30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
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 50 per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr Carige, Mr Corbett, Mr Groom, Mr Kelly, Mr McLean, Mr McVeigh, Mr Eric Robinson and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume, Dr Klugman and Mr Ian Robinson.
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 grave concern is expressed about the Government’s intention to dismantle the Australian Legal Aid Office which is providing efficient, readily available legal aid to all communities in Australia.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will undertake a full national inquiry as proposed in 1975 by the present Attorney-General, as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Drummond and Mr Martyr.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads for the funding of rural local roads and urban local roads in New South Wales for the triennium 1977-1980. byMrBradfield.
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 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 recently imposed ban by the Government of the U.S.S.R. on the importation of flour and flour products into that country directly prevents Soviet Jews from obtaining kosher unleavened bread for the purpose of observing the forthcoming festival of Passover.
That this Parliament reaffirms its commitment to the principle of freedom of religious belief.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Members in Parliament assembled will move to initiate international action against the said import ban and protest to the Government of the U.S.S.R. against such restrictions on religious observance.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray by Mr Chipp.
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:
Whereas many countries of northern and central Africa have been deeply embroiled in revolutions, racial violence, massacres, forced starvation, abductions, terrorism and discrimination of all kinds without the United Nations instigating sanctions or other penalty, and
Whereas the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations, and
Whereas the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions andsanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of the other aforementioned lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the elected Rhodesian government, and
Whereas Lord Graham as Minister for External Affairs and Defence has said:
International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa, . . . It is even more difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . . ‘and
Whereas ample evidence is offered of Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, whilst today trained Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25 000 are evidently dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles, etc.
So therefore it is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggle.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the House of Representatives,in Parliament assembled, will accordingly observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting duly authorised representatives of the present Rhodesian Government to Australia to do what they have not been allowed to do before, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Katter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, it is the considered opinion of certain disabled and able, citizens of Australia, that to discontinue the Australian Assistance Plan would very greatly affect the members of the community most in need of independent involvement and assistance in the overall development and planning of welfare services.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Assistance Plan be continued.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not reintroduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the 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.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) left Australia on 20 March for discussions in the United States of America with the Secretary of State, Mr Cyrus Vance, and with other senior officials. He is expected to return on 30 March. During his absence the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
EAST TIMOR Notice of Motion
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the House notes:
That there have been numerous allegations made against the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition that he acquiesced in or encouraged the Indonesian take-over of East Timor;
That a great deal of material has been made public to show that Indonesian intentions to invade East Timor had developed from late 1974;
That at no stage did the former Government seek to raise the matter in the United Nations;
A report that on 7 October 1975 Indonesian regular troops under the command of the Kostrad unit crossed into East Timor;
A report of an attack on Batugarde on 1 6 October 1 975;
That Australian journalists were killed in East Timor;
That the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister wrote to the President of Indonesia on 7 November 1 975 to set out his views on the matter;
That the Honourable the Leader of the Opposition has publicly claimed that the Indonesian President gave him guarantees that no force would be used;
A report in the National Times of 21-26 March 1977 stating that a secret Foreign Affairs briefing paper dated 25 November 1975 outlining the Indonesian Army’s original plans for a combined air and sea operation was made available to the former Government;
The House therefore resolves that the matter be referred to the Royal Commission on Security and Intelligence with extended terms of reference and time to report to determine the extent of the knowledge of the former Government of the events in regard to East Timor prior to its dismissal from office.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. It arises from the Australian Statistician’s statement last Tuesday on the adjustment of the census figures for an underenumeration of some 367 000. Are the population statistics now sufficiently accurate for a calculation to be made of the number of members to which each State is entitled in this House and for the distribution of electoral divisions to proceed?
– The matter is the subject of consultation with my colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services. When I have information to provide the honourable gentleman with the details he seeks I will certainly do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He will be aware of the difficulties currently facing people seeking employment while at the same time employers are frequently finding difficulty in filling jobs. Will the Minister consider providing an opportunity for people to discuss these problems with Commonwealth Employment Service staff in an atmosphere free from immediate work pressures?
-I am aware of the situation to which the honourable gentleman has referred, and I welcome his question. It raises an important issue which has already received some consideration by the Government and my Department in a somewhat wider context. I am now in a position to make a statement to the House on the issues that he has raised, and immediately after question time I will be seeking leave to inform the House what we intend to do in the immediate future.
-Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a recent statement by the Australian Industries Development Association in which the Association warned the Government not to introduce its proposed industrial relations bureau on the grounds that it may cause massive confrontation with the trade union movement, that it represents unwarranted interference in industry by government, that it would frustrate conciliation and aggravate industrial disputes, that the application of penalties would serve no practical purpose, and that it would adversely affect economic recovery and wage restraint? In view of such severe criticism of the Government’s proposed legislation by a key industry organisation representing major manufacturing corporations, will the Prime Minister now consider not proceeding with it?
– I have noted some aspects of the criticisms that have been made, but I can only repeat that I think this House would be well advised to wait until the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations introduces the Bill, which will lie on the table for an adequate period. The Minister will clearly be giving a fully detailed statement concerning the Government’s proposals, and in that it will become quite clear that a major objective of the Government in these matters is to protect the rights of individual employees against opressive actions by unions or by employers. The Government believes that industrial relations will be very much advanced by the imaginative proposals that my colleague will be introducing.
-Has the Minister for Health seen recent Press reports concerning alleged ineligibility of professional sportsmen for Medibank benefits? Can he indicate whether these reports are accurate? Can he also undertake to examine the apparent anomaly whereby persons injured while playing sport are not entitled to reimbursement of dental bills?
– I have seen the Press reports that appeared in the Australian last week in relation to a story that Dennis Lillee would not be eligible for Medibank benefits. I have replied by way of a letter today to the Australian stating the facts. For the benefit of the House, the facts are as follows: Professional sportsmen, as all Australians, are entitled to health insurance benefits from Medibank Standard or from any other fund. However, health insurance benefits may not be paid where persons are covered by workers’ compensation. This amendment to the Health Insurance Act was passed by this House and became effective as from 1 October. Prior to the amendment huge sums of money were being paid by the Government- therefore by the taxpayersto insurance companies. In fact our investigations indicated that in the last financial year $30m was paid out to insurance companies which would otherwise have had to cover workers, sportsmen or other people who were covered under workers’ compensation. There is no question of professional sportsmen- or for that matter amateur sportsmen like the honourable member for Swan- or any others being denied medical benefits if they are not entitled to compensation.
In response to the second part of the honourable member’s question, let me state that benefits for dental services are not presently provided by Medibank. However, a number of private health insurance organisations offer supplementary benefits. Conditions for payment of medical benefits would generally apply equally to the payment of dental benefits for injuries sustained in sport.
– I think that the honourable gentleman needs to look at those National Accounts figures from a slightly wider perspective than that contained in his question. If the honourable gentleman will follow me for a moment I would like to indicate what happened in 1974, 1975 and 1976. If he compares the percentage increase in real gross non-farm product for the December quarters he will find that under the Australian Labor Party Government in 1 974 the December quarter figure was 0.1 per cent greater than that for the December quarter a year before. In December 1975 it was 0.6 per cent less than for the December quarter of the year before. The increase in the December quarter of 1976 was 5.2 per cent greater than in the December quarter the year before. I believe that that confirms that over the year 1976 the Commonwealth of Australia returned to the growth path which had been the pattern in the 1960s. Other figures can be provided. The honourable member will find that in the first half of 1976 the real gross non-farm product increased by 2.9 per cent over the second half of 1975. In the second half of 1976 there was an increase of 3 per cent over the first half of 1976. Again these figures demonstrate that Australia is back on the growth path.
If the honourable member cares to look at other figures of real gross national expenditure he will find that the percentage increase for the December quarter of 1974 was 2.1 per cent greater than for 1973. In December 1975, Labor’s pinnacle year, there was a 3 per cent reduction over the December 1974 figure. In December 1976 there was a noticeable, over 5 per cent, increase over the December 1975 figure. These figures again indicate a continuous trend towards improving production. I think it is worth noting also that a number of bodies in recent times have indicated that they believe that recovery in Australia is progressing, albeit at a modest rate and albeit patchily. Nobody has ever suggested on behalf of the Government that the December quarter National Accounts figures indicate any cause for complacency; they certainly do not, and a great deal remains to be done. But we believe that in the first year in office significant progress has been made.
While I am indicating some figures to the House I would like to give the implicit price deflators which I believe most economists and certainly our advisers believe are a more accurate record of inflationary movements within Australia than the consumer price index. I would like to indicate the comparisons between December 1975 and December 1976. The implicit price deflator for the major gross national expenditure components in December 1975 was 4.5 per cent for the quarter. In December 1976 it was 1.4 per cent for the quarter, having an annual rate very, very much better therefore than that indicated by the figure of 4.5 per cent which was the final figure available for a period when our predecessors were in office. So again this indicates a significant reduction in the underlying level of inflation and I believe it is a much more appropriate measure than the consumer price index. I think honourable members should look at these figures in detail and not take out one particular figure and try to make a point of it.
-Has the Prime Minister heard of complaints about the standard of service provided to the public by counter staff in the Commonwealth Public Service? If so, does he intend to take any action to improve the standard of service across the counter to members of the Australian community?
-The Government believes that by far the greater part of those providing over-the-counter services to members of the public on behalf of the Commonwealth do so conscientiously and to the best of their ability within the resources that they have available to them. Having said that, we are also concerned to make sure that services are delivered in the best and the most sympathetic manner possible, especially to people who might have newly arrived in Australia and who, not knowing their way around Government departments all that well, might be put off by being told in the Department of Social Security, ‘You should be going to the Department of Housing’, for example. Therefore we have established an interdepartmental committee comprised largely of those departments that are involved in supplying over-the-counter services to members of the public, to ascertain what procedures and what additional elements of training and advice might be offered which would enable these services to be provided in the most sympathetic manner possible and in the most considerate manner so far as the general members of the public are concerned. I would hope and I would believe that the departments concerned would hope that as a result of this report it will be possible to make noticable improvements.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister is aware that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal adjourned in Hobart today in order to seek legal advice on a submission that the Chairman should not have been appointed because he had pecuniary interests that could be in conflict with his duties. I ask: Is the Minister aware that on 8 January, over 2 weeks after Mr Gyngell’s appointment was made, he was reported in the National Times as admitting that until his appointment he was working as a consultant for the Nine network and that he would now give up all his television interests? I further ask: Why is the Minister taking so long to answer the question about Mr Gyngell’s interests which I put on notice for him on the 15th of last month and again on the 8th of this month?
-I am not aware of any information which would suggest to me or anybody else that the appointment of Mr Gyngell was other than proper in all respects. I am aware of some occurrence this morning in Tasmania and my understanding is that Mr Gyngell will be making a statement this afternoon on that matter. I have not deliberately held up a reply to the Leader of the Opposition. I have been making sure that I have all the facts. I repeat that the appointment of Mr Gyngell was one of a person with an immense background and experience in the broadcasting industry. I believe his chairmanship will bring a sense of initiative and enterprise. No information that I had or now have suggests in any way that it was other than a proper appointment.
Mr Lloyd proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry-
– Order! A question which asks a Minister to announce policy is out of order. A question which provides facts beyond those necessary to establish the basis of a question is also out of order. The honourable gentleman has transgressed on both points. I now ask him to ask his question immediately. Otherwise I shall rule him out of order.
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer to reports that the Government is considering cutbacks in social welfare expenditure. Are measures such as restoring the means test on pensions, including repatriation pensions, being contemplated? Can the Treasurer give the House a firm guarantee that these measures will not be introduced?
-The honourable gentleman is seeking to confuse comments I made last weekend in relation to the question of social welfare. The comments that I made might bear recording in this place. I stated that Commonwealth expenditure on education, housing, social security and welfare will amount to almost $12 billion or about one-half of expected total outlays in this financial year. The dramatic expansion of welfare programs over recent years is a very important, if not the principal, reason why such a heavy burden has been placed on Australian taxpayers. I went on to say- I specifically underline these comments:
No one here today would qualify in any way the need, indeed the obligation, for the Government to give adequate financial support to groups in the community that are genuinely disadvantaged. Nevertheless, I make it clear that the present Government, in drawing up this year’s Budget will be looking to assist those who have a genuine need and not those who patently do not.
I would also like to comment on the television program This Day Tonight which featured the same issue. I regard the comments made on that television program as a complete, utter and grossly irresponsible misrepresentation of the statements which in fact were made.
Opposition members- Oh!
– I put it in a gentle way. Quite contrary to what I said, the program sought to give the impression that the Government would be looking to cut out those programs that are fulfilling an important role in the area of social welfare. What must be understood is that the Government has an obligation to ensure that welfare programs are not rendered inefficient by excessive administration and delivery costs, such as those that occurred under the former Administration, and that they are not directed towards those in the Australian community who have a capacity to look after themselves. That statement stands on its own.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. On 23 September 1976 the Prime Minister announced in the Parliament: the Government will be putting down a regulation which will enable the Industrial Registrar to require trade unions to notify the Registrar of their next forthcoming ballot Under these provisions there would be a continuing record held by the Industrial Registrar of ballots for all trade union elections and, therefore, anyone would be able to find out what ballots were to be held in the next few months.
Can the Minister please advise the House of the present position with regard to such proposed regulations?
– I am pleased to be able to inform honourable members that the regulations to which the Prime Minister referred last year have been approved. They come into operation on their gazettal, which I understand was yesterday. They require each organisation registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to file with the Industrial Registrar by 1 September of each year the details of elections to be held in the 12 months commencing from 1 January of the following year. If no nominations are due during the period they are required to file a return to that effect. The first 12-month period will apply from 1 January 1978.
The information which has been filed is required to be published by the Industrial Registrar in such newspapers as are likely to come to the attention of members of the organisations concerned. In relation to elections for the first 6 months of each year, the information must be published in the October immediately preceding that 6 month period. The information in relation to those elections for the second 6 months of each year must be published in the April preceding that 6 month period. With respect to the interim period between now and 1 January 1978, each organisation must file with the Registrar details of the type that I mentioned a moment ago by 1 July. If no nominations are due in that period they must file a return to that effect. The Industrial Registrar will be required to publish that information on the first Saturday in August of this year.
These regulations reflect the Government’s firm belief that an informed membership is essential to the democratic control of industrial organisations. Members can participate fully in the affairs of their organisation only if they are fully informed about them so that they are able to act in a constructive and democratic way. The regulations are a further step in implementing our policy of encouraging representative industrial organisation, composed of members who are informed about their affairs and operating democratically to further the legitimate industrial interests of all those who might benefit.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Are total housing finance approvals by savings and trading banks and permanent building societies important indicators of the future of a business cycle? Between January 1976 and January 1977 did approvals fall by 21 per cent for saving banks, by 17 per cent for trading banks and by 17 per cent for permanent building societies? Do those figures suggest that the building industry is likely to become even more depressed than it has been recently? Will the Government consider changing its monetary or fiscal policy to cope with this deepening recession in the building industry?
– There is no deepening recession in the building industry. The Government has no intention of departing from its overall monetary policy, which is to provide a sufficient rate of growth in the monetary aggregates to skim off excess liquidity but at the same time not to be accommodating to the rate of inflation. So far as the key indicators in the housing industry are concerned, firstly, if the honourable gentleman wants the facts, real private investment for dwellings for the December quarter of 1976 was 20 per cent higher than in the same period one year earlier. Secondly, total dwelling approvals for the 3 months to January were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 154 000 compared with 147 600 in the same period last year. Thirdly, total dwelling commencements, seasonally adjusted, in the December quarter were running at the annual rate of 148 000 compared with 133 600 a year earlier. Fourthly, total dwelling completions in the December quarter were 10 per cent higher than they were in the same quarter of 1975. Fifthly, lending for housing rose steadily in the second half of 1976 from somewhat constrained levels experienced around the middle of 1976, although there was some partly seasonal moderation in January of this year.
So far as the overall process of lending is concerned, the key facts are these: In the December quarter the value of total lending for new housing by all significant institutions was greater than it had been in any of the 4 preceding quarters. Information for January is available only for banks and building societies. It shows in fact that although there has been some strengthening in borrowers’ preference for established dwellings, the value of total approvals by these institutions to the 3 months to January was $ 1,047m compared with $ 1,077m for the 3 months to October. I know that some concern has been expressed of the type mirrored here by the honourable gentleman. I repeat what I said earlier: We do not intend to depart from the overall firm stance of monetary policy which is to provide adequate capacity to underwrite economic recovery but not at the same time to be accommodating to the process of inflation, which the honourable gentleman bears some responsibility for in terms of former administration.
– I rise to order, Mr Speaker. Under standing order 321, I require the Treasurer to table the 2 documents from which he has been quoting.
– I ask the right honourable the Treasurer whether he was quoting from a document.
– Two documents.
– Was he quoting from 2 documents?
– I think I managed to quote from one. I am happy to put it on the table as a record of the position. There it is.
– What about the other one?
– I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he was quoting from 2 documents, as suggested in the point of order?
– I quoted from only one document and that is on the table, Mr Speaker.
-I ask the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: In view of the rapid decline in Australia’s population growth and in view of the fact that substantial gains on account of net migration made in the 1960s have during the 1970s been turned into net losses, will the Minister give urgent consideration to converting the present annual immigration target of 70 000 settler arrivals into a target of net population gain through immigration of 70 000? Does the Minister agree that if this were done, firstly many more family reunions could be accomplished and, secondly, job opportunities could be created far in excess of those which would be sought by the new settlers arriving?
– I have noticed an increasing public debate in relation to the level of immigration intake. As honourable members know, last week I tabled in this House a Green Paper on Australia’s immigration and population policies. That Green Paper, just to reiterate briefly, proposes various alternatives. It does not make any recommendations. The objective is to stimulate wide public debate in relation to alternative policies. I have noticed that employer groups have suggested that there may be a marked lack of skilled tradesmen available not only at present but certainly also in the future and that one way of overcoming this deficiency, in addition to having such people trained in Australia, would be to recruit them overseas.
I know that there is a wide divergence of public opinion in relation to the intake of migrants. Some people would suggest that in fact it is highly inflationary to bring more migrants to Australia: others would suggest that in fact what the economy needs is the stimulus provided by an increased migrant inflow, and I believe that that is what the honourable member is suggesting. The annual intake is a matter for Cabinet discussion. I shall be putting a submission to the Cabinet in the coming months. Of course I should not like to pre-empt- in fact I could not pre-empt- the Cabinet decision. However, I am aware of the discussion taking place in the community. I am aware of the very strong views that many migrants hold in relation to family reunion. I shall certainly take on board the suggestions made by the honourable member and other honourable members in relation to the question of the migrant intake.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry concerned that meat exporters are continuing to increase their profits while beef producers’ returns are still deplorably low? Is the Minister aware that Anderson Meat Industries Ltd, which had a profit increase of over 100 per cent in 1 975, recently announced a further increase of 39 per cent in profits for 1976? Is the Minister concerned that some exporting firms use stock from their own properties to manipulate the market to the detriment of other producers? In view of these considerations, will the Minister consider a full-scale government inquiry into meat marketing in Australia which has been suggested by some producer organisations and which may lead to measures to curb the exploitation of beef producers by meat processors?
– The question is reminiscent of earlier efforts made while the Labor Party was in office to reduce prices paid to beef producers and, indeed, all meat producers. The present position is that there is certainly a disparity between returns being taken by processors and exporters and prices paid in the sale yards. This is a question which I have mentioned in the House previously. I believe it is a matter of concern to the extent that if a fair and reasonable price is not paid to producers the survival of those producers is itself prejudiced. Nonetheless, I think it also ought to be mentioned that for so many in the Labor Party the thought that somebody might make a profit seems almost to be abhorrent. It is necessary in the meat industry that everybody makes a profit. The objective of our Government has been not just that the producers should make a profit- unfortunately they are not doing so at the moment- but that everybody along the chain should receive a fair and reasonable return.
The tragedy is that the cost of handling meat -of killing meat and of transferring it from the paddock to the butcher’s shelf- is now quite out of line with the price paid to the producer. Indeed, if there were an inquiry, it would highlight the extent to which escalating wages and handling costs within meatworks in particular, aligned with industrial unrest, are very major factors in determining the low level of producers ‘ returns. The Government is concerned about achieving a fair return to cattlemen. Indeed, it has undertaken through discussions with meat exporters and others, a very firm effort to try to persuade them that it is essential that there be a greater price paid to producers. In the meantime, we are accelerating the introduction of classification. With classification more readily available, other options might well be available to the Government and to the industry.
-Will the Minister for Post and Telecommunications assure the House that, notwithstanding the need for clarification of certain aspects of the area to be served by a radio station for the western suburbs, a licence will be granted for that significant area of New South Wales of which Parramatta is the centre?
-I give the honourable member for Parramatta an assurance that this question of providing a radio licence for that part of suburban Sydney and New South Wales to which he referred is presently under review. As the House knows, I decided not to accept a recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to issue a licence to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd.
-If the honourable member wants to know, I suggest that he reads a Press release which I made on about 10 March. I want to add nothing to it. I simply said that, having looked at the recommendation, I had reached a decision not to accept it. There have been substantial changes in the area and in the development of the area generally. I have asked the Postal and Telecommunications Department to take a survey of it and to make certain facts available to me. Then I will reach the decision about which the honourable member for Parramatta has asked me a question. However, it ought to be said that in such a developing area radio broadcasting licences will need to be given, but it is important that when they are given they serve in a useful and purposeful way.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Was it in his office last Wednesday night or in the parliamentary courtyard on Thursday that he told the honourable member for Franklin that the honourable member was behaving like a grub and should go back to Tasmania and bury himself in an apple? Was the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development present? Is the Prime Minister aware of the Minister’s pet name and how this outburst might have hurt the Minister’s feelings?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Very well, Mr Speaker. Did the Minister take exception to the terms of abuse chosen by the Prime Minister to upbraid the honourable member who was seeking to defend his island’s most celebrated but struggling industry?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. I call the Prime Minister.
– I suggest that the honourable gentleman advise the Parliament and the public what has happened in Caucus in the last two or three days and what happens in the next couple of months.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Government consider the introduction of a price stabilisation scheme for beef based on a New Zealand type visual classification system if saleyard prices do not improve?
– The New Zealand system has certain quite marked differences from the system which operates in Australia. Firstly, consignment selling is the normal practice. Classification is universal. Beginning with that advantage, New Zealand was able to utilise some $80m, which it had in kitty as a result of sales of meat according to the terms of an arrangement with the United Kingdom, towards the establishment of a stabilisation scheme. Unfortunately, none of those 3 conditions precedent is applicable to the Australian beef industry. It should be said that the Federal and State governments have lent financial support to the acceleration of trials of a classification scheme. As a result, there are a number of trial installations in abattoirs throughout Australia. Together with the Australian Meat Board, we are endeavouring, in every possible way, to accelerate the maximum availability of a classification scheme. The honourable gentleman asked about consignment selling. As he would know, the system of offering stock for sale varies considerably around Australia. A stabilisation scheme on the New Zealand basis would provide a minimum price at the point of slaughter. Very large numbers of stock are still sent to local saleyards and offered by auction in circumstances in which more often than not the producer might not receive that minimum price.
