30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the House that the Right Honourable R. D, Muldoon, Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of New Zealand is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
Mr Muldoon thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Townsville 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 $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Bonnett, Mr Braithwaite, Mr Carige, Mr Corbett, Mr Giles, Mr McVeigh and Mr Eric Robinson.
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 triennium1977-1980. by Mr William McMahon and Mr Bradfield.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House ofRepresentatives inParliament assembled. The humble petitionof the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by theIAC and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Edwards and Mr Yates.
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 Dr Klugman and Mr Ian Robinson.
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 Simon and Mr Yates.
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, A.B.C. Television without further delay. by Mr Braithwaite.
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.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a ‘Right and not a charity’.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that a Citizen Radio Service should be introduced on the 27 MHz frequency band incorporating frequencies 26.965 MHz to 27.255 MHz enabling use of good quality 23 channel AM and AM/SSB radio equipment currently available on the Australian Market. There shall also be additionally an extension of this service provided for in the VHF/UHF spectrum within 3 years as the usage of the Citizen ‘s Radio Service increases.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should, immediately introduce legislation to amend the Wireless Telegraphy Act and regulations to allow such a Citizen’s Radio Service to function legally. These amendments should allow the Service to develop to the benefit of the people and also allow self regulation through the National Citizen’s Radio Association as the united representative body of Citizen’s Radio Operators working in conjunction with your Departmental Representatives, and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Charles Jones.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth.
That the Commonwealth Government restore the Petrol Price Equalisation Scheme immediately for the benefit of those people who live away from the seaboard.
Your petitioners believe that the matter is urgent and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr McVeigh.
To the honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of 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.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil.
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 public library services of New South Wales are inadequate both in quality and quantity and that the burden of provision is placed too heavily upon local government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr 0’Keefe.
Notice of motion
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
- Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance on this matter. The notice refers directly to a matter which is listed for debate in the House today. This is obviously only an attempt by the honourable member to avoid responsibilities in that debate. I ask you, Mr Speaker, to examine the notice and to rule, in view of the fact that it deals with a question which is already before the House, whether it is in order.
-The notice is in order.
-My question to the Deputy Prime Minister concerns yesterday’s appeal by the President of the New South Wales Graziers Association at the Association’s annual conference for strict controls on the future expansion of Australian mineral exports and the Deputy Prime Minister’s refusal, in opening the conference, to discuss this issue on the ground that he had a prepared text. I ask the Minister, now that he does not have a prepared text, whether he will inform the House what his attitude is to the matter raised by the President of the Graziers Association. Does the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledge that the rapid development of the mineral industry in the past has adversely affected the rural industries? Does he believe that the future development of the mining industry should be controlled in the interests of protecting other sectors of the economy, or is it his policy to develop the industry as rapidly as possible?
– I am happy to answer the question here. I would have thought that, as I had already given a copy of my speech to the Press, if I had not made it other questions would have been asked. In his speech the President of the New South Wales Graziers Association referred to what is becoming known as the Gregory theory- that over-expansion of the mining industry will have a detrimental effect on some of our existing export industries. At the luncheon with the executive of the New South Wales Graziers Association I was able to make the point that, if there was any other organisation which had more consistently advocated the efficient use of resources than that organisation, I would like to know of it. The organisation has always said that the basis of its concern about the high level of tariffs was that it was giving protection to inefficient industries and consequently was a misuse of allocations. Therefore it was very hard to follow the logic of those who now want to control or reduce the activities of the development of our mineral resources because these resources can be developed and sold in competition with other countries.
It is probably in selected areas of our mining industry that we have a greater potential for developing industries than anywhere else. I said it would be very unfortunate and I think that it would leave a nasty atmosphere with the Graziers Association if it were interpreted that the organisation wanted to control mining because it was frightened for its own particular interests. If governments develop industries, whether they be manufacturing, rural or mining, which are going to add to our overseas earnings then it will be to the benefit of all Australians. I would not like to jeopardise development which is going to be to the benefit of all Australians.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that vaccinations and inoculations for overseas travellers are being provided free of charge at Department of Health offices in Brisbane and elsewhere in Australia? As people travelling overseas can quite obviously afford a charge for this service, will the Minister impose a fee for service similar to that which is recommended by the Australian Medical Association?
– This has been the position since Medibank was introduced on 1 July 197S. I can assure the honourable member that the matter is under active consideration by my Department and indeed by the Government at the present time. The honourable member quite rightly refers to the ‘user pay ‘ principle. There is no such thing as a free lunch, as the Prime Minister has often said, and I do not think there is any such thing as a free needle. Someone has to pay for it. One would think that those people who can afford to go for a trip overseas for one reason or another undoubtedly could afford to pay for vaccination.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question about the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech yesterday to the New South Wales Graziers Association, particularly the passages in which he questioned whether Australia can afford the luxury of what the Deputy called ‘a neutral wages policy’, and cast doubt on the future work and role of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I ask: Did the Prime Minister see the text before it was delivered? Does the statement represent Government policy?
-The Deputy Prime Minister very clearly put to the New South Wales Graziers Association an approach which makes it quite clear that Australians as a whole ought to think about where they are going in relation to some of these matters. My colleague the Attorney-General has also made a statement which has made it quite clear that Australians as a whole ought to think about these matters. He has drawn attention to the point that there is in fact a corporations power which has not been used and which could, for example, be employed to reinforce and strengthen the Arbitration Commission. The policies of this Government are designed to strengthen the Commission and that is the purpose that we would have. So far as actual wage fixation is concerned, the attitude of the Government has been clearly and forcefully expressed before the Commission and that is where the matter ought to rest.
– I direct to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question which refers to a statement he made in this House and particularly that part dealing with the world-wide movement of uranium oxide. What are in fact the present effective safeguards applied to transactions in and international movement and exports of uranium? What specific steps has he taken to improve the system? When and where did he take them and what results were achieved? Will he also ask for the support of the New Zealand Government in his efforts?
-I can in fact give only a general answer, not a specific answer, on this matter at this stage. To the best of my knowledge the safeguards applying to nuclear material supplied by one country to another depend primarily on the international obligation of the countries concerned in relation to safeguards, including any special arrangements agreed to between them. At a minimum, where an importing country is a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, then the safeguards which are applied are those under an agreement between that country and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Under such safeguard arrangements for shipment and receipt of the material, arrangements are required to be reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has introduced more intensive measures of reporting and inspection of the materials when it becomes suitable for nuclear fuel and enrichment. Again, to the best of my knowledge, where an importing country is not a party to the non proliferation treaty arrangements, arrangements can nevertheless be made for the application of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. I believe this is done on the basis of a different type of agreement. In addition to these measures, of course, appropriate arrangements are made for the physical safeguard of other shipments. I will take into consideration what is implicit in the honourable member’s question regarding other countries and reply to him in due course.
– Has the Minister for Transport or his Department advised the State Ministers for Transport or their departments that the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act will no longer be operative in regard to State road programs, particularly freeway projects?
– There is a clear understanding between the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and myself in respect of these matters. The normal procedure that is followed is that where there is a heavy Commonwealth investment in any of the States, the environmental impact proposals are brought into operation. Where the States themselves have a heavy investment and the State has an environmental agency or authority, quite often the recommendations of that authority are satisfactory for Commonwealth purposes. I do not understand the basis of the honourable member’s question and I do not think there is much foundation for it.
-I ask a question of the Deputy Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade. Have there been recent discussions with the Japanese mission regarding salt and what was the outcome of these discussions?
– I recall very clearly that the honourable member made representations to me about 12 months ago expressing concern by salt producers in Western Australia that they could not arrive at satisfactory prices with the Japanese and that if satisfactory price levels were not achieved, there was a risk of some of these salt producing operations closing down. I have had discussions with the Soda Association in Japan in an attempt to reach an agreement because I was reluctant to have to intervene and to exercise my export powers. After several months of failure to come to an agreement, I was obliged to exercise minimum export prices. The Japanese Soda Association has recently attended further discussions about future prices. It has had 2 discussions with my Department, leaving a couple of key points which I wanted cleared up. I am now very pleased to say that an agreement has been reached between the Australian salt producing industry and the Japanese buyers. The Australian producers will now receive the world price and they will continue to receive it in the future. All parties to the agreement seem to be happy with the arrangements and under these conditions I will be withdrawing the minimum price arrangements on exports.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Does he recall the Parliamentary Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties which was set up by the Labor Government in 1974 and which prepared a report titled ‘Learning Difficulties in Children and Adults’. This report was tabled in the Parliament on 14 October last year and debated on 9 December. What progress has been made to implement the recommendations of the Select Committee?
– I recall the report referred to by the honourable member. I also recall that it was introduced into this House, on a bipartisan basis, I believe by you, Mr Speaker, when you were Leader of the Opposition, together with the present Leader of the Opposition. This is not a matter in relation to which the Government can take unilateral action. The honourable member will know that the major responsibility for education is vested in the States. Therefore any moves to implement any aspect of the report will require the co-operation of the States. The Government takes this report seriously. As a first step my colleague, the Minister in the other place, raised the report at the meeting of the Australian Education Council held in Hobart in February, and he found the State Ministers for Education to be sympathetic. There was a general agreement that, apart from the specialised recommendations, the report pointed to the classroom teacher as the key to any success being achieved on this overall question. It must be recognised that this is not a matter which can be dealt with in a piecemeal manner; it must be looked at in the context of the whole of education.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the third time that this question has been asked in the House. The Minister is obviously reading from a document. He would save the time of the House if he were simply to table the document.
-There is no point of order involved.
– I require him to table the document from which he is reading.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat, and the honourable member for Melbourne will cease speaking when the Chair is giving a ruling. I call the Minister.
– I was about to point out that this is a matter that must be looked at in the context of the whole education scene. Therefore, not only is the matter being taken up with State Ministers for Education but also it is being taken up on an interdepartmental basis by the Commonwealth.
-Has the Minister for National Resources noticed the recent increase in salinity in the River Murray? Are the State governments, particularly the South Australian Government, and the River Murray Commission carrying out sufficient headworks to give proper protection to both producers and consumers downstream, including those in the capital city of Adelaide?
– I am well aware of the concern in South Australia at the increase in salinity in the Murray River and the serious effects that is having on some of the irrigation operations. Requests have been made for water in excess of the present entitlement to be released down the Murray River. The problem that arises is that because of the drainage from many of the irrigation areas in New South Wales and Victoria into the Murray River, there is a build-up of salinity down the Murray especially in that section past the junction of the Murrumbidgee River. That, of course, has serious consequences for South Australia. When additional water is allowed to flow down the Murray it tends either to flush out the salt or to dilute it.
Usually there are relatively wet periods, but this year there has been a dry period which has resulted in a build-up of salinity which has caused concern. The River Murray Commission, however, has agreed to allow an additional entitlement of water to South Australia for a period of 3 months in an effort to overcome the problem. But the problem in South Australia is very much one for the South Australian Government. I know that various proposals have been put forward. I am not aware at this stage of any action being taken by the South Australian Government to put those proposals into effect. I might say that recently it has been recommended that the charter of the River Murray Commission be extended to water control. That recommendation has been passed on to the partner StatesNew South Wales, Victoria and South Australiafor approval. I hope that we will soon be able to put that into operation. At the present time the Commission also has a responsibility to look at water quality.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. Are careers and employment opportunities in his Department threatened by the effect of an official directive of 4 February, which I hold in my hand, to transfer work from the Department to private consultants? Is this being done despite the high level of expertise in design and construction attained by the Department over the years? How does the Minister justify this directive and the resultant 15 per cent increase in cost?
– The honourable gentleman who asks the question has placed a question on notice on this matter. I propose to answer the question on notice in some detail, not the question without notice. I deny the suggestion which is inherent in the honourable member’s question that the transfer of resources to the private sector will create unemployment. We believe that lowering the percentage of in-house design work within the Department will give added opportunities to the private sector and will create employment, both professional and nonprofessional. However, it is an important and complex question and I should like to have the opportunity to reply on notice, as I have been asked.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the advice given by the Tasmanian Government urging all people travelling to Queensland to have a cholera injection? Can this be substantiated as a genuine health requirement or is it simply a case of the Tasmanian Government trying to influence tourists to remain in Tasmania? I ask further: Can the Minister advise the House whether people travelling overseas or to or from the Brisbane area need to have cholera vaccinations?
– My attention has been drawn to the suggestion that has been made in Tasmania that all tourists within Australia before going to Queensland should have a cholera injection. That is a complete and utter nonsense because tourists travelling within Australia do not have to undertake any such vaccinations. One would assume that both Tasmania and Queensland are still parts of the Commonwealth. However, I thank the honourable member for the question because I am in a position now to advise the House that the World Health Organisation has removed Australia from the list of countries with cholera infection. No further cases of cholera have been reported in Brisbane. I take this opportunity of paying the Queensland health authorities a compliment for the way in which they have overcome the infection problem in Brisbane. Nevertheless, tourists going overseas will need to be sure before leaving that the countries to which they are going do not have a requirement for vaccination against cholera. We hope to be in a position in the next few days to announce that no countries will have that restriction against Australia.
-My question to the Minister for Defence is supplementary to the one asked by one of his supporters on Tuesday last relating to the able seaman who has been charged with an offence relating to the damage of aircraft at Nowra. Are we to understand that despite the many senior officers of the Navy whose duties are to look after security, particularly in respect of the extensive damage in the Nowra fire, that the only person deemed to be liable is an able seaman aged 19 years? Are we to understand that this man was under detention for some time before he was charged? Did he have the benefit of independent legal advice at that time? Finally, in relation to the Press announcement in which the Minister praised the police officer concerned, will the Minister now confirm that that praise in no way prejudices the trial? Would not that officer’s evidence be the subject of test in cross-examination?
– I am surprised that the honourable gentleman has put the interpretation he has on my observations. I should like to make it pluperfect clear to the honourable gentleman that in no way was I praising the police with respect to the apprehension and charging of any individual. It would be grossly improper for me so to do. I would regard it as being utterly unacceptable to any person observing the discipline of a lawyer and I would be saddened if my honourable friend drew that conclusion. I make that clear. It was an exhausting investigation from the viewpoint of resources thrown into it. My praise was directed to all those who participated in the investigation as such: It in no way was directed, nor should it be construed as being applying, to the charge. I am sure that on reflection my friend would agree that it would be improper for me to say anything which would prejudice a fair trial of the rating. It would be open for me and it would be open for any person to draw a conclusion which could possibly prejudice that trial. I will say nothing until such time as the trial has been completed. Finally, may I remind the House that when the inquiry was established, I said that the findings of the Board of Inquiry would be made public subject to one condition and that is if any proceeding were to follow on the report of the inquiry, the findings of that report would not be made available until the criminal proceeding, whatever form it took, had been concluded.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Transport, refers to the Joy report on the Tasmanian railway system which was handed down late last year. Would the Minister agree that if this report is fully implemented the Tasmanian Railways, which employs some 2 per cent of the total Tasmanian workforce, will have its number of employees reduced significantly? Has the Government considered this report? Will it be acting on the report and, if the Government is to act on the report, can the Minister assure the House that due consideration will be given to the employment situation in Tasmania?
– On receipt of the Joy report I immediately made it public and forwarded a copy to the State Minister for Transport in Tasmania. A number of comments have come back to me as a result of the report being made public. All those comments will be taken into account when the Government decides what approach it will take to the Joy report. I have informed the Tasmanian Government that no action will be taken in respect of the report until its own comments have been received as well. The Joy report confirms an observation I made in this Parliament early last year when I said that the Tasmanian railway system could be described as the worst State system. There is no doubt that neglect over the years by State Labor governments has led to this marked deterioration of the system. However, it is now Commonwealth property and I am the Minister who has to do something about trying to get the system straightened out.
As to the rationalisation which might flow as a result of the Joy report, if this does cause redundancies I offer an assurance to the honourable member that any redundancy that occurs will be taken up through wastage of employees rather than by mass sackings or stand-downs. Quite clearly, some changes will have to occur in the railway system. The losses involved in the running of” the Tasmanian system at the moment are about $9,000 per employee. Obviously some rationalisation is needed. Otherwise that figure will increase more markedly. But I give the honourable member an assurance that every care will be taken to see that no hardship is created by that rationalisation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He will be aware that the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Grassby, initiated preparation of the pamphlet entitled ‘The Newcomer and the Law’. Mr Speaker, I ask you to bear with me for one moment so that I can clarify the direction of the question. Since that time the section of the Department of Social Security which dealt with the production of such material has been transferred to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. So there is a lapse of time. I put that to the Minister. He could consider that in his answer.
– We all follow that. Now put the question.
– The pamphlet was finally printed in 8 foreign languages. The Minister would be aware that some 500 000 copies of the pamphlet were withheld from distribution for about 6 months because of the failure of those responsible to update the pamphlet. He would also be aware that the pamphlet was eventually distributed 2 years after it was prepared, and distributed on a limited scale with a correction sheet that failed to refer to the numerous mistakes made in the legal aid section. I ask the Minister to supply the following information: The number of pamphlets published and their cost; the fees paid to Mr Holder who was involved in the publication; the identity of those responsible for ordering the pamphlet to be printed without updating it; the identity of those responsible for the inadequate correction slip; whether the Department has endeavoured to cover up its mistakes by delaying the distribution -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. He has posed sufficient questions for the Minister to answer.
– There are another five to go.
– As the honourable member interjects that he has five more to go, I think it would be appropriate if I asked him to put the question on notice.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The move towards worldwide establishment of 200-mile off-shore economic zones has been considerably hastened by the recent unilateral declarations by the United States, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the European Economic Community. These unilateral declarations will place increasing pressure on Australia’s off-shore fishery resources. Can the Minister inform the House of Australia’s attitude to these recent declarations and what is being done to ascertain and develop Australia’s off-shore fishing stocks for the benefit of the Australian fishermen and the Australian people, especially in relation to the recent research done off the south-east coast of South Australia? Can the Minister say when Australia will have a 200-mile zone?
– The extension of Australian fishing grounds is something that will depend upon the next Law of the Sea Conference and its outcome. The position of the Australian Government has been outlined here and publicly by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In the interim it is quite important that work be undertaken to determine the extent to which those resources which will become ours might be utilised to national advantage. In the last Budget $200,000 was allocated by the Government specifically to accelerate research in waters beyond the 12-mile limit. As a result, 2 vessels have been employed in recent times- the Zeehaan and the Craigmin- both with experienced skippers and crews. The Zeehaan is being financed jointly by the South Australian and the Federal governments. Both vessels are engaged in exploratory fishing operations, and have been operating for about a month. The Craigmin is operating off the north-east of Tasmania, and the Zeehaan off the south-east of South Australia.
I am told that in the month since they have been fishing, the Zeehaan, off South Australia, has found an area of what is called good trawl bottom at depths from 180 to 450 metres extending from the Victorian border to Beachport. Catches from this ground have ranged form 2Vi tonnes to 5 tonnes a fishing day, principally of gemfish These fish have been sold commercially on markets in southern Australia- Adelaide and Melbourne- and through private buyers in other Australian markets. Similarly, off Tasmania, quite a deal of work has been done. Unfortunately, to date only small areas of suitable trawling bottom have been found, mainly at depths of over 200 metres off the north-east of Tasmania. However, good catches of morwong have been found at depths of 1 30 to 1 50 metres, averaging about Vi tonnes a fishing day. It is significant that to date a large area of satisfactory fishing grounds have been exploited to some considerable commercial value giving promise of economic advantage in further exploration.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation research vessel Courageous and the Victorian research vessel Sarda are also working in waters adjacent to the South Australian fishing grounds.
The important part of this is that the Federal Government is co-operating fully with State governments and commercial fishermen to ensure that the maximum knowledge is available to Australian commercial fishermen to exploit those fishing resources at such stage as extended fishing grounds might be available to Australian fishermen exclusively or under what ever terms there might be as a result of the adoption of the 200-mile limit.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry supplementary to that asked him by the honourable member for Barker. Has the Government considered declaring a 200-mile zone around Australia’s coastline as the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the European communities have already done without waiting for the next Law of the Sea Conference? If so, has the Government made a decision, and in that case when will a decision be announced?
-I am delighted that the honourable gentleman retains his interest in this area because so rarely has he had an interest in the commercial benefits that will flow from any of our rural industries. While fishing is a primary industry as distinct from a rural industry, I welcome the interest that he has demonstrated.
The position that has been taken by the Australian Government should be well known to the honourable gentleman. My colleague the Foreign Minister on many occasions has explained that we are awaiting the next Law of the Sea Conference and the decision to be taken will be consequential upon those international discussions. We believe that it is appropriate that there should not be just a peculiar development in the fishing area. Of course, the discussions relate to all resources. If it is possible for us to extend those resources in conjunction with other countries it would obviously be very much to our advantage to do so. The position that the Government will take if that Law of the Sea Conference should not be successful will be a matter for decision by the Government at that time. I have no doubt that my colleague the Foreign Minister will make the appropriate announcement when the Government has taken a decision.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The Minister would be aware of the proposed amalgamation between the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association. Does the Minister realise that grave concern and objection have been expressed by some of the rank and file members of the FEDFA towards this amalgamation? Will the Minister advise what steps can be taken to protect the interests of those dissidents to enable them to vote on the proposal?
– I am aware that the 2 unions to which the honourable member referred have for some time been engaged in discussions relating to possible amalgamation. Any amalgamation, of course, of organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act can be achieved only through the processes provided for in that Act. At the present stage, as far as I am aware, no formal steps have been taken under the Act towards an amalgamation between the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemens Association and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The Act requires, first of all, that the organisations must jointly submit to the Industrial Registrar in writing a scheme of amalgamation which sets out the particulars of it. They must apply for the approval of the Registrar for the submission of that arrangement, which they have put to him in writing, to the members of their organisations for ballot. There is provision in the part of the Act relating to amalgamation for objections to be made to any proposed organisations. Under the Act objections can be made by other organisations or by individual people, and the Industrial Registrar is obliged to hear those objections.
If after that he is satisfied that the requirements of the Act relating to amalgamations have been met, in other words that no objections that he has received have been sustained, he gives permission for the scheme as submitted to him to be put to the members of the organisation for secret ballots, separate ballots to be held in each case unless the organisation to be absorbed represents less than 5 per cent of the membership of the absorbing organisation. Assuming that both organisations are required to hold a ballot, under the provisions of the Act at least 50 per cent of the members entitled to vote must vote and at least 50 per cent plus one of the formal votes recorded must be in favour of the amalgamation. I make this final point: It is absolutely fundamental to the proposition of amalgamation contained in the Act that individual members of organisations must first of all be given maximum opportunity to lodge any objections they may have to it, and secondly they must be given full and adequate opportunity to express their opinion as to whether or not the amalgamation should take place.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that his suggestion in the House last week, namely, that Population Services International should defer the setting up of an abortion clinic in Canberra until all the health and legal aspects have been given full consideration, has apparently fallen on deaf ears? Is he aware that the PSI is proceeding on the basis that it will be fully operational in about 10 days’s time? Is he also aware that the project director of PSI, Dr Geoffrey Davis of Sydney, has stated to the media that PSI is proceeding with its plans despite the Minister’s statement? Is the Minister completely powerless in this matter, as Dr Davis and PSI appear to think? Is there any way that the abortion profiteers can be made to listen to a responsible request to hold off until the matter can be examined?
– I thank the honourable member for Lang for the question. The only point that I wish to make in addition to those that I made in the House a few days ago is that the Capital Territory Health Commission considered the safety and medical aspects of the operation of free standing abortion clinics at its meeting yesterday. I am awaiting a formal report from the Commission. However, I have been informed that the Capital Territory Health Commission gave consideration to a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the health aspects of free standing abortion clinics. It is my understanding that the Commission is concerned that proper health safeguards should be imposed to ensure the safety of patients receiving any clinical service. It is recommended that properly qualified staff should undertake such operations in clinics within hospitals conducted by public authorities. The Capital Territory Health Commission will be formally reporting this recommendation to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. The Government has asked the Assembly to give urgent consideration to both the political and social consequences and aspects of PSI ‘s intended operations in Canberra and the desirability of free standing abortion clinics in Canberra. The Government firmly believes that the Legislative Assembly should devote its attention as urgently as possible to this matter.
I reiterate my public advice to Population Services International that it would not be wise to pre-empt the debate and final decisions of the elected representatives of Canberra in the Legislative Assembly. I have heard the reports to which the honourable member has referred. In view of the legal, health and local community attitudes, I think that it would be wise to heed my warning at this stage.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Resources been drawn to reports that the New Zealand Government representative on the British Phosphate Commission has allegedly objected to the Commission’s purchasing phosphate rock on behalf of Australian manufacturers from the Australian deposits at Duchess? Would this action constitute an impediment to the Australian Government’s stated objective of having competitively priced Australian phosphate rock available to the Australian market in the immediate future?
– I have heard reports of this nature. I cannot give the honourable member a firm reply but if he would give me a second I might be able to obtain an accurate assessment of the situation. The British Phosphate Commission, which is made up of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and Australia, operates as a corporation for the handling of rock phosphate from Nauru, Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I gather that anybody can exercise a veto on operations and policy. I doubt very much whether New Zealand would object to Australia wanting to use its own phosphate. I could imagine that New Zealand would have some qualms about it if in any way it were to incur additional cost to New Zealand for the phosphate which it uses. But there would be advantage for New Zealand in Australia becoming more reliant on its own resources, as the life of the Nauru and Christmas Island deposits would be extended if the same demands on them were not being made by Australia.
The Australian Government has announced that it wants to see incorporated a certain quantity of phosphate rock from Duchess in Queensland which is operated by Queensland Phosphate Ltd. The Government has already said that it would like to see 2S0 000 tonnes taken for the balance of this year and 500 000 tonnes for each successive year. It is a matter for negotiation between the manufacturers and that company to arrive at what is a satisfactory price. The phosphate is not of quite the same grade as some of the other deposits but this factor can be adjusted by price. I would think that it is more a case of speculation that people have said that this action by the British Phosphate Commission has been the reason for delays in those negotiations. I think that it has been more a concern by manufacturers as to whether they can cope with this rock and what price will ultimately have to be arrived at. It has been made clear that the Government wants to see Duchess rock incorporated in the quantities used by our manufacturers. That is a firm undertaking. It is in the national interest that we do it. I hope that agreement can be reached as quickly as possible.
Mr ELLICOTT (WentworthAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held in Geneva from 1 to 12 September 1975.
– I understand that the honourable gentleman wishes to seek leave to make a statement in relation to the report. I will defer the honourable member’s request to make the statement as I understand that the Prime Minister has a statement to make.
– I ask leave to make a short statement concerning the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I am pleased to inform the House that the Government has appointed Professor J. E. Richardson, Robert Garran Professor of Law at the Australian National University, to the position of Commonwealth Ombudsman. Professor Richardson’s appointment will be for a period of 7 years and he will take up his appointment as soon as arrangements can be made for his release from the University. The Government is very pleased that Professor Richardson has agreed to accept the position of Commonwealth Ombudsman. Professor Richardson is a distinguished academic of high Australian and international standing who will bring to this office the qualities and experience which are necessary to perform this challenging role. He has administrative and Public Service experience as well as having had a close association with this Parliament. He was the legal secretary to the Constitution Review Committee of the Parliament from 1 956 to 1 959. Professor Richardson has been a Professor of Law at the Australian National University since 1962 and practised at the New South Wales Bar in 1974 and 1975.
As Ombudsman his task will be to investigate complaints and to initiate inquiries concerning administrative actions of departments and prescribed authorities and make reports regarding those investigations. The establishment of the office is directed towards ensuring that departments and authorities are responsible, adaptive and sensitive to the needs of citizens.
I am sure that everyone will welcome Professor Richardson’s appointment as the first holder of the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman. My Government believes that Professor Richardson has the qualities, experience and capacity to inaugurate successfully and establish the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman with great distinction.
– Are there any other ministerial statements to be made by leave?
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the sessional orders agreed to last week. Should not ministerial statements be made after discussion on matters of public importance?
-The sessional order reads thus:
I think the honourable member is now satisfied that the procedure being followed is correct on this occasion at least.
! take it that leave has been granted, Mr Speaker.
– I have yet to put the question. Is leave granted?
– Yes. Leave is granted.
-This statement concerns the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, which was held in Geneva from 1 to 12 September 1975, and Sixth Congress which will be hosted by Australia in the Sydney Opera House from 25 August to 5 September 1980.
The United Nations Congresses on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders are held every 5 years. The congresses are important conferences, the agenda for which is settled by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Each congress is preceded by regional preparatory meetings and conferences of experts. Since the first congress in 1955, successive congresses have made an intensive examination of the problem of crime in modern society and have explored a number of imaginative and practical measures to meet this problem, covering such diverse areas as the integration of crime prevention planning with planning in urban development and education, new forms and dimensions of crime, the economic and social costs of crime, alternatives to imprisonment, the human rights of prisoners and the organisation of research to assist in the formulation of policy to deal with crime. Recommendations of the congresses are placed before the United Nations General Assembly and are generally adopted. The Australian delegation to the Fifth United Nations Congress was led by the then Attorney-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Mr Kep. Enderby, Q.C., M.P. The delegation included a number of State Ministers, judges and senior officials.
I draw attention to the recommendations contained on pages 178 to 180 of the Report of the Australian Delegation to the Fifth Congress, which I have just tabled. The recommendations cover a broad spectrum of issues relating to the content of the criminal law, corporate and whitecollar crime, extradition, criminal procedure and evidence, the police, sentencing laws, crime prevention, the administration of justice, and other matters. Among more important results of the
Congress was the drafting of a Declaration on Torture which was subsequently adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Australian delegation made an active contribution to the work of the Congress on this matter.
The Sixth Congress will be an important event for Australia. It will, I think, be the largest United Nations meeting to have been held in this country. The Congress will bring from 1500 to 2000 visitors to Australia, including Ministers, judges, academic and other leading figures in the field of law, criminology, police, corrections, social welfare, mental health, sociology, education and related areas and disciplines. The heads of the delegations represented at the Congress are likely to be Ministers of State, judges, departmental heads or other leading figures. Meetings convened by international organisations in related fields will also be held before, during or after the Congress. Internationally, Australia will benefit greatly from the prestige of hosting a United Nations conference of this size and importance.
An Australian consultative committee has been established with respect to the Congress, consisting of officials nominated by the Commonwealth and State Governments and includes officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Institute of Criminology and my Department. The members of the Criminology Research Council, who are senior officials working in the field and who have operated successfully on a Commonwealth-State co-operative basis, form the nucleus of the Committee. I am pleased to say that the arrangements that have been entered into with the States for the preparations for the Congress have attracted considerable support, assistance and co-operation, especially from New South Wales. As I have already said, the Congress is to be held in the Sydney Opera House which has been made available by the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Government will continue to be closely involved in the arrangements for the Congress.
The Congress will focus world attention on Australian criminal justice laws and practices and consideration will need to be given to action that might be required to up-date these laws and practices and to bring Australian programs and achievements in the field to the attention of Congress participants. A comprehensive program has been initiated to seek the active involvement of relevant Commonwealth and State ministers and Departments in these processes. Australia’s approach to the development of the substantive issues that will be before the Congress is that an emphasis should be placed on the exposing of practical issues in relation to crime prevention and control and to the devising of practical solutions upon which resolutions could be adopted at the Congress. This approach has been accepted by the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control.
The Congress will deal with issues of increasing importance to all countries. The economic and social development that has occured in modern communities has been associated with substantial increases in the incidence of crime and with changes in the forms and dimensions of criminality on the national and international levels. In many countries, incuding Australia, crime has very substantial economic and social costs which involve a drain on national economies of proportions not generally appreciated by governments or by communities. I hope that all members will give their support to the Sixth Congress. Australia, as host country for the Sixth Congress, will be able not only to offer friendship and hospitality to the Congress participants, but also to make a substantial international contribution to the development of more effective measures for crime prevention and control and the treatment of offenders.
– by leave- The Opposition welcomes the announcement of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and fully supports this Congress. The record of the former Labor Government clearly shows that it was anxious to stimulate congresses of this nature. In fact, it was anxious to finance this Congress and it was seeking the co-operation of State governments of a different political colour. The Labor Government did not receive that necessary financial co-operation. Nevertheless, it was that stimulus which encouraged congresses such as this to be held and the Opposition congratulates the present Government on its initiative in arranging this Congress. The Opposition also congratulates the New South Wales Government, which is playing a very effective role.
There is no more important matter in society today than the prevention of crime and, if possible, the detection of offenders. The AttorneyGeneral has already stated in answers to questions that crime in Australia cost over $ 1 billion last year. So it is very important, very practical and very economic to talk about ways and means of preventing crime and, certainly to discuss alternatives to the methods of imprisonment. At the present time State governments must be spending an unconscionable amount of money merely supporting prisons which are failures. An inquiry into prisons is being conducted at the present time in New South Wales. I will not advert to that inquiry in detail except to say that it shows clearly that even Ministers of the Crown were not informed as to the deficiencies which were being perpetrated under the prison system. My own interest in this matter goes back some years. The largest prison in Australia is within my electorate and my research shows that as far back as 1 968, most of the criminals in that prison were under 30 years of age. Most of them were going back to gaol continually and many of them had come under notice as juveniles. Very little is being done by way of rehabilitation. In fact, the euphemistic expression is that the penitentiary in my electorate is the ‘college of knowledge’. It is the means by which prisoners learn how to commit further crimes and it clearly shows that if we can only obtain an intelligent appraisal of what is wrong with society, we can prevent crime. If we can bring these people under notice very early and not put them away behind bars in prisons but restore them to the work force, under surveillance, with the necessary support from welfare societies and educationalists, it would save an enormous amount of money and a lot of human material.
It is important that between now and the time the Congress is held in 1980, we in Australia, in co-operation with the States, make some real progress by way of example. We want to see people without prisons; we want to see real rehabilitation efforts made and we want to see good economic results from the allocation of financial resources. It cannot happen unless the States co-operate. I urge support for the Attorney-General in his endeavours to obtain that co-operation. It will come horn New South Wales but whether it will come from other States is a matter of some doubt. It is clearly obvious, from the matters raised by Australia’s delegation to the United Nations, which are listed in the report tabled by the Minister, that it is not just blue collar crime in which we are interested. White collar crime and organised crime play a very significant role in society today. If a bad example is set of how people can get away with sophisticated, white collar crime, is it any wonder that the lesser lights feel that they can do as they like?
It is important, particularly as a result of the Masterman Report which has now been tabled in New South Wales Parliament, that special investigatory divisions be established to investigate criminal activity at the corporate level so that it can be detected very early. There should be a guarantee that if a person is found to be a criminal in the corporate area, he can no longer participate in corporate activities. Australia is very weak in that area. Organised crime, as the Attorney-General says, is well organised in the field of drug trafficking, particularly in New South Wales. There is an enormous increase in the peddling of drugs with substantial sums of money being made. We talk about the right of privacy but we must look at some of the rules that we may bend to prevent criminal activity, particularly in the field of taxation. It is quite ridiculous to tax legitimately, as income, fortunes that are being made out of criminal activities and to do nothing else about it. There must be a method of crime reporting which does not just allow people to investigate themselves. There must be another way in which the investigation of crime takes place at the highest levels. I feel that the Government can play a very effective role in this area. It can certainly co-ordinate activities between the States and it certainly should have access to information not available to the States as to whether, in fact, people are abiding by the law or whether they are making a fortune from their office on the side with criminal activities.
-Do not forget the Institute of Criminology.
-I will give the Minister praise in relation to the Institute of Criminology also. It was set up prior to his becoming Attorney-General, but we supported the establishment of that body in 1972. It is a well worthwhile organisation. But, as good as it is, this theoretical position needs practical application in the way of prevention or detection. We will not make any good progress in society if we spend most of our resources in dealing with drunkenness, petty crime or victimless crime. We should be looking at the prevention and detection of other areas of crime, particularly those which can be readily identified. Of what advantage is it to Australia to find that a retired high ranking police officer is worth $lm? One cannot say that it came to him in the normal course of his duty. It is ridiculous to think that we would solemnly say: ‘It is all right; it was disclosed in his income tax return’. That is of no advantage. If we see well known criminals living at the highest level of affluence and we know that they are involved in drug trafficking, something has to be done about it. We should not just shut one eye and say that we caught some poor unfortunate drug addict peddling marihuana or something of that nature. That is not good enough.
In talking about new forms of crime prevention we have to show some initiative and give a lead. There have been many discussions on the subject but we have seen very few results. It is wrong to perpetuate the present system. I fully support what the Attorney-General is now saying, namely, that people will be coming from all parts of the world and putting forward imaginative and practical proposals to meet the problem. We want to have our own imaginative and practical examples to show them by 1980. The Opposition fully supports the proposal, as one could envisage from the matters raised by our own delegation to the United Nations led by then Attorney-General, Mr Enderby. The matters raised by the delegation were quite substantial and extensive. We fully support the proposal to hold the congress of 1980 because of the advantage to be gained from the people there present.
-With the indulgence of the House I would like to point out that there was one part of the address of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) with which I did not agree completely.
– That is not surprising.
-I agreed with the rest of it. I did not agree with the honourable member’s reference to victimless crime. There is a lot of discussion both abroad and here about victimless crime, but that tends to be a misnomer because it suggests that there are no victims. An examination of the situations reveals that quite often there are victims in these so-called victimless crimes. In the case of drug offences, prostitution, pornography and in many other areas there is a victim.
– I would like to reply to the Attorney-General but I suppose there is no chance of my doing so.
– I have granted the AttorneyGeneral my indulgence. I will permit the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith to say a couple of sentences in reply.
-I had not finished, Mr Speaker. I want to say by way of information to honourable members- that is why I rose- that recently a high level report produced in the United States, which I will make available to honourable members, looked into the costs and the effects of the legalisation of the so-called victimless crimes. The view expressed in that report was that in relation to prostitution and pornography, I think it was, the effect of legalisation was not to decrease the involvement of organised crime in those areas but in fact to increase it. This is a very troubled area. I am not mentioning it simply because pornography is an issue at the moment; it is an area in which we need to analyse the social effects of the activities and this legislation. I anticipate that in the next year a seminar will be conducted by the Institute of Criminology which will call together experts to consider the social effects of, for instance, matters such as pornography.
– I call the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith.
-The Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) misunderstood what I said. When referring to victimless crimes- I mentioned drunkenness, vagrancy and things of that nature- I said that an enormous cost is involved in putting people in prison for terms of less than 6 months. They keep going back to prison. It is called recidivism. That is the wrong way in which to deal with that sort of person. What I am saying is that those people can be treated. They do not have to be treated as criminals. All of the prison resources are, in the main, keeping incarcerated the relatively small number of people who are on the fringe of crime; they are not really criminals. They need treatment. We do not have to use all of our economic resources to deal with such cases. The AttorneyGeneral misunderstood my position.
