30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the 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’s long-term policy should be to provide SO 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 allocation of $5,903m 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. by Mr Adermann, Mr Braithwaite, Mr Carige, Mr Corbett, Mr Drummond, Mr Giles, Mr Hyde, Mr Kelly, Mr Porter, Dr Richardson, Mr Thomson and Mr Young.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr William McMahon, Mr Sinclair, Mr Cohen, Dr Klugman, Mr Neil and Mr Uren.
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 biennium 1 977- 1 980. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Bradfield and Mr Fife.
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. by Mr King, Mr Lloyd and Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Zone Allowance Provisions currently included in the Income Tax Assessment Act require variation from the point of view of boundaries and value of the allowance in view of the substantial changes of circumstances over the last decade, brought about by the coal mining enterprises in the Central Queensland Highlands. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we request that your Government take immediate action to have established at Moranbah, ABC Television without further delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Braithwaite.
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 incomes 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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, respectfully showeth that we believe uranium mining and nuclear power development to be detrimental to all life on this planet. Therefore we call on the Australian Government to ban the mining and sale of Australia’s uranium.
And we your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
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 since the twenty-acre subdivision in the Ruthven Way-Vasey Concourse area in the Shires of Ringwood and Croydon is the only remaining bushland area of a 168 acre subdivision made by Walter Burley Griffin in the 1 930 ‘s, and since its further subdivision into smaller housing allotments would destroy its unique bushland character and its use as a passive recreational area for residents and visitors.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that further subdivision be halted and that the area be preserved as part of the National Estate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia by this petition show that:
The recommendations of the National Estate Committee of Inquiry are regarded as a landmark in the history of conservation in this country.
In order to carry out these recommendations the Australian Heritage Commission must be provided with sufficient funds.
Your petitioners ask that the Government not only restore the amounts cut in the last National Budget but increase the allocation in order to halt the present irreversible destruction of the Australian Estate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undesigned 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 licensees 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.
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 showeth 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. byMrE.G. Whitlam.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
-I give notice that on general business Thursday No. 3,I shall move:
That a full inquiry be undertaken into the use of trade union funds for political elections and that such inquiry should inquire into:
. The circumstances of contributions made by the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union to the Australian Labor Party campaign for the 1 972 elections;
whether an opportunity is given to each individual unionist to decide whether he or she desires that part of his or her union fee shall go to a particular political Party;
how many unionists covered by unions registered in the Federal jurisdiction have been able to avail themselves of this right, and
has this right been brought to the notice of each individual unionist.
– Has the Prime Minister reiterated to President Carter the views on the Indian Ocean which he expressed to President Ford, in particular his view that it was unreal to believe that the Indian Ocean could be a neutral zone? Does he now agree with the view of the President, expressed at his news conference a few hours ago, that the Indian Ocean should be transformed into a zone of peace free from nuclear weapons? Does he support the President’s suggestion to the Soviet Union that the super- powers should agree to demilitarising the Indian Ocean? Will the Government now reconsider its attitude towards the proposed zone of peace, freedom and neutrality which has been proposed and supported by the littoral countries of the South East Asian and Indian Ocean areas, by the United Nations and at the last Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, but not by his Government?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I think it is worth noting that the view that the Government has stated in relation to the Indian Ocean has been consistent, and it is a view that the Government does not alter. The Government has stated that it believes there ought to be a balance in the Indian Ocean but that it should be at as low a level as is possible. In the joint communique that was issued with President Suharto we made it quite plain that, pending achievement of the zone of peace which many people hope can be achieved, there ought to be a balance but that again it should be at as low a level as possible. That is the consistent view that the Government has expressed. The Government has opposed the philosophy which would have allowed the navies and forces of one nation to dominate the Indian Ocean, while at the same time discouraging the forces of the United States, which are the only ones that can provide a balance in that area. Therefore we have encouraged balance. The Opposition has encouraged a situation which would have helped to persuade the United States not to be involved, not to reinforce its capacities at Diego Garcia, and therefore it has encouraged a situation which would have left the Indian Ocean to the Soviet Union alone. That is a policy which this Government will always oppose. If President Carter can be successful in persuading the Soviet Union to take its extensive naval facilities out of the Indian
Ocean and to dismantle the very extensive, highly sophisticated and dangerous facilities at Berbera, this Government will be greatly pleased.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. How much has been deposited to date under the income equalisation deposit scheme? Does the Treasurer believe that the scheme is working well? In particular, do trends to date indicate that the scheme is being used by genuine farmers endeavouring to stabilise their incomes and that the scheme is not being used solely by so-called Pitt Street farmers?
-I certainly can agree with my colleague, the honourable member for Canning, both as to the objectives of the scheme and as to the successful form in which that scheme has been implemented. It is meeting a genuine need and is doing so in a most effective way. As I have mentioned, the new system already has proved to be highly successful. An amount of $3 1.3m in deposits was lodged as at the end of January in order to qualify for deduction in 1 975-76 income tax assessments. I take the opportunity to advise the House of the details of deposits lodged in each State. They were as follows: In New South Wales $8.8m, in Western Australia $7.9m, in Queensland $6.5m, in Victoria $5.3m, in South Australia $2.6m and in Tasmania $95,000. The scheme provides farmers with a highly satisfactory method of avoiding the effects of fluctuating incomes in relation to their tax liabilities. The Government is confident that the scheme will make a very important contribution to the stability and prosperity of the rural sector as a whole. I am glad the honourable gentleman raised the point.
-I ask the Treasurer In view of the figures released yesterday showing a marked decline in lending for January by permanent building societies- a decline of 12.7 per cent over December and of 2 1 .4 per cent over the previous January- at a time when building societies have ample funds, can the Treasurer explain the logic behind the Government’s direction under which the Reserve Bank has asked the permanent building societies to restrict lending? Can the Treasurer explain also the logic behind this attack on the dwelling construction industry, which has been one of the few industries showing genuine growth?
-I find it ironic that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should raise in this House a question on housing. The problems of the housing industry, both dwelling and nondwelling, can be sheeted home very significantly to the stop-go policies of the former administrationto its programs which fueled wage increases, which fed into costs and therefore into the price spiral in relation to all sectors of the housing industry. The industry was in very bad shape when this Government came into office. It is now a healthy industry. I am quite happy to -
– The honourable gentleman seeks to take issue with that point. Five key facts indicate that the housing industry has been growing and that activity will remain at a satisfactory level. First of all, real private investment in dwellings in the 6 months to last September was at a rate 27 per cent higher than in the previous year. Secondly, total dwelling approvals for the 3 months to January were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 154 000, compared with 147 600 in the same period last year. Thirdly, total dwelling commencements, seasonally adjusted, in the December quarter were running at an annual rate of 148 800, compared with 133 600 a year earlier. Fourthly, total dwelling completions in the December quarter were at a rate 10 per cent higher than in the same quarter of 1975. Fifthly, lending for housing has been rising steadily from the somewhat restrained levels experienced around the middle of 1975. Bank lending has been fairly stable.
The recent figures, to which the honourable gentleman referred, do show a flattening out process in the building society area. That does not represent a warning signal for the Government. The situation is subject to the closest monitoring with the Reserve Bank. The honourable gentleman ought well to understand that flow of funds is no total answer to the problems in the housing field, whether those moneys are going into the private banking system or are feeding into the building societies. The honourable gentleman should have regard to some of the States in which an overheating in relation to building has been emerging. I reaffirm that the position is being watched closely. I say again to the honourable gentleman that we are emerging from the situation which his own administration created. So far as overall monetary policy is concerned, whether for the housing industry or for the non-housing industry throughout the country, the Government’s policy is to ensure that there is adequate capacity and liquidity to underwrite economic recovery but not at the same time to be accommodating to an increased rate of inflation.
-Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware of newspaper reports recently that his Department is considering recommending an increase in immigration to Australia from 70 000 to 100 000 next year? Would such an increase lead to an increase in demand for goods and services in the Austraiian economy?
– Yes, I am aware of newspaper reports to the effect that my Department is suggesting an increase in the immigration intake to 100 000 in the next year. There is no truth in the reports. At this stage the Department is working on its forward estimates. These, of course, will be discussed with other relevant departments and with the Australian Population and Immigration Council before a submission is put to Cabinet. I will not anticipate what the intake involved will be or what the Cabinet response will be.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Last year, the Minister said in this House that his Government would take decisions on the further development of the Australian uranium industry in the light of public discussion and of debate in the national Parliament. In view of this statement, what action is his Department, or any Government department, taking to further public debate and discussion on the uranium industry?
-Let me say first of all that the Government is still maintaining the position which was expressed very clearly last year.
– When will the report be available?
-To that end 7000 copies of the First Report of the Ranger Environmental Inquiry are available through all Commonwealth Government publication offices in Australia. I am told that, as of recently copies are in adequate supply and that 7000 copies should meet the requirement. If that requirement cannot be met by that number, we will be happy to look at the demand and, if necessary, increase the supply. I agree that the matter of public debate is an important element in what is happening now between the release of the First Ranger report and the release of the second Ranger report. To that end, my Department has, under my orders, set up a task force. We are monitoring that debate. I get regularly reports on what is said in the public debate. We have even gone to the extent of sending some of my staff to some of the more important public arenas to hear what is being said. We will continue to monitor that debate. When the Second Report of the Ranger inquiry is presented the Government will have put in front of it what has been said in the public debate.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In view of reports that the Capital Territory Health Commission has no powers to control the establishment and conduct of free standing abortion clinics in the Australian Capital Territory, what action can the Minister take to ensure that the activities of such clinics are subject to public scrutiny?
– In view of the fact that no powers are available to the Capital Territory Health Commission to prevent the establishment of abortion clinics in Canberra, I have asked the Commissioner of the Capital Territory Health Commission to confer with the principals of PSI- Population Services International, which is a strange name for such an organisation- and to advise them to defer the opening of the abortion clinic until all the health and legal aspects have been given full consideration. I have had discussions with the Attorney-General and the Minister for the Capital Territory about this matter. As this issue has far-reaching social consequences for the people of the Australian Capital Territory, I feel it should be discussed and debated by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly in Canberra. Until sufficient time is given to enable these matters to be appropriately debated by people at the local level and all the health and legal aspects are given appropriate consideration, PSI would be very wise to defer the opening of its clinic If it does go ahead without these things being done, it could well do so at its own risk.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of the reported comments of Government back benchers that people should work for their unemployment benefit, has he further considered the question I asked him late last year in which I suggested that new- I emphasise the word ‘new’- local government works be subsidised up to 25 per cent of the total cost? The Minister will recall that I recommended 25 per cent as I believed this would be the amount of money saved through unemployment benefit.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now giving information. I ask him to ask his question.
-If this figure is correct, what possible objection can the Government have to the provision of funds to local government if it will mean simply a transfer of expenditure from one government department to another?
– Yes, I do remember the honourable member’s question last year. Investigations by my Department indicate that the gross cost of employment creation schemes is reduced by approximately 25 per cent due to savings in unemployment benefit and increased tax receipts. Employment creation schemes deal only with the symptoms of the unemployment problem in Australia and not with its causes. The basic causes of our high unemployment are the record rate of inflation caused by the policies of the previous Government and the excessively high wage level, with people pricing themselves out of jobs. This Government, unlike its predecessor, is tackling the problems as its first priority. One area of great concern has been the level of government spending. It reached record levels and record rates of increase under the previous Government, which resulted in record levels of budget deficit. Even if the cost of employment creation schemes is reduced by the 25 per cent that I mentioned a moment ago due to factors such as savings in unemployment benefit and increases in tax, such schemes are extremely expensive. No way has yet been found in which such schemes would not add to the budget deficit that I mentioned a moment ago. We, unlike the previous Government, are attacking not only the basic causes- that is, inflation and the excessively high wage level which were not tackled by the previous Government- but also in relation to the problems that these cause we have directed our programs to specific groups in the community who are finding special difficulties. I mention the expansion of the National Employment and Training scheme which now has some 14 000 people under training, the great majority of them in productive employment, I emphasise; the special youth training programs that we have introduced; the incentives to employers through the Commonwealth Rebate Apprenticeship Full Time Training system; the Community Youth Support Service scheme which now has some 60 projects going throughout Australia, involving over 12 000 young people, keeping them motivated towards work, with a sense of purpose in life. We, unlike the previous Government, are attacking the basic causes while at the same time offering contructive programs to those who are particularly affected.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Government given further consideration to a restructuring of the meat marketing procedures in the light of disabilities which currently exist to the disadvantage of cattle producers? Have differing ideas and suggestions delayed the implementation of the Minister’s intention to reconstitute the Australian Meat Board, which he announced last year? Will the Minister now take urgent action to implement reconstitution of the Meat Board and the restructuring of marketing for the benefit of all sections of the beef production, processing and marketing industries, as well as the national economy?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now providing information. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.
– Since the Government came to office one of the rural sectors that have concerned it greatly has been the beef cattle sector. There were obvious marketing difficulties. To overcome these we felt that there might be reason to look at the efficacy of the Australian Meat Board. I have received quite a number of submissions from different organisations suggesting that it was perhaps from the present powers, structure and constitution of the Board that some of the disabilities in meat marketing flowed. I therefore developed a paper, which was a discussion paper and no more, for the industry to see whether a body which I suggested might be termed an Australian meat and livestock corporation might be able to improve our overall marketing capability and ensure a greater access and price return to Australian producers across the world market scene.
Unfortunately the industry itself is incredibly divided. Not only is each of the producer organisations differing in its attitude towards this proposal but so too are the meat exporters. The individual meat exporters are not unanimous. The big exporters want one sort of body and the small exporters want another. The consumers have a different attitude again and the unions also have some variation of the proposal as put forward. In those circumstances it has been extraordinarily difficult to make recommendations to the Government. Nonetheless, I believe that there is some advantage in looking at the efficacy of the Australian Meat Board. I am in the process of submitting to the Government recommendations for a new body.
In the meantime, however, I would like to say to the cattle producers that the Australian Meat Board is a body constituted with a producer majority. Its powers are prescribed by statute so that it can operate to improve the returns to growers and to ensure that growers’ voices are heard by all sectors of the industry to maximise their returns. I believe that the Meat Board has done a very good job over the last 6 months in incredibly difficult circumstances. It has been able to broaden access to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for example. It was a Meat Board initiative that first gained access for boneless frozen boxes to the USSR. This is a different form of packaging and a different form of product from any sold previously. As a result we have had very satisfactory sales of beef to the USSR. So within the Meat Board there is a capacity to improve access. The one real deficiency at the moment that concerns us -
-Order! There is too much audible conversation. I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.
– There is too great a margin between prices being received by the producer and prices being received by the exporter. It is in that area that I believe the Australian Meat Board may well be able to take action until such stage as this Government decides on whether there will be a new body to replace it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Does the Minister’s advice to beef cattle producers that they withhold stock from the market to force up beef prices mean that he now admits that the beef exporting companies can pay higher prices for slaughter cattle? Does he also agree that the beneficiaries of the removal of the beef export levy were the exporting companies and not the beef cattle producers? Further, in view of the fact that the Minister for Overseas Trade, supported by the now Prime Minister, publicly urged cattle producers to increase cattle numbers, will he now accept responsibility for the over supply situation that exists and is this the reason for his now -
-Order! The honourable member’s question is far too long. He has posed the point he wants to make. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– One more sentence.
– I rise to order. The Minister for Primary Industry just gave us a 6-minute speech in respect of the beef industry. It does not seem to me that the honourable member for Grey has been speaking for very long. Obviously there are many questions to be asked about this industry. The Minister rambled on -
-There is no point of order. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.
– I have one sentence to complete my question.
-I have ruled on this matter. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– I think the honourable member’s questions give me ample scope to give him a reply. First, the honourable member referred to a statement I released on Sunday night recommending to beef producers throughout the nation that they reduce the number of cattle they are sending to the sale yards for slaughter. This statement was based on information that I have been able to accumulate showing quite clearly that the exporters can pay a higher price than they are paying at the moment for cattle. With devaluation and increased prices for meat sales as well as the prospect of increased markets over the next 12 months, they will clearly be enabled to pay at least $10 to $20 a head more than they are paying at the moment. Some people have remarked that my statement was improper. In fact some even went so far to say that it was immoral because an increase would put up the price of meat for the consumers. If anything is immoral it is people who do not want to see cattle producers getting a higher price than they are getting now. Today housewives pay for meat a price which is basically the cost of transport, slaughtering, chilling and retailing. The cattleman gets virtually nothing. The only way he can get a higher price is for the price in the store to go up. An increase of $20 per head would mean to the consumers about a lc to 2c per lb increase in the price. Yet there are people who are so selfish that they do not want to see this industry, which is in a near bankrupt situation, get any improvement. I have even seen articles in some of the newspapers saying that the increase I have suggested would have a considerable effect on the consumer price index. A lc to 2c per lb increase in the price of meat would cause an increase of one-fifth of one per cent. People ought to consider what would be the impact of some of the other increases.
-Order! There is too much noise in the chamber. I call upon the right honourable gentleman to draw his answer to a conclusion.
-The consumers and the public at large should realise that between 1972 and 1976 the costs of killing, dressing and delivery to the chillers increased by 102 per cent. During the same period the price received for cattle dropped by SO per cent. If there is any complaint to be made it is about the huge increase in slaughtering and other costs in the industry. Wages are certainly a major consideration. I hope people, especially the consumers, do not think they will not have to pay for increased wages by paying more for their meat, because they will have to pay. That is one of the reasons why we have been so concerned about the rapid increase in wages over the last few years. The honourable member for Grey referred to -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. A few moments ago you requested the right honourable gentleman to finalise his answer. He has not done so. When you requested the honourable member for Grey to finalise his question and he did not do so you forced him to sit down. I think the same rule ought to apply to the right honourable gentleman.
-The Standing Orders permit me to bring a question to an end when it is too long. The Standing Orders do not permit me to bring an answer to an end when it is too long.
-Mr Speaker, I rise to order. On an earlier occasion when ruling against the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith in relation to a question you took the view that the literal meaning of standing order 144 and the literal meaning of standing order 145 should be read together. You ruled certain sections of a question out of order on the basis of something in standing order 144. 1 ask: Does your ruling now mean that you do not uphold that earlier ruling?
-Order! The honourable gentleman has no substance in his point of order. Furthermore, he has misunderstood the ruling I earlier gave.
– I believe there is some significance to be registered in the Opposition’s taking continuing points of order on a matter which is of grave concern to one of the largest industries in Australia- the cattle producing industry. It is in such a serious state that I would have thought that Opposition members would have been reasonable enough to listen to the points that I have been making.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable member is now referring to members of the Opposition taking points of order. If the Minister is prepared to make a statement on the cattle industry the Opposition is prepared to give leave and to debate it forthwith.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– If the honourable member would like me to say more about the industry I would be quite happy to take up more of question time. The honourable member for Grey who, I believe, does have a genuine concern for the industry- no doubt that is the reason why he has asked the question- is not being given much support by his own colleagues. I think it is true to say that the Labor Party has never shown any concern for the cattlemen or the rural producers.
-Order! The House will come to order. I call upon the Deputy Prime Minister to bring his answer to a conclusion.
-The point I wish to make is that if the very poor circumstances of the beef industry continue and cattle producers are forced to sell their breeding stock as evidenced by the large numbers of cows and heifers that are coming into the yards at present the Australian herd will be significantly reduced and the ultimate consequence will be that the consumers will have to pay considerably more. What we want in this country is a stable industry. If there is to be fairness then producers should at least get a reasonable share of the sales being made overseas. We are concerned that the exporters are not paying producers enough. If producers could marginally reduce the number of stock going into the yards there would be the improvement that I have suggested.
– I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, if you are going to ask honourable members to shorten their questions I would ask you to apply the same rule to Ministers in their replies.
-I have already made it clear to the House that while I possess power to prevent questions from contravening the Standing Orders I do not have the power to call an answer to an end. The only thing I can do in relation to an answer is to require it to be relevant to the question. If it is relevant, it will proceed.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Government taken any action to seek the views of other Commonwealth Heads as to dissociating themselves from the regime of President Amin of Uganda? In view of President Amin’s repeated assertions that he will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, has the Government taken any action to dissuade him from attending?
-The Foreign Minister has made the Government’s view very clearly and, I believe, forcefully known in relation to matters that have occurred in Uganda in recent times. There is nothing that I would wish to add to that. The view is expressed in clear and forceful terms and quite obviously that view stands. I have been advised that the British Government has just appointed a special envoy to consult with other Commonwealth countries concerning the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in June and I have been in contact with the United Kingdom Prime Minister over this particular matter. I would not want to go into it in further detail at the moment but obviously any communication that I would have had was against a background of the publicly expressed view which has been made clearly known by the Foreign Minister.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He will remember announcing in Suva S months ago that the Aus.tralian Government would commit $ 15m in bilateral aid to the countries of the South Pacific for the current financial year, and larger amounts in succeeding years, and that it would make a special provision of $500,000 in this and the next 2 years to assist non-government organisations with the cost of development programs in the South Pacific. Is it a fact as has been reported that he has now informed the Australian Council for Overseas Aid that the allocation to those countries has been reduced for this year and that the special provision for the voluntary agencies has been cancelled for this year? If so, when did he inform the recipient governments and organisations of this decision? Also, what amount of aid will in fact now be made available to the governments in this financial year?
-The Leader of the Opposition refers to the extensive aid program that I announced last year in Suva, which was a program of $60m running over 3 financial years. That amount is an increase of 300 per cent over the 3-year program approved by his Party when in government. It is the most significant increase in any of our aid programs since the Liberal and
National Country Parties came to government. In regard to the assistance being rendered to the voluntary agencies, I have taken a decision that the same amount of money will flow to them as announced but because the majority of those agencies operate on a calendar year basis and not on a financial year basis I am allocating $300,000 of the $500,000 from July of this year through until June of next year, to be divided into $150,000 between July and the end of this calendar year and a further $150,000 between January and the end of June next calendar year. The remaining $200,000 of the $500,000 referred to by the Leader of the Opposition will be allocated for the first part of the succeeding calendar year- in other words, the latter part of the next financial year. So the amount stands. The first half of the $300,000 allocation will be paid this calendar year from July to December, the second half will be paid from January to June next year, and the remaining $200,000 of the $500,000 will be allocated in the latter part of the financial year 1978-79, namely, the first part of the calendar year 1979. That may sound very complicated but it is simple. It is being related to the calendar year rather than to the financial year.
-I call the honourable member for Denison.
-What about the government allocations?
-The government funds -
-Order! The question was asked and the answer finished. I have called another question. I call the honourable member for Denison.
-My question is to the Attorney-General I see that he is not here. I will have to put my question on notice.
– I asked the Foreign Minister a question on government grants and voluntary agency grants. He answered the latter part of the question. I thought that he was willing to answer the former part.
-The government allocations will be proceeding as planned. There is no need to notify the recipient governments of the amounts. They have been phased over a period. The greater allocations will be in the second and third years of the 3-year program.
-Will there still be $15m this financial year?
-There should still be $15m, with one substantial caveat: As the honourable member is aware, because of their own difficulties many recipient countries are sometimes unable to take up what is offered to them. If there is frequently one area of short fall in government expenditure it is in regard to aid programs because although we can offer it, it cannot always be taken up either for lack of manpower or for lack of expertise in particular areas. But it is the Government’s intention that the funding for grants be carried through. The funding through the voluntary agencies will be phased in the manner to which I have referred.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will he assure all Australians that no credit squeeze is planned? What restrictions are currently applied by the Reserve Bank to Australian trading banks and financial institutions? Will the Government be monitoring closely the liquidity of trading banks during the remainder of the financial year 1976-77, when large amounts of funds will drain from their deposits for the purpose of taxation payments?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. As I have said before, I rule out completely that there is any form of credit squeeze planned as part of this Government’s policy. With regard to the restrictions mentioned by the honourable member I would mention the general guidelines for bank lending, the statutory reserve deposit mechanism and also the arrangements under the LGS convention. I emphasise, as I did in the statement brought down in the House recently, that the financial markets are better geared this year to handle the run down in liquidity than they have been for some considerable period. Treasury notes which will mature between now and the end of the financial year will place approximately $2 billion in private hands. The reversion of the minimum LGS ratio from 23 per cent to 18 per cent at the beginning of next month will, in effect, release more than $850m to assist Australian trading banks to meet the seasonal drain on their funds. Aside from that, I mention to the honourable gentleman that savings banks have considerable volumes of funds on deposit with the Reserve Bank of Australia and the private sector holds large deposits with the banking system. Any allegation of a credit squeeze is therefore without foundation. The Government’s monetary strategy remains as it has been, that is, to allow a rate of growth in monetary aggregates which are not accommodating to inflation but which will allow the private sector adequate access to funds to underwrite recovery.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is there any Federal law which prevents a person under charge or investigation for breaches of a State companies Act moving to another State and carrying on a similar business or establishing a new company or taking an appointment associated with public or corporate affairs?
-Order! As I interpret the question, it calls for a legal opinion.
-Mr Speaker, if you will allow me to complete the question you will see it relates to a business matter.
-I will hear the question.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Minister will be aware of an appointment of a person to the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade Superannuation Board who is currently under investigation in New South Wales. I ask: Will the Minister seek to have the introduction of the National Companies Bill expedited?
-The question does call for an expression of legal opinion. I will endeavour, in consultation with the Attorney-General to clarify the present situation and advise the honourable gentleman. I will not attempt to speculate on the present situation. The honourable gentleman raises the question of the introduction of a national companies Bill. I inform him that on Friday I will be meeting in Canberra all State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs and it is my hope that at this meeting I will have a definitive indication from all States regarding the proposals which were announced by the Government last year for a co-operative scheme of uniform administration in this area. I am hopeful that all the States will agree to the essential principles that were outlined in that statement which involve the establishment of an effective national corporations and securities commission and a machinery for greater uniformity. The Government has chosen a legislative route which was less confrontationist than the route chosen by the previous Government and I am hopeful of winning the approval of all the States to those proposals.
-Does the Minister for Transport still receive reports on the road needs of Australia from the amalgamated Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics such as were previously provided by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads? If such reports are provided, to what extent are they affected by the restriction on the independence of the amalgamated Bureau in comparison with the independence which was enjoyed by the former Bureau of Roads?
-The last Bureau of Roads report which was given to me and which was tabled in the House was provided in 197S. The new amalgamated body of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics has not yet embarked on the exercise of providing information to me for the purpose of drafting the legislation which will be introduced into the House during this session and which will become the Roads Grants Act. I would like to assure the honourable member, as I have assured every shire council around Australia, that the amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads with the Bureau of Transport Economics will lead to greater expertise, greater information and a greater capacity of that new body to provide correct information to the Government when making its decisions on road spending. I also advise the House that the amalgamated body will indeed be undertaking the normal roads needs survey which traditionally has been undertaken by the Bureau of Roads over the years. That will be done in consultation with local government authorities and with State government authorities, as is normally the case on each occasion. Therefore all this concern that is being expressed about the amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics, in my view, is not real. In my view, the amalgamated body will serve this Parliament and this nation much better than the two separate bodies. As to the question of independence, the Bureau of Transport Economics was never a statutory authority, and I do not think any of its reports, all of which have been tabled in this House, have been challenged as to integrity, nor has the volume or the value of the work done by the Bureau of Transport Economics been challenged. I do not hold with the view that change will result in terms of independence because of the amalgamation of the two bodies.
-Mr Speaker, I want to raise with you a matter which is of some importance. During question time the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development indicated that adequate copies of the Fox report were available. I have ascertained that no copies are available to members in the Bills and Papers Office of the House of Representatives other than on loan and that only one copy is available for that purpose. Will you inquire into the reason why no supplies are available?
-I shall make inquiries.
– For the information of honourable members I present a document entitled ‘Australia’s Population’: A Summary of the First Report of the National Population Inquiry.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 1 present agreements between the Commonwealth and the States of South Australia and Western Australia relating to the acquisition of land for nature conservation purposes.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do. In this week’s edition of Nation Review under a heading ‘Death Lobby Snows Labor’ I have been grievously misrepresented. I shall read to the House the text of the misrepresentation. It relates to a public relations document which has been made available to that newspaper. The article reads:
The industry documents allege that a senior Labor member of Federal Parliament asked major mining companies in Australia to help him lobby the ALP’s Federal conference.
It then goes on to say:
Paul Keating has made private appeals to mining company leaders for a more forceful publicity and promotional program in support of an Austraiian uranium industry.
He has said he fears that if the pro nuclear campaign loses momentum he and other moderates will have a difficult task in preventing the Perth conference from agreeing to a resolution banning all uranium mining. ‘
The reference made to me by International Public Relations is fictitious. I have never spoken to International Public Relations about uranium. This is an unfortunate example of yet another public relations company trafficking in speculation and gossip to justify the retainers paid to them by the industry that it represents. Nation Review, however, did have the courtesy to ring me before publication and printed my denial in the body of the story. For the information of honourable members, I never have asked any Australian company for help to lobby anyone, let alone to lobby the conference of my own Party. With Senator Button I drafted and successfully argued for the present policy of the Party. I am confident that the Australian Labor Party National Conference in Perth this year will adopt that policy. I certainly do not need any help in this issue and help from the uranium companies is the kind of help I can well do without.
– I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Speaker.
-I remind the honourable member for Melbourne that it is customary to approach the Chair and to warn the Chair that an honourable gentleman seeks to make a personal explanation. In what nature has the honourable gentleman been misrepresented?
-It is in much the same terms as was the case with the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating).
-In respect of what?
– On the same subject.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– I do.
– In the same publication to which the honourable member for Blaxland referred, the following was stated:
Despite the constant mutterings of senators Brown and Melzer while forum members were addressing the committee’, the IPR letter states, ‘we have had favourable comments back from other committee members including Ted Innes . . .
I say unequivocally that this statement is irresponsible and mischievous. It could do me a great deal of personal harm as from a long way back I have been an opponent of uranium mining. I do not agree with the proposition put in the Labor Caucus by my colleague. I am opposed to uranium mining but the inference in this publication is that I adopt the opposite attitude. I have never spoken to anybody from International Public Relations. I never have been lobbied on this issue, nor do I think it probable that people would take the trouble to lobby me about it. My views are well known in that area. I think the report is irresponsible. Probably the explanation I have given will clear the situation.
-Order! The honourable gentleman has made the point quite clear.
-I hope the publishers of the Nation Review will afford me the same opportunity as they afforded my colleague.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and seek to make a personal explanation.
-The matter has been referred to extensively already. The paragraph of an article which was read by my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne, applies also to me. It states: we have had favourable comments back from other committee members including . . .
Several names are mentioned and mine is the last so mentioned. I simply want to say that with other members of Party committees I met representatives of the Australian Uranium Producers Forum. My role in that meeting was to ask a number of questions. In fact, I did ask one question which certainly could not be construed to be in support of the Forum’s policy. I have had no contact with the International Public Relations organisation. The contention made in the Nation Reveiw of 10-16 March 1977 is completely without foundation.
-I should like to make a personal explanation, Mr Speaker.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
-I remind the honourable gentleman that as a matter of courtesy and practice an honourable member should approach the Chair to inform the Chair of an intention to make a personal explanation.
-I apologise, Mr Speaker. Would you accept that now?
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. I refer to a comment made this morning in an Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast. I have to speak on this matter because it affects me as well as others. Comment was made in the broadcast that in the Liberal Party-National
Country Party coalition party room back benchers put forward a suggestion that they would oppose increment increases in pensions. That is entirely untrue. Obviously we were the Government that brought in automatic increases in pensions. I refute the statement. It is casting aspersions on all members of this Party.
– I rise to take a point of order. Is it not provided in the Standing Orders that a personal explanation must relate to a statement made about a member? In this case that has not occurred. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to direct the honourable member to resume his seat.
-The point of order taken by-
– It is a Tory proposal.
-The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent. A personal explanation is being made. It is the practice of the House to listen to personal explanations in silence. The point made by the honourable member for Shortland would have been valid if it were not for the fact that the honourable member for Bendigo has already said that the reason he must make a personal explanation is that as a member in the party room he is included in the group referred to. I call upon the honourable gentleman to relate the statement to himself personally.
– Thank you, Mr Speaker. The statement is related to me personally. I am a back bencher of this Party. The statement implies that all back benchers were involved. I take that as a slight on myself. The matter was not discussed. Also, there was a comment that some back benchers indicated that they would cross the floor. That was not said either.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Port Adelaide, who incidentally is not in his seat, has just interjected that he has positive proof that the honourable member is opposed to the application of the CPI to pensions.
-No point of order is involved.
-I have received advice from the Leader of the Opposition that he has nominated Mr Beazley to be a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Wallis.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government ‘s incompetent handling of the Lebanese refugee problem.
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-
-In October 1976 I rose in this House to deplore the plight of Lebanese refugees stranded in Nicosia and other points around the Mediterranean. I rise in March 1977, almost 5 months later, again to deplore the plight of these benighted people and to condemn the Government in the strongest terms for its attitude towards them. In the meantime the Government has compounded its guilt for the injury it has done to these people. Many of those of whom I spoke on the last occasion are still there. They are victims of despair and hopelessness because the Government will not do those simple things which the Lebanese people in Australia cry out for it to do. Leaders of the Lebanese community in Australia know the gravity of the situation and have told me many harrowing tales of their countrymen, their relatives, who have been stuck in Nicosia for months sustained only by what Australian Lebanese are able to send them. The Lebanese here have had to go heavily into debt to raise the thousands of dollars necessary to keep their relatives in Nicosia from penury and destitution.
I have recently returned from Nicosia. The proof that these stories are true is there for anyone to see. Hundreds of the hopeless can be seen milling around the immigration office where our immigration officers do their best to cope with the mess that this Government has created. I have already outlined to the House the events of last year and I do not intend to go over that ground again. It is necessary to refer to one thing that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) did last year which was not necessarily wrong in principle but which was disastrous in the effect that it has had in our handling of the Lebanese refugee situation. It will be remembered that the Minister relaxed the entry criteria to allow members of the extended Lebanese family to come to Australia with maximum speed and minimum discomfort. This was not a bad thing in itself but a disaster given the circumstances at the time. In the first place the Minister obviously had no conception of what Lebanese regard as an extended family- a concept which goes well beyond the Australian understanding of members of the immediate family circle. In the second place there were hundreds of people already in Nicosia and other
E laces whose applications for entry to Australia ad not been processed. Their chances of having the applications processed were greatly diminished by the Minister’s actions.
The result of what the Minister did was a flood of Lebanese into Cyprus and other places which aggravated in particular the situation in Cyprus and made the task of overworked immigration officers even more difficult. Many of the people already in Cyprus were category A immigrants, that is, mothers, fathers or dependent children of Lebanese people living in Australia. They left Lebanon and went to Cyprus and other centres on the understanding that they would be coming on to Australia once they had satisfactorily passed medical and character checks. They went to Cyprus on the understanding that they would be there for two or three weeks only before they were approved to join their families in Australia. For many the waiting period has been three or four months and for some it has been six or seven months and more. There are now arrangements for people to go back to the immigration office in Nicosia as late as 3 April this year. These people have left, or sold up, their assets in Lebanon. They survive in Cyprus on what their relatives in Australia are able to send them. I can produce evidence in the form of currency receipts from a range of people to indicate the amount of money that has been sent. In particular one man has sent more than $5,000 to a relative in Cyprus. The man sending the money is not a rich man, nor is his case uncommon. He is worried because, as most of us would, he finds the burden of supporting a family here and dependants overseas an overwhelming load to carry. Many have paid out much more. The total needed to sustain Lebanese refugees runs into millions of dollars.
It is true that many hundreds of category B refugees- brothers and sisters and others who fall into that category of Australian Lebanesecame to Australia in the first heady days of the relaxed entry criteria when this Government was trying to demonstrate that it had the right approach to the refugee problem. Good luck to those who came and to the relatives who sponsored them, but in the process many hundreds of others were disappointed. Many of these people left their homes and possessions because they had faith in what this Government had led them to believe, and their faith was sadly misplaced. Of course not only the Lebanese in Australia have found their faith misplaced. That is the first part of this lamentable story. Hundreds and hundreds of people had their hopes raised only to be cruelly dashed. They face the alternatives of continuing to subsist on Cyprus against the day when the Government here will stop bungling and bring them to Australia or of being forced to return to Lebanon to blighted and uncertain futures. The price of that bungling is the despair of the refugees and the heavy financial burden on the Lebanese community in Australia.
A second part of the story is connected with the first and again involves what amounts to a false pretence on the part of this Government. In the early days of relaxed criteria and the window dressing by the Minister, many Lebanese came to Australia on the strength of quickly processed medical checkups. In case anyone thinks I am using the tragedy of the dispossessed and desolate people to make political capital let me put to the House what has been put to me by members of the Lebanese community. I refer to a signed document which I will table if needs be. I sent a copy of it to the Minister some weeks ago. I have never received a reply. It puts certain points and no reasonable, humane man could say that the members of the Lebanese community are asking for anything excessive. They ask that immediate steps be taken by the Australian Government to re-establish the Australian embassy in Lebanon so that all new nominations may be dealt with from an embassy in that country. Due to circumstances beyond their control many people are being forced to return to that country because they cannot afford to stay in Cyprus. They run out of money and then return to Lebanon without their goods and chattels.
The members of the Lebanese community ask that the present policy which excludes a total family from emigrating to Australia where one member fails the medical examination be altered so that only the seriously medically unfit members may be excluded. They ask that the applications of large numbers of Lebanese presently stranded in Nicosia be processed as a matter of urgency so that those wishing to emigrate to Australia may do so immediately. The Lebanese community here regards this matter as one of extreme urgency, as it would relieve the suffering of the refugees and would lift from their relatives the burden of having to pay the huge cost of supporting them in Cyprus. The Lebanese community in Australia is understandably disturbed and frustrated by the Australian response to the refugee problem. The reopening of the embassy is of the utmost importance, because clearly it would help Australian officers to assess the applicants on the spot. It would speed up the processing procedures. Major powers are now operating embassies at Beirut. The explanation I got for our embassy not being reopened was that the Canadians are not there. What has that to do with the situation? There should be no inhibition on Australia reopening its post there.
There is a whole range of issues to which I would like to refer, but it is clear that I have not the time to do so. It is absolutely necessary that even now the Government reinforce the staff of the immigration post at Nicosia. What is the situation? The Government is now looking at staff ceiling levels. When I was at Nicosia just a fortnight or so ago, literally hundreds of people were nulling around the immigration office, standing there like cattle, and being processed at a rate that was deplorable. That was not the fault of the staff at that post They have done a magnificent job. I have already referred to that. The man whom the Government sent to Damascus ought to have been awarded the Victoria Cross. There was a failure to take advantage of the situation or of the opportunities there. The expectancies of people were raised. Yet the Government did not ave the capacity nor the machinery to handle the situation. As I have said, the staff have worked diligently and under the most difficult conditions to cope with the situation, which is impossible given the number of distressed refugees. I have seen the desperate situation. I once again urge the Minister to do something about it.