There is one other difference that needs to be kept in mind. As I understand current minimum prices in New Zealand, they are somewhere below the prices paid at auction for comparable qualities of stock in Australia. I am told that last week, for example, equivalent stock in Australia were somewhere about 50c per kilo for steers and 42c per kilo for cows, whereas the minimum New Zealand prices were 48c per kilo for prime steers and 35c per kilo for cows for manufacturing purposes. That comparison, of course, does not tell the full story. There are only 12 exporters in New Zealand. There are more than 200 exporters in Australia. There is a wide diversity in geographic circumstance of production and in types of cattle offering. Nonetheless, the honourable gentleman’s question does indicate the very real concern that producers in Australia have for ways by which they can increase their present returns. That is something that is of great concern to the Government; it is something which we have taken up with individual exporters. It is a matter of continuing concern for the Australian Meat Board.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs concerning the arrival and entry of an American gangster under a name different from that under which he was convicted. Since the Minister for Administrative Services stated on the last sitting day that the Commonwealth Police had received information that this person was likely to arrive 3 days before he did arrive and that the Commonwealth Police did not consult any other departments before meeting him on his arrival and accompanying him to and through Customs, I ask the Minister whether he will arrange for the Commonwealth Police to get in touch with his own Department at airports when they learn of the possible or imminent arrival of persons with criminal records.
-As the Leader of the Opposition would know, responsibility for the Commonwealth Police is vested in my colleague the Minister for Administrative Services. I did note the matter to which he alluded. I was disturbed by it. I have written to my colleague and suitable arrangements will be made in future.
-Has the Prime Minister seen recent Press reports that several major groups have reported increased signs of economic recovery? Do these reports confirm the Government’s statements on economic progress?
– I believe there is now coming to be more widely held recognition that the Government’s policies are appropriate, that the Government’s policies are correct and that they must be maintained. In recent times the Government has been in quite close discussion with a number of leaders in different sectors of the Australian economy. There has been broad, general and firm support for the views being taken by the Government and for the policies that are being followed.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has reported signs of optimism having returned in most of manufacturing industry. John P. Young and Associates has said that business in New South Wales is slowly emerging from an economic slump. The Australian Industries Development Association has indicated that decline appears to have halted and that economic recovery is getting under way. The Australian and New Zealand Bank survey of business indicators reports that after 2 years of near stagnation the economy is now experiencing mild expansion. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia-Bank of New South Wales survey indicates stronger expectations over the next 6 months. I would believe that all of these things are encouraging signs.
There are certain areas of New South Wales, about which the Government is concerned and about which I would give Mr Wran the credit also of being concerned. Quite clearly the employment situation there is worse than and has deteriorated more than in other States but the prospects of economic recovery will only be pushed off into the future by unwise, very indefinite and vague talk about worker participation and all the rest. I suppose that to some extent if the Premier continues on that path it might well be good news for other States because I have already heard reports that some businesses in New South Wales will be examining expansion in or moving to other States because of the concerns that have been expressed as a result of the Premier’s statements.
It is not only a question of what the Premier might intend; it is also the very vagueness of what he has had in mind that has caused concern. People just do not know. I believe it is the wrong time to embark on moves of this kind which are only going to cause additional uncertainty. But having said that, I conclude by saying that a number of industry groups are now of the view that the economy is emerging from the recession that had been caused by the 3 disastrous years of labor.
- Mr Speaker, as required by section 7 of the Representation Act I present the certificate of the Chief Australian Electoral Officer setting forth the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and of the several States in accordance with the latest statistics of the Commonwealth. I also present the notification made by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer under section 1 1 of the Representation Act setting forth the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in several States. I seek leave to make a very brief statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. The Chief Australian Electoral Officer has now received the latest population statistics from the Australian Statistician. As a result, the Chief Australian Electoral Officer’s certificate of the numbers of people of the Commonwealth and of the States is as follows: New South Wales, 4 932 900; Victoria, 3 764 500; Queensland, 2 121 700; South Australia, 1 268 800; Western Australia, 1 183 700; Tasmania, 409 300; the Commonwealth, 13 680 900. As required under section 1 1 of the Representation Act the Chief Australian Electoral Officer has also provided a notification setting out the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States as follows: New South Wales, 43; Victoria, 33; Queensland, 19; South Australia, 11; Western Australia, 10; Tasmania, 5. The current State representation in the House of Representatives is: New South Wales, 45; Victoria, 34; Queensland, 18; South Australia, 12; Western Australia, 10; Tasmania, 5.
– by leave- The Government has decided to provide the opportunity for individuals and employers with particular employment problems to discuss them with senior Commonwealth Employment Services staff. Selected offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong will open on late shopping nights for a trial period until the end of April. The offices will be: Sydney- Caringbah, Fairfield, Hornsby, Hurstville, Liverpool; Melbourne Frankston, Northcote, Prahran, Ringwood, St Albans; Geelong- Corio. Their location and phone numbers are listed in an attachment which I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Northcote: 2 1 1A High Street, Northcote, Victoria 3070, Tel: 489 62222
-The aim is to provide a convenient time for those with particular employment problems, be they unemployed persons, parents of young school leavers without jobs or employers who cannot fill vacant positions, to review fully with senior CES staff, including vocational psychologists, what their difficulties are and how they might be further assisted. Advertisements will be placed in local suburban newspapers in the districts in which the trial arrangements will operate. They will invite individuals and employers with particular problems to ring for an after hours appointment for the night on which the selected offices will be open. Persons who call at the office without prior appointments will be given appointments either for that night or for a later date. Offices participating in the scheme have been selected for their proximity to busy shopping centres. They have also been selected so as to test the idea over a range of different districts.
The night of the week on which an office will open will be the main late shopping night for the district. The hours of opening will be 6.30 to 9.00 p.m. The CES offices will not be conducting normal business at night. Persons who want to register for employment and employers who want to lodge vacancies should therefore continue to do this in normal office hours. We will be monitoring these trial arrangements so that we may determine whether they should be continued and to what extent offices in other districts and cities could, with advantage, be included in the scheme. I shall keep honourable members informed. I present the following paper:
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-In relation to the statement just made by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), the Opposition wishes to make the point that that statement has been made by the Minister- it involves additional work by staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service- without any consultation to my knowledge with the CES staff and certainly with no consultation with the union in which 96 per cent of CES staff are involved, the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. I think this is a deplorable situation and it shows that this exercise which has been announced today by the Minister is more for cosmetic appearancesso that the Government may be seen to be doing something about unemploymentrather than a serious desire to achieve some significant improvement in the service provided by the CES.
It is a serious situation indeed that the Minister has seen fit to ignore the CES staff and their union in announcing this statement today at a time when there is a serious industrial situation developing within the CES, particularly in New South Wales. That serious situation has arisen over the fact that the union alleges substantial under-manning by the Government of the Commonwealth Employment Service offices. The fact is that over the last 7 years the number of staff in the CES offices in New South Wales and to a lesser extent elsewhere- in New South Wales the situation is most serious- has increased 2 times and the number of unemployed has increased 9 times. So quite clearly the standard of service which is being offered by the CES officers to the unemployed, through no fault of their own, has deteriorated substantially. This is one of the reasons why the Service is inefficient and one of the reasons why the people wanting jobs cannot find jobs or why employers cannot get people sent to them. The staff have no time to indulge in the matching process which is so necessary in order to relate applicants for employment with the jobs that are registered. It is a serious matter that this cosmetic procedure has been introduced without any consultation and at a time when the dispute has gone before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is before the Deputy Australian Public Service Arbitrator, Commissioner Booth. The Minister, living up to his name as the Minister for Unemployment and Industrial Disputation -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw the remark.
-The honourable gentleman must know that courtesies need to be afforded in the House from both sides, one to the other.
-I withdraw the remark, Mr Speaker. I suggest that it is not a very good exercise in industrial relations to indulge in what will be seen by the CES staff as a provocative action. To my knowledge it will certainly result in protests being made by the union to the Minister because of the action which he has taken today. Certainly it may have some marginal effect in helping the unemployed. I do not deny that for a moment. It may nave a marginal effect- I emphasise the word ‘marginal’- because people will have to make appointments to see those senior staff who will be obliged to work on late shopping nights whether they like it or not under these procedures. If the Government is really serious about doing something to improve the service provided by the Commonwealth Employment Service it will not do it by these means. This will cause more disharmony in the CES. If the Government really wants to do something about it it should stop clamping down on the number of people employed in the CES as it has done through the continuous application of staff ceilings. Despite the proliferation of announcements of additional staff for the CES-the 250 staff increase has been announced two or three times and lately has been updated to 300- the increase still has not eventuated. If the Government is really serious about wanting to improve the Service it has to increase substantially the number of people employed by the Service so that they can give a decent service to the people coming into the office and wanting some attention. The Government should not just treat the whole thing as a dole office where people are stuck on the books and, if they meet the Government’s strict requirements, they receive the unemployment benefit and, if they do not, they are struck off. The Government is not treating it as an employment agency but rather as a place to see whether people qualify for the dole. The Opposition thinks this approach is by no means good enough.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same matter.
-Is leave granted?
Government members- No.
-Leave is not granted.
– What! That shows the Government’s interest in employment. It is not concerned about the people in the outer western suburbs of Sydney. What about Blacktown and Mount Druitt?
-The honourable member will resume his seat.
– by leave- I make this statement on behalf of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). As many honourable members will know, the Government has been exploring with State governments the financial arrangements that should be made in respect of the protection afforded to Commonwealth property by fire brigade services in the States. There have been various questions on this matter in both Houses of the Parliament and many other requests for information on the matter have also been received. It is believed that it would be helpful to make a brief statement on the arrangements that have now been made.
In 1905 the Commonwealth Government introduced telephone concessions to fire brigades by which the Commonwealth contributed to the cost of fire protection services to Commonwealth property. On 1 September 1975 the Australian Telecommunications Commission, in its capacity as a separate statutory authority, discontinued some of these concessions. New arrangements to replace these concessions have now been agreed to in principle by all the State governments and payments under the new scheme are being made. Under these arrangements the payments being made to the States for 1975-76 will bring the total amount they receive from the Commonwealth for that year to the same level they would have received had there been no change in the telephone concessions. On this basis, the following payments in respect of 1975-76 have now been made or are about to be made:
Payments for 1976-77 and later years will be based on a fixed percentage of each State’s operating expenditure on fire brigade services. This percentage will be based on the ratio of total Commonwealth payments and telephone concessions for 1975-76 to total fire brigade operating expenditure that year, and will be calculated separately for each State. The amounts paid will be adjusted at the end of each financial year when actual expenditure is known. The States will be responsible for allocating appropriate amounts to their fire brigades. A total sum of $1.687m has been provided in the 1976-77 Budget to cover payments to the States under this scheme for both 1975-76 and 1976-77, although some of this will be recovered by the Commonwealth from its statutory authorities. The Government believes that this scheme is an equitable one. It has, however, agreed to review the scheme after it has been operating for a reasonable period.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The misleading statement by the Prime Minister that the national accounts showed Australia’s economic growth was back to normal.
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-
-A further misleading Government ministerial statement, on this occasion again from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when he said that the national accounts showed that Australia’s growth was back to normal characterises one of the features of public life over the weekend since we last met in this place. The Fraser Government’s credibility is going from bad to worse and the polls- I am referring in particular to the polls in the National Times- at showing just this. The misleading statements about the economy, to say nothing about misleading statements on other areas of our national affairs, are coming so thick and fast from Fraser Government Ministers that it is difficult to choose which one to highlight each week. It is only one week now since it was my duty to propose a matter of public importance about misleading statements by Government Ministers. Yet we already have some more statements to expose.
The national accounts for the December quarter were published last Friday. The significant factor which any objective observer must notice about them is that real domestic product fell by 1.7 per cent in the December quarter. Allied to this, one notes that the growth for the half year to 3 1 December 1976 was only 0.7 per cent. In other words, in a financial year when the Fraser Government in its Budget papers declared its objective of a 4 per cent economic growth rate it has achieved only 0.7 per cent in the first 6 months. That is bad enough, but why are we then treated like fools with such statements as this one that I am highlighting from the Prime Minister himself and exposing? With the appalling fact of only a 0.7 per cent growth rate staring us in the face we are told that growth is back to normal. If I were not a respectful member of this Parliament and did not know that the word ‘lies’ is unparliamentary I would be very tempted to use just that word on this occasion, but of course I will not do so. I will say that it is an untruth that is being uttered and the Prime Minister ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself when he insults us in this way by uttering untruths about the national accounts.
To add to the insults or to add insult to injury or indeed to add to the lack of credibility of Government statements we also had a statement from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) on Friday to mark the occasion of the publication of these depressing and disturbing December quarter 1976 national accounts. This statement was full of some gems and I want to examine them in detail. I quote:
The accounts indicated that the economy was moving in line with the Government’s overall economic strategy.
That is a quotation from the Treasurer’s Press release at the time of the publication of the national accounts. If the Government’s overall economic strategy is for economic stagnation, then that is a truthful statement, but the Government has not yet admitted that its strategy is to maintain stagnation in this country for all of 1977 as well as 1976 and as well as part of 1978 in order to time the turnaround for the next Federal election. Until Fraser Government Ministers admit that this is their strategy I am not going to accept that, misguided though their means are, their objective is a return to economic health. There is no way in the world that one can say credibly, as the Treasurer has attempted to say, that the December quarter national accounts indicate that the economy is moving towards economic health.
I have not tied the wording of this discussion of a matter of public importance to the Treasurer’s statement this week because he received his serve, namely the exposure of his statements or some of them, last week in the debate to which I earlier referred. Although the matter of public importance is tied in particular to what the Prime Minister had to say on this occasion it is only indicative of what is being said by Government Ministers generally. I continue with comments on the lack of credibility of the Treasurer’s Press statement upon the issue by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the national accounts for the December quarter. He said: . . . gross non-farm product had increased in real terms by 5.2 per cent over the year to the December quarter.
He then sought to take some political credit from this. Two per cent of that improvement was in the March quarter last year. Is there any objective and truthful observer who would suggest that the March quarter last year was influenced by the present conservative Government? Of course, because of time lags, what was happening this time last year was directly influenced by Australian Labor Government policies. This highlights so much of what has taken place in the last IS months of our economic history. After an unprecedented world economic crisis in 1974 and continuing into 1975- something which happened not only in Australia but also in every comparable country- we had a slow but sure return to economic health taking place about IS months ago. Then this country was plunged by the Liberal and National Country Parties into a political crisis. In using the comparative figures related to the December quarter of 1975, these Fraser Government leaders are seeking to persuade us to forget that they are making comparisons with an economic quarter in which thenown abominable actions created a political and economic crisis. Does any objective and truthful person suggest that failing to pass the Hayden Budget in September and October 1975 did not affect the Australian economy? Of course it did. The conservatives are the guilty men of late 1975, as they are they guilty men today. Once the Australian Labor Government Budget; the Hayden Budget, was passed, there was a return to slow and steady recovery. This was reflected in the statistics for the first 6 months of 1976. All of that has been interrupted by Fraser Government policies. Australia is due for economic recovery. In spite of a short pause, virtually all of the rest of the world has been experiencing growth and slow economic recovery.
Australia is a great trading nation. We should be locked into that recovery to a far greater extent than we have been. The reason why we have not been locked into that recovery is directly attributable to Liberal and National Country Party policies. The last Labor Government Budget was a good budget. It contained the correct mix between a restraint in the growth of government expenditure on the one hand because of the need to fund a deficit and the adverse effects of that funding on interest rates and on the money supply if insufficient funding took place, and the need, on the other hand, for adequate spending to create the demand to reduce unemployment. That delicate mix has been upset over the past 12 months by ham fisted, inept government actions. Fraser Government economic management has been woeful and grossly incompetent. There has been an unnecessary slashing of government spending, along with the introduction of Public Service staff ceilings. This has nothing to do with improved and efficient government administration. The Australian Labor Party supports that but it does not believe that greater efficiency can be obtained by broad brush measures such as slashing government spending across the top or by the introduction of staff ceilings.
– Tell us what you would do.
-An honourable member interjects and asks what the Labor Party would do. The Labor Government instituted the Coombs Royal Commission into Government Administration, which is directly responsible for recommendations on how to bring about greater government efficiency, rather than these ham fisted ways that this country is suffering at the present time. Government spending cuts have resulted in fewer people being employed in the public sector. There is more unemployment in the public sector. There is also more unemployment in the private sector because of loss of contracts that the private sector has with the Government sector. More than that, the slashing of government spending has meant a loss of consumer confidence. Added to that are the confrontations with wage and salary earners in national wage cases, the reductions in the real standard of living of millions of Australians and the worker bashing that has been going on. Those are the reasons for the shocking increases in seasonally adjusted unemployment. Those are the reasons for a lack of consumer confidence and the reasons why those who are lucky enough to be receiving incomes are saving rather than spending. Those are the reasons why economic recovery is not taking place in this country to the extent that it should.
I mention again that the lack of confidence at home generated by the Fraser Government spilt over abroad. It resulted in the run on the Australian dollar. That resulted in the appalling decision to revalue which could have been avoided but which was not avoided. That decision added to our economic troubles. It is my bounden duty to point out these facts again and again. Only if we face the truth will the correct economic policies be formulated. To examine a set of quarterly national accounts such as the December 1976 quarterly accounts just published and to make the misleading statement which I have just quoted, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) did, is not to face the truth. It displays disturbing complacency. It means that we shall continue to wallow at the foggy bottom of the recessionary trough. These thoughts of mine are shared by objective observers outside this Parliament. I would like to read some quotations from editorials to show that this is not just a partisan political point that I am putting. Yesterday’s Australian Financial Review editorial contained the following:
The Australian economy stumbled during December quarter. Economic growth actually went into reverse.
Later it stated: … the direction in which the economy was moving during the December quarter is not an encouraging sign.
It also stated:
However, there was a distinct slowing down in all areas during December and while some of this is quite naturally a correction for the September quarter exuberance the extent of the slowdown must be causing a few anxious moments in Canberra.
I wish it were causing anxious moments amongst Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, rather than that they should make misleading statements in an attempt to brush over what is a very poor performance recorded in the December national accounts. I add quotations from yesterday’s Canberra Times in an editorial headed ‘National Accounts ‘:
The level of economic activity declined during the December quarter, according to the accounts. National output and national income actually shrank by 2 per cent, and the 5 per cent growth that occurred between December quarters, that the Treasurer made much of, was confined mainly to the first half of calendar 1976.
This was the time when Labor Government policies were applying. The Canberra Times editorial continues: … the accounts provide little if any support for the Government’s proposal to further cut its spending. Private demand, including investment despite its recent growth, remains weak; the full price effects of devaluation are still to be registered
Further, the editorial states:
The evidence is mounting that its concern with the Budget deficit is obsessive -
This refers, of course, to the Government- . . . that it could safely run a larger deficit if the money market was brought into line; that its monetary policy is becoming counter-productive; that unemployment is unnecessarily high.
These are not my words. They are the words of objective editorial writers in national newspapers. Finally, the Canberra Times editorial states:
The import of the criticism of the money market by a merchant banker in Canberra last week was that the Government could run a larger non-inflationary deficit if all sections of the market could be persuaded to hold more government securities.
I interpose that that is something that the Labor Opposition has been advocating. The editorial continues:
Only he argued that greater holdings were necessary to ensure the market’s own long-term viability. The import of the remarks has yet to be widely recognised. In the meantime, the Opposition’s policy of maintaining the level of government spending and the deficit, even of slightly enlarging them, looks increasingly plausible.
I summarise: Economic growth is far from normal as the Prime Minister would have us believe. There is no justification for the complacency displayed by the Treasurer. It is no wonder that polls show that the credibility of Fraser Government Ministers is woeful. We need to face the facts that the slow but steady recovery from the world economic crisis, which was under way when the Liberal and National Country Parties usurped power, was halted by consecutive policies. Let us be thankful that United States President Carter and Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda, who are meeting in Washington today, have turned to a more expansionary path. Let us hope that as a result of the Opposition opposing the stupidity of present Fraser Government economic policies, the Australian Government will see the error of its ways and will adopt the modestly more expansionary economic policy which the Labor Party has been advocating.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is becoming commonplace now to listen to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) raising these matters of public importance. His speeches are commonplace because they always follow the same pattern. They are long on adjectives and short on argument. I think that the honourable member must have a dictionary of adjectives in front of him when he prepares his speeches. They are not only short on argument but also short on understanding of the economy of the country. I wish to put into context the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at Mount Gambier when he commented upon the national accounts. Then I want to put into context what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has said about those national accounts. The Prime Minister pointed out that in 1976 his Government, which had recently come to office, imposed the most rigorous restraint on government spending, reduced the hallowed deficit created by the Hayden Budget, provided incentives to industry so that it could expand and provide job opportunities, moved to limit excessive growth in money supply, and argued strongly for wage restraint which is acknowledged as being fundamental to the success of our program to restrain inflation. We maintained the exchange rate until November when, by force of circumstance, it was necessary to devalue. We maintained that exchange rate during a period when we were able to focus our policy effectively on other arms of economic action. When we came into office after going to the people in November 197S we said that it would take 3 years to complete the recovery, that it could not be achieved overnight. If honourable members opposite are honest with themselves I think they will appreciate that the recession into which they had taken Australia could not be removed overnight.
The Prime Minister went on to point out that, notwithstanding those difficulties that we faced, the economic hurdles that we had to jump, 1976 has been a year of considerable progress. The most important indicators, the national accounts which were released, do in fact show that considerable progress has been made over the year. I expect that even the honourable member for Adelaide will appreciate that a Government’s success or failure should not be judged on what happened in one quarter alone. If he takes time out to read and understand the indicators for the whole year he will appreciate that, as the Prime Minister said, for the first time in 3 years growth is back to normal and inflation is well down on the 16 per cent rates to which we had become accustomed under the Labor Government. The Prime Minister went on to point out that for the first time in 3 years growth in real output has matched the average rates of the 1960s. He referred to the fact that real output was provisionally estimated to have grown by 4.6 per cent in 1976 and that in the case of non-farm product growth was at the rate of 5.2 per cent. That was the context in which the Prime Minister made his comment that growth was back to normal. For the first time in 3 years growth has matched the average rates of the 1960s.
