to be a reasonable and logical solution of the problem. Of course, if a government did not have the numbers in a joint sitting perhaps it would have no right to proceed anyhow. I admit that in 1975 it would have been a finely balanced meeting of the Parliament. I am happy to see that provision as a democratic protective device. I believe it is important and urgent that we take the steps necessary to change those features of the Constitution.
I briefly remind honourable members of the democratic threats that lie within the Constitution. For instance, under section 5 of the Constitution the Governor-General may decide upon the times for holding the sessions of the Parliament, by proclamation or otherwise. He can prorogue the Parliament and he can dissolve it. What we decide upon here and what the Constitution dictates flow on for decade after decade. It is now 77 years since the Constitution came into operation. Whilst we might say that certain things will not happen, let us presume that the Governor-General decided to run the country on his own; that he decided to suspend the sittings of the Parliament tonight and to reconvene the Parliament in 12 months’ time for a few hours to comply with the Constitution. In the meantime, every 3 months he could appoint whomsoever he wished from wheresoever he wished to administer the country. I see an honourable member shaking his head. He might be just testing it or he might be saying that such a thing could not happen here. Honourable members should not believe it. Some 15 months ago we did not think that a Governor-General would exercise the sort of authority that was exercised. We live in a world in which this kind of thing is happening pretty consistently and the unexpected and the unbelievable do occur.
I suggest to the House that we should apply ourselves pretty rapidly to making sure that the control of the destiny of this institution lies with its membership, which is answerable directly to the people and to no one else. It is not a question of monarchies, republics, governors-general or such like; it is a question of the supremacy of the
Parliament. I regard the 4 referenda that are before the people now as of moderate importance. The one relating to the Territories is important. I think the 2 referenda relating to simultaneous elections and the replacement of senators are gimmicks. Until we resolve the question of the relationship between the 2 Houses there can be no continuing or guaranteed stability. Until we resolve the question of the supremacy and the power of this Parliament there can be no continuing stability in our democratic institutions. Until we do something about the nexus provisions- those dealing with the relationship between the number of members in the 2 Houses- we will still be controlled by ideas that were relevant in the 1890s but are no longer relevant.
My view is that we will not be able to mobilise our electoral organisations to fight effectively for those referenda proposals unless we put into the ring something in which they can see some sense. Most of the people in my organisation and, I should have thought, in the kindred organisations of the other parties represented in my electorate agree that it is nonsense to reduce the number of House of Representatives members from Victoria at a time when the population is rising. So I appeal to honourable members to think very carefully about the nexus issue. They should not be disheartened by the fact that such a proposition was lost in 1 967; they should get on with the job. I think that 2 1 May, or whenever it is to be, is too early for these referenda proposals to be put to the people. I played a very active part in the referendum concerning Aborigines which was held in 1967. It took 10 years to prepare.
– You won.
-That is right. With the help of the honourable member for Robertson and many other people, we carried the day. I remember meetings at which the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), Mr Jack Kane- that other leading democrat from New South Wales- and I were on the same platform, or almost the same platform. We mobilised collective opinion and we carried the day. That is the only way that constitutional amendments will be passed.
-Her Majesty’s speech expressed the hope of economic progress. That hope cannot be realised without positive policies and positive action on our part. It is possible to argue about the depth of the recession or the extent of the recovery; but no reasonable argument is possible against the proposition that our economy is flagging and should be quickened. One thing that would do that is tax reduction. Surely nobody would argue that tax reduction would not quicken the economy. It would provide a stimulus in 4 ways: It would reduce costs by a reduction of indirect charges; it would be an anti-inflationary measure; it would add to incentive for those who find their marginal earnings heavily taxed; and it would increase consumer spending.
Why not, therefore, have tax reductions? The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given us some reasons. I want to summarise the argument that he has put forward. He says that tax reduction would increase our deficit; that if we did not fund that deficit by loans there would be an addition to the money supply, which would be inflationary; and that if we did fund it by extra loans there would be a rise in interest rates, which would impede recovery. So on those grounds, putting that argument forward, the Prime Minister says that at the present moment tax reduction would be irresponsible. For the sake of the present argument, let me accept 2 statements by the Prime Minister which I consider questionable. I consider it questionable that he should describe the capital expenditure of over $3,000m in the Budget as being a deficit. I consider it questionable that an unfunded deficit would always add to inflation and raise prices, although I concede that in some circumstances it would. But these are things which are irrelevant to the proposition which I am presently putting forward. In my view there is a way of funding the deficit without putting up interest rates. That is the proposition that I want to put to the House tonight.
I can see the relevance of the argument of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that if they go to the market to raise an extra $ 1,000m in order to cover tax reduction, shall I say, interest rates will rise. I can see that that would occur if they went to the market in the conventional and ordinary way. But this is where I think they are wrong. It is not necessary to confine oneself to these methods in approaching the market. In the old days- not so very long ago- a loan was taken up to a large extent by private subscribers, not by professional investors. This is not longer the case. Private subscriptions are relatively small today because naturally those who otherwise would purchase bonds are frightened by inflation. They say: ‘Why should we put money into long term bonds at 1014 per cent interest when we can get 1 1 per cent or 12 per cent on the market where it is equally safe and where we have a chance of retrieving our money fairly quickly should we want it?’
– Such as in the Parkes Development company.
– As my friend across the chamber suggests, sometimes they may be wrong and may make a misjudgment. But in general, for example, they would think of call deposits with building societies and things of this character which rightly they would judge as comparatively safe. So they do not go in for loans. Still, this market is one which should be available and it would be available if we were to offer to the public bonds which were indexed both as to yield and as to redemption. This would attract the little men. I would not suggest that we make bonds of this character available to the professional market.
I suggest that we put the bonds out with 4 reservations. First, I think that they should be sold only to Australians who are enrolled on the Commonwealth electoral roll. Secondly, I suggest that they be non-transferable, that is to say, that when someone buys them they would be his and they would be redeemable only on his death; but they would be a permanent investment, permanently anchoring the funds in the market. Thirdly, I suggest that they be fully indexed on the consumer price index both as to yield and as to ultimate redemption. Fourthly I suggest that any one holder should be allowed to purchase only a limited quantity of bonds. This would keep the professional investor, the institutional investor, the speculator, out of this market. It would be a market for the little man, the person who we really want to get to subscribe to the bonds and who by subscribing would have the security of his income for life protected against the erosion of inflation, and the return of capital after death to his estate for the benefit of his children again would be protected from any inflation erosion.
I suggest that in addition to selling normal bonds we should do something which was centuries ago a part of public finance but which has been allowed to fall into desuetude. We should sell indexed annuities, annuities on the whole of life either of the person who purchases them or jointly on the lives of him and his spouse. They would pay their amount in at the present moment and they would purchase for each $100 a certain amount of annuity which would be expressed as a sum of so many dollars a year but which would be indexed and would go up with any rise in the CPI. Those purchasers would have an income for life secure from inflation. I suggest that this is something which would be attractive to many people and particularly to many people who would like to split their capital and put some of it into bonds so that their children would have it erosion proof at the time of the investor’s death and some of it into an erosion proof annuity which would pay of course at a great deal higher rate than the bond rate so that they would have that at the higher income during the course of their life. Again it would be erosion proof.
I think this scheme would be attractive to very many people. I do not believe that it would be difficult to raise very considerable sums in this way. While I am suggesting that the interest rate be comparatively modest both for the bonds and for the calculation of the annuity- which of course would depend upon the age of the purchaser- I think that there would be no difficulty whatsoever in the Treasurer raising whatever money he wanted to cover what he calls the Budget deficit but which is really the amount that we spend on capital works from the Federal Budget. There would be no difficulty whatsoever in raising $3,000m or $4,000m a year on the Australian market from people who would want to get security for life against inflation. It may be said that it is expensive for future Federal Budgets, but this surely is a delusion. The Federal Budget draws its revenue from the incomes of the time. If the CPI increases, without any increase in rates and, allowing for the full indexation of income tax which we brought in, there would still be no difficulty at all in meeting the amount. The Federal Government can do in this what no other concern can do. The Federal Government itself has its revenues inflation proofed.
I think that there is nothing extravagant in this proposal. All I am suggesting is that the amount we raise be the amount we spend from the Budget on capital works. It is not in any way outrageous or extravagant to say that capital works should be financed by loan. Sure, the Federal Treasury will be giving up the opportunity to swindle its citizens through inflation. That, of course, is something which revolts every Treasury officer but it should not be something which revolts every member of this Parliament. To give up the chance of swindling citizens for the future is quite different from incurring an unreasonable expense in the loans to them for the future.
If this course were adopted the Federal Treasurer could raise his loans without going to the professional market. This would mean that he would be able to say to the professional market: ‘Interest rates down’. This is one of the most important features of what I am putting forward. Interest rates in Australia are extravagantly high. They are not high because we need to protect our currency against an outflow of funds, the classical mechanism. On the contrary, we have had to protect our currency from an inflow of funds by variable deposit requirements which was simply a means of keeping up local interest rates or, shall I say, preventing the inflow of funds from pushing local interest rates down. The Treasurer- we can understand what he is saying -says: ‘I have to get funds. I have to raise the money. I have to get subscriptions and I will not get subscriptions unless I put up my bond rates’. By putting up his bond rates the Treasurer is putting up every other rate in the market.
Let me put this quite plainly. Australian interest rates are extravagantly high not because of any pressures of foreign funds but because the Treasurer in order to raise his local money has to offer high interest rates. I am saying that if we look at this in a sensible way and if we go for indexed personal bonds and indexed personal annuities- which I think might be even more important than the bonds- in quantity the Treasurer could tell professional investors to go to hell. He could offer bonds only at a low interest rate because he would not be worrying whether the professional investors subscribed to them or not. This would immediately revivify the whole of the economy. If one can get interest rates down business will be picking up. This is the mechanism to do it. It is not unfair on the insurance companies, for example, because the insurance companies- I speak particularly of the mutual insurance companies which do not have any shareholders- will make large windfall gains. The capital value of their portfolios will rise substantially as interest rates fall. They will be able to compensate themselves for the fact that their future investments will be at a lower rate of interest.