There was a question of refusal on medical grounds. The Minister can go to the leaders of the Lebanese community in Australia to check these facts. He has probably had some contact with them. They have certainly contacted me and expressed their disappointment in the strongest terms. Mild heart murmurs, diabetes and a host of other chronic conditions which pose no threat to anyone other than the sufferer are now given as sufficient reasons for rejection on medical grounds. It has been suggested by my informants in the community that the reasons for rejection are so vague that people suspect that they have been turned down because they are too fat, they are too thin or they do not wash behind their ears. There must be a reason for the huge difference between virtually no rejections on medical grounds between August and December of last year and the present high incidence of rejections. The Minister’s adviser shakes his head. His information might differ from some of the information and evidence that I have. There must be a reason for this huge difference. As far as I am concerned, this issue is of maximum importance. Committees were set up in the latter part of last year. I should refer quickly again to the high incidence of rejections since that time. There must be some explanation. It is not enough to say that the rejections are based on the declining health of those people who are stranded in Nicosia. The Government set up immigration committees to deal with category A applicants alone. Yet from what I can ascertain these committees are very disturbed, on the one hand, at the length of time which refugees have had to languish in places such as Nicosia and, on the other hand, at the current extraordinarily large number of rejections on medical grounds. If there is any real doubt about that matter, approach the Lebanese community and ask them. I ask for permission to incorporate in Hansard a letter from the Lebanese community to me.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
From the undersigned members of the Lebanese community in Victoria.
As you well know, the Lebanese form a significant ethnic group within the Australian community with a history of settlement that dates back over 100 years. Although Lebanese and people of Lebanese descent are to be found in all walks of life, they are making a particular contribution to the commercial life of this nation.
Lebanon so that all new nominations may be dealt with from the Australian Embassy in Lebanon.
We draw the above to the attention of the Australian Government in the belief that they constitute both humanitarian and practical recommendations for action by the Australian Government.
-The Minister is not dealing with applications for dog licences. He is dealing with people. He is dealing with the relatives of Australian citizens who form a significant ethnic group in Australia and who have made an important social, cultural and commercial contribution to Australian society for generations. These refugees should not be allowed to languish on Cyprus or anywhere else because Australia is too niggardly to send more immigration officers or more medical officers to Nicosia. Medical reports are now being sent back to Australia for processing. When we had a medical person in the task force, they were processed there.
Lebanese people in Australia should not have to continue to bear the intolerable financial burden of sustaining the people on Cyprus. It is monstrous that people should have been abandoned for up to 6 or 7 months, in a strange land, when everything they had been told led them to believe that they would be on their way to Australia and the company of their relatives within 2 or 3 weeks of leaving their homeland. At one other post, Athens, it seems that the processing can be expedited in another way. The Minister’s adviser might be able to give him an explanation which he can give to the House. Misunderstanding and bungling have characterised this Government’s handling of the Lebanese refugee situation. The Government must bear a heavy responsibility because Australia’s international reputation, as well as the lives of hundreds of people, are involved in a speedy solution to this problem.
– I am very pleased that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), the spokesman for the Opposition on immigration and ethnic affairs, has once again brought the plight of Lebanese people to the attention of the House. Obviously, as he has said, it is a most important matter. He insists upon calling them refugees. In a very real sense they are, except, if one has to be precise, they do not come within the definition of refugees as accepted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I am quite prepared to discuss the matter in this light because, as I have said on numerous occasions and a great number of people have said on numerous occasions, these people have suffered a great deal in the country of their birth or home. For purposes of entry to Australia, Australia has treated people disadvantaged by the situation in the Lebanon as quasi-refugees. I mention this because we should look at this entire problem of refugees or quasi-refugees not in relation only to one point in the world but in relation to the entire refugee or quasi-refugee situation which exists. It is rather interesting that the Opposition has understandably placed great emphasis on the Lebanese situation- a situation which the Government has recognised consistently and has done something about- but not once has the spokesman for the Opposition mentioned the plight of Indo-Chinese refugees who, at this stage, are in parlous circumstances in refugee camps in Thailand and Malaysia.
– At least I looked at those camps. You did not.
– I did. The selective approach to the problems of disadvantaged peoples overseas which the Opposition has exemplified so far is rather unusual. The spokesman for the Opposition has accused the Government of all sorts of dereliction of duty. I believe one should place on record what has occurred. Keep in mind that any immigration program, and particularly any program in relation to refugee or quasi-refugee resettlement, must take into account the full global situation. We have sought to do that As a result of the special measures taken to facilitate the reunion of Lebanese people with close relatives in Australia, prima facie acceptable nominations received prior to 31 December 1976 covered 31071 people- including 4000 community list nominees- of whom 18 149 lodged formal applications at our overseas posts during the period 1 July 1976 to 28 February 1977. The nominations accepted under the relaxed criteria lapsed if the nominees had not personally applied for migration at our overseas posts before 28 February 1977.
The Opposition has made great play of the suggestion that allegedly we have not responded to points put up to us by the Lebanese community. That is sheer nonsense. In fact I have just mentioned that the people had to lodge applications before 28 February. Originally the date was 31 January, but in response to representations by the Lebanese people this date was set forward to 28 February.
During the period 1 January 1976 to 25 February 1977 overseas posts issued visas covering 9789 Lebanese people of whom 5865 had arrived in Australia by 31 January 1977. It is possible that the number of arrivals is higher than that because we judge the arrivals by what people write on their arrival card as their last place of residence. Many Lebanese people may have written Cyprus as the country of last residence because that is the country from which they came to Australia. Over 3000 have shown Cyprus as their last place of residence. This total is in addition to the 5300 people who in the last 7 months have given Lebanon as their last place of residence. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) has castigated the Government for not doing as well as other nations in relation to acceptance of the Lebanese. In the past he has mentioned particularly Canada. During the whole of 1976, 7161 Lebanese arrived in Canada. The numbers have now dropped off, but I believe this is to be welcomed simply because it reflects a settling of the situation in the Lebanon.
If one looks at the volume of applications and nominations one can see that it was inevitable that some delays would have occurred in respect of the processing of applications and the interviewing of people who wished to come to Australia. It is a fact that the date for the consideration of applications was stretched further ahead because of the limitations of available staff. In the first instance the large volume of nominations lodged by relatives in Australia had to be checked in respect of things such as the availability of accommodation before they were forwarded to Nicosia. At the same time the rush of nominations in Nicosia rose to 1000 people a day. Obviously this would have caused delay in the treatment of applications.
The number of applications built up quite dramatically during the time that the task force was accepting nominations in Nicosia. So too did the number of applications processed and the numbers of people arriving in Australia. There were some delays. These delays quite legitimately resulted from medical queries. Often there were difficulties in contacting applicants, many of whom returned to the Lebanon to await the issue of visas. There were a great number of problems in respect of the identification of applicants. I am very glad that the Opposition spokesman has paid a tribute to the work done by the officers of my Department. I also have visited the posts overseas, particularly the post in Nicosia, and I have seen at first hand just how hard these people work, the long hours that they work and the extreme dedication that they show. I am very pleased that the honourable member for Melbourne at least has paid a tribute to those officers.
We must understand the situation of the sponsors of Lebanese migrants and the sponsored when they arrive in Australia. Before nominations were accepted from people in Australia, the Lebanese community, as a result of discussions I had with them, accepted responsibility for the post arrival resettlement of their relatives. This responsibility applied particularly in respect of employment placement, accommodation and initial financial support. Throughout the whole of this exercise the efforts of some people- I emphasise the words ‘some people’- within the Lebanese community made things a bit more difficult than otherwise they would have been. There were numerous instances of deception relating to identity, substitution and the withholding of documents. Also, false statements were made in an endeavour to mislead officials. I guess that this action is understandable in a case where people are seeking to bring relatives to Australia and see this as a method of achieving their aim. But it did make the process of identification and medical and character checking that much more difficult. It led to some delay. I am hopeful that the Opposition will not say that we should relax the medical and character checks which, after all, are instituted to protect the Australian community as well as the individual.
Unfortunately Mr Abdulla, an accredited courier for the South Lebanese Association in Sydney, was not only found to have urged nominees to mislay documents to confuse identity but also he deliberately deceived our officials both in Sydney and Nicosia in respect of his own sister and her family. Here is a man who was sent by an association to assist people to come to Australia, yet we found that he was undertaking these activities. I mention this fact to show the difficulties under which our officers overseas were working. These officers had to deal with people who were coming forward to apply for entry to Australia at the rate of up to 1000 a day.
The honourable member for Melbourne said that he wrote to me in relation to suggestions put forward by the Lebanese community. He said he has not received a reply from me.
– Not even an acknowledgement.
– Not even an acknowledgement, he says. Unfortunately he probably does not open his mail. I have information which shows that I sent him an acknowledgement some time ago. I do not know whether he has received it. But if he checks back through his mail probably he will find it.
– He has been away.
– Of course he has been overseas on one of his trips, and that is fair enough. One of the suggestions of the Lebanese community put forward by the honourable member as a means of helping to alleviate the problems that remain is the reopening of our embassy in Beirut. At all times we have said that we would reopen the embassy in Beirut as soon as this step was feasible. I am glad to be able to tell the honourable member that we are looking at reopening the embassy in Beirut possibly in May of this year. The first people who will be going into that embassy will, of course, be the
Immigration officials as well as some of the Foreign Affairs personnel.
The honourable member has made mention of the refusal of applications on medical grounds. I can assure him and the Lebanese community as a whole that there is no truth in the statement that medical assessments have been altered in some way and that tougher criteria are being employed. There was an understanding and an undertaking when particular operations were commenced in September of last year whereby some people nominated by groups within the Lebanese community and were placed in category A could travel to Australia and would be assessed on medical grounds once they arrived here. But this arrangement was finalised at the end of September last year. Since that time there has been a requirement that all people who are nominated to come to Australia should be assessed in terms of health and character clearances before they leave to come to Australia. This was done because we found a great number of medical problems presenting themselves. The Opposition has very cleverly refrained at all times from saying how many people we should accept. Should we accept everyone who nominates? Should we have accepted the 3 1 000 people who made applications? Not once has the Opposition said how many we should have taken.
In this matter we have relaxed the normal entry criteria in relation to relationships, and a great number of people have come to Australia and are still coming to Australia as a result of the Government’s initiatives. Obviously in any refugee situation or quasi-refugee situation one would like to do more, but it is simply not possible. The limits have to be drawn somewhere. The honourable member made great play about my not understanding the question of extended family as evidenced by the Lebanese. That is nonsense. I well understand the feeling of extended family as evidenced by the Lebanese and other groups of people. That is why the relationships were limited to the ones which have been promulgated. If we had extended those relationships the numbers eligible to come would have escalated markedly. We know that most of these people were coming to Sydney, where of course job opportunities at the moment are fairly limited and the position of these people would be extremely parlous.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Mr INNES (Melbourne)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I have just been informed by my secretary that the acknowledgment of my letter to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) arrived in this morning’s mail. The implication by the Minister was that his letter was in my possession for some time.
– It was sent on 4 March.
-I repeat that it arrived in this morning’s mail.
-The matter of public importance under discussion reads:
The Government’s incompetent handling of the Lebanese refugee problem.
Incompetence is the reason for the Opposition taking up the matter. We are not making any complaints about the efforts that have been made by officers in the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs whether here or overseas. We are making a complaint, and a strong one, about the incompetence of the Government in the Lebanese situation. Our complaint is based on the fact that during the last couple of years, when the conflict in the Lebanon has become worse, the Government at no time has given a clear indication of the guidelines for Lebanese migrants to Australia. I do not have to mention the closing of the Beirut embassy, and I do not have to mention the closing of the Damascus office. Those closures were done without due consideration. When the office opened in Nicosia it was patently clear to anyone who had bothered to look at the situation that the task force that was sent there in emergency would not be sufficient to handle the volume of applications that would come in. The Minister made play on the definition of refugee or quasi-refugee. The Opposition does not care one iota about the definition of refugee or quasi-refugee. We are interested in the fact that these people wishing to come to Australia are men and women. If I may quote from the Merchant of Venice, it was Shylock who said:
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
The situation in Lebanon has created many harrowing experiences for a great number of people. In Australia in the post-war years we have been accepting a large number of Lebanese people. They have left some of their family in the Lebanon. Because of the conflict in Lebanon they became worried about the future of their near relatives there. In many cases their homes have been completely destroyed and perhaps the husband or the brother of the person out here has been killed in the conflict. The Lebanese people have a tied family system. They are worried. They have every entitlement to be worried. Yes, they bleed.
I speak on this matter because I have an electorate perhaps unique in Australia. Within my electorate there is a mosque and 2 churches of different branches of the Christian religion. So Lebanese activities in the electorate of Lang are particularly strong. Within the confines of my electorate, the electorate of Grayndler and one or two others around my area there has been a large influx of Lebanese people. They come to us continually wanting to bring out their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews or cousins because they feel for their relatives in the Lebanon. I have found in the last 15 months or so that I am completely and utterly useless in trying to assist them. I accept their applications. I send them in to the Department with a covering letter. The people come back within a fortnight to find out whether I have received an answer. I check with the Department, which has perhaps sent the applications to Nicosia. Because of the shortage of staff in Nicosia and the large volume of people attending at that office there is a long delay.
I mention as an example a man who went to Nicosia in October last year to see whether he could get his sister, her husband and their family out to Australia. They were intereviewed and medically examined in October. They were told that everything looked satisfactory and all that was being waited on was approval from Australia. While this man was there he paid to a travel agent the amount of fares for his sister, brother-in-law and family. He then found that he could get fares cheaper from another travel agent. He asked for a refund and he was given a refund. He was then told by the first travel agent that his sister would never get to Australia. There is now a holdup concerning the identity of his sister. He has produced statutory declarations to say that she is his sister. He has told me and other Lebanese people in my electorate have told me of bribes, favouritism, delays and the huge cost to them in maintaining their relatives in Nicosia or perhaps in the Lebanon.
– Are you accusing officers of the Department of taking bribes?
– I am not accusing the officers of the Department of taking bribes; I am accusing people like the man the Minister mentioned.
– Lebanese people?
– I am suggesting they are Lebanese people for the most part. I am also suggesting that there are organisations within Australia that are charging some of their own countrymen $100 to fill out an application form and to have it processed. I do not make any accusations, but the suggestion is that perhaps if a person pays the $100 then his sister or brother might have a greater opportunity of coming to Australia than if he does not pay the $100. That is the picture overseas. I give credit, as the honourable member for Melbourne did, to the officers of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs both locally and overseas. The pressures on them have been intense. But I suggest that the Government itself is to blame for the situation that has developed. If we look at what happens after these migrants come to Australia in fairly large numbers, into my electorate and into the electorate of Grayndler, we see heavy demands on the school system. Young children who do not know a word of English have to go to school but not enough teachers of English as a second language are being provided. In one school in my electorate there are 34 nationalities- a large proportion of whom are Lebanese. In a school in the electorate of Evans there are about 43 nationalities and not sufficient teachers of English as a second language.
When these people come to Australia without a job and without English they go to the Commonwealth Employment Service but find that there are no interpreters. These people cannot fill out the application forms. The employer perhaps does not want them. This illustrates the imcompetence of government policy in relation to the Lebanese situation. This is what the Opposition complains about: the fact that these people are in difficulties. We are bringing them out to Austrlaia as quickly as we can but we should bear in mind the demands that are on us all. Relatives are impatient to have them here and that impatience will be curbed only if the maximum efficiency both overseas and here in Australia is applied to the situation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We are dealing with a tragedy of very grave proportions. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is to be congratulated for the very close attention he has given to this matter in the past year or so. Australia has taken into its care a large number of refugees or quasi-refugees- a number that more than favourably compares with the numbers that have gone to other countries. There are far more people in Cyprus than this country has connection with, and it is proper that persons coming from Cyprus to Lebanon or other places should come on a basis primarily of having some connection with Australia through their relatives. What has happened throughout the world is that the Canadians have in the main taken refugees who already had relatives living in Canada. The same applies to America, the same in Australia and I think the same in France but perhaps some different criteria are also applied there. It was necessary to ensure that applications by persons wishing to come to Australia are processed speedily and that a reasonable width of criteria is applied. I, as a member of Parliament, have never been under any misapprehension as to the guidelines which are laid down. They have always been quite clear. They were extended last year on 23 September to include brothers and sisters. There has never been any doubt on the matter.
The electorate of St George is one in which there have been pre-existing Lebanese who have come to Australia, who have been naturalised or have obtained permanent residence. My office has dealt with probably more than 300 applications on behalf of families and in the order of over 1000 persons have been brought to the area or are en route. There has been a very large influx of Lebanese into the St George area. I have had the maximum co-operation throughout from the Minister, from his Department and from various ministerial staff. I appreciate the problems that were mentioned by the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) but they can be overcome and in many cases in the electorate of St George they have been overcome. I want to pay a public tribute to my own staff members who have worked under probably a 40 per cent or 50 per cent increase m the work load owing to the Lebanese problem. I have been lucky to have a secretary and an assistant who have taken tremendous steps patiently to help process applications. Like most members of Parliament who have Lebanese in their electorates I must have seen hundreds of persons personally.
– Bully for you.
– Many of them are distressed, as the honourable member for Melbourne ought to know. They are often under emotional strain which requires a considerable degree of care in handling them. In some cases persons are initially abusive but when they see what the Government is doing and what the Government can do for them they have in nearly all cases accepted that the maximum possible assistance is being given to them. This has been mirrored throughout Australia. The Minister has on many occasions seen individual applications that I have brought to him as no doubt other honourable members have also. He has spoken to relatives of these persons. He has received many applications from the Lebanese community or its various groups. He made a special ruling last year that the Lebanese community itself should get together and send special envoys to Lebanon to bring back relatives. A large number of persons were brought back from Lebanon by these envoys. All possible restrictions were waived to enable them to come into this country. The persons who have come into Australia have in many cases had difficultiies in settling in.
I have had no trouble at all with the Minister and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in obtaining assistance in getting school staffs increased. Indeed with the co-operation of the New South Wales State member for Rockdale on one occasion following difficulties at a school in Arncliffe additional teachers were provided. I then got a letter back from the State Labor member for Rockdale saying that he was pleased at the co-operation, that the matter was now in hand and there was no further problem. If difficulties are arising in the electorate of Lang I have no doubt that if the honourable member for Lang puts together an appropriate representation the matters will be properly dealt with. Both the State and federal governments can do and have done their best to see that people are properly settled in.
The honourable member for Lang fails to remember that in this House a short time ago I gave notice of a motion regarding the treatment of persons who come into this country. It is true that some delays have resulted in persons having to spend more money than they originally thought they would spend. The Government has instituted food aid programs to assist the Lebanese people. I know that the Minister will consider the widest possible aid to the Lebanese community. The honourable member for Lang also forgot to mention the community youth support scheme which in his own electorate operates with the assistance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. A special project is being established with funds from this Government to provide language training, pre-employment education and a knowledge of the legal systems, industrial relations and the like for Lebanese young people who have recently arrived in Australia. I have every hope that a similar scheme will be operating in the Arncliffe area in the very near future. So I really cannot understand how the honourable member for Lang can claim that there are not proper governmental assistance and competent programs to assist persons who come to Australia
The Minister is to be congratulated for the way in which he has looked at most of the complaints that have arisen. I look at the letter tabled in this House today by the honourable member for Melbourne who is the Opposition spokesman on immigration matters. Look at the points that are raised in that letter. Honourable members will see that these things are being carried out The Minister has pointed out that steps are being taken immediately to have the Embassy in Beirut opened as soon as possible. The applications by large numbers of Lebanese stranded in Nicosia are being dealt with and they are being dealt with as a matter of urgency. There is no basis for the complaint by the honourable member. I notice also that the honourable member did not give any prominence to item (c) in this letter. He gave no prominence to that item which refers to an extension of the categories. Yet he has the hide to criticise the Minister for extending the categories to include brothers and sisters. That was something that the Lebanese communities wanted. It was a reasonable thing to do. It was a sensible thing to do.
The honourable member for Melbourne comes into the House screaming, trying to make political capital and talking about expectations having been dashed. He is illogical. He simply does not know what he is talking about. He might like to know that on a number of occasions I have taken up with the Minister the question of what is to be done about one member of a family who has been knocked back on medical grounds. I know that the Minister will institute a sensible, proper and humanitarian approach to such a matter, consistent with the Government’s policy throughout. Reference was made to intermediaries no longer being involved. I agree with that procedure. Mention was made of profiteering. All I can say is that most of the persons in the South Lebanese Association, which has its headquarters primarily in the St George area, are eminently respectable citizens. Apparently they have had some troubles with one or two of their number who, I understand, have now been disowned. Only recently through its activities the Association has brought to light difficulties in individual cases. When those matters have been taken up with the Minister he has done everything possible to see that the individual problems are resolved.
Now, I contrast what this Government has done with what we inherited from the former Government. It left us with no immigration policy properly referrable to refugees. The report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the Australian refugee problem which was recently published- the Committee included members of the Austraiian Labor Party- said that the former Government deliberately delayed bringing Vietnamese refugees into Australia in order to minimise the number of refugees with which Australia would have to concern itself. This document is a drastic indictment of the former Government. When the Liberal and National Country Parties took over they had to put things into place. The Minister had to start again and draw up criteria for the refugee problems that arise. He has done a magnificent job in the past 12 months.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a comment in relation to a point raised by the honourable member for Lang.
– There is a further speaker. Perhaps we could hear him first.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted, yes.
Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah-Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs)- The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) raised the case of the sister of a group of people who was alleged to have been told that she would not be allowed to come to Australia. In fact that case was approved yesterday.
– At the commencement of my remarks, I think it appropriate to repeat the wording of the matter of public importance which is being discussed:
The Government ‘s incompetent handling of the Lebanese refugee problem.
Like those who have preceded me in this debate and particularly the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart), I lay emphasis on the word incompetent’. No one on this side has attributed any ill will or other kind of motivation to the Government or any of its Ministers in the evolution of its policy on this question, although I believe that one could arguably say that the incompetence has been of such an order that such a motive must exist. I do not want to spend too much time on the remarks of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) except to say that I find it absolutely incredible that he should say, after hundreds of interviews with persons of Lebanese extraction in his electorate, that they are satisfied with the Government’s handling of this question. All I can say is that he must be very easily misled.
There is no question that there is a tremendous amount of confusion in the Lebanese community about the Government’s policies and particularly about the administration of those policies. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), in an expression worthy of his Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) ‘the full global situation’ of persons of quasi refugee status- that is about as dehumanising a phrase as I can think of- talked about the selectivity of the Australian Labor Party when it was in power. Not surprisingly, one of the war criminals in this House stood up and talked about the Vietnamese situation. If there has been any selectivity in caring for refugees around the world it has been by this Government in its approach towards people whose homes were devastated in the Friuli region of Italy or towards those who were the victims of the tragic events in Cyprus.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I bring to your attention a reference to a war criminal in this House and I ask you to rule whether that is in order.
-Order! I think it would be advisable if the honourable member for Grayndler withdrew the words. He did not name anyone although he mentioned an honourable member speaking in the House. In the circumstances, I think it would be advantageous if the honourable member withdrew the remark.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in deference to you and with the usual respect I have for your rulings I withdraw the inference. However, honourable members can draw their own inference about and choose their own words to describe the behaviour of a person who was not a career officer or a conscript and who went off to fight in a disgraceful war.
-The honourable member is always interjecting in this House. His name is never down on the speakers’ list. His interjections remind me every time of the disrespect that the Establishment has for this Parliament. It sends us all its idiot sons. No doubt he could not be found a place in the Army or the Church. They would not trust him to protect their millions in the commercial establishments which they control; so they sent him to the Parliament.
The Minister was very strong on statistics but, as he should concede and as I think perhaps he would concede, this question cannot be resolved by looking at statistics. It is a question of tremendous concern to persons in Australia. Again I was alarmed to realise that the honourable member for St George thinks that the situation of thousands of persons in Cyprus does not concern people in Australia. Of course it does, as he ought to know from his constituency representations. It is in that respect that the Minister ought to be concerned. The cosmetic part of his mie, that which relates to ethnic affairs, shows that he ought to be concerned about the real fears of people here. The Minister spoke about the levelling off in numbers of applications in Cyprus. Why would that not occur? Anybody who has had any dealings with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and with the distressing situation of relatives in Australia knows that people who go to Cyprus stay there and month after month are told to report back again and again to the High Commissioner there. So no one will be going to Cyprus. Of course they will stay in the Lebanon when they know that they cannot have these matters dealt with in Cyprus.
The Minister mentioned the deception that has been involved. To his credit, he conceded that in situations of great personal distress people occasionally tell fibs and white lies. The reason why this situation has arisen is not only that people have been desperate but that the Department has not been able to handle compassionately and to communicate with the Lebanese community in Australia. The letter which the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) tabled points up one of the demands of the Lebanese community in Melbourne, that there ought to be additional interpreter staff within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs available to assist sponsors in this country who are concerned about their relatives in the Lebanon or who have escaped from the Lebanon. All of us see instances of the examples which the honourable member for Lang gave us, of middle men, illegal profits and bribery. No honourable member here would not be suspicious of some of the people who have introduced constituents to him. This kind of profiteering goes on. One of the reasons for it is that people with language difficulties are unable to communicate effectively with the Department. Because of the Department’s lack of resources they have to use middle men who in some instances behave quite unscrupulously. I believe that it was to that kind of situation that the honourable member for Lang was referring and that he certainly was not insisting that there had been corruption of members of the Australian Public Service.
– That is right.
– I am delighted that the continuous efforts of members of this House and particularly of the honourable member for Melbourne have borne fruit and that we shall now have a reopened embassy in the Lebanon, perhaps as early as May. This points out the extraordinarily casual attitude of the Government towards the situation. Everybody remembers the shortlived operation at the Netherlands Embassy in Damascus in Syria where facilities were made available for a short time for the processing of applications of Lebanese refugees. The fact is that this procedure was in force for such a short time that, by the time it had become well known and communicated throughout the Lebanese community, by the time the people had communicated with their relatives in the Lebanon and they had made arrangements to go to Syria, by the time they had gone or were en route, the facility was closed down. Some months later the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) blithely announced that Australia proposed to establish an embassy in Syria. Of course, that facility or some similar kind of facility in another friendly nation’s embassy should have been made available throughout the whole of last year in Syria, the most accessible country to the Lebanon.
The Minister’s relaxed arrangements which he announced in September called for the establishment of a task force to administer them in Nicosia. At that time he made it quite clear that those arrangements would operate only until the end of the year. I suppose that could be fairly done on the basis that he did not know for how long the troubles in the Lebanon would continue, nor how long it would be before an Australian Embassy was re-established there. But he knows now that it is not likely to be until at least May that facilities will exist m the Lebanon, yet he has not extended that deadline for the lodging of ap- plications under the relaxed rules in Nicosia. He as extended it merely to the end of February. Again we are faced with the same situation that by the time these relaxed policies have been communicated throughout the Lebanese community and persons’ relatives have been able to act on them and to get to Cyprus, they are arriving just as these rules are being changed. The administration of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Canberra and its regional offices, at least to my knowledge in Sydney, has been much less than adequate. Persons have been advised by letters dated March that they ought to have their relatives proceed to Nicosia and to lodge their applications before the end of February which, of course, is a nonsense.
The arrangements have not been good enough; they have been incompetently administered. The question of relaxation of rules and all that kind of thing can only be effective so long as the administration and the back-up is up to scratch and clearly that has not been the case here. The Minister ought to have known about it. One of the reasons that he gave when he established the task force in Nicosia was that communication between Australia and Nicosia was so much superior to that available in any of the other adjacent Mediterranean countries. That is not a bad reason. I know that my relatively less well-off constituents have no difficulty in telephoning Nicosia daily to hear reports of their relatives’ applications but the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Australia is forever losing files and unable to be brought up to date. Not only does the Department have access to the telephone system but also it has telex and other sophisticated means of communication. Nicosia proved to be a good enough place for communication for the persons who were worried about the situation of their relatives but the Department has not performed well at all. From everything I have heard, the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne about the task force in Cyprus are quite right. As he said, they are completely overburdened. They are being reduced in numbers and I regret to say that the Minister ought to be aware of the less than satisfactory performance of his Department here in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Opposition’s resolution today which claims to attack the Government’s incompetent handling of the Lebanese refugee problem has been, in colloquial terms, a fizzer. The speech of the Opposition spokesman on immigration and ethnic affairs, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), was what I would describe, again in colloquial terms, as a lead balloon. He said nothing to prove his allegations of the Government’s incompetence. In fact, I suggest that by innuendo he accepts that the Government and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) have done a very fine job indeed. The Minister has visited Cyprus and I believe that he has shown in his speech today a genuine concern for the problems of the Lebanese people who are there. The honourable member for Melbourne has been completely irresponsible in what he has said today. He is trying to play politics with a tragic situation in which people have been displaced from their country by war. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) attacked as a war criminal an honourable member of this House who has served his country and fought under the Australian flag. To my mind that is despicable. But that is typical of the Opposition. It has attacked the Government and told us nothing. I believe that the honourable member for Melbourne has, in fact, insulted the Lebanese community in Australia. He attacked the Minister for letting families in. To my mind, he is attacking the concept of the family. He is attacking the reunion in Australia of people who are bereft and who have suffered. The honourable member for Melbourne has been completely irresponsible in trying to blame the Minister for the flood of refugees into Cyprus.
Of course it is a tragic situation, of course it is a sad situation, and of course the Government is rightly concerned about it, but to try to attack this Government for the situation itself will get us nowhere. Honourable members on both sides of the House accept that there is a tragic situation in the Lebanon but the honourable member for Melbourne is trying to blame the Government for the war and the tragedy itself. That was the thrust of his speech. He did not prove any incompetence on the part of the Government. Then he did something that I had not seen in my brief time in this House. I suppose it is something that people do when they have nothing else to say. He attacked people who are unable to defend themselves when he referred to the Minister’s advisers who are sitting in this House today. Government supporters do not mind being attacked because we will tell the people of Australia how incompetent the Opposition is in trying to be Her Majesty’s Opposition. It fails every time and it failed again today. To attack those responsible public servants who are incapable of defending themselves is something which does not appeal to me. The honourable member for Melbourne also said: ‘Well, the officers in Cyprus have done a great job’. He was prepared to say that they deserved high recognition and, of course, they do. The Minister has recognised that. Then the honourable member said: ‘Some of them were refusing people because they were too fat or too thin or needed a wash behind the ears’. That was the accusation that he made against responsible officials today in this House. The facts prove the
Government’s competent handling of this matter.
Let us look quickly at the history of the matter because the history shows the concern of the Government. In February 1976 it was announced by the Government that visitors from the Lebanon in Australia who did not want to return home because of the civil dispute there could apply to extend their stay in Australia. In April 1976 the Government made special arrangements to process applications by Lebanese people. An Australian immigration officer was located in Damascus in April and action was taken to strengthen immigration representation in Cyprus. The Government then reaffirmed that Lebanese visitors were being granted extensions and could stay in Australia. In May 1976-1 am going through the historyspecial staffing arrangements were made at Australian posts in Athens, Nicosia, Cairo and Ankara and an Australian immigration officer was attached to the staff of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Damascus. In June, the Government decided that a more rapid service could be given to Lebanese applicants by transferring the immigration officer in Damascus to the Australian High Commission in Nicosia. Is this the action of a Government that is not concerned or not competent? In June 1976 the government again reaffirmed that posts in Athens, Cairo, Ankara and Tel Aviv would continue to receive applications from Lebanese seeking to migrate as part of special arrangements for Lebanese migration during the emergency. In September 1976 the Minister announced that a senior officer would be sent to Nicosia to report on the most effective way in which Lebanese immigration to Australia could be organised. Is that the action of a Government that is not concerned?
A special task force was set up by the Government to deal with the question. If a Government sets up a task force, surely it is concerned. Honourable members did not hear much reference by the honourable member for Melbourne to the operation of the task force. I contend that it suits him to forget the good things and to look around the bottom of the can for something to say. When he finds nothing he then says the first thing that comes into his head. A task force of experienced officers was sent to Cyprus -
– Sit down. You are boring everybody.
-The honourable member should listen to me because I am telling the truth.
I am proving beyond any doubt- I am supporting the Minister in this-that this Government is competent and it is concerned. It will pay the honourable member to listen and not just to play party politics. There should be a bipartisan approach to the serious problems. I believe that the Opposition is playing politics in the Lebanese community and that it will reap the reward of that action. It is nice to hear the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) interjecting again and making another preselection speech.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I might point out to the honourable member for Higgins that it is not nice to hear the honourable member for Grayndler interjecting. I suggest that interjections cease. I call the honourable member for Higgins.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was referring to the task force that the Government set up to look into this tragic situation. The task force was sent to Cyprus where 9 Australian officers were based, including a medical officer so that medical examinations could be completed quickly on the spot. The Australian officers, of course, were supplemented by locally engaged staff, including interpreters. Was that the action of a non-concerned government? Similarly the Government made special arrangements with the Lebanese communities in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide for their representatives to travel overseas to assemble and to arrange group transportation of acceptable close relatives of Australian residents. That resulted in the sponsorship of some 4300 spouses, children and parents and their dependent children.
Is that the action of a non-concerned government? Of course it is not. It proves beyond doubt, as the Minister has done in this House today, that this Government is concerned about people, it is concerned about the problems created by the tragic situation in the Lebanon. It is disgraceful for Opposition spokesmen and Opposition members to talk absolute drivel when they should have a sense of national responsibility. I was surprised that we did not hear from that honourable member opposite who probably knows more about this topic than the 3 Opposition spokesmen put together. I refer to the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who served on the joint committee. Why did the Opposition not ask him to speak? I will let the facts speak for themselves. I believe- it has been proved today beyond all doubt- that the Government is a government of conscience; it is a government of concern, it is a government of competence, and above all it is a government of action.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The time for the discussion has now expired.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. During the debate which has just concluded the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) referred to my criticising in my speech the concept of the extended family. That was a completely erroneous assertion to make, as Hansard will bear out. What I said was that the principle of the extended family was the basis on which the Minister at the time had raised the expectations of the Lebanese people. I went on to say that I agreed that the principle was not out of order. In fact, I sup- ported the contention of the extended family. All suggested was that, the Minister having raised the expectation, the machinery should have been provided for the purpose of carrying that out.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. My explanation arises out of the personal explanation which was just made by the Opposition spokesman on immigration, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). I am quite happy to let the facts speak for themselves when the Hansard greens are available and Hansard is published. Then if it is appropriate, of course, I will apologise. But I am not prepared to do that at this stage because I want to see what was actually said.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Following on what the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) just said, I also would be prepared to apologise if the transcript shows that I misrepresented him. But to the best of my recollection I did not say what he has just claimed I said about him.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of these 3 Bills- the one that I have now presented, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1977, which I shall present shortly, and a further Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1977, which I am also about to present- is to extend the support provided under the apple and pear stabilisation scheme for 1976 exports of apples and pears to exports in the 1977 season.
In my second reading speech last year, when introducing the Bills to apply the apple and pear stabilisation scheme to the 1976 export season, I indicated that the application of the scheme to the 1976 season was an interim measure only pending receipt of the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the scheme. The Commission’s final report and its recommendations were considered by the Government last September. As I indicated publicly at the time the Government decided not to accept the Commission’s recommendation that the level of support for apples under the scheme be reduced for 1977 exports and the scheme itself be terminated at the end of the 1977 season. Instead the Government decided to continue the scheme in 1977 at the same level of support as was given in 1976. The application of the stablisation scheme to apples in the 1977 export season will therefore again be based on a maximum level of support of $2 per box and a maximum quantity eligible for support of 2 million boxes. Support as in 1976 will be limited to sales ‘at risk’ to Europe, including the United Kingdom.
The Government is also in consultation with interested States about a supplementary assistance program for 1977 which could involve, jointly funded with the States, an additional $ lm to assist apple exports. The position of the fruit industry is quite serious and I am sure that the combination of the extension of the stabilisation scheme and the supplementary assistance will help to overcome many of the difficulties that producers now face. Some State governments ave not been inclined to support this additional measure, however. Subject to finalisation of arrangements, this may result in significantly less assistance to the apple and pear industry in those States than that available elsewhere in Australia. The lack of sensitivity of those few States which are now declining to pick up this additional assistance is very much to be regretted as it will have an adverse affect in overcoming the economic plight of fruit growers.
In respect of pears the 1976 levels will apply also in 1977- namely, a maximum level of support of 80 cents per box and a maximum quantity eligible for support of 1.4 million boxes. As in 1976, the support will be limited to sales ‘at risk’ to Europe, including the United Kingdom, and North America. Apple exports to the United Kingdom and Europe in 1976 were almost 2.4 million boxes, about 1 million boxes below the 1975 figure. Returns from these shipments were most disappointing. This was due largely to the oversupply of northern hemisphere fruit and higher shipments from other southern hemisphere countries, which resulted in generally lower prices. Returns to growers were also diminished by increased production and handling costs as well as higher overseas freight rates.
Although pear exports in 1976 to the United Kingdom and Europe, at 834 000 boxes, were slightly down from the 85 1 000 boxes shipped in 1975, prices obtained were also generally unsatisfactory. In the result, support under the scheme for the eligible markets in 1976 amounted to about $3. 9m for apples and a little over $280,000 for pears. Several of the factors that operated so disadvantageously against Australian exports in 1976 can be expected to create difficulties again in 1977 and it is important that the industry have once again the basic guarantees provided by the scheme.
When I announced the Government’s decision last September, I pointed out that it was necessary that the industry should understand that the present level of support could not continue indefinitely. During 1977, the Government will be looking at the industry situation and considering the appropriate support level which might apply in 1978. At that time the Government would be expecting a phasing down in the level of assistance. But one would hope that the economic circumstances of the industry are such that this would be possible.
The opportunity presented by the Bills has been taken to introduce into the procedures of the Apple and Pear stabilisation scheme a provision to authorise the payment of advances against seasonal stabilisation payments. Such a provision already exists in the other fruit stabilisation scheme, the dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme. The apple and pear export trade is unfortunately characterised by great uncertainty as to its ultimate returns and advance payments before market results are substantially known may not be practicable. There is the possibility, however, that advances could be made after marketing and before the fairly complex and intricate stabilisation figures are finalised. The various possibilities will be investigated to see whether advance procedures can be implemented which protect the revenue from the risks of over-payments on the one hand but which are administratively practicable, and which result in advance payments sufficiently early to be of real benefit to this badly affected industry. The Bills also amend their respective principal Acts to convert certain units and measures to metric equivalents. I commend the Bills to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
– I move:
Provided further that, if at 1 1 p.m. the question before the House is- That the House do now adjourn- the Speaker shall interrupt the debate, at which time-
With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, in my speech I intend to refer also to the next 6 notices appearing on the notice paper.