Let me refer to some statistics which are calculated on an annual basis and which justify that assertion. In the December quarter of 1974 real gross non-farm product increased by 0.1 per cent; in the December quarter of 1975 it increased by 0.6 per cent; and in the December quarter of 1976 it increased by 5.2 per cent. A comparison of the first half of 1976 with the first half of the previous year shows an increase of 2.9 per cent, and there was a 3 per cent increase in the second half of the year. Both of those figures are equivalent to an annual growth rate of approximately 6 per cent. As the Prime Minister pointed out at question time this morning, the more accurate indicators of the underlying rate of inflation are the implicit price deflators.
An examination of the major gross national expenditure components reveals an increase of 4.5 per cent for the December quarter 1975 and 1.4 per cent for the December quarter of 1976. So the gross national expenditure component was reduced by 10.7 per cent when one compares the December quarter of 1976 with the December quarter of 1975. Again the gross nonfarm product increased by 4.2 per cent in the December quarter of 1 975 and by 1 .7 per cent in the December quarter of 1976. A comparison of the 1976 figure with that of 1975 indicates a 10.4 per cent difference. The gross domestic product increased by 4.5 per cent in the December quarter of 1975 and by 1.9 per cent in the December quarter of 1976. Again a comparison reveals a 10 per cent difference. As the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have rightly pointed out, when the Medibank factor is excluded, it can be observed that there is an underlying annual rate of inflation of some 10.8 per cent. This is a clear indication that over the year the Government’s policies have been working.
There are three fundamental matters that we can observe in this debate, having noted that 1976 was in fact a year of considerable progress when we take into account the difficulties and the hurdles with which we were faced. Firstly, the Government has always said that economic recovery will be a long haul; and so it will be. There is no complacency on our part because, in contrast to the honourable member for Adelaide and those who sit behind him, we appreciate the difficulty of the task. We appreciate that it is not easy. All our efforts in the forthcoming Budget will be turned towards maintaining the course that we have adopted, to restraining government expenditure, to promoting the private sector, and to seeking to find the recovery in the private sector.
The second fundamental point arising out of this debate and the matters to which I have referred briefly is that the Prime Minister’s statement is in fact correct. Nothing that has been said by the honourable member for Adelaide showed that it is wrong. When one compares our experience with the experience which Australia had under the former Labor Administration- a period of no growth- one wonders how on earth the Opposition can argue in this House in favour of the Hayden Budget. Although he mentions the Hayden Budget, I note, as I have noted before, that the honourable member for Adelaide who is the shadow Treasurer never mentions the Budgets that preceded the Hayden Budget-the 1973 Cairns Budget and the 1974 Cairns Budget. No doubt the reasons why those Budgets are never mentioned is the legacy that they have left Australia.
The third fundamental fact is the downturn in recovery from mid- 1974 onwards under the former Labor Administration. Apart from inheriting from Labor a position of no growth, we inherited also the very high inflation rates of 15 per cent to 16 per cent. So there you have it. The Treasurer has observed in the statement which he put down accompanying the national accounts that the aggregates for the December quarter taken together underline the likelihood that real growth in the non-farm sector of the economy will exceed the 4 per cent rate foreshadowed at the time of the Budget. Honourable members opposite should compare that with the no growth situation which we inherited and they should compare the high inflation rates of the order of 15 per cent to 16 per cent which we inherited with the underlying rates to which I have referred.
We know how statistics can be used, misused and abused. No doubt in debates of this kind I could cite statistics justifying my argument and honourable members opposite could do the same thing. But, of course, in the end the arbiters of those arguments are the people. The other arbiter of the statistics is industry itself.
I repeat what was referred to by the Prime Minister at question time this morning- the comments which have been made by various industry groups or other persons operating in the field. The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has reported that signs of optimism have returned in most manufacturing industry. It is significant that manufacturing industry is referred to in that statement because that has been recognised as one of the weak spots in the Australian economy. John P. Young and Associates has said that business in New South Wales is slowly emerging from economic slump and is on the move again. We would certainly hope that it is because we know the strength of the economy in New South Wales and what it can be if it recovers and gets under way again. The Australian Industries Development Association has indicated that decline appears to have halted and economic recovery is getting under way. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd survey of business indicators reported that after 2 years of near stagnation the economy is now experiencing mild expansion. The survey by Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the Bank of New South Wales indicates stronger expectations by business for the next 6 months.
We talk of business confidence being a necessary ingredient of economic recovery and all those observations by those industry groups indicate that business is confident. Industry can have confidence only if it knows that the Government is trying by its economic policies to bring about economic recovery, and not only trying but also providing industry with the instruments to achieve that recovery. If the honourable member for Adelaide seeks to quote one editorial let me quote one back to him- that of the Sydney Morning Herald of Monday 21 March. Whilst the Herald quite rightly points out that a balanced interpretation of the national accounts suggests that they afford little ground for complacency it goes on to state:
The Government probably does have a point that there has been insufficient public recognition of the genuine gains which were recorded during 1976.
The editorial goes on to state that encouraging signs in the figures are these:
Private investment in plant and equipment recovered strongly in the December quarter to yield real growth of 1 8.4 per cent for the year. The trend for business profits to recover their normal share of national income continued during last quarter
The Treasurer in his statement pointed out that company profits were some 33 per cent higher in the December quarter of 1976 than they had been a year earlier, confirming the series of healthy company results that had recently been reported by company chairmen. These debates led by the honourable member for Adelaide are becoming commonplace. His arguments are commonplace. They add nothing of value to the economic debate within Australia at present. Certainly the arguments put forward by the honourable gentleman show in no way that the Government has misled the people about the economy.
-Order! The Minister ‘s time has expired.
– It has been interesting to listen to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). We are complaining about misleading statements from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and from other members of the Cabinet. We certainly heard a fair number here this afternoon from the Minister who was undoubtedly briefed by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) who, I note has a credibility rating in the polls of 14 per cent. People believe 14 per cent of his statements- one in every seven. I suppose they are giving him credit for something they cannot actually remember. Maybe he was right a few years ago about some issue.
Mr Willis- Less than Bjelke-Petersen’s.
– It is below Bjelke-Petersen’s rating, as has been pointed out. How can anybody give credibility to statements from Ministers, Prime Ministers and Treasurers who talk consistently about a year of considerable progress? It is the old story. I am reminded of the cartoon that was in the Australian Financial Review when the argument about Medibank and inflation was going on. It showed the Treasurer standing knee deep in water saying: ‘If it was not for the tide we would be on dry land. ‘ Just have a look at the sorts of statements that Government Ministers are making. The Prime Minister and Treasurer are leading them and encouraging them to go out and to make misleading statements. There are a few Ministers who are not prepared to do that. Good luck to them. They might not help the Government much but at least they are protecting their credibility. Let us have a look at the statement that the Treasurer made over the weekend to the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party of Australia. On page 4 of the statement we received today we note that he stated: . . . the underlying rate of inflation (that is, after adjustment for the effects of Medibank) was recorded at an annual rate of 10.8 per cent -
The Treasurer is comparing inflation rates on the basis not only of deleting the adverse effects of the changes in Medibank which amounted to an increase in the consumer price index of 3.2 per cent, but he also subtracts the beneficial effects of the introduction of Medibank- 2.8 per centfrom the inflation rate when we were in government and adds it to the original rate of inflation. What hide! In any case, if one ignores the increase to the CPI arising from Medibank changes on the basis that it is a form of tax, surely one would also have to alter the inflation rate under the previous Government for things that arose from definite Government action such as increases in indirect taxation, higher postal charges and so on. One cannot have it both ways. The Treasurer deducts figures resulting from Government action in one case and adds them on in another case and then gets completely fictitious figures. But even accepting the Government’s figures, the Treasurer talked about a recorded annual inflation rate of 10.8 per cent. In the very next paragraph the Treasurer stated:
We have, as we promised, cut out wasteful and unnecessary spending by the Commonwealth- federal outlays are estimated to increase by 1 1 .3 per cent this year -
The Government is talking about cutting out wastefulness. It states that inflation is running at 10.8 per cent a year. Yet Commonwealth expenditure increases by 11.3 per cent. How can one justify the 1 1.3 per cent increase in expenditure and still say that the Government is cutting out wastefulness if Government expenditure is increasing at a higher rate than inflation? Let us have a look at the next point the Treasurer makes. Two paragraphs further on he stated:
We have, as we promised, significantly reduced the tax burden on individuals and companies- as a result of decisions made so far reductions in taxation will amount to around $3.3 billion during our first 2 years in office.
That is just not true. They are fictitious figures. What is in fact happening this year is that pay as you earn taxation has increased by $ 1780m. It is the biggest increase in taxation rake-off by any Federal Government that we have ever had- an increase of $ 1780m in tax payments this year. And the Government is talking about tax reductions! The Treasurer then talks about family allowances. He refers to the reform by the introduction of family allowances that enables individuals and families to spend government financial assistance in the way that they choose, not in the way that the Government sets down. This is supposed to be Liberal philosophy. What in fact has happened? The Government took away the taxation concession for children. In fact every tax payer with dependent children in Australia this year pays between $2 and $3 a week in tax more than he would have had to pay if the Government had not introduced the changes. That may not be the way in which those people would choose to spend their money- by giving it to the Federal Government as tax money. On page 5 of his statement the Treasurer refers to 3 factors. I shall not detail them, but each is worked out to the December quarter of 1976. So one assumes that a new basis has been established and we will work everything out to the end of 1976. However on page 8 of his statement he states that living standards had increased during 1976. He goes on to say:
Over the 12 months to the September quarter of last year real household disposable income increased by 2.9 per cent.
Again this is a completely misleading statement. Here the Government takes the September quarter for 2 reasons: The first is that in October 197S Hospital Medibank came into force in many of the States in Australia and especially New South Wales. That meant an increase in household disposable income. The second is that in October 1976 the changes introduced by the present Government reduced household disposable income. So if one takes the difference between those 2 September quarters one gets a very nice figure of 2.9 per cent. We would not get anything like that figure if we took the period from December to December. But the Government is doing exactly what we are talking about- making completely misleading statements. On page 8 of the same statement the Treasurer said:
The number of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service today is only a fraction of a per cent higher than it was last year . . .
A fraction of a per cent in any case is a fair bit. But let us look at the figures. We see, from page 16 of the Green Paper on Australia’s immigration policies and population tabled last Thursday, that the annual increase in the labour force for 1976 was somewhere between 100 000 and 115 000 people. The actual work force- the number of people working- increased by three hundred during that year. Therefore, there were between 100 000 and 1 15 000 more people who wanted to get into the labour force but who were unable to get into the labour force. Therefore real unemployment in Australia increased by over 100 000 during that year.
The Government talks about an improvement in the private sector and a slashing back of funds for the public sector for that purpose. The figures released earlier this month by the Bureau of Census and Statistics show that private sector employment decreased by 7300 during the past year and that public sector employment increased by approximately the same number- by 7600.
There has been no increase in private sector employment. There has been a decrease in private sector employment in the last year and an increase in public sector employment. If one tackles the Government about it, the Government says: ‘Yes, but that public sector employment did not increase in the Commonwealth; it increased in the States’. The reason for the Government saying that is that it blames the State governments for an increase in the public sector. But this transfer of employment inside the public sector is inevitable as programs are transferred to the States. The Government talks about block grants and transferring programs to the States. The States have to do certain things now, that the Commonwealth used to do before. Obviously they have to employ more people. Overall, we see that the private sector is not improving. There is no confidence. It is completely misleading for Government Ministers to pretend that there is an improvement in the private sector. In real figures the Government has increased unemployment by over 100 000- it has been necessary for the public sector in the States to pick up some of the slack.
What is happening is that the Government does not even carry out its own policies. When it does have the chance to carry out its own policies it gives in, in every case. If the Government believes in its own policies why does it cave in on issues about which it allegedly feels strongly? The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in fact carries a number of responsibilities in this House. The Government caved in to the Australian Union of Students on the tertiary education allowances after only a one-day strike. It caved in to the Aborigines. It caved in to the academics who wanted and received an increase in salary of 8.4 per cent above the increase which resulted from indexation last year. It caved in to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and it gives in in every case. I am not neccessarily opposing these increases but surely this Government gives a completely misleading view of the situation.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The paucity of Labor’s depth of talent has been amply demonstrated here today, particularly so when the Opposition has to swing in the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) into a debate of this nature. The honourable member for Prospect is a man generally respected in this place for his knowledge of horse racing and medicine in that order, but not for any expertise in economic matters. It is interesting that the Labor Party has to resort to a man of the talents of the honourable member for Prospect in a debate which it instigated, I imagine, in a serious vein. The Sydney Morning Herald of Monday, 2 1 March in its editorial said:
It is only to be expected that statistics as all-embracing as the ‘national accounts’- which take account of every aspect of economic activity to give an estimate of overall economic growth- offer a field day to politicians looking for ‘evidence’ to support their pre-conceived attitudes.
I can only say that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Prospect have turned that field day into a circus. The editorial continued:
The national accounts figures issued on Friday were even more amenable to misuse than normal.
The Opposition has shown us today the extent to which that statement was correct. It has been said that the national accounts offer little grounds for complacency. I affirm that the Government is not complacent. The national accounts are encouraging. They show that the economy has responded to the economic policies of the present Government. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) has announced his intention to continue to pursue the broad thrust of present policy. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) confirmed this today in question time.
There is a continuing tide of encouraging reports, statistical releases and independent comment which supports the view that the economy is emerging from the deep recession attributable to Labor’s period in office. The national accounts are yet another encouraging sign. The national accounts are a more reliable indicator of what is happening in the Australian economy and supersede other less reliable statistics which are released earlier than the national accounts. Gross non-farm product in real terms increased by 5.2 per cent in the year to the December quarter compared with a decline of 0.6 per cent in 1975. As a matter of interest, at the height of the Labor Administration the year 1974 had shown an increase of 0. 1 per cent. There can be no comparison between this Government’s policies and those of its immediate predecessor, either in government or in Opposition where they are now and where they are likely to stay. Private enterprise investment in plant and equipment showed a growth in real terms of 18.4 per cent. Company profits were 33 per cent higher than those a year earlier and have returned to something like the historic levels at which they should be. Wages rose by 1 1.6 per cent. Mr Tony Thomas in Saturday’s Age said:
This swing from wages to profits is normal in an economic recovery because of improved use of industrial capacity.
This is understood by the Government and it points up the Government’s view that an improvement in employment will Follow the early stages of economic recovery. Mr Thomas also points out that the growth in private consumption of 4 per cent at an annual rate in the December half-year appears in line with the Budget forecasts. I interpolate by saying that the Labor Government was never able to make anything at least correspond with, let alone equate with, its Budget forecasts. Mr Thomas also said:
A marked slowing in the underlying inflation trend was also corroborated by the statistics.
The Government’s policies are proving correct, despite the waitings from the Opposition benches and sections of the media. Progress is being made and that is indisputable. The Opposition must be wary of putting up matters of public importance only to have them dealt with more than effectively by this side of the House. The accounts show that growth is fairly widespread in the non-farm sector of the economy. Productivity is around 4 per cent and there is a distinct downward movement in the implicit price deflators. The major gross national economic components show a fall from 4.5 per cent in December 1975 to 1.4 per cent in December 1976. Gross non-farm product showed a fall from 4.2 per cent to 1.7 per cent in the same period. The gross domestic product figure, which was 4.5 per cent in December 1975, was 1 per cent in December 1976. If that is not an indication of the underlying strength of this economy and of the reduction in the underlying inflation rate, I do not know what is. These major points justify the statements of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that the economy is returning to normal and condemn the attempts by the Opposition to continue to talk down the economy. The accounts show that the economy has responded to the Government’s economic policy. The Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited publication Business Indicators for March 1977 stated:
It is even more essential that those who make public opinion- business and labor leaders -
There is no ‘ u ‘ in the ‘ labor ‘- and the media which interpret them- should cease aggravating the gloom, and acknowledge the economic progress which is being made (even though some may consider that the chosen official policies are imperfect) and refrain from asking governments to deliver what is beyond their powers to deliver.
Enterprise, profits, productivity and standards of living are the responsibility of business and management, investors and workers- and governments should not be urged to guarantee them or force feed business to ensure quick recovery.
It does not matter where we turn- support is coming for the policies which are being put forward and which are being implemented by this Government. The Government has been consistent in its approach. It has taken a consistent line from late last year until early this year, and will continue to do so. The Australian Industries Development Association, in its bulletin of March 1977, in an article ‘On the state of the Economy’, stated:
We are now entering a new scene in this whole saga. It is being confirmed from all quarters that the decline in real production and sales which has gone on over the last 3 years appears to have been halted. Now there are suggestions in the air that the economic recovery might actually be getting underway.
That is another example of the sort of independent comment which is coming out in support of the policies that this Government has been adopting. There can be no doubt that progress is being made. Progress will continue to be made. There are far more important things which the Opposition in this place could be doing than drawing attention to the phoney arguments which it is proposing in trying to talk down this economy and in trying to take up the time of the national Parliament. The attempts to take up the time of the national Parliament by this Opposition are futile. The electorate recognises them for the sham which they are. This Opposition, more than any other single factor, is responsible for the disastrous state in which this Government found the economy. Since this Government came to office it has taken strong, determined and firm steps to bring the economy back into line. The release of the national accounts last Friday shows another example of the way in which these groups of policies are being successful. The paucity of the alternatives proposed by the honourable member for Adelaide has been displayed by the Government and in the media. There can be no doubt that only one Party is capable of managing the Australian economy and that is the Party which is in office at the moment. This Government rejects in its entirety the matter of public importance brought before the House today.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on the following paper presented by Mr MacKellar:
Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population- Report -Ministerial Statement, 17 March 1977 - and on motion by Mr Staley:
That the House take note of the papers.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Melbourne speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– It is now 7 years since the McMahon Government commissioned the National Population Inquiry and a little over 12 months since the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) announced that the Australian Population and Immigration Council would prepare a Green Paper to stimulate public debate about Australia’s population and immigration policies. The Opposition welcomes the tabling of this document and commends the Council for its industry in preparing this discussion paper. It is pleasing to see the Government tabling reports and inviting public discussion on important social issues, in contrast to its past obsession with secrecy and its record of hasty and ill-considered policy decisions. Indicative of this policy, the Government’s inefficient and ad /deprocedures in determining immigration quotas are a perfect example. The issue and the debate cannot be narrowed to the diametrically opposed proponents of zero population growth and the open door attitude. In fact the dynamics of population are interwoven with the organisation of the economy, the provision of public services, the use of land and resources and the enhancement of the quality of urban and rural life.
People should be the first consideration in formulating policies. The aim should be to ensure economic and social justice for all members of the community, whatever their origins; to reduce or eliminate inequalities of opportunity between social groups; and to protect and enhance the social and physical environment. Short term expediency must not be allowed to imperil the quality of life of future generations. Australia’s population and immigration policies are vital issues of concern to every Australian. These policies will shape the nature of Australian society to the year 2000. The quality of life we enjoy, the structure, the efficiency of our manufacturing industries, the distribution of and the demand for welfare services, the role that Australia will play as a member of the international community- in short, Australia’s population policies-are central to the population decisions of government.
It is appropriate that in this period of record unemployment and deepening economic recession we reassess our immigration policies and the options for the growth and development of Australia’s population. Unfortunately, the Minister’s statement fails to grasp the opportunity that this watershed in Australia’s history provides. The Parliament and the public might have expected the Minister’s statement to reflect the importance and magnitude of the issues involved, an analysis of Australia’s past immigration policies, some assessment of the recommendations of the National Population Inquiry, a guide to the major issues identified by the Green Paper. All that the Minister can offer is a collection of time worn cliches and sweeping generalisations that will not satisfy the Australian community nor serve the interests of future generations of Australians- a statement that reflects the bankruptcy of this Government, its lack of vision, initiative and insight.
The statement’s real danger is not in its omissions, regrettable though they may be, but in its calculated distortions that can be designed only to promote narrow, sectional interests at the expense of a reasoned and rational population policy. A recurrent theme in the statement is the relationship between economic growth and the level of immigration. The Minister attempts to imply that Australia’s future prosperity depends on high levels of immigration comparable with those of the post-war period being maintained for the next 30 years. However, he fails to examine the context in which these policies were developed and their relevance to current demographic patterns and the state of the economy. Australia enjoyed rapid economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s, and our immigration policies substantially assisted and promoted this development.
However, the conditions in which this policy was implemented were vastly different from those facing the nation today. The Depression and the Second World War had a profound effect on the birth rate which, by the late 1940s, was evidenced by falling numbers of recruits to the work force. For example, in 1961 the number of Australians aged between 25 and 29 years was 77 000 fewer than in 1967. Similarly, the number aged between 10 and 14 years in 1961 was 90 000 fewer than the number in 1933. Without a substantial immigration program, shortages of labour would have resulted from this reduced recruitment to the work force and would have restrained Australia’s economic growth in the post-war period. Of course this policy_ was not without its social and economic costs. The Committee of Economic Inquiry chaired by Dr J. Vernon reported in 1965 that one of the major costs of Australian immigration policy was the diversion of capital from investment to improved industrial productivity, to the provision of roads, houses, schools and other services for our increased population. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) perhaps would agree that Australia is still paying the price of this diversion in our low rate of productivity in the manufacturing sector when compared with other western nations.
The Vernon report also noted that immigration tended to raise the level of imports in the medium term without appreciably raising exports and leads to overcrowding and environmental deterioration of the cities. I have been persistently saying in our community that it is not good enough to manipulate the migration program to meet the needs of the economy. That is the doctrine of factory fodder which I believe is favoured by this Government. It is a doctrine that leaves the great majority of ethnic communities at the mercy of the whim of the economy. It is a laissez-faire approach- an approach which no doubt suits this Government by preserving the sanctity of the market place.
Let me put the opposite view, the view that the economy must be manipulated to suit the needs of the population. I will not put it in my own words but in the words of the summary of and comment on the report of the United States Commission on Population Growth and the American Future. I remind honourable members the the work of this Commission began with the charge ‘Whether man’s response to that challenge will be cause for pride or despair in the year 2000 will depend very much on what we do today’. The Commission reported:
Concern for social justice and social welfare and respect for human freedom are fundamental to American values. To solve population problems at the expense of those values would be an unacceptable victory.
I believe we ought to be looking at this matter in the same light. The report continued:
The Commission maintained that we should concern ourselves with improving the quality of life for all Americans rather than merely adding more Americans. And unfortunately, for many of our citizens that quality of life is still defined only as enough food, clothing and shelter. All human beings need a sense of sharing, and the opportunity to develop their individual potentialities.