One may say that this is a simplistic plan. It is in a way. It has a simplicity, but it will work. It will not put a strain on the other capital markets because as moneys are withdrawn to pay for bonds they will be disbursed by the Government, particularly in the form of tax reduction. As I said before, this will stimulate the whole of the economy and make all the difference to our present outlook. At the present moment we are cabined into stagflation. The economy is stagnant and it is not going ahead as it should.
I offer in this way 2 things. I offer, firstly, a way of reducing taxes without inflation. It will reduce taxes in a way which is counter inflationary because it will enable costs to be reduced and it will enable indirect charges to be lifted. Secondly, I offer the reduction of interest rates throughout the whole of the Australian economy. I am not suggesting that one takes any terribly drastic action. One may want to do things gradually and not in a very disturbing and drastic way. This simple measure will change the whole outlook of the Australian economy and get us out of the morass in which we are still floundering.
-The atmosphere this evening seems nice and relaxed, with very few fans on the benches and even fewer in the galleries. So one can be excused for not making a violent speech but for musing on the problems facing us. I will be interested to read in Hansard tomorrow what the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) said. I feel it is a bit of a dream. I may be wrong; I may have missed part of the logic. Certainly the point about purchasing annuities is already good socialist philosophy. In our terms it is called a national superannuation fund. One pays for it while one earns, and gets it back when one retires. The only problem is that that does not necessarily give one a lot of funds to spare. It does not really allow one to drop all that much in taxes because, after the scheme has been in force for a time, the stage is reached at which people need to be paid back their money. If there is any inflation- there is likely to be- the annuity has to be at a higher rate than the rate at which they contributed. So I do not think it is quite as simple as the honourable member said. I may have missed some of the logic. I shall read Hansard carefully before I completely dismiss the suggestion. I thought there was something missing. The Queen, in her Speech, said:
Australia has experienced economic difficulties in recent years; my Government has given first priority to restoring the economy and will use all the resources at its disposal to achieve this goal.
That is very good. The Government acknowledges that we are in economic difficulties. I say that because the Government wrote the Speech. If one is in difficulties, I guess the first thing one has to do is to assess the problem. The Government’s assessment of the problem is that ‘the prosperity of the Australian people depends on the strength of its productive private sector, on its manufacturing, mining and rural industries’. I take it that that is a concession that there is something sick in the state of the private sector. If it were all right we would not have our problems. Hence that statement. The Speech continues:
My Government is providing incentives and encouragement to the private sector, and is reducing its own relative demands on national resources so that private industry may have room to grow, provide employment and increase the well-being of all Australians.
That is marvellous. This is a private enterprise economy. I am tempted to ask: If it is private and if it is enterprising why is it necessary for the Government, a sort of socialist arm of society, to provide incentives and encouragement to the private sector? Why is private enterprise unable to get itself going? The truth is that in this country private enterprise has been neither private not enterprising for the last 50 years. In fact, enormous props are provided by the Government for the private sector.
Let us discuss the moves taken by the Government to encourage the private sector. One recent move was devaluation. It was based on the simple proposition that among other things devaluation decreases the cost of Australian manufactured goods to buyers in other countries. That is good. That means that other people elsewhere will be keener to buy our goods. So we earn more money; we export more. That is the theory. In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 December a gentleman by the name of Clive T. Edwards wrote:
The 1 7.5 per cent devaluation of the dollar is a bird of ill omen for manufacturing industry in Australia.
Most Australian manufacturing firms are highly protected from import competitions by tariffs, import restrictions and other barriers to imports. By making imports dearer -
That is what devaluation does- the devaluation will allow these firms to raise the price of their goods by some 1 7 to 20 per cent.
That is funny. That was not what was supposed to happen. That is what this Clive T. Edwards claims will happen. That means that the firms increase their prices. They can obviously make more profit. That is why they are there. I am not necessarily grizzling about it. I want to pursue the logic of the private enterprise system. Devaluation enables them to raise their prices because they are selling whatever they can hope to sell overseas anyway. They can just bump up the price a bit. The overseas companies still pay the same amount, in essence. The home company earns more in Australian dollars because of the trick of devaluation. That increases the cost on the Australian market. That is not all. The article also states:
But most manufacturing firms depend heavily on imported inputs . . . The price of these inputs will rise some 17 to20 per cent . . .
The increase in the price of imports will add significantly to inflationary pressure.
I thought the point of all this exercise was to encourage private enterprise. One of the reasons for doing it was to control inflation. There is an inherent illogicality in it if this gentleman, who is a senior lecturer in economics at the Australian National University, knows what he is talking about. Presumably he does.
– Maybe he does not know.
– The Minister mumbled: ‘Maybe he does not know’. That is all very well. He is one of those people who advise us in Treasury and everywhere else. So the increase in the price of imports will add significantly to inflationary pressures. I notice that the Minister is mumbling away that that is all nonsense. Maybe, but let us see if that is what is happening. The article continues:
But this is not all. The devaluation adds to the profits earned in the industries which play a crucial role in the determination of award wage rates . . .
This in turn is going to encourage increases in wages. We have a funny theory in this country that as profitability of private enterprise goes up everybody should share in it, including the workers. So if the profitability of an industry goes up the wages in that industry go up. That is what the whole arbitration system is about. No one up till now has grizzled about that proposition. So the very move we have taken to try to control inflation, namely devaluation, is going to increase the cost for the manufacturing sector; it is going to increase the profits of those particular sections that are the pace setters in wage fixing. So therefore wages are going to go up which of course will flow across the board and increase the cost for everybody else.
I am not arguing against wage increases. I am just pursuing the logic as put by a gentlemen who ought to know and who writes in defence of this private enterprise system. He concludes:
On balance, devaluation itself provides little net gain to manufacturing firms.
But there is more. First, devaluation will be accompanied by supplementary policies. In particular, credit will have to be kept tight if there is to be any semblance of an antiinflationary policy. Interest rates will therefore be high and will rise over time.
The incentive to invest -
And here comes the rub- in the expansion of manufacturing activities will be small because the cost of borrowing will rise . . .
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser) said he was trying to encourage the private sector to expand, but the effect of what he has done is going to inhibit that expansion. The article continued:
A decision further to restrain Government spending will exacerbate the depressed state of consumer demand.
This is because the private sector will not be able to borrow as a result of interest rates being too high. Therefore it will not be able to invest and as a consequence it will not be able to build new factories. The only area in which we will get things built will be in the public sector.
Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister in the speech he gave to the Queen suggested that we need to cut down on the resources allocated to the public sector so that we can encourage the private sector. The author of the article says that that decision will further exacerbate the depressed state of consumer demand. That is not a mystery. If we spend public money on public works the money is used by the private sector. The private sector builds schools; it builds hospitals, and supplies the equipment and everything. In other words, this so called inhibiting of public spending, the terrible extravagances that the last Labor Government indulged in, the sort of waste of public money that this present Liberal Government is going to contain, control and restrict means that in fact action controlling public spending is harming the private sector. It was nonsense to suggest that the public sector had too much of the resources because the resources inevitably flowed from the private sector itself when it did work required for the public sector. The article in commenting on the question about the other effects of devaluation stated:
Second, the devaluation will provide a substantial boost to the rnining industry.
That is lovely. We have been told that that is what we need. The author of the article then puts forward a note of caution when he states:
Added to the concessions extended to the mining industry in the Budget, the devaluation provides a substantial stimulus.
That seems good. The article continues:
For the manufacturing sector, this spells disaster. Capital inflow associated with mineral projects will improve the balance of payments, which was in deficit for speculative, capital account reasons only.
In other words, money dealers were trying to make money out of us. The article continues:
In the longer term, the stimulus to mineral sector output most of which is exported, will add to the balance of payments surplus. Australia ‘s international reserves will rise dramatically, and the Government of the day will be forced to appreciate the dollar or reduce barriers to imports.
There is the rub. The article continues:
Manufacturers would naturally expect the Government to revalue rather than reduce tariffs and import restrictions
. Mining firms and rural interests are now more fully aware of the impact of high import barriers on their earnings. They will press for tariff cuts rather than revaluation.
In other words, these crucial parts ofthe private sector are at war with one another. What helps the mining sector defeats the manufacturing sector and vice versa. Of course, the rural sector is squeezed in the middle anyway. The article continues:
In the future there will be growing pressure for tariff cuts in preference to revaluation as Australia’s balance of payments improves. As tariffs and import restrictions are lowered, manufacturers will feel the pressure of Asian competition far more acutely than they have in the past.
On balance, the manufacturing sector will suffer severely as a result of this devaluation … If the Government succeeds in restraining inflation in the longer term, manufacturers will suffer as a result of a substantial up-valuation of the Australian dollar -
In other words they do not win whichever way it goes- as the mineral sector expands.
This is because the mining sector will earn the money. The article continues:
If the Government fails to restrain inflation, manufacturers will be brought to their knees through massive cost increases. Regardless of what happens, there is no joy in devaluation for manufacturers.
As long as the manufacturing sector remains depressed, unemployment -
Which is a bit of an aside- will remain high.
The Government has not taken much notice of unemployment. In other words, in summary, the joyous news for the productive private sector is that revaluation will give a short term gain- very short- which will lead to increased costs of production due to higher costs of necessary imports. At the same time the short term profit increases will prompt increases in award wages. The point is that the gains from revaluation will be short term only and while profits go up in that short term it will prompt wage increases. In the longer term costs to the manufacturing sector will go up with wages and increased costs of imports and so they suffer the pinch. I will not repeat all of that argument. So long as this pressure remains on the manufacturing sector unemployment will persist or even increase. Prices will continue to go up and things will just go from bad to worse. That is not my theory. That is what is happening. That is what the erudite gentleman was talking about. He gave us observations of what is happening.