-That indulgence is granted.
– The Sessional Orders proposed in notices Nos 2 to 8 flow from recommendations made in November 1976 by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Standing Orders. Members of this chamber will be aware that in part these proposals have been discussed in the chamber and, indeed, the first 2 notices-that is, those relating to the adjournment debate- have been in practice as sessional orders for some time. At the Standing Orders Committee meeting in November 1976, under your chairmanship, Mr Speaker, it was felt that whilst there was considerable accord in these changes and some support for their incorporation into the Standing Orders, their nature was such that it might well be more suitable to the needs of the House for us to adopt them as sessional orders. Indeed, it was the view of the Committee that the proposed changes should not be incorporated in the Standing Orders at that stage but that they should operate for a trial period or periods by way of sessional orders. This certainly will enable honourable members to make a judgment as to whether they ultimately should become a permanent part of the Standing Orders.
I commend each of the proposals to the House. I suggest that each of these proposals will assist more rapid consideration of proposals put by honourable members within this chamber. The adjournment practice certainly has been proved to give honourable members a wider opportunity to consider matters that are important to them. The other measures are self-explanatory. I am sure that honourable members will accord with the variation to procedures that they entail. The Standing Orders Committee recommended that they be adopted for the purpose of this session. I therefore commend them to the Parliament.
-Does the Leader of the House intend moving a motion on each of the proposals?
-I think the motions could be moved collectively rather than individually unless the honourable gentleman proposes a different course of action on any one of the proposals.
– I do not intend any particular course of action but there are a couple of matters which I wish to raise.
-Perhaps I could move notices of motion Nos 3, 4, S, 6, 7 and 8 standing in my name on the notice paper in the terms in which they appear on the notice paper. This might open the matters up for discussion for the honourable gentleman.
-Leave would be required. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Each Member … 5 minutes (no extension of time to be granted):
Provided that, if no other Member rises to address the House, a Member who has already spoken to the motion may speak a second time for a period not exceeding S minutes’.
That, unless otherwise ordered, this sessional order shall operate for the remainder of this period of sittings.
That, unless otherwise ordered, this sessional order shall operate for the remainder of this period of sittings.
That, unless otherwise ordered, for the remainder of this period of sittings, if it appears that a quorum of Members is not present following-
That the provisions of this resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
-The Opposition is clearly a party to these propositions, having agreed to them in the House of Representatives Standing Commute on Standing Orders. I want to direct some remarks to the first proposition, which fixes the hours of sitting of the House. I direct my remarks in the context of a report which was presented to this Parliament on 26 May last year and which the Parliament directed should be considered as a matter of urgency. I refer to the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) will be aware, and honourable members are obviously aware, of the concern being expressed by the Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation that issues relating to the sittings of the House contained in that report have not come before the House for discussion. In fact, despite a clear undertaking given at the time of the tabling of that document by the Leader of the House, that document has not come before the House for discussion.
We are now fixing sitting times for this session of the Parliament. I should have thought it appropriate that some consideration should be given to the recommendations of the Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. I am not indicating that I necessarily would support the recommendations of that Committee. But certainly the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) has made it clear in a letter which has been addressed to me, and which I presume has been addressed to other members and ministers, that some considerable difficulties are being experienced with the present sitting arrangements to organise sittings of parliamentary committees. I raise this matter because I think it is now approaching a year since the report of the Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System was brought down. The Committee started hearing evidence more than 2 years ago. I know that because I was the initial chairman of the Committee. So the contents of the report of the Committee will be almost invalid because of the passage of time if the Parliament does not at least consider it shortly.
Another undertaking which was given at the time of the presentation of that report and which I think is relevant was that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure was set up on the understanding that the other recommendations of the Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System would be taken into consideration shortly. I think the Committee on Expenditure was set up on the understanding that the Government considered the establishment of such a committee to be a matter of urgency.
I put to the House that the House ought to examine its procedures. It took the course of appointing a committee, in which representatives from both sides of the Parliament and both Houses of the Parliament participated, which made a considered and fairly substantial recommendation. Unlike most committees, this Committee sought information not only from within Australia but also from comparable Parliaments outside Australia, even if the Committee did have to return to Australia in the middle of its deliberations. But I think the report of this Committee is a serious document. We ought to have some understanding that it will be considered by the Parliament. It is relevant to the hours of sitting of this House because recommendations in that report refer to hours of sitting and to some alterations to those hours of sitting to enable committees to meet without interruptions by bells and other aspects of parliamentary life which make the hearings of any committee which requires people to be brought to Canberra for questioning unsatisfactory and impractical while the House is actually sitting. Might I suggest, Mr Speaker, that this might be an appropriate time for the suspension of the sitting?
-It depends upon how long the honourable gentleman wishes to speak.
-I have some other remarks to make which are not related to this particular subject. Only half a minute remains until 1 o’clock.
-I am prepared to remain for that half minute if the honourable gentleman wishes to continue.
-I will not finish in that time, I assure you, Mr Speaker. We are not opposing the proposal concerning the adjournment. The Opposition is concerned that, when certain speakers rise on matters which are of controversy and are allowed only S minutes to address the Chair, organised interruptions- this happens to members on both sides of the House- can lend themselves to the destruction of the speech. I think this is something the House ought to take into consideration. I would almost suggest the Speaker should have the power to grant the honourable member concerned an additional period if his speaking time has been taken up with these actions. I realise that this matter would be difficult to deal with. Members rights can be denied in this way. A matter which could be dealt with in 5 minutes sometimes cannot be dealt with at all because of organised interruptions.
Sitting suspended from 1.1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was making the point that the 5 minutes allowed for speakers during the adjournment debate was not opposed by the Opposition. We are concerned at the ease with which speeches can be interrupted now and by which means the major portion of a member’s time can be taken away. The Opposition is not opposing the trial period for a number of the proposed Standing Orders which, I think, have been before the Standing Orders Committee on a number of occasions. I point out that the change in the procedures relating to a quorum by which the House, when counted out, does not necessarily adjourn until the next day of sitting does not take any onus off members to be present when a quorum is called. It takes some onus off the person who calls the quorum because he does not run the risk of a count out, which has a certain odium. The odium attaches to both sides of the House when a count out takes place. The proposed standing order provides that the Speaker may again take the chair after the ringing of the bells at a time stated by the Speaker. The Opposition would be concerned if the time stated were any substantial time after the first ringing of the bells. For instance, if the House were counted out at 3 p.m., I do not think it would be reasonable to suggest that the bells be rung at 9 p.m.
As I have indicated, the Opposition does not oppose the proposals. We will watch them with some interest, and we will be looking to have them included in the Standing Orders if they work or to have them amended fairly soon in the session if they do not work. I think it is important that we know exactly where we stand in relation to the Standing Orders. Most of these are substantive matters which should be built into the Standing Orders as early as possible if they prove satisfactory so that there is no ambiguity between what is in the printed Standing Orders and what applies in the House. Otherwise it could create difficulties for members. I suggest that after a reasonable period, possibly at the end of the Budget session, we should be looking to see whether these proposals should be included as Standing Orders rather than continue them until the end of the Parliament. The Opposition does not oppose the propositions, but I reiterate that we are seeking to have the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System debated in the House so that members can express an opinion on it.
– That will be done.
-The undertaking was given. We are also concerned about the limit of S minutes on speeches during the adjournment debate in that quite often a member cannot make his point in that time on a controversial matter.
-When the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) replies he will have realised from views put in this House that some of us are very anxious about the application of standing order 151 which concerns supplementary questions. The matter has been raised in the House on 2 occasions. I hope that when the Minister replies he will tell us whether the Standing Orders Committee has examined the subject of question time in this House and whether it has examined the possibility of allowing members to question a Minister after he has made a statement. Reports of the Standing Orders Committee, which we are discussing now, are important and relevant to us. I hope the Minister will indicate whether he has had a chance to look at these matters or whether the Committee has done so.
-I want to address some brief remarks to notice of motion No. 7. As the House will be aware, the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) is putting in this motion the proposition that the effect of standing orders 44, 45 and 46 be supplemented by a new arrangement to the effect that where a member has called attention to the state of the House and there has been a report of tellers which revealed the lack of a quorum the Speaker, if he considers it likely that at an appointed time a quorum might be present, will announce that appointed time. In the past the House has had to adjourn if a quorum were not present. So the effect of the proposal is that there will be 2 goes. If a quorum is not present at first, there is an opportunity for another go. There is nothing unprecedented about that because I understand that a provision to the effect is operating in another place at this time. The problem is not unimportant.
Only a matter of minutes ago I received a paper from the Library, I think, which is headed Adjournment of House of Representatives Due to a Count Out’. I am a bit surprised at the first paragraph which states that the lack of a quorum has caused the adjournment of the House of Representatives on 64 occasions. On ten of those occasions the business of the House was interrupted, and on 54 occasions the count out occurred during the adjournment debate. Then there are a number of pages, the subject matter of which I have not had the opportunity to digest. I notice at the conclusion of the paper a table provides a statistical account of these occasions. It goes back to 1902. It lists the defaults of the Parliament in respect of quorums. The House was counted out with considerable frequency through to the 1920s and 1930s. Then the rate seemed to quieten down a bit. I notice, towards the end of the table, a break from 1954 to 1971 without any crisis in this regard. Apparently a new sense of responsibility obsessed parliamentarians in more recent times. The occasion in 1971 was a very serious crisis. It occurred on 26 August 1971. Dr Gun, the then honourable member for Kingston, drew the Speaker’s attention to the state of the House. The Government, a Liberal-Country Party Government with 61 members of the House, was unable to attract one-third of the members, which is the requirement for a quorum in terms of section 39 of the Constitution.
– Where were the Labor Party members then?
-I am not sure of the interjection of the Leader of the House. If there is any confusion, this incident occurred during the period of a Liberal-Country Party Administration. It rather surprises me that the Government has become sufficiently concerned about this matter that it has raised the matter today, particularly having regard to its present majority. I think that following this event you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I rendezvoused at Kuala Lumpur for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference. I was a discussion leader on matters pertaining to this problem. The countries represented there were aghast that in a parliament under the Westminster system there could be such a debacle. It was certainly regarded as a very great reflection on the Government of the day.
-What about the Parliament of the day?
-Especially the government of the day. That is precisely the point I want to make to the Country Party which is represented by 2 members in the House at this moment. The situation in 1977 is that there are 127 members in this House.
– Go ‘Moo’ and they will all come in.
-I cannot respond to the interjection made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide since he is out of his seat and in that sense probably cannot be regarded as a member for the moment. At the present time the Government- the Liberal and National Country Parties combined in this chamber- has 91 of the 127 members of the Parliament. I calculate that a quorum, being one-third of those 127 members, is forty four. I am surprised that the Leader of the House doubts the capacity of the Government of the day to assemble 44 members out of its total of 91 members. When all is said and done, a lot less than half of the government supporters would be required to constitute a quorum.
The fact is, of course, that the Government of the day has the responsibility to provide a quorum. The Government of the day fell down in this respect in 1971. Apparently there is a fear that it might fall down in 1 977. Let me remind the House that the state of play is such that the Opposition cannot provide a quorum in its own right with only 36 members. If all Opposition members were here, as is often the case, there would still be a deficiency of 8 members in constituting a quorum. So the Government cannot pass the buck in respect of this matter. It rests fairly and squarely with the Government.
I think people outside of this place ought to be concerned that Government supporters do not regard this Parliament as sufficiently important to make certain that they are here in the required numbers. I know that many government supporters feel under threat at the moment. Because of this threat some of them have a tendency to bail out of their parliamentary duties and get back to their electorates-they are skulking around their electorates in the hope of gaining some votes. It is a case of the rats leaving the sinking ship and looking for self survival. But I just remind them that this is the place where they ought to be. The electors of Australia ought to disparage those federal members of the House of Representatives who are back in their electorates while the House is in session and when their place is here. I believe that count outs bring the parliamentary institution into ill repute. I believe it is the responsibility of all Federal members of Parliament to be in this place when the Parliament is sitting.
As the Leader of the House has indicated, the Opposition will not take issue with this matter to the extent of going to a division. I simply say that it is a matter of very great sadness and remorse, not only for me and my colleagues on this side of the House but also I am sure for the people of Australia, to know that a government of 91 members appears to be confronted with a difficulty in ensuring that forty-four of those members are present in the Parliament of the nation when quorums are called. But apparently this is a safeguard which this Government may need. In any event I can only give this guarantee: Despite the lack of enthusiasm by honourable gentlemen opposite in respect of attending Parliament, the Opposition will continue to play its part in constituting quorums whenever they are called.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before calling the honourable member for Maranoa, I would just like to make one comment in regard to the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). I am aware that on the occasion to which the honourable member referred this nation was denied the opportunity of listening to at least one magnificent oration that would have been made that day. I call the honourable member for Maranoa.
-The problem of forming a quorum sometimes arises in this House. However, it does not arise for the reason that was stated by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). The honourable member said that the problem arises because members are in their electorates and not in the House when the House is in session. I think that the honourable member must agree that this was not the reason why a quorum was not formed on the occasion he mentioned. On very odd occasions problems arise in respect of the forming of quorums. On the particular occasion referred to by the honourable member when a quorum was not formed, the then Opposition constantly called for quorums. At that time government supporters were busy with business affecting their constituents and the people of Australia. Each time a quorum was called they had to run into the House so that the quorum could be counted. However, when the quorums were called Opposition members did not come into the House. In fact they were encouraged not to come into the House. As a result the business of government committees was constantly disrupted. The situation arose in which members of very important government committees took the view that their colleagues would form the quorum when a quorum was called and that they could go on with the important business of the nation. The result was that a quorum was finally called for which the required number of members was not present.
I do not disagree that on many occasions there should be a better attendance of members in this House. The Whips generally- and I congratulate the honourable member for Hughes on his appointment as Whip of the Opposition- find that it is not always easy to ensure a greater number of members because of the increasing responsibilities that members have outside of the chamber in performing the duties that they have as members of Parliament. But I support the idea that there should be a greater attendance by members more often in this House. I would encourage and recommend that members make an even greater effort to be in this House in the interests of creating a better atmosphere for debates.
Nevertheless, in all fairness we have to consider the reasons why government supporters were not able to form a quorum on the occasion referred to by the honourable member for Hughes. I might say that I was not one of the members who were not counted. I am very pleased to be able to say that because it enables me to speak more effectively on behalf of those members who were not in this place. As I have pointed out, the members of a number of government committees had to leave their work on a number of occasions to be in the chamber for a quorum to be counted. However, because they wanted to complete their meetings they did not appear in the chamber to be counted on the last occasion a quorum was called.
I believe that the resolution moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) deserves the support of this Parliament. It will ensure that the House will not be adjourned if a quorum is not obtained. I believe that this is a very good move in the interests of the nation. I believe that the Speaker should have the right to decide whether a quorum is available. Excepting for the moment for the sake of argument the claim of the honourable member for Hughes that the responsibility for forming a quorum rests on the shoulders of the government of the day, there is clear evidence to suggest that a quorum could have been formed on the occasion I have mentioned. But the honourable member for Hughes and others continue to berate the Government for the fact that there was not a quorum at that time.
This resolution allows the business of the nation through the national Parliament to proceed at an earlier time than is possible under present conditions. Having made those few remarks and having put a slightly different point of view from that put by the honourable member for Hughes- I think probably a broader concept of what happened on that occasion- I support the resolution before the House.
-In addressing my remarks to the matter before us I comment first of all that, as the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said, the Opposition is not opposing these sessional orders. Secondly, I would like to say that as a member of the Standing Orders Committee I have been a party to discussions of the sessional orders. No objection is raised because it is hoped that further matters will flow from these proposals. But there are 3 areas to which I wish to address some criticism. These are the questions of sitting times, the lack of a quorum and matters arising out of the changed adjournment debate.
With regard to the times of sitting, I suppose honourable members would be aware that early in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, because of transport difficulties and so on, members tended to be here for longer periods of time continuously and so there was more continuity in debate. That has lapsed with faster means of transport. There has been an increase in the load of legislation that comes before the Parliament. There has been an increase in concern among private members in the Parliament about the increased power of the Executive. I am not speaking just now on a partisan basis. I am not just referring to the present Government. There has been an increasing tendency in recent years for the power of the Executive to increase without the corresponding examination by the Parliament.
A third factor is the concern over the attitude taken to the private member. Instead of private members being active in the Parliament to examine legislation, to discuss reports, to discuss ministerial statements and so on, there is a tendency for them to want to be back in the electorate serving the social worker or welfare worker functions there. This allows quite a deal of the increase of Executive power and lack of consideration of legislation. We do not sit many days in this Parliament. We do not sit long hours in this Parliament, compared with comparable parliamentary institutions in other countries. To allow those who feel they must be back in the electorate- I know there are a lot of members on the other side who worry about their electorates in the present circumstances- the partial answer could be in the staffing supplied to members of the Parliament. Honourable members who have experienced the extra efficiency they are able to have in their offices by the provision of the electorate assistants we now have introduced by our good friend Fred Daly, who understood private members’ problems, will appreciate that that is a partial answer.
If the sittings of the House are to be as proposed, perhaps there will be the waste of a morning. We are to sit at 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, but on Tuesday and Wednesday we are not to start until 2.15 p.m. under the proposed sessional order. It would seem to me that if we are to have more opportunity for parliamentary work we should be setting aside one morning for party meetings- we should have them on Tuesday morning- and sitting at an earlier hour on Wednesday.
The question of the quorum relates in part to just what I am talking about. As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) suggested, the Government carries the prime responsibility for maintaining a quorum. A quorum cannot be maintained if honourable members feel they must be back in their electorates or if we are to have the party committee and parliamentary committee activity that goes on at the moment. When quorums are called, most of the complaints of honourable members dragged to the chamber are to the effect that they have been pulled out of some party committee or parliamentary committee.
This leads me to the next point. The honourable member for Corio made a plea about the report of Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System. I think the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) knows that I have an interest in this because I was Chairman of that Committee for so long and through the permission of the members of the Committee actually guided and substantially formed the report that was put forward with a high degree of acceptance by members of the Committee, whether it was in the last Parliament when there was a majority of Labor members or in this Parliament when there has been a majority of LiberalCountry Party members. Although an assurance has been given that some action will come out of that report, my concern is that what will come forward is a recommendation once more from the Executive about what should happen in the Parliament. It seems to me that, honourable members on both sides having examined this matter, before recommendations come before the Parliament go to the Government party and go before the House there should be a debate in the House so that a matter that affects all members of the House can be clear to the Government before it puts its propositions forward. I think it will stifle proper debate if the Government makes its recommendations before this House and the members in it have a chance to discuss what goes on because this could very much affect the hours of sitting.
The question of legislative committees replacing the Committee of the Whole is important. It could very well allow better examination of legislation, but to do this one will have to revert to what I mentioned before concerning the actual days of sitting and the hours of sitting. We may have to sacrifice the desire to be in the electorate for the sake of saying: ‘We are examining legislation properly. We are examining the actions of the Executive properly. We are responsibly carrying out our roles as members of Parliament’ So there are many matters that flow from this question. If the Committee report is to come before the House, I ask that there be a general debate on it before recommendations arising from it are brought forward by the Government.
Finally I refer to the question of the adjournment debate. I think there is a desirable feature in the proposed sessional order relating to the adjournment debate in that provision is made for a Minister to answer matters raised during that debate. I think this is a proper thing to occur. I refer to the custom that was followed until this Parliament. If an honourable member raised during the adjournment debate, the grievance debate or general debates on legislation and reports a matter which required answer by a Minister he received an answer within a week or two- a courteous note from the Minister saying that in the debate on such and such a day the honourable member referred to such and such a question and the details are as the Minister set them out. I know that on several occasions in the life of this Parliament I have raised matters affecting my constituents in relation to which I have felt there has not been satisfactory action or answer. Not once have I received the courtesy of a reply from the Minister concerned. Whereas when I refered to my concern about the power of the Executive and so on I was not speaking on a partisan basis because I think the situation applied to both sides of the fence, on this occasion I state that there has been a marked decrease in this Parliament in the courtesy of Ministers of this Government in answering questions raised in this manner. I hope they wil take some notice of what I say and return to the previous procedure that former governments of its type followed and that the Labor Government followed.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– by leave- I move:
That this House,
That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Mr Deputy Speaker, as a result of an initiative taken at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Kingston in 1975 the member countries of the Commonwealth have decided that a day should be set aside each year to mark the existence and significance of the Commonwealth. That day, the first of which we shall celebrate next Monday, 14 March, shall be called ‘Commonwealth Day’. The Commonwealth is a unique and important institution. Its 36 member nations are spread throughout the world and comprise nearly one quarter of the world’s population. The Commonwealth is a free association of nations characterised by a great diversity of race, language, culture and economic backgrounds. It is bound together not by force or legal restraints but by a long standing history of co-operation at many levels of government and by a continual exchange of knowledge and experience. The very informality of the Commonwealth structure means that there is no encroachment of the sovereignty of individual members. The Commonwealth is more intimate than the United Nations and the rivalries brought by superpower relations are more distant. The Commonwealth provides a major forum in which free and uninhibited discussion can take place in a sympathetic atmosphere of friendship and equality of the problems and alternatives that face modern international society.
Nowhere else, not even in the United Nations, do more than 30 Heads of Government come together- as they do at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting- and spend a week or so discussing major issues concerning the world. The Government regards the Commonwealth as a significant force for co-operation and understanding in the international community and believes it should be used to make a real contribution to resolving contemporary international problems. We believe that the matters to be raised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London are so important that we have established a task force comprised of all relevant departments to examine the issues and advise on how we may most effectively approach them. The Government has also initiated consultations with Commonwealth leaders in our region so that we can have the benefit of all their views. The Commonwealth is an active and important organisation that can contribute significantly to international affairs. I believe it is most fitting, that in the year of Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, and at a time when Her Majesty is here in Australia, a decision be announced that, as from this year, Commonwealth Day will be universally recognised as being the second Monday in March. It is with much pleasure that I inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen, will deliver her Commonwealth Day message for 1977 on 14 March.
I commend the motion for the consideration of the House.
– On behalf of the Australian Labor Party I wholeheartedly support the motion that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has moved. The declaration of a Commonwealth Day flows from a decision of the second Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting which I attended, that at Jamaica in May 1975. We know it used to be said not many years ago that the Commonwealth was a debating society or a vestige of a bygone empire. It used to be doubted whether there was any purpose in Australia’s continuing to attend meetings of the Commonwealth. At neither of the meetings which I attended- the one I have just mentioned at Jamaica or the one at Ottawa in August 1973- did the members in attendance regret their attendance. No member of the Commonwealth has to remain in it. No Head of a Commonwealth country has to attend the Commonwealth summit. The fact is that nearly all members of what used to be called the British Empire on obtaining independence have chosen to remain in the Commonwealth. The fact is that most Heads of Commonwealth members choose to attend its summit meetings.
It is, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, an association of independent nations. It is perhaps ironical that the earliest members of the CommonwealthCanada and Australia- are the only member countries which are not yet absolutely independent of Britain. Features of their Federal systems- amendments of the Constitution in Canada’s case and gubernatorial appointments and Privy Council appeals in Austrafia *s - still involve the British Government and the British Parliament. The Statute of Westminster is no longer an instrument of Canadian and Australian independence but an impediment to it. All other members of the Commonwealth, however, are absolutely independent. They choose to attend its meetings. They proceed over the course of about 7 days of working sessions with an intervening weekend. However diverse the Commonwealth is in traditions, cultures, institutions and creeds, however unequal in literacy, health, personal opportunities and national development, it is a meaningful forum for 3 dozen independent nations of which one dozen have the Queen as their Head of State.
When the Queen became Head of the Commonwealth there were only 8 members. Six of them are still in the Commonwealth. There has been a great increase in the numbers of the Commonwealth right up to the present time and not least in our own region. There is still the very great advantage for members of the Commonwealth in that their Heads of Government can still effectively and willingly use English as their means of communication. They can in the quite long session every 2 years of their summit have a free and equal consultation. It is a meaningful body for a very great number of nations and for a quarter of the world ‘s people.
I trust I will be forgiven for making an aside about the use of the term ‘Commonwealth’ in this connection. It is not that I have any inhibitions at all about the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’. I have thought it has a very honourable history. It was the term applied to the British State under Oliver and Richard Cromwell. Nevertheless there has, I regret to say, been in the course of a reaction last year, some reversion in Australia to the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’ as referring to the Federal entity in Australia. I think it ought to be understood that the word ‘Commonwealth’ in Britain and in the Commonwealth of Nations has the significance which we use in debating this motion today. In the United States it has a particular connotation- formerly applied to the Philippines then later and still to the Marianas and Puerto Rico- of a state which does not have independent international status. Accordingly, I welcome the use of the word ‘Commonwealth’ in this sense in the way that it is known by most people who belong to what used to be the old British Empire and most people whose nations still choose to remain in this Commonwealth of Nations. I will be forgiven, I am sure, for recalling once again the statement that Sir Robert Menzies made in October 1965 in this House:
I myself have been in the habit of referring to the ‘Australian Government’ wherever I go. This is something I commend to all honourable members.
There are 3 particular points for Australia in continuing membership of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is composed, with one exception, of nations which used to be ruled by Britain and were part of the British Empire. The exception is Papua New Guinea, which was an Australian colony, an Australian mandate and later trust territory. It was under Australian auspices that Papua New Guinea was brought to independence and nationhood. It was on Australian sponsorship that Papua New Guinea joined the Commonwealth.
There is a second point for Australia, and that is the regional significance of the Commonwealth. More than half the members of the Commonwealth are situated in and around the Indian Ocean or in the South Pacific. It is really the only significant regional association to which Australia belongs. One asks: Where is ANZAM and where is SEATO today? What is their relevance now? But the Commonwealth is more varied, more relevant, for Australia in a regional sense than ever before. At the last Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at Jamaica, for instance, there were resolutions of particular concern to Australia. Every nation at Ottawa confirmed the Commonwealth’s total support for the African people of Zimbabwe and assistance for the people of Mozambique insofar as they were damaged economically by supporting international sanctions against the Rhodesian regime. Again every member at Ottawa reaffirmed the need for the Indian Ocean to remain an area of peace and stability, and expressed concern about military bases in the region. These 2 matters in a regional forum are of continuing relevance to Australia.
Thirdly, there is the fact that 3 members of the Commonwealth are a very large source of migrants for Australia- Britain, as always, and since the war, Malta and Cyprus. It is a happy circumstance that the Head of the Commonwealth in her jubilee year is in Australia. The Commonwealth has continuing- I believe, growing- significance for all its members and not least for Australia.
– I briefly associate the members of the National Country Party with this motion. As has been said by both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) the Commonwealth is a voluntary association of nations. Its continued relevance in the modern world is sometimes questioned, yet its survival is not. The Commonwealth has brought together a quarter of the world’s population in a loose affiliation, in a way which preserves the traditions of the past in the modern conflicts of today. However, there are elements of the Commonwealth which I find disturbing in that there are divisions emerging between members of the Commonwealth to the extent that some members of the Commonwealth fail to observe those principles to which we all subscribe as members of the United Nations. Obviously there are problems in the exclusion of some former members of the Commonwealth. Although we might have difficulties over the policies of countries such as South Africa and Rhodesia, I think it is to be regretted that they are not still members of an association where it would be possible to discuss, in the same manner as other issues, those things which are of concern to participating members.
I welcome this motion. I believe that it sets down Australia’s continued concern for the character of the Commonwealth and our belief that it has a role not only in the past but in the future. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the extent to which there has been alone amongst the member countries of the Commonwealth, a maintenance of some dependence upon the United Kingdom by both Canada and Australia.
I think it worth noting that it was a Commonwealth Government of Liberal-Country Party persuasion that first took initiatives to remove the right of appeal in Commonwealth matters to the Privy Council. However, as to gubernatorial appointments, I think that it is in that that the principal differences on the Australian Constitution and its future relevance lies between our side of the House and the Opposition. We see in the maintenance of an association with the Monarch a preservation of the rights of the Australian citizen. In that respect the Commonwealth tradition not only establishes so much the inheritance of the British parliamentary system of which this Parliament is part, but also preserves the opportunities for each of us as citizens of this country through the monarchical system to participate in determining the government which we desire and the representatives for whom we vote. I also note with pleasure paragraph 1(e) of the motion which refers to the presence of Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth in Australia on Commonwealth Day. I believe it most fitting in this jubilee year that Her Majesty is in our country and so recently has been able to share with us in this Federal Parliament part of the Westminster tradition of which she is so much an intrinsic part. On behalf of the members of my Party, I endorse the motion and commend it to the members of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I seek leave to respond briefly to a number of matters that were raised by honourable members in conjunction with these motions.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Let me say very briefly because the matter has been canvassed by a number of honourable members that it is my intention to cause a matter relating to the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System to be submitted to the Parliament for debate at an early opportunity. I say in response to the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) that I believe that it will be in that conjunction that we can best discuss the subject of standing order 151 and the matter of consideration of supplementary questions. At this stage the Standing Orders Committee has before it a number of matters which are not embodied in these motions but on which there is some division. The matters that are before the Parliament are, of course, matters on which there is considerable unanimity and it is for that reason that those matters are brought forward. I am bringing them forward not peculiarly as Leader of the House but on behalf of the Standing Orders Committee. It is as a result of the Committee ‘s determination that they are before us today.
The Manager of Opposition Business in the House, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), has raised the question of interruptions made to the 5 minutes which are an honourable member’s right within the adjournment rule covered by one of the notices in my name. Obviously there are problems not only in relation to the 5 minutes but also to other times when from either side of the House it is sought to interject, to raise points of order or to disturb an honourable member’s opportunity to speak. It would be unfortunate if that practice were to be abused. However, I see little way in which the Standing Orders themselves can correct it. Indeed it is one of the areas where it is necessary for honourable members themselves to exercise some responsibility. I see little chance of our correcting the Standing Orders to impose responsibility on any individual member of the House if he himself refuses to comply with them.
The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), speaking as the Opposition Whip, canvassed the question of count-outs. I think it is of interest that on 26 August 1971, the last occasion on which the House of Representatives was counted out, in the 2 divisions prior to the House being so adjourned, the then Labor Party Opposition had present 53 members and then in the next division 29 members. I suggest that members of both sides of the House and not peculiarly the Government have a responsibility to maintain a quorum. I commend again the motions to the House.
Questions resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
1 ) That a Select Committee be appointed:
community health and welfare, and
Honourable members will recall that a Select Committee on Tourism was established by the previous Parliament and that the report of the Committee had not been tabled when Parliament was prorogued. The terms of reference proposed in this motion are in precisely the same terms as those under which the previous Committee operated. I am sure that all honourable members will wish this important work to continue and will lend their support to the motion.
– I raise only one question. Is it proposed to re-appoint the members of the Committee forthwith so that they can continue their deliberations?
Mr HOWARD (Bennelong-Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs)- (3.6)- in reply- I understand from my colleague in another place that that is the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
1 ) That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on-
-The Opposition is not opposed to this motion because it re-constitutes a Committee which has been operating for some time now. But I want to say that during the period in which the Parliament has been prorogued there have been some disheartening developments in respect of the Aboriginal and Northern Territory land rights legislation. Contrary to the provisions of this legislation the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has taken on board legislation which is contrary to the principles enunciated by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in that legislation. The Committee, of course, has been operating under the impression that its principal task has been to reconcile the attitude of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory with the attitude of the Government, as expressed by that legislation. It is a very time consuming activity to belong to the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory, particularly because members of the House of Representatives who are involved also have responsibilities in regard to inquiries concerning Aboriginal health and alcoholism among Aborigines. It would be most frustrating if the purposes of the Committee were to be circumvented by the Legislative Assembly. In regard to certain matters affecting off-shore Aboriginal land areas some actions appear to have been taken which are contrary to the spirit of the legislation and the spirit contained in the Government’s decision to establish this Committee in the first instance and to re-constitute it now.
I am certainly not disparaging of the Minister who, I believe, has been betrayed in this matter by the Majority Leader of the Legislative Assembly. I must say in fairness that the Majority Leader of the Legislative Assembly is not a member of the Liberal Party but a member of the National Country Party. I know that the Minister has expressed concern about this circumvention of the decision of this House to have these matters thoroughly investigated by both the House of Representatives and the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I congratulate him and I sincerely hope that if there is any further attempt to undermine, sabotage or avoid the objectivity of this Committee, which is spelt out in the motion before the House at the present time, the Minister will continue to effectively represent this Parliament in admonishing the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
– What a lot of rubbish.
-I do not think that the Minister would say that it is a lot of rubbish. I acknowledge the fact that the Minister has stood his ground on this matter in a high-principled way. If he had not, one would find that many members serving on this Committee would not be prepared to serve on it any longer. It would be most frustrating for that to occur. I express the hope that the Minister will continue to pursue high principles in this matter.
-I must comment on the remarks of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). He seems to have the wrong impression about the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory)
Act 1976 which states that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly shall compile complementary legislation.
-I interrupt the honourable member for one moment to remind him that the House is dealing with a motion to set up a select committee. I ask him to stick fairly closely to that aspect rather than to broaden the issue, which the previous speaker, the honourable member for Hughes, bordered on doing but avoided very adroitly. I ask the honourable member to remember that we are debating the motion to set up a select committee.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I could not agree with you more. The honourable member for Hughes introduced this matter and I thought that someone should say something about it. I have a criticism of the wording of this motion and I have stated it on previous occasions. Clause ( 1 ) states:
That a Joint Select Committee be appointed to examine and report on-
The operation of provisions of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 relating to the identification of traditional owners of Aboriginal land and the means of establishing the views of such owners to the satisfaction of the relevant Land Council;
I am assured by various legal advisers, of which the Minister is one, that this refers to the Land Councils operating to the satisfaction of traditional owners, which is as it should be. But to me the wording makes it seem exactly the other way around. I know that the Minister will say that is not so but we are dealing with Aboriginal people and I would be surprised if the majority of them understood the wording. I am not insulting the few who do.
– What about Charles Perkins?
– He is not an Aborigine.
– What is he?
-According to the definition originally introduced by a former Minister for Aboriginal affairs, the honourable member for MacKellar, (Mr Wentworth), he is certainly not an Aborigine. He is not considered to be an Aborigine by the Aborigines in the Northern Territory. The honourable member should find out a thing or two about this matter. I would like to see some clarification of the clause which would make it apparent that the Land Councils are supposed to be responsible to the traditional owners and not vice versa. I think the word ‘as’ between the word ‘owners’ and ‘owners to the satisfaction of the relevant Land Council’ would probably make it a lot more clear. I turn to subclause 12 which states that the Select Committee has to present its report by 1 8 August. I note with regret that it is a Select Committee. It might seem an adequate time to report on some aspects of these matters before the Committee and the Government but I consider this should be an ongoing committee. I think everyone who has any real knowledge of the Aboriginal situation in the Northern Territory would agree. Not only could there be other legislation introduced by the Legislative Assembly but also there certainly will be legislation introduced by the Land Councils, whose actions and personnel are being questioned very strongly in some cases by the Aborigines in the areas. I refer to the traditional owners to which this Act applies. I think it is a great shame that this Committee is to be a Select Committee because as such it goes out of action when the report is brought down unless it gets a new term of office.
I would like to mention briefly that the leader of the Legislative Assembly has not betrayed anyone. He has not sabotaged or undermined anything. The Legislative Assembly provided draft legislation to the Federal Government. It was the Government’s duty to consider that and to consult with the Legislative Assembly. For anyone to abuse any member of the Legislative Assembly, and the Majority Leader in particular, over this matter is complete and utter nonsense.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr Viner) agreed to:
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs: The health problems of Aboriginals with particular attention to-
the prevalence of different types of disease suffered by Aboriginals and Aboriginal communities;
the relationship between Aboriginal health and environmental, social and cultural factors;
the effectiveness of existing health care programs for Aboriginals generally, and the adequacy of Western European-type health services to cope with the health problems of Aboriginals, and
) alternative methods of health care delivery that take account of Aboriginals’ life styles, including camp situations.
That the committee consider ways and means by which-
persons with appropriate qualifications can be encouraged to assist Aboriginals achieve a better standard of health, and
Aboriginals including traditional healers can participate in the development and delivery of health care services to their own communities, and in any modification of existing services.
That the committee recommend possible courses of action.
Debate resumed from 9 March, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has once again brought the greatest pleasure to Your Australian people. We, their representatives in this House, are grateful for the opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
-Having last night dealt with the petty and vindictive pan.tomine of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) earlier this week in snubbing Sir John Kerr at Fairbairn Airport in front of Her Majesty the Queen, the ludicrous and offensive remarks of Mr Donald Home in describing Her Majesty as a symbol of division in Australia, and what I have described as the rise of 2 bob republicanism as opposed to calm and rational debate, in the remaining moments available to me I wish now to mention 4 matters, all of which concern me considerably. Three of them are related to international matters and one is related to the domestic policies of the Government.
I believe that each and every Australian who has applied his mind to recent publicity of allegations of atrocities having occurred in East Timor must support the call for a full and impartial international inquiry into those allegations of atrocities, whether allegedly committed by Indonesian forces with or without the approval of the Indonesian Government or whether committed by any other group in East Timor. In particular I raise again, as I have done on a previous occasion, the unresolved situation with respect to the deaths of 5 Australian nationals, the 5 journalists, who I have no doubt in my mind were in fact murdered in Dili in circumstances which must and should be fully investigated. I have set out my views in some detail in an article which the Australian newspaper invited me to write and which was published recently. I have the consent of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) for this document to be incorporated in Hansard. I now seek leave to have the document so incorporated.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small State to the wolves is a fatal delusion.’ . . . Winston Churchill (2 1.9.38).
Any thinking Australian must be concerned about and distressed by, recent allegations of atrocities having been committed in East Timor. Many were gravely concerned by the act of annexation of East Timor by Indonesia, following the Portuguese withdrawal. I must confess that for some time I have been deeply troubled about what happened in East Timor and Australia ‘s reaction to it.
My personal anxiety has been heightened by a massive campaign to brand any person concerned about East Timor as ‘ pro-Fretilin ‘ and therefore, ‘ pro-communist. ‘
This is not so. Even my most bitter political opponents would concede that I am staunchly anti-communist and I have, on one occasion, been described as ‘the worst Redbaiter’ in the House of Representatives.
One could hardly call the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, headed by Bishop Mulkearns, of Ballarat, a ‘leftist ‘organisation.
Last December, the commission publicly expressed its dismay over East Timor, asserting that the situation (of up to SOO 000 East Timorese) had become ‘critical’ for food, clothing and medical supplies.
The commission eloquently pressed for international humanitarian aid to be allowed into East Timor. The commission’s anxiety has no doubt been increased by the persistent recent reports of alleged atrocities.