– You were talking about punishment and not legislation.
– I think the Attorney-General did understand the point and wanted to make an explanation. I feel that the Attorney-General now understands the point of explanation which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has made.
– I would like to refer very briefly to a point of order which the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) raised a few moments ago. So that there is no misunderstanding, I point out that the sessional order relates to the fact that general business and grievance day debates will be next to follow. If the honourable gentleman were to direct his attention to standing order 10 and standing order 106 he would find that they provide that general business and grievance day debates will not be called on until the Address-in-Reply has been passed by the House.
– For the information of honourable members I present a paper entitled: Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population. I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-This is the first Green Paper dealing with immigration policies and Australia’s population ever to be tabled in this Parliament. A Green Paper is of course a discussion paper. It does not include recommendations for, or a forecast of, government policy. Nevertheless the document I have just tabled has the potential to influence greatly the Australia in which subsequent generations of Australians will live. The character, strength and prosperity of a nation are the result not only of the activities and policies of the people and the Government of the day but also of the decisions and actions taken in previous years and, indeed, in past generations. The Australia of 1977 is very much the result of the decisions taken by its leaders in years gone by. These decisions were themselves the reflections of the wishes and needs of the people of Australia in the past.
Australia today, despite our present economic difficulties, is the envy of many other countries. We possess a degree of economic prosperity which places us among the top few nations of the world. We have guaranteed political and civil liberties. We have an environment and a lifestyle attractive to many people from other countries. To some extent, these benefits derive from our vast range of natural resources. In large part, however, Australia is what it is because of decisions made in the past about the way in which our population should develop. One of the most influential of these was taken in the immediate post-war period. This was to embark upon a major program of population building. This decision has resulted in the arrival of over 3.3 million new settlers who, together with their children born in Australia, have been responsible for about half of Australia’s post-war growth from 7.4 million to 13.9 million people today.
Few people would dispute that the policy boldly embarked upon 30 years ago has been a notable success. To that policy we can attribute many of the advantages that we enjoy now and will continue to enjoy in the last quarter of this century and beyond. I believe that the success of this program is attributable largely to 2 factors.
First, the policy was an active one. Australia clearly enunciated its goal to achieve through immigration an annual population growth of 1 per cent to supplement natural increase which was also expected to be about 1 per cent. Having established the goal, it set out to achieve it through a vigorously promoted, but selective, immigration program.
Second, the policy was one of consensus. With very few exceptions, politicians on both sides of the Parliament and members of the general public supported Australia’s population building program. Through this consensus, Australia’s goals were not frustrated by disputation and division within the country. Rather, the Australian population as a whole worked in a co-ordinated and mutually supportive way to bring about, as successfully as possible, the growth targets which had been adopted.
This is not to say that Australia’s immigration programs during the past 3 decades have not been accompanied by problems. All major developments involving people inevitably include human problems. Successive governments have sought to identify these and to develop solutions wherever possible. In general, I believe it is fair to say that the preventive and remedial action taken over the past 3 decades has done much to reduce the incidence and severity of such difficulties. Much more, however, remains to be done. Recent initiatives of this Government include the establishment of experimental migrant resource centres in Sydney and Melbourne, the establishment of the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, the development of administrative machinery to develop and apply proper professional standards of interpreting and translating and the establishment of a permanent ethnic broadcasting service. These and many other initiatives have made a substantial further contribution to easing the inevitable difficulties of adjustment to a new environment, a new culture and, for many, a new language.
Over the past few years there have been drastic changes in Australia’s population growth rate. The birth rate in Australia has fallen steeply and we have now virtually reached the point at which the net reproduction rate is unity. Unless there is an increase in the birth rate, we will be approaching a situation where the numbers of births and deaths will be equal and, in the absence of an immigration gain, Australia will experience zero population growth. Indeed, the experience of several developed nations suggests that Australia could even be facing further falls in its birth rate and a future loss of population in the absence of immigration. Over recent years, we have also seen a rapid rundown in the rate of population growth through immigration. In the calendar year 1975, Australia actually sustained a net loss of over 8000 on total movements into and out of this country. In the financial year 1 975-76 Australia gained fewer than 2 1 000 persons on total movements into and out of the country. This represents a growth rate for the financial year of less than 0.15 per cent through immigration.
In considering the immigration options open to Australia, we must bear in mind that Australians themselves are a mobile people. Australians in substantial numbers have traditionally sought new challenges overseas. As the Green Paper points out, in the past 10 years Australia lost a total of over 330 000 persons quite apart from the losses of former migrants who left Australia to take up permanent residence overseas. A substantial proportion of the departing Australians possesses valuable technical and professional skills. If we are to avoid regular losses of such needed skills, it is imperative that Australia should maintain some level of immigration which is selective in regard to occupational skills. For humanitarian reasons Australia has supported the reunion of immediate family members. Even in the present difficult economic circumstances, Australia has maintained a family reunion policy which provides for the entry, with a minimum of formalities, of nominated dependent immediate family members and parents. This component of our immigration program would also appear indispensable unless its underlying humanitarian objectives are to be jettisoned. Australia’s record in providing a place of refuge to those who are displaced by war, natural catastrophe or civil disruption, has been a notable one. This Government’s action in the last year in providing refuge for substantial numbers of Indo-Chinese, Lebanese and Timorese people is a continuation of this long term policy. This element also, I believe, should be a necessary part of any immigration policy and I hope to announce soon the policy guidelines within which Australia’s future responses to such situations will be made. Within these parameters, however, the options open to us are wide ranging.
As the Green Paper indicates, the resource constraints upon our options are virtually nonexistent in the foreseeable future. Australia’s natural resources are truly superabundant. Even water supplies which, in the past, have been thought of as a constraining factor, can be increased many-fold, given the necessary planning and capital works. Population distribution is also significant in this context. How then should we proceed with the fundamental review of policy which is envisaged? As the Green Paper indicates, issues underlying immigration cover a diverse range of topics. It is possible, for example, to reach a particular view on the basis of the social implications and an entirely different one when considering the economic, strategic, international relations or humanitarian factors. Ultimately, however, if an integrated, comprehensively-based policy is to be enunciated to serve the national interest as fully as possible, it is imperative that the various pros and cons be weighed up and, as far as possible, reconciled. Similarly, we cannot responsibly formulate a policy which serves the present but not the future, and vice versa- the best policy is one which optimally serves both today and the future.
In terms of an annual immigration program, the Green Paper suggests that feasible limits might be net gain in the range of zero to 100 000 persons per year. Taking into account losses through departures of former settlers and of Australians, this would represent gross annual migrant intakes in the range of 30 000 to 200 000. In the view of the Council, Australia has the capacity to absorb an annual net migration gain of at least 50 000 per year, approximately equivalent to 100 000 settler arrivals annually. Within such an intake there would be a need for adjustment to take into account changing circumstances in Australia. We should not concentrate all attention on the size of the intake alone. We must be careful to avoid this trap. The size of the annual intake is of course only one consideration. Of equal importance are issues such as the criteria upon which the intake is chosen, the distribution of migrants throughout Australia, their qualifications and other characteristics as well as the countries from which they are drawn. I need hardly point out that the task of drawing a clear, rational, equitable and humane policy from such a complexity of competing and overlapping considerations is a daunting one.
High tribute is due to the Australian Population and Immigration Council which has prepared this Green Paper. It did so in a minimum of time, with great objectivity, technical competence and good sense. The Council consists of a distinguished group of people with a wide range of expertise. It includes members working in the academic fields of demography, economics, sociology, medicine, urban and environmental studies and foreign policy. Its membership also includes prominent industrialists, members of the legal profession, trade union leaders and members of various community organisations. The result has been a discussion paper which reflects the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives of its membership. I should like to pay particular tribute to the part played by the late J. F. Rich who died 2 days after the Green Paper was adopted by the Australian Population and Immigration Council. Mr Rich was chairman of the Migration Planning Committee of APIC which undertook the major part of the work of drafting the Green Paper. The main purposes of the Green Paper are to stimulate within the Australian community interest in and debate on the broad options which might be considered. It provides basic information succinctly. It avoids prejudging issues or expressing firm conclusions about the various options. Instead, it concentrates on distilling the issues and presenting them in such a way as to make them intelligible to the widest possible audience. For this reason it is short, in one volume, and avoids technical jargon and complex statistics wherever possible.
I hope that the Green Paper will be read by a wide audience and that, as a result of its being read widely, there will be a better informed public opinion on the questions it raises. I urge members of the Australian community to think about these issues and to express their views on them. The submissions received during the preparation of the Green Paper point to the interest in the community on the issues. On the basis of this public debate, it will be possible for the Government to review current policies and programs to ensure that they take fully into account our immediate needs and those of the future and that they are consistent with contemporary community values and aspirations. We acknowledge present problems. But these must not cloud or distort our vision of the future of Australia and its people. This Green Paper gives us the opportunity to recognise with confidence that Australia has an unlimited future. We must not bury our heads in the present.
The nation we have in the future will depend heavily on our action- or inaction- today. I believe that we have a duty to ensure the decisions of our generation are directed to the sort of nation continent we would wish future generations of Australians to live in. It is now 30 years since the great post-war immigration program was begun. What a different country Australia now is. That immigration program was introduced by a consensus of people of vision, people confident about the future of Australia, a growing Australia. We have a choice now to make decisions about the future of our land and our people 30 years and more ahead. I encourage members of this Parliament and individuals and organisations throughout the Australian community to give serious thought to the issues raised in the Green Paper and to participate fully in the public discussion of them.
Motion (by Mr Staley) proposed.
That the House take note of the papers.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The continuing gerrymandering of electorates by Australian conservative coalition parties.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which Australia is a signatory states:
The will of the people . . . shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
It has been the history of this country that we have seen conservative parties of this country, by whatever name they call themselves, be it the Liberal Party, the Country Party, the National Party or the National Country Party, place every obstacle in the way of equal suffrage in this country. This week again we have seen in Queensland an attempt by the National Country Party to further pervert the electoral system of that State. Throughout Australia we are still living with electoral systems which are both archaic and objectionable as far as the Australian Labor Party is concerned. We want to touch on some of these matters and continue to fight on behalf of all those people in Australia who consider themselves democrats, no matter what party to which they belong, for electoral justice in this country. It is of particular importance to the Labor Party because we cannot see our great social reforms go through whatever Parliament it may be, be it a State Parliament or a national Parliament, until we establish electoraljustice in this country. As yet it has only been established really and truly in one State and that is South Australia. I shall touch on this point a little later.
Two great political crimes are being perpetrated in this country. I touch on those 2 crimes today. The first takes the form of the brain washing which is carried out on people who live in rural electorates. The brainwashing takes the form of persuading people who live outside the cities of Australia that by some strange act of fate they would be better off if the number of electors in the electorates outside the metropolitan areas were smaller than the number of electors in the electorates inside the metropolitan area and that the Parliament will best serve the people of the rural areas if they have more members of Parliament than the number of electors requires them to have. The second great crime being perpetrated in this country is the capitulation of the Liberal Party and the persuasion of members of our community who support that Party into believing that the coalition can continue only if the Liberal Party submits itself to the whims or the electoral wishes of the National Country Party.
Let us look at these 2 theories which keep this coalition alive. Firstly, I should like some honourable member opposite to point out to us how, by having smaller rural electorates, the people living in the rural areas would be better off. I should like him to tell us how the number of members of the National Country Party has saved the beef industry. I wonder whether members of the National Country Party who are sitting in the chamber this morning can get up in this debate and say that by having more members than they are really entitled to they can save the beef industry. Let them tell us how the number of members of the National Country Party of this Parliament affects the great wheat or sugar industries. Let them tell us how the rural people are serviced in education, health or local government by having an undue number of members of Parliament from the country areas. It is an absolute myth that rural people will be better served in this way. The health services, the educational services and the building of local government were carried out only by a Labor Government- a government that believed in one vote one value.
Let us look at the other myth that the Liberal Party capitulates completely to the National Country Party in order to maintain the coalition. We have seen this week the National Party in Queensland rubbing the nose of the Liberal Party right into the dirt. That is exactly what the National Party should do because the Liberal Party has been misrepresenting the people who vote for that Party. When we get away from the one vote one value system we are disenfranchising just as many people who vote for the Liberal Party as vote for the Labor Party. So there can be no break away from the one vote one value system. Let us look at how many times the National Country Party has threatened to break the coalition. A few years ago the Country Party threatened to walk out of the coalition if the dollar was valued upwards. Time and time again the Country Party has threatened to walk out of the coalition over proposed electoral reforms. When on earth will the Liberal Party wake up to the fact that the National Country Party has nowhere else to go? What other Party in Australia would want to be associated with the National Country Party? It would certainly not be our Party because the National Country Party stands for all the things we find objectionable and antisocial. So the National Country Party is not going to come to the Labor Party. When the National Country Party threatens to walk out on the Liberal Party it can either go by itself or it can capitulate and stay with the Liberal Party. Obviously that is what it will do, even on this extremely important question. Honourable members opposite have fought to save the coalition in Queensland and what has happened? The Liberal Party is the one being wiped out. The National Country Party is not content merely with having that majority in Queensland; it now wants to increase that majority, not only of members of the House but of members of the Cabinet. So Liberal Party influence in that State will be nowhere near the influence that it should hold according to the number of votes it receives in Queensland. So in that sense, the Liberal Party is receiving everything it deserves.
That is exactly what happened in the national parliament. Whereas we received 43 per cent of the votes in 1975, we find ourselves with 28 per cent of the representatives in this chamber. But quite the opposite occurred in regard to the Country Party. It received 8 per cent or 9 per cent of the votes throughout the country but has about 20 per cent of the members of this House. What do Country Party members do? On what grounds can anyone make the case that the country is better off by having this number of Country Party members in the national Parliament? It is an absolute joke. Just as we have put ourselves at the bottom of the social ladder as members of Parliament by all these things, obviously we are bringing down the parliamentary system around our ears because we continue to live with these standards which were set in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
We have these Upper Houses around Australia, one of which is not even elected by the people. They are Upper Houses where the Labor Party receives a majority of votes at the elections but can get only four out of fifteen people elected. Honourable members opposite cannot tell me that the youth of this country are going to be enthusiastic about supporting a system which brings about these sorts of results. Just as surely as the Governor-General, on 11 November, stepped up the pace to bring about the break between Australia and the monarchy, so will it be the National Country Party and the Liberal Party which will bring about an end to the parliamentary system by trying to perpetuate this electoral fraud which they have thrust on the Australian people. Until we have the one vote one value system there will be no respect for the parliamentary system. There are no end of ways in which this fraud is being carried out. There is not just the gerrymander nor the 10 per cent or 20 per cent tolerance between urban and rural voters but all different systems. In Queensland we have the Bielke-Petersenmander which operates under different zones. There is not a straight out tolerance between urban and rural electors.
– Do you have straight out tolerance in South Australia?
– In South Australia the one vote one value concept applies to both Houses. South Australia is the only State that has accomplished this. This was after we had the Playmander for 35 years. Sir Thomas Playford faced 9 elections and on one occasion he received the majority of votes. I repeat: On one occasion out of those 9 elections. Obviously people will continue to oppose the parliamentary system under which we are living.
Now we have something new. We have the Frasermander. No one had thought of this previously but now we have an area- 5000 square kilometres- being put into an electoral redistribution. The Liberal Party does not have a clue as to what it means. The Country Party thought it up in order to sideswipe the challenge of a few of the back benchers of the Liberal Party to have a 10 per cent tolerance between urban and rural electorates. So up comes a new system- 5000 square kilometres. In the case of those members who represent coastal seats, it takes in a fair proportion of the sea. The 5000 square kilometres of the electorate of Barker in South Australia contains a fair bit of the area between the mainland and Kangaroo Island. So the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) is representing porpoises, fish and prawns. All this sort of thing is going on throughout Australia- all up and down the east and west coasts. The 5000 square kilometre theory takes in a fair bit of area where no one lives.
The people of Australia must understand that it is not to their welfare that they should have coming in to the parliaments more people from the country areas than from the city. People who represent country areas obviously ought to have put at their disposal all the facilities that they need to represent their areas. Once one breaks away from the principle of one vote one value, there is no end to what happens. The tolerance becomes 10 per cent, 20 per cent or 50 per cent, or the size of the electorate becomes 5000 square kilometres, or there is a western zone, a northern zone or a metropolitan zone, or any sort of system at all which ensures that the Party in power stays in power.
I refer particularly to the situation in Queensland where the stage has been reached at which the Westminster system has broken down completely. The Labor Party is prevented by the electoral laws of that State from ever governing again in that State. No fewer than 45 per cent of the people in that State support our Party. What do they do if they know they cannot win an election? Obviously they must look to some other system by which they can attain power. The warning is there for all to see, to take note of and to act upon. If these electoral frauds continue to be imposed upon the people of Australia we are helping to destroy the system which should be serving Australia well. The Country Party loves the system because it means that these goats from Hume and Riverina are elected by 20 000 or 30 000 fewer voters than their colleagues from the Liberal Party who represent seats in the metropolitan area.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! I think the honourable member for Port Adelaide might withdraw that comment.
-I withdraw it. I say that we might be better off having goats here. They might be concerned about some things. Let us look at some of the figures for recent elections. Look at the tolerance which has grown out of the breaking away from the principle of one vote one value. In New South Wales elections, based upon the Liberal Party’s redistribution, seats are 26 per cent, 20 per cent, 29 per cent, 20 per cent, 28 per cent and 29 per cent below the quota. Of course, all of them are Liberal Party or Country Party seats- mainly Country Party seats. In the metropolitan area the seats which the Labor Party represents are 26 per cent above the quota.
– The reason that the Labor Party cannot win the country seats is that nobody there will vote for it.
-The Labor Party is in government in New South Wales. We are winning sufficient seats to be a government. When Neville Wran points to these discrepancies or speaks about the democratisation of the Upper House, the conservative forces in Australia say that this is terrible. The Upper House in New South Wales meets with the Lower House to appoint members of the Upper House for 12 years. The people of New South Wales are not even given a vote. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) thinks that is terrific. It might be a good principle in the army, from where he comes, but it is not very good as far as the parliamentary system is concerned. The support of honourable members opposite for that system will destroy the enure system. That is a warning of which they should take note.
Look at the figures for Queensland, where their great hero Bjelke-Petersen rules. Look at the quotas in Queensland where the Country Party wins all its seats. The seats are 50 per cent, 25 per cent, 31 per cent, 42 per cent and 51 per cent below the quota which is needed for a metropolitan seat. Last night in Queensland, as my colleague the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) will highlight, the Liberal and Country parties reached a compromise. Do honourable members opposite know that compromise? Country electorates will have 6000 voters and metropolitan electorates will have 18 000 voters. What a compromise for the Liberal Party to reach with the National Country Party. No wonder the Liberal Party gets its nose rubbed in the dirt. The National Party ought to continue to do so until the branches of the Liberal Party, the rank and file members of the Liberal Party throughout Australia, demand a better service from the members that they sent to the parliaments of Australia. Until we either democratise the Upper Houses or completely abolish them and have a unicameral system based on the principle of one vote one value, we can expect the continued disrespect of the population of this country. It is a great fight. The Labor Party is in the vanguard. We do not intend to let up on it. We intend that one future generation of the Labor Party shall win it for the benefit of all people who live in this country.
– It is awfully interesting that today the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) talked in this House about nearly everything but federal elections and federal electorates. He told us that in the States there are circumstances which he would regard as undemocratic. I would have to agree with him in that proposition. Historically speaking, I think there is little doubt that State governments, whether non-Labor or Labor, have left something to be desired when it comes to creating democratic electoral systems. It is a matter of great interest that we have been treated to a lengthy argument which almost entirely revolves on the situation as it obtains in the States and which ignores the situation for which this Parliament and the Federal Government are responsible. This situation is not only democratically defensible but is a democratic and a known democratic system. The honourable member for Port Adelaide would be well advised, in turning his attention to the States, to examine closely the situation in South Australia. The Don Dunstan Government has created a situation which is, on the face of it, democratic, but which, on close examination, turns out to be as undemocratic as one could get. It will take the non-Labor parties as many votes to beat the Dunstan Government at future elections as it took Don Dunstan ‘s Party to defeat the Playford Government. The Labor Government in South Australia, as the boundaries have been drawn, could be returned to office with 46 per cent of the vote. There is nothing in any way democratic about that sort of proposition.
I stand here today not to defend undemocratic practices such as that perpetrated in South Australia. I shall come back to the South Australian example if I have time. In the States the situations have not always borne scrutiny right down through the years, whether the governments were Labor or non-Labor. In this House and in this Parliament, electoral justice has been delivered to the people by successive Federal governments. The sad thing is that the Labor Party cannot get over the fact that it simply cannot win a majority of Australian votes. That is its problem. The people simply do not vote for it, by and large. When a majority of the people vote for Labor, Labor is in government, as was the case in 1972 and 1974. When Labor gets majority support at federal elections it wins those elections. The sad thing is that it rarely gets that sort of majority support. This is the old Labor whinge, in the search for scapegoats- the suggestions of electoral injustice. What poppycock. All independent observers agree that through the years the basic electoral system, as practised in the federal sphere, has been fair and just.
The Government certainly believes in the basic democratic proposition that one vote equals one value. We have amended the Electoral Act recently in this Parliament. We made only one small change to Labor’s Electoral Act, a change which was designed to ensure that seats suffering the disadvantage of distance should not be further disadvantaged by overall numbers. The fact remains that we stuck by the proposition that no seat should vary from the quota by more than 10 per cent up or down. The approach of the Government is entirely fair and democratic. Our approach takes account of distance but does not treat the demands of distance as an excuse to introduce an unfair or undemocratic electoral system.
Let us look at Labor’s record. We all remember how many records Labor made and broke in its 3 fantastic years in government. Labor’s record even in this House when in government is enough to make I think even the honourable member for Port Adelaide blush. If Labor knows one thing, it knows this much at least- that there are many ways of killing the cat. Some might say that is what members of the Labor Party are engaged in at the present time in their party room. When in office Labor introduced reasonable criteria for the drawing of electoral boundaries by providing for the 10 per cent variation from the quota. The present Government, as is obvious, has generally supported what Labor did. I refer to the recent amendments that the Government has made to the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
Other events have made it plain that the Labor Party’s proposal was merely the window dressing of democracy. While dressing the window like this, Labor sought to destroy the most central proposition of all- that one vote should have one value. Labor tried to change the Constitution when it was recently in office to make electorates comprise equal numbers of people instead of equal numbers of voters. Labor’s move would at one stroke have made democratic elections impossible in Australia. Labor sought at that time to enshrine itself in office at the expense of our democratic electoral system. Instead of counting voters, Labor would have counted the youngest babies, it would have counted children, it would have counted visitors to the country, it would have counted unnaturalised migrants and it would have counted aliens. It would have counted all of those categories of people instead of voters. Nothing in democratic theory has ever supported Labor’s approach. No respectable democratic theorist has ever put the sort of proposition that led the recent Labor Government to seek to change the Constitution to bring about that result.
Members of the Opposition have the hide to come into this House and talk about electoral gerrymanders when in their time in office they sought to destroy the very democratic basis of the electoral system which-we heard the words from the honourable member for Port Adelaide- is based on the proposition that one vote has one value. That is the principle that we have preserved in our recent amendments to the Electoral Act. That is what Labor sought to destroy when it was in government in this country recently.
I have mentioned the electoral system in South Australia. Let us go back and look at the ‘Donnymander’ that has taken place in that State. I have put the proposition, which has been carefully worked out, that with 46 per cent of the vote the Don Dunstan Government could be returned in South Australia. What the Dunstan Government has done in South Australia illustrates the real nature of gerrymander. There is the question of the definition of the word ‘gerrymander’. There are many ways that one can describe a gerrymander. But the traditional way is to explain that gerrymander is derived from the word salamander’, Governor Gerry and all that. The original approach takes account of the fact that boundaries can be so drawn as to totally distort an electoral situation. That has nothing to do with criteria but relates to the precise way in which boundaries have been drawn. This is what has been done in South Australia. Boundaries have been drawn so as to bring about a result which is good for Labor, which enshrines that Party in office and which makes it extraordinarily difficult for non-Labor to defeat Labor in future elections. This is not an impossible task but it will be extraordinarily difficult.
The question of the way in which boundaries are drawn in South Australia has produced a situation where there are 2 categories of electoratesmetropolitan and non-metropolitan. Without the instruction that we have given in our recent changes to the Electoral Act it is most interesting to notice that the distribution commissioners in South Australia have in fact put most country or non-metropolitan seats under quota. Without having had an instruction they have done it anyway. So what is the honourable member for Port Adelaide whingeing about in terms of what we have put in our recent amendments to the Electoral Act? The situation is that 12 of the 14 non-metropolitan seats have been placed under quota and only two are over quota in South Australia, and those two are only marginally over quota. In the case of the 33 metropolitan electorates10 are under quota but the big majority of 23 are over quota. The smallest metropolitan district or electorate is only 3.84 per cent under quota. Eight out of 14 nonmetropolitan districts are placed more than 3.84 per cent under quota. So the distribution commissioners in South Australia have brought about in that area the sort of result which we have simply placed in the Act. This is no great matter. It is a matter of practice; normal in terms of Australian electoral approaches.
What we have sought to preserve is the clear proposition that one vote shall have one value and that no seat shall be more than 10 per cent above quota or less than 10 per cent below quota. When we look at the way in which the Commonwealth electoral system works in practice it is no wonder that the honourable member for Port Adelaide spent nearly all of his time in this debate talking about what happens in the States, a matter for which this Parliament is not responsible. There is no reason on earth why this Parliament should be responsible for the electoral systems of the States. However good or bad they might be, they are matters for the States.
As in so many things, the Labor Party when in office sought to destroy the federal nature of our Constitution. Labor would have done so in respect of electoral matters had it received the consent of the people which, thank God, it has not received yet. Labor would have sought to change the Constitution in respect of all matters under the Australian sun. Down through the years the Australian electoral system at the national level has been regarded as fair, just and democratic. Recent changes to the system by this Government have in no way disturbed those propositions. I find it of great interest that very little of what the honourable member said in any way suggested that we have moved from those central propositions. We will hear a great deal more about this matter. The reason we will hear constant cries about this matter in this Parliament is that Labor in its endless search for scapegoats must come down with propositions like this based on fantasy in terms of the federal sphere, however well based they are throughout the rest of Australia. These are matters about which we will hear again and again, they are matters on which there is no basis for fair and factual judgment.
-The Australian electorate system is very largely riddled with fraud, corruption and dishonour. There is no guarantee in this country of a right for any person to vote. There is no guarantee of the right of a majority to prevail at an election. The capacity for abuse in the Australian electorate system largely is such that self-perpetuating juntas of mediocrities can cling to office in the face of the expressed opposition of a majority. A National Country Party has perfected this outrage on democratic principles.
In 1974 the Australian people were given an opportunity by this Parliament to establish certain basic democratic principles about the conduct of elections and about the definition of electorate boundaries in this country. That is how this matter becomes relevant for this Parliament If those constitutional provisions had prevailed the sort of abuse, the sort of corruption, the sort of fraud and rigging which we see so constantly at the State level, would have been prevented from occurring in Australia. The propositions for democratic elections in that 1974 Constitution alteration proposal were very simple. They were that the electorates ought to be based on a count of people and that there ought to be fair representation. The Minister has sought to set up some sort of diversionary tactic by arguing with mild emotion that there is something inherently wrong and anti-democratic in having electorates which represent people. The Constitution explicitly refers to the role of people in establishing the number of electorates in Australia. Section 24 says:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the People of the Commonwealth -
It also says:
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people -
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that electorates will be based on the populations of those electorates, not on enrolments. Of course, the reason why Australian conservative governments of the past have resisted proposals that electorates ought to be based on the number of people is very simple. They have shirked their responsibilities to minority groups who have rights also in a democratic community. I refer to minority groups like Aborigines, who still have to be represented whether they are enrolled or not, or ethnic minority groups in the community. Young people have to be counted as much as any other group in the community when electorates are being determined, according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. The argument of the Minister does not stand.
The arguments which were put forward against the Constitution alteration proposals in 1974 were very simple. The people were asked whether they believed that all parliaments in Australia should be elected directly by the people, whether they believed all Australians were entitled to equal representation in national and State parliaments, whether they believed it was wrong for one Federal electorate to contain twice as many people as another, and whether they believed it was wrong that one State House of Parliament was not elected directly by the people. Of course the coalition partners in an opportunistic thrust for some sort of electoral disruption and diversion opposed the proposals. The essence of their opposition was put forward in their case, from which I quote:
Buried in the proposed law (in Clauses the referendum question does not tell you about) is the provision that electorates should be made up of equal numbers of people.
So people do not count as all that important where the coalition partners are concerned. For them it is more important to preserve the holy cows and the simple asses of the National Country Party than it is to represent the people. The National Country Party has responded gratefully by maintaining a full complement of its simple asses in this Parliament and elsewhere.
The relevance of this matter focuses at present on the situation in Queensland. The Premier in Queensland has set out on a punitive expedition against his Liberal coalition partners. Like some modern day Taras Bulba, he wants to sweep down on them in his wrath to nail a few Liberal hides to electorate boundary posts. Last night it was agreed by the National Party in the Coalition in Queensland that instead of an obviously rigged effort to redistribute only those electorates where the Liberals are significant in the metropolitan area, there would be a redistribution of all electorates in the State. But this is no concession to the Liberal partners in the coalition. In fact it will further disadvantage them.
To understand this one must understand the electoral laws of Queensland. In Queensland there are 4 zones, and accordingly each zone by law has a number of seats allocated to it. The enrolment for each seat is then established by dividing the enrolment for each zone by the number of seats inflexibly stipulated in the legislation. The 4 zones with the number of seats allocated are the south eastern zone with 47 seats, where most people live; the western and far northern zone, where there are 7 seats; the country zone, which is the coastal zone, with IS seats; and the provincial cities zone, where there are 13 seats.
What is happening is that in the areas where the National Party is strongest the population is contracting but the number of seats remains static. As Mrs McComb, the Secretary of the Queensland Branch of the Liberal Party, pointed out on television in Queensland last night, the result of a full redistribution under the present Electoral Act will mean that in the western and far northern zone, where the National Party is strongest, the average quota will fall to 6000 and in the south eastern zone where the Liberal and Labor Parties are largely the representing parties in the State Parliament, the quota will be 18 000. In other words there is a variation of 300 per cent between those small seats where the National Party can confidently expect to maintain control and those seats where the Liberal Party and Labor Party can reasonably expect to maintain representation. So it will take 3 votes to elect a Liberal or Labor representative for every one vote it will take to elect a National Party representative in Queensland.
Let me give some comparisons of the effect of this fradulent electoral law in Queensland. The provincial cities zone seat of Barron River currently has an enrolment of 16 187. The immediately adjoining State seat of Mulgrave has an enrolment of only 9966. In the provincial city seat of Mount Isa, which covers an extensive area going right up to the Gulf of Carpentaria, the enrolment is over 13 000. In the immediate adjoining electorate of Flinders, a western seat, the enrolment is much fewer than 8000. For the provincial city seat of Port Curtis the enrolment is over 16 000. For the immediately adjoining National Party seat of Auburn in the coastal division the enrolment is only a little over 9000 people. So it is quite clear that while the National Party argues that there must be some preference for the needs of country people, some country people are more preferred in their needs than others. Currently the western and far northern zone average enrolment is 7000. That is where the National Party dominates. The provincial cities average is over 13 000 and, as Mrs McComb pointed out, the former average will go down and the latter will go up under the changes which the National Party is proposing.
Under the amendment which the Queensland Government proposes to pass through Parliament today there may be a distribution any day of the year, any week of the year or any time that the Government determines. There may be a distribution of one, 10, 20 or all the seats. There is no appeal, no recourse to law, no reference to Parliament. It is all in the hands of the Queensland Premier, whose firm belief is not that he walks beside God but ahead of him. Of course it is a plot to destroy a number of Liberal seats as part of the punitive raid against the Liberal Party because it is to contest seats quite properly according to democratic practices and principles held by National Party people. Mr Lowes of Brisbane, Mr Young of Baroona, Mr Lamont of South Brisbane, Mr Doumany of Kurilpa and Mr Lane of Merthyr all true and stout Liberals will all be victims m this punitive raid by the National Party. Seats are to be amalgamated. Two of them are to go. The result will be that some Liberals will be thrown into conflict and some will be thrown out as sacrifices because Labor Party seats will be created, not through any sympathy for the Labor Party on the part of the Premier but because of his greater hate for his coalition partners in the Liberal Party. The scheme is rotten, symptomatic of electoral corruption in this country and we ought to take steps in this Parliament to bring about a constitutional change to prevent it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If the man we have just listened to, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), is to be the next Leader of the Australian Labor Party then I think Australia is in safe hands because there is no way that the Labor Party can succeed under leadership from a man of that calibre. If the front bench spokesman from the Opposition who led in this debate, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), is to be the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this place then I think that the position of the Fraser Government in Australia is safe for generations to come.
I rise in this debate principally to ask: Why this matter of public importance? No more than two or three weeks ago we had a debate in this House on electoral Bills. It has become apparent that the posturing and positioning that needs to take place in the Labor Party to have the necessary effect of raising support among Caucus members is such that there have to be debates of this nature to allow the candidates the opportunity to expose themselves before their colleagues. The fact of the matter is that if that is the point of the exercise it fails dismally because there are no more than three or four members of the Labor Caucus in the chamber. This is par for the course particularly in debates of this nature which they initiate and for which they cannot obtain support from their side. (Quorum formed.)
I take this opportunity of thanking the honourable member for Port Adelaide for bringing some members of his own Party into this House, which is something that he was not able to do when he himself was speaking. The matter before the House has been approached by the Opposition in what I regard as a peculiar way. Very little emphasis has been placed on matters which are the responsibility of this Parliament and a great deal of emphasis has been placed on matters which are not within the responsibility of this Parliament. This is a devious way of bringing up the subject. If questions were asked on it at question time the Chair would have to rule that the Minister was not able to answer the questions because they were not within the bounds of his responsibility as Minister. Yet through the device of a matter of public importance the Labor Party is able in this House to refer to situations that pertain in the different States.
Why should we in this Parliament talk about matters that relate to the States- electoral matters or any other matters? The situation that exists in the States has been perpetrated as much by Labor governments as by non-Labor governments. There have been several examples over the last 60 or 70 years of State Labor governments keeping themselves in power for inordinate periods as a result of the device of gerrymander. I refer to Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. The list goes on. The matters for which this House is responsible are the ones to which we ought to be turning our attention in this debate. What the Opposition is trying to suggest is that the Liberal-National Country Parties are gerrymandering the Australian electorate. I point out that under the redistribution which was implemented by the Liberal and Country Parties in 1968 the Labor Party went to the polls in 1972 and won the election with 49 per cent of the vote. Yet honourable members opposite say that a gerrymander has been perpetrated by the Liberal and Country Parties. That just is not so.
What is important in this situation is that, given the opportunity to bring about a redistribution for this Parliament, Mr Daly, the former honourable member for Grayndler, proposed a redistribution which would have allowed the Labor Party to hold office with a vote as low as 45 per cent of the popular vote in Australia. With 45 per cent of the vote Labor would have retained office. Honourable members opposite have the hide to come in here and accuse the Liberal and Country Parties of gerrymandering. At the time Mr Daly said: ‘Our redistribution will give the National Country Party heart attacks. ‘ If that is not a clear indication of an attempt by a Minister to gerrymander, to influence distribution commissioners, to bring about a situation where anything but electoral justice pertains, I do not know what is. The only change that has been made by this Government to the electoral Bills is that a provision has been included to the effect that electorates over 5000 square kilometres in size shall not have any more electors than electorates under 5000 square kilometres in size. That is quite proper. Again referring to the Daly redistribution in 1975, we had the situation where my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher), as I recall it, had the largest enrolment in the State of Victoria and one of the largest electorates geographically in the State of Victoria.
– What about your own?
– My own electorate of Hume had about the fifth or sixth largest enrolment in the State of New South Wales. It is also one of the largest in geographical terms. The gerrymander that was perpetrated by the Labor Party in office was quite straightforward. They said: ‘We will create rotten boroughs in the metropolitan areas of Sydney, Melbourne and the other capital cities. We will create vast expanses of territory and throw as many people as we can into them because it does not matter what happens; we cannot win them anyway. ‘ The only way that Labor can win government under its concept of redistribution is by having a situation where all the non-Labor voters are crammed into those vast areas in the bush. Members are expected to be able to represent those people. We cannot talk about democracy in this country unless we give some consideration to what representation means. That is what is important.
We do not take seriously the claims that the Opposition puts forward about our representing sheep, goats, fish and porpoises. The Opposition does not understand our difficulties. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) has an electorate of 22 square kilometres. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) has an electorate of 101 000 square kilometres. When the honourable member for Grayndler sits down at his desk in the city he is 35 weeks ahead in terms of the amount of time he has available for his electorate, because the honourable member for Riverina spends the equivalent of 35 working weeks of the year behind the wheel of his car doing nothing but driving. If notice is not taken of the disadvantages suffered by country people in regard to access to their members of Parliament and if notice is not taken of the way in which members of Parliament have to go around to represent them, there is no justice, and justice and democracy cannot be brought into this House. The Government rejects the Opposition’s matter of public importance in its entirety. It throws it out because it is a hollow, shallow shell. There is nothing more behind it than posturing to depose the existing Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and to allow some opportunity for candidates for that position to speak.
-(Mr Giles) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion has now concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong-Minister for
Foreign Affairs) (12.49)- I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to repeal the legislation governing the Australian Development Assistance Agency. Honourable members will recall that the Government decided in February1976 to abolish the Australian Development Assistance Agency and to transfer its functions to a bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. This was in line with the Government’s overall approach to the structure of the Commonwealth Public Service and the view that, to achieve greater efficiency and economy, the number of commissions and other statutory bodies should be minimised. The Government was also conscious that while humanitarian considerations are of the utmost importance in aid it must also be seen as a contribution to peace and to stable international relations. Moreover, the giving and receiving of aid gives rise to a relationship between donor and recipient governments of a kind which otherwise would not exist. We are not seeking to achieve narrow political objectives through the provision of aid. We look to aid to assist developing countries along the path of self-sustaining growth and the forms of our assistance are very much governed by the needs of recipients as they define them.