I can find nothing in the Minister’s statement and nothing in the Green Paper dealing with the fundamental questions that were dealt with by the United States Commission. These questions are: Does a healthy economy require a growing population? Would a slower rate of population growth help or hurt business and the workers’ position in the economy? What would be the consequences for most people if population growth approached zero? They are all questions to be asked and answered. They are not posed by the Minister; they are not posed by the Green Paper; and they are not posed by the inquiry. There ought to be an inquiry, an inquiry established on proper grounds, similar to that of the United States Commission. On page 63 of the Green Paper this matter is raised in passing under the heading of ‘General Issues’. But the following statement is made at page 64 of the Green Paper:
The provision of a migration program in relation to the progress of the economy must be judged in relation to other facets and goals of economic policy. If future development be treated as resting upon the expansion of minerals and other extractive industries, then there will be less emphasis than previously on the rapid growth of the workforce to sustain increased output from manufacturing, building and service industries . . .
– You do not know what you are talking about.
– Read the report, if you are capable of doing so. The Green Paper continued:
Such an Australian development strategy would give impetus to a migration policy based on the quality of the intake rather than its size.
That argument proceeds on the basis that in the economy ‘more’ is ‘better’. It is a factory fodder approach, and honourable members well know the awful consequences in their electorates of the present Government’s manipulation of the economy.
Let me now turn to the Canadian experience. Part of the Green Paper referred to the Canadian experience. Under the heading “The Effect of Immigration on Populations’ the Green Paper stated:
Just as in Australia, the Canadians have realised that immigration exercises a pervasive influence on the whole of the political and cultural evolution of the national life. It enters into the question of quality of life in the cities, and the provision of public services, the organisation of the economy, the planning of land use and resources, the protection of the environment, and the need to overcome disparities and discrimination. What they have also realised is that even though decisions made at national, provincial or municipal level have an effect on the demographic make-up (and sometimes those decisions are made inadvertently) the real solution lies only in a set of national policies.
These are national policies determined on proper and adequate information gleaned out of a proper and substantial inquiry.
Equated with a previous Australian slogan of ‘Populate or Perish’ are a whole series of earlier arguments in favour of immigration which are familiar to Australians. There is a need to open new lands of vast resources to agriculture and commerce, the development of a population base adequate to sustain a vigorous and diversifying economy, and the forging of a separate national entity. The Canadian Green Paper on this subject questions the validity of these assumptions in a modern industrialised and increasingly urbanised society, it calls them ‘ dubious Mt states:
Canada, tike most advanced nations, counts the cost of more people in terms of congested metropolitan areas, housing shortages, pressures on arable land, damage to the environment- in short, the familiar catalogue of problems with which most prosperous and sophisticated societies are currently endeavouring to cope . . . but when all the arguments are sifted it would probably be a not unfair assessment of our understanding of the economic consequences of higher against lower population for a country in Canada’s present position to conclude that the evidence in favour of higher rates is uncertain. Furthermore, the hidden costs that they entail in terms of social strains and the impairment of the quality of life, admittedly extremely difficult to qualify, have thus far tended to be neglected in expert appraisals.
The Canadian Green Paper is scathing in referring to the view that the competitiveness of Canadian industry would benefit from a larger domestic market, a major factor in post war immigration, and one on which much of the 1966 immigraton policies were based. In comparison with the United States, even a three-fold expansion of population would have a negligible effect in reducing the per capita income differences between the 2 countries. Canadian industry, says the Green Paper, must look to an expanding international market.
So I return to my original statement. We must start off with a concept of having all these areas that are relevant to Australia considered by such an inquiry. My original statement was that we must manipulate the economy to meet the needs of population; we must not manipulate the population to meet the needs of the economy. But the Minister has another attitude. He advocates a return to higher levels of migration with its associated costs. A question was asked on this subject this afternoon. Honourable members have heard statements made by the Minister over the last few days on which he bases that sort of notion. We might anticipate that Australia is facing acute labour shortages in the near future that would justify such a policy. It is unfortunate that the National Population Inquiry is equivocal on this issue even though future labour shortages are implied in its first report. The Inquiry is confused as to when this shortage will arise and its probable magnitude. In chapter one of the report Professor Borrie observed that ‘Australia has a relatively young population that will ensure a steady input to the labour force for some years ahead’. The report went on to state ‘that whatever happens in terms of fertility changes at the moment, rising inputs to the labour force are assured from natural increase alone until at least 1990’. In chapter eight of the report these categorical statements are contradicted in the following terms: … the slowing down and then decline in the new entrants to the workforce is now certain to occur within fifteen years.
The green paper fortunately provides us with some guidance in this dilemma when it reports that labour shortages could occur in the 1990s. The Australian Bureau of Statistics in its population projections for the period 1977 to the year 2001 also supports this contention. The Bureau predicts that even without immigration the age group IS to 19, from which most of the new entrants to the work force are drawn, will exceed the level of present years peaking in 1978 and again in 1988.
In other words, if we accept the ABS statistics and the Green Paper’s findings, there is unlikely to be a labour shortage in Australia for at least 25 years. I refer honourable members to Dr Birrell’s paper on the very vexed question of job availability for the future. Dr Birrell from the Sociology Department of the Monash University was critical of the decision of the Liberal Government to increase the intake from 50 000 to 70 000 in 1976-77. 1 shall quote from a paper by Dr Birrell on job availability. He is critical of the migration program and the ideological commitments of the Liberal Party in pursuing population growth policies. He calculates that a total of between 850 000 and 900 000 over and above those currently employed can be expected to be looking for jobs between now and 1981. Having examined employment prospects in the Government, manufacturing and tertiary areas, he says:
The overall conclusion has to be that when taking all 3 employment sectors into account there is no prospect of job creation in Australia sufficient to absorb the 900 000 potential workers available between 1976 and 1981 and every prospect of unemployment worsening.
That statement probably supports the contention that between 200 000 and 600 000 will be the fluctuating level of unemployment. Without some organisation within the economy, there is not much hope of getting the figure below that. If births in the current period, the source of new entrants to the work force in the 1990s, fall below expectations there will Be ample time to adjust the demands of the work force before the 1990s. There is no justification for a massive intake of migrants in the near future in order to avoid labour shortages and maintain our rate of economic growth. In fact there is every reason to believe that an increased immigration program would aggravate Australia’s unemployment problem in the short term, particularly amongst the young. In common with all advanced Western countries, unemployment rates among young people in Australia have increased much more rapidly than adult unemployment since the mid-1960s. Currently nearly 40 per cent of the total unemployed are persons under the age of 20 years, even though this group comprises only 12 per cent of the labour force. Mr Peter Kirby, First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, recently concluded that unemployment among the young is not simply a result of the current general deficiency in labour demand. It can be expected to persist irrespective of economic recovery. These young people are generally unskilled in a labour market that is increasingly looking for skilled and semi-skilled workers.
Humanity demands that we overhaul our antiquated technical and further education system so that the many unskilled Australians presently unemployed are given the opportunity to join the work force. Commonsense would suggest that retraining programs should be implemented before we recruit skilled or semi-skilled migrants. The Vernon inquiry noted that if a shortage of labour leads to an increase in the total immigration program this would be a more costly source of skill than to train the additional labour in Australia. For too long Australia’s immigration policies, particularly the recruitment of skilled labour, has been a substitute for technical education programs designed to train and utilise Australian labour more effectively. This waste of human resources of our nation must not be allowed to continue.
The Minister has not only grossly distorted the future demand for labour. His statement quite deliberately attempted to create the impression that Australia faces negative population growth in the short term and a decline in total population in the absence of a substantial immigration program. He said:
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.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If the Minister or his staff had bothered to examine the Green Paper they would have read the following statement on page 13, which suggests we will enjoy continued population growth well into the next century:
Past high levels of fertility and the input into the population of many thousands of young adults through immigration have produced an age structure with high proportions in the young child-bearing ages. This will provide an impetus to growth for some time in the future; even a considerable further fall in fertility will not result in births falling below deaths at least until past the end of the century.
The Bureau of Statistics’ projections of population growth also directly contradict the Minister’s assertions about population growth. The Bureau predicts that Australia’s population will grow at a rate of not less than 5 per cent for the next 25 years to a total of 16 million persons in 200 1 . A restricted intake of immigrants of 40 000 persons per annum would boost this growth to a total population of 1 7.5 million persons by 200 1 . All the evidence suggests that Australia’s population will continue to grow strongly in the immediate future. The Minister was so intent, however, on promoting growth for growth ‘s sake that he stooped to misrepresenting the movements of Australians and overseas visitors into and out of this country in order to build a picture of a declining population. He pointed out that Australia actually sustained a net loss of 8000 in total movements into and out of the country in 1975. He conveniently omitted the figures for the January to September quarters of 1976, which report a net gain in overseas movements of 21 370 persons and point to the seasonal nature of the population fluctuations. The Minister cannot escape the conclusions of his own advisory council. Australia is not facing an imminent shortage of labour in the short to medium term, nor are we approaching zero population growth.
Having been denied these justifications for a high rate of immigration, the Minister returned to the empty continent syndrome and implied that we must utilise our superabundant natural resources or have them taken from us. In fact he went even further than this when he asserted:
The resource constraints upon our options are virtually non-existent in the foreseeable future.
By any definition this claim is patently absurb unless the Minister expects a dramatic drop in our standard of living to accommodate a much higher level of population than we presently enjoy. Australia and the world face real shortages of energy, food and water in the forseeable future unless our utilisation of these resources falls far short of expected demand. If forecasts made by energy experts are anywhere near correct, by 1985 Australia will be using two to three times its current annual consumption of petroleum, one and a half to two times the present consumption of coal and more than five times the present annual consumption of natural gas. Australia, with its vast coal and uranium deposits, is not facing any shortage of electrical energy. But such energy forms will not be a substitute for the liquid hydro-carbons which at present supply over 77 per cent of our annual energy requirements.
The national population inquiry, after considering evidence from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, admitted that there are severe constraints on crop production and that further increases in home consumption will be at the expense of exports. In other words, a substantially increased Australian population would dramatically curtail our role as an exporter of already scarce food grains to the world’s hungry millions. This is not only true for crop production. It is widely recognised that because of higher standards of living in the industrial Western nations even small increases in population contribute to demand at a much greater rate than increases in population in less developed countries.
Even if Australia enjoyed unlimited natural resources as the Minister claims, there are very real environmental constraints on the development of our rural and urban cities. The Green Paper notes that the rate of growth of the larger cities in Australia since World War II has made it difficult for public authorities to keep up with the demand for urban services. The backlog has been most serious for sewerage services. Yet at the same time as advocating increases in Australia’s migration program the Government by its own actions has greatly reduced the cities’ ability to absorb new settlers because of the cuts in capital expenditure, especially for sewerage programs. The Government has all but abandoned the growth centres at Bathurst and Albury-Wodonga, so one can only guess as to how these new migrants will be accommodated.
If Australia adopts a high intake immigration policy in the future it will stand alone amongst the industrialised nations with which we usually compare ourselves. In 1972 the United States Population Commission reported: . . . after 2 years of concentrated effort we have concluded that no substantial benefits would result from continued growth of the nation’s population . . . beyond the level to which we are already committed.
The Commission went on to state that ‘population policy is no substitute for social, economic and environmental policy’. A series of Canadian Green Papers also questioned the value and impact of significant levels of immigration in the future. Like Australia, Canada is not faced with a spiralling population but is faced with mounting pressures arising from urban congestion, regional imbalances and depopulation in some areas and an undesirable rate of growth in others. Canada, like most advanced nations, counts the cost of more people in terms of congested metropolitan areas. It needs to utilise its own labour force more effectively before importing migrant skills.
An inter-departmental committee on population policy guidelines reported to the New Zealand Government that it should ‘consider having developing programs for training and retraining New Zealand residents to fill recognised labour shortages, to reduce the requirement for the recruitment of skilled labour from overseas’. The New Zealand inquiry went on to count the cost of increased population and immigration and their impact on the environment. The Government and the nation must carefully consider this overwhelming body of overseas evidence that suggests that Australia should carefully re-assess its past immigration programs before extending them to our pop11lation policy for the year 2000.
I again wish to commend the Australian Population and Immigration Council for its work in preparing this Green Paper, but I also intend to offer what I hope will be viewed as constructive criticism of the structure and functioning of the Council. Population policy is a central issue of paramount importance to the nation. Our population policies will determine the nature of Australian society in the year 2000 just as our past immigration programs have changed Australia over the last 30 years. Our future population policies must be founded on the most accurate and reliable information available and must be developed on a basis of general community consensus rather than on narrow political platforms. The Minister’s Department has provided the bulk of the policy advice that the Council has considered but I believe that the Council should be more representative of people in the community. The dispensing of services at community level is a two-way factor in considering the future destiny of those whom we have brought here.
Before any informed decision can be made about Australia’s immigration policies the Government and the Parliament must be supplied with accurate population statistics and with adequate and up-to-date information about our present demographic patterns and the distribution of our population. It is therefore imperative that the Government and the Minister ensure that the 1976 census results are processed immediately and without their accuracy being compromised by cuts in Government expenditure. How can the Government seek to stimulate public debate on this important social issue if it withholds the information that is available from the census? I challenge the Minister to produce that information. The Green Paper, whilst containing some shortcomings, has relative value and subscribes something to the debate. I call on the Minister to initiate a national population inquiry along the lines of the Commission on Population Growth and American Future established by the United States Congress and appointed by President Nixon in 1970. The terms of reference of the inquiry could be similar to those of the American Population Commission. I believe that it is absolutely essential and a vital prerequisite before an objective, intelligent approach can be made to population policy in general and particularly immigration policy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-As I listened to the 30-minute speech just read by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) it became obvious to me that the author of the speech had forgotten to tell the reader this afternoon how increasingly pessimistic the author was as he got further on into the speech. The honourable member made a number of very grievous and very serious errors. I have time to touch upon only a couple of the errors. They are important. Of course population policy is no substitute for a rational economic, social or environmental policy but an appropriate population policy enables a rational economic, social and environmental policy to be pursued, and that is the rationale behind the Government’s approach to a population policy. The honourable member made a couple of other errors. To say that everything will be all right as we are now for 25 years- it will not be as long as that; for 20 years- and it is only then that we will run into serious labour problems or population problems and then we can look at the matter, is the height of absurdity.
Does the Opposition not realise that there is a population momentum when demographic matters are discussed and that the population momentum once lost cannot be sustained or regenerated under several more decades? Has the Opposition not learnt anything from the experience of France from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of World War II, especially between World War I and World War II, when it became increasingly impossible to sustain a momentum in terms of the dynamism of her own people?
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has had his opportunity to speak. I ask him to cease interjecting.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Reference was made to the author of my speech. That is objectionable to me.
-That is no point of order.
– It is objectionable to me and I would like it withdrawn.
– I do not think I can ask the honourable member to withdraw it. I think that it is quite a normal comment in debate.
– It is a lie. How about that?
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
– He is handling the truth carelessly.
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the remark and say that he is handling the truth carelessly.
– It amounts to the same thing. I ask the honourable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, but he knows what I am talking about.
-If the honourable member is offended merely with that throwaway word I will withdraw it. No point of substance or logic depends upon it. I hope that the honourable member is happy in respect of that. This is the third point which he forgot: He said that Canada can look forward to international markets as being sufficient to sustain her industry in a position where she might have continuing population problems and then he said that the same kind of reasoning would apply to Australia. That is completely fallacious.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable member for Melbourne cited that report with approbation. He forgets that he comes from a State which is- and he himself has been- a protagonist for high protection, increasing protection where it is necessary in terms of tariffs and bounties for a protected Australian industry. Then he cites with approbation a Canadian report which says: Throw these industries open to unfettered international competition.
– Absolute tripe!
– I have asked the honourable member for Melbourne to stop interjecting and he continues to do so. He has had his opportunity to make his speech and he was heard in silence. I ask him to pay the same courtesy to the honourable member for Lilley.
– What is his policy? What is the proposition he has put forward? It is littered with an unbridled pessimism and the pessimism became more apparent with the passage of each minute of the speech which he delivered here this afternoon. After all, the whole basis of a population policy depends upon a certain dynamism in the Australian people both in terms of its own population development and in terms of immigration. Let me read a very appropriate and pertintent comment from Professor Wilfred Beckerman, an academic of note chosen often by Labour governments in the United Kingdom to head economic inquiries. He had this to say in terms of economic growth:
And rarely has it been more important to weigh up the evidence carefully. A mistake in a criminal trial might mean imprisonment for one innocent man. A failure to maintain economic growth means continued proverty, deprivation, disease, squalor, degradation and slavery to soul-destroying toil for countless millions of the world ‘s population.
Then he seeks to relate that philosophy to what is needed and what is required in England today. Stagnation, in terms either of economic growth or her own personal development, is not the stuff of which higher living standards can be made and it is not the stuff of which a country can possess itself if it hopes to improve the environment for each one of its citizens. When one looks at a population policy it of necessity has to be a policy which is imbued with a certain kind of optimism, and that policy has to be reflected in the population.
Demography, I believe, is one of the most interesting studies that the committee entered into because in terms of demography one analyses the social predispositions and the vigour and dynamism of the people being studied. In those circumstances this population and immigration statement is a very important one, but it is also a little distorted. I believe the distortions are already obvious. It ought to be understood that immigration is part of a population policy; immigration is not the totality of a population policy. Yet as I look through this Green Paper I see that 1 per cent of it is devoted to a consideration of population policy and 99 per cent is devoted to immigration. In this respect I believe in the words and in the philosophy, which were enunciated so well after World War II, that immigration is a very valuable addition to the Australian population; it ought not to be a substitute for it. So in consideration of an appropriate population policy both aspects of it ought to be considered. I suggest that up to this stage both aspects have not been considered.
There has been a wave of pessimism that has gone around the Australian community and the cause of that wave of pessimism ought to be examined. The principal cause of it is derived when people look at the figures for net settler arrivals in or departures from Australia over recent years. From having figures such as net additions of the order of 100 000 and more in the 1960s, the last few years have seen a net addition of 84 000, minus 8000 and probably this year a net addition of something over 20 000. From that has derived a concern in relation to the development of Australia and her people. But that of necessity is only part of the program. It is not the whole program and it ought not to be seen as the whole progam.
Birth rates are important, and birth rates are significant when one looks at the net settler arrival figures, especially when the present birth rate in Australia is insufficient in the long run- it is insufficient today- to maintain zero population growth. A population momentum will cause population growth to persist and to continue for some time, but the present birth rate is insufficient to maintain it. Even allowing for the fact that the net reproductive rate figures which are calculated to be of the order of 1.04 per cent at the present time do not reflect the marriage duration fertility rates, it is quite clear that on the most optimistic assumptions at the present time birth rates in Australia are not sufficient to keep the population stationary in the long run. I believe that the dynamism of the Australian people and the vigour of the Australian people are greater than is indicated by the statistics. Frankly, what worries me when I look at this document is that the committee seems to accept that as a given fact which in no circumstances can be altered. But I do not believe that the Australian people are of that kind or of that order.
I become concerned also at one other aspect of the population debate. As has been stated over and over again by the Opposition in economic debates in this place, investment decisions by industry depend on what it sees in terms either of increased demand through the factory floor or through the shop front. That is the basis of the whole argument which the Opposition has put forward on the economy. Yet if there is stationary or even a declining population with a declining birth rate below the zero population growth levels there will be decreased demands through the shop front and through the factory floor. So I would hope that in further consideration the Government would consider very carefully family and fertility policies which can encourage a net reproductive rate to be greater than onegreater than zero population growth in Australia. I just do not accept the Opposition’s proposition.
I hope also that the Government will look very carefully- this is not by way of criticism but by way of suggestion- at some of the policies which have been adopted in some European countries to which there is very little or no migration and in which migration is not seen as a ready addition to the consumer sector or to the work force. I refer to many of the countries in eastern Europe. We acknowledge immediately that they have a different social system. We acknowledge immediately that their sense of social justice could be different from that of Australia. We acknowledge immediately that they might do these things purely for economic reasons, but the simple facts are that in at least four of the countries of eastern Europe which were beset with very great population problems and to which immigration is not allowed their birth rates have increased substantially over the last 4 years. I refer to 3 countries- Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic and Hungary. I will just illustrate my point with a couple of figures. They may be crude but the year by year movements are important. In Czechoslovakia the crude birth rate increased from 16.5 per thousand in 1971 to 19.5 in 1975 in a regular progression. The German Democratic Republic has halted a slide in the birth rate which has been going on for some decades and Hungary, under the advice of Professor Sauvy who is quoted with some approbation in this report to which I referred and with whom I have spoken in Paris about this, has increased her birth rate from 14.7 to 18.4 per thousand. That was done under massive new social benefits, social inducements, housing programs, family allowance programs and so on.
All that I am saying is that I hope the Government as part of its consideration of a population immigration policy does not put those considerations and countries aside altogether. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) might laugh, but he has put them aside altogether. In respect of the immigration part of the program, the trotting out of the old argument that immigration itself causes inflation or causes a decrease in capital stock, that kind of argument was taken care of, defeated and put aside at the Premiers’ Conferences in the early 1950s- in 1953, 1954 and 1955. It was at those conferences that some Premiers were claiming that they ought to have increased assistance because of the burden of migration of people who come to their particular State. After investigation it was found that migration to those States represented a great economic and social development to those
States. So the argument was put aside altogether and it was found to have little substance.
The Luddite mentality which says that if you have increased migration you do not need to have an increased capital stock is something from the past and it ought to be dated as such. The kind of argument that says you can keep old capital equipment on for a longer period of time because you have more- in the words of Opposition supporters- factory fodder to support or to buy the products is a piece of nonsense. Anybody who says that-it was hinted at earlier in this debate- does not understand what the social and economic effects of migration ought to be. I believe that a number of the policies hinted at in this document are well worth while considering. It is also clear from the document that the committee looks at immigration not as a short term measure but as one which continues for decades. You cannot turn the tap on and off. That was proposed by Dr Evatt in the 1 950s. It was not appropriate then and it is not appropriate today. I finish where I began and I say that in consideration of a population policy I hope the Government remembers- and I know that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) would have it on his mind as always- that population consists of 2 ingredients: The excessive number of births over deaths and the net settler arrival figures. I hope that the Government concentrates on both these factors, not to the disadvantage of one or the other and that some of the experiences which have been generated in other countries are appropriate for Australia to learn from in our own social context.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-After listening to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) I am pleased to support the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) and the comments that he made earlier in the debate. The honourable member for Lilley was surprised, as he put it, at the pessimism of the honourable member for Melbourne but who could be other than pessimistic about the actions taken by this Government? The honourable member for Melbourne was kind enough to welcome the public discussion on this matter but I would point out in regard to this area over the last couple of years we have had the first report of the National Population Inquiry and the ministerial statement on population policy of 30 March 1976. We now have the Green Paper. How long is discussion to continue before the Government gets around to making decisions? The honourable member for
Lilley, in criticising the honourable member for Melbourne, talked about the dynamics of population in other countries which are not comparable to Australia in the light of our economic and industrial set up. He expressed surprise that a Green Paper entitled ‘Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population’ should spend so much time dealing with the subject of immigration. I refer to page 3 of the Green Paper which notes: . . . in the Australian context, immigration remains the major instrument by which government can directly and significantly influence population growth.