These reports cannot forever be swept under the carpet, and our penchant for non-involvement should not extend to abstaining from probing for the truth behind the allegations of massacres, and the sul) unresolved mystery of the deaths of five Australian journalists in 1 97S.
In conscience, I can no longer countenance that we, as a nation, should recline in supine acquiescence. As a nation, we do not emerge with any pride or credibility in the eyes of the free world and those who expouse the cause of freedom.
I take considerable inspiration from the immortal speech of Winston Churchill in the House of Commons, 5 October 1 938 when, following the Munich debacle, he said: … the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting ‘ ‘. ‘
Churchill went on to say, ‘ . . . and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us, year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health … we rise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden times. ‘
The Munich experience must surely have shattered, for all dme, the false logic of equating appeasement with peace.
The recent allegations by Senator Kilgariff, and the former Australian Consul in Dili ( Mr Dunn) cry out for prompt and painstaking investigation, either by a United Nations mission (as Mr Gordon Bryant, MHR, has suggested) or by a visit to East Timor by an Australian parliamentary delegation, as I have advocated.
The eyes of the free world are on Australia, and many nations will base their attitude on the stand we take.
We are passing through ‘an awful milstone in our history’ (Churchill) and as Alexander Solzhenitsyn has said: ‘(our) obligation to those still alive out weighs (our) obligation to the dead.’
I commit myself to the course of action of seeking, and revealing, the truth concerning East Timor.
For us, as Australians, to bury our heads in the sand and turn our backs on what is alleged to have occurred would be a gross act of national moral cowardice. We would be degrading Australia, and future generations would have to bear the same shame and disgrace which fell upon those citizens of nazi Germany who turned a blind eye to Auschwitz by the simple process of saying to themselves: ‘It does not exist- it has not occurred. ‘
The dilemma of East Timor will not go away- it will not conveniently disappear. The ghosts of the dead will haunt each and every one of us who seeks solace in silent acquiescence.
I cannot put out of my mind the knowledge of the thousands of Timorese who laid down their lives in World War II in the cause of freedom- many of them dying alongside Australian service men.
Go into any RSL club and talk to the diggers, and they will tell you of their shame that we, as a nation have today turned our backs on our former friends and allies in Timor.
Is our national conscience so dead that we can ignore the cri de coeur for a full inquiry. Surely the Indonesian Government would welcome the opportunity to publicly clear its country’s name.
I commend our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Peacock, for asserting so firmly that our Government ‘has not recognised Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor’(Hansard, 30 October 1976, page 2016) and I and, I believe, all Australians now anxiously await his response to the recent revelations and the call for a full international commission of inquiry. (Michael Hodgman is Liberal MHR for Denison, Tasmania.)
– I also take this opportunity to congratulate the parliamentary group of Amnesty International, and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) in particular who is chairman of that group, on the preparation of a petition which was circulated to a number of members of this Parliament and which in fact was signed by more than 95 members of the Parliament. It is a petition to the President of the United States of America which refers, inter alia, to his recent statement with respect to his defence of prisoners of conscience in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, his comments in relation to the recent tragic events in Uganda, and in particular his remarks with respect to the situation in East Timor, which is our nearest neighbour. As I said on a previous occasion- I repeat it nowthey are matters which are of sufficient importance in my opinion that the national conscience of Australia is at stake if we do not act properly and responsibly. The eyes of the world are indeed upon us and are looking for a lead from us. Having again obtained the consent of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the terms of the petition prepared by the parliamentary group of Amnesty International and signed by members of all major parties of both Houses. I am informed that the petition was presented at 3 p.m. today by the honourable member for Parramatta, accompanied by Senator Coleman and Senator Missen, to Mr LeRoy F. Percival, Charge d ‘Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America here in Canberra. I seek leave to have that petition incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
We the undersigned, being members of the Parliament of Australia concerned with basic human rights, applaud the actions taken by you in relation to your defence of prisoners of conscience in the U.S.S.R. and the advocates of freedom of expression, as well as your comments on the recent tragic events in Uganda.
We draw attention to the mounting and disturbing evidence that innocent civilians in Timor have been detained without due process and killed as a result of the activities of Indonesia.
Being particularly interested in the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Australians and the well being of the people involved in our region; and noting the resolutions of the United Nations and having observed reports that this situation has not changed; urge you to again use your good offices as a matter of urgency to seek assurances from the government of Indonesia:
– I thank the House for its indulgence. The next matter I desire to raise is in regard to Uganda. Earlier today we had unanimously passed by this House a resolution to recognise throughout the world Commonwealth Day. In fact, it will be recognised in all Commonwealth countries next Monday. Quite frankly, I do not believe that at the present moment Uganda is worthy to be a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, nor should its demented leader, President Idi Amin, be permitted to attend the conference of the heads of government of the British Commonwealth of Nations due to be held in London later this year. I feel that there is a very strong case for Uganda to be suspended from the British Commonwealth of Nations because I find it impossible to reconcile in my mind that we, in passing the motion we did earlier, intended to convey to the world that Uganda had the same common heritage that we have, that it represents an institution through which the Commonwealth is a unique forum of discussion and exchange of ideas. I do not believe that any Australian could approve of this man Amin, a mass murderer, the butcher of Uganda, a pathological killer of Eichmann proportions, who has inflicted upon the people of Uganda a reign of terror, murder, kidnapping, thuggery and religious persecution unprecedented in the world since World War II.
Uganda is a country in which more than one third of the population are Christians who have just seen their Archbishop slaughtered. Now the troops of Amin are going around the country and persecuting and wiping out Christians. I believe there is a dreadful stench over Uganda today. There will be a dreadful stench over the British Commonwealth if this madman, this maniac, is permitted to attend the conference in London. I appreciate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) cannot at the moment indicate publicly what are the views of this Government. He will convey them in the appropriate manner to the Envoy of the British Prime Minister. But I as a member of this House want to say that I hope that the Government will make it quite clear that it cannot and will not tolerate the presence of Amin or the representation of Uganda at that conference.
The third matter I wish to raise relates to the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I must say that as an Australian I find it a matter of profound regret that representatives of that organisation- international terrorists, kidnappers, thugs and gangsters- are coming to Canberra in April of this year as duly accredited representatives of the International Parliamentary Union- at a time when the International Parliamentary Union refuses to permit Amnesty International even to have observer status. I do not believe that the PLO should be permitted to come here. If its representatives do come, then for heaven ‘s sake confine them to Canberra.
In relation to the economy, I adopt completely the brilliant speech of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) in moving the Address-in-Reply. He summed up everything that I wanted to say with respect to unemployment and inflation. But I do want to draw attention to the fact that as of May this year, by virtue of our Government’s policy of full indexation ofensions, the standard rate of pension will rise to 47.10 and the married rate of pension will rise to $78.50. Again with the approval of the honourable member for Corio, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table indicating what the Government has done by means of its policy of full indexation of pensions for the betterment of the people of Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
25.3 per cent of AWE.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The address written for Her Majesty outlining the Government’s program was positive proof of a total lack of any policy direction by the Government. Apart from a few glib references to the productive area of the private sector, the Speech was characteristic of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Fraser Government. Australia’s economic problems were dealt with blithely with this one line:
My Government is not only taking action to restore the economy . . .
Then the Speech goes on to waffle about the fundamental well being and freedom of the Australian people. The Speech characteristically dwells upon the miniscule housing voucher pilot scheme and the family allowance scheme which, it is worth noting, took money on the one hand from the bread winner of the family and handed it back to the mother without effecting a cost to revenue. Yet that initiative is promoted in the address as being a great social change. If the Australian people were looking to that Speech for any guide to the Government’s economic policy they were badly let down. This Government has now made it clear that it has no policy whatsoever and that it intends to bluff its way through to the next election with an attack upon the work force on the wages front as the only basis of its political survival.
Let us take the opportunity of looking at the promises that won the Fraser Government power in 1975. We will note that, as I said earlier, characteristically they are absent from the Speech of Her Majesty.
During the election period the main plank of the Government’s platform was to reduce inflation and unemployment. Another was to abolish rural poverty and to increase the real level of farm incomes. Then there was the promise to start some of the major mineral projects that have been waiting upon world markets for commencement. Not one of these promises rated a mention in the speech by Her Majesty. This was because the Fraser Government has been shown to be unable to honour the commitments that it made during that general election campaign.
The point is that the economic managers have failed to perform and none of these important commitments has been fulfilled. Yet the Prime Minister of this country (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was prepared, as a Leader of the Opposition, to tear up the social fabric of Australia, abuse the prerogatives of the Senate and to do anything to tear the Labor Government out of office so that his Party could, in its view, seal the doom of the Government which was destroying the economy. He was given the prime ministership of this country without a majority in the House of Representatives and elected to government to do as I said, that is, to reduce inflation and unemployment, to abolish rural proverty and to start some developmental projects in this country. He has failed on all 3 counts.
Let us consider the economy and some of the indicators which tell the tale of the performance of this Government. I refer to the production statistics. The latest production index of the Australian and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd shows production in Australia to be stagnant. The Australian Bureau of Statistics production statistics for January show falls in output levels exceeding rises at a rate of approximately three to one. In retail sales the picture is the same. The momentum appeared to pick up somewhat in November but fell off dramatically in December. When deflated for price rises, retail sales at the end of December were at the June level. Retail sales in January fell a further 2.5 per cent. Yet the Prime Minister wants to reduce spending power by reducing wages and at the same time is telling people to have confidence and to spend their money. On what basis can any Australian employer invest in productive capacity when sales are down and capacity is presently underutilised? Of course, there cannot be any improvement in the investment picture and, therefore, there can be no improvement in job creation.
Take the rate of inflation as an example because this was a single solitary policy plank harped on by the Fraser Government during the general election campaign. The consumer price index increased by 6 per cent in the December quarter, bringing it to the highest level since the Korean War in 1951, which was a record. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) even claimed that this was not a true indication of the picture. He said that there was the Medibank blip. If he wants to refer to the Medibank blip, it is a consequence of the wilful policy of the Prime Minister who, on an ideological basis, broke another specific election promise, upset the Medibank arrangements and imposed this cost upon the community. In fact, it was a tax which led to an increase in the cost of living and showed up in the index. Now the Government is running to the courts trying to squeeze the Medibank component of the 6 per cent out of wages. In other words, it wants to let the person in the street carry the total cost of that without being compensated for it in their wage packets.
Even without the Medibank component prices rose in that period by 2.8 per cent. This was happening before the effects of the devaluation were even felt. In the last 6 months of 1976 the CPI rose by 8.2 per cent. Honourable members should compare that figure with the figure for the last 6 months of the Labor Government in 1975. The rise then was 6.4 per cent. So much for the economic management of the Liberal Party. Within 12 months of the Government coming to office there has been a 2 per cent increase in the CPI above the increase for the same 6-monthly period when Labor was in government. Of course, the Medibank blip to which the Treasurer referred will blip on all year. He will have the first quarter blip, the second quarter bhp- the blip will last a whole 12 months and we shall see a massive increase in the CPI. Yet the Government will have the temerity to say to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that if it passes on the 6 per cent increase it will jeopardise the economy. Now Mr Justice Moore has to try to work out a way out of the problem. He has to try to determine a new basis of assessing the index and to try not to pass on the 6 per cent.
When we said some time ago that the Government needlessly had upset the Medibank arrangements, that it should leave Medibank alone in line with the clear promise the Prime Minister gave, he pooh-poohed the scheme and introduced this abortion of a thing we have now. People, of course, now have to pay the money out of their back pockets. This is showing up in the index. Yet the Government, which said it would stand by the principle of wage indexationanother clear promise- is now backing off from that principle and wants to refuse the work force adequate adjustment, which it was given under this indexation arrangement.
To add insult to injury, the devaluation was the final policy step which capped and sealed the doom of the Fraser Government, in economic terms at least, within the life of this Parliament. This decision, hastily entered into for the benefit of a couple of sectors of the economy, when added to the mixture of prices, will see Australia settling down to a level of hyperinflation during this year. Of course, this will have consequences in interest rates, inflation and, therefore, unemployment. So after 15 months of government all that we have seen from the great economic managers- the representatives of the establishment, the big banking and finance men- is the prospect of a bout of very high inflation. When one considers that the Labor Budget was thrown out because it was said to be such a bad Budget and not able to deal with the problems of inflation one can see the phoniness of the people who oppose us in this chamber. No political party in this country has ever survived politically the ravages of unemployment and inflation. I am now of the view that these problems will not be solved during the life of this Parliament.
The level of unemployment has reached a post-war record. At the end of January it represented 5.8 per cent of the population or 354 600 people. Of course, that is a very low figure because a lot of people are not registering as unemployed and overtime is falling away. Overtime hours worked fell to 2.2 hours in December, which is back to the low levels of 1976. Work force participation increased by 100 000 people fewer than in the previous year. With this level of unemployment there is again an absence of people spending because they are not employed. They are not receiving adequate incomes, therefore there can be no consumer recovery. Without consumer recovery there can be no investment. Without investment there can be no job creation. So we have a vicious circle. But when the Labor Party when in government tried to introduce a wage indexation policy to slow down wage increases on the one hand and a slow cutback in the growth in government expenditure on the other- a happy mix in the Budget which would have reduced and brought these distortions into some sort of harmony- the Budget was thrown out because of the political tactics of our opponents.
We find that under the restrictions of the other arm of the Government’s policy, that is, its monetary policy, building society finance for home purchases and construction fell by 15.7 per cent m January, reflecting the severity of the Government’s monetary policy. Property developers are falling over one after the other. All of the finance companies in Australia are writing off huge losses which came from the property boom earlier in the 1970s. But this is a symptom of the monetary policy of the present Government. It is sticking to a rigid rate of growth in the money supply, though the Treasurer is not admitting it. The Government has forced upon Australia by stealth a credit squeeze of fairly massive proportions which probably will lead to an increase in interest rates and a severe curtailment of the amount of money available in the community for lending. So the building industry and other industries which survive upon the availability of finance will have no opportunity whatsoever to get themselves off the ground and to get started again. Of course, the severity of this squeeze is affecting some States more particularly than others.
If one looks across the board at the monetary policy of the Government, unemployment, inflation and the performance of the Government one sees a dismal failure by the Government with no prospect in the life of this Parliament of any improvement at all in the economic indicators. We will have a crude policital ploy by the Government to tough it out, to brave face the indicators and to say, as the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) said, that the unemployment figures are a myth. The Government will take this line of approach and turn the whole attack back on to the work force. There will be confrontation with the unions about the industrial bureau and the like and pressure applied to reduce the real level of wages. This will be the Government’s policy approach which it believes will carry it through successfully to the next general election. It will need a lot of luck for that to happen because one thing that the dismissal of the Whitlam Government did for the Australian community was to raise very sharply the level of political awareness of this community. The community will not tolerate these broken promises of and lack of performance by the Government, particularly when it was elected on the basis of those promises. We recall the ruthless manner in which it came to office on the specific promise of reducing inflation and unemployment. It failed in those specific areas.
I turn to the question of resources. As I mentioned earlier there are 3 areas of undertaking: The economy; the restoration of rural incomes and the abolition of rural poverty; and the improvement on the resources front. After 3 years of attack and vilification by the present Government upon the former Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, for failing to start new projects, the present Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Government have not one new major project off the ground in 15 months- not one! Yet this alleged failure was again one of the reasons why the previous Government had to be thrown out. The export approvals which had been given by the previous Government have been repeated. The Government has said that it will allow the Norwich Park company to export its coal. It has given the same kinds of approvals in respect to a couple of other projects. But in fact no commencements have occurred in this respect.
The greatest demonstration of the ineptitude of the Government and particularly of the National Country Party was the dismal performance of the Acting Minister for National Resources, Mr Nixon, on his recent visit to Japan. Mr Nixon and Mr Sinclair, 2 of the senior Ministers on that delegation, failed to exact any important commitments from Japan in the minerals area whatsoever. They chased only minor agricultural concessions and allowed the Japanese once again to reassert their bargaining dominance in the mineral resources area. They achieved a small increase in beef quotas and chased some school lunch franchise. These 2 Australian Government Ministers lead a major delegation to Japan and come back with some increase in the beef quotas and school lunch franchise. Mr Nixon attacked the work force in the Pilbara. He obligingly accepted the assurances on export tonnages for coal and iron ore which were given by the Japanese and which blind Freddie knows will not be honoured. Of course the Japanese saw him coming and gave him the line which, of course, the Labor Government had refused many times.
It was also interesting to note that Mr Nixon on returning to Australia said that he was happy to accept the premise of the Ninayama agreement of 1975 for increases in the amount of coal to be sold from Australia to Japan. When the
Labor Government announced the agreement between Nippon Steel and the Australian Government, it was pooh-poohed as a confidence trick, as a phoney ploy, to take attention away at the time from the loans affair. Now of course the Government falls back on the agreement and says that in reality it does exist and the Government will depend on it. There was no discussion of natural gas exports and there was no resolution of Japan’s interest in the natural gas question, which I thought was one of the prime considerations. Of course the Government has been silent on the information which we should have gained on what commitments it made with the Japanese on uranium. Overall the delegation retreated from Australia’s hard-won negotiating position of recent years and failed to establish any significant advance in the trading relationship between Australia and Japan.
The Press had the hide to report that the trip was successful and was a new step along the way in building relations between Australia and Japan. What happened a couple of weeks ago? The Japanese resource negotiators came here to try to convince Australian companies and the Federal and State Governments that they could not afford price increases and that there would have to be reductions in tonnages. The whole visit turned out to be a complete and total flop. Again these great business managers, these men of finance, banking and commerce, went up to the industrial colossus in Japan and were sent packing back to Australia empty-handed. Now the Australian extractive industries are saying: We might not have liked Connor but at least we got profits out of him’. The coal price increased 350 per cent in 3 years of the Labor Government. We went to Japan and made it clear that Australian resources were to be sold at world parity prices and no less. Now the industry is calling on the Minister for National Resources to do the same and to stop persisting with the foolish notion that it is a commercial transaction with the Australian companies dealing commercially with Nippon Steel or with the Japanese steel mills. The Japanese steel mills are a cartel. They have Nippon Steel and Sumitomo negotiating for the whole of the industry. The Government backs them right to the hilt. Anyone who speaks of ‘Japan incorporated’ is certainly very much to the point. One must admire the Japanese for it. They are sensible about the way they do their business. This Government persists with the notion that some south coast coal producer can go to Japan and negotiate a commercial deal. The steel mills just devour them one after the other. These producers cave in on prices and of course the whole industry loses. On 30 000 tonnes of coal the amount involved would be $60m. In iron ore we are losing up to $150m a year in income because the Government will not exercise its proper authority under the export control powers. The industry now has had a gut- ful of the Government and its nonsense about commercial enterprise and the rest. The industry wants some performance. There is an adage that in the days of the Labor Government there was no confidence but plenty of business; in these days there is plenty of confidence but no business. After a while it starts to hurt. Industry in Australia requires this Government to produce the goods that it promised in the days when it was in Opposition.
I deal briefly and lastly with agriculture. For 3 years we heard the constant bleating by the National Country Party and the Liberals about the state of Australian agriculture. Yet in 15 months not one substantial thing has been done for the agricultural industries in this country. We heard a debate last week about beef. In 15 months the Government has extended the States grants beef assistance legislation by $ 15m only. In the Labor Government’s term of office $47m was given to the beef industry. The Government lifted the export levy charge on beef and gave it back to the exporters. The industry received nothing from the levy. Throughout the 3 years of Labor Government the Country Party encouraged extra beef production.
Last week I read all of the speeches of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) urging the beef industry to increase production. This week he is talking about withholding beef from the market so that the price will go up. The Government has done absolutely nothing. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimates on net farm incomes are catastrophic. They indicate a complete social crisis in the countryside. I will refer to what the Bureau gives as projections for 1977 of net farm income as a return for capital investment, management and labour per week. In 1 974-75 the figure was $ 1 86; in 1975-76 it was $162.33; and the projection for 1976-77 is $125.87. The labour projection is $169.48. One can see quite clearly the dramatic fall which is taking place in rural incomes and one can witness the fall in property values in this country.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I find it unnecessary to make any comment about the speech just made by the honourable member for
Blaxland (Mr Keating). The track record of his Party in government shows that it is totally lacking in any expertise in economic matters. For him to come here and piously tell the Government where it is going wrong is, I think, worthy only of contempt. The Government of course is prepared to speak to individuals and groups in the community which have a contribution to make on economic matters. In view of their rather deplorable track record in these matters, I find it impossible to give credence to comments which are made by members of the Opposition.
I am proud to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) proposing the Address-In-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech in opening this Parliament. Some of the things that Her Majesty said to us in her opening Speech are, I believe, worthy of reconsideration in this debate. I am quite pleased to highlight some of her remarks and to elaborate on them. During that Speech Her Majesty said that: . . Australia as a nation depends on creating the conditions which foster the strength, independence and creativity of its people.
I think that this is something that the honourable member for Blaxland and his colleagues should take to heart. They obviously are of the opinion that economic matters can be played like a harp string or by juggling the load from one side to the other. We must remember the words of Her Majesty about economic conditions which foster the strength, independence and creativity of the people. We should get away from the idea that the cake is so big that all we have to do is to serve varying sized portions. This country and its economy will prosper only when the people of Australia are prepared to work hard for that prosperity. This seems to be what honourable members opposite do not understand.
At the moment we have an economic crisis which we inherited from our predecessor. This Government has been working strenuously to overcome the problems in the inflation, unemployment and other economic fields. Our problems are not just those which can be titled in economic terms, the problems extend further. They become a social problem. That social problem is one of a welfare society. Australia and the people of Australia are becoming more dependent on what they can be given rather than on what they can earn. If this attitude is pervading the minds of people in the work force we can no longer look to prosperity because society will prosper only on the strength of its own hard work. We have heard a lot of comment in this place, in the public media and in debates throughout the community about the unemployment problem. The problem is not confined just to those who are registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service or to those who are receiving unemployment benefit. It extends to those who are currently on the payroll, those who are working in industries and factories throughout Australia, who are not prepared to give their job their best endeavours. Until we, as a country, are prepared to work harder and to put more effort into our jobs without demanding additional holidays and extra pay, we will not survive. We will pass on a sorry state of affairs to our children and to future generations. This was brought out by Her Majesty when she said:
The prosperity of the Australian people depends on the strength of its productive private sector, on its manufacturing, mining and rural industries.
I agree with that statement. The strength of this country is in the strength of its people and their determination to work hard and to realise this country’s potential. It seems that groups in the community and a growing number of people throughout the Australian nation are saying to the Government: ‘We are not satisfied with the present economic conditions. We want you to do something about them’. That is getting back to the welfare society to which I referred earlier. We, as a government, industries throughout the country and individuals in the society must realise that this problem is not residing only in Canberra, that governments cannot wave a magic wand and solve all these problems for the community. The problem is one that pervades the country. It touches every individual in the community. All of us have a responsibility. A farmer cannot look for more return from his product and at the same time be prepared to screw his employees for a lesser wage. A wage earner cannot look for a higher wage from his industry and at the same time be prepared to go on strike, which would increase the cost of production. The problem is one that extends to everyone. If the people of this country, if governments and if unions and all the other social groups in the community want economic recovery, each has a responsibility to work for that objective.
I am addressing my remarks not so much to the economic problems in the community but to the social problems in the community. Her Majesty said:
With the growth over the years of the power of public and private bureaucracies, particular care needs to be taken to protect individual liberties and human rights against unwarranted intrusions.
This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest social problems that this country faces. I believe that many thousands of Australians who are prepared to work hard and who want to accept the rewards of their hard work, their labours and their endeavours are constantly retarded in their ambitions by a bureaucracy that constantly weighs on their every endeavour. We have heard in this place and in public debate about the impinging of government bureaucracy on the rights of individuals. This does not end with government bureaucracy. I find little difference between the bureaucracies that are contained in large companies and the bureaucracies that are contained in unions. All of these bureaucracies impinge on private individuals. They retard growth. They retard ambition. I believe that all of them should be viewed with disdain.
This brings me to the real point. What are the social problems in the community? The problem of bureaucracies is one thing. Their inherent power is another. The problem that Australia is facing is, I believe, the result of a bartering that is being conducted by the big three in Australiabig government, big business and big unions. That assumes that the private individual, the person in society is irrelevant and is nothing more than a small cog in a very big wheel who can be used to suit the ambitions and the purposes of whichever power body has the upper hand at a particular point. We must get back to a situation, as Her Majesty said, in which Australia as a nation depends on creating the conditions which foster the strength, independence and creativity of its people. That will not happen while the bureaucracies of government, business or unions constantly try to use people to do nothing more than extend their power game. Her Majesty reflected the attitude of this Government when she said:
My Government is acting also to protect and expand political rights and strengthen the responsibility and responsiveness of governments to their citizens . . .
Steps have been taken to reverse the trend towards the concentration of power in the hands of the Commonwealth Government.
This Government is conscious of the encroaching bureaucracy and of the power that the bureaucracy has to impinge on personal rights and freedom. In its various policies such as federalism and other policies it is consciously and conscientiously attempting to reverse that trend which became evident under the Labor Government. It attempted to concentrate all powers in the Government which sits on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. People in our small State of Tasmania are all too conscious of how power was concentrated under that Government. We strenuously press the Government to reverse that trend. I am quite sure that, in the words of the Queen, the Government has taken note of this and is acting to reverse that most unjustified trend.
The problem does not stop with big government. It also goes into big business. I refer to some actions of large companies such as multinational corporations, particularly those which are headquartered outside Australia. I believe that the Australian people should be conscious of them and actively lobbying governments to reverse these actions because big business is equally as obnoxious as large government bureaucracies. A typical example of what is happening in big business as it impinges itself and attempts to obliterate small business is typified in the oil industry. As we know, most of the oil industry is monopolised by large international corporations with the retail outlets being conducted by private businessmen in a rather restricted capacity, usually under lease to one of the larger corporations. At the moment moves are being made, I believe most insidiously, by some of those large corporations to restrict the rights of individual businessmen- in fact I believe eventually to force them out of business- so that the oil industry and the retailing industry of petroleum products will become totally monopolised by a very few large companies.
I have a letter from a retail seller in Sydney who has outlined the problem that he is facing in relation to the corporation to which he is under lease. He says that his lease is now up for review and that the company has put it to him that he should in fact accept a commission of $16,000 flat per year. He says:
In signing this lease I relinquish all my access to profit on petrol together with the fact that I am obliged by this lease to accept-
all stock losses
all bad debts and dishonoured cheques
all cash shortages
to carry the book debts . . .
So in other words he is being paid a flat salary but has to take all the losses. I wonder what he would end up with under such an arrangement? If this policy is continued there is no doubt that eventually we would see only the slot type machine retail petrol outlets and the service station as we know it would be completely gone and dominance would be given to the multinationals. But that is not all. He has a choice. In his letter he states:
But the alternative lease is worse insomuch that instead of the old style lease of paying l.Sc a gallon purchased- they now say to me that based on last year’s gallonage, 49 000 gallons per month I will have to pay rent on this amount; my gallons have now at the present moment dropped to 29 000 gallons per month, due to other discounters in the area around me and with . . .
He mentions a certain petroleum company- selling at 63.2c per gallon and me selling at the correct retail price, 77.3c per gallon . . .
– You don’t have to think too hard to come up with its name.
– As the honourable member says, one does not have to think too hard about what company that is. This is what is going on in the petroleum industry. We find that one of the main offenders in this insidious move to have monopoly situations imposed on petrol resellers and on the oil industry is a gentleman very well known to this House and much mentioned, namely, Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is his organisation of ACTU-Solo which in fact has led the move against the genuine retail seller. What is he trying to do? Is he trying to establish a situation in Australia where our petroleum and fuel and energy resources are dominated by a few large companies which are headquartered outside Australia in America and England. Is this what Mr Hawke wants? I believe it is what very few Australians want.
– Have you not heard of the IAC?
– I would remind the honourable member for Corio that we also have big unions. We certainly have heard plenty about the big unions in this place.
The Queen mentioned in her opening address that the Government has certain legislation in hand to correct the monopolising power of big unions and the way they are able to extend and impinge upon the rights and freedoms of their members. As the honourable gentleman opposite would know, certain amendments are proposed to the trade practices legislation. I believe that these amendments will do no more than bring the trade unions under the control of law. At the moment they choose to, and can in fact, be exempt from the provisions of law. We are conscious of the fact that trade unions are up in arms about this move. Why is that? They want to perpetuate a system where they are not responsive to the law. What is wrong with having one group in society equally as responsible under law as every other group?
The other provision that the Government proposes to introduce is, as Her Majesty mentioned, the establishment of the industrial relations bureau. Why are the trade unions so frightened of the industrial relations bureau? Is it that they do not want their activities to be investigated? Is it that they do not want their members to know how to go about correcting the monopolising power of their union leaders? Is it because the union leaders themselves want to maintain a situation where they can manipulate their members for their own political ambitions and they see in the industrial relations bureau some challenge to that monopolising power? I think the provisions that the Government is planning to introduce in this session of Parliament will do no more in their totality than allow the individual in society to have rights and freedoms that I believe every Australian citizen has the right to expect.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said that government should be of the people, for the people and by the people. Under this Liberal Government we are seeing this very meritorious statement of Lincoln’s being brought into effect in this country. The Government s first objective is to have a totally integrated society without people having some undue advantage over other sections of society.
– What about the Parliamentary Library? You are putting censorship in there.
– What we have to do, contrary perhaps to what the honourable member for Corio might believe, is to break down the monopolising power of big government, big business and big unions. If that means in the process that people like Mr Hawke have to have their wings clipped, I believe this will be in the best long term interest of this country and the people of Australia.
– It was interesting to hear the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) equating big government and big business with big unions. What he did not say, of course, is that the inevitable process of big business and its move towards automation and technological progress in its manufacturing processes in the long term cannot fail to produce unemployment among workers. This process will not only reduce the number of people in the work force in terms of their productivity but also it will tend to reduce the skill of workers. As a result skilled jobs will become semi-skilled and semi-skilled jobs will become unskilled. This is a long term problem that has been created by these people. The problem will not be overcome by repressive legislation about which the honourable member has been talking. Sooner or later the Government will have to acknowledge the problem- not just the present problem of unemployment which it has created but the longer term problem of structural change. It will have to do something about creating employment. Big Brother will not help them in this respect. I endorse what the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) said by way of interjection about placing big brother in the Parliamentary Library so that members have to channel their requests through big brother. This arrangement will not help the democratic process in this Parliament either.
It is hardly necessary to say that most Australians today are gravely concerned at the extremely high level of unemployment in Australia. I suggest that they are even more concerned with the forward projections of many responsible economists who consider that there is little prospect of a decline in unemployment. Many, of course, would go further and say that unfortunately the prospects are that unemployment is more likely to increase than to decline. I said ‘most Australians’ advisedly because while I know that most Australians are concerned about unemployment it is very apparent that there are many people in the Government who in their obsession with maintaining profits and reducing inflation in fact see increasing unemployment as a measure of the success of their misguided policies. Even though the policy of inducing unemployment has failed to contain inflation theardliners within the Government still persist with this misguided policy.
I believe that the lack of sensitivity and the gross lack of compassion for the plight of the unemployed is the badge of distinction of the hardliners who now dominate the Government’s thinking. Some members of course are genuinely concerned at the way events are unfolding in the economy in Australia, but their voices are being drowned out by the raucous cries of those strong men, those men of steel who want to flay the backs of the unemployed; the men who want to brand them as dole bludgers and malingerers; the men who want to deny the very lowest income people in our country, the people who really need full indexation, the benefits of full indexation; the men who are completely committed to the idea of survival of the fittest; the men who are utterly and completely lacking in compassion for people who happen to be less fortunate than themselves.
To detract the attention of the Australian public from their lack of concern for the unemployed, Government Ministers have recently embarked on a deliberate campaign to discredit the unemployed by attempting to undermine the validity of their own figures in a most shameful and dishonest way. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) on 28 February in commenting on the 354 589 unemployed made the extraordinary statement that these figures are largely a myth. They may be a myth for the Minister, but I am sure that for the people who are suffering under the unemployment in this country it is not a myth; it is a reality, and a very stark and harsh reality. He went on to say that there are many people including young people who choose quite deliberately not to work. These statements were supposed to have been made on the basis of a Bureau of Statistics survey of November 1976 which was supposed to show that 147 600 people who left employment in 1976 did so voluntarily. This figure and the numbers concerned were given great prominence in the Press- large headlines in fact. But then a Department of Employment and Industrial Relations spokesman, Mr Peter Kirby, a First Assistant Secretary, a very senior man, let the cat out of the bag. He threw real light on the subject. He said:
The information is quite incorrect. It is based on a misreading of freely available statistics. The survey conducted last year shows that 38. 1 per cent of those interviewed who had left or lost their jobs had resigned voluntarily. There is no basis for the assumption that these people were registered unemployed or receiving unemployment benefits.
He gave the lie to the Minister’s statement. He also said that such survey figures were suspect because many people who lost their jobs preferred saying that they left voluntarily to admitting that they were sacked. Probably the most pertinent point about these figures is that they were based on a very small sample survey from a small number of people who were interviewed and to translate that over to the whole field of the unemployment figure is quite misleading and deliberately dishonest. There are many reasons why people who leave a job may appear to do so voluntarily. People quite frequently are under pressure from their employers who want to pressure them to leave. Quite a few people come into my office, and I know other honourable members see them too, who say that their employers have made life unbearable for them, have abused them or have asked them to do all sorts of things that they are not qualified to do or are not supposed to do in their jobs. Undoubtedly a lot of pressure is put on people who for various reasons an employer may want to get rid of. Eventually the employees cannot stand the pressure and they leave the job supposedly voluntarily. There are the sorts of cases that these figures are built on.
As could be anticipated, Mr Kirby ‘s statement, which gave the he completely to the Minister’s statement and to the headlines in the Press, was buried at the bottom of an article where only those who were reading every word of the article would have seen it. No headlines of course for
Mr Kirby ‘s statement. This is the sort of thing we have come to expect from the Press, which orchestrates its publicity to fit in with a deliberate policy of the Government to take attention away from the unemployment problems and to mislead the Australian people by deliberately using dishonest methods to undermine official statistics.
I want to say a few words about the rural sector and the beef industry in particular because of the emphasis in the Queen’s Speech of the need to sustain and support the private sector as it is always referred to and to increase those areas of productivity where there is some scope for increase. The beef industry is a complete disaster area. An industry spokesman said recently that low cattle prices throughout 1976-77 coupled with a substantial increase in farm costs will result in beef dominant producers in the high rainfall zone receiving average net incomes of $3650 per annum or the equivalent of $70 a week. This is the private sector which Ls supposed to be supported by this staunch supporter of private enterprise, the existing Government. This is forcing producers to continue to offer cattle for sale that are either unfinished or could be retained until the market improved.
It is very interesting to look at the profit figures of meat exporters. I have tried to keep the House up to date with the very strong rising profit trend in every meat exporting company. It was interesting to read in the paper a couple of days ago that Anderson Meat Industries, one of the biggest meat exporters, recently announced a 39 per cent increase in profits. That was very good, but in the year concluded at the end of December 1975 it had a 102 per cent increase in profit. On top of that it now has a 39 per cent increase in profit. It would be all very well if the producers were sharing in this prosperity the meat exporters are experiencing, but, of course, they are not. The meat exporters are making their profit at the expense of the producers, and this Government is doing nothing about it. This Government is supposedly committed to sustaining the rural sector.
Of course the beef industry leaders are up in arms because the Government is doing precisely nothing except offering gratuitous advice such as the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) gave to the beef producers last week. It is all so interesting to see a meat export company at Townsville manipulating the market by stopping its buying from the producers at certain stages and killing its own cattle, at the same time killing the demand in the market. There is a very limited time for people to market their stock. The meat company is manipulating and deliberately depressing the market. This is just another concrete example of the way meat exporters are exploiting producers and the way the Government is doing nothing about it.
The Australian National Cattlemen’s Council has called for a national inquiry into the marketing and distribution of beef in Australia and overseas. There is a crying need for this inquiry and the Government has been completely silent about it. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will not be drawn about it. Obviously he is in a bind. He does not want to upset his friends in the meat exporting industry. He is not pre-
Eared to do something for the producers whom e is supposed to represent. There has been an inordinate delay in restructuring the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation. There has been a delay in establishing a national rural bank which was promised by this Government. There is a standoff or an inability to do anything about the way beef is marketed in Australia which allows exporters to exploit the producers continually.
The Deputy Prime Minister has suggested to producers that they withhold stocks from sale to increase prices. I suggest that primary producers do not need him to tell them when to sell thenstock or when to withhold it. Most of these people have been in the game for a long long time. They know the restrictions under which they operate. They know the pressures under which they are from their financial institutions. They do not need that rather stupid advice from Mr Anthony to withhold their stock to force up market prices. A lot of them, of course, cannot alford to withhold stock. Many of them have a bank breathing down their necks to meet their interest payments. They need a cash flow and there are very few avenues of credit available to them. I suggest that in order to follow up the Minister’s suggestion the Government should agree to assist beef producers to meet interest charges which will mount up while they are withholding their stock. The attitude that the industry has to Mr Anthony’s suggestion is summed up by Mr Rod Black, the President of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation:
The withholding of finished stock will not assist beef producers to meet their already crippling financial commitments. Indeed it will only increase the problem.
Of course, it will increase the problem if it delays the time when large numbers of stock have to be put onto the market and upsets the normal ebb and flow of the market.
To come nearer to home, I just want to refer to another disaster area in my electorate which has emerged as a result of Government policy. This is, of course, in the building industry in the Australian Capital Territory. In this area some very interesting and rather frightening statistics have emerged in the last few days. The number of people working in the industry fell 22 per cent last year. To bring these statistics further up to date, in the last 2 months building permits taken out in the Australian Capital Territory have dropped by 50 per cent. It is good to see that my colleague the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslam)-the independent member as some of us are calling him; he is a member of the Liberal Party but quite often I think he would much rather be an independent member and he might feel more secure if he were- has to his credit brought out the facts concerning the building industry in Canberra and described its deplorable condition. While building permits have dropped 50 per cent in January and February total unemployment in the Australian Capital Territory has increased by 235 per cent in the last 12 months. It has been the most rapid increase in unemployment in the whole of Australia and this is in a place which traditionally is free from unemployment problems.
One of the greatest deterrents, of course, to the building industry in Canberra is the cutting back on Government spending particularly by the National Capital Development Commission. Most of the projects which it is now completing were initiated by the Labor Government. Very few new projects have been undertaken despite all sorts of promises by the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) that some great projects are just about to materialise; they are just about to come to fruition; they are just around the corner. They are still around the corner. I have not seen any major projects that have been initiated and brought forward by the present Minister for the Capital Territory. The other deterrent is the extremely high interest rates in the Australian Capital Territory on housing loans which prevent people who want to build houses from embarking on a construction program because they just cannot meet the extremely heavy commitments that are brought about by high interest rates. This is not helped by the increase in the statutory reserve deposits which the banks are called upon to meet from time to time. Every time they are increased this puts further pressure on the industry because it deprives the industry of some funds which are badly needed.