I believe that it cannot be too frequently stated that Australia is in a position different from nearly all other Western donors. We are a rich economy most of whose neighbours are developing nations with low per capita incomes, high population growth rates, foreign exchange problems and huge debt burdens. Australia has always recognised its special responsibility to assist its neighbours. This has meant that the greater proportion of our aid, around 85 per cent, has gone directly as bilateral aid mainly to Papua New Guinea, the Association of South East Asian nations, and the South Pacific countries. In addition we have significant programs elsewhere in Asia and in Africa.
Although these obligations of neighbourhood limit our ability to contribute to international organisations Australia is very much aware of their role and the need for us to support them. In particular, we see international organisations as a means for us to channel some assistance to countries where distance, lack of representation or administrative difficulties prevent us from making a direct contribution. We recognise that our bilateral aid makes the greatest contribution to developing countries if it is concentrated on sectors which are critical to their development plans and in which we are well equipped to offer positive assistance. In many cases, this means an emphasis on the rural sector. We are also aware of the need to avoid delivering aid in piecemeal fashion; considerable progress has already been made with a number of large-scale development programs intended to bring about the balanced development of whole regions. This form of aid will continue to represent a challenge to the administrative skills of the new bureau.
Pending the passage of the Bill a number of administrative measures for the incorporation of the Agency in the Department have already been taken. In the process of making these arrangements substantial staff reductions have been made with the objective of achieving the maximum economies consistent with the effective administration of the aid program. From 1 February this year the Agency has been, in fact, operating as the Australian Development Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Bureau is responsible to the Secretary of the Department and under the control of a Director at Deputy Secretary level. The position of Director has been advertised and applications are currently being considered. The Bureau is performing all the functions formerly carried out by the Agency. These include the administration of the provision by Australia of aid to developing countries and the formulation of policy for me, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, on matters relating to aid.
Experience over the last 12 months has already shown that the reintegration of the Agency into the Department has had a beneficial effect on the administration of our overseas aid program; a closer relationship between the Bureau and other areas of the Department has developed. Furthermore there is a deeper overall appreciation of the importance of development assistance in Australia’s foreign policy. Effective administration of our foreign policy, and indeed the development of the best possible policies, requires that officers concerned with aid should be given opportunities to make an appropriate input into thinking about our foreign relations as well as being fully conscious of the manner in which those relations bear upon their responsibilities. In other words, there must be close working relations between aid officers and their colleagues of the Department. The new arrangements will facilitate the development of such relationships. In establishing a Bureau the Government is concerned to maintain the professional approach to aid administration and the opportunity for career specialisation which was being developed in the Agency. The Bureau will have a very substantial degree of autonomy in relation to financial management of the development assistance program.
Honourable members will now know that section 31 of the present Act gave the Minister power to engage experts to work on the aid program. With the repeal of the Act experts will be engaged under the Public Service Act. In practice this will not involve any great change as the Agency generally recruited experts under terms and conditions similar to those operating under the Public Service Act. Arrangements are currently being made with the Public Service Board for the delegation of certain powers to the Bureau with respect to the engagement of experts. I am confident that the necessary delegations can be given to the Bureau to enable it to obtain and place experts overseas quickly and effectively.
The Government believes that the aspirations and interests of the Australian community have an important role in the determination of foreign policy including that relating to development assistance. Although the Development Assistance Advisory Board will be abolished with the repeal of the Act I am giving thought to its replacement by an informal advisory mechanism. Because of the importance which I attach to the relationship between the aid program and the wider community I propose to give this matter very careful consideration before taking any action. I will of course make an announcement on the subject at the appropriate time.
Our commitment to aid must be seen in the light of present economic constraints and problems facing Australia in the short term. The Government remains firmly committed to the achievement of the internationally accepted target of 0.7 per cent. Regrettably, present economic circumstances preclude our setting a date for its achievement. In the meantime, however, we are endeavouring to maintain our aid at the highest level consistent with economic and budgetary constraints. The pledges to Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the South Pacific announced last year are evidence of our commitment and demonstrate the acceptance of our responsibility to assist developing countries. The pledge of at least $930m in untied grant aid over 5 years to Papua New Guinea was welcomed by that country as were our commitments of $86m over three years to Indonesia and at least $60m to the island nations of the South Pacific over the same period. In order to improve the quality of our aid and to ensure its relevance to their needs, a series of program planning missions have been sent to the Pacific and to Asian countries.
– Yes, it is long overdue. I referred in the statement I made on Tuesday to the fact that governments of both persuasions had taken too long to move in the Pacific area and that is why we increased our aid significantlyin fact, a fourfold increase.
Honourable members will recall that last year legislation was passed giving effect to Australia’s contribution of $30.73m to the first replenishment of the Asian Development Fund. Australia will be taking up an additional subscription of $3 1 8.6m to the capital of the Asian Development Bank. Only 10 per cent or $3 1.9m will be paid into the Bank but the remaining 90 per cent will be on call as backing for the borrowing operations of the Bank. Legislation to authorise this contribution will be introduced this session. As well, legislation will be introduced to authorise a substantial contribution by Australia to the fifth replenishment of the International Development Association.
The Government is also actively encouraging the involvement of the private sector in the aid program in order to make its wealth of expertise available to developing countries. Increasing use is being made of private bodies. The Bureau expects to delegate to them wider responsibility for the administration of aid projects. My Government believes that Australia has a strong responsibility to assist the economic and social advancement of Third World countries particularly through our overseas aid program. We are determined to continue and extend that program. The reintegration of the Australian Development Assistance Agency as the Australian Development Assistance Bureau within the Department of Foreign Affairs will ensure increased economy in the administration of our aid and improve coordination of development assistance policy with foreign policy generally. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
-by leave- I desire to inform the House of the details of the agreement reached between Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for corporate affairs matters at their meeting in Canberra last Friday. Ministers at the meeting agreed to recommend to their respective governments adoption of a general framework for a cooperative Commonwealth-State scheme for the regulation of the entire field of companies and the securities industry. In expressing on behalf of the Government its great satisfaction with the terms of the agreement concluded last Friday I wish to record my appreciation and that of the Government for the constructive, helpful and cooperative approach of all State Ministers which characterised the several months of negotiations which led to last Friday’s Ministers agreement. The proposals agreed upon last Friday are of course subject to ratification by all Governments concerned.
The House will recall that when in opposition the Government parties expressed their general support for the establishment of a national regulatory authority for the securities industry although at the time of the introduction of the Whitlam Government’s Corporations and Securities Industry Bill in 1975 our parties entered very severe reservations regarding the provisions of that legislation. The government’s commitment to the establishment of a national authority was re-affirmed in July 1976 when I announced the details of the Government’s policy approach and invited the States to join talks on our proposals.
Unlike its predecessor this Government chose a path of co-operation with the States. We did this for two reasons. Firstly, it was consistent with the government’s philosophical commitment to federalism and, secondly, we believed that both Commonwealth and State Governments had legitimate roles and interests in this area and the only satisfactory solution lay in reaching agreement on a co-operative basis. In formulating its policy the Government also reached the conclusion that in the interests of greater uniformity and consistency it was necessary to apply the one approach to both regulation of the securities industry and the area generally covered by the existing companies acts of the various States. The basic elements of the scheme agreed to by Ministers at last Friday’s meeting are as follows:
The adoption of a proposal for legislative uniformity which recognises that the States are not required to surrender or refer any constitutional power. This proposal includes the following:
The Government believes there are two basic advantages in the proposed scheme. Firstly, it will be of significant benefit to the business community. For many years all sections of business in Australia have called for greater uniformity in both corporate law and administration and the elimination of the costly duplication and complexities inherent in disuniformity Formation of the Interstate Corporate Affairs Commission which brought together New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia was a significant milestone along the path to more effective national arrangements. The scheme now proposed builds upon the Interstate Corporate Affairs arrangements and will include all States as well as the Commonwealth. It will have the added advantages of a full-time national commission and an effective procedure for securing and maintaining uniformity of law throughout the Commonwealth. Secondly, the proposed arrangements will provide greater investor protection.
A national commission will be able to act quickly and effectively in respect of malpractice in those circumstances where it is clearly desirable that investigatory work and any consequent action be undertaken on a national level. On the subject of investor protection I think it is fair to say that sufficient time has now elapsed since the rather frenetic days of the mining boom and its aftermath for a sober assessment to be made of the lessons learned from that experience. It cannot be denied that the whole of the circumstances surrounding that period in the experience of the capital market in Australia afforded the unscrupulous opportunities for fraud and deceit. The particularity of many specific cases of such conduct has been detailed in the Senate report on securities and exchange. However, the losses sustained by so many people during that period cannot and must not be all made attributable to the dishonest behaviour of certain dealers.
The very frenzy engendered by the mining boom encouraged the normally cautious to speculate with the inevitable consequences of high risk ventures conducted even in the most honest and carefully regulated circumstances. The lapse of time has allowed us to look at that period and subsequent detailed investigation of the behaviour of those involved in a more balanced manner. The Government’s interest in the mechanism of the capital market must not only be seen in terms of investor protection although this is a fundamental element. It must also be seen in terms of the Government’s responsibility to assist in improving the performance of the capital market. We shall do an important economic institution a great disservice if Government regulation and involvement is seen only in the punitive sense of curbing and punishing the dishonest and deceitful.
This, however, is not to underestimate in any way the importance of investor protection. Investor confidence in the future of the institutions and enterprises in which his savings are invested and in the fairness of the market through which liquidation of his holdings can occur is basic to our economic system. For that reason alone the Government must be concerned that confidence is maintained through adequate protective provisions. This consideration has been a dominant element in formulating and implementing the approach of this Government.
Mr Speaker, the agreement reached last Friday is only the beginning but a very important beginning. Many complicated issues remain to be resolved and further negotiations at a Ministerial level will be required. The Ministers propose to meet again on 6 May next. However, I believe that the spirit of co-operation and the determination of all governments to reach a satisfactory arrangement which has been evident to date will continue to prevail and that the national approach I have outlined in this statement will be brought to fruition. I commend the statement to the House.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) by leave- The Opposition welcomes the statement. It recognises that some small progress has been made but, from the Opposition point of view, it is not the solution to the problem. This is evident from the final remarks of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), who said:
Many complicated issues remain to be resolved and further negotiations at a Ministerial level will be required.
I would think that for years to come that will be the tenor and the format of the proposal. The Labor Party takes the point of view- we have always been consistent in it- that as the Commonwealth Parliament has the power, it has the responsibility and it should legislate effectively in this field.
The Minister proposes that a full time commission should operate alongside a ministerial council. There again the commission is going to have responsibilities which are subject to directions from the ministerial council. There is no guarantee that there will be a continuity of effort. You could well reach a hiatus- in fact, a disagreement- and delay. Many of the problems in this area are caused because the national Parliament has been unable or unwilling to legislate in the area. We take cognisance of the fact that when the Labor Party was in Opposition in the Senate it was able eventually to set up a select committee as long ago as 1970. We could not even set up a committee in the House of Representatives because the Government of the day did not favour carrying out that sort of investigation. It was set up in the Senate, and that Senate Committee did a very good job. It is affectionately known as the Rae Committee. Of course, Senator Rae took a keen interest in the investigation. That Committee produced a very worthwhile report. In that report the Committee was able to highlight the many inconsistencies in and failures of State company legislation to protect people, and it cited a specific example.
Let us look at what has happened since 1970. Many of the people who were virtually guilty of taking thousands of dollars from Australians continued to do so after that time by engaging in other practices. Such things will continue until we achieve some cohesion. For years we have been urging the enactment of a national securities and companies law. We say that such a law should be .introduced instead of the situation being left in a state of limbo by saying: ‘Well, we have the power but we do not want to tread on the niceties of State legislation because it will cause political repercussions’. We can see that that is no way in which to deal with this matter. The corporations power is to be found in section 5 1 of the Constitution, and also we have power by virtue of the section relating to interstate trade. It is not worthy of anyone to say that we do not have the power in this area. We all agree that it is possible to control the securities industry, and it should have been done. Not to use the power available to us is running away from the problem.
The scheme outlined by the Minister seeks to achieve legislative uniformity, not administrative uniformity. State corporate offices will still be responsible for at least a large part of administration. Problems will be caused in that some of these offices will be more vigilant than others, and that will be because some artificial demarcation line will have to be drawn between State and national administration. Needless red tape will occur. Some States, such as Queensland and particularly Western Australia, which have constantly opposed any proposal, are not likely to give any greater powers. Regardless of public interest they will oppose any national commission having too much say in day to day administration.
The Rae report on recent corporate crashes shows that the law needs to be able to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. The scheme is not capable of speedy amendment. It needs the support of the majority of Ministers, and it has taken more than a year even to get the scheme off the ground. How long will it take to effect amendments? If agreement is made to an amendment and the Commonwealth has not legislated within 6 months, then apparently the States can introduce that amendment after 6 months. That means that the scheme may not remain uniform if the Commonwealth does not like proposed amendments. The basis of the scheme is: No reference of power, no overriding consistent State law; just agreement. States can pull out of the scheme at any time, and no doubt Queensland and Western Australia, and possibly Victoria, will pull out when the Labor Party next comes to power in Canberra, because it has been their past track record not to co-operate with a Labor government.
When will the scheme start? Subject to the approval of the 7 governments, it will commence as soon as is practicable.
– That was the track record when you were in power.
-The Gallup polls are not looking too well for the Government at the moment either. We do not want to look at what happened in the past.
– You are about 2 weeks behind in your reading.
-No. What about the Minister allowing me to deal with this matter? Let us get off politics. What I am trying to say is that it has taken almost a year for the Government to get the scheme this far, and it is a fair bet that there will be no overnight agreement on legislation which is already well overdue. In agreeing to the scheme, we point out that only the efforts of the Attorney-General of New South Wales have enabled the Government to get as far as it has with this scheme. The New South Wales Attorney-General threatened to pull out of the discussions unless some progress was made. I would say that it was possibly due to his action that the Minister’s affiliates have decided to come into line. It is important that we give recognition in that regard.
Let us look at some other matters. The Masterman report was very helpful in relation to the matter that we raised in the House earlier today, and I think that the Minister will agree with it. It is important at the national level to have a flying squad type of expertise available to the public, and lawyers should not be exempt from that flying squad. If anything is to be achieved in this life it can be done only with the investigatory capacity of a legal mind, as well as the minds of others. My proposal is that if there is a signal that something is going on in this area, this flying squad should immediately ascertain all the facts and that information should be made available to the investing public. We have gone through the nonsense- this is in an area which is well known to the Minister; I refer to Patrick Partners- of meetings of creditors not being informed but being deluded at the first meeting of the trustees into thinking that they would be paid in full by some unknown group of medicos in Melbourne. The people concerned were never sighted again. Obviously, as was mentioned in the Masterman report, much of the information given by auditors, trustees and solicitors was not accurate. In fact, it could be said that it was virtually fraudulent.
The sort of group I have in mind would be a non-involved, specialist group which could enter the premises of a company and say: ‘We are here to investigate’. That can happen to any solicitor at the present time. A group of investigators can walk into his office, have a look at his trust account and prepare a report. That power should be available now, rather than having the present situation of a meeting of creditors being deluded as to what is going to happen by some good orator, when there are no facts to substantiate what he is saying. It is important that in the context of this back-up investigatory work we get this sort of expertise. I think that Mr Justice Kirby is doing some work for the Government in that area, and he is excellent at it but we want to see some progress.
The Rae report indicated the failings that will be encountered. It listed them. It made a significant point: There is one national securities market in Australia, not six or eight. But the Government intends to live in the past and have six or eight investigatory committees. The Rae report makes the further point that if the Government weakens its position and relies on State administrations to recruit the required expertise, it will not get the best people. The State administrations will be unable to give the matter their financial support and, in many cases, they will be unwilling to put as much effort into it as would be desirable for a national commission. Further, the rates of pay and the expertise would not be as adequate as would be desirable. In many cases the investigation of fraud in the States is left to a police officer. He has many matters on his mind, without having to have the expertise to investigate a company at such a sophisticated level.
The Rae report made all of these points in chapters IS and 20 and in the subsequent chapters. I think that the Government should still adhere to them, particularly those which point out the dangers and those which give reasons why it will not be able to get really effective expertise in this area. It is very simple; it is very straight forward. During the cross-examination of Mr Ryan, I think it was, who is in charge of the Corporate Affairs Commission in New South Wales, he said: ‘To get some consultative processes you really need one working day in eight to devote to consultation with all the other States on how best you would do it’. He agreed that it would be a waste of time and a waste of resources. All of these aspects are dealt with in the report, and that is why we emphasise them.
It is all very well for the Government to say that it expects co-operation, but the practicalities indicate that that will not be the case. The evidence given to the Senate committee clearly shows that investigation and enforcement is not likely to be as strong or as effective as it would be if we had a national commission. Accordingly it adds weight to what I have already said. The Government really should get into the field itself. It should not worry about the sensitivities of certain State Premiers. It should consider the investors who have lost their money in millions. It might be important, of course, to talk about giving stability to the market. That is what it should do. The best way in which to give stability to the market is to give it a national identity by means of national legislation, and not by fragmenting it across the 6 State borders. We have one national market. While we may be able to deal with malpractice, I do not think that we will be able to do so as well as if we had a national body which had the expertise, the faculties of co-ordination, and the ability quickly to identify where malpractice is likely to occur.
It is not much good talking about the frenetic days of the mining boom. They are perhaps gone forever. But the people who lost their money are mindful of what happened to them and they have no confidence in a share market which can continue to mulct them of thousands of dollars and not give them any satisfaction. Honourable members opposite should not worry too much about the little empire builders in the various State stock exchanges. The fact that they are on their Liberal Party committees should not prevent the Government from saying that a national body should be established. We are not anxious to go in heavy handedly saying that we will prevent States doing anything worth while- not at all. Our whole scheme of national legislation proposed to license people to conduct their affairs on the basis of their past performances and an ability to continue to perform. It did not have the weakness of the present situation where because one is friendly with the chairman of the stock exchange one will be licensed and, worse still, because the chairman is also in the same business one can often throw him a small bone so that he might make a profit and not disclose his actions.
– It is done every day.
– You cannot go on forever.
-The Minister properly says that I cannot go on forever, and he is right. I shall continue for one more minute. I know that he agrees with what I am saying. I am so keen about this matter that I should like to think he will adopt national legislation. Of course if we ever reach business day No. 1 1 we will discuss this matter again. I make the point that the losses sustained have affected the market and confidence will not be restored by this legislation unless there is some continuity of performance and improvement of the market. I should think it is in the market’s interest that there be national legislation. Do not be too worried about confidence; it will come with national legislation. As I said, we welcome this statement but we deplore the fact that we still do not have the sort of legislation that a Labor Government would introduce.
Motion (by Mr Howard) agreed to:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals Nos 6 to 9 (1977).
The customs tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposal No. 6 implements the Government’s decision to allow duty free admission of motor vehicle replacement parts which was announced on 10 September last year to compensate vehicle manufacturers with significant excess local content as a result of the existence of reversion control procedures in the Government’s motor vehicle plans policy.
Proposals Nos 7 and 8 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by gazette notices during the last recess. These proposals implement the Government’s decisions on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on: Bench or pedestal drilling machines not power fed; clothing; and certain man-made fibres, yarns and fabrics. The effect of the decision on drilling machines is that import restrictions will apply to metal working bench or pedestal pulley operated drilling machines. Imports in excess of quota will attract a temporary duty of $200 each.
The tariff changes relating to clothing and certain man-made fibres, yarns and fabrics provide for the continuation of tariff quota arrangements applying to these goods and the imposition of tariff quotas on pile fabrics of man-made fibres and towelling. The change also provides for the alignment of certain additional duties applying to adult and non-adult garments and women’s and men’s knitted tops. Proposals No. 9 give effect to the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on: Soaps and detergents; and electric motors, generators and rotary converters. In respect of soaps and detergents the changes generally represent a reduction of duties on imported soaps and detergents for household purposes and certain chemicals. The decision on electric motors, generators and rotary converters means that the short-term rate of assistance will be set at 30 per cent and that the industry situation will be reviewed in 2 years to assess the long-term level of assistance required. A comprehensive summary of the changes contained in the proposals is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– by leave- For the information of honourable members, I present details of the establishment of the National Aboriginal Education Committee. It is now almost 10 years since the 1967 referendum widened the Commonwealth Government’s responsibility for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands people. This period has seen the growth of more interest and activity in Aboriginal education than ever before with Commonwealth funds developing programs and helping education authorities throughout the country to make special efforts for Aboriginal people at all levels of education. In all these activities there has been some consultation and involvement of Aboriginal people. In 1974 the Schools Commission appointed an Aboriginal Consultative Group to assist it in obtaining representative views from Aboriginal groups and communities. Later, in October 1975, the Department of Education, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Schools Commission agreed that a permanent advisory group should be set up. Consultations between them, and with the Aboriginal Consultative Group, led to a proposal for establishment of a National Aboriginal Education Committee, with a wholly Aboriginal membership. The Goverment has accepted that proposal.
The Committee will be responsible for providing the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and his Department with informed Aboriginal views on the educational needs of Aboriginal people and appropriate methods of meeting these needs. Its advice will be available also to me and my Department and other authorities concerned with education of Aboriginal people. It will assist the Department of Education and other agencies in monitoring existing programs and in developing programs and policies and will be able to undertake and promote investigations, studies and projects on which to base its advice. This Committee will be attached to and serviced by the Department of Education. The establishment of the Committee places significant responsibilities in the hands of Aboriginal people. I trust it will contribute to policy initiatives which will serve to redress the educational imbalance which Aboriginal people experience and which will recognise the culturally plural nature of Australian society. I hope these initiatives will foster education programs and activities which will assist Aboriginal people to live satisfying lives, sharing in and contributing to the total Australian society.
The Committee is headed by a full-time chairman with 18 part-time members who will provide a range of expertise in this area of education and an invaluable understanding of Aboriginal needs and problems. Mr Stephen Albert, a tribal member of the Bardi people of Western Australia, has been appointed as the Chairman of the Committee for a period of 3 years. He is highly educated and cultivated in Aboriginal society, and qualified to hold a position for which a deep appreciation of the needs of Aboriginal people is essential. Mr Albert has lectured to school students and trainee teachers, he has been a member of the Regional Council for Social Development in Alice Springs and was a member of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in Adelaide. He is a qualified tradesman and is currently undertaking studies at a college of advanced education. His experience of traditional Aboriginal education and contemporary Australian education will be of great benefit to the
Committee. Other members of the Committee will normally be appointed for part-time terms of 2 years. Half of the initial members are being appointed for one year, and half for 2 years. This is being done so as to allow for progressive changes in membership while ensuring a degree of continuity in the Committee’s work. All members will be able to seek reappointment at the end of their initial term. The names of members appointed and the durations of their appointments are given in a list which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
The part-time members and their terms of appointment are:
Ms M. Valadian, Consultant Social Worker (2 years).
-The proposed members have been carefully selected to form a team balanced as far as possible in terms of factors including geographical location, educational specialisation, and variety of community experience. A large number of people have been nominated for the Committee and it is the strong hope of my colleague, the Minister for Education, that those who did not achieve selection this time, will renominate in future. That so many well-qualified people have shown their interest augurs well for the success of the Committee. I commend to the House the formation of this specialist committee in Aboriginal education.
-by leaveThe Opposition supports the measure proposed by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and indeed, warmly congratulates the Minister on taking this initiative to its point of culmination. As the Minister has said, in October 1975 agreement was reached with the Schools Commission to set up a permanent advisory group. I think it was back in July 1976 that the Minister for Education made an announcement that this matter was to be proceeded with. In other words, 9 months elapsed from the time when the decision was taken by the previous Government to establish a National Aboriginal Education Committee to the time the announcement was made by the Minister for Education. A similar period has elapsed between then and now. Today the Minister has announced the personnel comprising the committee. The period of gestation for anything to happen under this Government- two 9-monthly cycles- to achieve this modest degree of progress leaves a great deal to be desired. We support this proposal. At least the Minister, unlike some of his colleagues, is not just intent on this policy of devolution; he is prepared to take Labor initiatives a step further. He has done this on a number of occasions. But we question the delay in this matter.
I congratulate the Minister on the selection of personnel- the 18 members- of the committee and indeed the full-time chairman. The concept of rotating membership is obviously commendable. Of course the Opposition wants to extend its best wishes to the committee for the success of its investigatory work about Aboriginal education. The facts are that this is one of the most denied and deprived areas confronting Australia at present. Wherever one goes in the pursuit of an understanding of Aboriginal affairs, the deficiencies of educational opportunities available to Aboriginal people are very apparent. For example, in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, one finds immediately the deficiency of technical education facilities. There is no technical college or anything of that type in Arnhem Land or anywhere in the central region of northern Australia, or in Alice Springs itself, where an Aboriginal boy can learn the trade of carpentry or how to become a motor mechanic. Aboriginal girls cannot learn shorthand and typing. The same applies to the Cape York area where there are considerable numbers of Aboriginal people. If we go to the islands to the north of AustraliaMelville Island, Bathurst Island, Elcho Island and Goulburn Island- again we find this generation of Aboriginal people who are virtually destined to a life as second-grade citizens because up to this point of time Australia has not taken proper initiatives in regard to Aboriginal education.
It is very interesting to refer to the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty where considerable space has been devoted to this problem of Aboriginal education. In that report some mention is made of the historical events associated with Aboriginal education or the inadequacy of Aboriginal education. It mentions, for example, that as far back as 1 800 attempts were made to set up a school at Parramatta. But this was not conducive to progress in the sense that it was unacceptable and the Aboriginal people fled from the school. There are many examples of how such attempts have ended in disastrous consequences. In 1912 in Western Australia there was an influx of Aboriginal children into white schools. There was such an uproar from the whites that the blacks were excluded. That set Aboriginal education back many years. We have moved on to the various shifts in emphasis in policy. We have gone from the assimilation policy in 195 1 to the integration policy in 1965 and to the self-determination policy in 1973.
The net effect of this effort- so much of it unproductive- is revealed by some startling figures which are contained in the report to which I have referred, namely, the Fifth Main Report, December 1976, entitled Poverty and Education in Australia. I mention a couple of figures in this regard. A table showing the percentage of 10 to 19-year-olds enrolled in secondary education for the period 1966-1973 shows that in 1966, 15.1 per cent of Aboriginal young people of eligible school age were so enrolled. By 1973 that figure had increased to 28.5 per cent. Many eligible Aboriginal children are still not enrolled in secondary education. Another table in this report refers to the school retention rate. It shows that in 1971 the percentage of white students who went beyond third form was 22.6. The percentage of black students who went beyond third form was 2.1. So we have this powerless minority whose condition obviously has been contributed to by the inadequacy of education. There are many tables of great interest in this report and I commend the study of it to honourable members. We can probably all hang our heads in shame when we look at the table relating to tertiary education and see the product of our total endeavour in terms of tertiary education. The number of Aboriginal people enrolled in tertiary education in 1973 was fiftyseven; the next year that number had dropped by one- the enrolment was fifty-six.
In respect of the history of this matter, the Aboriginal Consultative Group to the Schools Commission first met in December 1974. It continued to function throughout 1975. It declared that it was anxious to see established a permanent educational body of Aboriginal people. Under arrangements agreed on and approved by the then Minister for Education, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) and me as the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in October 1975 this particular objective started to get off the ground. It was endorsed as a program by the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, and the objective was that the Department of Education assume executive responsibility at the Australian Government level for the development of programs in Aboriginal education. It was intended that as soon as practicable the funding responsibility for Aboriginal education programs funded at the time by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs be transferred to the Department of Education. I presume it is still the objective. It is certainly a very important consideration. In the report for the triennium 1976-78, the Schools Commission wrote:
Over the last 2 years Australians have become more aware through the bitter comments of Aborigines in the media that a new government cannot overnight solve problems which have been festering for more than a century. It is still possible for the National Population Inquiry Report to note in 1975 that ‘in every conceivable comparison, the Aborigines and Islanders . . . stand in stark contrast to the general Australian society, and also to other ‘ethnic’ groups, whether defined on the basis of race, nationality, birth place, language or religion. They probably have the highest growth rate, the highest death rate, the worst health and housing, and legal status of any identifiable section of the Australian population ‘. They also have the least schooling.
We now have the objective of this new committee. That has been spelt out in terms of philosophical goals which probably are a little too lengthy for me to enunciate at the present time, but which certainly involve the concept that education should be seen as a major instrument of social change directed towards the quality improvement of Aboriginal education.
I refer further to the report on Poverty and Education in Australia in which the question of Aboriginal education was under consideration. Under the heading ‘Community control’ the report stated:
As we have previously pointed out, Aboriginal education requires special consideration because:
Aboriginals are the poorest, worst housed, least educated section of the community, with the highest morbidity and mortality rates.
It is certain that the Aboriginal population of school age will increase by at least a half by the end of the century and it may well double. It is now freely acknowledged that many different groups in the community who do not conform to the general educational pattern, predicated as it is on the needs of white, middle class Australia, require specialised provision. Though some of the recommendations we make may temporarily require increased expenditure, the end result will be to bring a return in increased independence of Aboriginal communities and individuals within a comparatively short period.
From those remarks, especially the comments made in this very authoritative report, it is clear that the initiative announced today by the Minister is necessary, outstanding and overdue. We warmly support the fact that the Minister, unlike some of his colleagues, has not thrown out the baby with the bath water. Too many Ministers are involved in this process of devolution. If the Labor Party started it they will not have anything to do with it. I congratulate the Minister for taking hold of this matter with firmness and for launching this committee which I believe will contribute very significantly in the years to come to the prospects of Aboriginal people being able to involve themselves in a self-management way in the pursuit of education. In turn this will flow through to a better way of life for the Aboriginal people.
Bill presented by Mr McLeay, and read a first time.
-On behalf of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to remove the requirement under section 80b of the Defence Act 1903 for collectors of Service decorations to obtain permits for that purpose. The existing requirement is seen by the Government as an unnecessary restriction on collectors who have taken a great interest in Australia’s military heritage and done much to preserve our military relics. However, the Government is conscious of the need to control the use of Service decorations, particularly the need to ensure that they are treated with respect. Accordingly, it will remain an offence for a person to unlawfully wear a Service decoration; falsely represent himself to be a person entitled to wear a Service decoration; or deface or destroy a Service decoration. The Government has recognised that some use of Service decorations is legitimate and has approved an extension to an existing provision to allow Service decorations, as well as emblems and uniforms, to be worn in dramatic performances. In order to bring up to date the existing legislation, a provision has been inserted to make it clear that dramatic performances might include televised performances. The Government has naturally decided to retain the provision allowing a member of the family of a person on whom a Service decoration has been conferred to wear that decoration, provided he does not represent himself as being the person on whom the decoration was conferred. This provision, of course, covers familiar Anzac Day practice.
The measure embodied in this Bill was suggested by the Military Historical Society of Australia and supported by the National Executive of the Returned Services League of Australia. The Government believes that the measure represents a proper balance between the need to encourage collectors of Service decorations who are contributing to the conservation of our military heritage and the need to protect the Service decorations, whether in the hands of collectors or not, from any form of misuse.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Ellicott, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is directed to meeting 2 problems that have arisen in Australia and elsewhere in recent years. Thus, the first objective of the Bill is to prohibit persons preparing for or engaging in incursions into foreign countries. The second is to prohibit the recruiting in Australia of persons to serve in armed forces in a foreign country.
As to the first- prohibition of foreign incursionstwice in recent years persons from Australia have carried out incursions overseas. The Government takes the view that circumstances in overseas countries and Australia make possible the repetition of these activities. The Government takes the view that it should do what it can by legislative means to discourage them. While under existing law- provided information is obtained early enough- some limited action can be taken to prevent these activities achieving their ultimate objective, past events have shown that existing law is not adequate. In all the circumstances, including the need to preserve international relations, there is a need for legislation to deal specifically with the problem, including preparations in Australia for these activities.
To this end, clause 6 will prohibit incursions into foreign countries for the purpose of engaging in hostile activities. This clause will apply to Australian citizens, persons ordinarily resident in Australia and persons who at any time during the period of one year immediately preceding the commission of the offence were present in Australia for a purpose connected with the offence. In regard to the last category of persons I mention that persons meeting this description participated in previous incursion episodes. Such persons would have sufficient connection with Australia in respect of the prohibited activity to warrant the application to them of this provision of the Australian criminal law. To a substantial extent this provision will prohibit acts of terrorism by Australians in other countries.
Clause 7 prohibits preparations for incursions into foreign countries. In relation to acts done in Australia, the clause applies to all persons; in the case of acts done outside Australia, the clause applies to the same persons as clause 6. Clause 8 prohibits the recruiting of persons to join organisations engaged in hostile activities against foreign governments.
The seriousness with which the Australian Government regards these matters is reflected in the heavy penalties provided for breaches of these provisions. Thus, the penalty for a breach of clause 6 will be 14 years imprisonment. The penalty for making preparations for these acts of terrorism will be 10 years. It should be noted that the consent of the Attorney-General will be required for any prosecution for a breach of the Act. As a further indication of the seriousness with which the Government views activities of this nature, I mention that the Government contemplates the making of a proclamation under section 27 of the Crimes Act prohibiting unauthorised military style training and drilling in the use of firearms.
As to the second main purpose- prohibition of recruiting- many countries including Australia have been concerned by the recruiting of, or attempts to recruit persons in their territory for service as mercenaries in foreign forces. A United Kingdom statute, the Foreign Enlistment Act, in force since 1870 and applicable to the British dominions, dealt with enlistment by British subjects in foreign forces but in terms inappropriate in today’s circumstances. The United Kingdom Government established a Committee of Privy Counsellors under the chairmanship of Lord Diplock to examine the problem. The Committee recommended the abolition of the offence of enlisting while abroad as a mercenary and of leaving the United Kingdom in order to do so. The reasons given by the Committee for this view were:
First, for reasons we have given, we do not think it practicable or just to try to define an offence of enlisting as a mercenary in such a way that guilt would depend upon proof by the prosecution of a particular motive as actuating the accused to do so. Secondly, a penal prohibition sought to be imposed by the State upon what an individual does abroad involves a restriction on the liberty of the individual which we think can only be justified on compelling grounds of public interest. Thirdly, the practical difficulties of proving such an offence would mean that there could be very few successful prosecutions; and the chances of convicting the accused would depend not so much on his actual guilt as on his exceptional bad luck in there being available to the prosecution in his case sufficient evidence to convict him on his trial in this country.
The United Kingdom Committee, however, recommended new legislation to prohibit recruitment of persons to take up service as mercenaries abroad including prohibition of offers of employment as a mercenary, publishing information as to how or where to apply for such employment or to reach the place where it is available, or making any payment or taking part in any arrangement to enable or assist a person to do so. The law in the United States prohibits recruitment of any persons as mercenaries within the United States but does not prohibit a citizen or other person in the United States leaving the country to enlist in a foreign military service.
Independently of the United Kingdom inquiry, the Australian Government had conducted its own examination which produced the same broad conclusion as the Diplock Committee, namely, that it was not appropriate to attempt to prohibit enlistment outside Australia but it was desirable to control recruitment within
Australia of mercenaries for service in foreign forces. To implement this conclusion, clause 9 of the Bill will make it an offence for a person to recruit, advertise in respect of recruiting, facilitate or promote recruitment, of another person to serve in or with an armed force in a foreign country, whether government, insurgent or otherwise.
In order to meet circumstances where it is in the interests of the defence or international relations of Australia to permit the recruitment in Australia of persons to serve in particular armed forces, the Minister will be authorised to exempt recruitment for such forces. However, the legislation will not prevent an Australian from going overseas and enlisting in armed forces in another country. The Government recognises that occasions will arise where persons will wish to enlist and serve in the armed forces of another country because of a deeply held personal belief. To prohibit this generally would be an infringement of individual freedom. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to take up an increase of $US346.1m in its capital subscription to the Asian Development Bank, of which $US34.6m is to be paid in, and the remainder to be on call.
Honourable members will be aware that the Asian Development Bank is a regional development finance institution which was established in 1966, with its headquarters in Manila, for the purpose of lending funds, promoting investment and providing technical assistance to developing member countries with a view to generally fostering economic growth and co-operation in the Asian and Pacific regions. To the end of December 1976, the Bank had lent about SUS3.4 billion to its developing member countries for projects covering all the major sectors of economic development with emphasis on the development of infrastructure facilities in the transport and communications industry and electric power sectors as well as projects for agriculture, education, water supply and urban development.
The Bank’s lending activities are divided into ‘ordinary operations’ and ‘special operations’. ‘Ordinary operations’ are financed on the basis of the bank’s capital resources either directly or through borrowings in the world’s capital markets. ‘Special operations’ involve loans made on highly concessional terms to the Bank’s poorest and least developed member countries and are now provided from direct contributions by developed member countries to the Asian Development Fund. In 1976, the Bank approved loans totalling $US776m of which $US236m came from these ‘special operations’ resources. To date Australia has made commitments of about $US70m to the concessional funds of the Bank. The authorised capital of the bank is $US3,707m and the subscribed capital, from which the Bank derives the funds for its ‘ordinary operations’, to date amounts to about $US3,688m. Australia’s present subscription of $US256m, of which $US82m is paid-in and the balance callable, is exceeded only by those of the United States, Japan and India.
In April 1975, the Board of Governors of the Bank adopted a resolution requesting the Bank’s Board of Directors to undertake a detailed examination of the resource position of the Bank. The Board of Directors recommended in a report to the Board of Governors that, on the basis of the projected lending program of the Bank for the period 1976-81, the authorized and subscribed capital of the Bank should be increased by 135 per cent before the end of 1977. Australia voted in favour of a resolution adopted by the Board of Governors in October 1976 authorising the Bank to accept from its member countries the increased subscriptions proposed in the directors’ report. Members, including Australia, are entitled, but not obligated, to subscribe to this authorised increase.
The approved proposal provides that the authorised capital stock of the Bank be increased by US$5,004m, of which 10 per cent is to be paid in while the balance is to remain on call as backing for the Bank’s borrowings in the world capital markets. Of the paid-in portion, 40 per cent is payable in convertible currency and 60 per cent in the currency of the member country concerned. The attached statement, which I ask leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard, sets out the number of shares to which each member is entitled to subscribe under the capital increase and shows the split up between paid-in and callable shares.
-Is leave granted?
– This is one of the few occasions when the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, whoever he is, or even the Treasurer has not extended the usual courtesies of providing Hansard or myself with a copy of the speech let alone this table, which is another normal courtesy.
– I take on board the honourable member’s point of view, but really the answer is yes or no as far as the Chair is concerned at this stage.
– If the Minister will give me an assurance that the normal courtesies will be observed in future I will give him permission on this occasion.
– If they have not been observed I apologise. They ought to have been observed. There has obviously been a slip up in procedure. There is no malintention or anything of that kind.