This is the sort of thing which, unfortunately, I fear this Government will use for the purposes of economic manipulation. The honourable member for Lilley went on to talk about the other ways in which population can be adjusted, quite overlooking the comments in the Green Paper- I take it he contests them although he did not mention them- which state:
There is little evidence that the size of families can readily be manipulated by the Government of a democracy to achieve specific population goals. Some countries have used economic incentives … to discourage large families. However, because of the complexity of factors involved in people ‘s decisions about family size, the extent to which such government measures have affected, or could affect, the birth rate is difficult to determine with any confidence. In any event, incentives to have larger families could be very costly, even to the point of drawing resources away from other welfare programs.
I take it that the honourable member for Lilley was suggesting that population could be increased from the migrant content of the community when, in fact, I believe the migrant content of the community conforms in the main to the normal social attitudes that we take in Australia in regard to family size. What other measures does he suggest for this stimulation of population growth through fertility and family size? Does he want to make an attack on the question of mortality? It is ridiculous and unthinkable to suggest that the mortality rate could be manipulated. I rose to speak in this debate because I have a large variety of ethnic groups in my electorate, as does the honourable member for Melbourne. In fact, the Asian editor of Readers’ Digest visited Australia last year and I had the opportunity to take him into my electorate to show him the large mosque, then under construction, which has now been opened and which indicates the large Muslim content of the area. I took him to the local market on a Saturday morning. It is a veritable Tower of Babel and indicates the wide variety of ethnic groups in the electorate.
It is because of the problems that I face as a member of Parliament representing such a community that I am interested in what the future migration program in Australia will be. I must admit that in discussing this matter, I am referring principally to those migrants of nonAngloSaxon origin. I accept that those of Anglo-Saxon origin have some problems but they have a facility for communication which is denied to others. The Green Paper very fairly represents certain national objectives that Australia as a nation takes and comments that there is a diversity of views on these objectives and the best methods of achieving them. That, of course, makes one wonder about their validity in considering them vis a vis immigration policy. Australia’s post Second World War immigration policy under Caldwell was based partly on humanitarian grounds and partly on the growth of Australian population that was needed at the time. Unfortunately, under the previous conservative Administration, the traditional migration program was basically one of providing factory fodder. There was very little in the way of social planning programs to accompany that immigration intake. Little thought was given to housing or the education problems that exist, apart from even the normal provision of education facilities. The list is a long one. Any projected program in the future must take note to accommodate these social consequences.
The question is raised of the balance of the aged in the community. There are ways other than bringing out youth to combat the aging of the community. Does the value of a human being end at 65 years of age? He can and should contribute. This is where I think we are probably too rigid in our family reunion program. We should consider the value of the human being over 65 years of age and his place in the community. Obviously, with a properly designed program, the aging factor can be plateaued at a manageable level. We face a situation in which, in future, technology will alter work loads by lowering working hours and so allow us to take that sort of consideration into the balance of our population. At present we must face up to the problem that Melbourne and Sydney at least are rapidly reaching the stage where they will not work as cities. This is relevant to the matter before us. The mechanical demand of the services needed to keep a city functioning will not be met. This is part of the sociological effects of ever expanding cities. It is part of some of those measures which must be considered in looking at an immigration policy and a population policy.
The question has been posed whether we should be encouraging people to come to a consumer culture, such as we have in Australia, thus placing a greater load on world and local resources and on the environment. I think that the question without notice asked today on this matter by the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) should not be left without an answer. There are many other things that flow from it other than those beneficial things to which he referred in his question. Having said that, I return to the point I made earlier that any projected program in the future must accommodate the social consequences. It is these social consequences with which most of us, as members of Parliament, if we have an area of high ethnic content, have to cope. There is a tendency to try to solve these social consequences by manipulation of the composition of the intake. I do not think that is necessarily the right answer. If one tries to solve these consequences purely by manipulating the composition of the intake one does not take account of the latent capabilities or the latent abilities of many of those who come to Australia and their talents are underwritten.
On the matter of social consequences, I would refer the honourable members to a series of articles published in that well known radical journal, the Medical Journal of Australia, between 26 June 1976 and 18 September 1976. 1 think that these articles provide a lot of stimulation to thought in that area. I should mention some of the points that were raised in them. In the first article of the series it was mentioned that the migrants from continental Europe making up a significant proportion of our numbers are significantly and favourably influencing our cultural development but at the same time thenpresence creates social problems in the community. The article refers to the need for a spirit of partnership in the community between the new arrivals and those of us already here- the older Australians who have had the responsibility of making such an environment as we have- to be as helpful as we can to the new migrants. I ask honourable members to cast their minds to the citizenship ceremonies which they attend from time to time and at which masses of migrants become new citizens. At those ceremonies can be found a handful of Australians, usually parliamentary representatives at various levels of government, and very little else. I think we have failed in not making the effort then of trying to integrate and welcome those migrants into our community.
The non-Anglo-Saxon migrant has 2 basic difficulties. Firstly, he has the language difficulty and, secondly, the cultural difficulty. Out of that he can get what medicos are inclined to describe as ‘cultural shock’. It is a good term because many of us of Anglo-Saxon origin do not realise that many of these groups of migrants, such as the Greek migrants, really come from a large number of different groups held together fairly loosely. They have different dialects and different customs. The Yugoslavs are divided into the Servo-Croatians, the Macedonians, the Bosnians, and so on. That creates many problems in their assimilation into the community. Until we have that sort of understanding where we look at the social consequences and provide for them, it will lead to further social problems in the community.
We find that these groups do endeavour to preserve their language and their culture and it is in our interests that they preserve their language and their culture. In the electorate of the honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) there is a group which, without assistance from any government source, every Saturday morning has about 250 children attending classes in the Yugoslav language- in basic SerboCroatianand cultural acitivities. We do not help in that endeavour. There is a primary school in my electorate at which 70 per cent of the children are of Greek, Yugoslav or Italian origin. The only government assistance that that school has received to help the people concerned to run their classes and to help retain some of the old culture which will enrich our lives is $500 provided by the Victorian Government 2 years ago.
– What about the migrant officer?
– The migrant officer is probably the person who was the Liberal candidate for Reservoir and who, in the area with the highest migrant population, managed to get 30 per cent of the vote. I am sorry; I am now informed that he is the private assistant to the Victorian Minister for Immigration.
One must remember that because of the past policy of bringing in these people as factory fodder it becomes vital that both husband and wife are working. The survey that Dr Moraitis conducted in his practice in Victoria showed that more than 70 per cent of Greek mothers worked, compared with 36 per cent of Australian mothers. Some of the articles to which I have referred show the disability suffered by these women who are forced to work in industry. That is brought about by a lack of understanding of the social consequences that flow from their introduction into our community.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am really quite honoured to follow in the debate the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) who, in my view, gave a most reasoned discussion on the Green Paper, except that, unfortunately, he said that some people regarded migrants brought to Australia after the war as factory fodder. I suggest that if the honourable member were to talk to many of the people in my electorate who came to this country, probably with very little money in their pockets and with very few skills, and who have done very well here, he would find that they would not like being referred to as being factory fodder.
The speech of the honourable member for Scullin, however, was in sharp contradistinction to the speech made by the shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). For some reason he seemed to think that we were living in Canada. In fact, we are living in Australia. We are talking about the Green Paper on Australian immigration and population. We are not talking about Canada and we are not talking about many of the things that the honourable member seemed to want to get across so that tomorrow the Press could make something of what he said. It seems to me that the shadow Minister will well remember the work which was done by the Labor Party on the migration system in Australiathe work of rapidly cutting back the number of migrants, the work of dispersing the Department of Immigration and tying up some of its loose ends in a pot-pourri known as the Department of Labour and Immigration. That is a move which is well known through the migrant communities and which the present Government corrected immediately it came to power. Probably we should keep reminding migrant people in Australia of that because, despite the fact that a lot of prancing is done at large migrant rallies at places such as Melbourne by the now Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam)- a very big question mark hangs over the word ‘now’the record of the Government in producing this Green Paper in a relatively short time is most commendable.
The population makeup in Australia is changing because of the 2 main factors mentioned in the Green Paper. The net reproduction rate in Australia at the moment is very low. In fact, the latest statistics show that the net reproduction rate between 1974 and 1975, a period of one year, decreased from 1.12 to 1.06. The net reproduction rate is a rough term which can be used as an indication of whether the population is increasing or decreasing in net terms. When the reproduction rate reaches one- I take it that by now it may well have reached that level- we are in trouble. I do not propose, however, to expand on that argument any further because the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) has taken the opportunity of doing that.
The main thrust of my discussion would prefer to rest on the fact that the number of migrants to this country has been dramatically reduced. I am reminded that in 1970 we had a net permanent gain of just under 150 000 people, whereas by 1975 that figure had dropped to 25 000 people. I just ask: What effect did that vacuum have on Australia? In fact, the increase in our permanent population caused by the drop off in migration was reduced by 123 000 people per annum, and those 123 000 people mean, for instance, the loss of a lot of work for the building industry. The net effect has been that whereas Australia’s population was increasing by just on 250 000 people per annum between 1968 and 1972, it has now dropped back to about 40 000 or 50 000 people per annum. That has the effect of creating a great vacuum. It represents a drop in the increase of population of about 200 000 people.
We must remember that many of our services have been geared up to that great thrust of population increase, both by natural causes and by migration, that occurred after the war. I fail to see how we can cope with the sort of vacuum to which I have referred in such a short time. The effects on the economy of this sharp cut back have been multitudinous. Of course we have had a levelling out recently in education spending because of the change in the population pattern. At the same time, we are going into a period in which, because of the increase in the proportion of aged people, we will be funding a lot more assistance for the aged. Of course under this Government that has already started in no uncertain terms.
We have had demonstrably a decreased demand for capital investment. The Green Paper refers to the nexus between the rate of immigration and the rate of capital investment. We have had a very sharply decreased demand for construction activities. I remind the House that one of the major areas of unemployment at present is in the construction industry. The construction industry depends not on a steady population but on an increasing population if it is to carry on with the degree of expertise and at the pace that it has been used to in recent years. Looking at the Green Paper and summing up what people in my electorate think about immigration, I would say the total net effect of this vacuum, which has been largely created in the Australian Labor Party term of office, is absolutely detrimental to this country.
The rate of change of the increase in population was too sharp. Professor Borrie was at pains in his report to remind us that not only should we be talking about the level but also the rate of change of the level. I think that this is something which the Government must take into account in deciding what future policy will be- the change of rate of increase or decrease.
The Green Paper, on summing up, in my view basically supports immigration as a tool of population increase. It seems in so many places to come out behind the idea that we should be thinking about getting back to more traditional levels. It says that we will have an increase in demand for services with an increase in immigration. I would have thought that was self-evident but there are many people, such as the shadow Minister for Immigration, who seem to thinkthis is one thing I vaguely got out of his speechthat an increase in immigration will necessarily add to the rate of unemployment. Of course that is a fairly wide field to talk about. But I think that it is self-evident that an increase in immigration will add to the demand for services and then ultimately of course to the supply of services.
The Green Paper makes some very interesting points on a number of subjects. It talks about the possibility in future programs of the deployment of immigration for the purposes of decentralisation. As a member who represents a country electorate that is dear to my heart. The Paper suggests that there would have to be possible concessions to immigrants in order to encourage them not to go to the traditional stamping grounds of Sydney and Melbourne and the large cities. Perhaps that is something the Minister should look at closely in making final decisions. The Green Paper talks about many of the traditional arguments about economies of scale created in a country with such a relatively small population as this. It states that economies of scale are important still in the growth of our manufacturing industries. Many associated issues are discussed. I am very pleased that the issues of capital investment were mentionedwhether in fact an increase in immigration will cause a fall off in capital investment available for production as against that which will be required for the provision of social services such as schools and hospitals. The Green Paper notes that the capital investment needs of migrants are quite different at times from those of the existing population. It talks about many of the problems. It talks about the possibilities of ethnic tensions. From what I have seen working, for many years, in places such as Wollongong, I believe that ethnic tensions in this country are almost nonexistent. I come across them occasionally but in terms of what has happened in many other countries we have had a sensible system over the years and these tensions have not created much trouble.
The Green Paper mentions the problem of English speaking. It also notes that there should be no bar to continued immigration from nonEnglish speaking countries. I completely endorse that view. The Paper talks about the use of resources. Another thing I heard the Opposition spokesman say was that perhaps we do not have the resources to sustain a tremendous increase in immigration. I would argue with that too. The Paper also mentions refugees. I do not think that in a 1 5 minute speech one has time even to begin to talk about refugees. The whole question of refugees has to hinge on the moral question apart from all other questions. I am afraid that I must say again that the attitude of the previous Government to refugees who fought beside us in South-East Asia did not hinge on any sort of moral issues at all.
There are traditional arguments against a substantial increase in the immigration programthe traditional argument of an increase in the unemployment level. I believe that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is talking about carrying out a very detailed study through the Commonwealth Employment Service of the unemployment situation among the migrant population. I understand, however- this would be certainly borne out in my area- that the level of unemployment amongst the migrant population is far lower than amongst people who are born in this country. There are also the traditional arguments m favour of an increase in migrant population. The old argument of populate or perish is probably out of date. We must give the late Arthur Calwell credit for his foresight after the war in getting this country going by means of the immigration program. There are other traditional arguments that migrants are highly motivated. We all know how highly motivated they are and that people come here at times with very little money but with motivation to get out and work with some sort of pioneering drive which we may have lacked in Australia for awhile.
In my view immigration has added a great deal to this country and will continue to do so. We know that the needs of the migrants in the short term will add to the demands for goods and services, as I have said. Some adjustments will be required. The Treasury would obviously realise that we would need a commensurate increase in the money supply to cope with the demand for credit that migrants need when they come to this country, for instance, to purchase houses. I realise that because of the popular Press it may be politically unpalatable to talk about an increase in the immigration program. That probably is the conventional wisdom. I will stand out on any limb and say that the long term results will bear out any sort of confidence that the Minister might have in the immigration program adding to this country once again.
As I said, the rate of change in the intake will be important. We on this side of the House know what happens when people make rash, quick decisions and try to change things too quickly. We had to put up with that in this country for two or three years. The Paper has put up some reasonable options, I believe. It pointed out that even with a net gain of 100 000 people we would still be below the 1 per cent level of increase that seemed to be the Government’s aim for many years in this country. In the Minister’s tabling statement he noted that this Green Paper gives us an opportunity to recognise with confidence that Australia has an unlimited future. That is important. We have an unlimited future. The immigration program will help us to take advantage of that unlimited future. The Minister also stated that Australia of 1977 is very much the result of the decisions taken by its leaders in years gone by. I suggest that one of the most important decisions of the leaders of this country was to have a great and substantial immigration program. I would fully support any decision following this Green Paper to reintroduce that program because I believe that we as Australians need it for our future benefit. I certainly hope that the Minister comes out on the side of a substantial increase.
Dr JENKINS (Scullin)-Mr Deputy Speaker,
I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Under standing order 66, I claim to have been misquoted. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) misquoted me in stating that I said that after World War II migrants were factory fodder. I said thai the Calwell program after World War
II was based on humanitarian grounds and the needs of the country and that later immigration under Liberal governments became factory fodder programs. I can understand why the honourable member would want to misquote that statement.
-We have listened to a rather naive speech from the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Sainsbury). Migration is about people; not only people who come to this country but also people who live in it. When considering migration we have to consider the approach of the government of the day which would be expecting to receive the migrants, and we must consider also the people seeking to come to this country as migrants. Each of those things, I think, is a matter which requires serious consideration in any discussion on increasing, reducing or maintaining the rates of migration to Australia. I deal with the proposition of an increase because that appears to be the proposition which is being put. At the moment there is an extremely constrictive immigration policy which was initiated under a Labor government and which has been carried on, I think in almost equal effect, by the present Government.
– The number is up by 3000.
-I suggest that there have been minimal changes. The present policy makes it extremely difficult for extended family reunion. It makes it almost impossible for persons with relatively low levels of skill and it makes it difficult for many skilled persons. Some of the intent of the program is to make up for deficiencies within our own country and within our own training programs and, to a large extent, to make up for the lack of responsibility- I say that advisedly- of some of our industries which have failed to maintain proper training replacement programs for the tradesmen they need m order to continue their operations. Also in that area is what one would call the cuckoo theory whereby people attain their tradesman by preying on those who do the right thing by providing adequate apprenticeships and other forms of training programs. In each of these areas the Government plays almost no role.
We hear a lot of talk about support for training of apprentices and of other persons, but in real effect, apart from those persons who are trained by government instrumentalities- and that is a declining area- the Government has given little support. For instance, the Commonwealth Government has withdrawn very substantially in the last 2 years from major apprenticeship training in its own right as part of its cost cutting program. I assume that now we will bring in by a form of migration tradesmen whom the Government is not going to train in its own instrumentalities. I suggest that it is most likely that the cost of importing tradesmen, especially with the uncertainties of recognition which exist- I think the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) would understand that as well as I do- would be greater than the cost of training the tradesmen within our own instrumentalities. If we are looking for migrants as a basis of providing skilled trades I think we are deluding ourselves to some extent. If we are looking to migrants as a stimulus to business, as business is suggesting- it may be effective but there are most likely less costly and more humane needs by which that stimulus could be added- I think we are deluding ourselves. If we are merely looking for migrants also because we feel there is something wrong with the numbers situation as it exists in Australia at the moment and we would like to have growth patterns because growth patterns are part of the conventional wisdom, I think we are deluding ourselves.
If we are to seek additional migrants I think we must be more prepared than we have been in the past to take the steps necessary to cope with the additional population we are seeking. It is estimated that the social cost of settling a migrant at the moment is between $12,000 and $20,000. That cost has never been met in the past by governments; in fact federal governments have tended to lob people off the ship on to the wharf, after having met some part of the cost of passage in most cases, and to leave them to their own devices. Possibly they have provided hostel accommodation for some period. This has worked out for some families; it has not worked out for others. It has caused real trauma in some areas and social disruption in others. Governments have denied responsibility for the product of their own policies in this area. If the Government is to step up the immigration policy in order to bring about a net gain of say 30 000 or 70 000 persons a year, it has to be prepared to do something that governments have not done in the past, that is, to provide the wherewithall in order to finance an immigration program at the increased rate which it determines the program should reach. That includes the provision of proper training facilities for persons on arrival in Australia in order that they may be assimilated quickly into the population and in order that they maintain a reasonably equal chance within the work force.
It is all very well to look back at what happened in the 1950s and the 1960s when people could be employed immediately they got off the boat, but they cannot be employed immediately now. The areas where unskilled workers would seek work are a declining section of our employment market. I think the Minister is most likely aware that manufacturing industry now represents 2 1 per cent or 22 per cent of the work force in Australia. That is the area into which migrants traditionally have gone as workers. For instance, one of the major employers of migrants in my electorate, the car industry, is static in growth. It most likely could be stimulated but I do not think it is likely to be stimulated because I do not think the Government will take the actions which would be necessary to achieve that, and they may not be economically justifiable. But that is not an argument that I wish to go into here. The fact is that employment in that industry is not likely to increase.
Employment in the heavy industries which traditionally have been employers of migrants, such as the steel industry, is in a serious decline. Real unemployment exists in those areas. I do not think it could be suggested that those areas could absorb migrant labour. The suggestion that an intake of migrants will increase demand for resources is most likely true. But it is the short term increase in demand which, if the Government does not take other steps, will have a long term effect. Housing is obviously another important area. Migrants will require accommodation. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro mentioned loan accommodation. I do not think many migrant families coming to Australia who have had to meet the cost of their own passage- substantially that is now the case- would be in a position to enter into contracts to purchase houses at other than disastrous rates of interest, almost usurious rates of interest. Repayment costs would be beyond them and in other ways would give them serious disadvantages. I do not think many migrant families would be in a satisfactory position to start using resources such as requirements for housing. But I say this: At the moment the Government is involved in a program of shedding totally its responsibilities in the housing field. It says that it is passing them back to the States where they belong. That may or may not be true. But at the moment the Government is demanding that the States spend less money and reduce their rates of expenditure, which does not seem to me to offer a great prospect for migrants receiving the sorts of assistance which would be required if they are to be brought into Australia and accommodated as they are entitled to be if we are bringing them into the country for our benefit rather than for their benefit. I have not heard anyone suggest that we are going to increase the size of the immigration program for any reason other than a selfish reason, that the program would benefit us- not them. English migrants are in an even more difficult situation. State Departments of Immigration go through some form of mystical process of screening migrants. After they have been screened and the sponsors in Australia feel that they have arrived at a situation where approval will be granted, they begin the process through which other migrants go in the normal sense by being rescreened by the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. Usually the results are quite different from those of the State departments. The States appear to me to serve little purpose other than a public relations exercise. The chances of this Government meeting the financial requirements of an increased migration program are not great. At the moment in the city of Melbourne- the city of Sydney is worse- areas within 10 miles of the city are being sewered 20 years after their development. Migrants would be expected to go into those areas and to build new houses further out. They would obtain services at about that rate. The Government is reducing or is encouraging the States to reduce- or both- their expenditures in that area.
The migrant English program is almost nonexistent. In fact, in the Victorian scene, the teachers who were operating in schools- I think this is an important factor- have been transferred to other duties in most instances. Children, especially non-English speaking children who come to Australia and who are in their middle school years, are at an extraordinary disadvantage from which it is almost impossible for them to recover. It is totally impossible if they are not given more than the normal resources which would give them a catch-up provision in the language in which they must study if they are to acquire any form of expertise or qualification. They must be taught a different basic social fabric in history and in all of the other forms of learning which they undertake. The resources are not made available for this to be done. The Commonwealth Government is not doing it. I am not suggesting that the present Government is the first that has acted in this way. We talk about the success of the early immigration programs. They were successful because Australia needed workers, the jobs were available, the migrants were readily absorbed and they had nowhere else to go. The program in the 1940s was to take out of displaced persons camps displaced persons who had nowhere to go.
-Essentially you are talking about non-English speaking migrants.
-I am talking about nonEnglish speaking migrants in this instance. English speaking migrants start with some advantage. They have the same sort of social background.
– You are not talking about all migrants, you are talking about non-English speaking migrants.
– I am speaking about nonEnglish speaking migrants. They are an important source of migrants to Australia and have provided a substantial proportion of the postwar immigration program. I do not think it is fanto say that the post-war immigration program was the start of migration. About one-sixth of Australia’s population has been non-native born at every census this century, except in 1931. It is fair to say that while the numbers increased in the post-war period they increased relative to a greater population base.