We are faced with the position that the recession that the Government while in Opposition claimed we caused is still with us. The Australian Financial Review of 4 March in an article entitled The Recession That Will Not Go Away’ stated:
In 1 977 no economy is an island.
Although this is a self-evident truth it is one which is often ignored in the public debate about economic strategies in Australia.
Indeed, in the last election the coalition parties successfully ridiculed claims by the Labor Party that external factors had been a major contributing cause to the high level of inflation.
Having adopted such an approach on the hustings it is a little difficult for the present Government to turn around and blame the rest of the world for its problems at the moment.
But that is precisely, of course, what it is trying to do. So what of the future? On 29 December 1976 an article entitled ‘Economic forecast: gloomier’ written by Kenneth Davidson appeared in the Melbourne Age. The author of the article referred to the economic outlook of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. The article stated that the 7 major members of the OECD were expected to have an annual growth rate of 4.75 per cent. These countries included Britain, France and so on. The OECDs December forecast of growth rate was not 4.75 per cent but 3.5 per cent. This was insufficient to take up the growth in the work force of member countries; in other words despite the increase, unemployment increased. Before devaluation the OECD team studied the Australian economy and said that while this Government’s policies would lead to a reduction in inflation this alone would not result in the recovery of economic growth. The article went on:
Implicit in this report was the suggestion that the Government would have to undertake expansionary policies early in the new year if growth of 4 per cent in 1976-77 was to be achieved.
That is the exact opposite of what this Government was trying to do or was wanting to do. According to the article, because this sort of claim or argument was similar to the policy advocated by the Government’s critics, the Government insisted that it be removed from the final draft of the report. The Government is allowed to doctor the report. That is beaut! It is not in the report; so maybe we will not hear about it. But we do hear about it. The idiocy of that move is that the Government is fooling itself. It does not want to face realities; so it rubs out the uncomfortable evidence. The article continues: the OECD estimates that Australia will achieve a growth rate of only 3 per cent in 1976, and an estimated 3.2S per cent in 1977.
According to Davidson, if this forecast is correct -it is happening before our eyes right nowunemployment will continue to rise during 1977. He said that in December 1976. That is what is happening now. The article continues:
The view expressed privately by members of the OECD secretariat in Paris is that devaluation will provide only a temporary stimulus to domestic demand, and that this will be more than counterbalanced by loss of business confidence as a result of the acceleration in inflation which will set back the prospect of a stable recovery by at least a year.
So the whole problem grinds on and gets worse and worse. According to the article, we are looking for all sorts of straws in the wind to help us get out of our mess. We hope that our primary products will sell more easily, but the report suggests that the recent fall in food grain prices is not likely to be reversed in the very near future. We are told that commodity prices, particularly for minerals and metals, are likely to be soft. That is a gentle way of saying that they will be depressed or low, or that we will not get as much as we would like for them. Internationally traded meat prices, particularly for beef, are expected to remain depressed.
I am not quoting all this just to poke a finger at the Government. I said that I wanted to muse a little, and I do. The editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 4 March points out that the expected growth for last year has not been achieved anywhere. It looks as if it will be worse than expected. In fact it is worse than even the pessimists had forecast. That is the position in America and most other countries. The Mitsubishi Bank says that the economy of Japan seemingly headed up several times towards recovery but has run out of steam and even now is unable to set itself firmly on the road to recovery. I am simply quoting all this to suggest that there is something wrong in the basic logic behind the moves to control inflation. What we are really doing is simply maintaining a state of affairs in which we have massive unemployment, we still have inflation and we merrily pursue the same policies. I think it is time the Government had a very serious rethink. It is wrong in its present course.
– I support the Address-in-Reply motion so ably moved by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and supported by the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie). I propose to mention a few of the facts that caused the economic problems with which we are faced today and which existed when the Fraser-Anthony Government took over from the Labor Government. Three years of profligate government spending brought one of the world’s wealthiest nations to the brink of economic disaster. Then the people rebelled. In April 1975 the Australian economy was in its worst shape since the Great Depression. The country’s socialist Labor Government was running a $3 billion deficit- 5 per cent of the gross national product. Business confidence had all but vanished, unemployment had soared to the highest level in 30 years and inflation had accelerated to an annual rate of 13.4 per cent. In Canberra, Australia’s Federal capital, a wry joke went the rounds: ‘The only Australian factory working day and night is the
Government mint’. Eight months later the Australian people, in their most decisive vote in recent history, threw the Labor Government out of office.
The story of Labor’s 3-year rule makes a sobering case study of what can happen to even such an economically advantaged country as Australia when high spending proponents of big government are voted into power. Australia, the lucky country as Australians began calling it in the 1960s, has one ofthe world’s highest living standards. With a population of 13.5 million, it produces much of the West’s wool, wheat and sugar. Minerals abound. We produce 70 per cent of the world’s zircon. We have a near monopoly of titanium ore, one quarter of the noncommunist bloc’s uranium, and plentiful supplies of coal, iron, copper, bauxite, silver, lead and zinc. According to World Bank figures, Australia also has the West’s most egalitarian economy, with the smallest gap between rich and poor.
When Labor came into office in late 1972 unemployment was 2.4 per cent and inflation 4.5 per cent- an economic performance matched only by West Germany. With 70 per cent of Australia’s oil requirements coming from local wells, she should have been relatively insulated from the world inflation that the oil producing countries’ sudden price increases in 1973 would bring. Nevertheless, by 1974 Australia’s economy was in a frightening mess. Inflation had soared as high as 28 per cent in a single month. Why? A July 1975 International Monetary Fund survey stated bluntly:
The origins of the Australian recession are to be found in domestic developments.
Those developments began in mid- 1972. A conservative coalition of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party had been governing without interruption since 1949. Despite a good record in managing Australia’s post-war development, the Liberal and National Country Parties appeared to have stagnated after so long in office, and in the 1972 election they were not able to counter the appeal of a dynamic Labor leader, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). For the first time in a quarter of a century normally conservative Australians elected a socialist government. Within days of taking office the Whitlam Government plunged itself into a socialist-minded restructuring of the Australian economy. New expenditures were voted for free college education, increased aid to schools, higher unemployment compensation and age pensions, and subsidies for sports and the arts. The Honourable Fred Daly, a former member for Grayndler, said:
Few of us bothered to count the cost in those early days.
He was one of the Whitlam Government Ministers. He later confessed:
We spent money as if it were going out of fashion.
Almost immediately inflation accelerated. The consumer price index jumped 8.2 per cent in the first 6 months of Labor rule. Increased unemployment benefits and relaxed eligibility regulations began to foster a welfare mentality which is still with us today. One economist estimated that 10 000 persons stopped working. Handouts for young unemployed workers in particular more than quadrupled and the number of surfies increased substantially. A new lifestyle known as dole bludging- government subsidised loafingproliferated.
As Labor prepared its first Budget, for 1973-74, senior civil servants warned that the economy could absorb a government spending increase of only $1.8 billion. Determined to have its new programs, however, Labor lifted outlays by $2.3 billion. Judicious taxing might have dampened the resultant inflation, but Labor had pledged not to increase taxes. Instead it announced an across-the-board 25 per cent cut in tariffs. By exposing Australia’s tariff protected industries to foreign competition Labor reasoned that prices would be forced down. For the same reason the Government formed the Prices Justification Tribunal, charged with limiting company profits. This really started the unemployment problem in Australia because it allowed into the country goods manufactured in Asian countries by workers being paid $12 a month. That was Labor’s policy. It did not protect the Australian worker. The policy backfired. Many factories unprepared for the invasion of cheaper imports closed down. As a direct result of the cuts, at least 23 000 workers lost their jobs and inflation reached 13 per cent. These workers were employed mainly in decentralised industries in our great provincial cities and towns.
The Labor Government also set out to boost wages and benefits. It pushed through a 17.5 per cent pay increase and a fourth week’s annual vacation for the 245 000 Federal civil servants and it supported a trade union plan to extend the longer vacation to private industry. In 3 years Australian wages rose by 70 per cent while industrial productivity increased by less than 1 per cent. The figures are frightening. During the election campaign the Labor Party had argued that its trade union links would enable it to negotiate more effectively with militant unions, but in Mr Whitlam ‘s first year strikes proliferated and 2 634 000 working days were lost- a 3 1 per cent increase over the previous year.
Civil servants warned the Labor Government of the need for 1974-75 budgetary restraint to curb, inflation. Labor hesitated as its factions fought. Contradictory budgets were put forward month by month. Business confidence slumped further and unemployment rose. Finally, Mr Whitlam fired his Treasurer, Mr Frank Crean, and replaced him with Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Jim Cairns, of the Party’s left wing. The new Treasurer’s inability to say ‘no’ to socialist colleagues’ pet programs earned him the nickname of ‘Dr Yes’. Soon Canberra buzzed with alarming stories of what the Sydney Bulletin called the Government’s ‘handout industry, the fastest growth area in the Australian economy’. Concerned that local government authorities were not spending all the money available to them, the Department of Urban and Regional Development published a 57-page book entitled Sources of Funds and How to Apply for Them. Members of Parliament voted themselves a 37 per cent salary increase. Dr Cairns presided over a Cabinet meeting that lifted the ceiling on Public Service hirings and in Labor’s 3 years in office the number of public servants increased by 12.6 per cent.
In a development familiar to Americans these soaring administrative overheads tragically negated many of the well-meaning programs which Labor introduced. Perhaps the most poignant example was welfare for the sadly disadvantaged remnants of the AboriginesAustralia’s native race. Determined to do something about their misery, the Labor Government sponsored a threefold spending increase on Aboriginal programs. In response the Department of Aboriginal Affairs promptly doubled its staff and poured much of its funds into 89 largely fruitless research projects, including an attempt to farm turtles and crocodiles. We all know what happened to them. When it was time to check the stock there was not a turtle to be found. They had all disappeared and Sim of taxpayers’ money had gone down the drain. Aboriginal welfare became a self-sustaining bureaucracy with a huge share of the Government money going to social workers, administrators, researchers and consultants. Canberra political commentator Peter Samuel observed:
If the Department’s whole budget was simply paid to the Aborigines, each man, women and child would get $1,800. Instead, each Aborigines received an average of $96.