-As far as the Chair is concerned, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I might point out to honourable members that each share is valued at $12,063.50 in terms of current United States dollars. Under the terms of the governors ‘ resolution, the capital increase will become effective only when member countries have subscribed a minimum of 240 000 shares of the total number of 414 800 new shares involved. The tentative deadline set is 30 September 1977, but this may be extended up to 3 1 December 1977. As I have already mentioned, the proposal involves a total increase of $US346.1m in Australia’s existing capital subscription. Of this amount, however, $US3 11.5m will take the form of callable capital and only $US34.6m will actually be paid-in over a period of 4 years commencing in 1977-78. Of this latter amount, $US 13.8m will be payable in convertible currency and $US20.8m in local currency in the form of promissory notes.
As honourable members are aware, Australia has been a strong and active supporter of the Asian Development Bank in the past as we have regarded it to be an effective and efficient vehicle for regional co-operation and development. I believe it to be in Australia’s interest to continue this policy of support for the Bank by taking up, in full, the increase in our capital subscription to which we are entitled. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second rime.
Upon which Mr Keating had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House is of the opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted with a view to bringing forward a Bill which (a) increases the rate of stabilization payments to $3 per box of apples and $ 1.20 per box of pears and/or (b) provides supplementary assistance measures to facilitate adjustments in the fruit growing industry and to provide assistance directly to individual fruit growers until such times as a coherent planned policy, by which the Australian fruit growing industry can prosper, is determined ‘.
-The purpose of the Bill before the House is to extend the existing stabilisation scheme for the export of apples and pears during the 1977 season. This Government properly rejected the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission that the maximum level of support be limited to $1 per box for apples for the 1977 export season. This Government has now legislated 2 years running for a level of support of $2 per box. Last night the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) had the hide to move an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill proposing that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted with a view to bringing forward a Bill increasing the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 a box for apples and $1.20 a box for pears and or some vague provision for supplementary assistance -so vague and indefinite as to be absolutely dangerous.
Unlike the Opposition I and others on the Government side of the House are genuinely concerned for the welfare of fruit growers as people. We are not prepared to play politics with the fruit industry in the same way as the Opposition is now attempting. We want a proper and rational debate, sound recommendations and effective Government action of the sort indicated in the motion of which I gave notice this morning and which I now read to the House in full:
I repeat that I and my colleagues have fought hard and will continue to fight hard for the welfare of the apple and pear export industry in general and the fruit growers of Tasmania in particular. The amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland is a cheap political trick. I go further. It is a confidence trick on the fruit industry designed only to taunt and intimidate the Tasmanian back benchers. The Tasmanian back benchers have more guts than the honourable member for Blaxland and all the Opposition put together, and when we fight we really fight. We do not put up a cheap political circus just to get a bit of cheap publicity. Unlike the Opposition, we are united on the Government side of the House and we do not have to look for headlines and grandstanding to prove to our electors that we are having a go for them.
We believe the apple and pear export industry does need greater assistance and support. We will get that assistance and support the right way. We will not bow down to political standover tactics and intimidation from people like the honourable member for Blaxland. We reject his amendment as a fraud and a confidence trick brought into this House by a man who does not give a damn for the Tasmanian fruit growers. We will get our victories the right way, and the fruit growers of Tasmania know that all Tasmanian members and senators from the Liberal Party can be relied upon to fight to the utmost on their behalf, not to engage in cheap politics as we witnessed from the Australian Labor Party at 10 o’clock last night and no doubt as we will hear later in this debate when there are further murmurs on what should be done about a motion which the Opposition happened to hear would be moved on this side. For these reasons we oppose the Opposition amendment as a worthless piece of paper, an absolute fraud, a confidence trick and a second-grade example of cheap political grandstanding.
-We have genuinely some sympathy for the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), but really so many times has he threatened to cross the floor that it is becoming melodramatic. It never happens. He is always going to do it but he never takes the step and I think the people of Tasmania can be reasonably sure he never will take the step, despite all the huffings and puffings that go on. I can understand his dilemma and I am very sympathetic to it, but his blustering and blackguarding will not hide the fact that he will do a lot of talking but will not really cross the floor.
I support the amendment moved by my colleague the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). It was moved in good faith and the Opposition stands by it. The amendment has 2 very important objectives. There is no inconsistency with our previous stand on this matter. We want to give growers an additional stabilisation payment of $ 1 a box for apples and 40c for pears to enable them to survive at a level of income which is not grossly out of step with the Australian community at large. That is a reasonable proposition. The second more positive approach is that we want to provide supplementary assistance to facilitate structural adjustments in the industry until long term measures can be put into effect which will put the industry on a stable basis. The honourable member for Franklin should be grateful that the Opposition has moved this amendment which he would love to have moved but for which he could not get the support of his Party. We are doing it for him. If he has any sense he will come over and vote with us.
I can understand and appreciate his dilemma. He and his other colleagues whose constituents include significant numbers of pome fruit growers now face the unenviable choice either of supporting the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party- an amendment which seeks to secure an increase in the subsidy for apple and pear growers in the honourable member’s electorate and in the electorates of his fellow Tasmanian, Western Australian, Queensland and Victorian colleagues- or of voting to deprive them of this extra assistance to which we maintain they are entitled. I believe that the honourable member for Franklin and all the other honourable members from apple growing districts are men of principle who have a compassionate concern for the fruit growers in their electorates. So really the honourable member for Franklin and his colleagues should have no difficulty at all in supporting this amendment. He would know that if he and his colleagues take a stand in principle on this matter even if they cannot succeed in this House they will give moral support and encouragement to their colleagues in another place to an extent which may enable this amendment to be carried, thus enabling their constituents to obtain some relief from their problems. If the honourable members from Tasmania wish to oppose our amendment their choice is to go along meekly with the harsh handtomouth subsidy as proposed in the Bill with no real prospect of any long term remedies being applied to the industry.
– Who wrote that?
– I wrote it. By doing this they will be rejecting the humanitarian and compassionate approach of the Labor Party. We have always been a humanitarian and compassionate party, as we have demonstrated. If they reject our approach they will be supporting the hard line ad hoc approach which is lacking in compassion and which is so typical of the Fraser Government. There is nothing inconsistent about the ALP approach. We have always questioned the wisdom of sustaining people in a situation in which there is no real prospect for improvement when other avenues of opportunity are available. We have always supported the stabilisation funds as an interim measure and we have always supported the view that everyone in a resource-rich country like Australia is entitled to receive at least an income which keeps them above the poverty line as generally accepted in the community.
This is not a laughing matter. It is a serious matter. I worked in the apple industry for many years and I know what the industry is like. It has been estimated by grower representatives that to reach the equivalent assistance of $2 for apples which prevailed in 1976 the assistance this year would need to be $3.58 a box to take account of the increase in cash costs of production inputs and extra freight charges. So we are not asking for the full amount of $3.58 which would maintain the status quo from last year. We are suggesting $3. We have always maintained that the real solution is in sympathetic reconstruction procedures which move towards tailoring the production of apples and pears in Australia to the needs of the domestic market, plus any profitable export outlets which we may have or may reasonably expect to develop in the future.
The only thing that has changed substantially in the last year is that this Government’s economic policies are such that the opportunity for fruit growers to move to other avenues of employment or occupation has considerably declined. That is the Government’s responsibility. It cannot be passed on to the Labor Party. If the opportunity for earning alternative or supplementary income has declined, and as Government policies have ensured that a high level of inflation will continue this year, there is strong justification to ease the burden on producers by increasing the stabilisation payments as a temporary measure. That is the negative side of this serious structural problem which confronts apple and pear producers in Australia, particularly in the export States. The situation is not as bad in New South Wales because producers there do not depend on exports to any extent and they are able to absorb their production within the State and within the Australian Capital Territory.
The positive side, which we always prefer to emphasise, is the need for adjustment within the industry, which has been recommended consistently in Industries Assistance Commission reports and which has been avoided consistently by the Government. I am not suggesting that we need a radical and expensive policy of wholesale transfer of people out of those areas of production which are not viable. As a former orchardist myself I have great respect for the ability of orchardists to make adjustments in their operations to fit future market prospects. Over a period of time producers will undoubtedly tend to modify their production to market trends. This is much more difficult for some fruit growers than for people in other avenues of primary production because of the time lag and the capital investment involved between planting a tree and when it becomes productive. Sometimes eight or ten years elapse before that takes place. The pome fruit producer cannot operate on a short-term cycle. Nevertheless a self-regulating process is taking place each year, just by the relationship between the extent of new plantings and old plantings which cease to be commercially viable. If new plantings virtually cease for a few years or are substantially reduced at some time in the future as markets expand a shortage can be expected.
I am not suggesting a wholesale pulling out of trees. There is evidence already that this selfregulating process is taking place in some States. The tree pull scheme has hastened this process to some extent but the tree pull scheme distorts this process when young trees are pulled rather than old trees. Further modification is going on in respect to new varieties and changing consumer demands. It is well know that some varieties, particularly the red delicious variety, usually sell at a premium, which virtually eliminates the need for a stabilisation fund. It is also well known within the industry that Asian markets tend to prefer sweeter varieties of apples rather than the more tart flavour preferred by European markets. Unfortunately, sometimes these varieties with preferred flavours lack the handling and keeping qualities of less popular varieties. It then becomes the responsibility of government to see that our research facilities such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, with its plant breeding and other technical resources such as cold storage research resources, are given the necessary financial resources to solve these technological problems. The time taken to do this will depend upon the amount of resources which we are prepared to put into it.
Other techniques, such as the move to hedgerow planting, undoubtedly reduce labour costs in the orchard and place our producers in a better position to compete. New cold storage techniques extend the shelf life of export fruit after it is taken out of cold storage. All these developments are on-going processes. I believe that our growers are not backward in adopting new techniques. By world standards they are quite up to date. These processes are shared by producers and government to bring the industry to a viable position in relation to its competitors in overseas markets and to keep its products within reach of the domestic consumer. Undoubtedly fruit exporters will receive some benefit from the Government’s devaluation decision, but this should not be overstated as obviously any increase in gross receipts is offset significantly by increases in freight charges, by equivalent increases in the costs of imported inputs such as chemical sprays, wrapping material and imported orchard machinery, not to mention the continuing effect of inflation fed by the devaluation decision. As I pointed out earlier, all of these changes take time to develop and emerge. We believe that in the meantime fruitgrowers are entitled to sympathetic consideration and support by Government to maintain reasonable living standards. To my personal knowledge fruit growers are not people who traditionally look for Government handouts as a long term solution to their problems. In fact, by the very nature of their occupation they are independent and resourceful people who prefer to stand on their own feet but there are circumstances which prevail today which justify special consideration and our amendment merely acknowledges these special circumstances. I believe that the latest market intelligence which I have received regarding apples and pears is in fact much more optimistic than at this time last year.
– I will tell you why. The indications are that world supplies of apples and pears are considerably lower than they were last year- no doubt this is due to climatic conditions in some of the bigger producing countries- and that the market is much more buoyant with expectations of higher prices for Australian exports this season quite high.
Tasmanian members, as well as members from other apple and pear export States, will undoubtedly be pleased to know that all State grower organisations have, I believe, indicated within the last 24 hours that they fully support the proposed amendment which has been moved by the Labor Party. The vulnerable position of the export States as shown in a table in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission indicates that in New South Wales where growers are not dependent on export markets the average net farm income of the large apple and pear farms in 1974-75 was $10,5 13. At the other end of the scale the average in Tasmania was only $954. This was a projection, a forecast. In Western Australia the average was $3,031. In South Australia it was $4,424 and in Queensland $3,845. It is quite obvious that the growers in these States are in a very vulnerable situation and they need support. I appeal particularly to honourable members like the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck), who represents a significant number of fruit producers, the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) not to miss the opportunity to support this amendment to increase the subsidy to $3 for apples and $1.20 for pears so as to give the producers in their electorates some relief from the crippling financial burdens under which they are attempting to survive. I recommend the amendment to the House.
– I support this legislation which simply regularises an earlier announcement to extend at the same rate and for the same quantity of risk export fruit as in the 1976 season into the 1977 season. I think it is worth while that the House should bear in mind that this support applies only to risk fruit. It is not a general subsidy to the apple industry. It does not apply to the home market sales. It does not apply to contract sales abroad which are the best, the most firm and the most affluent export arrangements. The subsidy applies to risk areas which primarily are in Europe and the United Kingdom with the exception of pears which are, I think, at risk on North American markets. The Government has seen fit because of the economic circumstances faced by the industry to continue this form of support to the risk export sector of the apple industry. I think we should commendnot denigrate- the Industries Assistance Commission for the type of purely economic advice that it gives in an impartial and objective fashion to governments. There is no question that there is a need for this sort of body both in the national interest and in the consumers’ interest. The fact of the matter is that, contrary to the implication in the remarks of the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), the Government has seen fit, because of the economic circumstances and perhaps due to regional dislocation problems or due to sheer poor standards of living for people in many sectors of the horticultural industry, to continue the support for the 1977 season and not to commence an immediate phasing out of this type of support as suggested by the IAC. That is the first point. The honourable member for Fraser referred to us as hardline supporters of this Government, maybe with his tongue in cheek. He should bear in mind that not only is the Government helping the apple industry by continuing this level of support in respect of the number of boxes to which it applies but also- as he himself said without mentioning the other implications- devaluation has considerably helped all those sectors of the horticultural industry which have a high or reasonably high export component in their total production.
The Government has given considerable help to the Tasmanian export trade with the introduction of the freight equalisation scheme. One has only to travel to the apple districts of South Australia or New South Wales, indeed, as far away as Queensland to find how much the growers in those States fear the intrusion of Tasmanian fruit in good production years, not onto the export market but into the capital city markets in those States which have become fairly stable over a period of years. I make that comment because obviously Tasmanian producers seem to be a trifle more upset than producers in other States but they should recognise that this Government, contrary to being a hardline Government, has given 4 kinds of assistance to help the apple industry out of its difficulties. In this legislation the Government is maintaining assistance at the same rate and volume as last year, contrary to the recommendations of the IAC. The Government has introduced the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. The Government devalued the Australian currency, which helped the industry considerably. Last but not least-and probably most important of all, looking into the future-there is the rural adjustment measures that will apply to all industries that are in a state of overproduction. One of the many favourite phrases of” the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) is that the worst enemy of the sheep is another sheep. Likewise, the worst enemy of an apple is another apple particularly if there are one too many other apples. There is a lot of economic sense in the Government’s intention to have a total program of rural re-adjustment in many areas of the apple industry.
In respect of the IAC’s method of looking at the problem, it has been a common talking point within the corridors of the IAC for some time that there is an apple grower in one State which I will not mention who handles all his export fruit himself and does so in risk fruit areas. The taxpayers have been subsidising that man to the tune of $ 12,500 to produce apples to give him an income of $4,500. Those figures are roughly accurate, as I remember the story. No matter what one thinks about this the fact is that it is just as well for the total community of Australia that stories of this sort do emerge largely through inquiries made by an impartial economic body such as the IAC which can make recommendations to the Government. The Government in turn may accept or reject those recommendations. Presumably it would reject recommendations from time to time for the sort of reasons which I have put to the House.
I take up once again the point of the honourable member for Fraser that we on this side are hardline in respect of this legislation in spite of those 4 very helpful forms of assistance which I mentioned earlier. I now refer to supplementary assistance. I know very well that the Labor Party in South Australia will not have a bar of giving any help itself in the form of supplementary assistance to apple growers in that State. I ask any of the Tasmanian members to tell me whether their State Labor Government is at all attracted to supplementary assistance measures in addition to the sort of support provided in this legislation. If it is, I am unaware of it. Certainly the growers of Tasmania have a much greater problem than do growers in other States. I am not aware that the New South Wales Government has come forth with any supplementary assistance from State funds for the apple industry in its State. Honourable members ought to be awfully careful before they try to sling around accusations about who is hardline and who is not. The facts of the matter are that this Government has done a very great deal to help the apple industry over many years and since it has been in power since 1975. I think any more assistance would be seriously questioned by those people in the community who take an intelligent view as to what should or should not be done to help a particular section of the community. I am convinced that one of the lessons of the dairying industry in the past, where quite ample protection and direct subsidies were given to keep that industry going over many years, mainly through this sort of capital infusion and protection, is that all we really did over many years was to prolong the agony for a lot of dairy farmers who could well have been better out of that industry in years gone by.
Finally, I want to comment on that aspect of the speech of the honourable member for Fraser in which he referred to overseas demand and the likely fall of production of overseas apples and pears. The dned fruit industry is faced with the same interesting situation. The citrus industry probably is also faced with the same interesting situation. I think that one would not want to run away with the view that because there has been a short fall in production that may affect prices quite well from the point of view of the producers over the next 2 years, that there is not still an adjustment problem. One of the problems of rural adjustment in this industry or any other industry is that given this temporary increase in prices, people will hardly elect voluntarily to leave that industry. I think this is a long-term matter of some concern to the Government and to those industries involved.
I see no reason why the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) should cross the floor. As he himself said, far more colourfully than I could, this is a purely ‘come in suckers’ sort of amendment which has been moved by the Labor Party. For instance, if the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) led the Labor Party today, one wonders with interest whether he, with his particular economic views, would allow such a spurious and mildly dishonest amendment to be foisted on this House. It certainly would not conform with my understanding of his economic views. So we can take this amendment with a pinch of salt.
I would in no way be attracted to supporting the amendment moved by the Labor Party if I were the honourable member for Franklin and I hope that he and others who have a direct interest in the apple industry would treat this amendment with the sort of contempt that I think it deserves. I support the Bill before the House and I hope that these measures will continue to give the sort of help in the risk areas of export that is needed. I hope that the industry itself will from now on try to make its exports a matter of contract and not one of risk. In this way and with the other encouragements of which I have spoken, the industry can certainly cure a lot of its own problems within the period allotted by this Government.
-We are on the annual wander down the apple and pear orchard path without seeming to get anywhere. It seems to me, having listened to this debate for some time, that we hear, almost ad nauseum, remarks from honourable members on the other side of the House about how we have to re-adjust, we have to do this, or how we have to take steps in some direction or other. But we never take any new steps; we just continue the mixture as before. We wait for something to turn up. One of the most serious inflictions upon the apple and pear growers, as it is upon everybody else in the primary and manufacturing industries, is the disastrous economic policy of this Government, which is dedicated to rising unemployment, continuing inflation and non-government action wherever it is needed. One of the other great disadvantages for the people in primary industry is the support of the National Country Party. It is difficult for Australians to take seriously anything that is sponsored by the National Country Party although one could hardly describe this exercise as being sponsored by the Country Party. There is one member of the National Country Party in the House and one Minister belonging to that Party. As for the Tasmanians, they are so deeply concerned about this matter that there are two of them in the House.
– There are three.
-The other honourable member does not look like a Tasmanian. We are discussing a great social enterprise which involves a very large percentage of the Australian primary industry work force. It embraces not only the work force but also the social implications that flow from the enterprise into the towns in which primary industry is involved; into the canneries, in which people work; and into the fruit marketing system and all the rest of it. We cannot just go on drifting. The Labor Party on this occasion recommends to the House that the subsidy be raised to a point which would maintain something of the value of the money, according to inflation. I understand that the average farmer farms a block of land of about 60 acres. I think there are somewhere between 5 million and 6 million fruit trees in the apple orchards of Australia and close to 3 million trees in the pear orchards of Australia and that the number is being reduced for all sorts of reasons. There is no doubt that the average income of the people who work in and own the orchards is miserable in the extreme and unworthy of an Australian community. What are we going to do about it?
I listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). I thought that he would bring forward some propositions to attack the general areas of disability that are imposed upon the fruit growers. It would not matter whether they are producing only for the Australian market or for the export market or anywhere else. There are inflicted upon the people in that industry, as there are in many other industries, these problems that flow from disabilities in shipping and all the rest of it. That is what I propose to discuss for a moment.
I hope that if the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) or any other honourable member from Tasmania who is so deeply concerned about this matter is to speak in this debate, he will put forward some propositions. As I understand it, it costs approximately $1 a case for labour in the fruit industry. That is just the figure which has been given to the Opposition today by a producer. It may be more; it may be less. But there is nothing much that can be done about the cost of labour unless, of course, one does something about the mechanisation and the re-equipment of the system behind it. I recognise that it is a labour-intensive industry, at least in the orchard, but the information that I gather from inquiries around country areas is that, in the actual re-equipment of farms in Australia, whether it is an orchard or any other type of farm, there has been a total collapse. It may well be that we could reduce some of this content by a new approach to the financing of re-equipment of farms.
Then there is shipping area. Figures provided by the Industries Assistance Commission show that in the 10 or 12 years between 1961 and 1973-74, the cost of shipping rose from 39 per cent, I think it was, to 59 per cent or thereabouts. What can we do about that situation? I do not think that it is a totally intractable area.
Then there is the financing side. What does it cost an average fruit grower to finance his business? The average grower is paying at the moment about 13 per cent interest I am one who thought that the former Labor Government should have taken more effective control of the financial structure of Australia and used the various powers available to it under the Banking Act and the Financial Corporations Act and the control of a very large sector of the banking system, through the Commonwealth Bank and other instruments, to do something about this situation. Thirteen per cent of $1,000 is, of course, $130. For $30,000, the annual interest would be close to $4,000. That is about $80 a week to start with. The grower cannot win. This is one area which the Government should attack. It could either direct the banking system to make finance available at a lower rate of interest or it could do so by some kind of system financed from Consolidated Revenue or some other source. I understand that the New Zealand farmer can get finance at about 2 per cent interest. That makes a substantial difference to his cost structure in comparison with our own.
Then there are the handling charges. I know that my friends on the waterfront are the people who get the principal blame for increases in handling charges. But recently the Prices Justification Tribunal told us that the stevedoring industry has to reduce its charges. The Tribunal had put before it the remarkable evidence about the directors’ benefits in the Patrick Stevedoring Company. Some $600,000 or $700,000 was shared between four or five of them. I think that the same situation applies also in the packaging area. We have to begin to do something about these costs.
Let us look at the shipping industry, for instance. There is something wrong with the shipping industry of the world. The shipping companies are in the hands of multimillionaires, great consortiums and some of the richest people in the world. We, of course, have made ourselves a hostage of the shipping companies of the world. The Australian ship ownership is still minute compared with the ship owners of any other trading nation of our magnitude. We are doing our best totally to annihilate our own shipbuilding industry. We have done very little about increasing our marketing capacity through competition.
Consider the Japanese shipping lines and their integration with other parts of the industrial base of Japan. We are probably financing Japan’s exports to Australia by the way in which we pay high shipping costs and so on. If we are going to tackle this problem we have to get to the heart of the matter and examine the whole cost structure. Then we may well be in a situation where we can put our fruit on the markets in competition with the rest of the world. We will be uphill, of course, competing with the growers of Spain. They have a smaller wage factor and they are closer to the big markets, as indeed are South Africa, Chile and the Argentine. But there are markets in the world which surely lay untapped. This is still a hungry world. It seems to me that in a world facing a food shortage a country such as this should be able to find markets. The world is perennially short of food. There is every prospect that the shortage will reach the acute level of famine in many parts of the world in another 20 or 30 years. So we should not be reducing our capacity to produce food.
I know that fruit of the nature that we are discussing is perhaps not part of everybody’s diet, but that is a matter which I think can be dealt with by making that fruit available around the world. What have we done in that regard? The markets of Europe, of course, are and will be difficult to enter. The European Economic Community has become a closed corporation in some ways. North America is fractionally useful on occasions. What about some of the neglected areas? Some 12 or 13 years ago I travelled to Europe via Russia-Siberia. Siberia has a population of some 20 million to 30 million people. That country has a rising standard of living. Compared with the rest of that part of Asia, it has a fairly high standard of living. I remember asking for some fruit in the city of Irkutsk. The hotel in which I was staying was a pretty good one, but I received this reply: ‘Fruit, tinned fruit?’ I said: ‘Have you no fresh fruit?’ I was told: ‘You do not get fresh fruit in Siberia ‘. Why? It is 4000 miles or so by rail across Russia, so it is very difficult to bring it from the west. That market was closed at that stage because we had gone through the nonsense of the Petrov inquiry and so forth. I remember that we had almost established a market for butter with Siberia at that stage, but it was closed to us. It is about 14 days sail from Australia to mainland Siberia. As far as I know, we had done nothing then and we have done little or nothing since to try to gain access to those markets.
Of course, in the other markets of Asia people are not accustomed to the kinds of fruit about which we are talking today, but their rising standard of living is moving towards the stage where we will have the opportunity to market all sorts of Australian foodstuffs. We have to develop new forms of processing of our fruits so we can make those markets available to us. That has been one of the more depressing areas of Australian activity over the last few years. I know that as a government we did not find an answer to the problem. It was under thought process at various times. But the present Government has been in office on and off for a long while. If we are to get our fruit-and other foodstuffs on to the markets of the world we have to take a close look at the transport system and we have to do something about the processing of the fruit. I suppose 2 areas in which we ought to be able to do something new and which could be most profitable would be the way in which we market the fruit and the way in which we finance the operation. I do not see any future for most of our primary industries unless we can embark upon new ways of doing these things.
Certainly we ought to become more aggressive in marketing. There is no reason we should not have Australian fruit shops around the world, owned, controlled and developed through some marketing corporation or other, in just the same way as in this country we are able to buy goods direct from manufacturing firms which are owned and controlled overseas. I understand that the dairying industry is doing something along those lines. It seems to me that for the time being, until we know how to handle the great social and economic changes taking place in the world, we have to face the fact that these problems will remain with us. I think that we have to approach the problems in some of these areas with more optimism and in the belief that we will solve some of the problems of getting the excess food of the world to the hungry people of the world.
What depresses me about a debate in these instances is its repetitive nature. I suppose if I turned up the speech of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles)- he has been a fairly useful member of this Parliament in his participation in these debates over the years- I would find that he said much the same things then. I do not think that is good enough. We have to do better than that when it comes to these great problems. I would like to cite an example of the total incapacity of the industry even to supply a market which is readily available. A couple of years ago I attended a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Hobart. As the House is well aware, I was the Minister for the free city of Canberra at that time. I attended that meeting, as I attended many ministerial meetings. I always took the opportunity to do so, and I hope that I profited by it. I feel certain, of course, that the other people attending the meeting profited from my attendance. I recall the very grave worries and anxieties of the people of Tasmania, and of the Minister, in regard to the failure of the people of Australia to take the opportunity to consume Tasmanian apple products. I took his message to heart. We were given an apple as we left the conference. When I went to the dining room in the Tasmanian Parliament- a very pleasant dining room with the best of company- I was asked: ‘What will you have to drink, Sir?’ Of course, eschewing alcohol- I feel that all other honourable members should do that too- I said: ‘I will have apple juice, please’. There was a stunned silence and then there was a drifting off. The very apologetic reply came back: ‘I am sorry, Sir, we have none’. I have asked for apple juice pretty continuously since on aircraft, in hotels, in restaurants and in parliamentary dining rooms. In this parliamentary dining room I think that we have got it pretty consistently, but not always. I have asked for it in the shops, because I think that it is the most desirable of drinks when taken in quantities of one or two glasses.
I would say that this is just an example of the failure of all Australian industry. Primary industry is probably more conservative than are other industries in establishing and developing its own markets. So I am looking forward to the day when this Parliament will begin to examine these problems in detail and turn its attention to all of those areas which we can attack without having to be too revolutionary. After all, I would not ask honourable members opposite to be too dramatic or to take up too many bright ideas all at once. But surely in the areas of marketing, finance and new processes at least we ought to be able to be more adventurous than we are, as we should be in the questions of trying to find new markets and new forms of financial arrangements so that we can supply food to the hungry parts of the world. That ought to be our task as one of the wealthy countries of the world.
I do not think Australia is a lucky country. This country was not built by luck; it was built by hard work, good management and I suppose because of its isolation. I speak of management at the grass roots level. The country is so strong in so many ways and has developed such good techniques in so many others that it has been able to survive even the kind of governments with which we have been afflicted for the last 30 years. Fortunately we had 3 years of real, solid, straightforward adventurous management and so we were able to put the country on the right track.
As I resume my seat I remind honourable members opposite of the things they said they would do only some 18 months ago- reduce unemployment, reduce inflation, restore consumer confidence and all those things. There are some disastrous failures in the governments of the world but there is none which has fallen so far below the level of aspiration that it raised in the hearts of its people as has this one. I can only offer to the apple and pear industry the support of the Australian Labor Party in its attempts to find a solution to the problems of economic and social change and in holding the ground while we find proper solutions to these questions.
– We are debating a completely cynical proposed amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill which was moved by honourable members opposite. It was moved in response to wind they got of difference of view on this side of the House. It has no other purpose. It is completely inconsistent with the Opposition’s past attitudes to price support schemes and it is inconsistent with real life. It is inconsistent with the Opposition’s attitude to the dairy industry when it was in government. The honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) spoke about keeping growers above the poverty line. He knows better, if that is what he has in mind, than to support the amendment proposed by his Party. The method that the Opposition is proposing would be not only of exorbitant cost but also it would not achieve its stated end. If we are to keep growers in this industry above the poverty line the techniques of reconstruction and the income maintenance provisions that are available to the community at large are the only means by which we will keep growers, people who are now or have been in the apple industry, above the poverty line.
This industry has long term serious problems. The Opposition is proposing cosmetic solutions. The outlook conference just completed detailed the depth of the problems and indicated that there would be no short term solution and probably no solution at all for the export apple sector. Mr Bishop, the President of the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association, speaking about his industry, said:
We do not deny the need for radical changes.
He also said:
The IAC report reflects a complete lack of optimism about the future of the industry, it ignores confirmed market potential, it proposes a costly, complex and ill-considered welfare system for individuals rather than product assistance to stabilise the industry itself . . .
I gave the second quote because I did not want to be accused of quoting Mr Bishop out of context and of suggesting that he accepts the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations for the industry. I emphasise that he did accept the IAC’s prognosis for the industry. He accepted that its assessment of the industry’s future was accurate. The problems of the apple industry are these: The export sector is remote from its markets. That section of the industry that is catering for the Australian market is not in serious trouble. The industry is in a high labour cost country. Australian labour is very expensive and apple and pear growing are labour intensive occupations. The advent of controlled atmosphere storage has meant that the European apple crop can be kept from the season in which it is grown to the season in which it is eaten. It has meant that Europeans can store their apples through the winter months and that they do not need to buy what are to them expensive apples from remote parts of the world.
The effect of delaying adjustment-which would be the result of accepting this proposed amendment- would be that people would be kept longer in this industry at around the poverty line or below it, that they will not adjust in their lives and that the industry of which they are part will not adjust, as has happened before in the dairying industry. The subsidies that were given on the price of dairy products were of no help to the dairy industry. All they did was delay the process of adjustment and make life tough for many dairy farmers. The subsidies meant that other dairy farmers could not become profitable and efficient. Those subsidies meant that dairy farmers produced high cost milk at no great economic benefit to themselves. We have the same situation in the apple industry.
I should like the House to consider the cost of the price support that the export section of the apple industry is now afforded. In Tasmania the average amount of assistance afforded to an apple producer is no less than $14,034 a year. If that sort of money were applied to assisting him as an individual instead of supporting the price of his product it would go a very long way indeed. What sort of income does that assistance give him? It gives him an income of $6,000 a year. In other words he would be far better off if he could collect his subsidy and not grow any apples. What is more, other apple growers would also be better off because their production would shrink into the profitable domestic market. The notion that we can help the apple growing industry out of its troubles by more of that sort of thing is not real. It is not fair to the apple growers and it is not fair to the Australian taxpayer.
Consider unemployment in the apple growing industry. What some people sometimes forget is that in raising that sort of money we also place a burden on other sections of the economy. That $14,000 must be taken from someone. In taking it from him it will not be applied to employment in his area. The shifting of resources to the apple growing industry by subsidising the price of apples does not create one jot of employment; it merely shifts it. Perhaps we should look at the levels of protection that are afforded the apple growing industry. The levels of effective protection vary State by State but they are high in 2 States- my own, Western Australia, and in Tasmania. Before anyone accuses me of waxing eloquent because I have no apple growers in my electorate I say that I do have an export apple growing industry in Moore. The effective levels of protection are 110 per cent in Western
Australia and 341 per cent in Tasmania. It might be interesting to look at the levels of protection in the non-export States. We find that they are actually negative. The apple growers in the nonexport States to a small extent are subsidising apple growers in the export States. Their average level of protection is minus 9 per cent. This assessment of protection does not include any allowance for the effect of the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme which, of course, gives Tasmanian apples an advantage on the mainland market. This cannot go on.
It is ironic that one of the troubles that the export apple industry faces is a very inefficient shipping and shipbuilding industry which is an example of another industry which we believed we could protect out of trouble. Not only did we fail to protect it out of trouble, but we also assisted other industries, including the apple industry, into trouble. The Industries Assistance Commission proposed what it called ‘people orientated programs’ to assist those growers who are now in the apple industry and those growers who may wish to leave it. They are the only programs that have any hope of being effective. To pose bogus solutions to this very real problem is not fair to anyone.
– I have pleasure in supporting the amendment to this Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) last evening on behalf of the Opposition. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), in his second reading speech, announced that the Government would continue assistance in 1977 at the same level as was given in 1976. He also went on to admit that the 1976 season had been plagued with falls in exports and lower prices. He said that those difficulties were expected to continue in the coming year. Yet in spite of the Minister having said that, the Government refuses to provide additional assistance to apple and pear growers to help them through what the Minister admits will be a difficult year.
Nowhere in his second reading speech does the Minister face up to the problem of restructuring the industry. Instead, he blandly states that the industry will have to understand that it cannot receive assistance indefinitely. In effect, he is telling the industry that the Government supports the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendation to phase out support to the apple and pear industry. He clearly states that there will be a reduction in the level of assistance for 1978. With assistance to the industry limited to the1976 levels and current estimates of inflation for1977 suggesting a 16 per cent inflation rate, the Government has engineered a16 per cent fall in support in real terms. More accurately, as the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) said earlier, the level of support would need to be raised to $3.58 per case of apples simply to offset the impact of increased costs and inflation since last year. Clearly the $3 suggested in the amendment by the Opposition is moderate and responsible.
If the Government fails to restructure the industry and goes ahead with the LAC recommendation to dismantle the scheme, the effect on the Tasmanian economy will be devastating. I can do no better in this regard than to quote the words of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) who, like other Tasmanian members, is conspicuous by his absence from this debate.
– That is not true.
– I am here.
-The honourable member for Braddon suddenly surfaces and the honourable member for Denison interrupts while out of his place. But they are the only Tasmanian members in the chamber at present.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Shortland consistently stands up in this House and accuses us of not having members in this House. More often than not he is the only member of the Opposition in the chamber. If he is going to cast aspersions, I think it is only right that he looks around behind himself.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)There is no point of order involved.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Shortland claimed that I have just surfaced. I have been here through the entire debate apart from one minute of it. The honourable member was not here when the debate started.
– There is no point of order involved.
-I hope that those interested people who are listening to this debate will take note of those exchangesin the last few minutes.
– I remind the honourable member for Shortland that he should address the Chair and not those who may be listening to the debate.
-The reaction of honourable members opposite in the last few minutes indicates their extreme sensitivity on this subject. They are in a cleft stick. They are not surehow they are going to handle the situation. I notice that now the Tasmanian representation in the chamber has increased by one.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Perhaps the honourable member for Shortland could indicate when he first came intothis chamber. He was not here at the opening of this debate.
-There is no point of order involved. I ask honourable members to observe the Standing Orders with regard to points of order. They know what constitutes a point of order. I call the honourable member for Shortland.
– I entered the chamber one minute after this debate began, which was quite some time earlier than most of the Tasmanian Liberal members. I wish they would settle down. They will have an opportunity to speak later in this debate when I will be listening to their responses. They should settle down and let me have a fair go. I know that they are in a cleft stick. I know that they are in trouble on this Bill but they should just settle down and take what is coming to them. I can do no better in this debate than to quote the words of the honourable member for Franklin in this chamber on 4 May last year. In a similar debate he had this to say:
Without this scheme there would be only a small apple industry. One is horrified to think what the situation would be like within the economy of Tasmania, especially because of the income the industry generates through shops, transportation, labour, equipment, sales, etc.
He went on to say:
I firmly believe that the scheme should be continued at such a level that prosperity will again return to the Huon and other Australian apple producing areas.
– Hear, hear! That is what we are doing.
-The Government Whip indicates his ignorance of this subject. He has just listened to 2 speakers on the Government side who clearly put a case for adoption of the LAC recommendation that the industry should be reduced substantially in magnitude. If the Government Whip cannot understand that, I suggest that he read Hansard. The Government has turned its back on Tasmania. It shuns its responsibilities to lessen the impact of the economic difficulties faced by the apple and pear growers. Again the honourable member for Franklin has stated clearly this Government’s responsibility. I again quote one of his earlier remarks about the present Government. He said:
We as a government, have a responsibility to ensure that our primary producers are given protection and assistance to enable them to produce the fruits of their labour in a just and profitable way.
The Opposition’s amendment is a moderate amendment. It recognises the very human plight of the people associated with and operative in the apple and pear industry. The amendment moved so ably by the honourable member for Blaxland last evening reads:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the House is of the opinion that the Bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted with a view to bringing forward a Bill which (a) increases the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 per box of apples and $ 1 .20 per box of pears and/or (b) provides supplementary assistance measures to facilitate adjustments in the fruit growing industry and to provide assistance directly to individual fruit growers until such times as a coherent planned policy, by which the Australian fruit growing industry can prosper, is determined.
We have heard from the honourable member for Franklin earlier in this debate. I think I should refer first to the remarks made by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles). The import of the remarks made by the honourable member for Angas in this debate was quite clear. I think I could summarise it in one sentence by saying that he believed that the sooner the industry was closed down the better. I think that any reasonable examination of Hansard will verify that statement, despite the outburst of the honourable member for Denison. The honourable member for Moore referred to the amendment as cynical. I recall his contribution to economic philosophy one night during the adjournment debate when he referred to sweated labour. His economic policy clearly supports sweated labour. What the community has to realise and what it tends to forget is that for the last 28 years in this nation 25 of those years were under the stewardship of conservative governments.
– Good government, too.