I have tried to help the Minister for the Capital Territory. I have some sympathy for his situation but I find him very difficult to help. I suggested recently that it would be very easy to increase the pine planting program in Canberra by 50 per cent. There are ample seedlings available. The land has already been prepared. It is ready for planting. All that was wanted was money to employ a few more people. The Department did not want any more resources. It would not have had any influence on inflation. The equipment was there. The plants were there and the land was there. All that was wanted was the manpower. I suggested that another thirty people could be employed for a whole year or fifty or sixty people could be employed for half a year. This would have increased the program by 50 per cent. I do not know what is wrong with this proposition. The people are available. It would create a long term resource that this country undoubtedly needs. The land is ready. Everything is ready to go ahead, but so far I have had no response. I am quite pessimistic about it because I think once again the Minister has failed to convince the Government that it should in fact try to get a few people off the unemployment list. Here was an opportunity to get thirty or sixty families off unemployment and back into productive work but the answer apparently is no. I hope it is not no, but I put it to the Minister several weeks ago and I have not heard a word about it so I am beginning to fear the worst.
In other areas there has been gross waste. The Department of Construction has embarked upon a policy of not employing a day labour force despite the fact that it has hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of heavy machinery for day labour jobs just sitting there- graders, bulldozers and these sorts of things. The Government has insisted that the work be let out to private enterprise. The Government finishes up paying a good deal more for the job because the private enterprise developer has to use his equipment and the Government is paying for that while its equipment is left to go rusty just because it has this crazy policy of cutting down on the day labour force.
All the problems in Canberra have been deliberately induced by this Government. The staff ceilings set for the Public Service have contributed to a great deal of hardship. It has caused a drop in morale in the Public Service in Canberra. It will be very interesting to see the response of Canberra people in a few months time when the election for the local Legislative Assembly will be held. That will be the first opportunity that the people of Canberra will have to say what they think of the performance of this Government. I am quite confident that they will give a resounding vote to the Labor candidates and show the Government just what they think of its policies for Canberra- policies of deliberately inducing unemployment and hardship in an area in which there is no justification whatsoever.
– It is with a great deal of pleasure that I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply moved by my colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and seconded by another colleague the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie). As has been said, it is appropriate that this motion should be moved at this time when Her Majesty is in Australia and it is also appropriate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) should move in this House today a motion in regard to Commonwealth Day which was supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and by the Deputy Leader of my own Party, the National Country Party. This is something that we should think about. It is important in these days that we should be reminded of what this motion and some of the traditions of our country and of this House really mean. A number of honourable members have spoken today. Although they did not perhaps quite ridicule some of the traditions of this House they have suggested they were not important.
– Pretty close, though.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Wimmera said, they went pretty close to doing so. For example, I can recall the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) talking about Black Rod knocking on the door, the message being passed on, the Speaker saying ‘Let him enter’ and Black Rod announcing the message that the members of the House of Representatives are requested to attend the Senate in the presence of the Queen for the opening of the Parliament. I wonder whether there is a full appreciation of what this really means. This sort of tradition is a protection of the rights of this House of Representatives. It is a protection for every member of the House of Representatives. These things, are not, in my opinion, to be thought of lightly. In the early days the Crown was not allowed to enter the House of Commons. One of the reasons for that practice was that there should be no intimidation of members of the Commons by the Crown. They should have the freedom and the capacity to pass legislation or to refuse certain finance that the Monarch wanted. This prevented, in those days, members being intimidated in any way or being forced to pass legislation.
We maintain the old tradition of the Speaker being escorted reluctantly to the Chair. The reason for that reluctance- it might be rather opportune in the case of the present occupant to mention this matter in the course of the Royal visit- was that the Monarch might order Mr Speaker’s head to be chopped off. If the Speaker took a message back to the Monarch which was not approved of there was a danger that he would suffer ‘certain disabilities’. For one thing he would not need to shave again. Today, with all the benefits and privileges associated with the Speakership, the reluctance is not quite as real as it was in those early days. What I am trying to impress upon honourable members is that these traditions indicate the independence and freedom of members of the House of Representatives or, in the situation to which I referred, members of the House of Commons. These traditions are important. We should remind ourselves of them because each embodies a basic principle.
I am amazed by some of the groups today that keep talking about independence. They say that we should stress it and that we should assert it. Yet those who are standing up and asserting it so strongly are in some instances saying that Her Majesty should have intervened in the situation in which the Governor-General was involved some little while ago. Literally what the Australian Parliament was told then was: ‘You are an independent group. It is your responsibility. Your Governor-General is independent. There is no authority for the Crown to interfere in the matter’. Yet those same people who talk about independence and who want it so much are the people who literally ask: ‘Why did the Crown not intervene?’ As I said, I think it is vital that we should think about these aspects.
I referred to the statement by the Prime Minister about Commonwealth Day. We should remind ourselves that Her Majesty is the Queen of Australia. She is the Head of the Commonwealth of which Australia is a part. As was said by all the speakers earlier this afternoon, this is an important factor in our world situation at the moment. I have had the privilege of attending one or two Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conferences. I think that, with all the weaknesses and with all the handicaps that there may be with our Association, it would be a tragedy not only for the Commonwealth but also for the world if that organisation were weakened.
I referred to some people who are saying that we should be a republic. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) made an interesting and valuable comment when he said that this was irrelevant. I do not quite agree with some of the things he said but I think that the point he made about republicanism was valid. I had a look at some of those people who were outside when the Queen was reviewing the march past. As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, for certain reasons I was not able to be present but I watched the events on television. I must admit that the people displaying banners were a scruffy looking mob.
– There were very few banners really.
-I think that really it would have been an advantage if they had held the banners in front of themselves so that they would not have been seen on the screen.
– They should have been sprayed with DDT.
– They were a vocal minority.
– As my colleagues have said, they were a vocal minority and they should have been sprayed with DDT. That might have been effective. I think that the only thing one can say about those associated with this republican movement is that they are mental midgets and pseudo academics. One gentleman has never really been very successful, not even when he wrote for a particular magazine. I think that he is trying to show that he has some contribution to make. He is puffing himself up with his own importance. I do not think that he is being very successful. I remind these people that the real value of the monarchy in our system is that it is divorced from the political scene. I remember that at a very important function I attended- a dinner in New York given for Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh- a very prominent American said to me: ‘You know, if we had a monarch in the United States we would not be in half the trouble that we are in today’. Some of our people need to remind themselves of that fact. It is of tremendous importance and value that the monarchy is separate from the political life of this nation. Amidst all the changes and all the problems confronting us this is one fact of which we can be very proud.
Of course, we also have a respect for Her Majesty as an individual. Her character, her wisdom and her strength of purpose have been an inspiration to our Commonwealth. I recall her late father and the inspiration that he was to the people of Britain during those dark days of the Second World War.
Let us look at the value of some of the traditions that we have in this House. Although we do not enforce it, honourable members are required to acknowledge the Chair as they enter and leave the chamber and as they cross in front of the Chair. This has nothing to do with the individual who is occupying the Chair but is a mark of respect for the authority of the Chair. If that were taken away, frankly, this place would not be manageable. I have had the privilege of serving under four magnificent Speakers of this House from Liberal-National Country Party governments and also under Mr Cope, and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who were Speakers in the previous Labor Government. I pay tribute to both of those gentlemen under whom I had the privilege of serving as a Deputy Chairman. They contributed to the stability of this House. These traditions have value and they have meaning. They show courtesy and respect.
Many people talk about independence. They allow some ratbags to come here from overseas and run their unions. There is not much Australian independence shown in that respect. Men like Carmichael and Halfpenny have no thought for the individual. They are concerned only with their own power. There is not a great deal of independence shown by some of the members of the unions with which those 2 gentlemen are associated. If we maintained and thought a little more about courtesy and consideration, perhaps we might not be in some of the economic troubles that we are in at the present time. I believe that one of the reasons we are facing economic difficulties is that there has been too much thought in this country of ‘What is in it for me?’ instead of thinking of the contribution that I can make for the progress, development and advancement of the country of which it is my privilege to be a citizen. I think we need to get back towards that attitude.
– Tell it to Bob Hawke and a few of his mates.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Darling Downs said, I frankly think that if they started to think of these things, we might be able to make more progress in the industrial situation in Australia. I do not say that the fault is all on one side. Unfortunately some leaders of our industry do not play their part either in the community or in contributing towards peace in industry. I have said that on more than one occasion in this House. On this particular occasion when we are occupied with the Address-in-Reply debate, these are some of the things that we should think about because they are important in our national life. Having said that, I make 2 comments. This morning we had a debate on a matter of public importance initiated by the Opposition alleging the Government’s incompetent handling of the Lebanese refugee problem. I do not want to make any comment on that matter nor to revive the debate that was held this morning. I appreciate the Government’s problem concerning these countries and the entry of these people into Australia, but I want to comment that I am surprised and disappointed at the attitude of the Government towards the past President of Lebanon, Mr Chamoun, in that it has been suggested that he delay his visit to this country because of particular reasons. When he was President, Mr Chamoun worked for peace in Lebanon and in the surrounding countries. His effort always was directed towards the establishment of peace in that area. I am extremely fortunate in the number of distinguished Lebanese that are in my electorate and in the contribution that they have made to community life in that area. Frankly, I see no reason why Mr Chamoun should not be allowed to visit this country. I believe that he would make a contribution to the association of Lebanon and Australia. I suggest that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and his Department might have a further look at this matter and that the former President of Lebanon be allowed to visit Australia.
I wish to comment briefly on the economic situation. I still believe that it would be an advantage to look at the situation relating to taxation at the present moment and not to wait for a further period. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) made a suggestion yesterday which I think has certain value but, of course, like all schemes and ideas it has drawbacks. If one looks at the total economic position, anything that is done by the Arbitration Commission to hold the adjustment of the cost of living and of wages must make a contribution to holding inflation. If agreement can be reached so that the increase is held because of the adjustment in taxation, I believe this would be an advantage to all sections of the community and to Australia. I support the motion in relation to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen with a great deal of pleasure. I have pointed out previously to the House that I was the first member of the House of Representatives to take the oath of allegiance to the Queen at the commencement of her reign. I think that we need to remind ourselves of the privileges, the benefits, the opportunities and also the responsibilities that we have as citizens of this country at this time in our history.
-The Speech delivered by the Queen on behalf of the Fraser Government was such an empty and contemptuous document- contemptuous of the Parliament, contemptuous of the people- that it is easy to overlook its essential dishonesty. It is in fact the latest in a series of dishonest and dishonoured statements about the Government’s policies. Four times in 16 months we have had solemn assurances about the Government’s economic policies and legislative program. They have all proved worthless. In all of them- in the election policy speech, in the Governor-General’s Speech a year ago, in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) 7 months ago and now in the Speech given to the Queen- we have had the same empty phrases, the same litany of specious promises and the same Liberal mixture of sloth, complacency and deceit. The Queen’s Speech, regrettably, is no exception. It is doubtful now if even the Government believes its own stale propaganda, its own lies and half truths. Each time there have been promises of economic recovery followed by ever-worsening results. Each time there have been promises to farmers, investors, wage earners, consumers and the disadvantaged followed by dithering, dodging and delay. Each time grandiloquent appeals to free enterprise, initiative and self-reliance have been followed by attacks on wage earners and further handouts to the strong and the wealthy. The only thing missing from these torrents of promises and platitudes is the slightest acknowledgment of responsibility or regret for the damage done to the Australian economy and the Australian people, the destruction of great and creative programs, the continuing stagnation and decline and the falling living standards and diminishing opportunities which this Government is inflicting on the Australian people.
Where is there any word or admission that under the Fraser Government Australia has the worst employment since the Great Depression and the highest inflation since the record set by the Menzies Government in 1951? Where is there any word or acknowledgment that our problems are getting worse, that Australia is sliding into deeper recession while the rest of the world recovers? Where in this speech or in any other does the Government have the courage or decency to admit that its policies have failed; that on every important economic indicator the Government has been proved wrong; that hundreds of thousands of Australians are suffering because of this Government’s gross incompetence and reactionary policies? When is the Government going to give us one simple, honest, credible statement about the economy? In 16 months its members have wriggled and Led, they have twisted and distorted every figure, and they have broken every promise to the people and to the Parliament. This is the Government of the big lie. Tell a lie often enough and big enough and they believe it themselves. In their policy speech they said:
We have a comprehensive strategy to restore prosperity . . . Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who want to won.
Today we have the highest unemployment since the Great Depression- 30 000 higher than a year ago- and inflation is the worst since its record levels in the 1950s. In the Governor-General’s Speech they said:
My Government’s immediate objective is to bring inflation under control so there again will be jobs for all who want to work.
In their Budget speech they said:
Inflation- and therefore unemployment . . . will be steadily reduced by the budgetary policies to which this government is adhering.
Now in the Queen ‘s Speech they tell us:
My Government gives first priority to restoring the economy and will use all the resources at it disposal to achieve this goal.
The people are still waiting. They are waiting for action, for honesty, for sincerity, above all for results. All they have had is waffle, false hopes, broken promises, bewildering switches of direction as the Government lurches from one failed measure to the next. First an investment-led recovery, then a consumer-led recovery, then an export-led recovery. One minute a staunch commitment to maintaining the dollar; then the highest devaluation for 40 years. One minute a commitment to reducing interest rates; then interest rates rise further. One minute a pledge to reduce the deficit; now a deficit that in the first 8 months of the financial year is already $ 1,000m greater than for the corresponding period a year ago. One minute a 17 1/2 per cent devaluation; then eight subsequent revaluations before Christmas. One minute an announcement of spending cuts; then no announcement of what cuts are being made. One minute an appeal for stringency and attacks on essential community services; then a series of massive handouts to private companies and foreign and multinational interests.
This is the achievement of the born economic managers, the natural rulers, the responsible economists of the Liberal Party! No one believes a word they say. They cannot be trusted on anything. Their statements not only defy logic but also ignore the facts. The latest figures snowed the rise in the consumer price index during 1976 was 13.7 per cent- higher than the increase in 1975. What does the Treasurer say? He says inflation is declining. He says the CPI does not matter anyway. After all, it only records the prices of goods and services that every household m the country has to buy. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations reveals that unemployment in January and again in February is the highest since the depression. What does the Minister say? He says unemployment is stable. Some stability! He says that if we ignore the largest State in Australia the figures will look a little better. Forget about New South Wales and everything in the garden is rosy. What does the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) say? He says unemployment is a myth. That is his contribution to sanity and humanity in tackling our economic problemsunemployment is a myth. Ignore it and it will go away. What does the Treasurer say? He says that the record unemployment figures do not matter. After all- I quote his very words unemployment data are never among the leading indicators of economic recovery. ‘ Tell that to the unemployed and their families.
So now we find the CPI figures are not relevant and the unemployment figures are not relevant. Inflation continues to rise and the Treasurer tells us it is falling. Unemployment is at record levels and the Minister says it is stable. Every new setback in the unemployment figures or the inflation figures is a ‘bhp’. School leavers are a blip. Medibank is a blip in the CPI.
-Corporal. The next 2 quarters will produce a devaluation blip. Soon we will have a commodities bhp. All these lies, all this doubletalk and deception have destroyed confidence in the Government and are destroying confidence in the economy. How many thousands of school leavers must be trimmed from the figures before they are ‘relevant’? We know the Government has resorted to stringent, underhand methods to get the figures down to ‘rockbottom’. We know the instruction that went out to every employment office manager in New South Wales: Intervene personally and get the figures down! The only mythical figures are the ones produced by the Minister. They understate the real level of unemployment and everybody knows it! ‘Stability’ Street, ‘Mythology’ Robinson, ‘Rock-bottom’ Lynch- they all know the figures are phony.
The Government’s fury and desperation with the economy are vented on the unemployed themselves- the victims of its policies. They are the ones who must suffer for the Government’s blunders. Every day brings some new tactic of harassment or humiliation. A whole vocabulary of Liberal invective and prejudice is used to brand and stigmatise the unemployed- dolebludgers, drop-outs, idlers on Gold Coast holidays. We have heard it all. Now there is talk of identity cards for these new pariahs in the Liberal lotus land. There are new work tests. Aborigines in Queensland are to be struck off the lists of unemployed unless they move from their missions and tribal settlements. The Prime Minister on Friday came up with a brand new idea for wiping 80 000 unemployed people off the lists in one swoop. He was proud of it. It was one of his great brainwaves, a masterstroke! There are to be no benefits for anyone who cannot find a job unless he is actually sacked by his previous employer. In other words, the man who moves to a new city or town, the family that voluntarily travels interstate, the breadwinner who returns to work after disability or illness, the employee who resigns because of poor wages or conditions or to seek new opportunities, the person who quits work to care for children or a relative- no such person, whatever his or her needs, would receive any help from the community if he could not get work. That is the sort of callous, halfbaked thinking we have come to expect from the Prime Minister. What right has this pampered patrician, cocooned in wealth and privilege, drawing his fat superphosphate bounty at the taxpayers’ expense, to lecture to the unemployed that life is not meant to be easy?
People are sick of the Government’s attempts to blame Labor for the mess it is making of the economy and the nation. We have had one Liberal budget, one mini-budget, and the biggest devaluation for 40 years. With that devaluation, whatever its effects may be, the Liberals assumed total responsibility for the state of the economy. They ruled off the book. They will stand or fall on the results of their own actions and decisions. There can be no blaming Labor now. The lies and evasions will not work any longer. The Treasurer on 17 February quoted from a long document prepared by the Treasury called What’s Wrong with the Opposition’s Economic Policy’. It was a false, tedious, tortuous attempt to blame Labor for the deepening Liberal recession. The Treasurer ought to spend his time more usefully. It is time he stopped looking for scapegoats and getting Treasury officers to do his political work. The Prime Minister prates and moralises about politicising the Public Service while the Treasurer gets his Department to spend dozens of man-hours drumming up blatant government propaganda. The same hypocrisy and double standards are apparent in everything. The louder and more righteous the Government’s fulminations the more blatant its deceit. The Prime Minister brought in a Bill last year which politicises the Public Service from the very top by making the chairman of the Public Service Board a key political figure. The Prime Minister used to rant about jobs for the boys; his Government has already appointed four exLiberal or National Country Party members to be judges or ambassadors or public officials. We know the Treasurer met his friend Mr Gyngell in Sydney and fixed his appointment to the Broadcasting Tribunal. The Prime Minister used to moralise about overseas trips; in just over a year he has visited 9 countries himself and usually with disastrous results for Australia’s reputation.
On the economy, the Government has steadily painted itself into a corner. It has closed off every rational and decent option and is left now with no course but to attack wages, demolish government programs, reduce living standards and cut back on essential community services. It poured scorn on overseas borrowing attempts by a Labor Government but unblushingly borrowed almost $US 1,000 million from overseas itself. Had it taken the Treasury advice and borrowed further- the proper, rational and accepted course- it would have avoided its catastrophic devaluation. Not only did the Government borrow when it criticised us for attempting to do so; not only did it refuse to borrow when it should have done; but when it did borrow from overseas it did so at needless cost and with needless payouts in commission. In March last year the Government elected to make a public issue on the Swiss franc market. It paid commission of 3.75 per cent to the cartel of 3 big Swiss banks and ignored the lower commissions payable for a private placement. In fact, the Government paid a commission of some two-thirds of $lm more than necessary. Faced with a rising deficit the Government has resorted to secret, drastic cuts in expenditure which it has not the courage to specify publicly. Yet while it demands evergrowing sacrifices from the people it cheerfully forgoes hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through handouts and incentives to mining companies, businesses and multinationals. In Perth on 2 February the Prime Minister gave details of the lost revenues estimates for next financial year. The 40 per cent investment allowance is estimated to cost no less than $550m. Incentives for the mining industry will cost $40m, easing of distribution requirements for private companies, $25m; new arrangements for Commonwealth estate duty, $10m; the new system of income equalisation deposits, $4m; trading stock valuations and investments, $400m. No wonder the Government is desperately looking for more cuts in public expenditure to pay for its largesse to wealthy friends.
This Government must never be allowed to get away with its record of falsehood and broken promises, its slippery and devious dealings. It promised to restore the economy after the international recession; it has made the economy worse. It promised to reduce inflation; inflation is worse and getting worse as a result of the Government’s decisions. It promised to preserve Medibank; it destroyed the very basis of Medibank. It promised to support wage indexation; it has undertaken a systematic attack on real wages. It promised to retain tax deductions for home buyers; it is curtailing those deduction and depriving half a million home buyers of tax deductions worth $40m a year. It promised to maintain federal funds for Aborigines; it has cut them. It promised last June that it would not oppose the flow-on of Medibank charges to the national wage; it now opposes a flow-on. It promised to abolish the means test; it has done nothing. Nothing has been done about the special child care rebate promised in the policy speech for single parent families or families where one parent is an invalid. Nothing has been done to establish a rural bank. The policy speech promised ‘a bare level of security below which no one can involuntarily fall’; nothing has been done. The policy speech promised: *We will be generous to those who cannot get a job’. Instead the junior unemployment rate has been frozen at $36 and school leavers are being kept waiting up to 3 months for unemployment benefits. Nothing has been heard of the promised legislation on sex or race discrimination. Nothing has been heard of the promises in the Governor-General’s speech a year ago of legislation on pollution control and an effective appeals system to protect applicants for unemployment benefits from official abuses.
The Government is doing nothing about uniform company law or the urgent need for the legislation to restore public confidence in the securities industry. Yet Senate committees have investigated the need for this legislation for the last 7 years. How many more company crashes and scandals are needed before this Government exerts itself? How many more examples of Mineral Securities Australia Ltd, Parkes Developments Pty Ltd, Gollin Holdings Ltd, Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd, or Patrick Partners? How many hundreds of millions of dollars of the public’s money must be wasted or embezzled before the Government does something to protect investors and shareholders? The report of Mr Masterman, Q.C., tabled in the New South Wales Parliament, shows that Patrick Partners’ accountants were aware of a discrepancy in the company’s liquid capital position nearly a year before the firm collapsed. Nothing was done to correct the situation. Nothing was reported to the stock exchange. Neither the stock exchange nor the Corporate Affairs Commission- let alone any process of self-regulation- could avert the disaster. All were inadequate as monitors or scrutineers of the firm’s operations. The case provides unanswerable proof of the need for a Federal regulatory body with adequate powers- in other words, for a national initiative, an initiative by the Federal Government. The Fraser Government not only ignores the problem but also covers up the activities of a Government member who was a partner in the firm. Is the Prime Minister prepared to condone the conduct of his colleague from Macarthur? How long will he turn a blind eye to the criticism of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) by the official government investigator? On 18 March last year the honourable member for Macarthur stated in a personal explanation:
Mr Masterman ‘s report drew no such fine and comforting distinctions. The report was perfectly blunt about the involvement of the honourable member for Macarthur in the activities of the firm. It stated:
On the evidence before me I am satisfied that Mr Baume continued to be a Partner of Patrick Partners subsequent to February 1 97 $ and indeed continued to be a Partner up to the date the Partnership closed its doors. As he explained in evidence he was constrained by debts which he owed the Partnership to continue in law to remain a member of the Partnership even though his intention was not to return to it. In my view his signature on the various documents connected with the renewal of his Dealer’s Licence in June 1975 constitute clear admission that he remained a Partner. Further support for the conclusion I have reached can also be drawn from his involvement in the discussions which took place on Sunday 27 July 1975.
– Who said that?
- Mr Masterman, Q.C., in a report on Patrick Partners commissioned by the former Liberal Government of New South Wales. (Extension of time granted.)
When Patrick Partners sought a practising commission in June 1975, when the firm’s financial position was already grave and known to be grave, the honourable member for Macarthur signed the documents for renewal of his dealer’s licence. The firm was broke; he signed the documents. The Prime Minister may shield his colleague but the public is waiting for protection. People must know when it is safe to invest, or confidence in the system breaks down. Senator Rae, a Liberal member of this Parliament and the former Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, wrote last Thursday:
Well may we ask: ‘How much longer before we see some action?’ . . . The achievement of the basic recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, namely, the establishment of an Australian securities commission, appears no closer. The market flounders on. Many are the reasons for its problems but not the least is the failure of governments to ensure that its credibility is restored by acceptable action to provide a system in which people may have faith. It is yet another aspect of the national credibility crisis. Is it any wonder the whole community lacks confidence when so many areas defy any sanguine expectation?
The Government must ensure that the people in a privileged position to marshal the Australian capital market are honest and efficient. It is every bit as important to prevent abuses and waste in this area as it is in the public sector. Yet what do we find? The Prime Minister covers up for a colleague who misleads the investing public. The only stockbroker in the Parliament cannot be trusted.
If the Government wants to smear the Labor Party and prate about virtue and propriety, let it look to its own connections. Let it remember the dealings of the Treasurer, the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) with Mr Licardy, a solicitor struck off the roll for repeated disgraceful and dishonourable conduct during the very time that they and their staff were dealing with him, and banned from even being employed in any solicitor’s office. Let it remember the activities of the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland), who was found to have a prima facie case to answer on a charge of electoral bribery. Let the Prime Minister disown the activities of the honourable member for Macarthur as he disowned those of his former ministerial colleague. Let him remember the meetings between the Attorney-General and the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr Wiley
Fancher- a representative, indeed the emissary, of the Queensland Premier; a man whom the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister recommended as a likely source of information for Liberal Party purposes; a man who has since been declared a bankrupt. It comes down to this: The Treasurer, the Attorney-General and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in this Government are associated with a solicitor who is struck off, a financier who defaults, and a grazier who goes bankrupt.
And what of the Prime Minister’s own connections? A report by Mr John Spender, Q.C., to the New South Wales Parliament was made public on Tuesday. It revealed that 2 directors of Gollin Holdings Ltd channelled $647,000 of company funds into their own hands. One of the gentlemen named is Mr Keith Gale, the former managing director of the firm. It is the same Mr Gale who provided the Prime Minister with a full-time adviser on industrial relations when the Prime Minister was the Opposition spokesman on industrial matters. This was a service provided free of charge- at no cost to the Prime Minister, presumably at the cost of Mr Gale or his company. Gollin and Co. have since gone to the wall, just as this Government and this Prime Minister are going to the wall. Mr Spender is preparing a further report for the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission on the grave breaches by Mr Gale of his duties to the Gollin companies. This is the man to whom the Prime Minister is personally and politically indebted. After the gale we need a wind of change.
The dubious connections of the Government are not confined to its operatives and hatchetmen outside the Liberal Party. Let us remember Mr Vincent Teresa, the American mafioso, whom the Commonwealth Police met on his arrival at Sydney airport and escorted through customs there. His visit was sponsored by Mr McCrudden, a solicitor who was a Liberal candidate at the New South Wales elections last May. There are some very strange Sydney solicitors who are prepared to do the Liberal Party’s dirty work. Some years ago another stooge launched a private prosecution against a liberal member of Parliament: He was later struck off the rolls.
According to revelations in 2 Sydney newspapers m the past week, there is within the Liberal Party a dangerous group of fanatics taking control of the Party organisation in New South Wales. The Australian, no friend of the Labor Party, reported last Saturday:
They are well organised and know what they are doing. Like the communists, their organising ability gives them a power out of all proportion to their numbers.
The extent of their power was demonstrated at a meeting of the Liberal Party State Council in Sydney last month, where, according to the Australian, the group effectively controlled the meeting and ‘delivered a stinging vote of no confidence in the State executive and the most senior officials of the Party’. Who is behind this group which has achieved such power in the ruling councils of the Liberal Government? According to the Australian, ‘there are hints of Arab money, of an influence from Queensland, of links with Eric Butler’s League of Rights and a sinister connection with a strange organisation called the Sinless Perfection’. These are the faceless men of the Liberal Party.
In plain terms we have a dishonest and discredited Government, a Government of lies and broken promises, a Government that is driving Australia into deeper recession and decline, a Government that is wilfully neglecting the urgent needs of the Australian people, a Government renouncing all responsibility for national welfare and national progress. Medibank remains the supreme example of the Government’s true nature- broken promises, incompetent management, an abdication of responsibility, all disguised by specious propaganda. The Prime Minister is constantly telling us that the dismantling of Medibank enables everyone to know the real cost of health care and health insurance. Of course people should know the real costs of health care, but there are two things that really matter First, to discover the minimum inescapable costs of such care and of insuring against them and, secondly, to devise the fairest way of paying those costs once they are determined.
If the costs of any essential community service are high, a Government’s obligation is to see that they are reduced to a minimum and that everyone shares in paying them. The Government’s obligation is to the people, the consumers, the patients- not to the insurance companies or the doctors or the private health funds. If people have to contribute by law to any form of insurance or community service governments must see that the money is raised equitably and spent efficiently. That was the fundamental principle of Medibank; whether or not we pay a levy is of secondary importance. And it is this fundamental principle that the Fraser Government has destroyed- the principle of efficiency, of equity, of costs fairly shared. Everyone knows that the private funds are wasteful, extravagant and unnecessary; it is the funds, not Medibank, that are the true source of waste and duplication. The public is entitled to know the cost of private insurance, of the private bureaucracies to which this Government has handed more than half of the operations of Medibank. The Nimmo report showed about 7 years ago that 16 per of the funds’ receipts are consumed in administrative expenses. A Government that deliberately restores these overlapping, wasteful private bureaucracies is putting private interests and private greed before the needs of the people.
The Queen’s Speech- this threadbare, empty and dishonest document- is the final indictment of the Fraser Government, the last gasp of a discredited and bankrupt administration. In all of it there was not one novel, constructive or creative idea, not one initiative for the welfare of the people, not one serious proposal for economic recovery, not one example of imagination or vision or endeavour. It offered nothing. Its real meaning is this: The economy will get worse. As our economic crisis and our national crisis deepens there will be more attacks on living standards, more unemployment, more pressure on the wages of ordinary breadwinners and families. Every government program for the people’s welfare and security, every State and federal and local initiative for better cities, health care, transport and community advancement will be starved and strangled. All that this Speech offers is the slow and steady destruction of the best and most creative policies of the Labor Federal Government and the abandonment of any care or responsibility by a Liberal Federal Government. After more than a year in office the Fraser Government has failed. The Speech from the Throne- bereft of substance and fundamentally bereft of hope- will provide its epitaph.
– It is indeed refreshing to see at last eighteen or twenty members of the Labor Party in the House at the same time to hear the speech of their beloved Leader. But they must have been terribly disappointed to have come in here today to hear such a great diatribe. (Quorum formed) I am indeed grateful to the Opposition for increasing the numbers in the House though I see that Labor members are all disappearing again. I was about to tell them what I thought of the speech just finished by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) which sounded to me very much like his re-election speech. I have no doubt that many members of the Labor Party would have been disappointed in what he had to say because whereas as usual he did have a chance to speak about the economy and to bring up some constructive criticism of the Government, he got caught up in his read speech in a great amount of sublimated guilt. The slander that kept corning out of his mouth was absolutely shameful at this time when we are looking to get this country into some form of recovery. I will admit that it was a well read speech. Obviously the Leader of the Opposition is going to the speed reading classes being conducted at the moment because he did speed up so beautifully later on. I suggest he would be better in a job at the Australian Broadcasting Commission than leading the Opposition which has shown so markedly not to be an Opposition. The Opposition has not at any stage in the last 12 months put reasonable and positive alternatives to the policies of the Government, and the speech by the Leader of the Opposition is no exception. I wonder what the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) will say in his policy speech. No doubt he will be speaking later in the Address-in-Reply debate.
I should add one thing before I move on to the substance of my speech, and that is that all of us on this side of the House will be very pleased if the Leader of the Opposition retains his position.
– What about Tommy Uren?
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) is smiling. The Queen’s Speech was, of necessity, one of generality. The main thrust of the Government’s economic policy is well known and basically well accepted across this country. In her speech the Queen said:
My Government is not only taking action to restore the economy, it is also making social reforms which are of fundamental importance to the freedom and well-being of the Australian people.
That presents the balance of our Government. We are taking action to restore the economy. We are making social reforms. To do both at the same time is not a simple job. The previous Labor Government showed very clearly how difficult it was to try to do both. No doubt it would have liked to have restored the economy every few months when it saw how swiftly the economy was going down hill. It did make social reforms, we will admit. It made them very rapidly. Within the context of absolutely disastrous management by the previous government, it was impossible to keep the thrust of social reforms going because unless we have a restored economy, an economy that can stand social reforms, an economy that is properly managed so that social reforms can be afforded by the people of Australia, those social reforms cannot be carried forward. Social reforms will break down if we do not have real productivity in the country to pay for them.
There is great pressure on the present Government because of its absolute commitment to the social well-being of the people of Australia. At the same time it has an obligation to restore the economy which we found in such disastrous circumstances in December 1975. The pressure to balance the Budget is creating all sorts of problems for the Government. We must remember that we have obligations. We have obligations to pensioners, and we have stuck by the pensioners. We have introduced important reforms in pensions. We have stuck by our commitments on defence. In 1975 it looked as if it would not be too long before the typical fear of the socialists about defence forces would bring about a run down of the forces which would leave us completely with our pants down. It was obvious to us that we had to find money to spend on defence. It was obvious to us that because of the run down in the real value of the dollar aged people were suffering. It was obvious to us that the child endowment system had become out of date because of the size of the payments being made and that necessary reforms had to be made.
The Budget is still running at historically very high levels. It is a great problem and a worry to the Government that we are spending more money than we are raising in taxes. It is putting tremendous pressure on the interest rate structure of this country. We, as a responsible Government, must borrow the money to cover the Budget deficit. That is what we are doing. We are not printing money, as the then Labor Government was proposing to do. We are borrowing money but in doing so we are putting pressure on interest rates. As I have said, there is great pressure to balance the budget but there are so many areas in which money needs to be spent that that is still an extremely difficult problem. Therefore, the social reforms to which we are committed are continuing at cost to inflation and to the general economy. The paradox in which we are trying to exist, that of restoring the economy at the same time as making social reforms, is a difficult paradox in which to fit.
I was reminded of the mendacity of the Opposition when I heard the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) this afternoon ridiculing the Government for the increases in the consumer price index. I often hear him urging wage rises and tax rises. He must be urging tax rises if he is talking about paying for some of the extravagant programs that the Opposition appears to advocate from time to time. He, like so many members of the Opposition, is always urging price rises. What other construction could one put on the fact that the Opposition wanted the Government to pay so much more to buy ships in Australia? What construction could one put on that idea other than that the Opposition wants price rises? It worries the Government when the Opposition keeps talking about how we are increasing the consumer price index when, in fact, it is the Opposition’s policies, if there are any, that would rapidly increase the CPI and bring about higher inflation. The Government’s position is extremely difficult.
Because we have this opportunity to speak in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Queen’s Speech, following the prorogation of Parliament, I should like to review briefly the past year on some respects and to look at the future as it applies specifically to my electorate of Eden-Monaro. Many things have been done for my electorate by this Government in the last year. I remind the Opposition that it is often repeated in my electorate by employers and employees that inflation really is the main problem and that the rise in costs under the Labor administration left an indelible scar especially in the rural sector of my electorate which is stuggling even at a time when prices are beginning to rise in some sectors of the rural industry. I shall refer to some sectors of the rural industry. I shall refer to some of the things that the Government has done for the electorate of EdenMonaro. Like so many other honourable members in this House I represent a large number of pensioners. I think it was admirable that in the face of having to make cuts in so many areas last year we were able to introduce automatic adjustments to pensions. That has never been done before. The fact that it has never been done has often been repeated by honourable members on this side of the House. The pensioners in my area have some degree of security now that political decisions will not be involved in their pension rises.
The Government also relaxed the means test for pensions and the assets test was removed. This was of great help to people especially in the coastal region of my electorate. It was a bold move. If some honourable members opposite who, I believe, remain closeted in the inner city areas would go out and see how some people have been struggling in rural areas and towns they would find that many people have been locked into assets that do not bear any income. These people have been struggling at a time when, having worked very hard throughout their lives, they deserve a pension. It was this Government that brought in that innovation. The honourable member for Blaxland ridiculed the rural sector, as he always does. I think he is some sort of a spokesman for the rural industry. He said that not one substantial thing has been done for primary industry. He ought to go into my area and talk to the wool growers. He should ask them what they thought about the previous Government’s policy towards the wool support plan. The wool growers can see that recent innovations in the Australian Wool Corporation have meant a real increase in income at a time when it was desperately needed. Let him talk to all the farmers about the price escalations that occurred between 1972 and 1975. Do not let the Leader of the Opposition tell the Australian public as he did in his read speech over the radio this afternoon that inflation is not falling. Of course inflation is coming down. It has come down by over 4 per cent in the last 12 months. That is an admirable result, it has been achieved despite all the destructive criticism that we have had whenever we have wanted to cut the size of the Public Service and cut programs that are costing the Australian taxpayer so much money.
In my electorate of Eden-Monaro there have been at least some moves towards more funding for roads. This is an important item in any large electorate. There have been 2 increases over and above allocations proposed by the previous Labor Government in respect of road grants. Only in the last few months the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) had an open fight by way of letters with the State Minister for Transport in New South Wales about how money would be allocated. (Quorum formed) Doesn’t the truth hurt. Honourable members opposite do not like what I am saying. Probably they should remember that I am always short- not in stature so much, but I am always as short and to the point as my engineering background requires.
I have been talking about some of the good things that have happened in my electorate. Nine projects for aged people have been funded in my electorate for this triennium- 9 projects out of a possible ten. I am not the only member around Australia in whose electorate a great deal of money is being spent on the aged. As I have said, these people have been neglected because of the rundown in the real value of the dollar over the Labor Party’s regime.
Many things are in the pipeline. Only a week or so ago pensioners received another increase in their rate of pension. In the rural sector the proposal to establish a meat and livestock corporation is to be cleaned up, properly we hope, within a week or so. Meat stabilisation is something of which I have been an advocate for some time. Hopefully within the next year or so after proper consultation has taken place such a scheme will be introduced into this country. The Leader of the Opposition dismissed the rural bank as something on which the Government has not acted. It is something on which the Government is acting and which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has said we should look forward to in the next Budget.
More money is to go into rural local roads in my electorate in the next year. There will be a great increase of the order of 40 per cent. The far reaching report on the aged and infirm, on which no doubt the Government will be acting in the near future, is another indication of our concern for social reform within the context of the recovery of the economy.
At the beginning of the thirtieth Parliament I spoke during the Address-in-Reply debate about the divisiveness that has been built up in this country following the Labor Party’s time in power. I said that diversity was required in this country and not divisiveness. Divisiviness is decreasing. We have introduced legislationamendments to the Trade Practices Act- that will reduce divisiveness in terms of employers and the actions of employees. We are returning to diversity in this country. We are returning to the thrust in this country that we had been used to having over many years- the thrust that is brought about only by having the work in this country done by private enterprise, not big government.