As the recession deepened and inflation continued, the Government launched its single most expensive program yet-Medibank, a system of free universal health care which added some $1.8 billion yearly to the taxpayers’ burden. Medical costs now began to climb at a rate outstripping even inflation. Physicians’ fees increased by 20 per cent in the first year of Medibank ‘s operation. General practitioners would order unnecessarily full pathological tests for their patients and then pass on the entire charge to the Government. Some doctors reportedly were seeing up to 20 nursing home patients an hour and billing Medibank. Medibank, said the editor of The Medical Letter, had become ‘a multimillion dollar, money-eating machine’. All told Australian federal spending reached an estimated $26.3 billion in 1975-76-up a staggering 80 per cent in just 2 years.
It was appropriate perhaps, that a government so careless with money should pass from the political scene over a money scandal- the all but incredible Khemlani affair. This was an attempt by the Labor Government to borrow $4 billion m Middle Eastern petrodollars by going outside normal governmental fund-raising channels. Without notifying Parliament a group of high ranking Cabinet members, including Mr Whitlam, authorised Minerals and Energy Minister, Mr Rex Connor, to borrow funds for unspecified ‘temporary purposes’ which is believed to have been the nationalisation of large segments of the mining industry. Their intermediary was to have been, not one of the large New York or London banks traditionally used by the Australian Treasury, instead a Pakistani money merchant named Tirath Hassaram Khemlani who claimed to be in touch with rich Arab sheiks and who sat on a box in a dingy London Office. Details of the proposed borrowing underscored the Labor Government’s consistent lack of sympathy for the Australian taxpayer. The loan was to have been repaid at compound interest but with no payment for 20 years. Thus for the $4 billion the next generation of Australians would have had to repay an astonishing $17.6 billion. Moreover, Khemlani was to have received a 2Vi per cent finder’s commissiona mere $10Om. When these details leaked to Parliament and the Press the uproar was such that Mr Whitlam was forced to withdraw Mr Connor’s premission to raise the loan. When the Minister quietly continued his negotiations with Khemlani the Press uncovered this too and Mr Connor was obliged to resign. Within 2 months the Labor Government had been swept away. A landslide anti-Labor vote returned the conservative coalition to power.
Last May in his first televised address to the nation, the new Prime Minister, the Rt Hon.
Malcolm Fraser, referred to some political truisms which many countries besides Australia have recently neglected. He said:
Over the past year or so, the view had begun to develop that we could have it all without really having to pay for it But one of the things we’ve got to understand is that when politicians promise things, they are not promising anything of their own, because they have nothing of their own to give. They are promising something which is yours, and the more politicians promise, the less there is for you to meet your own needs or your family’s needs. The less there is for industry, for investment, and to create jobs needed to improve the real wealth of Australia.
When the Prime Minister took over the government of this country he stated that it would take 3 years to clean up the mess left by the former Labor Government. Let us have a look at a few of the things which have happened in the last 12 months to the advantage of this country. The December quarter consumer price index shows that the marked downward trend in inflation during 1976 has been consolidated. After adjustment for the effects of changes made to Medibank, the consumer price index increased by 2.8 per cent during the quarter compared with 6.3 per cent in the December quarter 1975. Again, after adjustment for the Medibank changes, the index increased by a rate of 10.8 per cent during the 12 months to the end of 1976 compared with an increase of 16.7 per cent over the 12 months to December 1975. Real gross non-farm production increased by 2.7 per cent in the September quarter to a level of 7.6 per cent above the December quarter of 1975. Non-farm production fell 4 per cent in real terms between the March quarter of 1974 and the December quarter of 1975 and the growth in the first 9 months of 1976 has more than recovered those earlier losses. Company profits in the September quarter of 1976 were 39.4 per cent higher compared with the same quarter in 1975. If honourable members look at the financial columns in the newspapers today they will see that Aus.tralian companies are doing very well at present under the Fraser Government.
Investment by private businesses in plant and equipment increased by 24 per cent in 1976 which is a substantial real increase compared with virtually no change in real terms during 1 975. New capital raisings by listed companies in Australia totalled $66 lm in the December quarter last year compared with $36 lm for the same quarter in 1975. Average quarterly new raisings over 1976 were some 55 per cent higher than the 1975 average. Recent monthly figures on registrations of new motor vehicles reflect continued recovery from the relatively low levels recorded following the introduction of more stringent emission control specifications on 1 July last year. In the 3 months to January seasonally adjusted registrations were 20 per cent higher than in the 3 months to October. In the 6 months to last September real private investment in dwellings was 20 per cent higher than in the same period a year earlier. Total dwelling approvals for 1976 rose by 13 per cent to the comfortably high level of 151200 compared with the 1970 figure of 133 400. Both major business surveys available for the December quarter showed a noticeable improvement in business conditions over the September quarter. The Australian economy is improving. The improvement is slow but, as the Prime Minister has said, after taking over such a morass and such a shemozzle from the former Government it will take 3 years to bring the economy under any sort of control. The Government is on its way to doing so and I have no doubt that, if it sticks to the policies which it has enunciated, the Government will bring the economy under control.
-This evening we are debating the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen in the other place yesterday afternoon. It has been my privilege to be a member of the House of Representatives over a long period and I was privileged to be present on the occasion of Her Majesty’s first visit to Australia in 1954. I well remember that at that time all the members of the House of Representatives were united in their admiration of Her Majesty and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, of the charm and dignity which they brought to Australia and of the great impression that they made upon the Australian people. I express the view that in the 23 years since Her Majesty’s visit in 1954 there has been, if anything, a growth in the respect and the admiration which the people of Australia hold for her, for her consort and for her family.
We may with propriety, with fairness and with justice claim that in the world today the Royal Family in London are an example of dedication to duty. They are an example of perfect family life that might well be admired and respected right throughout the world. Comparisons could be made with senior people in other great countries but one ought not to pursue that matter in a debate of this description. However, I feel that it is reasonable to say that alongside the other great, important, powerful families in the world our Royal Family is outstanding.
I would also like to say in tribute to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) that yesterday we saw an excellent parade of the armed forces representing the honour of this nation, bringing the colours of the units of the Royal Australian
Navy, the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force before the Australian people in a combined manner, which is most unusual, giving the people an opportunity to see those colours, to ponder what they mean and to understand that in the history of our nation those colours represent the honour of the nation. It was a proud occasion for those of us in particular who remember Her Majesty’s father, the late King George VI, and his service during the Second World War. It was of great support to the people of the United Kingdom that the King and Queen remained in London during the whole of the horrific period of the bombing of the nation. I feel that we should look back at those days from time to time and remember that we have before us a great example of dedication to duty on the part of the Royal Family. I compliment the Minister for Defence and, through him, the armed Services upon the splendid parade that we witnessed here in Canberra yesterday.
I have said that in the government of this country we look for toleration and dignity. We look for understanding and sympathy. In these days when economic recession has come to our nation it is important that those qualities be demonstrated. Criticism will always emerge in the media and in all sorts of rough and crude forms, and from people who are irresponsible, who are prepared to accept lower standards of living in the community and who will make no effort to help themselves and their own nation. I suggest that these people are an absolute minority. I hold the view that the great majority of the people who are unemployed today are unemployed as a result of the economic recession and as a result of the problems that arose in this nation in the last four or five years, which problems can be traced in a very substantial sense to the profligacy of the Government that was headed by the honourable member for Werriwa (MrE.G. Whitlam).
In Her Majesty’s Speech, which was of course prepared for her by the Government, one of the most significant paragraphs contains a recognition of the private sector, as we know it, as being that sector from which comes the great prosperity of the Australian people. In Australia’ three-quarters of all the positions, the jobs, the appointments, are provided by people from the private sector. Her Majesty said that the prosperity of the Austraiian people depends on the strength of the productive private sector, on the manufacturing, mining and rural industries. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you were in the House on the occasion of the first of the Budgets of the Whitlam Government, introduced in August 1973 by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean). I remind you, Sir, of a phrase that he used. He said that it was now time to begin transferring assets from the private sector to the public sector. In my view, August 1973 was the time when it became quite clear that Government policies would lead us into an economic environment within which the private sector would have great difficulty in sustaining the high level of production, the high level of prosperity, that we had come to accept as the norm in Australia, particularly in the decade prior to 1972.
I can well remember the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa, when he was Prime Minister standing at the despatch box and saying that the time had come for the Government to use the civil service as a pace-setter in the development of standards for people working in the Australian community. At first consideration it seemed that this was not an unreasonable thing, but the fact is that from that time onwards there was a tremendous surge, a tremendous increase, in wages throughout the Australian economy. Finally, because retribution comes to those who will not recognise the facts of life, the honourable gentleman was forced to say to an assembly of his own political supporters: The inflation which is the cancer that is destroying the Australian economy is largely due -
-Who said this?
– The Leader of the Opposition stated this when he was Prime Minister. He said that it was largely due to these highly increased wage standards within the Australian community. Again and again honourable members opposite have made this admission after the damage has been done. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports is on record as saying that every wage increase received by one worker is at the expense of the job of his fellow worker. If one can accept the honourable member for Melbourne Ports as a man worthy of recognition, a person who knows what he is talking about, it would seem likely that we ought to recognise that these are the facts of life to which he has referred.