– That is why the apple and pear growing industry is in the trouble that it is in. That is why the Government wants to close it. For 25 out of those 28 years the management was by conservative administrations. The Government is really drawing a long bow and underestimating the intelligence of the people if it thinks it can convince them that all the problems of the apple and pear growing industry suddenly evolved between 1972 and 1975. Conservative governments knew the problems. They did not face up to the problems. Now the Government is weeping, bleating and trying to devise some way of off-loading the blame on to the State governments or on to the period 1972-75. Conservative governments took no account of the declining world markets in previous years. This Government wants people on locations. It wants people in the country sector because it thinks it can continue to get their support. It is a very sad reflection upon conservative governments in this country that children have been born into families of apple and pear growers, have grown up, have been educated and have reared their children, and the industry, instead of advancing under conservative administrations, has deteriorated until it is now at the stage of collapse in some areas of which Government members speak so strongly.
The remarks of the honourable member for Moore, though they might make sound economic theory, deny the fact that people are people. They are human beings. They are not blocks on a chart. They are not numbers on the wall that may be moved around. They are real people with families- sons and daughters. His remarks, I think, best illustrate the attitude of Government members. I remind them of the 1 16-hour debate at their Party meeting yesterday and of the 17 speakers who participated in the uproar at that meeting. The remarks of the honourable member for Moore ignore the social implications to families. It is all very well to come up with a nice, tidy mathematical formula and say: ‘Give them $14,000, put them out of the industry and the country will be better off’. That ignores completely that people want to live their own lives and, wherever possible, in the locations that they choose. That is the kind of policy that the conservatives in this country have always opposed. They have opposed the rights of people as individuals. The home of the apple grower may be humble. It may not be the palace in which some Government members reside or which they can afford as a result of their other activities, whether they are part time journalists or part time solicitors as well as members of Parliament. Humble though the home of the apple and pear grower may be, it is his castle. The honourable member for Moore said: ‘Give them $ 14,000, tell them to go off the land and everybody will be better off’.
– That is not true.
-That is exactly what he said. Do not try to deny it. If we pursue that kind of proposition to its logical conclusion, all we will have left in this country will be people digging holes in the ground, hauling up their ores and shipping off somewhere else. Everybody else will be sitting around watching. That ignores the social implications. The honourable member for Franklin, from whom we heard so much about the problems of the apple and pear industry -
– What about me?
– I will come to the honourable member for Denison a little later. He should not be so anxious. The honourable member for Franklin has been parading in this chamber, for the past 1 5 months, the problems of the poor apple and pear growers. Today he denies those people help when they most need assistance. He gave us what could be described only as a 3- minute outburst, full of emotion and completely lacking in substance and sincerity.
– I must object to the last remark of the honourable member for Shortland. I think it reflects on the integrity of the honourable member for Franklin. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to rule that he withdraw it.
-I call on the honourable member for Shortland to withdraw the remark, as the honourable member for Wilmot finds it offensive.
– I am sorry that the honourable member finds it offensive. I always thought that sincerity was a word -
– Withdraw it.
-I have withdrawn it. Why don ‘t you listen? After all, you are the Whip.
– You did not withdraw. You talk through your ears.
-The Chair will decide whether the honourable member has withdrawn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your protection from the Government Whip, as I have had to seek such protection from several other Deputy Speakers.
– You ought to see a vet.
– I can see a vet opposite me now. I withdraw the remark. I always thought the word ‘sincerity’ had a good connotation. I substitute the statement that the remarks of the honourable member for Franklin were full of emotion, completely lacking in substance and the kind of facts that one would need to hear from him if one were to attach sincerity to his remarks. He said that Tasmanian Liberals were united. I would like to examine a part of the record of the Tasmanian Liberals, because their record shows that any semblance of unity is a sham. They are apologists in this Parliament for the things that the Government is doing to the apple and pear growers of Tasmania. I recall the honourable member for Franklin saying that he would cross the floor in respect of funeral benefits. He did not. Nor did his Tasmanian colleagues in this chamber. His colleagues in the Senate saved him from himself. He had another brilliant idea. He said that he would go on strike because the Australian Trader was to be withdrawn from the Hobart-Sydney run. He went on strike on full pay. The Parliament was in recess. It is the best kind of strike of which I have heard. I am sure some of the metal trades unionists would like to hear about this kind of strike.
What did the honourable member for Denison say? As evidence of this unity among Tasmanian Liberals, I remind the House of what the honourable member for Denison said. He made it clear that he believed that the honourable member for Franklin was acting unwisely. That was his comment. His advice was for the honourablemember for Franklin to change his tune, which he subsequently did. Then the Tasmanian Liberal senator, Senator Walters, said:
We were subsidising passengers on the Australian Trader to the tune of $100 each- and that was insupportable.
– I take a point of order. I suggest that the subject of the Australian Trader has no relevance to the subject of apples and pears that we are now considering.
– I allowed the honourable member for Shortland to make passing reference to the matter of transport which affects apples and pears. I now ask him to return to the Bills.
– I feel sorry for the honourable member for Braddon. I am sure the apple and pear growers in Tasmania who would like to travel from Hobart to Sydney on the Australian Trader would be pleased to know that he wishes to deny them that opportunity. We presented in this chamber petitions with 18 000 signatures in support of the restoration of the service, so that apple and pear growers could travel from Hobart to Sydney. Nothing was done about them. We understand that the honourable member for Franklin intended to move an amendment to this legislation. He found that an amendment had been moved. Then he got another bright idea. He gave a notice of motion this morning. I underline a couple of paragraphs of that motion. Paragraph (i) states: that this House takes note of the parlous situation of the apple and pear export industry . . .
Paragraph (hi) states: that this House deplores the hypocritical attempts by the Opposition to make cheap political capital out of the problems facing those engaged in the apple and pear export industry . . .
He said that he and his colleagues were united in this view. I can only accept that statement and put to the apple and pear growers of Australia that this motion is supported by all members on the Government side, because that is what the honourable member for Franklin said. He said they were united. If he thinks that an attempt to provide assistance to apple and pear growers at a time when they are most desperately in need is cheap and some sort of political stunt, let him and his colleagues, when they make their contribution later, have the courage to say that. He did not tell the growers- I want to tell them- that before he gave his notice of motion he knew very well that it could not be discussed. It will be listed on the notice paper in a position in which, unless there is some major decision of the Government, it will never come up for debate. That exposes the sham and the humbug of the Tasmanian Liberals who want to indicate some sort of support. That exposes their sham. We sought to assist the apple and pear growers of Tasmania with their freight problems by transferring responsibility for the Tasmanian railways from the Tasmanian Government to the national Government. As soon as there was a change of government, the Tasmanian Liberals supported a snide attempt to get out of that agreement. They did not want apples and pears carried on trains if they could get out of it. When they failed there was a lapse of time, then the Joy committee was set up to find another way out of it. The Tasmanian Liberals are united in their disunity, united in a sham stunt, acting as apologists.
Freight costs are an important element in the cost structure of the apple and pear industry. When the Tasmanian State Liberal Leader set out his policy some months ago he said that to help reduce those costs he wanted to see the nationalisation of the stevedoring industry. He held the view that that was one of the best solutions to try to keep down cost levels in Tasmania. But at the Federal level, again showing that wonderful unity from Tasmanian Liberals, that proposal is opposed in this place. Tasmanian Liberals sit in this chamber and support a policy which will mean the complete handing over of the industry to private enterprise. They have completely rebutted the wishes of the Tasmanian State Liberal leader. I do not know how they define that action as unity, but it is put forward as that.
In summary, these Bills evidence strongly the brutality of the Government’s attitude towards people in financial difficulty. Because of the disastrous economic policies which have produced record unemployment, record inflation and a record deficit the sons and daughters of apple and pear growers are unemployed. They would like to undertake careers and have jobs. They need the level of unemployment benefit and sickness benefit that honourable members opposite, including the Tasmanian Liberals, are trying to reduce. They also are feeling the impact of the new Medibank tax.
The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition seeks to alleviate the difficulties that such people now face. It seeks in a responsible and moderate way to give recognition to their problems and to provide in a speedy manner some relief, even though inadequate relief, to the people in the industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr GILES (Angas )-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Very definitely. I must object as violently as I can to the utterance of the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) who said that I was attempting to close an industry. If the honourable member had been in the chamber to hear me, he would agree that the major thrust of my speech was to outline 4 ways in which this Government had helped the apple industry. It is not in my mind, nor in my intention, nor in my speech to close down the industry.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was in the chamber before the commencement of and throughout the speech of the honourable member for Angas.
-Order! The honourable member -
– What I said stands.
-Order! The honourable member should not raise a point of order but should seek to make a personal explanation on this matter.
-Few speeches have been made in the House which contain more misrepresentations than that made by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). The personal explanation made by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) was well taken. I would ask apple growers to examine the statements made by honourable members who speak on behalf of the Government, and what was said by the honourable member for Shortland. Government supporters are happy to have their statements examined. The honourable member for Shortland should not nod his head because that will not get him out of what he has said.
We want to see in this chamber a better and more accurate presentation of the facts. The misrepresentation goes further because the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) on behalf of the Opposition is also a misrepresentation of the actual attitude of the Australian Labor Party. There is no question about that, and a little later in my speech I will show where there has been a change in Labor Party thinking. The Labor Party has simply shown its opportunism in trying to take advantage of something that it heard and that it thought might embarrass Tasmanian members, in particular, on the Government side of the House. But the Opposition has missed out very badly in this respect. I admit that members of the Opposition had their ears close to the ground and picked up this alleged source of embarrassment. On this occasion they have done a little better than usual because mostly they have their heads in the sand.
The honourable member for Shortland was at some pains to say that the Labor Party could not be blamed for the problems of the apple and pear industry. I say without any equivocation that much of the blame does rest with the Labor Party. I will cite some figures to show just how that has happened. I think it is generally conceded that the apple and pear industries suffer very greatly from rising costs, particularly labour costs. Let us look at what happened during the period in which Labor was in office. At the time Labor took office inflation was running at 4.6 per cent. When it left office inflation was running at 14.1 per cent. Inflation is simply another word for rising costs. This is what has hit the apple and pear industries as well as other primary industries. All industries which are labour intensive were hit very severely over those 3 years in which Labor was in office. The flow-on from that mismanagement and that reckless handling of our economy has been a major factor in the problems that confront the apple and pear industries today.
It is vitally important to the fruit industry, and consequently to those parts of Australia which depend upon the fruit industry, that support provided under the apple and pear stabilisation scheme should be extended. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government are to be congratulated in this respect. As has been pointed out before, the previous scheme was an interim measure only pending receipt of the final report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the scheme. I commend the Minister and the Government on not accepting the Commission’s recommendation that the level of support for apples be at $1 a case and that the scheme itself be terminated at the end of the 1977 season. Yet that is what the Labor Party advocated here only late last year. Anyone interested in the apple and pear industries and who listened to the debate that took place on that occasion would know that that is what happened.
The stabilisation scheme for apples for the 1977 export season will be based on a maximum level of support of $2 per box for a maximum quantity of 2 million boxes and the support will, of course, apply, as was envisaged in this scheme, only to sales at risk to Europe. I also commend the Government on promoting the supplementary assistance program for 1977 with those States which are prepared to participate in this jointly funded proposal which would provide an additional $lm to assist apple exports. So the Government is concerned and is doing its best to give every assistance it reasonably can.
The Minister has advised that some State governments have not been inclined to support this additional assistance. I know that the very progressive State of Queensland from a national point of view has accepted this proposal for assistance to the industry because Queensland does not have the volume of exports as do other States. But we are broadminded. We want to see all sections of national industry progress. Therefore we are prepared to accept the proposal. I agree with the Minister that the attitude of those States that are not prepared, or so far have not shown their willingness, to take part shows a very serious lack of concern for the economic problems of fruit growers.
Support for pears will also apply at the 1976 level, namely 80c per box for a maximum quantity of 1.4 million boxes. I welcome the provision to authorise the payment of advances against seasonal stabilisation payments. This recommendation has been made despite the difficulty of estimating the actual return to growers. The superficial interest- that is a kindly word because it was only a superficial interest- of the Labor Opposition in the problems of the fruit industry is well demonstrated by its amendment. As late as 2 December 1 976-1 referred to this previouslywhich is only a little over 3 months ago, the Opposition spokesman, the honourable member for Blaxland, said:
The Minister should take notice of the IAC recommendations.
The IAC recommended only $1 per bushel, and the scheme itself to be terminated at the end of the 1977 season. Those who say that there is no inconsistency in the Labor attitude should have a look at that statement. Let them read those words that were used by the honourable member for Blaxland on 2 December last year. During that debate I drew attention to the fact that the honourable member for Blaxland apparently did not want the Tasmanian people to have a reasonable opportunity to maintain their exports to traditional markets. Despite that attitude we see today this phoney amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition simply and solely to try to capitalise on something that it heard, that is, that Tasmanian representatives would like to see greater assistance given to the apple and pear industries. It is their prerogative to do so. I commend Tasmanian members for trying to get what they feel their industries deserve. It is a matter of opinion as to how much support should be given to particular industries. The Government has the very difficult decision to make as to how much support can be given to industries that are looking for assistance. But Tasmanian members are well within their rights to ask for such assistance. If I were a Tasmanian member of Parliament I too would be looking at the matter from that angle.
Under this Government Tasmanian exporters to the Australian mainland, including fruit exporters, have gained very great benefit from what is known as the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. That scheme has caused concern among some mainland growers, particularly among growers in Queensland who have expressed to me their deep concern about the effect that the scheme could have on mainland markets. Against that background it is very necessary to give support to the export apple industry. That is one of the things we have to look at. It is a matter of deciding just what is fair and equitable assistance to give in the light of all the circumstances. But just the same let me say that the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme has been of benefit to Tasmania and it has caused concern among apple growers on the mainland. Certainly, to be fair- I want to be fair- the representative of the Tasmanian apple growers with whom I discussed this matter when he visited Canberra with other apple grower representatives said that the Tasmanian people would take a responsible attitude and they would not flood the market, which would be of course finally to their disadvantage. I accepted the explanation he gave. Nevertheless there is still concern. It is very necessary to have the export price support at least at the level of $2 or twice the amount recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission.
To further prove the point I made previously in reference to the superficial approach of the Opposition and the honourable member for Blaxland, I quote the honourable member for Blaxland as recorded at page 3 1 86 of Hansard of 2 December 1976:
The introduction of the Tasmanian Fruit Equalisation Scheme-
They are the words he used and they are in Hansard for anyone to see. It is an indication that he was not very concerned about the industry, that he did not check what was put in Hansard or that he was not aware of what the scheme was.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask you to rule that the reflection made by the honourable member for Maranoa is not a reflection on the honourable member for Blaxland but a reflection on the officers of the House, on Hansard. Quite obviously the word ‘Tasmanian’ can be spelt by the staff of Hansard. To present that to the House as a reflection on the honourable member for Blaxland is quite out of order, and I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to rule that way.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– I simply quoted from Hansard. That is what is written in Hansard. Honourable members have the opportunity of correcting their Hansard ‘greens ‘ if Hansard has misinterpreted their remarks. The honourable member could have checked his speech. It should have been checked. What I have quoted is what Hansard says, but that is not a very important matter anyway.
The shallowness of the Opposition’s interest is shown in the amendment, which would increase the probable cost of the scheme by some 50 per cent or approximately $2.5m. Honourable members opposite are not very worried about that. They are quite happy to try to take a political advantage irrespective of what the cost might be. Their whole period in government indicated that they have a reckless and extravagant attitude with funds to the great detriment of the whole Australian people, not least of all to the detriment of the people they claim to represent. Their support for the phasing out of the industry as recommended by the IAC was also mentioned by the honourable member for Blaxland. On 4 May he said, inter alia:
The Opposition does not oppose the legislation but calls upon the Government to consider sympathetically the plight of small growers in their endeavours to extricate themselves from a declining market situation, particularly in Tasmania and Western Australia and not to string out their misery with the extension of this scheme.
Where is the consistency? The apple and pear growers of Australia undoubtedly realise that the only hope they have of getting reasonable consideration for their industry is from the sympathetic understanding of the present coalition Government, which has given support to this industry in spite of the program of restraint on Government expenditure that the Government has adopted in the interests of all people.
My State of Queensland would like to see representatives from every State on the Apple and Pear Corporation to allow the views of all States to be heard in that very important organisation. I would like to see support for such a proposal, but I understand that it is not constitutional. I hope that the organisations will get support for their efforts in doing the work that the Apple and Pear Corporation would be engaged in. As agents for the Corporation, they can be reimbursed.
Finally I want to say a few words about the importance of marketing in the whole of this setup of providing assistance and support and making the apple and pear industry viable. It is probably a little ambitious to expect it, but if by extensive marketing we could get an increase of 10 per cent in our local market, as I have said before- this would not be impossible but it would be a pretty high level to aim for- it would relieve the strain on export growers and would be of great benefit to the industry. I hope that the Apple and Pear Corporation will direct its attentions to the marketing activities it may be able to undertake. I certainly condemn the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland on behalf of the Opposition. It was a completely phoney amendment. I commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Government on the Bill.
– I feel compelled to make some reference to the speech made earlier in this debate by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris). During the debate he implied that a number of Tasmanian members were not present in the chamber at the time. I remind him that four of the five Tasmanian members will be taking part in this debate this afternoon. I think it is also worth while reflecting that during the debate on the Stabilization Bill in 1975, when we had a Labor Government and 5 Labor members horn Tasmania, not one Tasmanian member chose to speak in favour of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. The honourable member knows quite well that the present Tasmanian members have lobbied very strongly in support of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania. We have used every mechanism available to us to get the best possible deal for our growers and our constituents. Albeit that we have presented the best possible case we can for our industry, we are prepared to accept the collective decision of the Government and our colleagues. Albeit that we are faced with that situation, I remind the honourable gentleman that we are still prepared to come into this chamber and take part in the debate, which the honourable member’s colleagues in 1975 were not prepared to do.
– Not one of them.
– Not one of them, as my honourable friend from Denison says. As a group of Tasmanian Liberals, we have strongly represented the fruit growing industry. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) has spoken on many occasions in this House in support of his growers in the Huon Valley. He has spoken in emotional terms. He has presented the case on their behalf to the best of his ability and he has done it for the best of motives. But the amendment moved by the Opposition does nothing more than try to use the plight of the fruit industry throughout Australia for cheap political gain. Honourable members opposite, in particular the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), are to be deplored for using such heartless tactics. It is my assessment that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland is nothing more than a blatant exercise in political hypocrisy. It is one of the worst exercises in political hypocrisy that I have had the misfortune to witness.
I point out to the honourable member for Shortland why the amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland is so hypocritical. The honourable member for Blaxland in moving the amendment yesterday said:
The Opposition supports the broad spirit of this legislation but regard it as being inadequate.
We have to look at that statement and compare it with the statements he made on the Apple and Pear Stabilization Bill last year. The same honourable member for Blaxland had this to say: … a scheme like the current one which is production orientated gives the larger grower a larger proportion of the funds available and the smaller grower receives only a small amount of the funds available which, in many cases, just becomes a form of welfare assistance rather than viable support -
If they were the views of the honourable member for Blaxland last year, and we were talking in that debate about giving $2 a case support to the fruit industry, why has he seen fit to change his views and increase the support to $3? Is it because the honourable member for Blaxland wants to do no more than give the lion’s share of that serve to the big growers? Is that what the Australian Labor Party is proposing? It would certainly be contrary to all the claims that honourable members opposite have made in past debates in this House. I think we need also to look at another quote. As the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) pointed out, in summing up the debate last year the honourable member for Blaxland had this to say:
The Opposition . . . calls upon the Government to consider sympathetically the plight of small growers -
I heartily agree with him on that- in their endeavours to extricate themselves from a declining market situation, particularly in Tasmania and Western Australia, and not to string out their misery with the extension of this scheme when they ought to be moving rapidly into the stabilisation process.
That is what the honourable member for Blaxland said last year, and this year he comes into the chamber in this debate trying to do no more than use the plight of the fruit growers to gain some cheap political capital and trying to embarrass the Tasmanian members and in particular the honourable member for Franklin in his endeavours to put forward the case of behalf of his constituent fruit growers.
Also I think that we need to give some consideration to the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission and to what the Labor Party has had to say about those recommendations. I am sure that all of us in this chamber are aware that the IAC recommended that the subsidy for fruit by phased out over 2 years, that the subsidy should be $1 for this year and following that there should be no subsidy at all. In the Senate, in the same debate last year, the Labor Party’s official spokeman on primary industry, Senator Gietzelt, said:
Its report recommended, subject to the acceptance of certain reconstruction schemes, the continuation of the current produce-based scheme on an interim 2-year basis, that is, for the 1976 and 1977 crops. So, in the light of that, we support the legislation, However, that support is not unequivocal and is not without some basis of criticism -
I remind the honourable member for Blaxland that his Party spokesman on primary industry went on to say:
I believe that the Government can be criticised for sitting on the IAC report for 3 months and then not promoting discussion on it in the community, in the industry or in the Parliament, or not in strict terms acting on it as it was recommended to do -
So here last year we had the Australian Labor Party’s spokeman for primary industry recommending to the Parliament that the Government should reduce the subsidy back to $1 for the 1977 fruit season and this year, for cheap political reasons, honourable members opposite are prepared to undermine the honourable member for Franklin by suggesting that it should be $3. They are doing it only for cheap political reasons and they should be deplored for doing so.
In earlier debates I have stated my attitude on these matters. I strongly support the fruit industry, but I believe that support for the fruit industry and support for other industries does not rest wholly and solely with the Government. In a debate in this chamber on 10 March this year I said:
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.
I and other honourable members from Tasmania are the strongest advocates of the fruit industry in Tasmania, but I do not believe that the sole responsibility for restructuring that industry rests with the Government. The Government is not the fount of all knowledge and wisdom. It can provide only an economic climate in which industries can prosper and survive in their own right. I believe that the industry has a very clear responsibility in this matter to come to the Government and show quite clearly that it can survive in its own right, that it is not simply seeking an endless handout from the Government. I do not believe that to this stage the industry has done that. There has been no clear indication from the industry that it is able to produce any document or any plan that would show that in the long term it will be able to stand on its own two feet without some form of taxpayers’ support. The industry should take this matter on board and go back to the drawing board so that it can come to the Government with firm proposals that will put it in a viable economic situation in the long term.
In that context I believe that the industry has to look at a number of options that are available within the existing schemes established by this Government. I remind honourable members opposite that this Government initiated those schemes. They have been made available to the rural industry in Tasmania, and the fruit industry can take them on board. Firstly, we have a debt reconstruction scheme to assist farmers with sound prospects of long term viability but who have used all their cash and credit resources and cannot meet their financial commitments. We have a farm build-up scheme to assist the farmer whose farm is too small to be economic. We have a farm improvement scheme to assist the restoration of an uneconomic property to economic viability. We have a rehabilitation scheme to provide limited assistance to farmers obliged to leave the industry. We have a carry on assistance scheme to provide essential carry on advances in rural industries. We have a household support scheme to provide assistance to up to one year to non-viable farmers who cannot meet living expenses.
I am one of the strongest supporters of the fruit industry. I believe that the industry plays a most important role in the total society of Australia. We have to look sympathetically at its problems and give whatever assistance is available to us. But the industry has a clear and unequivocal responsibility to put firm proposals to the Government that will show that it can help itself out of its problems. I deplore the Opposition’s use of tactics in this debate in relation to this industry which is facing such hardship and severe financial difficulties. The Opposition’s proposals are designed to do no more than pull a veil over the industry’s eyes and to try to use that situation for very cheap political gain.
-The Bills before the House are designed to carry into effect the Government’s promise, already announced, to continue a fruit stabilisation scheme for the 1977 season, not at the rate of $1 a box as recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission but at the rate of $2 a box. For that the Government deserves at least the credit for having rejected the IAC recommendation. Last year 2.4 million boxes of apples were exported to the United Kingdom and Europe. Under this scheme the Government found $3.9m by way of stabilisation payments to Australian apple exporters. In the same period approximately 834 000 boxes of pears were exported to the United Kingdom and Europe, and the cost to the Government by way of stabilisation payments for these exports was $280,000. It is significant to note that in his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) made the point that this 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.
It is somewhat unfortunate in the context of this legislation that we have seen the shallow, deceitful and hypocritical attempts by the Opposition in putting forward a fraudulent, bogus and deceitful amendment to make cheap political capital out of the plight of the fruit growers of Australia and in particular those involved in the export industry in Tasmania. Like the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) and indeed other honourable members who have taken part in this debate, I deplore the shabby tactics employed by the Opposition and by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) in particular, in endeavouring to use this debate as a vehicle for cheap political grandstanding at the expense of the fruit growers of Australia.
It is obvious, of course, why the Opposition has done this. Its policies in respect of the fruit industry have gone up and down like a lavatory seat depending on where it thinks it can pick up a few votes, because it is only 12 months ago that Labor Party spokesmen were in fact recommending that the stabilisation scheme be phased out. This Government was criticised by Labor spokesmen because it had the courage to increase the subsidy payment from $1 to $2 a bushel. Because honourable members opposite heard that Tasmanian members were fighting for- and make no apology for fighting for- an increase to $3 a box by way of stabilisation payment and also an extension of the scheme to include zones other than zones A and B and because they picked up the whisper that once again the Tasmanians were having a go for the fruit industry in contrast with the Opposition’s efforts, they thought they would make a little cheap political trick out of it. They brought forward this fraudulent amendment, which I will discuss in a moment, for which nobody in his right mind could vote, because the effect of it is to put at risk the entire stabilisation scheme as it operates at the moment, inadequate though it may be in the opinion of some people, and to sell the fruit growers of Australia a pup. It is the most fraudulent, disreputable and dishonourable amendment ever to come before this chamber, as I will demonstrate. The fraud of it and the dishonest nature of it is obvious to anybody who stops to have a look at it.
– The Opposition thought it up only yesterday.
-That is right, as the honourable member for Braddon has reminded me. The Tasmanian members on this side of the
House have been criticised for taking part in this debate but the honourable member for Wilmot did well to remind the House that when the previous legislation went through this place in 1975, at a time when all 5 Labor members for Tasmania were in Canberra, not one of them took part in the debate; not one of them got up to put a case for the Tasmanian fruit growers. The honourable member for Blaxland, who poses as the great friend of primary industry, who stands in this Parliament and claims to have a vested interest in the welfare of primary industry, is on record as having said last year that he regarded this sort of stabilisation scheme as a form of welfare assistance, a dole for the fruit growers, a hand-out. That was the view he took of them. The honourable member for Wilmot reminded us that the honourable member for Blaxland went on to say that he thought it would be a good thing if the Government, that is, the Fraser Government, put the fruit growers of Tasmania and Western Australia out of their misery- not to string out their misery with an extension of this scheme. The man who last year said to this Government ‘Do not string out the scheme because you are only stringing out their misery’ has the gall to come into this chamber, the hide to come into this chamber, and say: ‘This year let us bump it up to $3’.
He is not the only member of the Opposition who claims to be a friend of primary industry. Senator Gietzelt, the Opposition spokesman on primary industry matters in the Senate, made a magnificent contribution to the welfare of the fruit industry when last year he said that the Opposition would not oppose the legislation- not that it supported it, but that it would not oppose it. He then went on to say that this ‘support is not unequivocal, and not without some basis of criticism’. Then he castigated the Fraser Government for not in strict terms acting on the recommendations of the IAC which was that a subsidy of $1 a box be paid. We were criticised by Labor last year because we paid growers $2 a box, yet these people turn up today and pretend that they are interested in growers and say: ‘Let us give them $3 this year’. How much will it be next year- $4 or $5? How much longer will the honourable members opposite play politics with the fruit industry?
With all due respect, honourable members opposite have come into this debate much more recently than some on this side and, in particular, the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett). I would like to remind them that I happened to be a member of the State Parliament for a period of 8 years representing the electorate of Huon. I was an independent chairman at 2 large public meetings at which 2 distinguished Labor spokesmen attended and told the fruit growers what they were going to do for them. One was a man named Grassby. The other was a Dr Rex Patterson. I chaired the public meetings and I heard the promises they gave to the fruit industry in 1971 and in 1972. I saw the fruit growers of the Huon go to the polling booths in December 1 972 and vote for the Labor Party because they believed that the Labor Party would do something for them, but within 12 months they were betrayed and every conceivable promise put forward on behalf of the Labor Party in that election campaign was dishonoured. And worse still, the Labor Government then set about escalating wages and increasing costs? Far from helping the industry the Labor Government went very close to killing it between 1972 and 1975. This Government is endeavouring to get the industry back onto its feet.
My friend the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), with whom I do agree on some matters, came into this debate- I say with all due respect- with the naivete of a political fruit fly. I do not really concede that the honourable member meant to make that speech. I think it was supposed to be made by somebody else. I draw attention to the fact that the man who moved the amendment, the honourable member for Blaxland, has not even been present in the chamber for this debate today. It makes one wonder what motivates the Opposition.
– I raise a point of order. Imputations are cast on the honourable member for Blaxland. He has very sound family reasons for not being here and the Minister himself, when he has been present, has been asleep, and he is not present now.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)There is no substance in the point of order.
– I draw attention to the fact that whilst the honourable member for Shortland now has a few more of his colleagues in the chamber the Opposition was down to one supporter at one stage of the debate.
– There is one Tasmanian here.
– I am sorry to have to contradict you again. You either cannot count or you are shortsighted. You certainly are not, with all due respect, making a very intelligent contribution to the debate. The honourable member for Blaxland moved this amendment last night at 10 o’clock and I make the point that he is not present here today. The honourable member for Shortland paraded himself as somebody interested in the fruit industry and displayed such extraordinary knowledge of the industry in Tasmania that it bears some comment. He talked, for example, about fruit being carried on the Tasmanian Government Railways. I thought he seemed to imply that fruit was being carried on the Australian Trader but then he went on to talk a lot of codswallop about fruit growers going on the Australian Trader. But one thing he did which he cannot get away with and the one thing for which he will never be forgotten in Tasmania was the most vicious and despicable attack he made on the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). There is no more sincere and hard working member of this Parliament than the honourable member for Franklin. He is a committed fighter for his electorate. He is a committed fighter for the fruit industry and he is a committed fighter for Tasmania. I do not believe the honourable member for Shortland improved the case for the Opposition or did anything to enhance the standing of the Labor Party in the eyes of the people who are genuinely concerned for the fruit industry by talking in such disparaging and despicable terms about the honourable member for Franklin.
I now turn to the amendment moved by the Opposition. I do so to indicate to the fruit growers of Australia what a sham and bogus amendment it is, what a deceitful confidence trick it is and in what a despicable manner the Labor Party has tried to play politics with the problems of the fruit industry. There are people on this side of the House who believe and believe very sincerely that the assistance should have been at the rate of $3 a box and that aid should have gone to growers outside zones A and B. It ill becomes the Opposition to put forward an amendment which could have the effect of totally destroying the stabilisation scheme, which would leave the fruit growers with nothing at all. The trap in it is that after talking in lofty terms about $3 a box for apples and $1.20 a box for pears the Opposition amendment goes on to say: ‘and/or (b) ‘. That means either in addition to or in substitution of. Listen to these words: . . . (b) provides supplementary assistance . . .
What sort of supplementary assistance is the Opposition talking about? What amount of assistance? It has not told the fruit growers. It has not told the Parliament. What does the Opposition mean by ‘supplementary assistance’? It is an airy-fairy phrase which means nothing. The amendment goes on to read: . . . measures to facilitate adjustments . . .
What son of adjustments does the Opposition have in mind?
As the honourable member for Braddon indicated, and as I indicate, it is nothing at all. Is it perhaps to get rid of the industry completely; to wipe it out? Is this the sort of adjustment the Opposition is thinking about? The amendment goes on to read: . . . to provide assistance . . .
But the Opposition supporters do not tell us what sort of assistance. . . . directly to individual fruit growers …
The Opposition did not tell us which growers, where, on what conditions and under what terms. It went on: . . . until such times . . .
This is a typical Labor blank cheque. What times is the Opposition talking about? Is it talking about one month’s time, three months’ time, or 12 months’ time, when it has changed its leader or when it has changed its deputy leader? What is it saying? The Opposition speaks about a coherent, planned policy. If its performance in 1972-75 indicates the sort of policy it has in mind for the fruit industry, then woe betide the fruit industry if the Labor Party ever gets back into power in the immediate future. Who is going to prepare this coherent plan, of which the Opposition talks? The whole thing is, I suggest, if one looks at it with good humour, an Alice in Wonderland exercise in political stupidity by the Labor Party. If one looks at it realistically, it is a deceitful, dishonest, and dishonourable confidence trick. That is why every honourable member on this side of the chamber will vote firmly against the amendment.
The last point I want to make with respect to the industry is that whatever happened in the past, all 5 Tasmanian members of this House have fought and will continue to fight for the Tasmanian fruit industry. We will fight for Tasmanian issues and we will fight for Tasmania. It is all very well for honourable members opposite to sneer and say: ‘Come across the chamber and vote with us’. It is all very well for them to challenge us. When the last member of the Labor Party walked across the chamber- I think it was Mr Benson- he was expelled.
– He was the first and the last.
-That is right. I have not seen the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) or any other honourable members opposite who happen to be in the chamber at the moment coming across to vote with the Government. The position, shortly, is that by bad tactics and shabby politics the Labor Government ruined any chance that Tasmanians had of getting additional assistance for the fruit industry. The Labor Government ruined that chance and it will be blamed for it because by cheap political grandstanding it destroyed efforts which were being made on behalf of the fruit industry by the Tasmanian back benchers and created a situation in which no honourable member with any honour could vote with the Opposition. For those reasons this amendment deserves to be defeated roundly and the Opposition deserves to be castigated for playing politics with an industry and for bringing down the attempt of Tasmanian members to do something constructive to help the fruit growers of Australia.
– I certainly would not seek to claim expertise in this area. I simply rise to speak quite briefly this afternoon to say that I am appalled at the demeanour of the speakers from the Government side of the House who, in their embarrassment, have sought to turn this debate into a political stunt. If I represented the apple and pear industry- and I certainly do not- I think I would be able to see through the honourable members opposite in their desperate attempt to cover up the disunity which is apparent among them. This matter has commanded a great deal of attention in the Party meetings as late as yesterday. It absorbed, I suppose, half an hour of the Opposition’s Caucus meeting when the Opposition expert on agricultural affairs briefed the Caucus members about the state of this industry. Statistical information was made available which indicates a deteriorating trend in this industry. The information was of such a nature that the decision to advocate positive support for this industry was taken unanimously in the Labor Caucus.
I understand that while that was taking place in the Labor Caucus, there was a great donnybrook occurring at the Caucus meeting of the Liberal Party, if not at the National Country Party meeting. I am informed by reliable sources that for some one and a half hours 17 speakers fought amongst themselves in a most disgraceful state of disunity and disarray. The fact is that honourable members on the Government side from the State of Tasmania put up a case to support the industry and, as oncers, as many of them are and as many of them would confess to be, they were naturally gravely concerned at the irate feelings that abound throughout Tasmania in respect of the Government’s niggardly attitude to this industry. But, of course, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to gain from the Government greater support for the apple and pear industry. In other words, the Tasmanians have been denied. The fact of the matter is that an amendment has come before the Parliament today moved by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) on behalf of the Opposition. It is in the most positive, specific ana unambiguous terms.
The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has spoken a great number of words in this debate but he is fast approaching the testing time. Where does he stand in regard to the Opposition’s proposal and in regard to the Opposition’s commitment to provide greater support for this industry? Those people who are listening to this debate today will be able to decide for themselves who is bona fide and who is fair dinkum in this matter because- one can probably observe the blood drain from the face of the honourable member for Denison and other honourable members when I say this- the Opposition intends to force this matter to a division so that it will be able to sort out the sheep from the goats. Those people who want to support the industry will be able to move to the other side of the chamber and vote with the ayes. I predict that those who have been the most precocious about this matter- those who have been talking longest, the Tasmanian members- will be found wanting in respect of this matter. As I acknowledge, I am not an expert but I only have to pick up some figures released by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics showing trends in Australian agricultural commodities to see, under a number of headings, the declining state of this industry which is crying out for consideration from the Government of the day. They do not want words back on the farms in Tasmania. They want positive action of the type that is proposed by the Labor Opposition.
After looking at the figures I am quite frankly startled to see that the value of exports of agricultural origin, as they apply, for example, to apples, will drop from $20. lm for the period 1973-74 to $llm for the year 1976-77. That is the projection from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. They are not my figures, plucked out of the air; they are authentic figures. There are similar figures in regard to the pear industry. Fresh pears are also affected in a similar way. Turning to the volume of exports for fresh apples, the figures show that for the year 1973-74 the amount was 109 000 tonnes and that for the year 1976-77 the volume of exports of fresh apples will drop to 6 1 000 tonnes. The figure for pears is virtually at a par situation. There is certainly no improvement. Having regard to the inflationary situation one can see that there is a parlous time ahead for these people in respect of income. I remind honourable members opposite who will soon be facing their testing time of the issue which is at stake in the vote that will be taking place in the near future.
The amendment moved by the honourable member for Blaxland on behalf of the Opposition is to the effect that the Bill should be withdrawn and redrafted so that the Government can bring forward another Bill. The Opposition has spelt out in its amendment the proposal that there should be an increase in the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 per box of apples and $ 1.20 per box of pears. Then, of course, the honourable member for Blaxland and the Opposition advocate that the new Bill should provide supplementary assistance to facilitate adjustments to the fruit growing industry and to provide assistance directly to individual growers.
Last year the Labor Government supported the stabilisation scheme but at the same time Labor supporters urged the Government to accept an adjustment scheme. The Government refused to do so at that time. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) indicated that the Government had no intention of accepting such a scheme in the future. In other words, the Government is offering growers the same scheme that it offered last year, with no compensation for inflation, no compensation when taking account of changes in the industry. The Labor Party has remained consistent and constant in urging an adjustment scheme which would give support to the growers who can profitably survive in the industry, and at the same time provide support and assistance to those who must move out of the industry.
The Fraser Government, as we all know by now, has stood over the Tasmanian members of Parliament. Unless they support the amendment proposed by the Labor Parry, which would provide for some increased assistance and which would keep growers off the poverty line, the people of Tasmania will reject these political oncers and time servers, and next year I am sure that they will be looking anxiously for somewhere else to put their votes. Indeed, they will be placing their votes against the names of the Labor Party candidates who are at least concerned and who have had a consistent policy on the financial plight of the apple and pear growers in Tasmania.
I have entered the debate today mainly to express indignation at the humbug and the hypocrisy which has come from honourable members opposite. There is only one way in which to assist this industry over and above the assistance that prevails at the moment, and that is to provide positive support. All the talk in the world is not going to help. Nobody can deny that the Labor Opposition has committed itself in specific and unambiguous terms.