The point I am making- I think it should be made quite strongly- is that we should not be starting an increased immigration program merely because this would be seen to be some way of stimulating our economy or stimulating growth. We should not be starting an increased immigration program, if that is our desire, purely for selfish reasons. The people who arrive here as immigrants are people who are entitled to be treated as people. That means that the resources to house them, to give them jobs, to provide their children with education and to provide security to the older sections of the family who ought to have proper reunion rights must be made available to those people, hopefully in family units. The other thing which was a feature of earlier immigration programs was that we welcomed the males and left the females where they were. It caused serious social disruptions and disruptions among individuals because they lacked the normal, natural situation under which any human society operates.
These are problems which cannot be dealt with unless the Government is prepared to meet the cost, and that is what we get back to. We are in a situation in Australia at the moment in which every item of expenditure is questioned. The Government will not meet the social costs of housing an increased migrant flow unless it rapidly changes the policies which it is currently enunciating and which are being enunciated daily by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It will not meet the cost, in social content, of people being lobbed in Australia and asked to survive for up to 20 and 30 years without the normal social amenities of any community. I suggest that if the consequence of an increased immigration flow is that more people are settled on the fringes of the 2 major capital cities of Australia the program, while it might be temporarily satisfactory as a stimulant, will be regressive in its total concept because of the consequences on those capital cities which are already in a situation of turmoil because of their population and lack of social fabric.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate on the Green Paper entitled Immigration Policies and Australia’s Population. This is a discussion paper which should provoke interest and comment in the community. Since it was tabled last week there have been a number of newspaper editorials and some newspaper comment on it. This debate, I hope, will create further interest in it. I trust that when there has been adequate public debate the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) might ensure that there is another debate in this place on the subject. The paper does not reflect government policy. It is bipartisan. It has been prepared by the Australian Population and Immigration Council whose membership is far ranging. It includes the leader of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, the Secretary of the ACTU, academics, the Minister as Chairman, and people from manufacturing industry. The late Mr Rich who was the General Executive Manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd was a member. To hear the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) speak today, I rather gathered that in part he was attacking the report. So he was attacking something to which the leader of the ACTU and the President of the Australian Labor Party was a party.
The Minister, in his preface to the report, referred to current trends and raised the question whether a country of the size of Australia, with a small population and a wealth of natural resources, should adopt a policy of zero population growth. I encourage debate about this question. He said:
In fact, should the current trends in child-bearing continue, Australia is on a long-term path to zero population growth. In addition, because of the present difficult economic and employment situation in Australia, immigration programs have been decreased significantly to a point where the 52 748 migrants arriving in 1975-76 represented the lowest intake since 1947 . . . The rapid increase in Australia’s population which has been a feature of post-war years has abated.
This was part of the background in which the Minister asked the Council to prepare the paper. It comes in one volume. I welcome it for that reason. I welcome its non-technical language. Public understanding of these issues in the community today is needed. The Government wants ideas from the community and from interested groups, so that it can decide its policies. I hope we have another opportunity in this place to debate the subject.
Let us look at the Australia about which we are talking. Australia is a country whose population is based on immigration. Since 1788 the population has been added to by immigrants. Today there are some 3.4 million Australians who are migrants. Migrants make up approximately 30 per cent of the work force. I think that in looking at immigration and population policies one must involve oneself in an examination of the unemployment question in Australia todaywhether the unemployment is long-term or whether it is short-term. There is obviously genuine unemployment in Australia today. There has been some public debate about its nature and scope. I suggest that there is confusion in the Australian community about the exact nature of unemployment. Young people are out of work, and the problem is perhaps greatest there. This is a serious problem for those involved, and one for the community at large.
I believe that a number of problems need to be taken into account in analysing unemployment in Australia today. As a member of Parliament I hear from employees who are out of work. I talk with the local Commonwealth Employment Office … I hear from employers who tell me that they cannot get unskilled labour. I hear of professional people who are unable to get work. I hear of the problems facing school leavers. I think that other members hear the same things.
There is confusion about the statistics. There seems to be a conflict between CES figures and the Bureau of Statistics’ figures. There are, I think, included in the figures a number of people whom I would call ‘long term unemployed . I recommend a study of the report of the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty entitled Long Term Unemployed People under Conditions of Full Employment that was published in 1975.
– It is a good report.
-It is a good report, and I thank the honourable member for his interjection. The report, referring to a survey conducted in this matter, states: , . . these figures suggest that the risk of long-term unemployment is highest among young people and single people. Perhaps it is especially nigh among single people in their forties and fifties.
The report also states that the proportion of overseas-born long-term unemployed in the survey is roughly similar to that in the Australian population although it recognised that some migrants do have special employment problems. The report also refers to the practice of promoting children from one level to the next irrespective of performance and the problems that that creates. The report goes on to state:
Ninety per cent of the whole sample had no formal occupational qualification on the level of trade training or above.
The report draws the conclusion:
We can suggest the further general conclusion that the risk of long-term unemployment is highest among the unskilled.
I think that factors such as this are relevant when looking at population policy.
I realise that Mr Norgard is looking into the CES. I welcome today’s announcement by the Minister that a number of selected offices of the CES will be open for a trial period on late shopping nights in areas including Prahran which services my electorate. I await Mr Norgard ‘s report but I suggest that some of the factors about which I have been talking are enough to warrant some son of semi-judicial inquiry into employment. Perhaps it need not be a royal commission but it would be independent and objective. It could look at the implications of long term unemployment to which I have referred. It could take the survey on that problem further. It could look at the problems and the implications of unemployment for migrants. It could take evidence from all interested parties who wished to give evidence. It could examine objectively the statistics. It could see whether unemployment was regional or whether it was structural. It could examine further the nature of this problem. I think that this might be an important step to take.
We have to face the fact that there are a number of unemployable people in Australia. That message comes to me from the report that was commissioned by the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. These people are not eligible for sickness or invalid benefits so naturally they are eligible for unemployment benefits. I think that we have to have a bipartisan debate on this matter. We have to ask ourselves whether that is a proper classification of these people, whether they have particular problems, whether there is a general social problem that needs to be solved and whether another criterion of benefit needs to be created. Additionally, I think we need to examine the nature of our education system to ascertain whether sufficient resources are allocated to technical training and whether alternative forms of training for skilled trades other than apprenticeships are available. We have to ask ourselves whether the apprenticeship system has to change. There is a definite relationship between the education policies on the one hand and unemployment policies, population policies and industry policies on the other.
If we look at the statistics we find that today manufacturing industry is employing fewer people than ever before. Ten years ago approximately 29 per cent of the work force were employed in the manufacturing industry. Today the number is down to approximately 21 per cent. It is a shame in many ways that we do not have before us in this debate today the White Paper on manufacturing industry because there is a definite relationship between the 2 papers. We need to know the scope and nature of the manufacturing sector in Australia. We need to know how many people are likely to be employed in the manufacturing sector if it is expanding. We need to examine the world wide trends in manufacturing. We have to look at what is happening elsewhere in the world.
At home we are looking at a situation where high inflation caused by the previous government has forced many manufacturers in Australia to set up manufacturing plants overseas. This is called off-shore investment. We have to look internationally at the trends of off-shore investment. I would like to refer to a quite innovative and challenging article written by Norman Macrae which appeared in The Economist of December 1976 and which talks about the off-shore situation in the United States. The author says that in fact the successfully exported industries that went from the United States, such as the consumer electronics industry, are in fact departing from Asia and coming back to the United States. In Australia the trend at the moment is for industry to start to go off-shore. I think we need to know whether that trend will continue in Australia or whether it will not. I would welcome the White Paper in that regard. Norman Macrae also raised a number of other interesting issues in that article. He refers to the way that manufacturing industry is trying to go and believes that there will be a rush back to individualism in manufacturing that will step over worker participation. He talks of the European situation and says that no new attempts to integrate settler immigrants as manual workers are likely in Europe but that there will be increased hirings of deliberately short term migrant workers. I do not believe the latter is feasible in Australia or perhaps desirable, but we need to understand what is happening in the rest of the world so that we can by analogy see whether it is appropriate here or whether it is completely inappropriate. He also makes the point in relation to immigration in Britain and refers to an anti-immigration backlash in that country. That certainly does not exist in this country and none of us would ever want it to. But looking at immigration policies in the future one would have to be very careful about how such policies were handled in that regard.
We will then have to look at the type of Australia that we need. We need to look at population policies that can be related to manufacturing policies and to industry policies both primary- which includes mining- and tertiary. We in fact need to know the type of Australia that Australians want today. In the remaining time available I would like to examine the nature of society in Australia today. As I have said, we have 3.4 million migrants in the community. We have a multi-cultural society. The cultures have brought much to Australia. It was pleasing to notice a number of members wearing kilts at the reception for the Queen in Parliament House. That reflects multi-culturalism. The immigration program has brought to Australia a number of things that we would not otherwise have. I refer to such things as changes of diet and different cultural values which we can all appreciate. But I think we have to be careful not to isolate by way of cultural separatism a number of communities. Of course Government policies are against this. I believe that in looking at population policy we do not want to see cultural ghettos in this country. Policies must be developed so that they are not created. I welcome the policies that we have. In my electorate we have an ethnic teachers ‘ program to retrain teachers. I welcome more of these courses and more of this son of thing. I have been pleased to be able to speak in this debate. I welcome further public interest in it because I believe it is most important that all Australians understand and contribute to it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I also welcome the opportunity to participate in this discussion because I think it highlights the need in Australia for long term policies. I want to concentrate some of my comments on the impact on industry of future decisions of the Government on the population. Several Government supporters talked about it being government policy to have a net increase through new arrivals of something like 70 000 a year. According to the Green Paper, we are then talking about the Government having in its mind a population by 2000 of something like 18.5 million. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) shakes his head. I have just done a very rough bit of arithmetic. I take it that the mathematics in the Green Paper are correct. It talks about an annual increase of 50 000 giving a population of 17.6 million and an annual increase of 100 000 giving a population of 19 million by the year 2000. It seems extremely important to me that in one way or another the Parliament gets its thinking straight on what is to occur.
Some of the points made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) are easily refuted. He talked about the Government perhaps invoking policies that would encourage larger families in this country. That swims against what has happened. An increased number of women have now tasted the benefits of a second income coming into the home, especially during the boom of 1974. The Government will have to burn the candle for a long time and work hard to come up with a policy to attract women back into the home from the work place. It would seem to me that irrespective of the policies that may be enunciated oy the Government over the next year or two about what population goal it is setting, nothing will happen to offset the trend towards a larger proportion of our work force being women. We had better face up to that fact and try to build our policies around it.
The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) dealt with the question of the shortfall in the labour force. We often hear the cry that there is a shortage of skilled labour. At the moment industry surveys- they are pretty rough surveysshow that there is a shortage of skilled labour in Australia. I have often been mystified by this shortage. I have been a critic of the way in which our apprenticeship system has operated in that we can have X number of apprentices taken into industry this year and then we hear that there is to be an economic recession next year and the number will be reduced by 25 or 50 per cent. That seems to me to be a pretty loose way of trying to organise the work force in a country like our own. What the Minister should be cognisant of is that because of the wage structure many trained tradesmen leave their trade. The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union and my colleagues who work in the metal trades tell me that a vast number of trained fitters, boilermakers, etc., have taken other jobs for a higher pay.
– Are you talking of margin for skill?
-It may be a margin for skill, but now we have done away with the margin for skill it is just a total income. It is not uncommon in my electorate to find that someone driving a truck has done his time as a fitter or boilermaker. Both sides, employer and employee, agree that the person who has missed the boat as far as wage relativity has been concerned over the last IS years is the fitter, around whom of course the wage structure of most wage earners revolved for so many years. So when the Minister talks about perhaps supplementing the number of skilled tradesmen in Australia by bringing people in from overseas he should take into account what has been the local experience, and that is that a lot of trained tradesmen have been attracted away from their trades by the wage structure that applies in this country.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was making the point to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that the question of skilled labour needs far greater research in Australia than has already been undertaken. Perhaps there needs to be far more encouragement by way of incentives to people to retain their trades, because experience has shown that people leave their trades. Obviously that is one of the things that has to be overcome if we are not to bring in further skilled labour to meet the shortages that are reported from time to time within industry. Another point mentioned in the Green Paper is the traditional source of migrants coming to this country. It has been made obvious from previous speeches by the Minister that we can no longer rely on those traditional sources. It is not merely Australia’s decision that we will have a net increase in settlement of 20 000, 40 000, 60 000 or 100 000 and that these people will come from the same countries as our migrants came from between 1945 and 1975.
According to the Minister’s speeches in the past and according to the research that has been carried out by the Department, a great deal more will have to be done in relation to the source of that increased number of skilled people coming to Australia. I think that also ought to be the subject of far greater debate than the few minutes allowed to us here. Whilst I believe that in
Australia we have overcome many of the problems that may have existed decades ago, nevertheless there are some very sensitive areas. I am sure that the Minister would agree that these matters have to be handled in such a way as to permit complete communication between the Government and the Australian people about who comes here, who settles here and how they fit in. So I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an insight into the departmental thinking about the traditional sources of migrants.
One of the unresolved questions in Australia is the industry that needs to be retained for defence purposes. I do not want to spend too much time on this topic. There does not seem to be any end to the inquiry. At the moment 2 inquiries that I know of are proceeding. Obviously there are industries which relate directly to our defence capacity. Those inquiries ought to be completed. We should be making a decision about the industries which we want to keep here. It is true that some members of the Australian work force will no longer work in certain industries. We must discuss and debate how we can overcome these problems without making some sort of unilateral decision over the heads of all the people who will be involved.
I noted also in the Green Paper that the Department seems to discount any decision that we make here in Australia and its impact on world population. Irrespective of the issue, some people say that it does not really matter what we do in Australia as it will not have any influence outside Australia. I have heard the same thing said about defence, migration and population. I have heard it said about uranium. It seems to me to be a very servile attitude on the part of any committee to say that it does not really matter what we do or what decision we take as it will not have any impact on what happens elsewhere. Looking at Australia from an overseas point of view, to talk about having a population in the year 2000 of 17.6 million, or 18.5 million or 20 million- in that range- when we think of Asia having another 600 million it seems a fairly puny argument. Nevertheless we should not get down on our knees and say that it does not really matter what we decide because governments have a first responsibility to people in their own country to see that they are living a decent life.
I turn now to the question of the number of people leaving Australia. I want to refer specifically to Australians. Whilst the report mentioned the total number, it failed to delve into the reasons why people leave Australia. There seems to me to be some argument advanced that a lot of people are leaving Australia because of the breakdown in technological advances in industry. Evidence was put before the Labor Party by several of the organisations representing these people that there was a shortage of opportunity here in Australia and that was why a lot of them were going overseas. I think that the Minister ought to look in more detail not only at the number of people leaving Australia but also at what skills they represent.
I agree with the honourable member for Lilley on one point. He said that it seemed that the Green Paper was taken up with immigration and perhaps submerged the total question of population. I think that I am the ninth speaker in this debate and no one has yet mentioned the Aboriginal people. The Green Paper points out that the situation of the Aboriginal people is quite different from the overall expectation of the community. I think that it is incumbent on any government to step up its policies to deal with the problems that may exist in that area. The numbers of Aboriginals will increase and we may need to do more for them than we have done in the past few years.
I have already touched on the question of women in the work force, which was also mentioned in the Green Paper. The honourable member for Lilley ought to look at that subject because there is an obvious desire, which is easily understood, for women to go to work. Personally, I would encourage it. I do not think that the Government will come up with any ideas that will attract a woman to have more children than she desires when she is first married and to give up the opportunity of going back to work. That seems to be the normal situation in Australia. The work force will be greatly advantaged by that situation. Those industries that are looking ahead to see what work force may be available to them in the future ought to look seriously at what jobs can be done by women in their particular industries.
I make the point that this report and this discussion are important to industry. In our country we have some very large labour intensive industries. If the figure given in the Green Paper relating to the fertility rate is correct and there is no gain at all in immigration we will have a very low population by the year 2000 compared with what we may have anticipated 10 years ago. If there are something like 300 000 or 400 000 workers dependent on an industry such as the motor car industry it seems to me that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to maintain an industry of that size with the lower population figures and the education figures projected in the Green Paper.
My task is to raise in the minds of those people in industry the importance of the population debate. I hope that a few of them will start to take the subject a little more seriously than they may have done in the past because it may be possible to keep protecting industries by very high tariffs but we are living in a world in which there will be great change. Obviously, with another 500 million or 600 million more people in Asia, that will be the home for labour intensive industries. As against that, none of us who have children ut school are training them for or hoping that they will be able to get a job on the assembly line. The attitudes and the behaviour of parents in setting ideals for their sons and daughters have changed quite radically. We are not training our children either at school or in the home to take jobs in labour intensive industries. There is a big question mark, in my view, hanging over the future of the major labour intensive industries in this country and it is going to need a vast structural adjustment program to include this training.
On the question of any stepping up of the immigration program on the basis of family reunions this will necessarily mean that because most migrant families live in Melbourne or Sydney there will be an increase in the population in those 2 cities. A family in Sydney is not going to bring out members of its family and settle them in Alice Springs or in Broome. Obviously families will want to have relatives as close to them as they possibly can be. This will mean an increase in population, although not frightening as far as I am concerned, for the cities of Melbourne and Sydney.
In conclusion, I also make the point- and I know how anxious you are, Mr Deputy Speaker, to tell me my time has expired -
– I am not anxious. It is provided in the Standing Orders.
-If the first figure in the Green Paper be correct, then the Government of the day, whether it be a conservative government or a Labor government, has to look very, very close at putting aside resources to care for the aged.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It must have come as a great surprise to this House to learn that this Green Paper was the first that had been presented to the House in its history on the question of immigration. It is, I think, noticeable that of all things immigration has been the most bipartisan matter before this Parliament. Sure, the great immigration program of the recent decade was carried out under the aegis of a
Liberal Government, but it was Arthur Calwell from the Labor Party who set that program on its course and we can regard this as a real bipartisan policy. This paper does not endeavour to set down policy lines. It talks of the facts on which a policy can be constructed. The honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) very rightly pointed out that immigration was only one of the ways in which the population was increased and the optimum reached. Let us have a look at the facts.
What are the sources of our growth? There are two: natural increase, that is, the excess of births over deaths, and the net overseas movement of which migration is a part. Let us have a look first at the excess of births over deaths. Not very long ago- I think in 1971-72- this was running at 164 000 a year. This year it looks as if it will be down to about 1 10 000 a year and it is decreasing fairly rapidly. It is true that there is still this excess but it will not last for long because any sophisticated analysis of the demography of Australia will show that the net rate of reproduction is now down towards unity, that is to say, we are only just replacing our population. Indeed, when Professor Borrie made his projections he made the optimistic assumption that the net rate would not fall below unity. Looking at the detailed figures which are now available- I have not time to put the statistics before the House- it looks as though Professor Borrie had overestimated and that the net rate of reproduction will fall below unity. That is to say, within perhaps ten or twleve years from now our natural rate of increase will be not just zero; it will be negative. We will have under current practices- under current practices- a declining population by the 1990s.
– It is probably that now.
– No, we have not got a declining population. We have a situation in which the decline seems to be projected but we have still an excess of births over deaths. I am saying that it will not be long under present conditions before deaths are exceeding births and we will have a declining population. This can be changed by immigration.
Let us have a look at our net overseas movement figures. These figures include not only the settlers who are brought into Australia but also voluntary migrants, those who go overseas, those who emigrate. The net figures show that in 1968-69 there were 126 000 coming into this country but by 1972-73 this figure had fallen to 28 000. There was a small spurt in the succeeding year when the figure went up to 70 000 but in the last two completed years the figure was down to 29 000 and 20 000. This year it would appear that the figure will be bigger, but not significantly bigger. It will be of the order of 30 000 to 35 000 net, probably, by the time this financial year is completed in 3 months ‘ time. So immigration has tailed off and it is no longer significantly contributing to the increase in our population.
We now come from those facts to some matters of policy. Immigration is, of course, a matter of individual people besides being a matter of total population. From the Government’s point of view, from the country’s point of view, let us look first at this matter of total population. Do we want a bigger population? Would we be content to remain with a population of 14 million or 15 million and then go into a gradual decline by the time the century turns? I do not think so. I do not think the ethos of growth is one we would like to discard altogether and there are one or two practical reasons why we should not do so. First, ours is an empty land. We have tremendous potential here in space, in food and in minerals. We have tremendous opportunities. We cannot, I think, be allowed by the rest of the world to leave this land empty. If we have a declining population in Australia then none of us are secure, because the eyes of the world will be justifiably turned to the unused potential which is on our continent while other continents, maybe, are groaning from the excess of population. So that is the first reason. For our own security if for nothing else we cannot accept this concept of population decline. But there is also another concept, I think.
We are an urbanised people. We are a people who have high standards of living. We want to be able to produce for ourselves a fair degree of our own objective consumption. We cannot get the economies of scale, we cannot get the efficient production which turns out cheap cars and cheap television sets and other things of this character, unless we have a population much bigger than we have today. That does not say, of course, that we should have unlimited growth but our present population is insufficient to provide the industrial base for us to be really, truly prosperous. Therefore, from the economic point of view as well as from the security point of view, it would be better to have an increased population in Australia. The population would five better if there were more people here. I do not say, of course, that there should be an infinite number of people in Australia. We do not want to have an overcrowded Australia, but that is not a conceivable prospect within the life span of any child sitting in the Gallery, much less in my life span. So there is reason why Australia should grow and there is reason, therefore, to have an immigration policy of a quite different order of magnitude from that which we have today. It is said- I think this is the grave error that was made by the Labor Party and accepted by this Governmentthat when there is unemployment the level of migration must be cut because the migrants will compete for jobs. Over the short term that is undoubtedly true. If migrants are brought in it will add immediately to the labour force difficulties, but if migrants are not brought in it will add to the labour force difficulties in the following year because there will be no markets, there will be a lack of growth in industry and there will be no employment available.
One of the basic reasons why there is unemployment this year is that migration has been cut down for the past 2 or 3 years. That is one of the basic reasons for unemployment today. I do not say that the world can accept indefinite growththere is not enough space on the planet for thatbut one cannot adjust quickly from a position of high growth to a position of low growth. The industrial machine, the economic machine cannot take the strains of that adjustment. That is one of the things that has happened which is responsible for the high level of unemployment in Australia today. It could be said- in fact, I would be one of the people who would say it- that the Government’s measures for stimulating the economy and reducing unemployment have not been adequate. I have said that in the past and I do not retreat from that position in the slightest iota. But whatever the adequacy or inadequacy of the Government’s measures, it remains undoubtedly true that the problem has been made more difficult by the accumulation of low migration figures. If we had had better migration levels in the past three or four years, we would not have the same unemployment position in Australia today.
I say this in the face of the undoubted fact that, over the very short term, the entrance of migrants competing for jobs exacerbates the immediate unemployment position. We must think of this in a rational way and understand that what is true over the short term is the opposite over a longer term. The Government has failed to understand this. The Labor Party was itself responsible for this delusion. The Government has, I think, been slow to understand that to get out of our present troubles we will be very much helped if we could have a greater population and increased migration.