I must answer a number of points that were made by my friend the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I was interested in his early comments in which he stated that the former Labor Government was elected in December 1972 because of the appeal of its welfare program. Whilst one can understand that people will support a welfare program, I assure him that one of the reasons that his Government was elected in December 1972 was that it had been out of office for 23 years and the Australian people had forgotten what it would mean to have a profligate socialist government on the treasury benches. It took the Aus.tralian people 3 years to find out but when the opportunity came the reality is that in spite of all the criticisms made by honourable gentlemen opposite, the Australian people voted them out of office in a manner almost without precedent in Australia’s political history.
I refer to the power of the Senate, which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith referred to as a mere charade. He said:
We were removed from office by the senators.
It must be obvious to all who can consider the facts of history that if the Australian people had wanted to retain their socialist government in December 1975; if they had wanted to keep the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam) as Prime Minister, there was a substantial and real opportunity for them to do so. In fact, when they had their opportunity to express their judgment about the Australian Labor Party, they cast it from power in a manner which, as I have said, is unprecedented in our political history. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), my old and distinguished friend who has been in this Parliament for a long time, also continued with the criticisms of the events of November 1975 and again proceeded to paint a picture of some diabolical conspiracy, some clandestine operation which was dishonourable and contemptible. The fact of the matter is that the actions of 1975, over a period of some 6 or 7 weeks before the election date, were discussed in the Press, on the radio and on television and the people of Australia had their opportunity in December 1975, as the greatest tribunal in the nation, to make their judgment. The judgment was made in December 1975.
Consistent with the normal criticism of members of the Labor Party, the last thing in the world they are prepared to do is to accept the umpire ‘s decision. I venture to suggest that if the Labor Party had remained in office for another 2 years and had had its full 3-year term of office from May 1974 to May 1977, the words of Senator James McClelland, when he was Minister for Labor and Immigration, would have been brought to absolute truth. He said to the trade union people: ‘If you continue the way you are going now, by the end of 1977 we will have a million people unemployed and we will have roaring inflation of 20 per cent’. Anybody with any knowledge of these matters will understand that in nations where inflation has been roaring along, as it did in Germany in the 1920s, there has been a great social destruction of all the families in these nations and only the extremely wealthy have been able to sustain the impact of high inflation on their assets.
I was impressed by what my friend the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) had to say and I hope that his program to encourage investment will be studied closely by the Government and that the officers of the Treasury and the staff of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) Will recognise the value of the recommendations of the honourable member for Mackellar and that the Parliament will receive some sort of statement from the Treasurer either accepting, refuting, criticising or praising the honourable gentleman for the comments that he made. The honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) in his contribution to this debate made it quite clear that Labor Government expenditure helped private enterprise. He went to some length to indicate that hospitals, schools and roads are, in fact, mainly built by private enterprise and subcontractors. I was about to interject but I knew you would not approve of that, Mr Deputy Speaker. I remind the honourable member that when I was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament, I had to ask departments to pay their bills. I had to remind them that people had been waiting for payment for 180 days. This was a scandalous performance. It was not exclusive to the Labor Government and I venture to say on this occasion that I hope that government departments will pay their bills and that Prime Ministers and Treasurers will shake up the Public Service and make it do so because I believe that people who do not pay their bills for from 90 days to 180 days are guilty of conduct that I regard as totally reprehensible.
I conclude by saying that this debate, which has been the result ofthe visit of Her Majesty to Australia gives us an opportunity to review the past, to examine the present and to look into the future for in this type of debate one can deal with matters referred to in Her Majesty’s Speech or matters that are not referred to in Her Majesty’s Speech but which, in the opinion of honourable members, should be included. I have no doubt that my distinguished and humorous friend, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) will have a number of aspects that he would like to introduce to his speech which he thinks ought to have been present. Speeches were made in the Parliament last night at a function. Some of them were humorous and there were aspects of the speeches that could be described as flippant I frankly do not believe that flippancy is the wisest thing to have introduced into a speech at what is supposed to be a solemn public occasion.
I repeat that I am delighted to take part in this debate. I am proud indeed, along with my colleagues in the Parliament who have served the Monarch’s father and herself over a long period of time, to see her and his Royal Highness, Prince Philip, here in our country. I know full well that the great majority of worthwhile Australians, to whom I refer will be in favour of her and her family and of this country remaining a constitutional monarchy in the future.
– I have not prepared a speech tonight. In fact, one of my colleagues has some family problems and has had to leave the House unexpectedly. But I have been inspired in a way to talk following the remarks of the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) because I believe that regardless of what he said he has left so much unsaid which needs to be said. So for just a short time I want to make some general comments along the same lines or in respect of the topics that the honourable gentleman has nominated. We have heard the honourable member for North Sydney speak tonight in similar and no more enlightened strain than he did when he first participated in an Address-in-Reply debate many years ago. Usually the early speakers in these debates are the young fledglings of the Parliament and we are accustomed to hearing fairly uninformed but ideological and hopeful comments about the state of the nation. Clearly the remarks made by the honourable gentleman have demonstrated that he is in step with the Government, because the speech that he made is as enlightening as the Government’s legislative intentions which were the subject of a speech delivered yesterday by Her Majesty at the opening of the Parliament.
One would not reflect on Her Majesty’s speech because she was in the unfortunate situation of being provided by the Government of the day with the most inadequate and embarrassing brief that is possible. Those people who speak eulogistically of the monarchy must have felt a real sense of embarrassment to see her in a situation like that where she was handed a piece of paper which demonstrated beyond any doubt that the Government has no legislative intentions- the honourable member for North Sydney who preceded me in the debate made this clear- to undertake any significant reform in respect of the needs of Australia and the well-being of the Australian people. If anybody challenges these comments that I am making I am prepared to go systematically through the speech which Her
Majesty delivered in a most accomplished fashion.
I know something about the way in which such speeches are prepared. Like my other former ministerial colleagues I, as a minister in the previous Government, received a memo from the Prime Minister’s Department asking me to submit in synopsis form the intentions of my own Department or my own ministerial legislative intentions. Every Minister received such a memo. The information provided goes to the Prime Minister’s Department and it is collated. The Ministers who prevail at the present time were undoubtedly subjected to the same opportunity to indicate whether or not they are worth thensalt, whether or not they have any intentions of doing anything over the next 12 months or whatever is the period involved in this matter. They would have come up with their material, and no doubt the best of that which was submitted was incorporated in Her Majesty’s Speech.
Let us just have a look at what they have done. The preamble to the Speech, of course, is polite, as we would expect. Before I deal with the Speech in detail, and seeing I am making an offthecuff speech, let me give some frank reactions to what occurred yesterday. Summoned in the traditional way by the bells, we came into this House just before 3 o’clock. Thereafter we were subjected to quite a heap of traditionalism. I used to read about history when I was a schoolboy and would think what a great thing it is for Australia that we have never had to go to the barricades to achieve the great traditions and the systems that we enjoy. As I used to walk down Phillip Street and saw the barristers’ wigs I would think that they epitomised the great legal system of justice that was forged over the years. The Parliament and its symbols were the product of Runnymede and the great Norman conquest and other battles. Australians have had these things laid out for them on a platter. What a lucky country it is. On the other hand, Vietnam, Laos and the African countries are fighting for these things which have been accomplished, not by us but by the people who preceded us. It is the great heritage of Australians.
Yesterday after we came into this place we heard the hammering on the door of the House of Representatives, and our Serjeant-at-Arms reported to Mr Speaker that the Usher of the Black Rod was at the door. Mr Speaker said: ‘Admit Black Rod’. He announced that Her Majesty the Queen was awaiting the members of the House of Representatives in another place. It flashed through my mind that that symbolised the raid on the House of Commons by King Charles I and the arrest of Pym and Hampden. The Black Rod is now the intermediary. He is the person who takes the place of the monarch who no longer has the right to enter into the House of Commons or the people’s Parliament of Britain, or, in this case, the people’s Parliament of Australia. Being a traditionalist and a lover of the things that have been achieved for us and a lover of the people who achieved them, and one who has relished those traditions, as honourable members can sense, I suddenly felt sick at the stomach because I realised that that was a set-up and that in fact the Usher of the Black Rod, who was supposed to have been the intermediary and who has to ensure that there is no monarchial intervention in the affairs of this chamber, has been circumvented by other processes.
All of us who have regard to the events of 1 1 November 1975 can appreciate the extent to which that tradition has run out. It was not the Queen of England who, like King Charles I, intervened in the affairs of the parliamentary process but it was the representative of the monarch in this country. I have little doubt that in the Mother of Parliaments where there is an even healthier appreciation of these great traditional and historical events there could not be such an intervention. In the House of Commons the affairs that occurred here on 1 1 November have been unheard of and would be thought to be impossible. But here in Australia we have seen that process whittled away so that the whole symbolism of the day, especially that part typified by the Usher ofthe Black Rod, was portrayed to me and many other Australians as a sham.
The first mention by Her Majesty of the Government’s stand was in regard to the prosperity of the Australian people depending on the strength of our productive private sector, on the manufacturing, mining and rural industries.
– She changed her mind. She did not say that 3 years ago. I cannot trust any of that.
-If she has changed her mind it is a reflection ofthe fact that the Government has changed its mind. In any event, the Government is still contending that that is the situation, namely, that the well-being of the Aus.tralian people is dependent on the components of our economy to which I have referred. If we analyse the figures- I doubt that time will permit me to go into this too deeply- we come to a very early understanding of the fact that the Government has based its economic recovery on a myth -not a fabricated myth that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) talked about when he referred to the myth of unemployment but a real misunderstanding of the economic situation.
The myth is the view that there can be a mining-led recovery in this country at the expense of the obvious need to encourage and to facilitate recovery in other parts of the private sector. We are faced today with an alarming situation in which retail trading is falling dramatically and at an unprecedented rate; in which unemployment has reached its highest level since the Depression; and in which farm income is crashing to the extent that we can see a possible fall of about 8 per cent over the next year. Then some reference was made to the intention of the Government to restore the economy and to the claim that it would be making social reforms. We listened patiently to hear spelled out an account of the social reforms. Very soon we heard the following high priority matter mentioned:
The new family allowance scheme places in every mother’s hands an allowance to spend as she thinks is best for the welfare of her family.