The gross national product moved up last year as distinct from the trends in the previous 2 years. The fact that it moved up is something that so many of the newspapers forget to report. We are having smaller government and we are giving people something to spend, something to use as they see fit. We are moving away from the dullness, the stagnation and the dehumanisation that we would have in the socialistic society that a Labor government would bring about. The Leader of the Opposition’s speech was full of garbage and slander. I am pleased that I have been able to speak about Australia, about the people of my electorate and about the people of this Commonwealth. They matter to us in the Liberal and National Country Parties.
-The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) talked about the good things that had occurred in his electorate. He omitted to mention other things that have occurred in his electorate, such as the stopping of the area improvement program and the reduction in the special assistance provided to local government and councils like those in the Queanbeyan Shire and the shires on the South Coast of New South Wales. He also omitted to mention what happened to the assistance that was formerly given under the Australian Assistance Plan. How good is that now? It has ceased. The honourable member talked about how well the people of Eden-Monaro have fared under this Government and how farm income has fared under this Government. In this financial year alone there has been a drop of 30 per cent in farm income; even after devaluation the reduction is running at 8 per cent. The honourable member represents a semi-rural electorate. Farm income has decreased by 36 per cent since 1973. Farm income has fallen from $15,900 in 1973 to $5,700 in 1976. That shows how the rural sectors of this country are suffering under this Government. Farm income is at the lowest level of any year since 1973.
We all know that the Queen has a duty to mouth the words prepared for her by the government of the day. I intend no disrespect to the Monarch by describing the Speech before the House as the most deeply disturbing I have ever heard. It is a speech which should stir every Australian to a very deep anger. It is very much a statement of the personal philosophy of one man- Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. We all know that for many years the Prime Minister has given a weekly broadcast to his electorate. These talks provide the most damaging expression of Malcolm Fraser’s narrow ideology and his reactionary outlook on politics and the economy. The Queen’s address was phrased in the style of Malcolm Fraser’s sermons to his electorate. If the text was slipped into the sequence of the Wannon electorate broadcasts I doubt whether anyone could tell the difference.
– I rise to a point of order. I thought it was customary in this honourable House for an honourable member to refer to the Prime Minister as either the Prime Minister or the honourable member for Wannon and not just Malcolm Fraser in such a vulgar way.
-That is correct. I did intend to stop the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the end of the sentence.
– It is a shame to see an address by a Head of State degraded to such a level. Unfortunately we must accept it in terms of a considered statement by the Prime Minister of what he believes in and what he is trying to do with this country. The insights it gives us are truly alarming.
-Order! The interjections that are coming from the Government side of the chamber are not helping the situation in any way.
– The statement is imprinted with the Prime Minister’s philosophy- a philosophy which we reject as regressive and reactionary and which we will fight to the last. The essence of the speech is the Prime Minister’s obsession with giving an open cheque to the private sector. This should be qualified because the Prime Minister and his Government are not dedicated to the interests of the whole of the private sector. In particular they reject the crisis of manufacturing, the sector which employs a large part of the Australian work force. They want to protect only a small element of the private sector- the speculators who reaped more than $1 billion from the devaluation of the Australian dollar and the multinational miners. That is what the Government means by the productive private sector. It does not assist the manufacturers and it does not benefit the vast majority of the rural sector. Both sectors face grave problems from the Government’s favouring of the mining industry. Both will suffer because their terms of trade will worsen and because of the massive draining of capital into mining.
Turning to the broad generalisation which makes up most of the Queen’s Speech, we reject the whole philosophy which underlies it. It states quite hypocritically the Government’s commitment to increase the freedom, opportunity and equality of the Austraiian people. It goes on to express concern about enhancing people’s ability to make their own choices and live their own lives in their own way. Both propositions are absurd in the context of the massive unemployment which we now face. In simple terms, the degree of inequality in the community increases as unemployment increases. Unemployed people have no choice but bare subsistence. They have no freedom but the freedom to survive. They have no equality except with their fellow unemployed. Certainly they live their lives in their own way but they lead grim lives lacking any real opportunity or dignity. This is the true meaning of the cliches about freedom, equality and opportunity.
The Government’s blatant program of public sector bashing has increased unemployment. In the last year of the Labor Government there was a steady improvement in employment prospects. We recognised that this improvement was dependent on sustained public sector spending, in particular on keeping up the spending levels on capital works programs which provide jobs. The
Fraser Government rejects this approach. In the double talk of the Queen’s Speech, it reduced its own relative demand on national resources. In plain English, it wiped out capital spending and it wiped out jobs. It increased the damage by providing investment incentives for private companies. In effect, companies were encouraged to replace workers with machines. Mining companies that undertake large capital expenditure provide relatively few jobs. The result has been the chaos which now confronts us- a battered labour market and a constant decline in long term job creation.
In the face of bad structural problems in the economy, the Government has adopted the worst possible mix of measures. It has encouraged private firms to trim their work force and devote all of their resources to investment in new equipment. This trend might have been inevitable but it should not have been speeded up when jobs are the most vital need in this country. At the same time the Government has not used its powers to create jobs, not even temporary jobs. It has deliberately wiped out thousands of existing jobs. We now face the fact that the unemployment problems now facing Australia are not a passing phase. We are in a position of severe structural unemployment. It has been emerging over the past 10 to 15 years and now its impact has been multiplied by the world wide recession. If there should be some sort of economic recovery, and on the latest figures we see little hope of an early lift in the economy, employment will not return to former levels.
A similar pattern has occurred in all of the Western economies. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, unemployment will rise in its member countries during 1977. There will be little improvement in employment for at least 5 years. The OECD is not noted for putting forward soft options, but to its credit it has supported the use of the public sector to create jobs and to ease the misery of unemployment. This Government is prepared to use the OECD when it suits its purpose but it ignores the OECD’s advice to approach the unemployment problem with compassion.
This is the reality behind the claim in the Queen’s Speech that the Government’s economic program is designed to overcome unemployment. This is the reality behind the Prime Minister’s completely fictitious claim that 80 000 people left their jobs without another job in view. The reference to programs designed to assist young people who are out of work is just as contemptible. The little that has been done has been directed to areas which are not those which have the greatest need. The western sectors of Sydney and Melbourne have been virtually untouched by these programs. There is no doubt that the crushing burden of unemployment exists in these areas. There is Utile evidence that the Government’s programs have had an impact on job opportunities in provincial dues or country towns where unemployment is also concentrated. These programs might have been of some benefit as pilot programs in an economy where there were structural problems but the level of unemployment was generally stable. This is not the case in Australia at the moment. We need extensive employment development schemes directed and funded by the Australian Government and we need them now. The Government has shirked this responsiblity and it cannot point to the few meagre youth programs to absolve its neglect.
I turn now from unemployment to another issue raised by the Queen’s Speech- the question of industrial relations. It is a matter of supreme irony that the main industrial issue dealt with in the Speech followed a homily on individual liberties and human rights. A number of measures for the protection of fundamental freedoms were outlined such as those relating to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the freedom of information legislation. There was no reference to the fact that one of these measures was the work of a Labor government. In fact they all were the work of a Labor government. However there was no mention of that or recognition of it on the part of this Government. The Speech went on to extend these principles to the area of industrial relations and here the crunch comes. Let me quote this section in full. It states:
In the area of industrial relations, one of vital importance to the economic and social well-being of the Australian community, my Government will bring down legislation to protect the rights of individuals and the community, and establish an industrial relations bureau.
The kick comes in the final words- the Government will ‘establish an industrial relations bureau’. This Government pledges itself to the protection of individual liberties and human rights and against unwarranted instrusions. Yet it is prepared to establish a bureau which will subject a vital part of our social and economic organisation, the trade union movement, to unwarranted intrusion. It will destroy once and for all the right of the trade unions to organise their own affairs and to work fearlessly for the welfare of their union members. Let me remind the House that this Government put these words into the mouth of a monarch who is also the Queen of England, the home of the social contract. We should remind the Fraser Government that the British Labour Government, like other enlightened governments in Europe, has sought the co-operation of the trade union movement, not confrontation with it. It consulted with the British trade union movement and entered with it into a contractual agreement which has become known as the social contract. In return the trade unions acted with restraint and patience in a time of economic difficulty and the British Government made concessions which recognise the great burdens borne by those workers. There was a spirit of co-operation and conciliation in a dme of extreme economic hardship.
We face just as pressing problems here in the Australian economy yet we find no spirit of cooperation or conciliation on the part of the Fraser Government. It looks for coercion and confrontation. The Queen would not have known from the words put before her that this Government is proposing an industrial police force. She would not know that her Government is invoking social coercion and social chaos instead of building a social contract.
This Government does not want tolerance and co-operation from the Australian labour movement. It has begun a violent and carefully timed attack on the Australian work force and on the trade unions which guard its rights. This Government has been working to open the way for the unwarranted intrusion of an industrial police force into the trade unions. The Prime Minister has instructed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to resume its interference with the individual liberties and human rights of trade unions and trade unionists. These unwarranted intrusions will be multiplied a hundred-fold when the Government launches its Industrial Relations Bureau against the Australian labour movement. It would be unreal to expect a government which has broken all of its election pledges and promises to enter into a social contract. How could we ever trust this Government, the Fraser Government, which was elected by deceit and has been a government of deceit ever since? How could it ever enter into a social contract with the Australian labour movement in order to bring about some co-operation? All that this Government has sought to do while it has been in office has been to restrain the trade union movement and to transfer income from the wage packet to the private sector, and that private sector has been big business. That has consistently been the line of this Fraser Government.
A contract is based on mutual offer and acceptance by 2 parties, entered into in good faith. How could our trade union movement enter into a contract in good faith with a government such as the one that is governing Australia now- a government of deceit? Government supporters talked about indexation. They said that their Government would support full indexation. But what has happened? The Government has gone before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on this occasion, when there should be a 6 per cent increase in line with full indexation, and has said that the Commission should give only a portion of that amount of increase. So now can there be good faith with this Government? How can there be a social contract in this country? A social contract was entered into in Britain. Social contracts have been entered into in many other countries in Europe. This Government has never been able to do it. The governments in those countries sought the co-operation of the trade union movement, but this Government is seeking confrontation. This Government has shown itself to be incapable of coming to any sort of agreement.
I conclude my remarks by looking at one other disturbing aspect of the Queen’s Speech- the section which deals with the so-called ‘new federalism’. I have not time to go into any great detail, but I want to look at the broad implications of this policy. According to the Speech, steps have been taken to reverse the trends towards the concentration of power in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. Already the power of the Commonwealth has been weakened by the scrapping of a number of programs and the overall contraction of public spending, particularly in the public sector. There are very grave dangers for the Australian people in the approach the Fraser Government has adopted in devolving its economic powers. We live in an era when big business- particularly the multinational companies- exercises enormous economic powers. In many ways State and local governments lack the capacity to deal on an equal basis with big business. Big international companies force State governments into harmful competition amongst themselves. These companies can use their collective power and work through agencies of their governments in order to pick off Australian resources. Only a Federal government could have the power and the resources to counter these tactics.
It is wrong, in the international context we now face, to give power back to the States which compete with each other in giving the biggest concessions to big companies. We already have a situation in which the Queensland Government and the Western Australian Government have more interests in common with the foreign multinationals and foreign governments than with their fellow countrymen and their own Federal Government. By weakening the Federal Government and directing powers back to the States, this Government is moving into a situation in which no Australian government will be sufficiently strong to resist big business. By that I mean not only big business in this country but also the general multinationals which in fact have such a grip on the resources of this nation. This Government is eroding the central economic powers which have been built up with much difficulty over the past 75 years. No Federal Government would consider throwing away our defence strength in such a manner. Economic power is even more important in the present context. It is wrong to spread it too thinly as this Government is bent on doing.
In summary, the Queen has given us a deeply disturbing document. It is a document which gives full rein to the Fraser ideology of mindless rejection of the public sector. It is an ideology based on a naked transfer of power from the Government to the private sector. Above all, it is an ideology which strikes at the economic welfare of the Australian workers and one which we must resist. The Speech was so short and appeared so empty. But I believe that, if we study the meaning of its words, we look at treachery. The whole Fraser Government right from its beginning has been a Government of treachery. I know that eventually that will be understood by the Australian people.
– I was sitting in the chamber when the third last speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), was speaking and I thought I was experiencing a nightmare. He was predicting all the gloom in the world for the future of Australia. I think he was making his speech for a forthcoming election which he may have to contest. Perhaps he was making himself out to be something like that character who is known as the mild mannered reporter from the Daily Planet.
I want to tell the Australian people the truth about that speech and the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren), who spoke about the straw which will break the camel’s back. He predicted gloom and jealousy for the private sector and mentioned the need to build up the public sector. He does not realise that taxes from the private sector support him and the public sector. I talk to the people of Australia tonight- hopefully, some of them are listening in their cars as they are driving home from work- to tell them that the future does not hold all the gloom which has been predicted by the previous 2 speakers from the Opposition benches.
There are 2 very important sections in the Speech of Her Majesty which was made here last Tuesday afternoon. One section has already been referred to by my colleague, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury). I shall mention these 2 small sections to honourable members. Her Majesty stated:
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.
Later, in the speech, Her Majesty said:
My Government is not only taking action to restore the economy, it is also making social reforms which are of fundamental importance to the freedom and well-being of the Australian people.
This Government is concerned not only with business and the future of our economy but also with people. When we look at our record in the last 15 months and consider what has been achieved, we see that we have accomplished many things which honourable members on the Opposition benches could not achieve when in government. An example is an automatic adjustment of pensions. The Opposition had the opportunity to do this. We did it. In a few weeks’ time the 1.5 million pensioners throughout Australia will receive a rise of 8.2 per cent in their pensions. Yet the Opposition is supposed to be the Party which cares for people like pensioners and people in need. Did the Labor Party take this action? It had the opportunity. In our first 15 months in government we have given automatic increases to pensioners. We have not stopped there. I ask: What about tax indexation and our generosity in that respect? This year tax indexation will give the people of Australia $ 1,100m discount in taxes. Honourable members opposite laugh when I talk about that. While they were in power they increased taxes at a far greater rate than had ever happened in Australia before. This Government is not stopping at tax indexation. As recently announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), we are now firmly committed to look at tax reform. This is another advantage that the people of Australia will experience in the near future. I might add also that the Whitlam Government absolutely refused tax indexation. Its greed to obtain more money stopped it from making this decision. It needed the money to spend. It was not prepared to give anything back to the people of Australia.
We have achieved other things in the last IS months. The alteration in the distribution requirements of small private companies shows our sincerity towards small business. The fact that small private companies are now allowed to retain more of their profits for capital expansion has certainly alleviated some of the problems that built up during the previous 3 years before this Government came to power. I refer also to the investment allowance. The list is endless. The point is that we still have promises to fulfill which will give to the Australian people many more advantages. The Australian economy is not in the gloomy situation that it has been made out to be in by members of the Opposition.
I turn now to one other recent decision which the Government has made and which I feel will be of tremendous advantage to the Australian people. I refer to devaluation. The Opposition criticised it. I am brave enough to stand up and tell the Australian people about the advantages that they will receive from devaluation. Honourable members opposite have backed it both ways. Before we devalued they were predicting it. After we made that brave decision and devalued they were criticising us for it. The decision to devalue was made in order to give a very quick domestic advantage to the Australian local industry. In our decision to devalue we were concerned for the unemployed people of Australia. Devaluation was one of those measures that would give the greatest and the quickest boost to the domestic economy. I suggest that shortly people will see the result of devaluation. They will see the revitalisation of Australian industry. They will see more Australian goods from Australian industry produced and sold. Those industries in particular which have been experiencing great problems with imported goods over the last few years will gain relief.
I come now to the attitudes of some of the Australian people as to what they expect from the economy today. The Opposition continually says that unemployment is high, inflation is high and interest rates are high. If honourable members opposite and the Australian people look at the various components of the consumer price index they will see that we have arrested inflation. It is true that we have not brought it down to the level at which we want it to be but we have stopped it from spiralling upwards. Honourable members should look at a graph of the CPI. Let me run through some of the past performances of the CPI. Remember that when Labor came into office it was 3.6 per cent. Let us start off at December 1974 and see how this Government has arrested the growth in the CPI. The figures are as follows: 16.2 per cent; 16.7 per cent; 16.2 per cent; 16.7 per cent; 16.8 per cent; and now we have it down to 14.4 per cent. That includes the Medibank levy. There is some debate as to whether it should be included in the CPI. Without it the figure is 10.8 per cent. We do not intend to rest at 10.8 per cent, but it is rather like the tide. I do not know whether any honourable members have ever stood on a breakwater at the mouth of a river and watched the tide come in and go out. It flows in and it stops for 2 hours before it can flow out. That is exactly what we have done with the economy. We have stopped the trend and shortly we will turn the economy for the betterment of the people of Australia. I have here statistics from the Reserve Bank of Australia relating to the trend in interest rates since June 1972. we all know that interest rates came from an average level of about Vh per cent in that time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was about to make my point in regard to the movement of interest rates since this Government has been in power. When Labor came to power in 1972 we left an economy with interest rates running at about 7 1/2 per cent per annum, a rate that seems pie in the sky today. The average interest rate peaked at 11 ‘A per cent about 12 months ago and now the average interest rate charged by banks is down to about 10’A per cent. This is just another of the factors I was mentioning which indicate that we have levelled off the economy, and we must level the economy before we can achieve any decline in inflation in the way which is best for the country.
Let me come now to unemployment. The Leader of the Opposition in his smearing speech which was unfortunately aimed at the honour.able member for Macarthur (Mr Baume), spoke about unemployment. There have been some reports in the Press recently and some rumours floated by the Opposition about this Government’s attitude to unemployment. The Government sympathises with all Australians who are genuinely out of work and it is concerned that there are not enough jobs available for them. It has shown this sympathy in the last 2 days by indicating that recipients of the unemployment benefit will have passed on to them the full 8.2 per cent rise in the consumer price index. However, we are against those people who are receiving the unemployment benefit fraudulently. We are not against the person who is genuinely unemployed but there are some unscrupulous people receiving the unemployment benefit which they do not deserve, thereby robbing Australian taxpayers of their money and robbing other people in genuine need to whom these funds rightly should be going. My colleague the honourable member for Eden-Monaro mentioned in his speech that last year Australia had a real rise in gross national product, a feat that was not accomplished in the preceding 2 years. Surely this is an indication that the economy is turning rather than an indication of the dreadful gloom mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
In the short time I have left I want to talk about the present and the future, and in particular about an article in a recent report by the Australian Industries Development Association. This article went to many firms and businesses throughout Australia and asked them for their predictions. It posed the question: “Theoretically what would happen if you had a 10 per cent rise in productivity? How many more people could you employ?’ Unfortunately, the answer is only 2 per cent. That leads me to another matter. Just what are the Australian people looking for? With what are they trying to compare the economy today? Subconsciously, when people say that the economy is crook, they are really comparing it with the boom of 1973. We do not want a boom like the boom of 1973 when things were out of control. There were too many job vacancies and the only people who were unemployed were those who were not able to work. We do not want a boom of that magnitude again because there can be only a recession afterwards. We are looking for something steadier than that. We are looking for a steady increase, something which we can sustain and which will not be followed by a recession. I also want to talk about changing demands. It will be realised that over the years in Australia demands change. There are many industries today that are in decline and there are many that are booming. When one looks at them one sees the different phases through which they have passed.
I have no doubt that back in 1937 or 1938, a manufacturer of ice chests would have thought that business was crook because refrigerators were coming in. I refer to the plastics industry which has developed in post-war years and to the items which are now manufactured of plastic but which were formerly manufactured of other products. Toys used to be made of tin, small items were made of bakelite and pieces of equipment were made of rubber. They are all made of plastic today. I do not have the slightest doubt that if one asked someone in the plastics industry about his business and about the economy, he would say that they were great. But if one asked the same question of a manufacturer who made something out of bakelite or tin or rubber, he would say that the economy is crook because we all tend to judge the economy from our own little backyard, those things that affect us. But that is not the indicator. What do we expect of the economy? We do not want a boom of 1973 again. There will always be some industries that are having hard times. I refer to someone in the marine industry who manufactures fibre glass boats. That has affected people who manufactured plywood boats previously. There is a continual change in demand, and irrespective of the state of the economy there will always be some particular industries that are declining.
The gloom predicted by the Opposition is not there. Unfortunately Australia will have unemployment for some time. That is not disgraceful. It is disgraceful for those poor people who want jobs, but when Australia is compared with West Germany, America and Canada which have booming industries it is found that those countries have a greater unemployment problem than Australia, This does not mean that we do not want to get industry moving or that we do not want to get jobs for the Australian people, but it is a fact of life that unemployment is unfortunately one of the parts of the modern everyday economy. Australia is not in the doldrums. The Australian economy has a future. We have rounded the corner and stopped the spiralling inflation rates. We have stopped increasing numbers of people from becoming unemployed and we have stopped interest rates from rising. We are at the point I mentioned before about the tide. The tide has been flowing out and it has to stop for a little while before it will flow the other way. It cannot go out and come straight back in again. We have Australia in the position at which we have stopped the tide flowing. Shortly we will be able to make it flow the other way.
I started my speech by referring to 2 parts of Her Majesty’s Speech. A quotation of one of the opening paragraphs of her Speech will make a fitting conclusion to my remarks. She said:
Today the qualities of the Australian people, the character of Australian society and the resources of the Australian continent hold out a great promise and a great challenge.
Those words are very true, but unfortunately not all Australians realise how true they are. We do have a future. Australians have a future and a confidence under the guidance of the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will take up the point last made by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) who has just resumed his seat. I should like to quote again the passage from the address to the Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen which he mentioned. Her Majesty said:
Today the qualities of the Australian people, the character of Australian society and the resources of the Australian continent hold out a great promise and a great challenge.
-I agree that it is a very fine statement. But surely that is the nub of the whole statement. It is what our whole society is all about. It is what our nation is all about and it is what we should be really discussing. It is on this point that the ideologies and socialist policies of the Australian Labor Party and the lack of policy of the other political parties are at great divergence. I shall elaborate on that later on. When I first came to this Parliament the 2 chambers sat together for the opening of the Parliament on 25 November 1969. Mr Gorton was then the Prime Minister and both Houses met in the Senate chamber. They started to fire the cannons out by the lake to give a 2 1-gun salute. In the same time that it took the Governor-General, Sir Paul Hasluck, to read the address only 3 shots could be fired, leaving 18 shots yet to be heard. It took about 59 seconds to deliver that address which set out the program for the Parliament which I had joined. That gave an indication of the bankruptcy of ideas of the Gorton LiberalCountry Party Government, which was subsequently proven over the next 3 years. The people of Australia showed loud and long in 1 972 that they realised this.
Again on 8 March of this year I had to sit in the Parliament and listen to a woman, who I am sure is looked up to by all in this land and in other lands, so embarrassed that she got her words confused and spoke about this being the silver jubilee reign of her year. Hansard does not show that but I heard her clearly say that, because she was so embarrassed by the bankrupt document that she had placed before her- a document not prepared by her but prepared by the staff of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- as the manifesto of this Government for its remaining life. So destitute and bankrupt was this document that the gracious lady who sat there reading it to us was so embarrassed that she fluffed her lines.
If honourable members care to read this document through they will find that it speaks only in generalities. It does not touch on the multitude of problems that beset the people of Australia in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It does not give specific solutions of the numerous problems that we know exist in our community. The document states:
My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.
– Hear, hear!
– Hear, hear!
-Country Party supporters say: ‘Hear, hear! ‘ I would like to know what those words mean. Clearly the people who sit on my geographical left- never shall they sit on my political left- apparently do not have in their electorates children whose parents were born in Australia. They should represent an area such as that which I represent, which is the most populous electorate in Victoria and which shares with other metropolitan areas a very high percentage of children who were not born in Australia and, of course, whose parents were not born in Australia. The situation at the Dallas Primary School is very fresh in my mind. That school has an enrolment of 390 children. Of those 390 children, 1 10 have parents who were born overseas. The parents of one-third of the population of the school were born overseas. Of that one-third of school children the parents of one-half do not speak English in the home. Take it from there and what you have really is 110 children at that school who need special attention. That school used to have a teacher who had an understanding of languages and who was able to communicate with these children and pass on knowledge to them. I thought that was what education was all about.
– It is a State school, is it?
-It is a primary school, yes.
– Run by the Australian Parliament?
-Run by the Victorian Education Department. It is a government school. That teacher was withdrawn. That school now has no special teacher. Those 1 10 children have to do the best they can to muddle their way through the education system.
– Joh Bjelke Petersen
-I am not joking. The honourable member says that I am joking. I am not joking. What I am saying is the absolute, God ‘s honest truth, and the honourable member can speak with the principal of the school if he so desires. That is the sort of levity with which these people treat this important problem. The special teacher was withdrawn. When I made inquiries as to the reason I was told that it was because the
Australian Government does not make funds available now for special teachers in primary schools in Victoria. Let one of the Government supporters stand up and prove that to be wrong. That indicates the emphasis that this Government places on education, and particularly in an area where it is badly and sorely needed. The children in that area have a real difficulty in understanding what their teacher is saying to them because the language is strange. Yet we hear in the Speech made by Her Majesty this hypocritical expression:
My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.
No matter where their parents were born those children are Australian students. Country Party supporters should point out to me where the equality exists, because it was a government of their political persuasion which withdrew the equality of opportunity from them. The people of Australia should be told that more often and loudly until they finally understand the way in which the Government is endeavouring to destroy all the things that were created for the betterment of the Australian people during the fortunate 3 years of Labor Government in Australia.
I turn to another passage in this very brief document. I repeat that I am quite sure that Her Majesty, as a gracious lady, must have shuddered while reading it. The passage reads:
At the heart of my Government’s policies lie a commitment and a concern; commitment to increasing the freedom, opportunity and equality of the Australian people; and concern with enhancing people’s ability to make their own choices and live their own lives in their own way.
How the Prime Minister’s speech writer must have had a field day putting together that paragraph. But if one cares to strip it of its pretty phraseology one might understand what it is really saying. This is where the Liberal Party philosophy, such as it is, falls down. What is that passage saying to us and to the people of Australia? It prostitutes and misuses the word freedom’. It should have used the word ‘licence’ in place of the word ‘freedom’ and then it would really say what it means. If you are going to give freedom in that sense to the people in an organised society- and the Australian community is an organised society, whether the Liberal Party likes it or not- all you are doing is saying to the people who cannot fight back, such as the people traditionally beaten down by the Liberal and Country parties, those who are incapable of fighting because they are young, because they are old, because they were not born here, because they have a language problem, because they were born poor, because they were born with a disability or because they incurred a disability, that everybody will have the freedom to live his own life in the way that he chooses.
We were taught 2000 years ago that people should care for others without this being imposed by regulation or by law. People on the other side of the chamber find it jocular. I do not find the words spoken 2000 years ago jocular. I think that they were spot on. It is a pity the people opposite do not read them more often and understand them better. Unless governments intervene in this area the rich will get richer, the strong will get stronger and they will tread over the weak and the disadvantaged. Yet that is what honourable members opposite are saying in that passage. They are saying: ‘Bully. That is what should happen in Australia. Everybody should have the freedom to live their own lives in the way they want to live them. ‘ I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker- I know you to be a reasonable man- what rights have people who have no advantage because of disability, station in life or a variety of other reasons, to live their lives in the way they want to live them? They have no rights at all.
Those sitting opposite know that but they are not game to stand and say that in our organised community in the twentieth century, heading rapidly towards the twenty-first century, there is a need for government intervention to protect those who are not able to protect themselves. Yet we get this balderdash served up to us in a speech by a gracious lady. Those opposite obviously believe it. Of course they believe it. And why do they believe it? Because they are of the strong; they are not of the weak. They are not of the disadvantaged. Therefore they believe it. I am not of the disadvantaged either, but I have a strong compassion for those who are disadvantaged. Those who sit on this side of the chamber with me share that compassion and so the philosophy of the Party to which I am proud to belong, the Australian Labor Party, is geared differently from that of the Liberal Party. Our philosophy says that those who cannot care for themselves will be cared for by those who can. But does the Liberal Party say that? Does its manifesto read to us on 8 March say that? I shall refresh the minds of honourable members and read those words again. After that dissertation- I hope honourable members opposite will learn something from it- they will see the words in a different light. They are -
– What about pensions?
– I shall come back to pension increases. The words are:
At the heart of my Government’s policies lie a commitment and a concern;
A commitment and a concern to the mining companies and to the oil producing companies- commitment to increasing the freedom,
Freedom? What freedom exists now for those who are disadvantaged? opportunity and equality of the Australian people-
Equality exists only among those who already have privilege- and concern with enhancing people’s ability to made their own choices and live their own lives in their own way.
Have honourable members opposite not yet realised that people’s choices in Australia are limited by the depth of their pocket or their economic capacity to pay? That is where their choice is. But honourable members opposite glibly talk about equal choices. I heard the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) mention pensions. I remind the honourable member that in this chamber I crawled down under the desk in front of which I now sit when the Prime Minister of this country, the Right Honourable William McMahon, came in after he had been elected as Leader of the Liberal Party and magnanimously gave 50c a week increase to the pensioners. So do not talk to me about the Government’s history on this matter because it is a very bad one. Even the present position is no better.
– You taxed them.
-It was the Labor Party that moved pensions-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs will cease interjecting.
– He is exciting me.
-I should think it would take much more than me to excite the honourable member for Darling Downs, Mr Deputy Speaker. The whole question of pensions moved out of the political arena in 1973- not in 1977 but in 1973- when pensioners were told of the goal set by the Labor Government. The goal was for pensions to be 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We achieved that in the time that was available to us, despite interruptions mid term with elections which were called for political gain. We maintained that rate of pension. All that the Government has ever done has been to apply a different formula. I have not had time to do the homework necessary, but even if the Government has changed the formula for pensions, we created a formula initially. We moved pensions out of the area of being a political football every time the Liberal Party decided to get itself a new leader.
– They wanted to flog off the funeral benefit.
-Of course, as the honourable member for Scullin reminds me, the Government wanted to flog off the funeral benefit. How much was it? $40? I do not think anybody could be buried for $40.
– It costs $600 to bury a person.
-I am told it costs $600, but we are not running an auction. The funeral benefit was not a very large amount of money but it was of great help and comfort to those who were in penurious circumstances. The present Prime Minister- the meanest, mingiest, most reprehensible Prime Minister this country has ever had- came into this chamber and was prepared to take those few pennies away from the widow’s mite. What happened? Five honourable members from Tasmania held their seats by very small margins and one of them told us that he sat up all night worrying about funeral benefits. He cried himself to sleep in the end. These members from Tasmania came into the chamber and found some sympathisers, such as the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem), who suddenly remembered he was holding his seat by a terribly slim margin. He counted heads and found he had a lot of pensioners in his electorate after all. This went on with members representing electorates all around the country. Every member who held a seat by a very narrow margin obtained figures from the Department of Social Security. I know this because someone in the Department rang me and told me so. All those honourable members checked how many pensioners they had in their electorates. The funeral benefit worried them so much that they went into their party room and told the Prime Minister that unless the funeral benefit was retained there would be a revolution.
-That is democracy.
-They used their colleagues in the Senate and back came the funeral benefit. It was not a display of democracy. I am not one who likes to make small political points at the expense of a person such as the Prime Minister of this country. But honourable members should read the newspapers. I was delighted to read them this morning. I saw in one a cartoon of the Prime Minister. I am angry about the way the cartoonists portray our Prime Minister. I do not think he is a great, close-eyed, pipesmoking log, yet the cartoonists keep portraying him in this way. He was shown in the cartoon with his sleeves rolled up and poor old pensioners were shown worrying whether they were going to get an increase m their pensions. In the cartoon the Prime Minister is shown to be saying to somebody else: ‘Honestly, I was going to mug em-but I found I just couldn’t do it! r That is almost what happened. A Party meeting was held yesterday, was it not?
-Precisely. Again the Liberal caucus has stood over the Prime Minister and put him back on the rails. But I have been distracted, Mr Deputy Speaker. I rose to make a great contribution to this debate on the future economic condition of this country. But I have been sidetracked by Government supporters.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Burke that he continue to make his speech without any assistance either from his side of the House or from the Government benches. I think the honourable member has been here long enough to be able to make a speech without everybody else helping. I should hate to interrupt the honourable member for Burke by saying that his time has expired.
-Do not say that yet, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I still have 2 minutes to go.
-I should hate to do that before the honourable member had finished his speech, but he has been answering interjections by honourable members on both sides of the House.
-I am pleased you said that, Mr Deputy Speaker. When the light comes on and I have not finished I am sure you will allow me an extra 5 minutes to say the things I want to say. Another part of this great speech by Her Majesty- I timed it and I believe it took about Vh minutes- told the people of Australia what the Government is going to do over the next 18 months. It said:
Historic reforms are being made to the nation’s federal financial relations which will return power and responsibility to the State and local levels of government.
Government members- Hear, hear!
-My word! ‘Hear, hear’, they say. Do they know what the Government is up to? As sure as God made little apples, what it is up to is double taxation. What it is up to is giving back to the States the right to tax people left, right and centre. It is abdicating its responsibilities as a national government It is abdicating its responsibilities as the only government in Australia which can take this Federation and make it into a nation. It is going to turn it over to the 6 States, and possibly the Territories, and turn it back into a continent of 7 separate nations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Kat pleasure in supporting the motion of thenourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) concerning the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament. Her Majesty spoke of the great development opportunities in Australia and of how much this country had progressed since her last visit here. It is true that we have continued to develop in recent years at a rapid rate, at least up until 1973 when the poliCies of the Whitlam Labor Government stifled development. It stifled development in the mining industry to the extent that between 1973 and 1976 hundreds of exploration crews were disbanded and many left this country for places which were considered to have a more stable form of government. Places like Indonesia, the Philippines and the South American countries were regarded as being more stable, and some of those crews are only now beginning to return to participate in the next great surge forward in this country.
The Whitlam Government crucified the rural sector and put the industry back 20 years in terms of real progress. It seemed to have a special hate for the rural industry. It discouraged investment in the fishing industry and stopped oil exploration in its tracks. The oil industry is indeed fragile, but we can now see a steady revival of interest with more wells being drilled this year than for the past 2 years. Whitlam plunged this country into financial chaos, near bankruptcy, and was then flung out of office in complete disgrace in November 1975. That brings me to what is known as the leadership stakes. We have seen this week what has been a quite remarkable circus on the Opposition side of the House- a circus that has kept us enthralled, a thrill a minute merry-go-round, a parade of potential Leaders of the Opposition. But more of that a little later. We have commenced the long, slow, hard job of putting this country back on its feet, as we promised we would. We said it would be a slow process. We said it would take 3 years, and if we stick to our program of financial recovery, if we stand resolute in our plans, then we shall have this country back to the road to progress and prosperity in the next 12 months or so. But we must not weaken.
– You will not be here to see it.
-I will be here a lot longer than you, my friend. The signs of a soundly based recovery being well on the way are clearly emerging. However, despite this , recovery, despite the huge development that has already taken place and will take place, I should like to draw the attention of the House to an anomalous situation. I refer to the inadequate communication facilities in a very large part of Australia. I speak of telephones, of radio and of television. Telephones are accepted today by the vast majority df people as being just another everyday aid to living, taken for granted in most households. They are used freely in business, they provide a link with one’s neighbours, and in many cases they offer a tremendous security to lonely and isolated people.
In remote areas telephones provide a vital and often life-saving link which gives the people living in those areas communication with the outside world. Telephones give families, particularly the women and children, a sense of security so necessary in remote areas. It is relatively easy for men to live in the bush, but for our women and children it is a lot harder. There is a very real fear that a simple accident or an illness can be fatal for a loved one. I know these people. I have lived in the bush all my life and I can appreciate their very real concern. I know the comfort and the feeling of security that a telephone or a 2-way radio brings to the people in remote areas. But so many people do not have a telephone and are now being prevented from having one, either because of the high cost of installation or the lack of forward planning by the Telecommunications Commission. I know of people who have waited patiently for 8 years and more and who have tried all means to have the telephone connected. They are willing to pay the huge capital sum required. Although they are only a few miles from the existing cable, there is still no program to connect the telephone for them and Telecom is unwilling to make any firm commitment to do so.
I turn to radio. I refer to the ordinary broadcast band radio of either the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the commercial radio networks. Most of us have scant regard for the magic of radio. We have seen it grow from very small, static-plagued beginnings to the modern high quality reception we enjoy here in Canberra and in other capital cities. We have multichannel ABC networks and a good spread of commercial radio programs from which to choose. Now we have embarked on frequency modulation transmissions. All of this magical stuff we take for granted. With the flick of a switch we are able to enjoy the radio waves and add to the tumultuous din that pours out in our cities from the modern and sophisticated radio consoles or from the simple transistor sets. But alas, many people are not able to receive even a basic radio signal from either the ABC or any other network. Not for them the joyous music, the mid-morning serials or even the daily national news programs.
There are vast areas of this land of ours where no satisfactory radio program is available. Also there are vast areas where very expensive shortwave radio sets may give a scratchy reception. Some of these people, who have endured this situation for long enough have decided that they would like to have a single channel transmittera very modest request- to keep them in touch with the outside world. On approaching the Government to have this deficiency rectified, they have been told that they can have radio but only if they pay for the total cost of installation and the running costs of the transmitters, the maintenance and the rental of the line from Telecom. This would necessitate an outlay of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I ask: Is this fair? These people are pushing out into the frontiers of Australia or pushed out there some time ago. They produce a great part of the wealth of this nation. They produce the wool, the meat, the fish, the iron ore, the coal, the nickelthe produce which makes life comfortable for city people. These people who endure real hardships to produce that wealth are now called on to pay totally for the extension of a service which everyone else enjoys as of right. Is this equality.
Furthermore, I know of several large towns where people are unable to receive a television coverage of any sort. Not for them the pleasures of watching some of the excellent programs available to the great majority of people. Large towns, small towns; it matters not. Unless these towns had a television coverage before 1976 the residents have been told that they themselves must pay the many thousands of dollars to have the coverage extended. Why should we have 2 classes of people in Australia? Two classic examples are worth quoting. Both are in Western Australia. The first to which I refer is a small settlement called Salmon Gums. The community there is in the line of the present microwave transmissions running south from Norseman. These people were aware early that they might have to pay to have television coverage extended to their town. They understood that their share of these extensions would be in the vicinity of $26,000. They set about raising that amount of money. This they did. They now have it in the bank. Now they are told that they will have to find the total capital cost as well as the maintenance and running costs of the extension of the television coverage to their area. Yet that very same television transmission passes over their heads day and night in the microwave link.