Finally, I wish to say something about migrant sources. Above everything, we want compatibility with our own people. I should have thought that at the present time we should be looking for our main source of migrants from the United Kingdom. I cannot understand why there appears on my table from time to time appeals to me in my capacity as a member of Parliament from people who have cousins or brothers in England and who want to bring them out here but find that they are unable to do so. They may be healthy but they may not come within the very restricted categories of employment or they may not come within the very restricted categories of being close relatives. I cannot understand why these restrictions continue to be imposed by the Government at the present time and I appeal for a change of heart. In the interests of the security of Australia, in the interests of the prosperity of Australia and in the interests of increasing the rate of employment in Australia again, let us reinstate a more reasonable migration program.
-The honourable member for MacKellar (Mr Wentworth) summed up his speech clearly when he mentioned the term ‘empty lands’. The honourable member is a ‘populate or perish’ man. His whole mentality and the mentality of his Government has been directed towards that approach for many years. Within that mentality is the idea that unless we populate, this country will perish. That is the mentality of the Government and, of course, there has been no real change from that position. For 23 years from 1949 to 1972 Liberal-Country Party Governments increased the population of this country by approximately 1.9 per cent per year. That increase consisted of 1 . 1 per cent natural growth and 0.8 per cent immigration. The whole concept, of course, was if that growth had continued until 2000, there would be approximately 23 million people living in this country. Between 1972 and the year 2000 the increase would have been of the order of 10 million.
Most of those people would have been incorporated into Sydney and Melbourne. That was the situation between 1950 and 1970. Over 60 per cent of the population that flowed into this country settled in those areas. Consequently, the living conditions in those areas became extremely poor. Living standards of Sydney and Melbourne have suffered greatly because of the unplanned position of Liberal-Country Party Governments in those years. State and local governments were starved of their funds and, consequently, the living standards of those areas were appalling. In 1972 the people in those areas revolted against that situation. It is for that reason that we must look at the whole population situation. I place on record that the immigrants who came into this country made a great contribution. Many of them suffered because they were forced to move out to the fringes of Sydney and Melbourne and were forced into poor living conditions during those years. Therefore, I believe that a more rational position should be reached.
Let me examine the Green Paper on immigration and population which is before us. There is a fair amount of sound content in the Green Paper. Despite that content we must question the point and the value of the exercise. At best the paper brings together a number of arguments and much material with which we are completely familiar. It breaks no new ground. There is no reason why it should. The Green Paper follows hard on the heels of the Borrie report. The Borrie report provided a detailed and extensive analysis of our population growth, using all the resources of demography. I had many criticisms to make of the Borne report. Many of its assumptions and the conclusions drawn from them will be proved to be invalid.
The expertise employed in the preparation of the report is difficult to challenge at this stage. I point out to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and to the House that if a comparison were made between that report and the reports and the studies that have been made in Canada, United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of the world it would be found to be in fact an extremely poor report. The projections of the Borrie report may turn out to be sadly astray. All projections are liable to be proved to be ridiculous. Just to give one example, a population inquiry which was held during the last world war found that with existing fertility rates Australia’s population would not reach a maximum of 9 million people. Furthermore, the report of that inquiry said that there would be a decline in absolute numbers during the 1980s. We know that to be completely false. The Borrie report may prove to be just as wrong. To its credit, I might say, the Borrie report was very cautious in its projections. It stressed the chances of error in attempting this sort of exercise.
In formulating a national population policy we have to use the Borrie report as a starting point. Certainly the document before the House at the moment is no substitute. All it does is draw together most of the arguments and presents them in a fairly neutral form. There are no concrete proposals before us at the present time. Another full scale inquiry into population growth would not be justified until some time in the 1980s. It is up to the Australian Bureau of Statistics to monitor population movements until the next inquiry is held. Using the Borrie yardstick we can expect a population of approximately 16 million people by the end of the century if we rely only on natural growth and exclude immigration. That means that even with a lower fertility rate we can expect a significant increase in population. The crucial question for policy making is whether we accept that target figure and adjust our policies to it or whether we accept 16 million people as a base which can be increased quite substantially by a deliberate immigration policy of allowing in up to 20 million or even more new migrants.
The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and those people who really fear the elements to our north and who have the populate-or-perish mentality say that we can do that, but I question whether they will be any more secure if we increase that number to 23 million. In fact, because of consequent internal problems they may be far more insecure. Each choice presents immensely important questions about the allocation of resources. Quite clearly acceptance only of natural growth puts much less strain on resource allocation. The impact of population growth is dispersed over a much greater span of years. But we have certain human obligations to meet. There are many human problems involved. For instance, the biggest human problem facing this country at the present time is concerned with the Lebanese question. No electorate- in Australia has to meet that problem more than does my electorate which incorporates the Rosehill and Harris Park districts in the Parramatta area with enormous concentration of Lebanese people. My electoral office receives enormous numbers of inquiries from people about making applications on behalf of others who want to come into the country. I will be doing whatever I can to arrange family reunions. It is an extremely human problem. Therefore, we must encourage the reunion of families. There is also the political question to consider. I believe that political refugees, particularly those from countries such as East Timor or Chile, should be allowed to come here.
Heavy immigration programs impose immediate burdens on resource allocation and can cause gross distortions in our economy. My attitude to population growth- I have expressed this attitude on many occasions in this House- is that a population of around 17.S million would be the est target for Australia by the end of the century. Natural population growth, as predicted by the Borrie report, would account for more than half of the population growth required. A target of 17.5 million people would require an annual population increase of about 1.1 per cent between now and the turn of the century. That 1.1 per cent would include both natural growth and immigration. The natural growth would need to be supplemented by a modest immigration program. That would mean that our allocation of resources to education, health, social welfare, and urban and regional development could be planned without risk of dislocation.
There is one major question which has been neglected by both the Borrie report and the Green Paper. I refer to the question of internal population movement. We will know more about that important aspect of policy when and if the census figures are fully analysed. We know that there has been quite a sharp movement away from the traditional centres of population. People are tending to move northwards, particularly to Queensland but also to the north coast of New South Wales. There has been a slighter movement inland from south east coastal regions, but it is too early to assess the importance of that trend. We know also that there has been strong population growth in Western Australia and, to a lesser extent, in South Australia, even without a major immigration program these trends will continue. There is no doubt that an important redistribution of population within Australia is under way.
That raises important questions about the use of resources, and that is a topic which the Green Paper should have tackled. The Green Paper in no way has dealt with that aspect It is completely wrong to assume that the only question of importance is the level of aggregate population growth. Even if the population level were completely stationary, internal population movement would have a marked impact on the face of the country. To take one example, there is no simple relationship between population growth and the environment. It might be thought that a stationary population level would preserve the environment and maintain living standards. It is possible for population movement to be just as great a threat to the environment and living quality as a population which increases rapidly. We are seeing an example of that in the very heavy pressures which population movement is placing on Queensland- pressures which the State Government is ill-prepared to meet. For instance, if one wants an example of population growth one only has to look at what happened in the city of Gladstone in the 1960s. No city in Australia had an infrastructure so ill-prepared to meet the problems of population growth as Gladstone in Queensland had. Many other towns could be cited. Another example is the Gold Coast. The Gold Coast has private affluence and public squallor. At present 80 per cent of residences on the Gold Coast are unsewered, but the population growth in that area is enormous. The position of the wealthy who live in the apartment towers is all right, but many people have to live with bad services.
It is also a fact that population movement out of Sydney and Melbourne can bring benefits to the environment- for example, by reduction of the pressure on the inner city freeways and also by the reduction of the enormous pressure on the sewerage services of those cities. On the other hand it is argued by many that if population increases the extra income could be used to protect and restore the environment. Government action and legislation could be used to reduce the risks of environmental damage. In total these might be more effective as a protective measure than trying to limit total population growth. There needs to be more detailed study of these aspects. Not in the last 25 years has there been any in depth study of them. The whole question of population movement is one of the most vital facing this country. The Labor Government foresaw these problems and tried to plan for them. In particular that is why we tried to develop our growth centre programs. That is why we tried to move the people away from Sydney and Melbourne. That is why we tried to move those people from the central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne into sub-metropolitan centres and other regional centres to make our society a much more rational society to live in.
-Order! The time of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has expired.
– I count it a great honour to be permitted to take part in this most historic debate because I have no doubt at all that the policies which are evolved in 1977 will shape the future of this country right up to the commencement of the 21st century. There could be no more fundamental matter for debate at this point of time than the question of Australia’s immigration policies and Australia’s population. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in bringing the Green Paper before this Parliament pointed to the fact that this was the first green paper dealing with Australia’s immigration policies and Australia’s population ever to be tabled in this
Parliament. I take the opportunity of congratulating the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the initiative and drive that he has shown, aided and supported by the Australian Population and Immigration Council, in preparing this Green Paper and bringing it before this Parliament and the people of Australia for discussion and debate.
I have said before and I shall say again, that this Government is fortunate to have a Minister of the calibre of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I think there are many in this Parliament on both sides of the House who would concede that this Minister’s performance has been one of the most outstanding performances by any Minister in the Fraser Government. I say that for one particular reason: Because I note that there has been some Press speculation, with which I shall deal shortly, claiming that in some way the Minister is unsympathetic and that he has come under backbench criticism within the Government parties. This is not so. As one who has ventured to express some views on Australia’s immigration policies may I be heard to say on this occasion that this Minister is one who does give one a hearing and is responsive and sympathetic to the submissions one puts before him.
It is incredible when one considers that with a population of 13.9 million in one of the richest countries in the world, that this is the very first time that there has been a Green Paper on this matter placed before this Parliament for the Parliament as a whole to debate, giving it an opportunity to consider Australia’s future population growth and in particular immigration policies. As the Minister said when he introduced the Green Paper into the Parliament, the previous immigration policy which has operated in this country for nearly 30 years was responsible for bringing to Australia over 3.3 million new settlers who, together with their children born in Australia subsequent to their arrival, have been responsible for about half of Australia’s postwar growth from 7.4 million to 13.9 million people. I believe it is not inappropriate at this time to pay a tribute to those new settlers who have come to Australia since 1945 and who have integrated in our Australian society and who in the overwhelming majority of cases have made an outstanding contribution to the community life, progress and development of this nation.
I think far too often we are inclined to take our new settlers for granted. In many cases we have not given them the credit for their achievements. It is a matter of considerable pride when one sees in Australia men and women who came here straight after World War II with nothing but the clothes in which they arrived and who have now settled into our community and have become some of our leading citizens. I believe therefore that the decision that this Government takes at this time is most critical for the future of this country. If we were to take note of some of the comments which have emanated from the other side of the House we would have no immigration policy at all. There are some who are frankly so petrified at the question of immigration, thinking in some way it is an electoral issue which could put them out of Parliament, that they are not prepared to face up to the realities and the challenge that is before Australia at present.
I commend the Minister and the members of APIC for coming out and telling the Australian people quite bluntly that we can expect a considerable increase in immigration to Australiamuch larger than many other people would have believed. The honourable speakers who have preceded me have pointed to the fact that increased immigration leading to increased population will lead to increased demand and increased productivity. Far from endangering the jobs of Australians I believe it will make available to Australians more jobs than they would have if there were in fact a negative immigration growth in this country. There are some people in the community who parade themselves as supporting zero population growth. May I be heard to say in this Parliament that I can envisage no more fatal course for Australia to adopt than that of zero population growth.
– We’d all be losers.
-Quite so. My honourable colleague from Riverina supports me in this proposition. It is fashionable to talk in terms of zero population growth. I often feel that it has overtones of 1984 that anybody should presume to tell me or any other Australian how many children I or they are to have. These people who want to promote this fallacy, this dangerous doctrine -
– You are a first-class goose.
– I see that the honourable member for Melbourne is again endeavouring to curry favour with the zero population growth people by his interjection. I think the zero population growth people are selfish people. They want to keep Australia to themselves and to a few. We are in fact a country in the world. We have no right to deny to others who are capable of coming to this country and making a contribution to it the opportunity of coming here. I draw to the attention of this Parliament that over the past few years there have been drastic changes in Australia’s population growth rate. The birth rate in Australia has fallen steeply. We have now virtually reached the point at which the net reproduction rate is unity. I am told that means we are producing a sufficient number of females to replace their mothers when they die. In other words it is just holding the fort. 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.
My remarks will no doubt raise the ire of some opposite and some who are listening to this debate, but I regard it as a matter of tragedy that, quite apart from those whom we are inviting to come to Australia as migrants one in three or one in five, depending on what statistics one takes into account, of Australian pregnancies are terminated. The slaughter of 50 000 to 80 000 unborn Australians per annum, increasing as it is, is a matter of profound regret to me personally and a matter which will undoubtedly play a very important role in the birth rate and the birth rate trends of this country in the years to come. I believe that if we carry this thing to its illogical, twisted and distorted extreme we will abort Australia’s future. I appeal to those who find it popular to canvass and to encourage the proposition of abortion on demand to think again what they are doing to this country and what they are doing to future generations of Australians. Like the Minister I draw to the attention of the House that unless we have a proper immigration policy not only will we have reached the situation of zero population growth but we will find that this country in the 1980s- that is barely 3 to 4 years off- will have a very severe manpower shortage. We will not have sufficient people in Australia to make Australia progress and develop as we would all wish it to.
I draw to the attention of this House the fact that in 1975 Australia actually sustained a net loss of over 8000 persons on total movements in and out of the country. In the financial year 1975-76, Australia gained fewer than 21000 persons and in the last 10 years we have lost over 39 000 people out of this country. A lot of those were Australians who chose to go elsewhere. But one out of 5 migrants to come to this country have left this country. The majority of them have gone back to their original homelands. Some have gone to start a new life somewhere. Australia cannot afford to lose people of intellect and drive, people who are prepared to work, people who came to this country seeking hope and have left disappointed. I would hate to see a situation develop where that continuing drain from Australia continued and we would lose people who are valuable to the future of this country as we move towards the twenty-first century.
The Minister has indicated in his statement on the Green Paper that we have 3 alternatives before us. Might I just say in passing that I welcome the indication that we might now be talking in terms of immigration in net terms rather than raw figures. I think the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) deserves some credit for this because he and others- I know that the Minister is aware of this- have been urging for some time that we should be talking in terms of net figures rather than raw figures which are erroneous, inflammatory and cause considerable misunderstanding in the community. A net gain of 50 000 migrants per annum is within Australia’s capacity. Whether we take the small scheme, the medium scheme or the large scheme, I believe that here and now we can at least support the medium scheme and we should be looking towards the large scheme. I commend this Minister for bringing this scheme in. I deplore those who try to make political capital out of it and who say: ‘You cannot do this because of the unemployment situation at the moment’. Let me with respect take a strip off of the Australian newspaper which, in today’s editorial, poured cold water on the Green Paper. I deplore this. The editorial, in its concluding sentence, made this comment:
We need to work out where we are really going before we can invite other people to join us in the venture.
The point that the Minister makes, the point that the Australian Population and Immigration Council makes- and on APIC were the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, and the Secretary of the ACTU, Mr Souter- is that if we do not get these people into Australia we will not be going anywhere. We need these people. It is not a case of saying: ‘Do not invite them until we know where we are going’; the point is that if we do not invite them now we will not have them in the 1980s and we will not have them in the 1990s when we will most need them.
In the remaining time available to me to speak I wish to refer briefly to the question of
Australia’s obligations, moral and practical, with respect to refugees. I refer to an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 March. There is a statement in the editorial- and I do not know to whom it refers-which is completely untrue. In dealing with the questions of Indo-Chinese refugees, it says:
It is good that two Liberal MPs have pressed the Government to accept more Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees, but disappointing that Mr MacKellar sounds so unsympathetic.
That statement is a lie. Not only has the Minister not been unsympathetic but also he has been most compassionate in all his discussions on this question. He is a Minister who is genuinely concerned about the problem. I make no apology for being one of a number of back benchers who merely sought to provide some additional support to the Minister in tackling this most important and sensitive human area. I say here and now that the Sydney Morning Herald has done the Minister a grave disservice by claiming that he was in any way unsympathetic to the situation.
What is the situation? As at 3 1 January this year there were 77 825 Indo-Chinese refugees. Of that large figure probably 20 000 only would wish to seek homes away from their own native area. At the moment they are in Thailand as temporary refugees. Of that 20 000 probably about 10 000 may seek to come to places like Australia. We had a deplorable record under the Whitlam Government where, notwithstanding knowledge of the impending fall of Saigon and notwithstanding the knowledge that refugees were going to try to get into this country and that we would need to get them out of Vietnam before Saigon fell, the Whitlam Government’s proud refugee intake was 76 people. The rest were left in Vietnam to be slaughtered. It is significant to note that at the same time as the Whitlam Government was able to bring 76 people into this country, the United States of America made homes available for 150 000 people. At this very moment, as I said, there are over 77 000 of these refugees in Thai refugee camps. What happened to them on 26 November last year? Twenty-six Cambodian refugees were blindfolded and put across the border into Cambodia where they were shot immediately. The Thai Government did this to test international reaction.
We cannot ignore, and I know that we have a Minister who will not ignore, the plight of those Indo-Chinese refugees and Australia’s moral responsibility for them. Like the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), I deplore the deafening silence of those who were so active during the Vietnam war, those who marched through the streets and who are now silent on the question of Australia’s obligations to those refugees. I ask the Minister to look carefully at the problem and I know that he will do so. The establishment of a small, permanent team of immigration officers in Bangkok is one proposal I put forward. I also propose a regular intake of these refugees and an extension of the system of sponsorship of refugees by church organisations and other groups. I congratulate the Minister.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) is fast getting a reputation in this place as a Jekyll and Hyde. He is very capable of talking with 2 voices on almost every matter that comes before the House. He was just talking about the Labor Government’s attitude to refugees. Let me remind him and the House and the listening audience that it was his Government which contributed to the creation of the refugee problem in Vietnam. It was never the policy of the Labor Government to go into Vietnam and create the havoc, the turmoil and the slaughter that resulted in the very desperate situation that so many people find themselves in today. When it is all said and done, the attitude of successive Liberal governments over something like 30 years in respect of the whole Asian scene was: Here is a yellow horde racing down to destroy Australia.
-Who said that?
-This was the image projected by the Liberal-Country Party coalition over 23 years. It took the election of a Labor government to discover Asia. Only tonight some members of the Labor Party had the privilege of welcoming to this place for a social function His Excellency, the Ambassador from the People’s Republic of China. If that had been advocated just 4 years ago there would have been an outcry from the other side of the House.
Tonight we are talking on the question of immigration policies and Australia’s population. This is a very serious matter to contemplate because we can now be laying a basis for immigration policy that can last Australia for the next 30 years or so. In my view the program that has evolved over the last 30 years can only be regarded as successful in that 3.3 million new settlers have come to this country. They represent half of Australia’s post-war growth from 7.4 million to 13.9 million people. The Labor Party is proud of the fact that the immigration program was one of its creations. I suppose that on this occasion, as has been the case on many other occasions, a tribute can be paid to the architect of Australia’s immigration program- the late Arthur Calwell. I have heard this acknowledged even by Government supporters and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is indicating that mention was made of this tonight.
After Labor initiated this program- and a former colleague of mine, the previous member for Parkes, Mr Leslie Haylen went round the world in a difficult situation gathering up the ships to bring these people to Australia- we found that a unity ticket evolved on the question of immigration. The policy initiated by Labor was fairly faithfully upheld by successive governments.
The position is that Australia’s population in recent times has waned. The population rate has slowed down significantly. Births and deaths can soon be very much on a par. We are approaching zero population growth in Australia. The intake from immigration has slowed down as well. It slowed down, I acknowledge, during the period of the Labor Government’s administration, as it has slowed in the period of the Liberal Government’s administration since 1975. This naturally reflects the world wide inflation. It was proper that the intake from immigration should slow down in that situation. If there is a trend to unemployment that results from world wide inflation, to be dogmatic about the level of intake of migrants would represent a very absurd position. For many years we had a immigration target of one per cent of the population. This has fallen to a much lower figure in recent times. In 1975 our net loss in immigration was 8000. In 1975-76 the gain was less than 2 1 000. That represents a growth rate of only 0.15 per cent, which is significantly less than the one per cent of population target which we pursued for many years.
We are told in the Green Paper from the Australian Population and Immigration Council that in 10 years we lost 330 000 people who took up residence overseas. There is a big difference between gross migration intake and net migration intake. Some honourable members can recall the situation in 1961, the credit squeeze situation and other periods when the cycle did its course and unemployment was the order of the day. It is apparent that there is a very real relationship between the net immigration figure and the state of buoyancy of the Australian economy, the availability of jobs, the availability of houses and the like. It is interesting to look at the immigration intake and to see from where our migrants came.
We have had 3.3 million migrants over the years. Forty-two per cent of them came from the United Kingdom, and 58 per cent from 100 other countries including Italy, Greece, Yugoslavia, Germany and The Netherlands. I suppose that each of these ethnic groups contributed its own special quality.
I was interested to read in the report that only 14 per cent of migrants come from Asian countries. An infinitesimal number, because the number has not been specifically mentioned, as I recall it, apparently come from Oceania. There is a good case for us to do some thinking along these lines: If we are to develop an affinity with our Asian neighbours, if we are to consolidate the fact of life that we live in this Asian and Oceanic region, we should be, in my view, looking more objectively at these areas. We should not open the gates, which is a term that has been mentioned during the years. To open the gates to one people probably would be an undesirable thing. To open the gates to one region probably would be an undesirable thing. To pursue a policy of taking people from Asia as well as from Europe and other parts of the world, depending upon their capacity to be effectively absorbed and integrated into the Australian way of life, I think would be the proper course. We have come to understand that many Asians have the capacity to come here and to bring something with them, not only in terms of material possessions but in terms of technological skills which will enable them to make a very worthwhile contribution to the Australian way of life.
I believe that far too few Australians have very much understanding of our closest neighbour, Indonesia. I suppose the same could be said of Indonesia. There is an obvious need for us to get a more effective exchange between the 2 peoples. I venture to say that the majority of Australians would not be able to name half a dozen Indonesian towns. That augurs very badly for the future. When one lives in such a close way in any neighbourhood situation tensions often manifest themselves. I believe that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, in cooperation with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), should be giving much deeper thought to the need to lift from 14 per cent the intake of Asian migrants and should have regard to the need to bring people from Oceania.
The Green Paper which is before the Parliament and the nation at present- this is a discussion paper which is the basis upon which we hope one day to submit a White Paper to the Parliament- puts forward several options. The first option is to the effect that there could be a gross intake of 30 000 to 50 000 migrants per annum. That would virtually represent a zero migration program because that number of people depart from this country every year. I do not think anybody is advocating that at present. The second option is a gross intake of 90 000 to 120 000, which would represent a net gain of about 50 000. That is more than we have at present. I think our gross intake is about 70 000. Roughly speaking, the yardstick is that nearly half of them are lost anyway. There is close to a 50 per cent net intake. I do not think the second option is sufficient either. The third option is that there could be a gross intake of 170 000 to 200 000, providing a net gain of about 100 000. 1 would take the lower of those 2 figures if I were having a stab at the kind of immigration intake that we should have at present.