As my colleague the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) pointed out, this proposition involves a thimble and pea trick by which the money is given to the mothers and taken from the taxation deduction the fathers can claim. In this situation we can consider it as a matter of retrospectivity- as something that has occurred. It is not one of the achievements that is intended by the Government. This was rated very highly indeed. Brief mention was made of education. Nobody knows what the following statement means:
My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.
Maybe some subsequent speaker will spell that out. The housing voucher pilot scheme rated a mention. Honourable members know that this represents the Government’s new emphasis upon housing. I see opposite my old friend the Minister for Environment Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who is well known in this Parliament as the ‘undertaker of social reforms’ because on his own initiative he has jettisoned about twelve or fifteen major programs which were initiated by the Labor Minister for Urban and Regional Development, by myself and by other Ministers of the Labor Government. One of the great ideas that he is harboring at the present time is to solve the housing problem of this nation. We all know about the housing problem; it is quite serious.
A soldier came to see me recently. He is camped in South Australia- I think in the electorate of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly). The soldier pointed out to me that his rent was going up to $27 a week. He did not think that this was reasonable. I took the trouble to work out the amount of rent that would need to be paid on a certain capital outlay. If my memory is correct, we were able to conclude that if a house and land to the value of $13,500 were provided and the owner wanted a 10 per cent return on his investment he probably would have to charge $27 a week in rent. If one goes into the housing investment business one has to receive a 10 per cent return; otherwise one would put one’s money into the building societies any of which would pay 10 per cent interest. Such is the state of the nation in respect of housing that even for a house and land worth $13,500 one would have to pay $27 a week. We have reached the stage where this is well beyond the paying capacity of large numbers of Australians.
In the face of this dilemma- this incapacity to pay- which provides a distressing situation for very many families, the bright idea of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development is that the Government is going to introduce this housing voucher scheme. I do not disparage the scheme altogether, because it ought to have a role to play in the total housing objective of any government. But, according to the priority that this has been given in the speech by Her Majesty and, indeed, in Government contentions, publications and Press releases, it seems that this is going to be regarded as the main thrust of the Government’s solution of the housing problem. What it is going to mean, of course, is that a large number of people are going to go on to the market with housing vouchers in their hands when there is a great shortage and possibly a negative supply of rental housing. The houses are not there, and if they were there this ill considered patchwork approach to the situation could result only in rents being catapulted to a much higher level than exists at the present time. Meanwhile, we know of the Minister’s intention to renegotiate the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement as well and the very great fear that has been expressed by many Premiers that the preferential interest rate for the provision of housing for low income people is going to be abolished or at least substantially raised.
-The Minister did not say that.
-The Minister has made that intention clear enough to cause most of the Premiers to express horror at the situation. When all is said and done, we should not be staggered or surprised if this Government were to bring the rate of interest for welfare housing to a level near that of the bond rate, because that is what was done for 23 years under a Liberal-Country Party government.
I want to summarise a few things very quickly. When the Labor Government was in office it was pilloried, abused and persecuted for 2 principal reasons. The then Opposition contended that our deficit was too large. Vet now that the then Opposition is in government it has doubled the deficit proposed by the Labor Government. The then Opposition contended that the rate of inflation was too high. Yet what it has done in government is to lift the rate of inflation from something like 12.4 per cent in the last 6 months of the Labor Government by maybe 3 per cent. Inflation is now running at a rate well in excess of l5Vi per cent. So we are able to see the hypocrisy of honourable members opposite. Of course, the situation is going to become serious. As I have said, the Government already has created the highest level of unemployment since the Depression days. Considering what the Government did in respect of devaluation, it is no idle contention on my part to say that because of the devaluation our economy is the laughing stock of the world. I know that the Far Eastern Economic Review referred to the Austraiian currency as the ‘kangaroo’ currency.
What is the situation? Recently we have been discussing at great length in this Parliament the very devastating news that the consumer price index went up by, I think, 6.9 per cent in the December quarter. We know that that reflects the Medibank shemozzle which is a creation of this Government. But I now ask honourable members opposite- and I would ask the Treasurer if ne were here tonight: What movements will occur in the consumer price index as a direct result of increased import costs caused by devaluation? Will the increases be reflected in a consumer price index increase of over 3 per cent in the months ahead, thus maintaining a high and undesirable level of inflation? The figures revealed for the December quarter have been bad enough, but the prospect for those anxious looking oncers who are sitting opposite in considerable numbers is that the very serious economic trend is not going to be arrested but is going to be seriously aggravated in the first two or three quarters of this year. So, from that cursory glance, it is very clear that this Government has lost its objectivity.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-What an historic oration we have just heard from the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who was known in his ministerial days as ‘pushup Johnson’. It was during the period when he was Minister for Housing that interest rates for private housing in this country leapt from 6Vi per cent to 10½ per cent. He is also known as ‘cut Johnson’ because it was during this period that he cut by 19 per cent the Federal Government’s contribution to welfare housing in Australia. He has the hide, the temerity and the audacity to criticise the most imaginative Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development ever to come from Tasmania. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) needs no defence at all. I throw back to the honourable member for Hughes, who is now leaving the chamber in shame and disgrace, the words that he hurled across the chamber. It was 16 February last year which became immortalised as lamingtons and sour grapes day. The spirit of that day has continued to 1977. We have seen a most extraordinary performance by members of the Opposition and in particular by Her Majesty’s Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in the 2 days that this Parliament has been alive.
The first thing I wish to mention is the disgraceful pantomime, the charade, the petty and vindictive performance ofthe Leader of the Opposition at Fairbairn Airport on Monday last on the occasion of the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen. This man is so absolutely obsessed and unable to control himself that he could not resist the temptation to deliberately snub Her Majesty’s Governor-General in the presence of Her Majesty. It is bad enough that he took the opportunity and showed poor taste and lack of judgment to snub the Governor-General at all.
– He will never learn.
– The honourable member is quite right. The Leader of the Opposition will never learn. To snub the Governor-General in front of Her Majesty was the height of impudence. I believe it was petty, vindictive and unworthy of a man who is a national leader of considerable standing.
– And appointed by him.
-Of course the GovernorGeneral was appointed by him. The point I make is that if Her Majesty’s Leader ofthe Opposition is going to continue to perform in such a childish way he will have only himself to blame if honourable members opposite remove him from office. The next matter I wish to raise concerns the luncheon held on the same day which was addressed by an author called Donald Home. Those who have read a book called Death ofthe Lucky Country will be aware of the sorts of things Mr Home writes and says. At the luncheon at the National Press Club in Canberra he said something concerning Her Majesty which I believe was as ludicrous as it was offensive. He had the temerity to describe Her Majesty as the symbol of division in Australia. What a lot of poppycock. What a lot of nonsense. What a stupid thing to say. It is offensive and ludicrous for this man, this self appointed prophet who is to lead this country into the next plan, to stand in that place in Canberra and describe Her Majesty as the symbol of division in this country. The thousands of Australians who have seen or wil see Her Majesty either in person or on television during this tour will know what a stupid statement that was for Mr Home to make. I believe it has set back the republican cause in this country by at least a quarter of a century and possibly half a century. If those 2-bob republicans who have suddenly come to light out of the woodwork think they will win the support of the Australian people by having a shot at Her Majesty the Queen they have another think coming. They will damage their cause and they will become the greatest laughing stock that this country has seen for many years. It is a pity in one sense because a proper, logical and rational debate on the type of government in this country could be extremely useful. I know that there are people in this Parliament who would wish to put views as to variations of the present system. It does nobody any good to fight a cause by attacking somebody who cannot defend herself. How many times have we seen honourable members opposite using the tactic of attacking those who cannot defend themselves? As I have said, Mr Home has put back the republican cause at least a quarter of a century and possible half a century.
I refer now to the speech by the Leader of the Opposition in this building last night. He is the man who proclaims himself as supporting the conversion of Australia to a republic. One thing which absolutely fascinates me in this debate on republicanism is that I have yet to read in the Press and I have yet to hear a speaker point out that before Australia can become a republic referendums wm have to be passed to amend the Constitution. I just want to consider in the light of the history of referendums the likelihood of the people of Australia deciding to pass a referendum which overnight would have the effect of making Australia a republic. What the
Leader of the Opposition said last night proves to me that he is not really a republican at all. At the end of his speech he made the comment which I believe was very significant He said: ‘Long may she reign’. What did he mean? Of course we all agree with his words ‘Long may she reign’. But when the Leader of the Opposition said ‘Long may she reign’ it is obvious to everybody in Australia that he meant ‘long may she reign as Queen of Australia’. It was the Leader of the Opposition, when he was Prime Minister, who very properly instituted the necessary legislative proceedings to have the Queen designated as Queen of Australia. So when the Leader of the Opposition said ‘Long may she reign’, and I add the words ‘as Queen of Australia’, he was admitting quite frankly that we will not see him advocating that Australia becomes a republic during the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
– When did the Leader of the Opposition say that he was a republican? If you had listened, he never has.
– The honourable member for Robertson as usual corrects me. I believe the Leader of the Opposition has been honest enough to come out of the woodwork and to concede that he is one of those 2-bob republicans. He has predicted that Australia will be a republic before the end of the century. Surely the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) listens to what his Leader says. He may listen; he may not understand. Are members of the Labor Party saying that he is not a republican? If that is so, I am delighted to hear it and I have no doubt that Her Majesty and the vast majority of Australians will be delighted to hear it.
We just saw the honourable member for Hughes give a most incredible and extraordinary exhibition of pandering to the left wing. He just made a speech in which he uttered the classic words that when he saw the Usher of the Black Rod he felt sick in the stomach. He sent up the Queen. He sent up the Parliament He sent up the Usher of the Black Rod. He also sent up himself. He said he felt sick in the stomach. Quite frankly he looks sick in the stomach most of the time.
-This is Les Johnson?