A further example is the town of Exmouth in Western Australia. I understand that it has the largest concentration of people in Australia not yet enjoying television. There are approximately 3000 people in Exmouth; yet there is no television. Another anomalous situation exists in this town. The town virtually exists because of a Commonwealth Government agreement. In effect the Commonwealth Government is the developer. Who should pay for the television coverage in Exmouth? We are asking that the developers of other towns, such as mining towns, to pay for television and radio extensions. It seems that we have created 2 sets of rules- one for the establishment of telephone, radio and television services before 1976 and another for the establishment of those services after that date. These facilities are supplied free, or almost free, to people in the metropolitan areas, the earlier settled areas or areas which are fortunately located geographically. For those who are participating in this great development drive, those who are producing the greater part of the gross national product and a very large percentage of our total export income, there will be no telephones, radio or television unless they are prepared to pay one way or another for these facilities. I sincerely ask the Government to reconsider this decision and to treat all Australian taxpayers on an equal basis. We are moving towards a new era of tremendous development, of a great surge of development that can take place only under the stewardship of a free enterprise Government. We have a proven track record of good management; sound and respected, leadership; strong, long term leadership unlike the temporary, fragile leadership we see in the Opposition.
This week the temporary Leader of the Opposition has treated us to some of the most rude and ignorant actions and words we have ever witnessed. Whitlam has taken a hypocritical stance as regards our beloved Governor-General. One day Mr Whitlam says that he will ignore the Governor-General but because of his egotistical desire to meet the Queen, he depends on the Governor-General to introduce him. He insulted the Queen and disgusted all Australians by making a reference to her as a possible Queen of Sheba. He tried to denigrate the magnificent reception for the Queen yet he partook of the victuals.
Meanwhile, back in the House we have been subjected to this charade of strutting and pouting of potential leaders of the Labor Party. We have witnessed the dismal performance of the honourable member for Werriwa who could not get a seconder in the Caucus for his latest move to be elected to something longer term than a temporary leadership. We have seen the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) performing like a trained Rosella parrot, his red breast flashing. We have noticed the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), lurking in the shadows; waiting, waiting. We saw the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) yelping like a trained seal: ‘The economy is doomed. More taxes are needed. We need more of “Mudibank” ‘. We have watched the meteoric flop of the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who cried out for a republic. ‘We need a new Constitution’, he says, and ‘Do away with the Senate’. Still the honourable member for Hindmarsh waits and licks his chops. It is going to be a delicious massacresome blood letting.
I am aware of one Government supporter on this side of the House who likes a bit of a gamble. I believe he has suggested the running of a book on these latest leadership stakes. I believe he is accepting bets from all comers. But he is undecided as to who should be the favourite, whether it should be the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who is the most consistent speaker in the House- Mr Rent-a-Mouth himself -or the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), the man with the brownest arms in the business.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I realise that the honourable gentleman is not treating the chamber seriously but he is not entitled to refer to an honourable member in that manner.
-I was discussing a matter with the Clerk. 1 did not actually hear the words but I mink that perhaps the honourable member might rephrase the sentence. I think it is one that would be better not said in that way.
-I will rephrase the sentence, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Government supporter to whom I referred is undecided as to who he should have as favourite for these stakes: The honourable member for Chifley is the most consistent speaker in the House, the man who probably is well known in commercial circles. The honourable member for Hunter has the brownest arms in the business, permanently crooked from tipping buckets. Perhaps it is the dodo bird with 3 hats. But whatever the result of the book, we have been subjected to the dampest parade of wet shags that I have seen for some long, long while. All are strutting and all are vying for the judge’s eye. All their performances are aimed at the Caucus votes. Still the honourable member for Hindmarsh waits and waits. Revenge is sweet.
– I was rather surprised that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) did not think that any matters relating to his area were worth bringing before this Parliament. He made it clear to this House that he did not believe that the Queen’s Speech was worth discussing. However, I suggest that while he is running a book on the leadership stakes he should look at the leadership of his Party. I have been a member of this House for almost 10 years now. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is the second Leader that this Party has had during that period. There are no ex-leaders of the Australian Labor Party in this chamber or alive, such is the longevity of leaders of our Party and the loyalty of members of our Party to our leaders. I do not think the honourable member can say that about his Party. In one seat rests a former Prime Minister who was undermined and eventually dismissed. The present Speaker is a further casualty of party in-fighting. He was informed that he was no longer required as the Leader of the Party. The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was the successful applicant for the job. I will be nice and put it that way.
A person by the name of Mr John Gorton was Prime Minister for a while. When I was first elected to the Parliament Mr Harold Holt was the Leader. The leadership of the Party was left vacant when he met with an unfortunate accident. I think it is fair to say that the record of gentlemen opposite in leadership ballots is not good. I think it is also fair to say that some of the talk that has been floated around about an early election is most likely designed to protect the back of a person who would feel insecure and who would not mind getting rid of a few back benchers who are likely to cause him problems. I want to be serious because I think this is a serious matter.
– That will be hard for you.
– It is very hard when there are members in the House such as the honourable member for St George. The speech which he made last night was a disgrace to the Parliament. He supported quite openly the murder of students in Thailand, without one word of protest, but he protested in other circumstances and picked his marks on political grounds, not humanitarian grounds.
The Queen’s Speech was the second most disappointing speech from the throne during the period I have been a member of this Parliament. The Queen read a Speech which was prepared for her by her advisers. I think the House and the public should be quite clear that the Speech was the speech of her advisers, not of the Crown. Therefore it is open to criticism, without it being a criticism of the Crown. I want to make that quite clear at the start because it is important. The Speech contained nothing new, no hope for persons who are concerned about the manner in which this country is drifting. Its only significant commentary was that the Government intends to press ahead with its industrial relations bureau which can serve only one purpose- to undermine the conciliation and arbitration system and to create disunity in the Australian community at a time when the most important thing that any government could seek to achieve in this community is unity of purpose among the Australian people. I think it will be the most unfortunate development created by this Government which is led by a man who has said that he does not believe in an equal society, that people are different and that the different classes should be treated as such.
The most disastrous thing about this Government is the divisive manner in which it operates. It seeks to divide the Australian community. Each failure of a scheme or proposal by the Government is accompanied by an abuse of those people who have suffered under that scheme. There has been recurring abuse of the unemployed. They have been called dole bludgers. There has been substantial evidence of people being denied unemployment benefit, on pretexts. I can give the House an instance. I refer to the case of a man with a physical disability, a back injury- unfortunately such injuries are prevalent in our society- who has very little chance of obtaining a labouring job, which is the only job he can do. He was out of work from 1 974 until recently. The only benefit for which he is eligible is the unemployment benefit. During that period the Commonwealth Employment Service did not once refer him to a position for which he could apply. Yet, 2 weeks before
Christmas- the man has a family- the unemployment benefit was summarily taken from him on the grounds that he was not trying to seek work.
In 2Vi years the Commonwealth Employment Service had not even been able to find a suitable position to which it could refer the man. Yet, 2 weeks before Christmas unemployment benefits were taken from him because he was not trying to seek work and he was left without funds. I do not know how many times a man is expected to line up in front of the same employer and ask him whether he has a job. It must be the most humiliating and demoralising experience a man can have. The only reason he is doing this is that the regulations insist upon it. The Commonwealth Employment Service knows that he will not get a job. The Department of Social Security knows that he will not get a job. I am certain that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) knows of men like this who will not get jobs but in order to keep the statistics right this man was denied unemployment benefits and was left without funds for 6 or 8 weeks.
Obviously, in any system some people will abuse it. There are smart cookies in every walk of life. If there is an easy way to make a buck they will make it. This practice is not confined to people who depend on government funds. Everyday there are published many instances of persons who are seeking to defraud the public through company transactions or fraudulent financial transactions or even by selling tickets to Abba concerts at many times their proper value. They are all sharp practices. Such people are taking down someone else in the community in order to make a living. The people whose livelihoods depend on other people in society are easy targets. Unfortunately, most people look upon their own rights as being divine and on the rights of other people as being unnecessary or wasteful. That is the stage which our society has reached.
The wage earner has been attacked because he seeks to recoup the increased cost in the community which he must bear. The Prime Minister last year made a statement on local government funds. After the announcement of the allocations of funds for local government which were to be made available by this Government he said that there would be no need for local governments to increase rates. I do not know of any local government body which has been able to balance its books even with the funds which were said to be sufficient. The facts are that rates are rising.
– I shall tell you of a couple who have $300,000 in fixed deposits.
-The honourable member may know a couple of local governments which have $300,000 in fixed deposits. I guarantee that their ratepayers are not getting good service. I can name a few which are bankrupt.
– In your electorate probably.
-No, they are in Queensland. The farmers have not been receiving sufficient income to be able to pay their rates. It is a serious problem. I am not laughing.
-They are still recovering from the Labor Government.
-I think that the Labor Government could have done almost anything but I am certain that it could not have created a drought. Matters which should come before this House and be treated seriously are being used as vehicles for making abuse or bringing out the selfishness in people. That is being done for political purposes. Regrettably, this divisive practice is becoming more prevalent every day.
– On your side of the House.
-The Government which the honourable member supports is currently before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission seeking to deny those on the lowest incomes the opportunity to recoup the costs which they must bear in the form of increased prices. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) made the statement that cattle producers should withhold their cattle from the market in order to force up the prices. However, I consider that the unions have the same function as the cattlemen’s associations- that is to get the best price for their members’ labour that they can. The argument I have with the statements of the Deputy Prime Minister is that he will then support a proposition that will deny to those people who are required to pay the increased prices the increased income that they would need in order to maintain their standard of living. The Deputy Prime Minister would go into court and seek to have passed on to them only part of the cost increase involved in buying food. Cumulatively this will result in less purchases being made and reduced opportunities for Australian industry and manufacturers to sell their goods.
I want to deal with one specific case. A few weeks ago the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) announced quotas on garments and textile imports. As a result of this announcement Zora Fashions (Geelong) Pty Ltd, a firm in my electorate, this week has had to retrench one-third of its work force. It has had to retrench one hundred out of 300 women who work in an area where alternative employment does not exist.
– What happened when the Labor Government reduced tariffs by 25 per cent across the board?
-It did not retrench any then.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! There has been a continual flow of interjections since 8 o’clock when this debate was resumed. I warn members of the House that if interjections continue I shall take action against them. This is the last time I shall speak to honourable members.
-Zora Fashions is a firm which is extremely competitive in the manufacture of garments. This firm, as do other firms in this area, competes with imported goods. The announcement concerning quotas relating to imported goods was delayed for some 6 months because either the Government could not make up its mind or the Minister was not prepared to release details of the quotas. As a result this firm has not been able to plan ahead on the basis of changed quotas. It is now in the situation where the imported raw materials for the woven cloth which it requires to manufacture goods for which it can obtain orders are being denied to it. The materials mainly in question are lining materials and stretch courtelles. The quotas on garment imports allow retailers to import garments, including the cloth which the manufacturer about which I am speaking is denied access in order to compete. Suitable alternatives, either competitive or otherwise, are obviously not available in Australia. Hence a firm which has been supplying major retailers with these goods for some considerable time has been forced to retrench its staff because it is not able to import the basic requirements.
The Australian textile industry gains nothing from the Government’s decision on quotas because they allow fully made up garments, which include exactly the same materials that the Australian manufacturer is not allowed to bring into Australia, to be used in competition with or as a replacement for what would be manufactured by this garment manufacturer. Last Friday I sent telegrams to all the relevant Ministers. I have had an acknowledgement from two of them, but I have not received a reply. One hundred people will walk out of the door tomorrow without jobs and without any prospects whatsoever of obtaining employment in the area in which they are working. I am sure that some honourable members opposite have exactly the same situation in their areas. If one lives in a provincial area there is no alternative employment to that of the major employers in that area. One cannot go to another suburb to look for a job.
The matter I have raised is a serious one. It shows the complications which exist in any areas affected by quotas or tariff restrictions. The firm to which I have referred is in fact denied access to imported materials. As a result it has lost orders. The Australian textile industry will not gain anything because the supplies which are required by this manufacturer will come in in made up garment form and as a result both industries will be the losers. I have drawn attention to that because it is important.
Finally, I want to draw attention to one other matter. There has been much debate this week and last week about the wage indexation case. Tears of blood almost have been wept about the manner in which indexation decisions are passed on in a percentage form. I think the House ought to take into consideration and ought to remember the reason why the total wage concept now exists and who brought it about. The present problem of indexation, and a great deal of the problem which has arisen since the gap between the lowest and highest areas of wages has been widening, rests on a particular step which was taken for expediency in 1967 when the employers, in order to end the 2-hearing situation that then existed, were successful in their application to the court to eliminate the basic wage margins concept.
An application to pass on the cost of living increases on a fixed basis to a basic wage which was a component of everyone’s wage was defeated in the courts. It was defeated in the courts purely because the employers thought that it was a manner in which they could prevent the then Australian Council of Trade Unions advocate from taking all of the test cases and spreading those cases over such a broad field that it would be impossible for any one person to prepare or consider the cases. The then Government supported the application for the elimination of the basic wage. I am certain that it would seek to reinstate « if the opportunity to do so occurred now.
The fact of the matter is that the complaints that are now being made about the manner in which wage determinations are applied are the result of the physical impossibility of the total wage concept that was adopted in 1967. It was a physical impossibility. There are thousands of awards. Those who sought this provision forgot or ignored the fact that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission cannot hear separate cases on every award determination. The Commission adopted what was the only way out, that is, the awarding of percentage rises across the board to cope with what was the basic wage and the margins concept. The employers are now lumbered with the fruits of their success and they have not stopped screaming since they obtained what they sought. Strangely enough, the ones who have gained the most from the decision to bring in a total wage concept are the unions. They are the ones who opposed the change at that time. If honourable members opposite treat the matter seriously rather than on a political basis I think they will find that the wages situation in Australia would have been much different now if the basic wage and margins concept had been retained whereby the cost of living factor was dealt with in a separate case from margins for skill.
I repeat my earlier statement that the Speech delivered by the Queen on behalf of the Government was a speech which did not offer this Par.liament or the Australian people much more hope than the speech that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I and some other honourable members in the chamber remember being delivered on an earlier occasion and which I think took -
– In 1974.
-No, in 1969. It took 90 seconds and was only one sentence in length.
– Was it 1969?
-The Minister was a Minister in the government at that time. It was in 1969. There was a one sentence oration from the throne.
– This one was much better.
-I think it was worse. At least the other one was honest. It said nothing and it meant nothing.
– Would you like to develop that?
-That one said nothing and meant nothing. This one said nothing and purported to mean something. That is a great difference. The Opposition is disappointed with the program that the Government has put forward. It believes that there are problems in our society and that they are problems that can be solved only by support and advocacy of national unity. Unfortunately the Government has chosen the path of division, which has been its political tactic on so many occasions. It will not succeed in helping the nation, even if it helps the Government politically.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr LucockOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) referred to a speech that I made in the House last night and said that I condoned the murder of students in Thailand. I certainly do not. I did not refer to the Thai student situation last night. I did in fact condemn the slaughter of students and others in Cambodia.
-The responsible people in this Parliament who are taking part in this debate are very much aware of the unique privilege that is ours. After all, Her Majesty presented an address to us. That address has been described, in not very kind terms, as abortive and so on by speakers on the Australian Labor Party side of the House. However, we on this side have a sense of privilege and I am particularly aware of it. In my opening remarks I would like to add a tribute to our armed forces for their splendid and unforgettable display and the fly past. That demonstration had a tremendous effect- an effect that they always generate when permitted to do so.
Normally I am a gentle soul and I get not a great deal of pleasure out of being unkind, particularly to members of the Opposition. If my remarks appear to be not of a gentle nature, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to understand that they have been stimulated by an address by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) which must go down as the emptiest, most aggressive and mose unconstructive and character destroying addresses that I have heard in this House. He singled out one or two honourable members and took advantage of what he has created as a coward’s castle to attack them here this afternoon. Maybe I will add one or two remarks that will not reflect too kindly on him.
Let the people of Australia never forget the shattering disaster of the 3-year Whitlam regime. The nightmare began with an immediate and indecent grasp of power. The then Prime Minister virtually ran the country for some days with single dictatorial power, with arrogance and contempt for the most elementary form of democracy. As he began his rampage, his rape of this country, so he ended it, defying every accepted constitutional device which was being used to persuade him, not to force him, to make a simple move- to go to the people, to submit himself and his Government to our masters, the electors of Australia, for a verdict. Finally, the GovernorGeneral, virtually after pleading again and again with this man who was allegedly his friend, was forced to take the only course open to him, to dissolve the Parliament and hand the matter over to the Australian people. And what a decision the people gave. I never cease to wonder, Mr Deputy Speaker, at the irony of the situation in which the ragged and mouldy remnants of this Party childishly and gibberishly cried ‘havoc’, ‘get rid of Kerr’, ‘Kerr has destroyed democracy’ and so on. If all this is true then hundreds of thousands of workers and others who could not get to the ballot box quick enough to flush out these people who had riddled our great democracy must have been involved in that conspiracy.
I say to my fellow Australians: Remember that our present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) made it perfectly clear that the road back to financial stability and the restoration of our reputation in the market places of the world would require hard work, tenacity of purpose and above all time- at least one term. It was interesting to note that quite recently a number of responsible financial and other institutions in this country recognised and publicly commended the Government’s financial policies. This has been particularly so over the last few weeks. I ask my fellow Australians to compare the FraserAnthony administration with the WhitlamCrean administration, the Whitlam-Cairns administration, the Whitlam-Barnard administration, etc. How could one make any sort of comparison? The defence of this country is now secure. The rag pickers and the weirdos who were filling the coridors around this House have been flushed out and eradicated. No more are there jobs for the boys and girls and some who are a little bit of each. There are no more Blue Poles and regrettably there is no more Blue Hills. The family is again recognised as the most important element in our society? in our social structure. No more do we have people in government ridiculing moral standards and encouraging contempt for law and order. No more do we have the Coombs’ philosophy hammering rural dwellers into the ground. No more do we have the enormous and scandalous squandering of public funds; for example, overseas trips for numerous people travelling in luxurious circumstances. No more do we have Cabinet instability. Our reputation as a reliable nation has been restored. Our dignity is again recognised overseas with our powerful allies. It is once more good to be an Australian.
If a few of the matters that I propose to place before the House appear to be a little parochial may I respectfully submit that if honourable members examine them they will see they are not parochial but are of extreme importance to the whole of this nation. The first subject I deal with- I spoke at some length on this only a week or so ago in this House- is the situation in the cattle industry. I refer specifically to the cattle producer. It was said here tonight by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), a man for whom I have a great deal of respect, that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) displayed some sort of lack of concern for the consumer. The insinuation was that if producers adopted the Deputy Prime Minister’s suggestion- that is, that there should be a dribbling of stock into the saleyards rather than a great flood of stock- that would necessarily mean a higher price for the producer. It certainly would but it would not mean a higher price to the consumer. The Deputy Prime Minister made clear what is obvious to those of us who are involved in matters such as these that there would be a little less for the in-between man. If there is consideration for the workers then the huge and unreasonable costs that are involved, not so much through decisions which affect industrial awards and arbitration matters but because of the actions of certain groups of people in the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union who are intent on bringing the industry to a standstill from time to time, could be reduced. I include among those people a few who are not members of that union -meat inspectors. Some of these- and let me be quite explicit- it is alleged cause much more industrial unrest and stoppages than the actual knockabout worker involved in the industry. I will not enlarge on this subject except to say that I am sure the Government is now acutely aware of the necessity to have not dollars but legislation for the industry. The industry is not asking for money. It is asking for legislation which at least will take some of the cream which is now going to exporters and to others and bring it back to the producers because almost everyone who is a part of our rural scene in the non-metropolitan areas of this nation is dependent on them. Our small towns and our workers in local authorities depend for their survival on the prosperity of this industry.
Maybe this does sound parochial because I propose to talk about one particular project in this nation but it is a project that supports an industry which is one of the largest industrial complexes of its kind in the world and it is in my own city of Mount Isa. There is a dam there. I am talking of a single dam but it is a dam that provides water to stimulate an industry which provides millions of dollars each year to the whole nation. The situation is simple. If this dam is not funded by a federal contribution it will mean that the people in this area will be faced with annual rates of somewhere near $500. If this charge is added to the cost of living in this remote area 600 miles from the coast with all the penalties that are involved in living in such a locality, the situation will become intolerable. I firmly believe that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to providing some assistance for these people. I make this earnest appeal in what is an important speech for any member, namely his speech in the Address-in-Reply debate, when a member can bring home matters which are of huge importance to his people. It is our duty to do this. I shall press that matter further. I have had the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) come out to my electorate. He is now familiar with the situation as is the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony), who is my Leader, and my senior Leader, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We hope that there will be a smile from Cabinet. Even the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) may assist us in this matter.
I point out to the House that we have the great privilege of having in the gallery tonight one of the greatest figures, if not the greatest figure, in local government in Australia. I refer to Sir Harold Behan- a man who has devoted his entire life to local government. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I recognise that he is in the gallery tonight. I am not speaking for my own benefit; he is not in a position to further my prospects. I also refer to other people such as Andy Walls, who is now the liaison officer between the whole of local government in Australia and our various committees in Canberra. This is the crux of what I am about to say. This Government has created 5 specific committees which have as a very important part of their responsibilities the task of looking after the local government movement throughout Australia. I say to all the local government people of Australia that we have a most sympathetic Prime
Minister. There is an open door whenever one wants to discuss matters of local government. We have a sympathetic Ministry. I would say that we are on the verge of a great era for local government. I feel that local government will be given powers which will enhance its responsibilities and, much more importantly, it will be given sufficient finance to carry out those responsibilities.
There is a great demand at the moment throughout the nation for some form of work- if I may put it that way- or something which will occupy the people who are unemployed and which will produce some benefit to the country. Not for a moment am I attempting to play lightly with the industrial requirements for which the unions would ask. We had the Regional Employment Development scheme, under which there was an irresponsible spending of money. If we had something of a similar nature and if the responsibility for the works involved was placed in the hands of local government, I think that would have 2 effects. Once more we would see the hope of development in local authority areas. At the moment we never think in terms of development; we think of sustaining the present situation- of maintaining roads and existing facilities. Good heavens, are we going to look to an absolutely futile future where there is no talk of development? I think that such a scheme as I have proposed would open the door to a consideration of the development of our shire works and so on.
I am sure that no one would argue against the merits of the case which I shall put now for the restoration of the petroleum prices subsidy. I realise that this Government is doing an almost unbelievable job in trying to tighten the purse strings and to bring responsibility back to this nation; but I do not regard, for one moment, the restoration of the petroleum prices subsidy as a handout. It is an investment in 4 industries which alone produce $4 billion a year for this nation and which stimulate the growth of our urban and metropolitan areas. It is easy for an economy to sag and to become limp when the great backblocks begin to fold up. People are quickly losing hope. In my part of the world and in the electorate of Kalgoorlie we pay something like 22c a litre for petrol whereas our city brethren pay 14.5c if they go to the right place. This situation should not exist. I do not think that a government subsidy is absolutely necessary. Surely the Government has the authority to confer with the fuel distributors- I do not want to confine my remarks to petroleum- of this nation and to get them to come to some sort of arrangement whereby a fraction of a cent more is paid by people living in the coastal areas and the benefit is given to the many hundreds of thousands of country people, most of whom play an important role in contributing $4 billion a year for this nation’s economy. I appeal strongly to the Government to consider restoring the benefit at the earliest possible moment or alternatively introducing a scheme under which fuel prices can be levelled out throughout the nation.
The honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) drew attention to the fact that many people in his electorate are without the benefit of any sort of television or radio reception. It is a sad thing. It can be said that 96 per cent of the people of this nation receive television. That is a tremendous achievement by this Government. But the 4 per cent of people who do not receive it are vital to the economy of this nation. It is extraordinary irony that those 4 per cent are involved in industries that are earning the money that keeps the wheels of industry and everything else turning. Recently I travelled with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I anticipate- I hope that I am not being over-optimistic- that a further scheme will evolve to bring television to some of these remote areas. I could cite such places and I am sure that there is not an honourable member here representing rural areas who does not have those pockets in his electorate. It is rather frustrating, as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie said, that there is a microwave link within cooee of a town and for an outlay of perhaps $20,000 or $30,000 this reception could be provided. I feel that there is some hope that this will be done. The Address-In-Reply debate provides me with the opportunity to mention problems in my own area as well as national problems.
I want to conclude on a subject that I suppose is so important that by comparison anything else I have mentioned appears of little consequence. I intend to dwell at least for a minute or two on the matter of the defence and security of this country. This morning the President of the United States of America made an announcement that must worry all of us here in Australia. His Press Secretary said that he would enlarge on his announcement. He indicated that the American forces would be withdrawn from the Indian Ocean to some extent. I do not know whether they are to be completely withdrawn or to what extent. The point is that this announcement opens up a completely new situation for us here in Australia. Whether we subscribe to the point of view that there is a threat in the Indian Ocean or not this decision means that the ocean is wide open to any sort of intrusion. Let us not think for a moment that the possibility of an emergency is not around the corner. It always is. Unless we accept that proposition the defence of this country will become of no consequence. So we must condition ourselves to this thinking.
Perhaps the key to the whole situation is our association with the Indonesian people. Only today I found in the corridor a paper which must have been produced by a communist organisation setting out the terrible way in which the Fretilin people had been treated. Let us remember one thing. If we should cease to have the present friendly association which we have with the Indonesian people we will indeed be in grave danger. I think that the presence of Her Majesty the Queen has brought a most wonderful impetus to this nation. I feel highly privileged to be able to make a contribution to this debate.
-This Government is moving towards the half way mark in its present term of office. It came to office on 13 December 1975, almost 15 months ago, through one of the most disgraceful breaches of parliamentary convention and constitutional law in the history of the world ‘s democracies. It came to office claiming that the election of a LiberalNational Country Party coalition would eliminate inflation and unemployment. It claimed that the existing economic problems of Australia had nothing to do with the international situation and were all the fault of the Australian Labor Government. In the election campaign the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), aided and abetted by a sycophantic media was able to get away with one of the most dishonest and deceitful campaigns in history. The policy speech he delivered to launch the campaign was so deliberately vague that almost everyone listening to it was able to put into it whatever they wanted to hear.
Re-reading the document 16 months later, one is struck by something which eluded us all at the time- the Prime Minister is a very funny man. He has missed his real calling; he obviously should have been a comedian. Let us recount the historic opening call. He said:
The Australian people face an historic decision on December 13. On that day, we will be deciding the future of our country. Let us all as Australians determine to restore prosperity, defeat inflation and provide jobs for all.
Fifteen months later there is not a reputable economist in the country who is not predicting an inflation of between 15 per cent and 20 per cent by the end of the June quarter this year. By the end of February last we had achieved an unemployment level of 346 668 people, some 5.7 of the work force. These figures are higher than ever achieved under the Labor Government despite attempts to cook the figures and to discourage people from registering as unemployed. I am reminded of a Utile old lady who said: ‘Mr Fraser told me that if I voted Labor there would be more unemployment and inflation. I did, and there is’.
There has been something rather sad and a little pathetic about the speeches from Government supporters opposite in this AddressinReply debate, particularly the speeches by the fresh faced, identi-kit types who turned up in droves after the last election. After listening to the fairly predictable maiden speeches of most of the newcomers, what struck most of us apart from the appalling mediocrity of most of them, was their unquestioning confidence that the return of the Liberals to the Treasury bench meant the solution to all of Australia’s economic problems- ‘We are here, everyone can relax; Australia’s problems are over’, they seemed to be saying in unison. What was so pathetic was that they believed it. They recounted Labor’s sins and with unabounded confidence informed the nation, to quote again from that famous speech of their leaden ‘We have a comprehensive strategy to restore prosperity’. Their leader told them so. How could it be otherwise?
– He said it would take 3 years.
– Ringing phrases were quoted from the Messiah’s sermon on the mount. The honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) interjects that his leader said that it would take 3 years, 3 years that honourable members opposite were not prepared to give the Labor Government. The policy speech continued:
The major element in the strategy is to bring about growth in production in the private sector … A government which understands and can manage the Australian economy is essential to Australia’s prosperity and to the revival of business confidence . . . Only under a LiberalNational Country Party Government will there be a return to business confidence. Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who want to work . . . Price and wage restraint is an essential element in our strategy for prosperity and employment.
So it went on. Day after day we listened to the new chums heralding the return of the golden age under the new prophet, the new saviour. Anyone from this side of the House who questioned their chance of success, let alone their dubious methods, was scorned and ridiculed. Then came the job of putting those high sounding phrases into practice. It had been easy to make the speeches, it was not so easy to deliver.
A year has passed since those maiden speeches and the same new boys are making the same speeches. The economy is worse than ever. Not only has the Government not brought about the golden age; each month brings a further slide into the abyss. What makes it even worse is that when the Labor Government was in office it had the world economic situation to contend with. Now with the world situation improving Australia is going the other way. What makes the present speeches look so pathetic and tragic is that Government supporters really cannot believe or even comprehend what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) have done to them. They keep on shouting at one another about the Labor Government which has been out of office for 16 months. I am reminded of the little boy who shouts in the dark to boost his confidence. This year, however, the smugness and the conceit have gone. The speeches are less plausible. They are not quite so sure where to direct their anger. Instead of directing it at the Prime Minister and the Cabinet they reiterate ad nauseam the Labor Government’s imagined sins mainly to bolster their own sagging confidence but primarily in the hope that somehow the Australian public which voted them into office will give them another chance and a little bit longer to pull themselves out of the incompetence, inefficiency and general economic mismanagement that has marked their 15 months in office.
The beating of breasts and the abuse of the Labor Government might do something for the morale of the newcomers and the oncers but I can assure honourable members that as far as the Australian public is concerned it is going over like a lead balloon. Because of the way in which the present Government campaigned, telling the people of Australia that it alone had the answer to Australia’s economic problems- it raised the hopes of the majority of these people that its election to office would immediately start to put things right- it is now reaping the rewards of its dishonesty. It would be fair to say that nobody expected the Government to solve problems in 3 months or 6 months or even 9 months but people did expect some sign of improvement by the end of the year and no one, not even the Opposition, thought with the signs of an improvement in the world economic situation that things could get worse, even when one examined the outrageous contradictions that were evident in what the Prime Minister was saying in the election campaign. Let us look at just how things have deteriorated since the Government took office. We were told that when the Labor Government was in office unemployment was at the highest level since the depression. The Labor Government was dismissed from office in November 1975. At the end of that month there were 265 567 people unemployed, or 4.3 per cent of the work force. At the end of February 1976, exactly 12 months ago, there were 303 739 people unemployed, or 5 per cent of the work force. A few days ago the figures for February 1977 were released showing that there were 346 668 people unemployed, or 5.7 per cent of the work force. Since the Labor Government’s disgraceful sacking, unemployment has increased by 30 per cent. This is from a government which had the gall to berate the Labor Party about high levels of unemployment and about breaking records. At least the Labor Government showed some concern for the unemployed. At least it tried to do something about creating jobs.
This Government, tied as it is to the Ayn Rand-Milton Friedman-Malcolm Fraser philosophy that ‘life is not meant to be easy’ and that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’unless one is a politician attending Parliament House the other day- refuses point blank to help the unemployed but instead does everything possible to create unemployment. It has refused to consider the reintroduction of the Regional Employment Development scheme which at its peak created 32 000 jobs directly and probably half as many again indirectly. This is despite the fact that the Labor Party provided the Government with a frank and honest reassessment of the scheme, recognising its strengths and weaknesses, admitting that there were areas for improvement and offering complete cooperation with the Government and the trade unions if the scheme was brought back. Instead, the Government satisfied itself with wasteful cosmetic schemes such as the Community Youth Support scheme and the Special Youth Employment Training program which do little or nothing for unemployment in general or for the unemployment of youth in particular.
The Community Youth Support scheme may have some benefits as a social welfare scheme because it is designed to provide unemployed young people with an orientation to work and make them more acceptable to employers but it will have absolutely no benefit in combatting unemployment. Except for a few jobs for social workers and youth advisers it will not create one job for the young themselves. It is a confidence trick aimed at giving the impression that the Government is concerned at the number of young peole who are unemployed. Incidentally, what little value the scheme does have as a sound measure is being eroded by the incredible bureaucratic bungling and red tape that is being created by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations for the Commonwealth Employment Service and the community organisations that are making applications. In my electorate of Robertson one organisation has had to make 3 different submissions because each time it applies, the submission is returned with the information that the guidelines have been changed. But the Department will not tell them what the changes are. Apparently, the members of the organisation are supposed to be psychic.
The Special Youth Employment Training program which provides $6 1 a week subsidy for employers has some merit. Once again it shows the inherent prejudices of the Government in happily providing free enterprise with subsidised labour to produce pink toilet seats or green telephones which it regards as the valuable products of the private sector whilst denying the same assistance to the public sector which it regards as wasteful to build roads, schools and railways. Again, ample evidence is already emerging that some employers are misusing the scheme by sacking married men with families and taking on subsidised youth to replace them. I have considerable evidence of these sorts of actions in my electorate. I do not say that the practice is widespread but it does exist. That is the present picture regarding unemployment. It is not a pretty picture and regrettably as the Government’s more recent blunderings take effect it is unlikely to improve and may even get considerably worse.
What is so despicable about this particular Government is that not only has its economic policies added to the unemployment but also with the aid of some of its back benchers, the media and some Cabinet Ministers it has constantly waged a campaign to denigrate the unemployed by the use of the term ‘dole bludgers’ and to play on the prejudices of the members of some sections of the community who are fortunate enough to have a job. Quite frankly, I become a little tired of the smug self-satisfaction of people who have a job. There are 94 per cent of the people at work even though some 6 per cent are out of work -
– Don’t you like people having jobs?
-I like people having jobs. I do not like their smugness when they are fortunate enough to have a job, and I do not like their attitude towards those who are not so fortunate. Apparently, the unemployed are only genuinely unemployed when Labor is in government. A fascinating insight into the Government’s economic muddle-headed thinking was provided today by the answer given by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to a question I asked him. I said:
In view of the reported comments of Government back benchers that people should work for their unemployment benefit, has he further considered the question I asked him late last year in which I suggested that new- I emphasise the word ‘new’- local government works be subsidised up to 25 per cent of the total cost? The Minister will recall that I recommended 25 per cent as I believed this would be the amount of money saved through unemployment benefits. If this figure is correct, what possible objection can the Government have to the provision of funds to local government if it will mean simply a transfer of expenditure from one Government department to another?
I am delighted to see that the best Minister for Labor that we have had in years has just come into the chamber. He is the man who introduced the Regional Development scheme. I am not quite sure whether the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations misunderstood my question or whether he deliberately tried to confuse the issue. What I was saying was that if local government bodies were prepared to undertake new public works with a subsidy of only 25 per cent, which is an amount equal to what would be paid out in unemployment benefits, why not allow them to undertake such works and pay them a 25 per cent subsidy? The balance of 75 per cent would then be paid by the local government bodies. The Minister replied in part:
One area of great concern has been the level of Government spending. It reached record levels and record rates of increase under the previous Government, which resulted in record levels of Budget deficit. Even if the cost of employment creation schemes is reduced by the 25 per cent that I mentioned a moment ago due to factors such as savings in unemployment benefit and increases in tax, such schemes are extremely expensive. No way has yet been found in which such schemes would not add to the Budget deficit that I mentioned a moment ago.
I have always regarded the Minister as one of the more intelligent of a rather thick bunch of Ministers.
– Which one was that?
– I am referring to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Surely he did not mean what he said. If 25 per cent of the cost is saved by a direct transfer from unemployment benefits to a job creation scheme, how can that lead to an increase in the deficit? It surely must have no effect whatsoever. The Minister’s comment that ‘even if the cost of employment creation schemes is reduced by 25 per cent’ makes me feel that he did not understand the question. The cost of the scheme would not be reduced at all; it would remain the same. The cost to the Federal Government would be reduced by a rninimum of 75 per cent because the 75 per cent would be paid by local government. The 25 per cent contributed by the Federal Government would not be extra cost at all because, by the Minister’s own admission, that amount would be saved in unemployment benefits and taxes.
Now let us have a look at inflation, that other major area in which the Government promised so much and has delivered so little. For the record I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing inflation rates for the years 1975 and 1976.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Six States capitals all groups index (i.e. include Medibank index, etc.).
Information provided by the Parliamentary Legislative Research Service.
-The first column of the table shows the inflation rate on a quarterly basis and the second column shows the inflation rate on an annual basis. Whichever way you look at these figures they show the abysmal record of this Government. For the last quarter for which the Labor Government was responsible the quarterly rate was 5.6 per cent with an annual rate of 14 per cent. Twelve months later that quarter showed an inflation rate of 6 per cent or an annual rate of 14.4 per cent. Throughout the whole of the year 1976 the annual rate ranged from 12.3 per cent to 14.4 per cent. If, of course, we were indulging ourselves in the dishonest tactics of the present Government when it was in Opposition we would multiply the quarterly figure, when it was high, by four. We would then come up with an inflation rate of 24 per cent.
So what is it that the people of Australia have got out of their overwhelming support for the Liberal-National Country Party coalition? They have 30 per cent more unemployment and a higher rate of inflation, while at the same time the Government has dismantled one after another of the long overdue social reforms of the Whitlam Labor Government. The Government promised to retain each one of those reforms. The list of broken promises is legend. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and Government members are doing double somersaults trying to prove that the inflation rate, much like the unemployment situation, is not really happening. The December figures, we are told, were primarily the result of the Medibank blip. The next figures for March, we will be told, are due to the devaluation blip, and no doubt the June figures will be caused by the national wage case blip. No wonder the Treasurer is called Colonel Bhp, or perhaps it is Corporal Blip. Finally, I want to deal with the broken promises of the present Government.
– You will not have time.
-In the 3 minutes remaining to me I can deal with them only briefly. The first topic is local government. On 27 November 1975 the Liberal-National Country parties claimed:
We will provide a sound basis of financial independence and responsibility for the States and local government with the most significant reform of the Federal system since Federation.
The Lynch Budget reduced appropriations for local government by 25 per cent in real terms. Contrary to the Government’s election pledge, payments to the States for roads were reduced by 12 per cent in real terms in 1976-77. Urban development programs were savagely cut back despite the Government’s promise on 27 November 1 975 in these terms:
We will continue urban programs. We are the people who can work with State and local government to overcome the problems caused by rapid growth in the cities and in new expanding suburbs.
The Lynch Budget ruthlessly reduced expenditure on the growth centres program, the area improvement program, land commissions, the national sewerage program, the regional employment and development program and so on. The health policy of the Liberal-National Country parties released in November 1975 promised the ‘development of a comprehensive and integrated health care system’ under a LiberalNational Country Party Government. Mr Fraser stated in his policy speech on 27 November 1 975 the following:
We will maintain Medibank and ensure that the standard of health care does not decline.