I say to those honourable gentlemen opposite who do have concern for their State and who often express concern about the difficulties that Tasmanian people encounter, that here is a chance to be fair dinkum. I do not think they will be expelled from the Liberal Party. I know that they want to support the Opposition’s proposals. Why should they not do so? Are not honourable members opposite anxious to do as the amendment proposes, namely, to increase the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 per box of apples and $1.20 per box of pears? Do honourable members opposite want to see that happen? Do they really believe that the Government is incapable of providing that financial support? In deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I just say in passing to honourable members opposite for a solitary moment that the handouts to some rural industries have been enormous. The superphosphate bounty involves the payment of a very great sum of money. The amount for which the Labor Opposition is calling for the apple and pear industry is infinitesimal compared with the masses of money that have gone to the recipients of the superphosphate bounty.
I have not raised this subject for the purpose of criticising the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), as have some other honourable members. I venture to say that there might be apple and pear growers among honourable gentlemen opposite. I do not want to deprive them of this bounty. Generous assistance has been given to many primary industries in Australia, and honourable members opposite have a right to ask for it. Just because Tasmania is a little State, a mendicant State, there is no reason why those honourable members who represent that State should be run down in the Caucus room. There is no reason they should not do as they have done, that is, stand up for the rights of the Tasmanian apple and pear growers. I put it to them that they have the chance to do that today. I know that they have gone to water on a few other issues.
You will remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Denison putting up a great fight for funeral benefit when the Government threatened to take away that benefit. We all remember that when it came to the testing time the honourable member was found wanting. He has made that mistake. He does not have to go on making such mistakes. I remember the great contention in relation to the need to support the maritime industry when that industry was seriously lagging. Again when it came to the test those Tasmanian members upon whom the people of the little State of Tasmania depend, let the State down. So here is the opportunity for those honourable members really to put their State on the map. The Opposition has facilitated that opportunity for them.
I say to those honourable members who regard themselves as oncers that they have a right to fight for their survival. I know that governments with swollen majorities often regard some of their surplus number as being expendable. But Tasmanian members ought not to allow themselves to be treated in that way. The issue is not just about themselves; it is not just about their survival. It is about the survival of an industry which started from nowhere, an industry which is the product of the sweat of hardworking farmers who have encountered difficulties over the years but who have always been able to survive in the most difficult situation. But now they are approaching a crisis position and they are very much dependent on their Tasmanian representatives.
I do not suggest that if those several concerned Government supporters who come from Tasmania vote with the Opposition on this matter that we will save the situation immediately, but it will be a lesson lashed through to the indifferent mind of the Prime Minister and especially of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) who endeavours outside this place to convey the impression that he is concerned about rural producers. Such a move will have a longer term effect. I say to honourable gentlemen opposite that if it was not for the fact that I am convinced that they are genuinely concerned, the Opposition would not have moved its amendment, thus giving them the chance to cross the floor of the House, probably in a few minutes from now. I know that what I have said is unanswerable. I do not expect that any other honourable members will rise in this debate. I know that there is more interest in this matter than has been demonstrated by the poor attendance in the chamber of honourable members opposite. That is understandable because the Test Match has been approaching its conclusion.
– It has finished.
-It has concluded.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member should know that Australia won.
-I am very glad to know that. There is also a chance today to see that Tasmania wins. I invite honourable members from Tasmania to do what they can in that regard.
-The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) mentioned that the game is up. I suggest to him that the game is up because we have discovered the fraud in the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition. That is why the honourable member spent so much time criticising honourable members from Tasmania. He has done us great justice in his criticism, but he is concerned because we have discovered the fraud of the amendment. Despite the Industries Assistance Commission recommendation that the level of support for apples should be at the rate of $1 per box, the Government has quite rightly decided that the level should be $2 per box for a maximum quantity of 2 million boxes. At the present time the Government is considering also a number of additional support measures and is involved in consultation with the governments of those States which are interested in the matter. The total amount of the additional support will be something in the order of $ 1 m. The Industries Assistance Commission report was a disappointment to many of the apple and pear producers in Australia. I refer briefly to a submission from the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association in which it made certain comments upon the IAC report. It said:
The report reflects a complete absence of any optimism. It proceeds from an assumption that the industry is terminally ill and should be assisted to an early death. It rejects or ignores confirmed market potential and is equally cavalier in its view of the industry’s skills and expertise. It proposes a costly, complex, cumbersome and ill-considered new bureaucratic welfare system for individuals in the industry, rather than providing assistance for real stabilisation of the industry itself. It represents in many instances a fundamental and disturbing misunderstanding of the facts and it gives inadequate emphasis to several highly important factors influencing the industry. It takes no account of special circumstances prevailing.
As I said, the report was a great disappointment to those involved in the industry. The Government, quite rightly, has rejected the recommendations of the IAC. I am surprised, as people in the industry were, that the IAC believes that the industry does not have a good, sound future. The report was unduly pessimistic. I believe it ignored the real market potential the industry has if it can devise means of effective promotion, especially in the South East Asian region. Those honourable members from fruit growing areas like Tasmania are sensitive to the economic plight of our fruit growers. Naturally we should like to see higher levels of support. That is obvious. We would all like to see higher levels of support. But in any area of Government expenditure we must consider total community interest. We must be concerned about the interest of the total community, and I include in the total community people in other rural industries who are in such a difficult position at the moment, in the main due to policies of the previous Labor Administration. I mention, for example, the dairy farmers who are still struggling along on ridiculously low incomes.
The main point I want to make is that the proposed amendment of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) is as uncertain as his and his Party’s commitment to fruit growers and other primary producers in Australia. It has been proposed merely as a political gimmick. There is no doubt about that. We all realise that. The honourable member for Blaxland and his colleagues are more concerned about scoring political points than genuinely assisting the fruit growers in their current plight. The honourable member for Blaxland showed his real colours when he spoke on the Apple and Pear Amendment Bill on 4 May 1976. It is unfortunate that he did not read the speech he made on that occasion before he prepared the proposed amendment. On that occasion he made what can only be considered to be a most apologetic speech on the apple and pear legislation. I suggest that although he indicated half-heartedly that he supported the legislation he made it clear that he did not like this type of support. The same point was made by my colleague from Denison (Mr Hodgman). The honourable member for Blaxland showed that he did not like this sort of support. On page 1863 of Hansard of 4 May 1976 he is reported as saying, when speaking about stabilisation support that it: . . . just becomes a form of welfare assistance.
It is only a substitute for social welfare benefits. This is what he said about the same sort of proposal he is now putting before the Parliament. He said that the sort of assistance we are concerned with will help only the large producers and not the small ones. How hypocritical is the honourable member for Blaxland when he now proposes an amendment calling for larger payments, quite contrary to the views he expressed less than 12 months ago. We on this side of the chamber cannot be party to that sort of dishonesty and deceit.
– It is fraud.
– It is fraud, as my colleague said. It is blatant fraud. In any event, the amendment proposed is too uncertain and vague. It does not even say what assistance should be provided. I suggest that it was drafted in a hurry. As I understand it, the decision to propose it was made only yesterday. The speed with which the amendment was drafted is obvious when one reads it. I shall not read the whole amendment but the important words are ‘and /or’. It is drafted in the alternative. What is really being suggested? What is the proposed level of support which would result if the amendment were accepted? The answer is that we do not really know. The amendment proposed states that we would give the growers $3 a box for apples, $1.20 for pears or some other unidentified or uncertain assistance. There is no guarantee.
– It is a con.
– It is a con trick, as my colleague says. There is no guarantee that the growers will get $3 a box for apples and $1.20 a box for pears. That is the only way in which we can interpret the amendment proposed. It just does not make any sense. It will not help the fruit growers about whom we are so concerned. I suggest that this proposed amendment is totally phoney and, therefore, I oppose it.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Keating’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 10 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 10 March, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Sinclair) read a third time.
Debate resumed from16 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.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-No, Mr Deputy Speaker I do not claim to have been misrepresented. I wish to explain why I was unable to vote on the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill. I was in a sound-proof room being interviewed on television and unfortunately did not hear the ringing of the bells.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, as you and Mr Speaker would know, the Camerons have had a very distinguished historical involvement in the direction of the British monarchy. Many
Camerons were in the thick of the Jacobite uprisings in Scotland in 1715 and 1719, following the assignment of the English throne to the House of Hanover. There would not have been the famous 1745 uprising without Donald Cameron the Young Lochiel who, against his better judgment, but motivated by loyalty, raised the Highlanders to retrieve the throne for Prince Charles. Following the battle of Culloden and the atrocities of the Duke of Cumberland, as far as it can be proved, my direct ancestor, Cameron of Glen Nevis fled to Guiana, his lands in Scotland having been confiscated. It was about 1850 that his grandson, my great grandfather made his way from Berbice Guiana, to Ipswich in Queensland. On St Patrick’s Day it is appropriate to mention that he married a Mary Milner from County Cork, Ireland.
Why do I mention this in this House today? Like Donald Cameron of Lochiel who had a loyalty to the throne of Prince Charles, I today have a loyalty to the mother of another Prince Charles, Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. With the presence of Her Majesty in Australia, it is timely then in this Parliament. derived as it is from the Westminster system and the British Parliament that I should desire to speak on the value and importance of the monarchy to Australia. On 2 May 1968, 1 became the first in this Parliament to advocate a new national anthem. I expressed the view then, to which I still hold firmly today:
Our national anthem should represent a mixture of both Queen and country.
It is ironic that Hansard records an Australian Labor Party member interjecting:
What is wrong with the present one?
I do not find myself in violent disagreement with the sentiment being expressed by that member, but I hold the view that the sense of nationalism and identity in this country deserves recognition. I sought from the Parliamentary Library the date of the last full speech made in this House on the desirability of the retention of the monarchy and our Westminster system. I was informed that it would have required a huge research effort to obtain that information, but the Library checked with identities who have been around this place for many years, and the advice is that no one can recall such a speech having been made for many, many years. How so much is taken for granted, and how things have changed.
When considering the monarchy and our constitution, it is appropriate that we compare it at work in the country which gave birth to the Westminster system. Against the background of recent Australian politics, argument has developed that the Monarch, or her representative, must be excluded from every area of political involvement, with the consequence, so the argument goes, that if this happens, it becomes unnecessary that there be a head of state within our political system. Such is the fragile fabric of the assertion of those who today are espousing a republic.
Let me then canvass some of the history of the involvement of the British Monarch in the politics of the United Kingdom. There have been occasions this century when the British Monarch has been forced to become involved, in Britain, in matters of a politically controversial nature. In 1909 the House of Lords rejected the Budget. This action was followed in 1910 by the introduction of the Parliament Bill. That Bill caused conflict. The then Liberal Government requested the King, George V, to create a larger number of peers so that the Conservative majority in the Lords would be outvoted. The Liberals saw this as a way of ensuring passage of their Budget. The King, subject to conditions, agreed to Asquith’s Liberal Government’s demand. The Conservatives attacked the Liberal Government when this became known, and they blamed that Government for giving the Monarch unconstitutional advice. The point is that the King acted upon advice from his Government and imposed his view that this would be done only if the Lords were still resistant after a second general election returned the Liberal Government.
In 1931 during the term of a British Labour government, George V was again required to be involved in a difficult political decision. Following the financial crisis of that year, which precipitated the fall of the Labour Government headed by Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald, the King followed strict constitutional practice and sought to determine a future government for Britain. With MacDonald ‘s approval, he spoke with Baldwin, Leader of the Conservatives, and Sir Herbert Samuel, a Privy Councillor and Acting Leader of the Liberal Party. Mr MacDonald had advised the King that a number of Labour MPs would follow him. The King ascertained that all 3 leaders were prepared to form a coalition, a national government under the leadership of Mr MacDonald, and they did. At the following election in 1935, the number of Labour Party members was reduced from 258 to 52. The dramatic reduction was due principally to the British people blaming the Socialist Labour Party for the effects of the depression. It can also be argued the reduction was caused in part by the association of a number of distinguished Labour Ministers with the coalition. The bitterness that developed in the Labour Party following the decision to create a coalition government may have been avoided if Baldwin and Lloyd George had been requested to form a coalition government in their own right. Had the King sought the views of other Ministers of the defeated MacDonald Government, he may well have more readily seen the extent of ill will his decision would cause. Nevertheless there was nothing unconstitutional in his decision, and he acted after taking advice from Prime Minister MacDonald and after consulting with the 2 leaders of the other political parties. The Monarch is also an initiator. It was George V who successfully sought to bring together the British party leaders to discuss at least the Irish question following the Liberal Government’s Bill granting home rule to Ireland. Agreement was not reached, but, the King did initiate discussions with the political leaders.
In 1975, our Governor-General, the Queen’s representative, initiated discussions with the then Prime Minister Whitlam and with Opposition Leader Fraser. That discussion came to nought, but was held. This local example, with a British precedent, serves to highlight the advantage of the presence of a Head of State of the status of the Monarch or her representative. Students of more recent British history will have found mentioned in ministerial autobiographies instances wherein George VI is alleged to have raised procedural questions with his Ministers, and, when the response was based upon a firm and logical foundation, he accepted with good grace the ministerial view. By so doing, the Monarch advised and warned, but ensured he avoided controversy. This is essential to the success and continuity of the monarchy and the Constitution. A King or Queen must be seen as doing no wrong and the logical extension of this, as far as we in Australia are concerned, is that a Governor-General also must be seen as doing no wrong. But just as George V was forced on at least 2 occasions to intervene in the politics of the nation, so is the Queen’s representative in Australia, by the very essence and the framework of our Constitution, forced to intervene at critical times in the affairs of our nation. I believe our Governor-General could well have been praying during October and early November 1975 that the political and constitutional crisis which existed in this country would resolve itself at Parliament House so that he could avoid involvement in controversy, but when it did not, he was bound to act.
I will defend in normal circumstances the right of any government of the day to dictate the date of an election, but in our case a deadlock existed. It was our Constitution which forced the Governor-General to take the decision he took- to allow every free man and woman of sane mind an opportunity to decide that issue by way of a democratic election. One cannot blame the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) for holding out in the hope that the then Opposition senators would abandon their stand, but in retrospect even the most politically biased must admit his proposal for a half-Senate election would have simply served to prolong the national crisis and agony. History will condemn those who have sought to portray Sir John Kerr as a political manipulator. Indirectly, they are portraying the Monarch as a political manipulator. How one can say in one breath,’ Well may we say God save the Queen’ and in the next, ‘because nothing will save the Governor-General’ is beyond my comprehension as they are indivisible in a constitutional sense.
I do not enter into debate on this occasion on the question of an upper House having the right to frustrate a government by deferring a money Bill. This is a matter relating to the spirit of our Constitution and not to the powers of the Governor-General. I regard those who have seized the happenings of 1 1 November 1975 as the base for their campaign for a republic, as being unscrupulous, intellectually dishonest and unfair because with our Constitution, the republicans would have found that a scrupulous President would have had no other course to follow than that followed by the GovernorGeneral. At times one gains the impression pro.republicanists see a Prime Minister fulfilling the role of King. I would hope that those who fiercely espouse that cause at least understand that in our system the Monarch or Her representative has a role with far greater implications than simply supplying Royal Patronage to the highly regarded Red Cross Society and others. At times I have my doubts. British history has evolved a Monarchy divested of virtually all active influence in daily politics, but the Monarchy is much more than a simple expression of history. If some Australians had queried prior to 1975 the need for a GovernorGeneral in a country that had lacked problems, it would have been understandable. The answer to their questioning would have been that because the affairs of State have gone smoothly, (notwithstanding problems such as inflation, unemployment and Vietnam) there is no guarantee that the situation will continue. There is always the chance that the Monarch, through the Governor-General may be called upon one day to fulfill his constitutional role beyond simply giving royal assent to Bills. However our system is under challenge today for an opposite reason, and that challenge can be regarded only as a manifestation of wrongly directed political disappointment.
A Governor-General, King, Queen or even a non-political President scrupulously carrying out duties defined by a Constitution should not, and must not, be confronted by political and public demonstrations. Man has always sought someone or something to look up to- something above or beyond himself. Accordingly, he has developed systems whereby he has provided himself with a leader or ruler and varying institutions. The rights and wrongs of this are beside the point; all the evidence of history reflects it as a part of the human condition. Where man has deviated, he has invariably provided himself with another leader, ruler or institution to replace the one removed. The alternative to a constitutional Monarchy is a republic, oligarchy, anarchy or dictatorship. It is the republican cause being espoused and advocated today so let us examine that.
A republican President can be appointed for a specific term or even a lifetime. He can be selected by a government. He can be elected by members of Parliament, as was the case in France up until 1962. He can be elected by the people, as is the President of the United States of America, and as is now the French President. The President may have the appearance of simply a figurehead with seemingly limited powers, or have vested in him powers of great magnitude, like that of the President of the United States. Conversely, I do not think the vast majority of Australians want a president who is but a puppet of the Prime Minister and politicians.
In the French Republic the President, crowned by popular election and no doubt expecting deference, enjoys the normal prerogatives of a head of State. He appoints the Prime Minister, presides over the Cabinet, promulgates laws, and signs the Orders and Decrees, I wonder if those who are so convinced the Governor-General should not have the power to do as was done in 1975, are aware that the French President can also dismiss the Prime Minister, and even dissolve the Parliament. General De Gaulle, like Sir John Kerr in 1975, dissolved the French Parliament in 1 962 and again in 1 968. So the French system may not be the answer for Australian republicans.
Alternatively do Australians want a republican system like the United States, where even with congressional constraints, enormous power is in the hands of one man? They do not want a presidential-style Prime Minister. Which of these 2 systems do the republicans suggest is suitable for Australia? The Westminster system is tried, proven and strong, with as Head of State, the Monarch who is the esteemed non-party Representative of the Nation as a whole.
Most republicans will agree that there is a need for a head of State, but difference of opinion exists as to the system which will provide the most suitable Head of State. It is argued that a bad Monarch is there for a lifetime, whereas a President can be changed. In an extreme case, pressure could be brought to bear to encourage a Monarch’s abdication. However, fair-minded people must be agreed that the 20th century has produced most acceptable British Monarchs The same cannot be said for all the 20th century Presidents of the handful of countries that I have mentioned today.
Undoubtedly, some proponents for the Republican cause would be motivated by a belief that Australia should appear to the world to be a country standing entirely upon its own feet. Because we have as our Head of State the British Monarch, and we use the Westminister Parliamentary system, it cannot be fairly construed that we even remotely resemble a colony. We are a member of the Commonwealth, but that does not make us a lackey of the United Kingdom. Indeed when the present Queen became its head -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member time has expired.
– I move:
In doing so I do not want it thought that I am anything but long suffering.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I appreciate the courtesy extended to me. I would hope that in the remaining minutes the honourable member for Adelaide might be more convinced than he has been so far. 1 was saying that because we have had as our head of state the British monarch, and we use the Westminster parliamentary system, it cannot be fairly construed that we even remotely resemble a colony. We are a member of the Commonwealth, but that does not make us a lackey of the United Kingdom. Indeed, when the present Queen became its head it had 8 members; six of them are still members and it now has 37 members. Her Majesty is Queen of twelve of them. This in no way implies British interference, because the governments of the various countries have the exclusive right to advise the Queen on their own affairs, and in our case our own affairs. The crown provides a link between the countries of the Commonwealth which could not be as well, if at all, provided by an elected President. Further, it is fallacious to suggest that the retention of a Monarchy, with roots in a past imperial era, in any way maintains a sense of obedience from a colony. The voluntary composition of the Commonwealth testifies to that. Those who crave for identity, and see a republic as representing that identity, often display gross inconsistencies. When the previous Government abandoned imperial honours and introduced the Order of Australia, investiture remained the task of our monarch. If that republican crusader, Professor Manning Clark, were a true republican, he would not have been present at Government House last week to receive his O.A. from the Queen. But it has been observed:
Even the most eminent scholars lose their sureness of touch when they enter the presence of royalty.
The very nature of politics ensures a legacy and the provision of day-to-day happenings which by their very nature generate divisiveness. The unity stimulated by a monarch is invaluable in counterbalancing this. We are thankful the United States survived Watergate, but the path to recovery was long and tortuous. The psychoanalyst biographer of Sigmund Freud, Dr Ernest Jones, capped it so well when he contended that the dignified and efficient tasks of government must be divided between 2 persons. I quote him:
One untouchable, irremovable and sacrosanct, above even criticism, let alone attack, the other vulnerable in such a degree that sooner or later he will surely be destroyed, i.e. expelled from his position of power.
The history of our very young federation bears witness to the truth of that. Even today, our newspapers speculate on the future of one national political giant. The monarchy is the possession of the people regardless of political affiliation or association. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) is to be complimented for initiating in 1975 the invitation to our Queen to join us in the year of the Silver Jubilee of her accession to the throne. I also thank him. The parliamentary democracy we have modelled ours upon is one of a mixture derived from fierce and bloody struggle, peaceful development, and evolution over several centuries.
That simple Bill called Supply is the basis of our Parliament’s power. Indeed, this Parliament sustains the monarch’s representative by grants of public money by the Appropriation Bill. Our Parliament is supreme. No republic has a parliament of greater authority than ours and no monarchy in the world commands more respect or is more secure than ours. This is no time to advocate change. This is a time for rejoicing in the strength of our political institutions, at the very heart of which lies the monarchy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Before calling the honourable member for Hawker might I point out that while the honourable member for Griffith was making some comments in regard to our Westminster system some honourable members entered the chamber without observing the standing order which has been commented on before from this chair. I have said previously that I think it might be an idea if some honourable members would remind themselves of that standing order.
-In speaking to what is in effect a Government statement I would like to pass some constructive observations on the speech made by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). I think he ought to distinguish between the Westminster system and the federal system. There is a succinct difference between them. He omitted of course to advise the House that in 1911 by parliamentary Act the House of Lords was stripped of its right to block Supply. The crisis that this country faces, irrespective of whether it has a monarchy or is a republic, without a vast constitutional amendment, is simply the question summed up so eloquently by Sir Robert Garran when he quoted what J. W. Hackett once said. He said:
The struggle in Australia from early Federation is whether in fact responsible government will kill federalism or federalism will kill responsible government.
There is a big difference between responsible government in the Westminster system as we know it and the Westminster system and federalism within the Australian structure. There is not dual responsibility of powers in the Westminster system. In Britain the House of Lords does not have the power that our Senate has. The dilemma Australia faces, irrespective of whether it has a monarch or a republican president, is that we have a bicameral structure in our Parliament with both chambers having equal power. The honourable member for Griffith ought to have applied himself to whether history in fact will judge the Governor-General as having acted in the role of the monarch in a capacity of neutrality. I must say in all constructiveness- I regret that I have to say it- that I think history will not be so kind.
What I think everybody really ought to take note of in the Government’s speech- that is what the Queen’s Speech from the Throne is; it is an intention of policy- is that it contains not one word of the policy of this Government in two crucial areas. One is the need to implement a national energy policy. Secondly, there was no intimation about what has to be done to overcome the dilemma that has faced this Government for 12 months over an oil pricing policy. It is in these 2 areas that the Government has lost its sense of priorities. Both of course are going to be resolved, or rather smothered, by that time worn conservative mantle of ‘leave it to selfregulation’. We have seen this applied to the activities of insurance companies and insurance brokers. Let me say to the House that I fought for 4 years to get some Federal legislation for insurance brokers. Now I note that it is to be left to self-regulation. In my view that is a disaster. I will continue to press this Government for Federal legislation in this area. Whether it is in the area of company law or security regulation there has been an endless litany over the last 3 months of company collapses brought about by either fraudulent transactions or collusive practices. This Government’s answer is: ‘Leave it to selfregulation.’ In the field of corporate activity this nation and its people are paying and will continue to pay a very severe price for the 25 years of culpable neglect and adherence to selfregulation by disgraceful Liberal governments.
Today I asked 3 questions of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard). The first was whether the Government would extend sufficient capital to enable the Royal Commission on Petroleum to complete and table its report on transfer pricing. The second question was whether the Government would set up an agency to monitor oil pricing structures in this country. The third question was whether, as an interim measure, the Government would increase the staff of the Prices Justification Tribunal. The Minister evaded the second question. On the last question he said that there was sufficient staff. On the first question about transfer pricing he said that it was a matter for Senator Withers. Let me say this: As long as Withers dithers the people throughout the length and breadth of this country will be taken to the cleaners by the international oil companies operating in this country.
In the area of energy and minerals resources Australia is indeed a very lucky country. But oil is rapidly evaporating. With domestic production of oil expected to supply only one-third of our needs by 1985 we will increasingly find ourselves at the mercy of and vulnerable to foreign suppliers of this basic commodity. The dependence of our society on imported oil will allow no room for complacency in government attitudes towards the oil industry. The former Labor Minister for Minerals and Energy, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), was the first Australian Minister to recognise governmental neglect of the oil industry and the increasing importance oil would assume in policy formation. As a result of his initiative the Royal Commission on Petroleum was established to investigate the industry in depth. It commenced public hearings in December 1973 and concluded its sixth report last year. The total cost was $1.7m. The present Government axed the activities of the Commission on the grounds of economy before it could report on 2 crucial issues- natural gas and transfer pricing. The latter topic was listed in the terms of reference of the Commission as follows:
To what extent fuel pricing by companies operating in Australia which are subsidiaries of foreign corporations has been influenced or determined by the decisions of their overseas principals in such matters as inflating original prices paid to overseas crude oil producers and shipping freight thereon thus creating an artificially high landed price to the detriment of Australian consumers.
I suggest that this will loom very largely and will be of great importance to Australia as our imports of crude oil increase. The Commission has completed a large amount of work on this topic. In the sixth report Commissioner Collins had this to say:
It is unfortunate that the very considerable work done on this topic will not find its way into a report.
It will be left to posterity as an archaeological exercise. The cost of compiling a report on transfer pricing would be minimal in relation to the overall cost of the Commission, yet neglect of this topic could well cost Australian consumers much more than this every day in over-inflated petrol prices.
The Commission investigated the area sufficiently to urge the Government to establish an agency to monitor and regulate this and other aspects of the Australian oil industry. Its investigations have shown the complete naivety of conservative governments in this country towards international corporations. The Commission observed:
The most distinctive feature of the oil industry in Australia is that the evolution and development has been almost untouched by the rational and integrated policy requirements of government. This policy vacuum is matched by the paucity in the public domain of published material, which seriously analyses the industry’s problem. This absence of effective public administration contrasts strongly with the experience of countries overseas such as Canada, the United States, United Kingdom, Norway, France and New Zealand. In each country the question of whether public administration had to take a substantial executive role in distribution and marketing (including prices) has long since been decided affirmatively.
I commend to honourable members opposite this very pertinent assessment:
Underlying all overseas governments’ policies was the view that security of supply, balance of payments, price to consumers, social utility of investment and basic industrial organisation were too important to be left to the commercial rivalries of foreign-owned corporations.
It goes on to conclude that Australia, or at least the Australian consumer, has suffered adversely by the apparent neglect of its organs of public administration to intervene in this field of industry in any effective way. For the Government to prevent the Commission from completing a report on transfer pricing merely adds another instance of Government neglect in this area. In answer to a question which I asked in February, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs criticised my statement that the oil industry had taken consumers to the cleaners. It is clear that the Minister has not read the reports of the Commission. Furthermore, his Government is aiding and abetting this situation for as long as the Government refuses to take action to properly regulate the industry.
At almost the same time as the Commission was reporting on the amazing gullibility of the Government in these matters, a New Zealand commission of inquiry reported on the oil industry in that country. That commission recommended the retention of controls which the oil industry in New Zealand has had for many years. They were hoping that private enterprise would be given a carte blanche, but the commission decided differently. The question of the pricing of Australian petroleum products has never been satisfactorily resolved. Perhaps the PJT has done so in the wholesale area. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) laughs. He knows that I am right. The retail area is in a shambles. When the Prices Justification Tribunal was set up in 1974 to cover companies and to fix wholesale prices it acknowledged that posted prices for crude oil were usually well above market prices. However, the Tribunal still faced the problem of how to monitor effectively the landed costs of crude oil and products. The Tribunal lacks the resources and special knowledge to monitor effectively the arms length cost of imported crude oil. The Government will have to overcome that if it wants to come to grips with the problem. It was partly because the determination of price in the oil industry depends on many factors peculiar to the industry that the Royal Commission recommended that a special statutory authority be established to regulate the oil industry. The Royal Commission summed it up more concisely than had ever been stated before. It said:
The structure of pricing is just a mess.
One illustration of this is the large degree of what is loosely termed ‘cross subsidisation’ which has occurred within the present structure. Distillates and similar products were, at least prior to 1974, discounted below prices set by the South Australian Prices Commissioner to a much greater extent than motor spirit prices were discounted below their set prices. For many years the motorist has subsidised the less profitable of the industry’s activities.
The multi-tired price structure of motor spirit disguises another form of cross subsidy. Petrol resellers in company-owned outlets generally pay the highest wholesale price. Independent dealers generally pay less than dealers in company-owned stations. The question that arises is whether the average discount to independent dealers is as large as the hidden rental charge in the maximum wholesale price of motor spirit. Another form of cross subsidy in the oil industry was highlighted recently when the Minister for Consumer Affairs in New South Wales, my very good friend Syd Einfeld, opposed a price rise application from Esso Australia Limited before the PJT. The Minister questioned why New South Wales motorists should continue to subsidise those in Melbourne. The Commission estimated that if all retail motor spirits in the Melbourne area were sold at an average discount of 5c a gallon this would be equivalent to a nationwide subsidy from all other markets of 1.4c a gallon to Melbourne consumers. The actual subsidy to Melbourne consumers could well be larger than this.
Yet another set of problems in the current pricing structure relates to unfair pricing. This Government certainly will not tackle this one. Oil companies sell motor spirit at different net selling prices to their branded resellers in the same market. There is also a practice whereby a company sells similar quality unbranded products at lower prices to unbranded resellers competing in the same market with their own dealers. A dealer operating a company-owned station may find that a competing station is selling petrol at a price lower than that at which he can purchase it from his own oil company. By moving to repeal section 49 of the Trade Practices Act in defiance of the Commission’s recommendations the Government is showing its approval for the preservation of these discriminatory practices. I will fight the move to repeal section 49 from the Act when it comes before the Parliament as I will fight the move to repeal section 73. I have said this before that the regrettable fact of life is that this Government will do what it is told, and that will be to remove section 49 and section 73. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) who is sitting at the table laughs. I note that section 73 which has had a disastrous effect on the finance corporations has been removed from the earlier draft I wonder why.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the present pricing structure is that consumers throughout Australia are subsidising uneconomic petrol outlets. What needs to be understood about the multinational character of the oil industry- and this has been known for many years-is that oil corporations prefer to make their profits at the production stage in the Middle East where there exists a low taxation base. The function of the Australian market is merely to emphasise the consumption level. The more product consumed, the more production and therefore the more profit in a favourable Middle East tax base.
The method of ‘transfer prices’, to which I referred earlier, is one way in which profit can be maximised overseas. A company may charge itself a high purchase price for oil and high freight or technical charges. Another way of maximising profit overseas is to maximise consumption. By increasing oil use in Australia more production and more profit result in the Middle East. To encourage the consumption of their particular product the major oil companies open outlets, which may be uneconomic or marginally economic, just to increase their total sales. They have done it for years. They do it all over the world. The Australian motorist is then forced to subsidise the operation of these outlets through higher petrol prices. Because of the nature of the industry there is no price competition. Perhaps real savings in the cost of retailing petrol would result from a rationalisation of petrol stations. The Commission found: . . . if all mainline stations averaged 25,000 gallons a month and, through a rationalisation programme the average throughout of those stations could be increased to 50,000 gallons a month, it would theoretically be possible to reduce prices at the pump by about 10 cents a gallon, ignoring the impact of inflation on costs during the rationalisation process.
I wish the Minister would cease referring to increases in the price of petrol in terms of cents a litre. I think that the people outside would understand it better if he said ‘ 10c or 1 lc a gallon ‘.
To illustrate the point further I point out that the Commission states that the total retail margin for petrol in New South Wales was approximately 18c a gallon in 1975 as against 7c a gallon in New Zealand and about 7c a gallon in United States currency for the larger petrol stations in the United States. There is no doubt at all that the people of Australia are being taken to the cleaners to the tune of about $200m. This Government has to tackle this question. It cannot hide it by sending it to an interdepartmental committee. I would be delighted to know whether the Minister for Productivity, who is at the table, could tell me whether the evidence accumulated on transfer prices by the Royal Commission has been put at the disposal of an interdepartmental committee. My information is that the answer is no. In fairness I ask how this Government is going to be in a position to make a balanced assessment when it brings down its recommendations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Being a lover of conspiracy theories, I move:
That the honourable member for Hawker be granted an extension of time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have a warm regard for the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) and I am very grateful to him.
– This is the only productive thing he has done since he has been the Minister for Productivity.
– I think that is rather ungracious. The desire to promote fuel consumption has another unsatisfactory effect beside the waste it has created in the marketing side of the oil industry. The policy encouraging wastage of petroleum is totally inappropriate for Australia’s future situation. This has been the policy of oil companies for years. The Commission and many other bodies have urged the Government to adopt policies designed to limit rather than promote consumption. Australia needs more than ever before a national energy policy. The Government must come to terms with the fact that Australia faces an ever increasing annual import bill for oil. Price is one factor which may influence motor spirit consumption and the level of exploration for new oil fields. The Commission observed that increases in the price of motor spirit do not, to a proportionate degree, inhibit consumption and that price is only one factor among others which discourages consumption. That problem is not in the ball park of the overseas major companies. Any attempt by the Government to escalate the price of petrol in the absence of measures to rationalise the marketing of petroleum cannot be justified on the basis of conservation alone. As far as exploration for oil in Australia is concerned, the problem is not just one of price. All new domestic oil discoveries will receive import parity prices. Increasing the price of existing domestic oil deposits cannot affect the price of oil from new discoveries. The problem with oil exploration in Australia, whether we like it or not, is that the potential for future discoveries is at best fair.
An article in the November issue of the Queensland Government’s Mining Journal illustrates the problem in that State. The geological study of Queensland ‘s sedimentary basins shows that the potential for further discoveries of a large oil field is poor and for a small economic oil field it is fair. The history of exploration and development in Queensland, however, shows an expenditure of $ 150m with a revenue to companies of $59.4m. Taking into consideration that present costs of exploration and development have risen 400 per cent in the last decade, one can see the real reason why oil exploration has tapered off in Australia. It is not a question of government. It is a sheer question of fact. If the price of oil is to be increased to induce exploration then any increased revenue from oil prices must be collected by the Australian Government and redistributed for exploration. The South Australian Government has shown the way by subsidising exploration in the Cooper Basin. The granting of further windfall profits or handouts to international oil companies which have only a passing interest in Australia’s oil supply problems would put at risk any chance of future discovery of oil deposits in this country.
I want to conclude my remarks by passing on to the Government a couple of constructive observations on the question of oil prices because this is a problem for the Government. It is one area in which I have taken an interest for a number of years. I pass on 2 or 3 constructive observations. If one takes the time to study the numerous trust busting reports, as they are termed, in the United States, one comes to grips with a recent telling maxim of Senator Church. He said:
It is time we began the process of demystifying the inner sanctum of this most secretive of industries.
That is the oil industry. The gist of these findings have revealed repeatedly that the oil majors control and dictate marketing and distribution outlets outside their own countries. They control and dictate all foreign refineries, patents and, to a large extent, refining technology. They have consistently divided up the world markets between them almost since 1922; they have shared pipelines and tankers throughout the world and they have maintained an artificially high price for oil.
The objective of his global conspiracy is market stabilisation. Its essential terms are market division and price fixing. Surely it is a truism mouthed by honourable members opposite that a monopoly of oil, in terms of distribution and marketing, in the hands of such cartels does not square at all with the principles of so-called competitive free enterprise democracy. I conclude with one very telling maxim uttered not very long ago by a former United States Secretary of the Interior. The Ministers responsible for this area in Cabinet ought to note it well. I do not know that I entirely agree with it but I would put it in the back of my mind when dealing with this particular question. It was found in his diary and deals with the oil majors- the international companies. He said that an honest and scrupulous man in the oil business is so rare as to rank as a museum piece. I will do my best to ensure that if any decision is made on oil in this country it will be in the interests of the Australian nation as a whole and in the interests of the consumers.
– It is with great pleasure that I follow the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) in this debate because I intend to speak upon many of the matters which he raised.
– Be kind now.
– I will speak gently because the honourable member for Hawker always speaks with a lot of good sense and he has spoken tonight in many ways with the good sense that he displayed in the debate on uranium. I think it was one of the most constructive speeches that was made during that debate. I would like to say how honoured I am to take part in the Address-in-reply debate following the opening of the second session of this Parliament by Her Majesty the Queen. Before moving into the substance of my speech I would also like to say how pleased the people of Canberra were to play host to Her Majesty on this occasion. It is often forgotten by the people of Australia what an integral and important role the people of Canberra play in ensuring that important visitors to Australia are given a fine, warm and friendly welcome to our nation and that they leave our shores with a strong indication of the open.heartedness of our people and the beauty and enterprise of our nation.
All those Australians who witnessed the spectacular opening ceremony, the fine military parade and the colourful reception when the Queen was with us must have been impressed with the work of all those people in Canberra who worked so hard to ensure the success of the visit to the national capital. The Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth Police, the members of the armed forces, the caterers, the drivers, the workers in parks and gardens and the Department of Construction, the television and radio technicians, the hotel and motel industry, hairdressers and shop assistants, all contributed to the success of the visit. I am certainly proud that we in Canberra did so well for our country and I hope that the nation is proud that we did it so well.
I should like to speak on that part of Her Majesty’s speech which noted that ‘the resources of the Australian continent hold out a great promise and a great challenge’. I say quite bluntly that there is not nearly enough emphasis on or interest in Australia’s resources in this Parliament. Like so many other things, we in Australia take the quite magnificent resources with which this country has been blessed for granted. The number of questions and the amount of debating time which have been applied to the question of resource policy in Australia borders on the scandalous. Unfortunately, not all the work that is done in Parliament is reflected in the utterances in this chamber or in the other place. Much work has been done by many parliamentarians and parliamentary committees and also in Party committees on the important question of resource development and utilisation but, unfortunately, due to the lack of legislation on the subject and the quite indecently small amount of time made available to debate the reports which have been tabled in this Parliament, the product of this work behind the scenes rarely comes to the notice of the public. The people of Australia must be reminded or, even more drastically, jolted out of their apathy in relation to the energy crisis. There is a dangerously naive view abroad that Australia is all right, that other parts of the world have a problem but that this is still a lucky country. There is a belief abroad that those people who talk about an Australian energy crisis are eco-nuts pushing some hobby horse; that they are people who were frightened by a motor car at birth or who have some masochistic desire to ride bicycles around the countryside in the rain.