-That is right. The question in which I am interested is why, if the honourable member for Hughes felt so sick in the stomach- he looked sick in the stomach- he crawled across Kings Hall to get the pick of the positions to watch Her Majesty, the symbol of the monarchy about which he is so critical, opening this Parliament. Quite frankly to what extent will these honourable members opposite go in an attempt to secure cheap points by taking a strip off Her Majesty the Queen and by taking a strip off the Usher of the Black Rod? I thought he looked pretty good. I thought he knocked very well. I thought he spoke very politely to you, Mr Speaker, and I noticed that you answered him, as usual, politely and you obeyed his request. What was wrong with that?
– He looked nice.
– He looked extremely nice, as the honourable member for Hotham reminds me. I am not saying that our Serjeant-at-Arms did not also look nice. I do not want it to be felt that the upper House is superior. What is wrong with this? Why does the honourable member for Hughes regard it as such an affront that we should have this pomp and ceremony?
– And he had a Wilkinson’s sword.
-Yes, exactly. There are honourable members opposite who appreciate the pomp and ceremony. I have no doubt that the thousands of people around Australia who watched it on television were impressed. Before the House commences the adjournment debate I would like to say something about a significant matter on which I thought the Labor Party would have seized. I refer to the fact that not even Her Majesty can in effect intrude into the precincts of the House of Representatives. Her Majesty sends a message and she requests us to attend forthwith in the Senate chamber. There is a little constitutional significance in that proposition for honourable members opposite who consider themselves to be such experts.
– They did not go last year.
– They did not go last year; they went this year.
– Because it was being televised.
– I think the honourable member is on the ball again. He is a gem. The proceedings were being televised this year. I think they were televised last year. In any event, members of the Labor Party would not go when the Governor-General was there. They went when the Queen was there. They were there in large numbers last night I think they behaved extremely well. If they are prepared to indulge in the festivities surrounding the opening of Parliament, it ill behoves them next day to say that they felt sick yesterday, when the truth is that they and some of us feel sick in the stomach today.
– If you are sick in the stomach today it is because the food was too good last night.
-I hope the honourable member for Corio is not complaining. I am told that what we had last night was nothing compared with the whoopee party in 1974. Last night cost 40 per cent less. I feel that what was put on last night was appropriate for the visit to this Parliament of the Queen of Australia. It seems to me a Utile bit rough that people who enjoyed themselves yesterday whinge today and make out that they do not really believe m the Queen and that they are republicans at heart. Mr Speaker, I do not know whether the appropriate course is for me to continue. I thought the Standing Orders said something about 10.30 p.m.
– Sit down, then.
-I am obliged to the honourable member for the invitation. I will sit down if I am given leave to continue my remarks.
-The honourable member will continue addressing his remarks to the Chair until I tell him to cease.
-I seek the indulgence ofthe Chair. Am I entitled to seek leave to continue my remarks?
– You have all the indulgence you need to continue.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to speak for another 8 minutes. The sessional order which would require me to put the adjournment question at 10.30 p.m. has not been passed in this session of the Parliament. Therefore we will continue until the debate is adjourned. After the debate has been adjourned the Minister will move the adjournment of the House. Then we will have an adjournment debate. Until there is a proposal for the adjournment of the debate the honourable member is entitled to continue.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Eyre Peninsula: Television Services-Australian Broadcasting Commission: News Report -Aboriginal Co-operatives -Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand
Motion (by Mr Staley) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-During the course of the debate on the Budget Estimates last year, I took the opportunity during the estimates for the Department of Postal and Telecommunications to raise a matter that concerns a large section of my electorate, a matter I have raised before on a number of occasions by way of questions and in debate. I refer to the lack of television services in a large portion of Eyre Peninsula within my electorate. At the conclusion of the estimates debate the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) stated that he would reply to the points raised by the various members. To date, apart from a short answer to a question on notice, no word has been received from the Minister on this matter. I have forwarded a further letter to him on this question in which I have made suggestions that may be feasible. The people of these areas are very concerned at the lack of action in providing such a service. Surely these areas should be able at least to look forward to a service in the foreseeable future. After all, provision of television services is accepted as the norm by most Australians and in our major cities the people have the choice of 4 channels. All these people are asking for is an Australian Broadcasting Commission service to give them at least a service.
Some time ago we saw the completion of phase 7, a program to provide television services to many of the non-metropolitan areas and more remote areas throughout Australia. Since the completion of phase 7, there has been no ongoing program to extend the services to those areas still without this amenity. During the recent parliamentary recess, I was able to organise the distribution of petition forms throughout those areas of Eyre Peninsula without television. The petitions received very strong support throughout and had the support of the local government authorities, the newspapers and the community in general. During the last few weeks I have had the privilege of presenting 2 petitions containing over 2800 names of residents in the area. I trust that the petitions are not allowed to gather dust in the basement without the plea of the petitioners being given due consideration.
I am aware that certain investigations have been carried out by the responsible authorities in the Streaky Bay area to assess the feasibility of establishing a service in that locality. I am also aware of suggestions of using the microwave link that goes through Eyre Peninsula as a means of transmitting programs. There have been suggestions that a more powerful transmitter can be established on a high point within the area, at a place called Mount Cooper. Whilst I certainly do not claim to have the technical expertise to speak with any authority on these suggestions, I do feel that a reasonably powered transmitter having an effective range of 45 to 50 miles would give coverage to a large number of the towns and rural communities in that locality. This would be in an area bounded by a triangle of Streaky Bay, Minnipa and Elliston. Such a service would cover not only the towns mentioned but also other towns such as Poochera, Wudinna, Kyancutta and all the rural communities that these towns service.
I made a suggestion to the Minister in my last correspondence to him that if the existing transmitter at Ceduna were strengthened to improve its coverage, coupled with the suggested transmitter in the vicinity of Mount Cooper, many of the areas now without service would be covered. Recently the Premier of South Australia made an announcement to provide Electricity Trust of South Australia power to this part of South Australia, and I understand that an 1 1 000 KVA powerline is likely to be laid in the vicinity, so the necessary power should be available to establish such a facility.
I am fully aware of the strength of feeling within my electorate at the delays and frustration at the complete lack of information as to when they can expect that the television service is to be established. From my contact with the Eyre Peninsula, the question of when the powers that be make a decision is, by far, the most pressing political matter raised with me as their Federal member. The particular section of South Australia has, for the last few years, been found very attractive as a tourist area for families on caravan tours. With its first class fishing areas available, a beautiful coastline and its natural attractions, there is a great potential. It cannot reach its full potential until such time as tourists, who are accustomed to a television service, know that it is available. Its provision will assist in allowing Eyre Peninsula and the west coast of South Australia to reach its full potential as a tourist attraction. I therefore hope that the Minister takes note of the contents of the petition in an effort to provide this service to the hinterland of Eyre Peninsula and that he accepts the fact that, despite the problems involved, everybody in the area feels a sense of deprivation of a service that is available to 95 per cent of their fellow Australians. I trust that the Minister will give the plea of the petitioners his sympathetic consideration.
– If the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope were to say that God was dead, the very high offices that those 2 gentlemen hold would justify prominence in reporting their statement. If a man in the street were to say that God was dead, it would not be reported. I refer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news service last evening. Those who fortunately or unfortunately saw it would recall that the opening segment related to the visit to Canberra of the Queen. The matter I raise this evening is a protest. In a crowd of say 5000 to 7000 people, all but about 100 were there to display their affection and loyalty to our monarch. Some 50 per cent to 55 per cent of the ABC news segment last night relating to the Queen’s visit to the national capital was dedicated to the activities of a group that represented between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of the actual crowd. The ABC on this occasion, as it has on previous occasions, has magnified the presence of larrikins and louts who I concede are entitled to an opinion. But it has magnified their presence far beyond the actual proportion that they represented at the gathering. If there be those who doubt the accuracy of my claim I ask them to read today’s newspapers which reported their presence more in perspective than did the ABC.
I believe that the ABC should stand for at least 3 things: A for accuracy in reporting; B for balance in presentation; and C for consistency. Because one is a commission or one belongs to an organisation that is a commission it does not mean that that commission or organisation is given licence to behave recklessly and irresponsibly. The ABC is fortunate in that those who have the power to approve the finance that allows the Commission to function have little time to watch over its activities. Generally we have to rely on public reports and it is hard to judge secondhand information.
I recall my own efforts last year to make a judgment of a program called Late Line. I had a number of protests in respect of this program and I asked the ABC on 2 occasions to provide me with a transcript. That request was treated with complete and utter contempt. I would say that an auntie has a very special position in the hearts of all. An auntie can get away with much. But let me warn this nation’s most careless aunt that if she is going to tamper with the truth she will create an enemy in me and others on this side of the House who will make her life less than pleasant.
Through the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), who is at the table, I would urge that my request be conveyed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson); namely, that if the Minister did not see the program itself, he take steps to view the news segment last night and if he comes to the only conclusion he can- the one that I have reached that the program was reported without balance, without accuracy and without consistencyhe bring before him the commissioners of the ABC and warn them. The Minister should tell the commissioners that they have been charged with responsibilities and if they do not carry out those responsibilities as they should be carried out this Government will have no hesitation whatsoever in removing them and replacing them with people who will do the job properly, a job paid for by the public purse. He should tell them that the finance that they cringed and crawled to have increased in recent months will be curtailed to ensure that their activities are commensurate with the financial assistance they deserve. Frankly, the ABC made an unbalanced attack on a tradition and institution which is very, very dear to the great majority of Australians. I resent the unfair and unfactual way in which last night’s coverage was presented.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House to the latest injustice perpetrated by this Government upon the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. In 1957 a co-operative for Aborigines was registered in New South Wales under the Cooperative Act of New South Wales. The cooperative flourished under the very able guidance of the Reverend Alf Clint. It had to be able considering the paternalistic policies of successive Liberal governments. One result of the formation of the co-operative for Aborigines was the establishment of Tranby Co-operative College at Glebe. The college became a focal point of the movement to establish Aborigines’ cooperatives throughout Australia. In its own right the Tranby College performs an invaluable function as a teaching institution. Its day and night time students undertake studies in many diverse areas. Fish marketing, accountancy, truck driving and maintenance, nursing and typing are some of them.