After only 6 months in power the Fraser Government destroyed Medibank and dismantled most of the Labor Government’s preventive health programs. The list of broken promises is endless.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point or order. Could it be recorded in Hansard that it was the honourable member for Hindmarsh and not the honourable member for Corangamite that the honourable member for Robertson was referring to when he described the person who just walked into the chamber as being the best Minister for Labor and Immigration we have ever had?
-I think the point is taken by Hansard.
-Australia is still the finest nation on this earth and in the future it will grow even finer under the present Government. Her Majesty the Queen graced the nation in its capital and is now proceeding throughout the country. Her Majesty stated in her Speech that the nation’s many social, economic and cultural achievements since 1954- the occasion of her first visit- are most impressive. The Government is determined to establish the conditions in which the challenge before this country can be met and the promise of this country can be realised. I do not say that this country’s problems are all the fault of the former Government. That is patently ridiculous, but that Government contributed through its lack of foresight, its bungling and its incompetence to many of the problems that we now face.
Today we saw a most desperate, disgraceful and despicable speech by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. 6. Whitlam), seeking to run for re-election in his own Party, seeking to say anything that comes to the top of his head, to defame any person he can, to twist the truth in any way he can to justify his grasp at the straw in the hope that his former Government will be returned. He chose in particular to make a despicable personal attack on one of the members of the Government benches. He forgot to mention to the House that whilst he was attacking that person against whom nothing by way of any charge has ever been laid, there are criminal charges presently outstanding against him. Because of the rules of sub judice it is not proper for me to refer to these charges. Sufficient to say that he, the Leader of the Opposition, is innocent until proven guilty. We also heard today from another honourable member, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam), a desperate speech on a topic of great importance to the community and to newcomers to this country, from which he departed for no apparent reason to make a personal attack on a member of this House. It is quite apparent that that honourable member did not start life at the bottom but from wherever he started he has managed to work his way up to the street.
Australia will be taken out of this recession by the present Government. It is the conventional idiom to talk about the various arms of Government policy. These include fiscal policy, monetary policy, external policy and wages policy. I have some doubts as to whether there are not serious limits on the traditional fiscal and monetary and external policies that can be applied at present. This Government has given the lead in all these areas. In particular the recent devaluation will provide great benefits to the nation. But there are 2 areas at which we must look if we are to get the country going again. These obviously are, firstly, wages policy, which is really part of industrial relations policy and, secondly, taxation. Wages policy is very complex. It is often the subject of tremendous emotion and great debate. But unless we get restraint in wages in Australia there is no way in which inflation can be defeated. Until we reduce the rate of inflation we Will not have the platform from which to build the scaffolding to take this country to the skies once again.
The wages policy of this Government is restricted very considerably because in our Constitution there is a provision for dispersal of power. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has a most important function to play. I believe it carries out its function without regard to any pressure that may be brought outside the hearings. It waits until its hearings and it listens carefully. I believe that we should be looking at and adopting some of the suggestions that at times come into the arena. I have felt for many years that one of the worst things that happened in Australia was the move to the total wage. One thing that has been grossly devalued in our community is skill. The margins for skill were a way of providing proper reward for persons who were able to demonstrate skill, instead of throwing everything into the melting pot.
What we have nowadays is the political and economic expression of democracy with everyone having a say, which is good; everyone having restrictions removed, which is good; everyone being able to promote his own interests, which is good until those interests clash as greatly as they have in past times. There must be some system for working out relativities in life and for providing orderly social justice within the capacity of the economy. The system of basic wages and margins was a good system. It is quite obvious that if a man is earning $500 per week and gets a 6 per cent flow on he gets $30 per week extra and that if a man is earning $100 per week and gets a 6 per cent flow on he receives $6 per week extra. But both men pay the same costs in life generally. Their wives go to the same supermarkets and pay the same prices. It is quite ridiculous to talk of the consumer price index as a realistic cost of living index.
Any inquiry into the CPI would be most welcome. Indeed, I suggest that we should look at having not just a consumer price index but a legitimate cost index as such. I see no reason why such an index should not eventually be applied as one element in wage fixation. The other element ought obviously to be productivity. We need a proper productivity assessment and index so that we can add a second component based upon productivity. That, of course, would derive to a great extent from work effort. Skill is very important in that area because we must reward skill, initiative and activity. If we have a productivity index that is general and reasonably applicable, provided it is not open to abuse, I believe we wal be moving in the right direction. However, we should not allow single industries that may have very good equipment and machinery and that may within themselves be very productive to push selfishly a claim for vastly improved conditions that the average wage earner is not able to benefit from because his machinery or output is not as good. Nor should we allow them to push claims that the community in general cannot support. This has been one of the problems in England and, to an extent, in Australia. The unions have pushed claims that the economy cannot support. People belonging to a rich union do well and people in a poor union do not necessarily do so well in England and not so well in Australia
There is a need for sensible consideration of, for restraint in and for a flexible and reasonable approach towards wage fixation. Principally this will come from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I am a very great believer in the arbitration system that this country has had for many years. I believe also that in the present circumstances if wage indexation should collapse without any sensible system being hammered out and devised to replace that system it may not be a case of chaos but rather a case of a reduction in real incomes of the wage earner. It is patently obvious that the wages explosion of 1973 and 1974 provided such a movement of general resources towards wages that the share of productivity going to profits, to investment and to the opportunity to revive the nation went down below the critical level. However, the unions realised that the game was up. They realised that what they had better do was to lock themselves into the situation as it stood by indexation. They have sought since to lock themselves into a CPI, which is not a proper and reasonable index, and into a system which holds the relativities of wages excessively.
I do not in one way suggest that there should be a reduction in real income. I suggest that there should be a proper revaluation of relativities and a proper redistribution of resources. Much of those resources would then go not only to assist to develop the country but also to assist the underprivileged. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) tried to say the other day that if amendments were made to the Trade Practices Act and if there were any sort of conflict this country would be brought to its heels by unions which would turn off switches and plunge this country into darkness. The fact is that the mainstream of the trade union movement is sensible, moderate and reasonable and would not support that sort of activity. The next fact is that if the indexation system collapses without a reasonable method of wage fixation in lieu, the unionists will get nothing, because there is nothing in the market place with which they can be paid. The money is just not available. If they want to protect their real wages, the answer lies in sensible restraint so that one man’s job is not lost by ridiculous wage increases- sensible restraint within a reasonable system of wage fixation.
The second matter to which I refer, which is allied to the previous matter, is taxation. I do not support the panic clamours for piecemeal ad hoc tax cuts at this moment. I believe that the Government is absolutely right in its announcement that there will be wholesale tax reform at the right time. I expect that that will commence with the next Budget. I certainly hope so. I believe that when the Government introduced full personal income tax indexation it was not fully appreciated by the community. It is an excellent benefit. It keeps governments honest. It removes the opportunity to rip off the public rapaciously. I remember the words of the present Leader of the Opposition when he was running for office in 1972. He was asked if he would increase the rates of taxation. He said no, and he did not until the vicious Budget of 1975-76. He was asked that question and he said: ‘We will finance our programs out of the natural increase of the Commonwealth revenue.’ What he meant was inflation, and that was one of the worst policies that any government could have adopted. It led this country from prosperity to penury in 3 years. Tax indexation is a proper and most overdue reform, although what the Government really should have done was trade some of it off against an agreement with the unions for wage restraint. Indeed, the Government played a $ 1,100m card without getting anything back.
I believe that before the next Budget it is most important that dialogue should commence within the community. The matter should be dealt with and thrashed out before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to the extent that it can assist. We should assess within the community its willingness to exercise restraint and to adopt a sensible approach to wages so that this Government can look at tax reform and institute that reform without bankrupting the country. There are people who on equity grounds must be looked after. Aged persons have been paying massively increased rates of tax since 1974, and the Budget of 1975 hit them between the eyes. Those people need relief. Many of them who are over 65, and those in another category who are over 80, have received increases in income from small supplementary superannuation payments of roughly 15 per cent, which seems to be the average. On average, their tax has gone up by 75 per cent since the vicious Hayden Budget of 1975 and inflation has also increased, so their positions in life must have gone down. We never hear Mr Hawke talking about them. He seems to want to support the positions of rich fat cat trade unionists. We do not hear him talking about small business, which needs assistance because nowadays small business does not grow into big business. The big men can look after themselves, but Napoleon did not crack the British mainly because they were a nation of shopkeepers- a diverse nation of entrepreneurs, a people of skill and ability. The middle ground of this nation is what wil help to build it in the future. Small business is very much a part of that middle ground. It needs assistance, and the ridiculous tax provisions applying to proprietary companies should be waived.
We also need to assist a great number of other persons in need in our community. We need to provide an increase in the rate at which provisional tax becomes applicable. How do we do all of those things without a reduction in income, without finding that we cannot pay for the wonderful social benefits this Government is providing? The 8.2 per cent increase in pensions and other benefits has been a magnificent boost in real terms to the position in the community of many pensioners. Their relative position has been increased, and if there is some form of plateau indexation, and I hope there will be, then as their pensions increase on the consumer price index we will see an increase in their relative positions. How is the Government to pay for that? It can do so only by the thimble and pea trick of tax reform which takes much of the burden off the individual yet provides the incentive for entrepreneurs and others to develop the country and to keep up, through taxation and through the reduction of unemployment, the level of income necessary to finance proper social programs. It is vital that we have dialogue beforehand. It is vital that there be discussion and that we find out what it is possible to do in the next Budget. I believe that the people of the nation as a whole should put their heads together over the next 6 months in order to hammer out what can be provided as a basis for that Budget. I have no doubt and I certainly hope that the Cabinet will meet with all groups in the community to discuss these matters.
On the further aspect of industrial relations, I do not believe that this country will get anywhere without the mainstream of the people supporting it. The mainstream of the people- be they Liberal, Labor or National Country Party votersare good solid Australians. This country has been built into a magnificent country. It has been divided by so much in recent times. What we must avoid is pandering to or in any way refusing to recognise the extremes in our community. Those in the mainstream must come together and must get a consensus to develop. Whilst we as a Government pander to the communist trade union officials and call them ‘militants’ or ‘extremists’, all we do is signify to the moderate trade unionists that we do not really think those officials are all that bad. I believe that the bitter struggles in the trade union movement between the extreme communist groups and the mainstream are more bitter than the average man in society realises. They are terrific struggles. The moderate trade unionists know the peril to this nation that can come from the leftists, the communists, who are revolutionaries and who seek only to drag this nation down. We ought to call these people ‘communists’ and expose their activities. If we call them ‘militants’ the man on the shop floor thinks: ‘These people are only doing the right thing by me in getting me extra wage rises’. We should be pointing out exactly where the country is at perU from these people and appealing for a consensus from the mamstream, average trade unionists to help get the country going again. They will respond.
I would like to refer to a number of particular matters. I congratulate the Government on holding the line on interest rates. Interest rates are a drastic cost. Whenever they go up everyone’s costs go up, and that adds to inflation. I congratulate the Government on its statement that the means test will be abolished when appropriate. Let us hope that the time will come when that can be done. I think that eventually we will have to move to a system of proper welfare based on need. Perhaps eventually we will reach a stage where pensioners can receive their pensions based on a sensible cost index and some share evaluated by reference to productivity. Let us see what happens if public opinion can be amalgamated during a long strike. What will happen to the trade unionists who go on strike with the result that pensioners will not get so much of a rise next year because productivity has gone down? This will bring the weight of public opinion- the opinion of 1.8 million social security beneficiaries- down on to the backs of these ratbags and they will come to order.
I also ask the Government to consider dealing with the problem which the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) raised the other day. I refer to the fact that six or seven trade unionists can throw a few switches and black out half a city. I think the time is long overdue when every person who is not gainfully employed because of a strike should not be paid any money. Let such people go to a court and seek an appropriate order to have their money aid or their positions reinstated. At present the blackmailers m the extremist union movement know that they can throw on a strike with a few workers and by the time the boss can get around to going to the court and obtaining a stand down order for the employees a week has gone by and it is too late to do anything about it. If we reverse the situation, the good, solid, average Australian trade unionist will soon go round the corner, get hold of some of these ratbags, give them a quiet word in the ear and sort them out.
– A quiet what in the ear?
– A quiet word. I refer finally to the future of this country. We are resource rich. We are asset rich. If we do not develop this country we face a very serious future. We must develop our defences. We must develop our foreign policy. We must ensure that we distribute our people throughout the country. We are the most urbanised, the most insular and in many respects the most apathetic, complacent and selfish country. If we do not tend to our own home, if we do not build the development of this country, if we do not look after ourselves others may seek to do it for us. It is absolutely vital that this Government, having won the next election as it will do, builds on the platform thereafter to develop this country again into the finest nation on earth.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should like to draw attention to one of the sentences in what is called Her Majesty’s Speech, but which everybody knows is the expression of the Government of the day. It is: . . the progress of Australia as a nation depends on creating the conditions which foster the strength, independence and creativity of its people.
What the previous gentleman has just said would seem to me to negate a large part of the creativity of the Australian people because it is expressed in his hostility to the trade union movement.
– I did not interject on you, comrade, and you have been here a very short time. If I may suggest it, you are not going to be here a very long time. The remark on the next page of Her Majesty’s Speech brings home the whole problem of the situation of the Australian economy. Her Majesty goes on to note- I say again that it is this Government that goes on to note:
The prosperity of the Australian people depends on the strength of its productive private sector, on its manufacturing, rnining and rural industries.
The previous speaker has the great grace to disappear after boring us for 20 minutes. I suppose he is going out to receive the adulation of the Press representatives, who are not here either.
I want to draw attention to a set of figures that were published on 1 March, headed ‘Australian National Accounts 1975-76, Gross Domestic Product at Current and Constant Prices’. It gives a tabulation over a 12-year period. It shows that what is called final consumption expenditure divided between the private sector and government in 1964-65 was roughly $12 billion private to $2 billion government or, if you like, a factor of 6: 1. By 1975-76-the latest year available-the figures have risen to $41.5 billion private to $11 .5 billion government, or a factor of 4: 1 .
– It is a worry.
-Well, I think it shows the reality of the economy. With all respect to honourable members opposite, I do not think that they acknowledge the realities of the economy. In fact if one might typify this speech, it reminds me of what the great Lord Keynes said some 50 years ago about a then Tory Government. He said: They won’t promise what they can’t perform. Therefore they promise nothing.’ Candidly, I think that what this Speech shows is a promise of nothing because they do not know what to do.
A lot of nonsense has been spoken this afternoon and the honourable member for EdenMonaro (Mr Sainsbury) was one of the perpetrators. It is easy enough to say that everything happened between the beginning of 1973 and the end of 1975. 1 shall refer to a few statistics. The number of persons registered for unemployment at the end of June 1971, which was right in the middle of the great prosperity era of honourable members opposite, was 66 000. Twelve months later, at the end of June 1972, it had risen to 99 000- an increase of 50 per cent in 12 months. After the first impact of the terrible Labor Government it fell to 81 000 in June 1973, and fell again in June 1974 to 78 000. 1 do not discount the figures. It rose at the end of June 1975 to 245 000. Honourable members opposite say that it was all due to the terrible Labor Government. At the moment, not much more than a year after their Government was elected it is 350 000- an increase of 50 per cent in not much more than a year.
I suggest that the Government is not grappling with the realities of the situation. Honourable members opposite came into government in this country by painting themselves into a corner. They said that the Australian economy was bad, and it was bad for one reason only- that they were not the Government. The 2 things that they said they would correct were inflation and unemployment. The position in each area has deteriorated since they came to office. They gave glib assurances. I have heard the nonsense that it was this Government that took pensions out of politics. This Government was the first government which said it would make 2 annual increases in pensions, in the Budget Session and the Autumn Session. Now they quibble about the rise being related to the consumer price index or the average weekly earnings.
– Who does?
– You do, for one. This afternoon you talked that sort of nonsense about what the Government did for the first time. You said that the Government took pensions out of politics. I do not want to get diverted by that sort of issue. I ask honourable members opposite again to look at some figures published recently about total employment in Australia. Surely this is what they ought to be looking at. Fortunately, at the moment, total employment is beginning to increase. When one looks at how total employment is increasing, one sees that it is increasing by a decrease in male employment and an increase in female employment. Maybe this has a lot to do with Women’s Lib and so on. I still believe that our society and its integrity depend on the male wage earner- basically the single wage earnernot the 2-income family. Honourable members opposite do not mention much about the fact that there has been quite a selective interpretation of statistics- the one that suits them best. The Australian economy was never as bad as they painted it to get us out of office. They painted it so bad that they destroyed the confidence of business institutions and what they have done so far has done little to restore that confidence. Honourable members on the Government side cannot live any longer- I said this in a speech a few weeks ago- half way through their first term of office by saying that everything that is bad is due to the situation that they inherited from the previous Government. I repeat that they will not promise what they cannot perform because they cannot perform. The sooner the Australian community acknowledges this, the better.
The 2 central problems in this economy are still inflation and unemployment. The two are related, but in a somewhat different form to the way in which honourable members opposite think they are related. The main contributors to consumer expenditure in Australia are still the wage earners. The only means of lining real consumer expenditure is to increase real wages, and surely that is the argument before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One of the realities of the Australian economy- I think it is part of the humanity of the tradition of the countryis that even if a person is out of work he will not be allowed to starve. It is about time that we began to acknowledge the difference between not allowing people to starve on the dole and the responsibility for placing them in creative employment in the Australian economy. The Government is not facing up to the situation. Some tribute was paid to my colleague the former Minister for Labour, the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). He began systematically in Australia in 1973 what should have begun in Australia in 1953. He began a sensible manpower poliCY. Manpower and the training behind it are tied up with education and everything else. I am surprised now at some of the industrial tycoons who are beginning to say that people are being trained in schools for jobs which do not exist and that they are not being trained in the skills that a new society needs. I said that in speeches which I made in this House nearly 20 years ago.
I talked to members of my own economic committee recently. Everybody uses the words ‘primary’, ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’. The other day I came across an article which contained a new word. I asked members of my committee whether they had heard it. ‘Primary ‘ means first, secondary’ means second and ‘tertiary’ means third. Somebody has now coined the word ‘quaternary’ which apparently means the fourth level. Just as the word ‘tertiary’ came into existence to acknowledge that the words ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ were not competent to explain the needs of society, the word ‘quaternary’ has now come into existence to explain the fourth level- the knowledge providers, the technocrats and so on. Maybe the use of this word is a miserable attempt to indicate some of the changes that are upon us. We have to acknowledge that changes are upon us. Australia has to acknowledge this internally and externally.
We have to sell our products. Surely members of the National Country Party of all people ought to know this. They are great ones for telling us about the beef industry, the wheat industry, the sugar industry and so on. I do not wish to discuss those matters tonight. I do not have the time to do so. We cannot be free traders when it comes to selling and protectionists when it comes to buying. In many ways Australia with its geographical position, is one of the most vulnerable countries. In many respects it is in the unique position of still being one of the great food providers of the world. I shall not go into detail about that subject either tonight. I may cross some fences in my own Party about something called the Gregory thesis. The Gregory thesis is a simple expression of what in my student days was called an example of uneven economic development. If there is an excess in one part of an economy it must have repercussions upon the other parts. What Australia has to acknowledge is that we live in a world where there are great differences of economic development. In my view we are in a unique position to be an assister to the rest of the world. That objective may require some structural adjustment internally, but structural adjustment is never easy to attain. Sometimes, if one does not acknowledge it early, it is thrust upon one and one cannot do much about it.
During my years as Treasurer I had to attend- I enjoyed the experience- meetings of a group that was called the Committee of Twenty. This group was designed to deal with what was called international monetary reform. In the finish international monetary reform foundered on 2 propositions. One was national sovereignty. Each country thought it was best able to determine its own exchange position. It is a nice nonsense to think that one can do that. But Australia is less in a position than most countries to believe in that nonsense. A country might think that it can do so but in the finish changes are forced upon it. It is always easier for a country not to revalue more than it should, but in the main devaluation is largely forced upon a country, although I do not think this was the case recently.
Secondly, the Committee foundered upon special drawing rights- known as SDRs- which were concerned with transferring real resources from the wealthy to the poor. In the finish the Committee sensibly divided its activities to deal with monetary reform and the transfer of real resources as separate issues. The National Country Party in particular should be concerned about the transfer of real resources. We hear the great rigmarole- I had to utter it when I was Minister for Overseas Trade and so does the present occupant of the position- that we would like to have a circumstance where for the sale of commodities we could arrive at prices that were fair both to producers and to consumers. As I said to one of my colleagues today, this is about as easy as trying to achieve that other truism about wages, namely, that there should be a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Different sides of the House have a different concept of each side of the equation. I ask members of the National Country Party in particular to think how they could easily arrive at a price for a commodity which we think is fair to us and does not exploit the consumer. I think sometimes a lot of nonsense is talked at international tribunals that it is easy to do this. We in this country happen to be the fortunate possessors of the ability to expand our production of wheat. I am astonished sometimes when I hear people talking with great adulation now about the sale of wheat to China and beef to Russia. I am not quite sure what they would have said 10 years ago. But now these sales are the saviour of the rural industries in Australia. I think if anything this attitude shows that we are living in one world.
I do not think I have quoted in this House before an experience that I had when I was a young boy at school. One of my teachers once wrote on brown paper- we did not receive the sort of assistance that is now available educationally ‘We are valued only as we make ourselves valuable’. That is the hard lesson for Australia in the future. The rest of the world will not be interested in us unless we have something to provide sensibly and equitably to the rest of the world.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. During his speech on the Address-in-Reply the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) made some statements that, had I been in the chamber, I would have taken exception to as being most offensive to me. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition did not observe the usual courtesies of the House to advise me of his intention to discuss my position during the debate.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will proceed with his personal explanation. He will not debate the matter.
-The statement of the Leader of the Opposition about me is untrue. I have not been, as he asserts, ‘shielded’ by anyone, nor have I sought it. No one has ‘covered up’ for me because I have nothing to cover up. I have totally faced up to my proper responsibilities and have been held by the courts to have done so.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
– The honourable member for Melbourne is not in his seat, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur will resume his seat.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Melbourne is not in his right seat.
– I am now. My point of order is to the effect that the personal explanation has to be projected to the Chair immediately. My point of order goes to the procedure that the honourable member for Macarthur is adopting. He is going through a preamble as to the merits of the arguments that were presented in the debate. If he wishes to show where he has been misrepresented he should do so immediately. He ought to get to the point.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I will rule on the point of order, if you do not mind. I ask the honourable member to restrict his remarks to the area in which he maintains he has been misrepresented. The honourable member shall not introduce new material and shall not debate the matter but shall stick strictly to where he has been misrepresented.
-With the utmost respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I thought that I had established by my heavy assertion of particular words the words actually used by the Leader of the Opposition against me. I quoted those words.
– I am trying to help the honourable member to proceed. I suggest that he proceed before time runs out.
– The words are offensive to me and I have stressed that those words are offensive to me and are untrue. That is the point of everything I have said so far, Sir. If I may, I will continue to stress that the words stated are untrue. My position, despite what the Leader of the Op- position has said, is not changed by anything that as been asserted in the report of Mr Masterman, who clearly stated that my contact with Patrick Partners in the last 5 months of its existence was ‘minimal’- a statement that the Leader of the Opposition strangely omitted from his lengthy quotations from the report. I repeat that the statements by the Leader of the Opposition are untrue. I repeat that I have never been, despite his assertions, a part owner of Patrick Partners. At no stage was I ever entitled to any share of its assets and I was never liable for its debts. There were the specific terms under which I joined that firm and they remained such until I left it.
– I compliment the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) on his very constructive speech tonight. An attack has been -
Political Parties -Abortions -Assistance to Handicapped Persons- PensionsParliamentary Officer
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-The matter I wish to bring to the attention of Parliament tonight relates to the continuing saga in the Sydney Press of the activities of people labelled as right-wing extremists in the Liberal Party in the Sydney area. I am looking at a report which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 March. In that report the Liberal member for Evans disowned his association with that kind of activity in Sydney area and in the same statement he disowns -
– I take a point of order! The honourable member is casting aspersions about so-called extreme right-wing Liberals. I wonder whether he will ever associate himself with extreme left-wing socialist communist Labor supporters.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)There is no substance to the point of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, again the Liberal Party Whip has been a source of intimidation and disruption. I again seek your protection from him.
– I take a point of order. With due respect I do not think that type of remark is becoming a member of Parliament. A Whip or any other honourable member of this Parliament has the right to raise a point of order when he thinks that offensive terms are being used.
-Order! Every honourable member in this House has a right to raise a point of order. On a number of occasions matters have been raised which have not been points of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Reference to Hansard will reveal remarks made by the Government Whip which bear out the statement I made a few moments ago. I wish to bring to the attention of the Parliament a letter which is evidence of the extreme right-wing influence within the Liberal Party and of its activities in the Newcastle area. I shall read from a letter addressed to an ethnic church in the Newcastle area. The letter is dated June 1976 and was handed to the priest of that church. The letter relates to a meeting at the Newcastle office of the Liberal Party on 5 June 1976. It states:
An outline of Liberal Party policy which is basically antisocialist was given and part of the Liberal aim is to attract members of all ethnic groups with similar feelings and beliefs.
What has been happening in Newcastle is that the Liberal Party has been seeking to use religious groups and churches to spread extremist right-wing propaganda. Another paragraph of this letter states:
One particular aspect brought to the attention of the meeting was the concern expressed by ethnic group leaders regarding social indoctrination apparent in many churches.
I thought that churches and religion were associated with social issues. In this case, quite clearly the Newcastle Branch of the Liberal Party has misused the definition of those words. The key paragraph of the letter states:
If members of church congregations are politically ignorant and are therefore unaware of the dangers inherent in the social/labour doctrines, should the church arrange for the education -
The ‘education’ mind you- of its members in this area- or alternatively, should leaders of particular social groups related to each denomination organise some form of positive instruction by way of seminars etc., so that all individuals have the opportunity to learn about and understand the way of Australian politics.
Your comments and suggestions in regard to this topic would be very much appreciated.
The letter is signed ‘Yours sincerely, Adrian Garton, Liberal Party member, Newcastle Branch’ and is on a Liberal Party letterhead. It is an authentic document. I have seen the original letter. Quite clearly, this is one of the groups to which the honourable member for Evans was referring in his remarks which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of 5 March 1977. It is disgraceful that the Liberal Party should seek to use the ethnic churches of this nation to promote extremist propaganda. This is a blatant example of an official letter from an organ of the Liberal Party of New South Wales seeking to subvert the priests of an ethnic church to collaborate in spreading this propaganda. No doubt the honourable member for Evans has recognised the danger of such activity and quite rightly he has sought in his statement of 5 March 1977 to disown these extremists within the Liberal Party. I say to those more moderate and more enlightened members of the Liberal Party sitting opposite who have some hope of remaining in this place that they ought to follow his example. The ethnic churches are not lobby groups to be abused and misused by the extremists who are masquerading within the Liberal Party.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to ask whether the honourable member for Shortland is prepared to table the document from which he read. He is so clever at asking this of everybody else. Also I wonder whether he bothered to pay the usual courtesy that is extended to members of this House of advising the honourable member for
Evans that he intended to address his remarks about him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, my remarks were in no way derogatory of the honourable member for Evans. This is just an example of feverishness of the honourable member for Bendigo this evening. What I say in response to the matter raised by the honourable member is that I have not sought as yet- but I have no doubt I will receive it- permission of the recipient of the letter to have it incorporated in Hansard. I will do so at the weekend and next week I will be very happy to have the letter incorporated in Hansard with the permission of the Government Whip.
-In May 1973 a vote in this House overwhelmingly rejected moves to legalise the wholesale killing of the unborn in the Territories controlled by the Federal Government. Many honourable members from both sides of the House were here at that time. I draw to the attention of the House that less than 4 years later, despite that vote and without any changes in the law, moves are well in hand to bring into Canberra 2 organisations that specialise in wholesale abortions, virtually on demand. One is Population Services International which I will refer to as PSI. The other is Preterm Canberra which has applied for incorporation in the Australian Capital Territory. Recently PSI used the Commonwealth Employment Service office at Woden to interview staff for an abortion clinic which was expected to open this month. Both organisations exist to make money out of abortions. Because of ambiguities in State laws they are able to perform and charge for these abortions in other places in Australia without any apparent legal problems. They are also able to have them paid for through Medibank. So Australia’s heavily burdened taxpayers are subsidising the profits of those engaged in the sole business of killing unborn children.
Anyone who is naive enough to believe that the abortion business is motivated solely by deep compassion for a few desperate women and girls should look at how profitable that compassion can be. Last financial year, for instance, PSI made a profit of $173,575. On Tuesday night on the Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program Broadband PSI’s project director said that it now had an annual cash flow of $lm. PSI claims that its profits are spent extending its activities- PSI death factories- to country areas. PSI’s clinic in Canberra apparently will be funded from overseas just as was the clinic which it opened in Sydney recently, probably from the
United States of America. Perhaps the interdepartmental committee on foreign investment ought to consider whether this sort of traffic is really for the good of this country.
The man described as PSI’s project director is Dr Geoffrey Davis, now of a Sydney address. Dr Davis has a known affection for vintage cars. He owns a number of them and several modern Maseratis. His latest acquisition, according to the Australian of January 1977, is a vintage Mercedes-Benz which the newspapers claim is probably worth at least $100,000 on the world market. I suggest to the House that these are real dividends of death. The doctor’s connection with the abortion business obviously is not making him a pauper. His profit is being made from a trade that deals death to Australia’s most desirable prospective citizens- innocent unborn children. It comes largely from the public purse of this country.
PSI at present is doing an estimated 200 to 300 abortions a week, the costs of most of which are claimed under Medibank. It takes late term pregnancies for termination; that is, 18 to 20 weeks or even 22 weeks. The unborn baby, I think most honourable members will know, is fully formed and very well grown at 1 8 to 20 weeks. It is a living little human being that has to be killed. The killing is done in ways which are illegal in animal slaughter houses. I shall spare honourable members the details.
Every responsible honourable member in the House knows that this country needs population. Even honourable members opposite such as the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) have criticised the fallacies of zero population growth. It is ridiculous, almost to the point of suicidal folly, for us to be thinking in terms of immigration programs when we are literally paying abortionists to slaughter potential population. There is a demand for abortions coming from the community, not only from women but also from men. To my mind, this is a sad and terrible aberration of the times. I can only hope and pray that we will recover our senses before it is too late and that our men and women eventually will realise the dignity and precious value of every human life. I hope that every honourable member in the House wil become aware of the situation and will do what he can to stop this dreadful traffic.
-In the short time available to me tonight I wish to highlight just one of the many cases in which this Government has its priorities wrong. I refer to the subject of assistance to handicapped persons. Within my electorate, at Revesby, there is a school called the Caroline Chisholm Special School which is attended by SO children who are fairly heavily retarded and who come from an area of approximately 100 square miles. Most of these children leave school at around 16 to 17 years of age with certain skills; but those skills are not sufficient for them to go out into the wide world and into industry. What is the opening for children such as these? This problem was causing real concern to the parents of these children. So what did they do? They thought among themselves: ‘We have to set up a sheltered workshop’. The sheltered workshops in the area adjoining the school are completely full with partially retarded people, partially physically handicapped people and other disadvantaged members of the community. So the children who would be leaving this school would have nowhere to go.
The parents did not just sit down and accept that situation. They decided to try to set up a sheltered workshop for the children from this school and for others. They wrote to the Department of Social Security and were advised that no funds were available until after 30 June 1979. 1 ask honourable members to remember that the parents received this advice in March 1977. The question was: What was to happen to the children who would leave school this year? That was the real problem. The parents discussed the matter with me. I realised where the fault lay. It lay not with the government departments, from which the parents were getting every assistance, but with the policy of this Government in its unthinking cutting of what I class as necessary expenditure. In view of the fact that the parents could not get any assistance under the Handicapped Persons (Assistance) Act through the Department of Social Security, they thought: We will have to sit the situation out until after 30 June 1979 and hope that maybe after that date some financial assistance will come’.
After they discussed the matter with me, we tried to find out and to work out how we could set up some type of activity centre for these children when they left school, because they are not employable in the normal sense in outside industry. In nearly every case they would be on the invalid pension at the age of 16 years. We made inquiries through the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to see whether there were any schemes within that Department which might be of assistance. We met a blank wall. That is no reflection on the officers of that Department, who gave me every assistance.
Unfortunately they did not have any funds, projects or schemes which could be utilised. It seemed that there would be no hope for the future, certainly not until after 30 June 1979, to set up something for these children. But today there was a slight glimmer of hope after discussions with the secretary to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who gave me a very attentive hearing and a great deal of attention.
I had discussions with officers of the Department of Social Security who deal with handicapped children and they repeated the same message that I had been given in Sydney- no hope, no funds, no fault of theirs. They did not criticise the Government as they are good public servants, as I was. But due to the good offices of the secretary to the Minister for Social Security there is a faint glimmer of hope. There is such a thing as the Council for Child Care. We hope that even though there are no funds for handicapped persons we may be able to bring these children under the Council for Child Care and try to set up an activity centre so that they will not develop square eyes at home and so that there will be some hope for them in the future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to congratulate the Government for this week’s news of an 8.2 per cent rise in pensions. This rise demonstrates the major benefits that the Fraser Government has brought to pensioners by introducing automatic indexation of pensions. The effect of the pension rise to be paid out in 2 months ‘ time is that pensioners will really receive $1.50 a week more than their cost of living has risen. As a result pensions will increase as a proportion of the average wage, provided of course that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission does not allow the full indexation of workers’ wages to destroy our economy. The pension rise going to 1.5 million Australians puts together the 2.2 per cent and the 6 per cent cost of living rises in the last 2 quarters as measured by the consumer price index, but 3.2 per cent of this was entirely due to Medibank and more than 80 per cent of pensioners receive Medibank absolutely free. They will receive the full cost of living rise for the December quarter nonetheless.
This means that for most pensioners the cost of living has really risen over the last 6 months by only about 5 per cent but they will be receiving an 8.2 per cent pension rise. This is solely because the Fraser Government introduced a law providing for the automatic indexation of pensions. Some pensioner groups were foolish enough to criticise the law. The proof of this pudding is well and truly in the eating. Nothing that the Australian Labor Party did in office was guaranteed to preserve the living standards of pensioners in the way in which the Fraser Government’s automatic indexation has done and will continue to do.
Details of the rise are that single pensions will increase by $3.60 a week and pensions for married couples will rise by $6 a week lifting the maximum standard rate single pension to $47.10 a week and the maximum combined married rate to $78.50 a week. This will mean an annual extra cost to the taxpayers of $335m a year. It also means that in the 15 months since the Fraser Government took office single pensions will have increased by $8.35 a week or more than 20 per cent, and married pensions by $12 a week, a record of which any government would be proud. This represents a rise in real incomes for pensioners, not just paper money incomes as was the case under Labor. There has been some criticism to the effect that the social service pension rises will also flow on to people on the dole. There is no doubt that if the dole keeps moving up automatically there will be an increasing need for the Government to make certain that taxpayers’ money is not being wasted on people who are unemployed by choice rather than by force of circumstance. To this extent there seems huie doubt that the rules should be strictly applied. But it also seems clear that the great bulk of the unemployed who genuinely cannot find work should be entitled to at least the maintenance of their benefit in real terms, and indexation does no more than that.
In the past people on pensions have had to carry most of the burden of inflation, yet they are the very people least able to do so. The Fraser Government by indexing pensions has brought a major improvement in justice to pensioners. Of course, it is not only the social security pensioners who will benefit from the automatic rises. Repatriation pensions will also rise, with the totally and permanently incapacitated rate increasing by $6.90 a week to $90.15 and the general rate pension rising by $2.60 to $34.05. Pensions for war and defence widows will increase by $3.60 to $47.10 and standard Service pensions will have a similar increase, all to be paid on 5 May and having an annual cost of $53.2m. The facts clearly show the degree of effective and real concern that this Government has for pensioners. The facts are shown by the amount of money paid out, not by the empty words nor by the nonsense coming from the Opposition.
– I do wish that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) would not use the word ‘dole’ in such a contemptuous way. I do not think that he really meant it in that way but its use in that manner sounds dreadful particularly to people of my generation and to the people on unemployment benefit. I only hope that when his circumstances change and he becomes involuntarily unemployed at the end of this Parliament he will be treated with proper respect. The other point I make on the question of the pension is that the Labor Government changed substantially the relationship between the amount of pension paid and average weekly earnings. They are the facts based on arithmetic.
I rise this evening mainly to respond to a question asked in the Senate yesterday by a very distinguished senator, a former President of the Senate and the present Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. From reading Hansard one might say that the question asked was innocent enough. He wanted to know about the activities of a member of the Legislative Research Service, Mr Jim Dunn. I regard it as an attempt to intimidate Mr Dunn and other officers of this Parliament in the performance of what they choose to see as their duty and in the pursuance of a greater understanding of the work they have to perform. It happens, as I understand it, that Mr Dunn used his furlough in January, and surely no one here would try to inhibit anyone in the Service using his furlough as he wishes. I understand he is currently taking more of the furlough that is due and leave of various sorts.
Mr Dunn has served this country well, not only in his previous capacity in the area of foreign affairs or in his general duties in the Parliamentary Library but also by his public activities with respect to the situation in Timor. I believe that this Parliament is better served by officers who become public figures on public issues than by people who do not. There are some areas of parliamentary activity in respect of which one might say that a low profile is desirable, but the Legislative Research Service is a place in which we want people of competence, integrity and courage. They have to be able to tell aU of us what the facts are. That is why it was established. I remember the debate at the time in which I said that, with all due respect to younger people, I was not so keen on having bright young people straight out of universities and would be quite happy to see in the Service people with a totally different political view from my own.
I hope that this attempt to inhibit Mr Dunn and his work will cease, and that instead we will encourage officers of this Parliament who achieve some distinction in some field or who have something to offer in some field to carry on with their work. I understand that one other officer of the Parliament is prominent in the field of criminology and that there is a chance that he could become the international chairman of an organisation but perhaps there will be inhibitions placed on him which will prevent this. I hope that honourable members in the Parliament will protect officers against what I think is an attempt by this very distinguished senator to inhibit the work of Mr Jim Dunn. I am grateful for the work that he has done and I respect the integrity with which he has carried it out. I have been able to use his services since he has been with the Service. I was in Portugal at the time he was there and know that it was a sacrificial exercise on his part. For example, he had to pay his own expenses. He was supported, I think, by some organisations in respect of fares but he sacrificed his furlogh in the pursuit of a greater understanding of the work area in which he is employed. I cannot understand how in any way it is disadvantageous to this Parliament or the Legislative Research Service for a person to become more informed about a particular area in which we all have an interest.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770310_reps_30_hor104/>.