I assure the House that this is not so. Australia is facing a crisis, not because we are poor in resources but because our ‘mix’ of different resources does not match our ‘mix’ of projected demand, both as to the type of energy resources required and to the geographic location of the available resources within this country. Put simply, we have bountiful coal, uranium and natural gas resources but quite inadequate oil reserves. Our coal reserves are on the east coast and our natural gas reserves are predominantly on the north-west shelf while our uranium is predominantly in the Northern Territory. We know that these resources are vast. We read every day how rich we are in resources and how valuable the resources are but do we ask ourselves the important question of how we will run our cars, trucks and aeroplanes when our reserves of oil run out? Between now and 1990, oil, which has the smallest reserve, will be consumed at the greatest rate. Forecast oil consumption is double the amount of known indigenous reserves during that period and these reserves take into account probably future discoveries.
Until 1990 oil is forecast to remain the largest energy source in Australia, even though the growth in oil consumption will be less than in the past- about 3.5 per cent per annum compared with a rate of 5.7 per cent over the past 10 years. As I have emphasised, the majority of oil in Australia is consumed in transportation. Thus we cannot in the foreseeable future substitute other energy sources for this purpose. It is difficult to visualise our millions of cars and trucks readily converting to coal power or our aeroplanes using anything other than aviation fuel. Currently, 65 per cent to 70 per cent of the demand is provided from indigenous sources. In 1985, even with significant local discoveries of petroleum, this rate will drop below 50 per cent. Over that period, assuming a 5 per cent increase in the price of imported crude, which I imagine is a very low assumption, our import bill for oil will increase from $740m per annum to $4000m per annum. We therefore have the double problem of a declining essential resource, plus a spectacular increase in our imports bill.
It must be abundantly clear that oil must be treated as a scarce and precious resource, even in Australia. The argument that we can buy oil from overseas is simplistic. There is every indication that oil is just as vital and declining a power source on the world scene as it is in Australia. Projections indicate that total world energy requirements from all sources will double between now and 1990. But during that period oil ‘s share of meeting that demand will decline only from 53 per cent to 48 per cent. Of the projected world demand for oil up to 1990 only some 69 per cent has so far been discovered. So there is a massive need for further world discoveries of oil. It is clear that the most prospective areas for such discoveries are to be found in members of OPEC. By the late 1980s those countries will be reaching the limit of their capacity- that is, their actual production rate- to increase production output.
I do not wish to be a latter day Malthus. I believe that other energy resources will be developed. Man is very inventive. But the message is that we must nurture our oil resources; we must encourage local exploitation and exploration; we must ensure that our scientists press ahead to find ways in which to convert other resources into energy in its most portable form; and we must not waste any resource on a purpose other than that for which it is most suited. We must also realise that the sands of time are running out. We know that coal can be liquefied to be used as petroleum; we know that one day solar energy will be developed into a viable source of energy; we also know that major power utilities in the world are developing nuclear power stations which will supply up to one-third of the required electrical power by the late 1980s.
All that will take time, will require enormous capital investment, must be planned and must be encouraged by government action. If we started this very day on a massive program to develop nuclear power, to liquefy coal, to discover more oil, to electrify the railways and to build nuclear powered ships, it would be well into the late 1980s before any real impression was being made on the problem. There is evidence to show that those countries which have planned economies are well into such programs. Little wonder that they and their ideologues put every obstacle in the way of the free enterprise countries to do likewise. Energy has always been the basis of power. It will be in the future, and we must ensure that the development of a coherent energy policy is carefully controlled and managed by our government.
I am particularly pleased that the Government has recently appointed a high level committee to advise it on energy matters and to assist in the formulation and development of a national energy policy for Australia. I trust that the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) will encourage that committee to bring forward recommendations quickly. We desperately need a well argued and coherent policy. The sands of time are running out for Australia. Energy is a national problem which must be well considered and examined by the nation’s best brains from all sectors of our economy. It should not be, as it was under the previous Government, the plaything of one Minister with his own personal concept of the grand vision for energy.
The shadow of the uranium issue has been allowed to fall too much on this Parliament. There should be a wide ranging debate on energy- a debate which will put into proper perspective the development of all of our resources, both for Australia, which is an apparently resource rich nation with resource problems, and for the resource starved countries which will rely on countries such as ours to carry out proper stewardship of the earth’s resources. In many ways the uranium debate is a gigantic smokescreen which should be dispersed as quickly as possible. Members of the Parliament and the people of the nation as a whole should put pressure on governments, both national and State, to come up as quickly as possible with a coherent energy policy. Valuable work is being done in that regard by meetings of State and Federal Ministers, but much more has yet to be done. I fear that we may not have time to ‘hasten slowly’.
I am pleased to support the proposed AddressinReply to Her Majesty the Queen.
-Her Majesty the Queen must have been most embarrassed to be handed by the Government in the person of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the skimpy document which contained her address to the Parliament- an address which took only 6 minutes to deliver. Never before in my experience and, I feel sure, even in the experience of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) who has been in this Parliament for many years, has either the monarch or even a Governor-General been treated in such a manner as to be handed a document so skimpy that it took only 6 minutes to read. The Government was so bereft of new ideas, new proposals and new legislation that I am sure that Her Majesty, having travelled all the way to this country, must have been very embarrassed. That skimpy document was all that the Prime Minister could hand Her Majesty to read to the Parliament.
Let us look at some of the matters raised in that very skimpy document. The Speech states:
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.
Yet Blind Freddie knows that this country is sinking deeper and deeper into recession, and deeper and deeper into unemployment. So the document which was handed to Her Majesty does not even tell the truth.
– And inequality.
– The honourable member for Adelaide adds inequality. The Speech goes on to say:
My Government is committed to assisting people overcome poverty and disadvantage, and is giving priority to assisting those most in need in a manner increasing their choice, dignity and self-respect.
That statement is made at a time of rising unemployment and the creation of greater poverty than we have known since the 1930s.
– What nonsense.
– The honourable member for Canberra interjects. Unemployment in the electorate of the honourable member for Canberra has increased during the term of this Government from 1 per cent to 5 per cent.
– He is a oncer too.
– Yes, he is a oncer, if ever there was one; he will not have the chance of being a twicer. Unemployment in the Canberra electorate has increased from approximately 1000 to 5000 and the honourable member has the temerity to say: ‘What rot’.
– I said: ‘What nonsense’.
-It is not nonsense when I speak of oncers. The Queen’s Speech goes on to say:
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.
That is a deliberate attempt to bring on a confrontation with the trade union movement purely for the purpose of political advantage. So I could go on referring to this skimpy document in respect of which Her Majesty must have been very embarrassed indeed. The present Government is the most dishonourable government in the political history of this country. I say that because no government in the history of this country has broken so many promises. In fact, finding those promises which it has actually fulfilled is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Let us have a look at a few of the promises. The Government promised to reduce inflation. There has just been a 6 per cent increase in the consumer price index.
– For the December quarter alone.
– Yes, for the December quarter. Inflation is on the increase. The Government promised to preserve Medibank; it undertook to leave Medibank alone. Look at Medibank today. It has been utterly and completely emasculated. The Government promised to support wage indexation. It has been going before the Commission and opposing it ever since, trying to undermine it and reduce real wages. The Government is frank about it. In its submissions to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Government states that real wages must be decreased. It promised to retain the scheme of tax deductions for home buyers. Remember the scheme introduced by Labor by which people could claim as a tax deduction the interest they paid on their home mortgages? The Government removed that benefit from 80 per cent of those who enjoyed it. It promised to maintain Federal funds for Aborigines, and it has cut them. It promised last June that it would not oppose the flow on of Medibank charges to the national wage.
– Another he.
– Once again, an untruth, once again a broken promise, once again the Government is opposing it. The Government promised to abolish the means test. Of course it has not done that. Nothing has been done about a special child care rebate for the single parent family or the family where one parent is an invalid yet it was promised in the policy speech.
– Nothing at all.
– Nothing whatsoever. The Government promised to establish a rural bank.
– Nothing has been done in that regard although I must say that that was one of the promises with less merit than any other that it gave. That would have been a very expensive exercise for the Australian economy. The facilities and the expertise are already there in the Commonwealth Development Bank. All the Government would have to do is increase the capital and enlarge the facilities available to the Commonwealth Development Bank. It is all there. But why put in another bit of the pyramid to increase costs to the community, the economy and the Government as a whole? The Government promised that it would maintain and develop the shipbuilding industry. Look at Newcastle. The Government promised that it would maintain the Australian Assistance Plan. It has been scrubbed. The Government will finance the plan only up to June this year. It will not give the
States any more funds to finance it. The Government says that it is up to the States to run it. This is a complete abrogation of its undertakings.
The Government said that it would maintain the urban development schemes established by the Labor Government. What has happened to those? They have been wiped as well. We have heard nothing of the proposed legislation on sex or race discrimination, or legislation on pollution control and effective means of appeal to protect applicants for unemployment benefits from official abuses. The Government promised to introduce uniform company laws. We have heard nothing on that. It promised to restore public confidence in the securities industry. What has happened to it? We have had the scandals in relation to Parkes Developments Pty Ltd and the other firms associated with the term of this Government. The final promise was to reduce unemployment. Let us have a look at just what are the figures. What has happened to unemployment? At the end of February the number of unemployed persons was up to 346 000. This is 5.7 per cent of the work force. The figure was only 4.9 per cent of the work force a year ago.
– What was it in December 1972?
– The figure is steadily increasing. I have not the actual figure of unemployment for the whole of Australia for December 1974 but I have the figures for my own area and I shall cite them. I thank the honourable member for asking me. This is just the question I wanted to answer. To be precise, the number of people registered as unemployed at the Commonwealth Employment Offices at Mount Druitt and Blacktown as at the end of February was 6977, of which 3471 -almost 50 per cent- were under the age of 21 years. In Mount Druitt the number of unemployed represented 1 1.3 per cent of the work force. That is nearly twice the national average. In Blacktown the figure represented 7 1/2 per cent of the work force. It had dropped by only 130 out of approximately 7000 in the very month when there should have been- by all the historical background of unemployment figures- a dramatic drop in the figures. To answer the honourable member’s question, unemployment in those 2 unemployment offices has risen by 30 per cent since this Government took power and nearly 1 7 per cent since February last year.
– What is the solution- a 6 per cent pay rise?
– Obviously the answer to the honourable member’s interjection is: Get rid of this Government. This is the most dishonourable Government that Australia has ever seen, a Government which has completely abrogated every electoral undertaking that it has given. No government in the history of Australia has anything like the disreputable and dishonest record that this Government has. I thank the honourable member for asking me for those figures on the increased unemployment since this Government took office. If he has any other questions like that, let him just come along. Let us have a look at a few of the other aspects. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) raised an interesting angle the other day on the question of unemployment. He stated:
In June 1974, which was the midst of the term of the last Australian Labor Party Government, civilian employment in Australia reached its highest level ever. It reached a level of 4 795 500, seasonally adjusted. The last figure that is available for civilian employment was published the other day by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. It showed that the level at December 1976-214 years after June 1974-was 4 722 700. In December 1976 there were 70 000 fewer people in total employment than had been the case in June 1974.
That was at a time when the available work force was increasing, when consistently there should have been a steady increase in the level of employment, the level of the total number of people employed in Australia. So much for another broken promise to increase employment. So much for another broken promise to help to assist the private sector which is mainly responsible for this unemployment, together with the fact that this Government is deliberately creating unemployment for the sole purpose, it says, of controlling inflation. Of course its policies are not working. It is deliberately increasing unemployment by cutting back expenditure in employment giving areas of the public sector- a deliberate policy.
– Yes, it is unfortunate but it is a deliberate policy. I come to another untruth of this Government. Day after day during question time we hear the right honourable the Prime Minister- he is now right honourable; he is to the right anyhow- and the right honourable the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) saying at regular intervals: ‘There is no credit squeeze in Australia’. They maintain that they are not implementing a credit squeeze.
– That is a lie; it is not an untruth.
– Well, it is certainly not being truthful. Let us look at what the Government has done. It has increased the statutory reserve deposits- that is the call ups by the Reserve Bank- from private banks from 5 per cent to 10 per cent since 23 June last year. The
Reserve Bank now holds $ 1,650m of private bank funds and Commonwealth Trading Bank funds. This is the Government’s monetary policy- monetary restrictions. It has increased the LGS ratio- that is liquid government securitiesfrom 1 8 per cent to 23 per cent.
– It is not wrong; it is correct. Look up your facts. Look up the announcements by your own Government. No wonder you are in oncer’s corner. You will not get a chance to be a twicer either. The Government has now reintroduced the variable deposit requirement so that 25 per cent of overseas borrowings for longer than 2 years are frozen with the Reserve Bank without interest. Borrowings for under 2 years are prohibited altogether. The Government has increased the interest rate on Australian savings bonds to 10 per cent. But here is the daddy of them all: The Government has issued an instruction through the Reserve Bank to banks to cut lending by 50 per cent. Furthermore, it has told finance companies that they shall also cut lending voluntarily. If they do not, the Government will bring them within the umbrella of a financial corporation by issuing regulations which it has the power to issue under the Financial Corporations Act. This Government has implemented all these monetary restrictions and as a result we are now facing the harshest credit squeeze we have seen in the history of this country.
I ask honourable members to cast their minds back some 20 years. Not even Billy McMahon in his hey-day -
-Order ! The honourable member will refer to him as the honourable member for Lowe.
– He is the the right honourable member for Lowe, Mr Deputy Speaker. Not even the right honourable member for Lowe in his hey-day would have cut lending by 50 per cent. So once again we have a perfect example of a dishonourable government because day after day we hear the Prime Minister and the Treasurer- both right honourable; both to the right- making the point that there is no credit squeeze in Australia. One could only describe the situation as like something in Alice in Wonderland. I say once again that this Speech which was handed to Her Majesty must have been a very great embarrassment to her. I cannot help but feel sorry that she was handed by this Government and by this Prime Minister in particular a document that was so bereft of ideas that it took her only 6 minutes to read.
-It will be no surprise to the House that I am going to devote my 20 minutes of speaking time to discussing the rather difficult but, to me, important question of tariff protection. I have to admit that recently there have been made about this subject a large number of rather loose statements which I think ought to be put in their proper place. The first thing I think we ought to examine is whether there is a tariff burden. I have been saying that there is and I have been trying to measure it. But at last we have some authoritative people speaking on the question. I refer particularly to Mr W. Henderson, the Director-General of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia who, in a recent speech, said:
I fully accept the IAC argument that the consumer must pay for tariff protection. There is no question about this. I will also accept the arithmetic that the cost is around $4,300m annually.
This is not my arthimetic; it is the arithmetic of the Director-General of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. There is a price to be paid for tariff protection. I would never have thought that it would be as high as that but we know now that it is a high price. Mr Henderson says that it is $4,3000m annually. We ought to look at who pays the price. Anybody who thinks about the subject will not doubt that the subsidy of $4,300m has been measured as best it can be measured. I do not accept that the figure is accurate and nor would Mr Henderson pretend that it is an accurate measurement. But the sum is around that degree. It is paid by export industries in the end. It is true that some of that amount will be paid by the people on fixed incomes- and there are not many of them left because they have all been washed up on the economic beach. Some of the $4,300m will be paid by those who are competing against exports. But generally speaking, in the end, those people get tariff protection. It is generally accepted by anybody with an economic training that the subsidy is paid in the end by export industries. If we accept that, we ought to work it out from there. I do not say that it is too big a price to pay but it is a price that is paid by exporters. Exporters pay an additional price.
Today’s Australian Financial Review exposes yet another problem and that is the retaliatory action that is encouraged by the action we take to stop imports coming to Australia. The Philippines has now taken yet another retaliatory action because we have stopped their imports from coming to Australia. We export 3 times as much to them as they export to us. In spite of that, they have put a barrier against our exports because they say that they have been clobbered by the action we have taken to stop their exports coming to Australia. This sort of situation has happened again and again. We were all very righteous about the quotas that the Americans and the Japanese imposed on our beef, but we do not generally admit that we are imposing quotas on the import of cars from Japan and America. I do not say that this is wrong but we ought to measure the size of the burden the exporter carries. Because the rural sector supplies about half Australia’s exports, about half the burden is borne by the Australian rural sector. Again, I do not think this is wrong but I am just measuring the burden they carry. Half the burden- this $4,300m that Mr Henderson admits to- is borne by the rural sector. That figure is just a useful measurement. Mr Deputy Speaker, you represent the rural sector and you will know that that sector is not in a position to carry this burden forever. Its size of the burden is about half of the $4,300m-let us say $2,000m in round terms. People say that the rural sector gets direct subsidies. It does indeed. If one looks at the last Budget figures one could measure them. The direct subsidy to the rural sector is $ 1 64m. That is spelt out in the Budget Papers. It is not a small amount. The direct subsidy to the manufacturing sector is $169m. If one does a balance sheet one sees that the rural sector is paying a price for tariff protection, at the rate of about $2,000m a year. It may be that people think that that does not matter, that the rural sector can carry the burden effortlessly. People say that the rural sector has lots of natural resources and how splendid it is at shouldering these kinds of burdens. I repeat that the measure of the burden is about $2, 000m a year. It would be silly to be more precise than that. I think it would be rather less than that but it would be of that order.
When I talk to manufacturing groups, as I do, they always express surprise that this burden is borne by exporters. Their surprise can take 2 forms. Firstly, they become petulant. They say that it cannot be true. Let us examine how the system works. It does not work by accident. If there is a tariff on weedicide which the farmer pays, it is easy to see that that increases his cost. There may be a tariff on sheets. Maybe the farmer does not use any sheets. It does not increase his cost. People say that he should use a super bag. If he does not buy any sheets, the cost gets built into the cost of living. It gets passed on from one section to the other. It gets built into wages. I see the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) nodding wisely, as he should; his electors buy sheets. It gets built into the cost of living. It gets passed along the line. It goes from one section to another, from transport to the doctors, even to members of Parliament, until it goes to the group which cannot pass it any furthernot necessarily to the farmer but to the exporter. He cannot pass it any further. The exporter tells the purchaser overseas that he has to raise his price. The man overseas says that that is very sad but he can buy the same material from Canada and he does not think that he should buy it from the Australian producer.
The cost of tariff protection is borne in the long term by the exporters. No one who has any economic training will argue that. People will petulantly protest about that. It is not a simplistic argument: it is not a theoretical argument. It is a straightout economic statement that no one can argue against. Because of the burden that we are asked to carry, there is a continual complaint by the rural sector- the exporting sector- that something ought to be done to alter the situation; there ought to be a change. One of the things we must realise is that the economy is like a bucket of worms. I hesitate to use such a simile in your presence, Mr Deputy Speaker, knowing the finer view of life that you take. A bucket of worms that cease to turn dies. The result is awful beyond belief. The Australian economy must continue to change. It is like a bucket of worms. It must change. It has changed. I have shown to the Opposition a table which shows how the economy has changed over the years. Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask for permission to incorporate this table in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– It is a most revealing table. The census figures show that in 1911 the percentage of the work force engaged in primary production was 29.9 per cent. In 1975 it had fallen to 6.7 per cent. Everybody says that that is what one would expect; the rural sector has shrunk; it is not employing people. In 1911 the manufacturing sector employed 28.7 per cent of the work force. In 1 975 it employed 2 1.4 per cent. If one wants to look at the figures they will see that the change, which is inevitable, has been taking place. People who pretend that they can stop the change from taking place do not understand what the economy demands, and that is that it must change. It is like a bucket of worms that does not change, if you will excuse me, Mr Deputy Speaker, using that simile again in your exalted presence. I want to quote from a letter written by the Governor of New York to President Jackson in 1828. It shows the necessity for change and how change is always resented. The letter states:
The canal system of this country is being threatened by the spread of a new form of transportation known as railroads. The federal government must preserve the canals for the following reasons: One-if canal boats are supplanted by railroads serious unemployment will result. Captains, cooks, drivers, hostlers, repairmen and lock tenders will be left without means of livelihood, not to mention the numerous farmers now employed in growing hay for horses. Two- boat builders would suffer, and towline, whip and harness makers would be left destitute. Three-canal boats are absolutely essential to the defence of the United States. In the event of the expected trouble with England, the Erie Canal would be the only means by which we could ever move the supplies so vital to waging modern war.
This is the poignant piece:
For the above mentioned reasons the government should create an interstate commerce commission to protect the American people from the evils of railroads and to preserve the canals for posterity.
As you may well know, Mr President, railroad carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by engines, which in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to the crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.
This is the kind of thing that Australia faces today. This is the kind of change that a lot of people in this community are saying we cannot face.
When we look at the history of our country and in fact at the history of the world we afl know in our hearts that change is inevitable, but every time change is suggested in this House people say: ‘Talk about the fate of the people who grow the hay for the horses’ or something else. We have to face the challenge of change. It is always painful. It will be painful to the end. But unless we face it squarely and unless we change with changing times we will be washed up on the economic beaches of the future. I would like to quote- I always do so with venerationsomething that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had to say. He said:
Australia cannot afford to pursue courses of action that isolate us from external competition. As in our domestic affairs we must face up to the reality of a competitive outside world. If we fail to do so we will run the risk of ultimately becoming a country of second-raters.
A country of second-raters- that is the challenge that confronts us if we do not face up to the challenge of change. I do not pretend that our task will be easy. All the easy things were done long ago. I look in my basket and I find that everything there is hard. I am tempted to put them into the ‘too hard’ basket underneath. But unless we as a country and as a parliament face up to the painful process of change we will, as the Prime Minister so rightly said, end up a country of second-raters.
-On 10 May 1973 this House debated the Medical Practice Clarification Bill. That Bill with such a bland title in fact proposed a major change in the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory. It proposed to legalise abortion. In the debate that took place the Liberal Party was unanimously opposed to the Bill. In the divisions that were ca lied every member of the present Federal Cabinet who were in the House on 10 May 1973 including the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), voted against the Bill. I do not blame them for gaining very considerable political advantages out of the attitude that they took. I have assumed that that attitude was genuine.
Now we find that in practice there is a major change in the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory and there is to be an abortion clinic in the Australian Capital Territory. I know that when this matter was aired in the House the Minister for Health said that the proposal may not proceed until certain things are done. He said that one of the requirements was that this matter should be referred to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. The result of one division taken on 10 May 1973 was 98 noes to 23 ayes.
If the Government wants a reversal of the policy there is only one step of integrity that it can take. It cannot hide behind the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. Either it flouts this Parliament or it introduces a Bill to ask this Parliament to reverse its previous decision. If the Government takes any other course of action then, in its Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty, Her Majesty’s Australian advisers should characterise themselves as hypocrites. They made very clear and very strong statements which are on the record.
In this context I am not speaking about abortion from the point of view of its necessity in certain extreme cases where it would save a life and there is really no choice. I take the view, of course, that nobody can authorise the destruction of an innocent person. I am not however debating this matter from that point of view. What I am saying is that a vote was taken in this chamber and if the Government wants any change in the criminal law of the Australian Capital Territory there is only one procedure of integrity, and that is to introduce a Bill to take responsibility for the proposal. The Government is not prepared to take responsibility. The Government is trying to allow it to come in through the back door. The declarations that the Government made at the time the Bill was before the House were either genuine, and if they were genuine there is no other course of action for it to make, or they were a response to pressure. If the Government’s action was a response to pressure, of course, it can bring in a change in the law under circumstances which will not attract nationwide attention as the Bill did. That is the way the Government would do it. That appears to be the way the Government is doing it. In that case it means the attitude that was taken on 10 May 1 973 was not genuine.
I think it is both specious and contemptible to say that a major matter of criminal law passed down to this Parliament from the Parliament of New South Wales when the Australian Capital Territory became a Federal Territory should now be a matter for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. In other words, the Legislative Assembly, which is a creation of this Parliament, has more authority than this Parliament and is entitled to reverse a decision of this Parliament rejecting a Bill. I do not want to say anything more about this matter. However, I could not imagine that there is a more crucial test of the genuineness of the Government than there is on this particular point. If one day members of the Government can strike an attitude and say, ‘Life is sacred’, and another day they can strike another attitude and say, ‘Oh, that is a matter for the Legislative Assembly ‘ of course they have no convictions on the deepest question that could possibly be posed.
I want to leave this subject and speak about the dissolution of the Technical and Further Education Commission. The Government is mistaken in disbanding the Technical and Further Education Commission and combining segments of the Universities Commission, the Commission on Advanced Education and the Technical and
Further Education Commission in a Post Secondary Commission. The combination is defective from many points of view. Firstly, the Commonwealth is totally funding universities and colleges of advanced education, including teachers colleges. As far as technical education is concerned the Commonwealth is simply engaged in topping up grants.
When the Labor Government came to power we increased expenditure on technical education by 350 per cent. We made technical education free and in my time as Minister for Education enrolments in technical colleges rose from 400 000 to 705 000. But we were still engaged in a topping up exercise. We were making grants to the States that topped up expenditures that the States themselves were carrying through. It will be very difficult to combine in one commission the total funding of universities and colleges of advanced education, and the partial funding of technical and further education.
Another disastrous feature of this proposal, of course, is that the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education have been in existence for 15 years. An immense amount of fundamental work was done. After the Kangan report the Technical and Further Education Commission came into being and it has not operated yet for 3 years. The fundamental work has not been done. A good relationship developed with the States. State officers were on the Commission and enough funds were beginning to be made available to enable the States to engage in forward planning. It is certain, of course, that some States did not play the game. On the capital side, for instance, New South Wales reduced its own effort and merely used Commonwealth grants as a substitute for what ought to have been its own effort. We did not have an agreement which required the States to maintain an effort. The result was that in the area of capital construction of technical colleges in New South Wales 10 Commonwealth dollars were made available for every one New South Wales dollar. In Victoria there were 4 Commonwealth dollars for one Victorian dollar. In South Australia, on the other hand, there were 3 State dollars for one Commonwealth dollar. South Australia played the game and treated our technical education grants as topping up grants.
It is quite pathetic to put in with university planning and college of advanced education planning technical colleges which are dealing with apprenticeships and many levels of education where they simply have to establish literacy before work can proceed. The Canberra
Technical College, for instance, had 880 apprentices and 16 per cent of them were not able to read sufficiently to undergo their courses, with the result that very constructively the College in a very short time taught them to read adequately. I do not think people who are involved in universities and colleges of advanced education have the same way of thinking about the educational problems. They are dealing with quite different ones. I do not believe there is an intelligent amalgamation of technical and further education with the other types of education. I am afraid that the great historic fallacy of Australia whereby we have never put enough into technical education will be repeated.
Some of the States have already engaged in subterfuge. That master of the subterfuge who pretends that he is terribly concerned about any Commonwealth action- I refer to the Premier of Queensland- has really behaved quite intelligently about this. He has put all his technical education or a very great deal of it into the college of advanced education area, which means that it will be totally financed by the Commonwealth and will not be made a matter for topping up grants. But some other States have more integrity and they continue with a separate technical organisation. They have continued their own efforts honestly and therefore might expect that in this separate field of education there will be a continuance of the Technical and Further Education Commission.
When the Bill that established the Commission was introduced by myself it was one of the pieces of legislation which had the support of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party declared that it agreed with the legislation. Everything that it said presupposed that it would give the Technical and Further Education Commission a chance to get on with its work if the Liberal Party came into power. Now the Government proposes to merge the Commission with a smaller body which will be concerned with the immense problems of universities and colleges of advanced education. There is little doubt that technical and further education will be a side line. People engaged in technical education have always said of themselves that they are the cinderellas of education. There is very little doubt that they will be disadvantaged in the new amalgamation.
I refer to another matter that was introduced by myself as Minister for Education, the bilingual program for Aboriginal children. I came to a simple conclusion that if you denied people an education in their own language you were treating them as a conquered people. We have always treated Aborigines as a conquered people. Therefore our first educational decision was one which allowed Aboriginal parents who still lived with the full tribal customs to nominate the language in which teaching at their school was conducted. The educational world of Australia is lost with admiration of the research of 2 gentlemen in Queensland, and quite justifiably so, at Mount Gravatt Teachers College. They are Mr Richard Walker and Mr Norman Hart. They have researched into the process of learning to read on the part of young children and have established that many class primers and readers are couched in language totally unfamiliar to the children concerned- usually those who are finding difficulty in establishing literacy. With computers they have determined the words in regular use among the children and have found that with reading material building upon this familiar basis the acquisition of literacy is accelerated on the part of children who are finding difficulty.
If these learning problems exist for children whose mother tongue is English and the medium of education is English, how crushing must be the problem of Aboriginal children, whose mother tongue is not English, who have no English, but whose medium of instruction in the school is English?. When I was Minister for Education I went into the Northern Territory and went into the classroom where the Aboriginal children were being spoken to in their own language by the teacher. None of them turned round and looked at me or the party with me. When I went into class rooms where the medium for instruction was English and the Aboriginal children who did not have any English were struggling to understand what was being said everyone swung round immediately and looked at the party that had come into the back of the room because their attention span was nil and what they were engaged in was a miserable struggle which in no circumstances will ever establish literacy.
It has been established that if children first establish literacy in the mother tongue they can switch more readily to a second language. That is why we called our program the bilingual program. I showed the film Not to lose you, my language on the bilingual program to 800 teachers in Switzerland. Let me relate certain consequences. As a consequence, Dr John Cooper in Copenhagen has borrowed the film from the Australian Embassy there, its ideas have been studied, and he has written that the Eskimos of Greenland who have been educationally impaired by the imposition of Danish as the initial language in schools, a language they do not speak, will probably have a bilingual program. There were Swedish teachers there. Several times they asked for the film and several times they saw it. Lapps have asked for, and will almost certainly get, a bilingual program. The Lapps were having Swedish imposed on them in exactly the same way as we have imposed English on Aboriginal children. Dubbed into French, the film has inspired the project that Indo-Chinese refugee children in France may have the benefits of a bilingual program.
The black African educator and authoress, Mrs Kathleen Vundla from Soweto, saw the film. It will be appreciated that the language issue in schools touched off the violence in Soweto last year. She drew 2 conclusions from the film. The first was that it revealed incidentally and unintentionally the poverty, ill health and abject conditions of Aboriginal children. The second was that South African blacks like herself have been guilty of leaving intact the same educational oppression of having denied an education in the mother tongue to the Bushmen of Africa, who speak neither English nor Afrikaans, and whose language is educationally ignored. The bilingual program in the Northern Territory is a significant world model. Hemisphere, a journal of the Education Department, says: . . . There is much interest in the Aboriginal program. So much so, in fact, that when two leading linguists, Dr Geoff O’Grady, of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and Dr Ken Hale, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came to Australia . . . they wrote: ‘ We are extremely impressed with the Northern Territory bilingual program- so much so that we are inclined to assert that this program constitutes one of the most exciting educational events in the modern world.
Now it is being crushed out of existence by the imposition of staff ceilings. Staff ceilings imposed on the teaching force in Canberra will not destroy the whole basic structure of education. But this scheme began among the infants. It goes up to the first standard, the second standard and so on progressively. For the whole primary school to be within the program of course more and more teachers must be appointed until the whole thing is established. At present 13 Aboriginal languages are being used in the schools. Imposing staff ceilings will ensure that the new infants coming in will not get a teacher or, if they do get a teacher, those further up will have to abandon the program because there will not be enough teachers to teach them. When there was some sort of a dispute whereby the Aboriginal teachers were withdrawn from the schools at Amoonguna on Groote Eylandt in the Northern Territory and other teachers were appointed, the Aboriginal teachers were not re-appointed on the ground that that would be exceeding the staff ceiling. That was contemptuous treatment that no teachers’ union would allow to happen to a European teacher and no government would dare to impose on European teachers.
I am not suggesting that there is some kind of a plot against this bilingual program. I think it is the usual blind procedure. We have an idea that is valid down here, or at least we all understand that the reason for the imposition of staff ceilings is that we do not want funds to increase but what is just some passing economy to people with a well-established educational system becomes by a quirk of fate another utter disaster for Aboriginal people. Whilst a cut-back in the health program would have one significance here, it would have an utterly different significance to them. I appeal- to the Government to look at this question of the staff ceilings as they apply in a case such as the one I have mentioned to see whether this absolutely valuable educational procedure, which is going to give those Aboriginal children a real command of English by establishing literacy in the first place in their own languages, can be exempted from the staff ceiling because it is a new program that has to expand and additional staff have to be recruited.
– It is an honour for me to be able to rise and support the Address-in-Reply motion moved by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) and seconded by my National Country Party colleague the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie). For those who have been in this House for much longer than I have perhaps the honour of speaking to such a motion has been dimmed by repetition. The passage of time may have contributed towards changed attitudes in certain members of this Parliament. Events of the past decade or so may have given rise to a complacency through which some may now view the monarchy in a different light from what they may have earlier. As the representative of the division of Dawson, representing some 100 000 people in that division in north Queensland, I take this opportunity to express to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen sincere expressions of their continued loyalty to the Crown. One may wonder how to do that with any sense of accurately assessing the feelings of so many people.
The generations of centuries ago proved their loyalty by following the battle flags of the monarch with no thought of life or limb. They thought only of service to a way of life and a standard which the monarchy typified. In fact Australians in this century have fought for the same principles and the same monarchy in 2 World Wars. Coupled with these sentiments was a real sense of pride in an emerging nation, Australia. Thankfully the past 32 years have not given us a similar opportunity of showing such loyalty or devotion to the principles of the monarchy. There have been no such world wars. Over one-half of the present generation of Australians have been born or have matured in the post world war era.
It has been mentioned here on many occasions, and the Daily Telegraph of 15 March reminds us, that somehow or other Queenslanders are a little bit different. Perhaps that is even more so in regard to North Queenslanders. Such is any State that its situation on this great island continent must produce certain characteristics which are different from others. As Queenslanders we do not profess to be any exception to that point. The particular characteristics of those who live in the Dawson electorate or those who live out of the greater metropolitan areas have to be different for this reason. There are changes- those changes are accepted- from the normal pattern of life in the metropolitan areas. Today we hear many people denigrating not only our economy but also our own national characteristics. We are fast becoming known as a nation of knockers. To live in North Queensland or anywhere outside the protection of the great metropolitan areas requires a determination that can be likened only to the spirit of the early pioneers. The challenge of opening up our developing industries of mining, of pursuing the already established rural industries, of expanding our tourist potential, of populating a vast area of the Australian continent, is done in the face of great difficulties and hardships. It is in the preparedness of the people of North Queensland and of the Dawson electorate in particular to accept these challenges and difficulties that there is truth that in these people there are feelings not dissimilar to those which motivated previous generations, of pride and loyalty to their State, to their nation and to the monarchy itself.
It is my assessment that those who dedicate their daily lives to work and who show such productivity and who return so much wealth to their nation in a climate where in so much of the rest of Australia people knock the system, must surely be identified as people loyal to the principles of past generations and loyal to the Crown. The problems and challenges which face each of us are the lifeblood and the pulse of life itself. If these problems and challenges are removed there remains no real purpose for our existence on this planet. There is still ample evidence of the difficulties of living outside the metropolitan areas in this current up-to-date year of 1977. Strange as it may seem, but true, the problems faced in mining development are the creations of those who live outside the affected or benefited area. In fact the further away from the point of impact, the greater appears to be the ability of those persons to affect decisions influencing others thousands of miles away.
Environmental issues are high on the list of these problem areas. Fraser Island will stand forever as a testimony to that fact in the future. The continued attack by those outside the developing areas against the multinational companies is not benefiting Australia nor does it provide a favourable reaction to getting development under way. The lack of support by government authorities to encourage people and enterprises to decentralise by providing services is evident in many ways in these developing mining areas. People in ivory towers, without any appreciation of the problems, removed by vast distances from the point of impact of their decisions, need familiarisation in the whole subject of development in these isolated areas. For instance, many people criticise the open-cut coal mining methods perfected by Utah Development Company. Few of them have been to the mine sites to examine at first hand the mines in the Bowen Basin and elsewhere in Australia. They should get out and look for themselves to see what is being done. Then there may be a better appreciation of the size and the efficiency of the operations- size which is impossible to achieve through Australia’s own national resources and which makes foreign capital essential to the development of these projects. Efficiency gained from that size and experience gives employment opportunities to thousands of people and better living standards to many times that number.
The mine employee enjoys an annual average wage in excess of that of his counterpart anywhere else in the world, but he has many difficulties to contend with in earning that income. The environment, after initial interruption, is being restored to better than original conditions. The mining company spends 20 times the amount of its commitment in ensuring that restoration is satisfactorily completed. There remain the deficiences of services in the north that have been provided to the more populous areas decades ago. For instance, there is no Australian Broadcasting Commission translator for a community of over 10 000 people in Dysart and Moranbah. These people have been deprived of the pleasure and the opportunity of watching the centenary cricket test and of sharing a sense of belonging to our race and country. The absence of a zone allowance that would give recognition to the greater costs of decentralisation and distances and the limitation of so many opportunities enjoyed by their city counterparts leads to a sense of frustration and a sense of being forgotten.
They believe that they are regarded as secondclass citizens; that they receive no recognition for their efforts in populating and developing our vast hinterland. They are the modern day pioneers doing more than any other people in producing Australia’s wealth and keeping up the past traditions that gave an image of the Australian as a hardy creature, not afraid to work, prepared to respond to incentives and challenges. So I suggest to the knockers and the critics that they get out to see what these developments are really giving Australia in export earnings, tax revenue and job opportunities, while being very careful in their responsibilities to the environment.
Let us turn now to the rural industries of the north. These industries pioneered the early settlement of north Queensland and they still remain the backbone of the economy of the north. There has been so much change in a century amongst people whose history has been left almost unrecorded. The sweetness of sugar cane had been the underpinning influence that has given solidarity to north Queensland and certainly to Queensland itself. The sugar industry initially was founded on kanaka labour. The industry was highly labour intensive but it is now highly mechanised. It utilises vast areas of the coastline and possesses the most sophisticated research facilities. It is proud of its self help reputation. The people of today- the descendants of the earlier pioneers and kanakas- have mixed in their blood many of the European nationalities and they are again an example of people who are proud to be named Australians and proud of their heritage. Again there are knockers and there are many of them. Economists over the years who would have written off the industry and given away the north contracted to the capital cities and perhaps lived on imports purchased from other sources but from an unnamed source of wealth. That wealth is certainly one of the hallmarks of north Queensland as to what it can produce for the rest of Australia. Even now the academics who suggest that there are health risks in sugar could possibly find the same health problems in any processed food and, with the increasing use of chemical control, perhaps in any food line. However, the whole subject of sugar deserves more time in explanation than I have available to me in this debate. Suffice to mention that for every move made by these people to work in tune with the national interest there are those whose opposition which is unconstructive works against that interest.