Before I continue, let me clarify one point. Honourable members opposite often display an alarming predilection for confused and loose association of terminology. A co-operative is not a breeding ground for communists or any extremist organisation. The principle is the simple one of people collectively helping themselves by establishing an organisation which encompasses the interests of the group. In Australia the National Country Party has developed rural cooperatives as a policy for the graziers and dairy farmers. Fishermen’s co-operatives have transformed the fishing industry, particularly in New South Wales. Above all, however, the notion of the co-operative reflects and encourages a unique aspect of the Aboriginal people’s sociocultural makeup. Like most emergent races throughout the world the Aborigines, with few exceptions, have found themselves admirably suited to participation in an enterprise which is structured along co-operative lines.
The backbone of the educational program conducted by the Tranby Co-operative College is the course in co-operatives and commercial studies. This course was approved as a subject in 1974-75 and it becomes an approved course under the Aboriginal study grants scheme. This year the course in co-operatives was due to start on 14 February 1977. Incredible as it may sound, the College was notified on 10 February that Aboriginal study grants scheme funding had been withdrawn from Tranby students. Students had been recruited from Mornington Island, Palm Island, Townsville, the North Coast of New South Wales and the western and southern districts of New South Wales. Because of the lack of funds these students have been deprived of the opportunity to come to Tranby college.
Embodied in the Tranby course in cooperatives are the following principles: First, to teach the people to depend on themselves; secondly, to organise them to help one another and to secure the best rewards for their labours through co-operative action; thirdly, to teach the participants to discover and understand the way of their district and to develop and make use of all resources; and fourthly to lift them to a higher level of life, economically, spiritually and socially. I put it to the House: Are these not worthy aims? Evidently the Government does not think so. Twenty-three applications have been held up in respect of Tranby College at Glebe. Study grants are available for students. These study grants do not benefit the College but will help the students who are the Australians of tomorrow. I received correspondence written by the Reverend Alf Clint, the General Secretary of Co-operative for Aborigines Ltd. The address on the letter is 13 Mansfield Street, Glebe. The letter states:
The purpose of this letter is to let you know that the Tranby’ Course in Co-operatives and Commercial Studies was cancelled at the last minute. The 12 weeks’ course, i.e. the first term 1977, was to begin on Monday 14th February, 1977.
The course has been cancelled as a result of economic cuts made in the Study Grant Scheme for students, by the Federal Government Department of Education. This took place after weeks and weeks of discussions with representatives of the Department of Education, Department of Technical and Further Education and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. These discussions were held at ‘Tranby’ and at departmental offices.
It is becoming more and more apparent that bureaucratic thinking cannot understand the position that ‘Tranby’ holds in the minds of the Aboriginal people, and especially Aboriginal communities. An interstate society such as Cooperative for Aborigines Limited spells confusion in the thinking of federal public servants-especially when it endeavours to be loyal to its policy as a people’s movement.
You will have had information from the government authorities mentioned above, and to whatever they have said to you, this society adds: ‘Tranby will carry on a full training programme during 1977 in spite of the set back for the first term’.
We do hope that the plans set for the 2nd and 3rd terms will go as planned, and that ‘Tranby’ will be able to function within this framework- if it turns out otherwise you will hear from us in good time and we will advise you of the action which we recommend our friends should take in their support of the independent interstate function of Co-operative for Aborigines Limited.
With best wishes, Yours fraternally,
JOHN SHORT, Chairman.
I ask the House to take note of this matter.
-Some years ago many members of the Australian community, including well known members of the present Opposition, protested against the American and Australian involvement in the Vietnam war. Since that time, to the best of my knowledge, most of those persons have maintained a deafening and disgusting silence in the face of the grossest abuses of civil liberties occurring in Vietnam and in the face of atrocities, murders and inhumane acts in Cambodia that rival some of the worst liquidations of people in history. Where are those protesters today in Australia? Why do they not join the American anti-war protesters in their condemnation of the present regime in South Vietnam? Why do they not join Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, former leaders of the anti-war movement in the United States of America who recently signed a petition presented to the permanent Vietnamese observer to the United Nations condemning the Vietnamese Government for gross abuses of civil liberties, for suppressing free speech, and for filling prisons with civilians accused of nothing more than holding certain religious and ideological beliefs?
The communists in Vietnam are engaging in a grievous and systematic violation of human rights, including the detention of an estimated 300 000 people in so-called re-education camps, the suppression of cultural and political expression and the stifling of non-violent dissent. Who else besides Miss Baez and Mr Ginsberg protested? The others include Roger Baldwin, founder of the American Civil Liberties Union; Kate and Geoff Pope of the War Resisters League; Aryeh Neier, executive director of the ACLU: Paul O Dwyer, the Liberal New York City Council president; the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, a founder of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam; James Forrest, who was imprisoned for draft resistance during the Vietnam war; and Theodore Jacqueney, a former State Department foreign aid employee who resigned in 1971 to protest United States involvement in South East Asia.
Where are the Austraiian protesters today to follow the honest, open and admirable attitudes of their American counterparts? Ninety petitioners who were leaders of the anti-war movement in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s condemned in the strongest possible terms what is occurring in Vietnam. Father Neuhaus emphasised that his protest at the war was not contingent upon approval of the alternative. He said that there were various choices. He said:
We wanted to believe desperately- so desperately- the pledge and the promises of respect that would be shown (by the Communists) towards human beings and human rights. We were told time and time again by them, ‘We know your reasons (for suspicion), but this revolution will be different.
Of course, the fact is that the whole Vietnam war was a masterly tactical activity by the North Vietnamese and their backers. The Viet Cong were nothing more than a diversion in the grand plan. The war was mounted by the North as part of the general communist requirement for expansion in that area, and the American anti-war protesters obviously were duped and now have come bitterly to realise what occurred.
Where are the honourable members of the Opposition who marched down streets and who joined forces with Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and the rest? Where are they now that the 300 000 people in re-education camps have no voice? Where was their Government when the refugees from those countries sought entry to Australia? I notice that the Senate committee looking into this matter, which include Labor members, has reported to the other place that there was deliberate delay and deliberate action by the former Labor Government to prevent refugees from that part of the world from coming to Australia, because it sought to cover the shame that it had helped to create.
Australians served in that area. We saw the calibre of Australian soldiers only yesterday in another way when they put on a magnificent display for Her Majesty the Queen in the true traditions of the distinguished service of Australian forces during the Vietnam campaign and other campaigns. Where are the anti-war protesters from the Opposition today, now that there are thousands and thousands of dead bodies in the soil of Cambodia and in its rivers? There is hardly a person who had had any education left alive in Cambodia. Where are the students who were used in Asia by the communists, particularly in Laos and Cambodia? In Cambodia most of them are dead. In Laos the students were used as part of the infiltration which resulted bit by bit in so-called accommodations with the communists and eventually the so-called peaceful takeover of that country. The students were immediately banished and kicked out by the regime. Their friends were not so lucky in Cambodia, where most of the students and most of the persons with any education have been slaughtered. Anyone who will not go back to the fields and conform to the rigid disciplines of the Khmer Rouge will also be slaughtered. Only a month or so ago there was a despicable raid across the border into Thailand. The throats of numerous children were slashed by the Khmer Rouge forces. There is no doubt that those forces have in mind the total collapse eventually of Thailand.
If this country does not wake up to what is occurring there and does not take note of what is occurring this country eventually will find itself living in the midst of a gigantic communist sea. The people of this country want to know where the leaders of the anti-war movement now stand. They publicly want to know where those honourable members of the Opposition are today. Why do they not speak out? Why do they allow these dead to be buried? Why is their silence so shameful? Why do they not join their American colleagues in a display of honesty- or is honesty totally out of character with their personalities?
-Mr Speaker, in the brief time available tonight I wish to make an appeal to you on behalf of the general public who visit this Parliament. There have been 2 recent events of some moment. One was when you agreed that I may enter this Parliament in a safari jacket without a tie. The other event was last night when you, together with a number of other members of the Government Parties, attended a reception for Her Majesty the Queen dressed in a kilt, the Scottish national dress, although it was noticeable that I could not find one amongst you who spoke Gaelic. In fact I think you were all Australian born. Nevertheless what you wore was quite right in the interests of your forebears. I understand that Senator Mcintosh did speak Gaelic to one member of the Government Parties, who did not know what he was talking about.
Despite that, I think it is time to look at the dress of people who come into the public gallery. For some time now people have had to wear ties and jackets when they come into the public gallery. I understand that they can now come in dressed in a safari suit, which is neat and tidy, without a tie. I assume from the precedent set last night that they can come into the House and into the Speaker’s gallery dressed in a kilt. In fact one’s imagination could almost boggle at what the future could hold for people who sit in the public gallery. But the most important thing is that people such as myself, dressed in a safari jacket and without a tie, I assume, would be admitted. People in kilts, I assume, would be admitted. People in national dress, I assume, would be admitted. But people in an expensive sports jacket- a jacket much more expensive than the Scottish national dress you wore last night, Mr Speaker, and the safari jacket I worewill not be admitted if they do not have a tie.
So I ask you, Mr Speaker, whether we can use a little common sense in our approach towards the general public who come here to see this national parliament in session. I believe that, provided they are nicely, neatly and appropriately dressed, they should be allowedinto the Speaker’s Gallery. Mr Speaker, I know that already you have shown very great tolerance in this regard, and I ask you to consider the plea which I raise tonight on behalf of the general public who come to see our national parliament in session.
– As always, I am deeply indebted to the honourable member for his advice.
Motion (by Mr Staley) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770309_reps_30_hor104/>.