May I mention the grit and determination of a particular brand of people within the division of Dawson? I refer to the brigalow settlers. These people took over their land with optimism and enthusiasm at the turn of this decade and at this moment their attitude is not pessimism but revealing in that it demonstrates the adaptability of the human race, for these people will not be defeated nor will they retreat from their responsibilities. They are a handful of people clinging to their land with no immediate prospects but a faith in themselves to survive and to succeed. Their forefathers in the grazing industry opened up large areas of land and helped to meet community needs, debts and taxes. A great industry that has survived floods, droughts, fires and poor returns looks desperately to others and to governments to acknowledge its past contribution, and it looks for immediate relief measures and marketing support to enable it to survive.
There is no satisfaction for any of us in letting rural industries go to the wall just for the want of a better price or market support. The history of low priced locally produced rural products can no longer be tolerated by the producer and long overdue recognition in the form of support is necessary if we are to keep these industries viable. Rural poverty is a term personally known to these people. They make no greater demand on the public purse than to be allowed to have reduced interest rates on their borrowings, a deferment of capital redemptions and communications with the outside world, which are so common to us but rare to them, to join them with those enjoying in the cities a better standard of living. Their demands are much less on the public purse than those of the shipbuilding and car manufacturing industries and those unproductive welfare areas where relief is a greater reward than theirs for working 50 to 60 hours a week. For the price of one Blue Poles a deferment of their capital commitment on a government loan could be achieved. Little enough to ask, but judged too much for society to pay.
Tourism based on maximum protection and minimum exploitation of the environment flourishes in the north and for many good reasons. The north has better weather, better scenery the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef to back it. Pioneered by men and women of vision and enterprise it is slowly being suffocated by a lack of appreciation of the difficulties arising from a sick economy which was not pan of their mismanagement; high fares for air travel which make it cheaper for an Australian to holiday offshore than in Australia itself; unrealistic industrial awards; the high cost of capital for facilities; insufficient tax allowances or recognition to allow a subsidy against the tremendous cost of running a tourist establishment. Time will shortly overrun the small business or family concern on which the reputation for hospitality and service has been established within the northern tourist industry. Big concerns and companies will absorb the small industries which will in time become non viable.
For the year ended 30 June 1976 the division of Dawson which comprises some 67 000 square kilometres of land and water boasted an export of over 7 per cent of Australia’s total value of exports. These exports comprise coal through Hay Point and sugar, beef and other rural products through the other ports An estimated $40m was earned from tourism. Through taxes there is a certainty in the minds of the people in this area that they pay more per head than the average taxpayer in Australia. They are bigger contributors to the national purse than they are recipients from it.
I have outlined all of this to explain my assessment of the feelings and characteristics of the people of Dawson whose expressions of loyalty I give in this speech. Why should people willingly deprive themselves of the privileges, the lower costs and the variety of capital city living for the problems and difficulties of the true Australia unless they were inspired by the long tradition of their forebears and acknowledge as sacred the heritage left them as a legacy to work for and improve upon? They have worked with a feeling of optimism in the past and they continue to do so. They have displayed a willingness through continued hard work to produce, to pay their taxes and to share their wealth and good fortunes with the less fortunate Australians. Surely this could only be achieved through a pride in their country, and appreciation of the past and a sense of loyalty to the monarchy.
The confidence of these people in their way of living, in their ability to assist in providing for the needs of Australia is lacking only in one respect. There is a growing concern that their efforts which result in high taxation are not always matched or appreciated by others. In fact, in so many ways the reverse situation is evidenced by those to whom receiving has become a way of life. They view with growing concern public money being spent to cater for people in more populous areas while their own needs are disregarded. Projects in which these people can see an economic return which could be used by them to the nation’s advantage are not given the priority these people feel they deserve, particuarly in the utilisation of water resources. While they are prepared to assist the cripples in the society they are not prepared to finance the failures. They view with concern the growing social problem being created through unemployment just as they recognise the economic implications of this problem. In the long term they are not prepared- they have publicly voiced their disapproval- to financing programs which exacerbate social problems at a time when bureaucrats and governments, with good intention perhaps, feel they are easing those problems. They resent paying for the creation of a life style which as surely as day follows night will destroy their own life style: free enterprise sacrificed for socialism- a republic at the expense of the monarchy.
It is of interest that the 2 incidents publicised in connection with the arrests of persons for demonstrating against the Queen in New South Wales involved persons who were unemployed. Perhaps they incorrectly judge the system as being responsible for their own position in life. Perhaps they felt that pastures in another paddock may be greener and that a republic would be an acceptable alternative to the present paddock in which they live. Whatever the reason, unemployment represents itself as a problem with many serious repercussions. I speak with no degree of pride in my own region’s figures for registered unemployed. They are abnormally high.
It is not easy to interpret those figures propertly. For instance, some of these registered unemployed are transients who enjoy a holiday on our northern coasts. Others are seasonally unemployed. There are those who are waiting for jobs which will be created if and when further mining developments get under way. Any one of these factors would make a proper interpretation of the figures impossible. But there is a percentage who are permanently unemployed. Professional welfare recipients account for, I believe, some 60 000 of the total number of unemployed in Australia today. More distressing, many of these are young people who have not had the opportunity or perhaps the incentive to demonstrate that they wish to participate in our work force. For some of these unemployed welfare payments are permanent. We have therefore created a social problem by making too generous payments and too generous conditions applying to the program. If we have such a proportion of non-employables those with this disability should be recognised as a separate class and paid as such. My concern is not so much for the amount of the payment but the application and result of that funding. If other means of expenditure of the same amount can achieve more acceptable results, then we should be examining means of achieving that result. This, I believe, would find better acceptance in the minds of those contributing to the public purse. Each young person we encourage or perhaps do not discourage to take relief now, is promoted not to temporary security but to permanent instability because they may never feel the satisfaction of being self-sufficient and useful.
They will be the forerunners which on the graph of normal and accepted practices of work responsibilities for the adult Australian will show as a permanent blip to remind us of our folly in thinking that money expended is the curb of all problems. Economically we may be able to fund the unemployed. Socially we cannot afford to create another division in this society. The problems that I have mentioned are in themselves evidence of a changing society, and changing characteristics and divisions that are continually being built within our society. Can monarchy survive with these changes? I believe that it can because in the past the monarchy has adapted itself to changed conditions. Our society has always been able to arrange its priorities to meet the needs. A changing monarchy can also cope and be effective. Only complacency can rob us of the initiative and challenge that life still has to offer each of us. It is my pleasure to add my wholehearted support to the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen.
– I wish to take the opportunity to speak in this AddressinReply debate in small part about the process of government. The Westminster system has recently come in for some criticism in Australia. It is important therefore that we understand the system of government that we employ, in regard to its strengths and its weaknesses. It has many advantages. The monarch has independence and inspiration which would be hard to acquire from any other system. The responsibility of an executive that is within the parliament is unique to the Westminster system. The responsibility of a parliament that contains the executive is also unique to the Westminster system. Those who doubt those 2 propositions might consider the way the executive and the parliament in the United States have been at cross-purposes so often in the course of the history of that nation and how on occasion it has cost the United States quite dearly.
The Westminster system has worked well. It has served us well but it does have a disadvantage and that is that the real decisions are not taken in the parliament itself. They are taken in cabinet, in the party room or caucus or in the bureaucracy. Parliament does not take decisions; it ratifies them. The decisions are taken away from the public view. This has some advantage and a real disadvantage. The advantage that I wish to mention is along these lines. It is said- I will not vouch for the veracity of the story but it serves as an example of what might happen if, in fact, it is not true- that the United States would never have had a Bl bomber except that the manufacturing company had managed to obtain contracts in no less than 48 out of 50 States. The Congressmen and senators felt bound to the B 1 decision. If in fact that is what happened it speaks ill of their system. If it is not what happened, knowing the way that constituents and politicians tend to behave, I think no member of this chamber would have difficulty imagining the situation.
There are some advantages in taking the real decisions out of the glare of public scrutiny. However, it is a disadvantage that the real debate does not take place in front of the public. It seems to me that we come into this chamberhonourable members may disagree- and rather than conduct a reasoned give and take debate we tend to play at party games which we think will enhance the position of our party for the forthcoming election. It may or may not do so. This disenchants the public, but that is not what is really serious. The debate does not inform the public. There is another side effect. Because the public is not always informed as to the genuine issues their effect is not felt on us. That is the weakness of our system of government. It can be overcome.
We have seen the development of a process of public inquiry that started in this country with the formation of the Tariff Board early in the history of the Federation. We now have a wide variety of these inquiring bodies. They vary a great deal and include such organisations as the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, the Heritage Commission, the Schools Commission, the Industries Assistance Commission and the Law Reform Commission. There are others in embryo such as the Postal and Telecommunications Users Council and the Consumer Affairs Council. There are others that might have been, such as the Social Welfare Commission. The Social Welfare Commission went very wrong. I would argue that it went wrong because it was asked to do the wrong things. I intend outlining the sort of structure that I believe these advisory public inquiry bodies ought to have. Those who reflect on the history of the Social Welfare Commission will be able to see how, if I am right as to the structure that these bodies ought to have, the Social Welfare Commission was wrong as it was put forward originally.
Reform has come to Britain, to British people and to those of us who have inherited the British traditions not so much from parliament but from the courts. It is the courts that have given us the great freedoms. They have ensured the freedoms of which British citizenry is justly proud and which it is rightly quick to defend. These advisory bodies which advise governments are in many senses advisory courts. They also protect the citizens from government. The judicial courts protect the citizen from abuse of the power of government. The advisory courts of which I speak tend to protect the people from unwise government, from decisions that might be perfectly proper, but which are not good government for one reason or another. These courts that gave us the great freedoms were in fact an informed elite outside the process of government and were very public. The courts, commissions and committees that advise the Australian Government have this essential thing in common with them.
Senator -Unemployment -Aircraft Accident-Aircraft Movements at Sydney Airport- East Timor
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-When speaking tonight in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) discussed a wide range of issues, including inflation, unemployment and social welfare. He also attacked the Fraser Government on a very important issue, namely, the winding down of the Australian Assistance Plan from June 1977.
That is a worthwhile and humane project initiated by the Whitlam Labor Government and funded for 3 years from 1974 to 1977. 1 have in my possession a booklet which was posted to me by the New South Wales Association of Regional Councils for Social Development. The booklet is concerned with the Australian Assistance Plan and is entitled: ‘Have we a future’. Its content is a submission to the Federal and New South Wales governments for the continuation of Regional Councils for Social Development in New South Wales from the New South Wales Association of Regional Councils for Social Development. Under the heading ‘Have we a future’ the booklet states:
Regional Councils for Social Development, currently funded by the Commonwealth Government, argue in this paper that their record of achievements merits more than being the meat in the Federalism sandwich. We argue and propose the following:
While acknowledging the Federal Government’s desire to reduce expenditure, and sympathising with the State Government in its reluctance to accept programs beyond its capacity to finance, priority must remain with assisting ordinary people to participate in Government decisions and to initiate self-help programs.
Regional Councils have proven over three years that they have the capacity to catalyse the community in a costeffective manner.
Regional Councils give benefits both directly to the people and indirectly through advice and assistance to Government in its implementation of service delivery and planning programs.
The major benefits of Regional Councils arise more from their providing a resource base, umbrella and skilled staff to the community than from the provision of direct funding for Services. In fact, given the current confused system of service provision through three levels of government and a multitude of departments, Regional Councils in general prefer not to be a further competitor in this field.
Availability of welfare grant monies- or ‘capitation’- is not an essential requirement for the functioning of Regional Councils.
Lack of certainty regarding the future of Regional Councils is destroying three years effort at establishing community networks.
Financing for 1977-78 is required at a level of $68,400 for administrative grants and $16,000 for CDO grants. A fund of $500,000 should be established for community development projects.
The ten existing Regional Councils should be maintained, and some others should be established.
The functions of Regional Councils can best be implemented at the regional level, and government should work towards establishment of Regional Councils in every region in New South Wales (approximately twenty in total ).
The Federal and State governments should both acknowledge that Regional Councils facilitate involvement and effectiveness for their programs, and hence should be jointly funded by both levels of governments.
The State Government should immediately make a commitment to meet one-half of the cost of Regional Councils for 1977-78. This would cost $913,000.
The Federal Government should match the commitment of the State Government for funding in 1977-78. 1 Priority for Government must lie in encouraging community involvement and self-help: 1.1 Regional Councils, working as they are with a wide range of disadvantaged segments of the community, could not but agree that life isn’t meant to be easy. We support the contention that in many fields the community is capable of tackling its own problems. 1.4 We argue that any country that can afford to spend over $8,000m on community services at a Federal level alone can afford less than $ 10m to ensure that this money is used effectively. It should be spent according to the priorities of the supposed beneficiaries in a manner that harnesses the strength of the community.
It should not be used to make people increasingly dependent on welfare systems.
We ask: If assisting less vocal people to have their say is not worth one dollar a head, what is the value of endless statements about ‘self-help’ and ‘participation’?
I believe it is essential to incorporate in Hansard an Australian Assistance Plan booklet entitled ‘Have we a future’. I have discussed the matter with the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley).
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The honourable member has asked for a document to be incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
HAVE WE A FUTURE
Regional Councils for Social Development currently funded by the Commonwealth Government, argue in this paper that their record of achievements merits more than being the meat in the Federalism Sandwich.
We argue and propose the following:
While acknowledging the Federal Government’s desire to reduce expenditure, and sympathizing with the State Government in its reluctance to accept programs beyond its capacity to finance, priority must remain with assisting ordinary people to participate in Government decisions and to initiate self-help programs.
Regional Councils have proven over three years that they have the capacity to catalyse the community in a costeffective manner.
Regional Councils give benefits both directly to the people and indirectly through advice and assistance to Government in its implementation of service delivery and planning programs.
The major benefits of Regional Councils arise more from their providing a resource base, umbrella and skilled staff to the community than from the provision of direct funding for services. In fact, given the current confused system of service provision through three levels of government and a multitude of departments, Regional Councils in general prefer not to be a further competitor in this field.
Availability of Welfare Grant monies- or ‘Capitation’- is not an essential requirement for the functioning of Regional Councils.
Lack of certainty regarding the future of Regional Councils is destroying three years effort at establishing community networks.
Financing for 1977-78 is required at a level of $68,400 for Administrative Grants and $16,000 for CDO Grants. A Fund of $500,000 should be established for Community Development Projects.
The ten existing Regional Councils should be maintained, and some others should be established.
The functions of Regional Councils can best be implemented at the regional level, and government should work towards establishment of Regional Councils in every Region in New South Wales (approx. twenty in total).
The Federal and State Governments should both acknowledge that Regional Councils facilitate involvement and effectiveness for their programs, and hence should be JOINTLY funded by both levels of Governments.
The State Government should immediately made a commitment to meet one-half of the cost of regional councils for 1 977-78. This would cost $9 1 3,000.
The Federal government should match the commitment of the State Government for funding in 1 977-78.
Priority for Government must lie in encouraging community involvement and self-help: 1.1 Regional Councils, working as they are with a wide range of disadvantaged segments of the community, could not but agree that life isn’t meant to be easy. We support the contention that in many fields the community is capable of tackling its own problems. 1.2 But this self-help development does not occur spontaneously except in National Disasters. We argue that prerequisites are: information in an accessible, comprehensible and usable form, resources for initiation, organization and program definition and implementation, access to relevant decision-makers. 1.3 We argue that Government must avoid the simplistic solutions of establishing a new Department or program to deal with community problems. Such reflex solutions may win a few votes but only increase the long-term demand on limited Government resources by failing to tackle causes of problems, concentrating instead on covering them over. Any genuine attempt to overcome severe social deprivation must acknowledge the need for longer-term investment aimed at gaining a clearer set of priorities, utilizing existing local resources, and encouraging people to overcome their own problems. Such an investment is Regional Councils. 1.4 We argue that any country that can afford to spend over $8,000m on community services at a Federal level alone can afford less than $ 10m to ensure that this money is used effectively. It should be spent according to the priorities of the supposed beneficiaries in a manner that harnesses the strength of the community. It should not be used to make people increasingly dependent on welfare systems. We ask: If assisting less vocal people to have their say is noi worth one dollar a head what is the value of endless statements about ‘self-help’ and ‘participation “?
Regional Councils have demonstrated ability to increase meaningful community involvement in governmental expenditure in a cost-effective manner. 2.1 Participation by the community is more than a trendy method of giving planners and decision-makers a ‘feel’ for the people on whose behalf they spend money. We argue that a participation philosophy is one based on the premise that the people supposedly to benefit are in the best position to place priorities on service- that no planner, with any amount of training, can tell a person what things he appreciates most.
For people to be in a position to make such choices, they need more than a ballot-box or a locally situated bureaucrat. They need assistance in community organization, information on options procedures, implications of decisions, and resources to encourage community consensus. These processes cannot be undertaken by Government where it remains the decision-maker. People simply do not believe bland statements like ‘we are here to help you participate, but we will make the ultimate decision’. Stimulation of responsible involvement requires a third party. 2.2 We believe that the past three years spend in encouraging people to use the resources of Regional Councils as an impartial facilitating structure should not be discarded. The synchronization of resources with existing community networks relies upon the trust and confidence of the people themselves, not upon the good intention of decision making bodies. The Government has invested over $2,000,000 in building that trust, the community has responded with thousands of hours work- this cannot be wasted. 2.3 Regional Councils are cost-effective because they can develop only on the trust of the community. The results that come from this trust far surpass the results of expensive pretence efforts at participation such as over-staffed ‘information offices’, glossy brochures, public-relations staff, and advertisements in newspapers.
Regional Councils give benefit to the community both directly through activities and indirectly through assistance to Government:
1 Firstly, the RCSD’s benefit the community for which it works through:
establishing a mechanism through which self-help schemes (e.g. child minding co-operative), can be initiated and sustained.
being responsive to local need in that RCSD’s can use community skills to act swiftly and effectively in tackling local problems.
developing resources in the voluntary sector by acting as a catalyst which provides an initial impetus to harness the time and skills of the community.
acting as a forum through which different attitudes in the community can be discussed, and at which community groups, and government agencies can meet in an impartial atmosphere.
providing an information channel that can keep interested people in the community abreast of policy developments, exchange news between community groups, and inform Departments of the needs/problems of the community.
give people a group that will assist them in achieving their cause, thus starting to overcome the sense of powerlessness that prevents working people from participating. 3.2 Secondly, the RCSD’s benefit the Government through:
I ) providing a mechanism for evaluating public programs from the perspective of those supposedly benefitting. The RCSD itself neither gains nor loses through public programs, and thus is as ‘impartial ‘ an evaluator as is possible.
advising on priorities for expenditure of limited funds. This helps overcome a lack of integration between Departments when it comes to allocating monies.
assisting in planning for community needs to overcome the expense of ad-hoc approaches that can waste money in unnecessary or inappropriate expenditure.
providing a catalyst for the integration of public sector activities. The RCSD cannot integrate Departments, but it provides an auspice under which officials from different departments can meet, and a critic of duplication.
assisting in decentralization through the creation of autonomous regional bodies not controlled by any Head Office, but developing in accordance with community needs.
doing the above as cheaply as is possible. 3.3 In essence, the AAP is an investment. It aims to slow the rapidly escalating welfare budget through activities that:
increase efficiency through avoidance of duplication or needless programs,
increase community self-reliance through giving people a chance to do things themselves, and,
start bringing about value changes that will result in a more harmonious community. But none of these will occur overnight. 4 Availability of Welfare Grant monies- or Capitation- is not an essential requirement for the functioning of Regional Councils: 4.1 Three year experience by Regional Councils that failed to gain capitation funding has indicated that this in no way precluded effective functioning. Some Regional Councils go further and argue that Capitation sidetracks people from community development functions, and causes problems when other levels of Government question innovative ways of funding. 4.2 Due to expenditure restraint enforced by the Federal Government, and the above rationale, we propose that Capitation funding is not required by Regional Councils. 4.3 We would argue for the establishment of a Community Development Fund at the State level, to be used on an application basis for community development projects on a needs criteria. 5 Lack of certainty regarding the future of Regional Councils is destroying three years effort at establishing community networks:
I Regional Councils cannot wait until June for an announcement on their future. Already, people actively involved in community programs are asking ‘What’s the use if we are to be abolished?’ Skilled staff will shortly be forced to seek other employment, given the current employment situation. Regional Councils are reluctant to initiate long-range community development programs because they have seen too much damage done by promises without action. We will not destroy community trust.
S.2 Further, Regional Councils are committed to maintaining the Resource Centres they have established. We have witnessed the difference it makes to emerging community groups to have easy access to printing, meeting and video facilities. But to maintain such equipment without funding will require major alterations to the Councils’ structures and work programs. Most have put March 1977 as the date at which they will commence this winding-down. 5.3 Government inaction and buck-passing has caused this drain of confidence and faith. Only government action can amend it. 6 Financing for 1 977-78 is required at the following level:
1 There are ten functioning Regional Councils in New South Wales. These should be maintained. There are a further ten to fifteen regions (depending on what boundaries are used) that lack a Regional Council. Some new Regional Councils should be established, these being selected on the criteria of need, extent of regional development, and strength of the interim Regional Council. This costing is based on the five full Councils, though the amount could partially fund a greater number. 6.2 Administrative Grant
These fifteen Regional Councils should receive an Administrative Grant adequate to maintain a secretariat with a resource centre and two operational staff (Executive Officer and Project Officer).
The cost of this in 1977-78 (assuming 15 per cent inflation) would be:
6.3 Community Development Officers (CDO’s)
There are currently 35 CDO’s employed in Regional Councils. If the five proposed additional Regional Councils were to have the same average number, that would mean 53 positions.
The cost of a CDO is $ 1 6,000.
It is recommended that an allocation be made for fifty CDO positions, costing $800,000. These could be divided on the present basis or on a needs criteria. 6.3 Community Development Fund
It is proposed that a fund of $500,000 be established for Community Welfare projects. 7 We propose that the Federal and State Governments both acknowledge that Regional Councils facilitate involvement and effectiveness for their programs, and hence should be JOINTLY funded by both levels of Government:
We propose that the State Government immediately make a commitment to meet one-half the cost of Regional Councils for 1 977-78. This would require $9 1 3,000 for the Administrative and Community Development Grants. We propose further that, until the role of Regional Councils in State decision-making is finalized, this amount be an increase in the Community Services Fund, under the control of the Minister for Youth and Community Services. 7.3 Federal Government
We propose that the Federal Government, in acknowledging that Federalism implies some joint governmental responsibility, match the grant of the State Government by a block grant to the State for the purpose of assisting Regional Councils. This would imply a commitment of $913,000 for Administration and CDO grants, and up to $500,000 for the Community Development Fund.
– Tonight I wish to make some remarks about the Postal Commission.
-No. That organisation was created by this Parliament and it is a monopoly, bureaucratic organisation. In my experience to date it has been unresponsive to the wishes of this Parliament and its members, and generally to the wishes of the public.
– I think you flatter it.
-‘ Unresponsive’ was the word I used. I intend tonight to relate to the Parliament my concern at the quality of stamps produced by the Postal Commission to assistin the celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. I thought honourable members might like me to show them the actual first day cover which was produced by the Postal Commission to celebrate the Jubilee.
– Let us look at it.
-I accept the Minister’s invitation, and members who wish to look at these stamps may do so. I have some from other countries, some in close proximity to our own, which have produced stamps that I believe are a more fitting tribute to Her Majesty and to this very special celebration. I show honourable members this magnificent collection from St Vincent, postmarked from Kingstown. It has depicted on it the kings and queens of England since William I. Each one of the stamps is a beauty in itself. When collated and put on a cover, I think they would do credit to any self-respecting nation.
– Does the gum taste nice?
-I would not like to try that. I understand there are other means of affixing stamps to envelopes. I recently became aware of the Cook Islands, which I understand is not a large nation. In fact, its population would do
credit to any country town. It has produced the magnificent first day cover which I have in my hand. If the stamps are broken up and taken out each one is delightful on its own.
– Did you send away for them?
-No, I have a very kind constituent who loaned them to me. Honourable members should take the opportunity to have a look at them tonight because they are going back with me tomorrow. From Barbuda there are stamps of equally great quality; from Togolaise stamps of considerable quality; from Tuvalu -
– Come again?
-Tuvalu, a Pacific island in our region of which we should take considerable notice because it does have interests in our own region. Again, it has produced stamps of great quality. Jersey and Guernsey, even Canada and New Zealand, have each produced stamps of much greater significance and greater worth than our own. Commentators on Australian stamps have had a great deal to say over a long period. In an article in the National Times last weekend a Mr Eric Partington said:
Australian stamp designs are regarded amongst the poorest in the world. Australia Post may think its stamps are good but dealers and collectors don’t.
I know there can be exceptions and I believe that the stamps for the centenary cricket match were an exception, but when one examines the article that I referred to earlier one becomes aware of the fact that when Australia widened its selection process to allow other people to contribute ideas the stamp quality improved. But when it was up to Australia Post’s own graphic arts department, with pictures chosen from the Library of the Australian Women’s Weekly, that was the standard that we achieved. New Zealand uses its stamps to promote itself as a country. I believe it is important that we use ours to promote ourselves as a self-respecting nation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I shall not detain the House long. I merely wish to pay a tribute to the late Hartley Cant who until recently was a senator in this Parliament. As he had retired for a number of years no official notice of his passing has been taken in this House. Hartley Cant was a senator from Western Australia whose mark was in the wisdom of his advice in his private conversations. He was a man of considerable political perception who cared very much about the right thing being done in Australian politics. He was the fatherinlaw of Lance Barnard, the father of Lance
Barnard’s wife. I think he was an influence on Mr Barnard which helped him to be a person of balance and perception in this Parliament. Hartley Cant was always a gracious friend to me. Of course I chiefly knew him on the long flights from Perth to Canberra. I know the new custom about condolences but I think it is regrettable that no notice is taken of his passing. I am sure that I express the sympathy of many honourable members who knew him to those members of bis family who mourn his loss.
-At a time when unemployment is foremost on our minds one would think we would be looking towards all tiers of government for complete co-operation to try to overcome what I believe is the greatest social problem that we have in Australia today. During this past week or so in Brisbane I have encountered a number of examples of a situation that has developed between developers, the people who want to expand their businesses, and the Brisbane City Council in relation to charges that the Council imposes upon those who want to undertake development. It happened in my electorate of Bowman when a group of businessmen from a light industrial estate based on Lytton Road in the Hemmant district came to see me about this problem. It would seem that a number of companies wanted to expand and therefore provide more employment for people in that area.
One case concerned the establishment of a new shed to house some materials and some machinery that was directly concerned in the manufacture of a series of boats. On application to the Brisbane City Council the company was told that before it could have approval to proceed with the construction it would have to provide in the vicinity of $8,000 for site approval. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is in the House tonight because he could be very interested indeed in what this $8,000 was to be used for. In fact it was to be used for the provision of road works and kerbing and guttering. The interesting thing is that Lytton Road has just been declared an export road and will be the major access road for the new Brisbane port and that moneys for that will be provided by the Commonwealth and State governments. In addition to the $8,000 the company was also asked to provide $ 1 1 ,800 to be used for the provision of underground power. This is interesting because on my investigations, and indeed on the investigations of this company concerned, the Brisbane City Council had no plans whatsoever for the provision of underground power in this area. The technical officers to whom I spoke told me that it was physically impossible to provide underground power to that area. I know that local governments have an awful problem making ends meet. The financing of local government is a desperate situation. Perhaps one can understand a request for $8000 for site approval, because that is, in fact, a Council regulation. But the provision of underground power is Council policy. It is not written into the regulations or ordinances of the Brisbane City Council. The net effect has been that this particular company and 7 or 8 others in this district now have no intention of expanding their businesses and thus providing the employment so desperately needed.
I do not think that the Queensland Local Government Department is completely without blemish. A report came out in 1968 on the operations of the Brisbane City Council. That was the Bennett report. The report said that there were many instances where the Brisbane City Council was operating outside its limits and was excessive in its demands on developers and people in industry. As far as I know, the State Government has made no move to enforce some of the recommendations that came out of the Bennett report. This situation has continued since 1968 to such a stage that it would seem that the Brisbane City Council can ask for almost anything from someone who wants to expand his business. The other frightening part of this aspect of the City Council ‘s operation is the fact that all these messages about the provision of finance for underground power and site approvals are given orally. Nothing is ever put on paper. In fact, repeated requests to the Council result in a completely negative response. It seems to me that something is rotten in Denmark or perhaps rotten in Brisbane.
– Is it a Labor council?
– It is a Labor council but, as I say, the Queensland Local Government Department is not completely without blemish either. We hope that we will see some rationalisation in order to overcome some of these problems and excessive demands, not only in the City Council area but also in local government areas throughout Queensland so that development can go ahead and provide the jobs which are so desperately needed.
-I thank the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) for being in attendance in the House. The matter I wish to raise is the accident investigation report into the Heron aircraft DH114 2E/A1 which crashed near Cairns airport in Queensland on 23 October 1975. 1 have brought this matter to the attention of the House on two previous occasions. First of all I asked the Minister for Transport, on 6 December 1976, to make the facts known to the House and to order a full public judicial inquiry into the accident. I raised the matter again on the adjournment on 8 December 1976. I drew the attention of honourable members to a number of points in the report, namely that 1 1 people had lost their lives, that there were in my opinion decided limitations in the experience of the pilot of the aircraft and that the report stated that 3 air traffic controllers were rostered on duty at the time of the accident. Two of them had been given relief and were not on duty even though the report said that if additional meteorological assistance had been given it would have been helpful at that time. Those facts are brought out in the report.
I have brought all these matters to the attention of honourable members. It is obvious from the report that the pilot was lost. The flight paths outlined in the report clearly show that to be so. Backbench supporters of the Government who hold pilots’ licences and who have an interest in aviation spoke to me after I had raised the matter in the House. They all expressed some surprise at the contents of the report. I hope that they went away and read it. I emphasise that I am not casting any aspersions on the Minister for Transport; he was not the Minister at the time. I was Minister when the accident occurred. I believe that when accidents of this type occur, when 1 1 people lose their lives in a fatal accident where there were obvious shortcomings in what happened at that particular time- the pilot had never landed the aircraft in bad weather though he had certainly made landings under an instrument landing system in all clear weatherthe matter should be investigated.
The accident happened in extremely stormy conditions. During one part of the flight path there was torrential rain, on another part there was heavy rain and on another part there was only light rain. If honourable members were to examine the plan that the investigation branch put together they would see that it was obvious that the pilot was lost. The question is: Why was he lost? Why did a pilot, who had made 40 flights into Cairns airport at night and who had never made a landing under adverse weather conditions, become lost? All of these things should be more closely reported upon and examined. They should be made public so that the relatives have the opportunity of being legally represented at a full judicial inquiry. At least they will then go away satisfied that the circumstances under which their relatives- their husband or their wife as the case may be- had lost their lives have been investigated fully. This is all I am asking for. I am making no charges against anyone on this particular matter. It is a clear case where an inquiry should have been held. I was disappointed to receive correspondence from the Minister on 14 January about this matter. Although I have not consulted the Minister, to save me reading the letter, I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Minister for Transport Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600. 14January 1977
Dear Mr Jones,
In response to your Question Without Notice on 6 December 1976 in respect of the accident to DH 1 14 Heron aircraft VH-CLS at Cairns on 23 October 1975, I indicated that the matter of whether or not a public inquiry will be held was under consideration.
I have now completed my examination of all matters associated with the accident, including a review of those aspects raised by you in the House on 6 December and 8 December 1976, and I believe that the public interest would not be served by the undertaking of a Board of Accident Inquiry for the further investigation of the accident.
Yours sincerely, P.J.NIXON
-I thank the Minister. In this letter the Minister has stated very clearly that he believes that the public interest would not be served by the undertaking of a Board of Accident Inquiry for the further investigation of the accident. I know that the Minister has 10 minutes in which to reply to this matter. He will not be taking up the time of other honourable members in this adjournment debate. He can speak for 10 minutes from 1 1 p.m. to 11.10 p.m. I should like to hear what he has to say to substantiate that claim.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Firstly I should like to pay a tribute to both teams that participated in the centenary cricket test. It was a magnificent game and a great tribute to the game of cricket itself. The result was fitting and a portent of what will happen during Australia’s tour of England in the next English season. I pay tribute also to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who is in the House tonight, in that the electorate of St George has benefited greatly in the past 12 months from a dramatic reduction in aircraft landings and takeoffs over that electorate. There were on average 20 fewer flights a day over the district. In 1973 the total number of flights into Sydney was 137 221; in 1974, 146 757; in 1975, 154 909 and in 1976, 153 693. There was a slight overall decrease in the number of flights into and out of Sydney in 1976. As far as the St George electorate is concerned, there was a dramatic decrease from an average 21 per cent of flights in 1975 to 19 per cent in 1976. In 1976 there were 3 1 per cent of landings over the St George area compared with 37 per cent of the total in 1 975. In 1 976 there was an average 6.9 per cent of takeoffs over the St George electorate compared with an average 10 per cent of the total figure in 1 975.
The preliminary figures indicate that the figures for jet aircraft were not quite the same but that there were still substantial decreases in the last 3 months of 1976 compared with the last 3 months of 1 975 when isolated figures commenced to be taken out. There are 3 main reasons for this decrease. The first relates to weather conditions. Weather conditions may have been more favourable and to a great extent weather conditions determine runway use. The noise regulations require that takeoffs be made over Botany Bay, except in adverse weather conditions. Secondly, there was a minor reduction in overall traffic. Although the decrease of 1200 flights is significant in relation to overall traffic, it could account for only a very small proportion of the reduction of more than 7000 flights over the St George electorate. Thirdly, there is a strict enforcement of the noise abatement procedures. It is good to see that this Government, under the present Minister for Transport, has taken very stringent steps to enforce the noise abatement procedures.
The dramatic reduction in aircraft movements over the St George electorate in one year must be related primarily to the actions of the Minister. Throughout the year he has made himself available for discussions and for representations in relation to the problem. He has visited the St George electorate. He has rigidly enforced the curfew. On one occasion a jet of Qantas Airways Ltd that landed in Bombay took off after the passengers on that jet had witnessed a most serious crash of a jet of Air India. They had seen people killed and injured. The Australian passengers on the Qantas jet were very upset. The crew of that jet sought permission to land at Sydney Airport after the curfew began, but that permission was refused. Eventually, by adopting special procedures the jet cruised at a faster rate than normal and arrived at Sydney Airport just before the curfew began. However, the principle had been set. Even in those circumstances the application for the jet to land at Sydney Airport within the normal curfew hours was refused. I hope that the new study going on into Sydney Airport will come up with recommendations which will advance even more the environmental factors involved and thus assist the people of St George.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Firstly, I wish to support the remarks of my colleague the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) about the late Senator Hartley Cant. I rose tonight simply to place on the record a letter with reference to Timor that I delivered to the Prime Minister of Portugal in January. This is in response to some of the things that are going on at the moment. It indicates to the people concerned and to the Indonesian Government in particular that in Australia there are people who will not knuckle under to Indonesian threats. I think that what has happened in the last few days is an insufferable impertinence. I do not know for how long the Australian Government intends to allow the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and his Department to act as puppets for the Indonesian Government. I delivered this letter to the office of the Prime Minister of Portugal in Lisbon:
Parliament of Australia House of Representatives
Parliament House Canberra A.C.T. 2600 Tel. 72 1211 14 January 1977
The Hon. Dr Mario Soares, Prime Minister of Portugal, National Assembly, Lisbon, Portugal
My dear Prime Minister,
I have come to Lisbon to press on you as stongly as I can the necessity of your Government rejecting all demands by Indonesia to have your approval for the integration of East Timor into that Republic.
The Indonesian Government has carried out an act of naked aggression against the helpless people of East Timor and the Indonesian Armed Forces have committed many atrocities in doing so. I appeal to you in the name of humanity and on behalf of many of my colleagues in the Parliament of Australia to use your influence at the United Nations and elsewhere to have the Indonesian troops withdrawn and for the people of Timor to be given the opportunity to decide their future for themselves in accordance with the principles of the United Nations.
Many Australians are afraid that if the aggression against Timor goes unchallenged that the Indonesian Government which has already absorbed West New Guinea-now West Irian- will make demands upon the newly independent nation of Papua New Guinea.
This letter and my presence here in Lisbon confirms the cable sent you some months ago on the subject to which a number of my colleagues were signatories.
Yours sincerely, GORDON M. BRYANT, M.P. (I am Chairman of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Labor Party in the Parliament of Australia. )
I hope that honourable members, no matter what their feelings may be about the legitimacy or otherwise of Indonesian action, will demand that the Australian Government resist the present knuckling under to the Indonesian Government and that Government’s interference in all sorts of matters. Earlier I noticed that my colleague the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) wanted to say something in this debate, so I will have to sit down now. However, before doing so, I suggest to my friend the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) that a good example of stamps produced by a small community which lives on a small dot of land is the stamps of Norfolk Island. They are always very tastefully designed; they are always effective; and with penny postage rates the Norfolk Islanders make a good profit out of their postage system.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I had intended to speak on another matter, but I must associate our side of the House with the expressions of condolence by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley) who was supported by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) with respect to the late former Senator Cant. As a Western Australian, I knew Hartley Cant. Our roles were different. We rarely agreed but we did find some agreement about some things. In fact I recollectthis is probably the wrong time to mention itthat he told me the funniest story that I have ever heard in my life. For that I will remember him. All I can do is to endorse the words of the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) as reported in Hansard at page 1 72 on Tuesday last when speaking of the late former Senator Armstrong, and wish a happy repose to the soul of Hartley Cant.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I associate the Government with the sentiments of the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) in respect of the late Hartley Cant. I do that with all sincerity.
The purpose for which I rose tonight was fundamentally to address myself to the question raised by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). I appreciate the fact that he was good enough to notify my office that he proposed to raise the matter. I am aware of the compassionate concern that he feels very deeply for the bereaved of those involved in the air accident at Cairns in 197S. I am unable tonight to satisfy his demand and to explain the words in my letter to him. I propose, in the course of next week, to invite him to talk to me about this subject in the hope that I might be able to assist him and to satisfy his concern. I shall extend that invitation to him formally next week.
Having said that, I thank the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) for his comments about my efforts to try to assist those people who live in that plagued area around Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport. I appreciate the fact that he has noticed the actions which have been taken on his behalf.
-The debate having concluded, the House stands adjourned until Tuesday next at 2. 1 5 p.m.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770317_reps_30_hor104/>.