It is pointed out that when we apply the policy or choose one of these options we must have regard, as we have done, to the family reunion requirements, to the refugee component which has been mentioned by a number of speakers, to our diversified manpower recruitment requirements, to our retraining policies and to matters of that kind. I know we have housing problems in Australia. We have under-utilised migrant hostels. From that point of view, at least there is a case to increase our migrant intake. Many other considerations are involved. I believe that the net effect of immigration would be beneficial to Australia in that it would have the capacity to increase consumer demand in Australia. Many industries talk about deficiencies in terms of economy of scale from the production point of view. They say that our market is not big enough to produce things on a competitive basis. I remember the late Mr Justice Dovey conducted an inquiry into these matters. There was a well substantiated contention that migrants provide a net benefit in the overall scene. I think it is one of those very difficult things about which one can come up with a finite answer. That is the kind of conviction which I have, and I have a positive inclination in this direction.
Let me mention that the population trend in Australia is very serious in that we have had a decline from the stand point of both natural and immigration population growth. We have a population of nearly 14 million. It has doubled during the last 40 years. Our growth rate has fallen from 2 per cent in 1971 to 1.2 per cent in 1975. There was a drop in the natural increase, and the migration gain fell to an 8000 loss situation in 1975. Even the figures in respect of childbearing reveal a remarkable situation. I do not mention this in a critical vein. In 1891 childbearing was running at the rate of 6.5 per cent. In 1921 it was running at the rate of 4 per cent. In 1971 it was down to 2.7 per cent. I believe that controlled fertility is here to stay. I am not standing to advocate anything to the contrary. Our net reproduction rate- this comes under the heading, if you like, of fertility of women- in 1961 was 1.63 per cent; in 1971 it was 1.39 per cent; in 1973 1.18 per cent; and in 1974 1.12 per cent. Now we have reached a situation in which the rate is probably below the replacement level of 1 per cent. Our immigration has the effect of offsetting this declining fertility.
There is much more to be said in this vein. I think sufficient figures are available already to indicate that if Australia is to sustain its population and if it is to provide the population expansion which is necessary from many points of view, including the point of view of defence and point of view of getting effective utilisation of our generously endowed resources, it ought to be at this stage laying the basis for an immigration program which will contribute to the well being of this nation, to the growth of our economy and to the prosperity of the Australian Community.
Debate (on motion by Mr Neil) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 7 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.
-In my speech last Thursday evening I think I made the points that the Westminster system had served Australia well but that it had a disadvantage that we should take care to understand. This disadvantage is that the Parliament tends to ratify decisions rather than to debate them and, as a result, the public is not informed of the decision making process of its governmental system. I pointed out that the debate was not taken before the public’s eyes.
I discussed the role of advisory bodies and how they had developed since shortly after Federation. I likened them to courts that considered not the abuse of the power of government but rather considered unwise government or inappropriate or inefficient government. I wish to discuss the nature that I believe these advisory bodies should have if they are to serve us best. Advisory bodies are a selected, informed elite outside the process of government that can motivate and evaluate the process of government. They can keep the public informed about the process of government. They have many advantages if we set them up in the best way. They can protect government from inappropriate pressure groups. They can protect pressure groups from inappropriate decisions. For instance, the rural lobby over the years has clamoured for a bounty on superphosphate. Yet, it has passed virtually without comment, at least until recent times, that there is a tariff burden that disadvantages it in a quite different manner- in fact disadvantages it to the order of somewhere about $2,000m per year compared with the superphosphate bounty that is worth only $60m a year to them.
Advisory bodies can protect weaker groups in the community. For instance, the Schools Commission has pointed out the just claims of Catholic parochial schools. It has pointed out to the community at large that poor parents send their children to these schools and that they have a just claim on the public dollar in the same way as has the public education system. Advisory bodies thus inform the public as to what might be its real priorities if it understood the situation best. Advisory bodies are likely to inform Parliament and give rise to a somewhat more meaningful debate than we now have. Hopefully they inform the Parliament in such a way that we are less likely to indulge in the sort of banal inter-party games to which we sometimes descend.
Advisory bodies can inform governments. Civil servants can dominate- in fact they often do dominate- Ministers. This is hardly surprising. Ministers are birds of passage. Civil servants are at the head or close to the heads of departments normally for much longer periods than is the case with Ministers. They can speak with an authority that it is difficult for a Minister of the Crown to muster. The civil service is a continuous, cautious and precedent-ridden body which is not likely to be innovative.
We can do 2 things. We can continually retire off civil servants- I suggest that is not a practical solution- or, alternatively, we can question the advice of civil servants from a background of adequate knowledge. It would be a good thing if the productivity of the public sector came under adequate scrutiny. After all, it does not face the discipline of the free market place. I cannot see anyone making a takeover bid for Telecom Australia. It is not sufficient that that scrutiny come from junior bureaucrats themselves for they are hardly likely to bring down critical reports of their seniors. We must look outside the bureaucratic system if we are to expect an adequate evaluation of the effectiveness of the system. I suggest this is the essential nature that advisory bodies should seek to have. They should be independent of the government. Recently people were very worried because it was feared that the Industries Assistance Commission might come under government influence when sections of its servicing personnel were to be transferred to a government department. Inquiry has convinced me that in this case there is no real cause for concern. However, it is proper that the people who feel they depend on this advisory body should have been concerned because were the IAC to be influenced by the government of the day it would have been destroyed.
We have only today had a fear that perhaps the Temporary Assistance Authority will not have to report to this Parliament in the same way as it has in the past and that the Government might be able to change customs rates and quantity restrictions without adequate opportunity for parliamentary debate. If that fear is well foundedI do not think it is- there would be something to be very worried about. The IAC and other advisory bodies, such as the Schools Commission, are the servants of the Parliament and not of the government and the political party in power. They report through the Parliament to the public. The advice of a department, because it is privy to the Minister and to the government of the day, is not subject to public criticism. Criticism by all who may wish to offer criticism is the time honoured proof of academic worth. It is the time honoured evidence that in fact a case is valid and ought to stand, as is the case with the results of decisions that flow from it.
If the IAC or any other advisory body such as the Schools Commission is given a departmentlike role- in other words, it is given an executive function- it then will have its own policies of yesterday to protect, it will lose its independence and it will not serve the purely evaluative role that it should as a servant of this Parliament rather than of the government. Its reputation is its authority alone. If an advisory body is to report to the Parliament it depends for its sole sanction upon its standing with the public. That standing should be carefully preserved at all times.
Appointments to those advisory bodies should be seen to be fair and should be seen to represent all those people who have an interest in the role of those bodies. For instance, appointments to the Schools Commission should be made on merit and not from one source of education interest, for instance, the public education sector or the private education sector. The bodies should have appropriate terms of reference. They should never be asked to report on those things on which they cannot make a judgment. They should not be asked to make a judgment on what are the needs of roads or education because to do so, given that all cakes are finite, they are then being asked to make a judgment on the needs of defence, social services and other matters that are not germane to their skills.
Finally I would like to say something about the costs of these bodies since it has been suggested that this might be one place where a government might restrain its expenditure. We should very carefully keep them in proportion. The IAC costs annually some $8m. Protection costs Australian industry some $4300m each year. In other words, the cost of the IAC, the sole body that is publicly evaluating this protection, is 0.018 per cent of the protection itself. The Schools Commission administration costs are $2. 6m. The Commonwealth expenditure on schools in the last Budget was $549m. In other words, the Schools Commission costs 0.47 per cent of the moneys it is evaluating, even without taking into account expenditure on education in schools from other sources. I suggest that if we are seeking to save money it is very silly to talk of sacking the efficiency expert.
– I have always had what I regard as a necessarily healthy cynicism about the parliamentary process and the ability of a back bencher to influence it, but today my contribution to this debate really causes me to question the pointlessness of it all. I listened with absolute amazement to the Queen’s Speech, and I mentally reeled with horror as cliche after meaningless cliche was strung together in the production of a so-called master plan which was neither masterly nor a plan. However, it was not only that the content of the Speech was deceptive in its generalities- we have come to expect that from tory governments- but rather that it matters not how many holes are shot through it or how many arguments one summons to criticise this Government. It does not matter a proverbial pinch of salt. The Fraser Government will not listen. It does not care. It clothes one elitest anti-working class proposal after another in thinly disguised egalitarian verbiage or false and misleading claims about its concern for the individual and liberty. I am aware of my impotence to change its attitudes or even to cause a pang of conscience. But for the few souls listening to this debate who are not already convinced I will attempt to expose the hollowness of the non-program of this Government.
The facts are that there are not viable plans for solving inflation, that there is not a solitary care for unemployed people, that there is no semblance of planning or concern in the fields of social welfare, health, urban planning, Aboriginal affairs, the aged or education. Let me look briefly at the Speech we are debating. I urge honourable members to look rationally and critically at the looseness of the phraseology and therefore its meaninglessness. Take this as an example:
At the heart of my Government’s policies lie a commitment and a concern: commitment to increasing the freedom, opportunity and equality of the Australian people; and concern with enhancing people’s ability to make their own choices and live their own lives in their own way.
If that is not bad enough I instance this one:
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.
I give one final example on education which will do nothing to help the actual problems which exist in this field:
My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.
This hollow 8 minute speech which was masqueraded as a program should however come as no surprise to any who read the address delivered by the Governor-General at last year’s opening of Parliament. At least this Government shows a consistency which enables us to evaluate it. The consistency of course is nothing short of frightening and frightful. It is instructive to look at the earlier effort to gauge just how irrelevant the hollow sentiments of such addresses to the Parliament are to actual intended performances and action. Speaking in this House on 23 March last year I called the Governor-General’s Speech ‘a vague exercise in the juxtaposition of cliches and generous but hollow sentiments’. I ask honourable gentlemen to look back over the last 14 months while I quote from that Speech. If they did not believe me then, I say to them now: Cop this for real underhand connivance and for hollow, meaningless and cynical verbiage. The Governor-General said:
My Government’s immediate objective is to bring inflation under control so that there can again be jobs for all who want to work.
That is a hackneyed and discredited line by now. What about this next quote for a joke in poor taste? He said:
The Government’s long term objective is to encourage the development of an Australia in which people have maximum freedom and independence to achieve their own goals in life, in ways which they decide.
Here is a nice piece of generalised garbage:
At the root of the economic crisis is a steadily increasing tax burden required to finance, at the expense of the private sector, an ever-growing public sector. Measures to deal with this crisis will advance Australia towards the long-term goal of a society based on freedom and on the mutual respect freedom makes possible.
Then the Governor-General talked about strategy. I refer the house to his point ( 3 ). He said:
Major reforms will be implemented to protect individuals from being subjected to massive unlegislated tax increases.
Point (5) read:
The total wealth of Australians will be expanded by the encouragement of enterprise, and by the reassertion of the Government’s role in establishing an appropriate legal framework for economic life.
The first point is a pie in the sky which the Government has pushed into the dark and the second is a woolly, verbose exercise in nothingness. What about the strategy for economic prosperity? The Governor-General said:
Concurrent with action to bring the deficit under control the Government has announced a number of measures to further restrain inflation, encourage investment in plant and equipment and expand job opportunities in the private sector.
Given the difference between the aim and the result I am tempted to ask: What happened to single digit inflation? Then of course the Governor-General said:
Rural industries will not be neglected as they have been in the past.
At last we have the truth. They certainly have not been. Many small farmers have never been worse off. What about the following statement as an underhand way of saying that union bashing will be a big plank in the Government’s platform. The Governor-General said:
The Government intends to increase the capacity of Australian workers and employers to decide the leadership of their organisations. Legislation will be introduced providing for officially conducted secret ballots in elections for officials in organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
On health- the biggest joke of all- he said:
Medibank will be retained and the Government will ensure it operates efficiently.
Who would expect school leavers to have to wait 6 weeks before being permitted to register for unemployment benefit after this statement?
Measures have been taken to ensure that only those genuinely eligible receive unemployment benefit. The Government will do everything in its power to ensure that these measures are applied with a sensitivity and understanding that respects the dignity of the unemployed.
Sensitivity, understanding and dignity are words without meaning for the Prime Minister. Then, of course, there is the issue of women’s rights. I wonder what those involved in the financially pinched working women’s centre in Melbourne would say about the following:
The Government is firmly committed to furthering equality of opportunity for women in education, employment, and in public life.
Also, the pressure on ethnic radio funding makes a mockery of the following statement:
The Government recognises the major contribution that migrants have made to Australia. It will intensify action to meet the needs of migrant and ethnic communities in Australia.
Honourable members should listen to this:
The thrust of the Government’s policy in Aboriginal affairs is to promote self-management and self-sufficiency for Aboriginals. To this end the Government will be considering ways of providing opportunities for Aboriginals to play a significant role in setting their long term goals and objectives, priorities for expenditure, and in evaluating existing programs and formulating new ones.
With literally millions of dollars slashed from Aboriginal housing, health and education, that statement hardly makes sense. I think that the final line in the Governor-General’s speech sums up the whole thing:
I now leave you in the faith that Divine Providence will always guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia.
Nothing that the Government promised to do happened in the way it predicted. The Government relied solely on Divine Providence in the cases where it did not flagrantly disregard its promises.
Whatever the Queen has promised this time is irrelevant, given this Government’s record for ignoring its publicly stated aims. Historically and consistently Liberal governments couch their aims generally and break their promises willynilly. Last year in this debate I said that I foresaw that this Government would dismantle rather than build a socially equitable society, that it would blame the worker and the weak for economic problems which emanate from the Western capitalistic system, and most importantly that it would place on the backs of the working class the job of getting Australia back to so-called economic prosperity. I am no prophet. One does not need a crystal ball to know what this Government is likely to do or not to do, and it is of absolutely no assistance to look at the so-called plan of action as represented in the Speech opening this Parliament. The track record is what has to be analysed. The past is the guide to what the Government will do in the future, and nothing has changed.
Let us look at wage indexation and the Arbitration Court in relation to what this Government has done; the castration of the Regional Employment Development scheme and the National Employment and Training scheme; the promise of anti-union legislation; the nastiness shown towards the Aboriginal community; the haranguing of social service recipients and tertiary education students; the disregard for the status of women, community health and urban planning; and the mutilation of Medibank. These are the areas in which the Government really shows its colours. It is inept; we all know that. But it is much worse; it is sinister, cruel and elitist.
– It is curious, to say the least, for the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) and indeed other honourable members of the Opposition to rise and be critical of this Government for its handling of the economy. The former Administration is responsible for the economic mess which this Government has inherited and is now responsible for correcting. I want to remind the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), who is interjecting, and other honourable members opposite that when the Australian Labor Party came into office in 1972 the number of unemployed was approximately 137 000. When Labor left office the number was 329000. The number of young people unemployed when Labor came into office was 81 000. That number had risen to 152 000 by the time it left office. The inflation rate was 4.6 per cent when Labor came into office and it was 14.1 per cent when it left office. That is the track record of the previous Government and they are the problems that the present Government has inherited- the problems which it is slowly but surely overcoming.
It is fitting that Her Majesty the Queen should have opened this second session of the thirtieth Parliament during her silver jubilee year. We are greatly honoured by the presence of Her Majesty m Australia, and and I note with pride the loyal, affectionate and warm welcome that has been extended to her in every centre she has visited. Her influence for good and for unity in Australia and in other parts of the Commonwealth of
Nations is enormous. As well as being an outstanding monarch, our Queen is also a remarkable woman. Every effort should be made to ensure that this jubilee year is a year of achievement in many fields. I would like it to be the year when Australia clearly defines a national energy policy. Energy is the keystone of modern industrialised civilisation, not only for manufacturing and the provision of human comforts but for the very sustenance of life, as present day agriculture is one of our major energy consumers. The productivity of our farmlands is many times what it used to be only because we pour additional energy into the ground by the use of fertilisers, tractors and other farm equipment.
In the post war period and the early 1950s energy supplies, particularly oil seemed inexhaustible and the consumer entered a period when energy sellers were cutting prices to sell their products. This price war led to the industrialised nations becoming dependent on oil and natural gas. In 1973 the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries generated the oil shock by cutting off supplies and then increasing prices. The Western world began frantically looking for ways of alleviating their dependence on oil and gas through the development of alternative sources of energy. Apart from the increase in the cost of goods imported from Japan, America and western Europe, Australia was reasonably insulated from the oil crisis. In 1973 Australia produced about 65 per cent of its oil. Since then, because of the reduced growth rate in energy demand compared to planned production, our self sufficiency has increased to 70 per cent. However, in the absence of new discoveries of oil, the proportion of Australian demand for petroleum products which can be met from local production of crude oil will fall steadily over the next 5 to 10 years. The Industries Assistance Commission report on crude oil pricing stated:
It has been estimated that imported crude will increase its share of the local market from around 30 per cent currently to between 60 per cent and 80 per cent in 1 985. Any new discoveries of oil will take time to bring into production and would be unlikely to affect the imported share until the latter pan of the period. New discoveries will be priced at import parity. Thus, irrespective of Government decisions on the price of oil from discoveries before September 1 975 the price of crude oil in Australia will steadily approach import parity over the years ahead.
It would appear that Australia could face its energy crisis in the next decade rather than in this one unless appropriate action is taken to prepare for likely massive increases in oil costs. Faced with the economic and political consequences of increasing oil imports, Australia, in my view, has but one realistic alternative to minimise inherent risks of enlarged imports of oil. Action must be taken to expand the indigenous energy supply, particularly the conventional sources of oil, natural gas and coal, to consider the use of nuclear energy, to realise greater energy savings through more effective conservation measures and to build stockpiles to buffer the effect of any deliberate supply reductions. Failure to do so, and instead deferring the acceptance of the consumer and taxpayer cost of these actions until the dangers are more apparent and the time available to make adjustment is shorter, creates the risk of considerable economic dislocation, slower growth and higher unemployment.
Balanced energy policies have been in great demand throughout the world since 1973 and to a lesser extent also in Australia. One of the problems is that opinions as to what constitutes an energy policy are extremely vague. Unfortunately energy usage is an essential part of the economic nature of the community; hence the development and final implementation of an energy policy requires decision making at top levels of government. Basically there is a dichotomy between demand-consumption and traditional economic growth on the one hand and conservation of non-renewable energy sources and generation of alternative sources on the other. An energy policy is a compromise between these 2 forces, imposed of course by government.
The United States, Canada and Britain have all in recent times considered the need for energy policies and the need to update existing energy policies. Against the background of world events and an increasing world demand for energy it must be asked whether Australia has a national energy policy. Perhaps the best statement on this question is that contained in the 1974 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Examiners report on Science and Technology in Australia in which the following comment was made:
With regard to its energy resources Australia has a privileged position in the world. The country possesses important domestic resources in coal, petrol, gas and uranium, which will probably protect it over a long period from the direct repercussions of the world energy crises.
This situation does not prevent Australia from having to define a coherent policy with respect to the most rational manner of using and exploiting its resources. At the present time, however, there is no clearly defined energy policy at the national level.
Each State within the Commonwealth meets its own needs in energy, on the basis of its own fuel resources. Electricity production is organised by public bodies established by the governments of the States and these define a policy within the limits of their territory. It is hence no exaggeration to say there exists 6 energy policies in Australia largely independent of each other.
I think this report is a fair assessment of what the position was, and that which was being maintained, when this Government came into office at the end of 1975. However, the Minister for Minerals and Energy in the former Labor Government, the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr Connor), did not agree with the reference and late in 1974 he issued a statement which he called Australia’s National Long Term Fuel and Energy Policy. The statement was, of course, packed with socialist objectives. Part of it, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act, was subsequently found by the High Court to be invalid, and no provision was made for consultation with the States. The honourable member for Cunningham did not believe in having meetings with the States. So the Australian Minerals Council did not meet even once during the 3 years Labor was in office between 1972 and 1975. The then Minister refused to call it together. Although the honourable member for Cunningham protested at the claim made in the OECD Examiners report that Australia did not have an energy policy at the national level, it is interesting to note that the Royal Commission on Petroleum was critical of the lack of a national energy policy in its report which was tabled in this House last year.
Since the present Government came into office at the end of 1 975 a number of important decisions have been taken. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Resources and Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) is to be complimented upon his initiatives and actions in the energy field which are designed to overcome the deficiencies largely created by the dead hand of socialism between 1973 and 1975. In just over one year the new Government has: Given permission for the development of Nebo, Hail Creek and Norwich Park coal deposits; approved in principle the export of limited quantities of natural gas so as to facilitate the development of the North West Shelf gas fields; introduced a deduction for taxation purposes of an additional 40 per cent of capital invested after 1 January 1976 against income; established the Australian Minerals and Energy Council made up of State and Federal mines and energy Ministers and the Minister for the Northern Territory to replace the former Australian Minerals Council; and, what is more important, this body has met and will continue to meet regularly. Significantly the Government has also established the National Energy Advisory Committee to advise the Government on energy matters and assist in the formulation and development of a national energy policy for Australia.
This is an impressive list of achievements, particularly when compared with the dismal record of the former Labor Government. It was reluctant to consult with State governments and industry organisations or indeed with anybody. It reversed the policy of encouraging investment in exploration. It withdrew the search subsidy and taxation allowances for investors and for development expenditure. This action, together with the attitude of the former Government, resulted in the rapid decline in exploration and near collapse of the industry and the transfer of Australian and overseas search companies to foreign countries. No new discoveries were made while Labor was in office.
Although this Government has moved quickly to restore confidence in the energy industry and to stimulate new exploration and development programs, there is still an urgent need to formulate a coherent national energy policy. Some may argue that Australia should establish an energy authority to undertake this task. Personally I do not believe that governments need to establish new bureaucratic monsters every time a problem has to be solved. In the immediate future the Minister for National Resources, with the advice of the newly created National Energy Advisory Committee and his own administration, and with the co-operation of the State governments through the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, is well equipped to advise the Government regarding the contents of a national energy policy. I hope that this work will proceed quickly and without delay.
It will first be necessary to establish just what natural energy resources Australia has in terms of quantity, quality, accessibility and transportability to markets. Our likely domestic rate of consumption for these resources and the likely life of these resources must also be determined. We need to know also the effect a change of fuel source will have on consumers. Having assembled the basic information the Minister and his advisers must decide, among other things, how best to meet the energy demand from both indigenous and imported energy resources. For example, as the percentage of oil imported into the country increases, its effect on the country’s balance of payments will also increase. By 1985 it is estimated that if no additional discoveries of indigenous crude oil are made, the volume of petroleum that will have to be imported will be 200 million barrels at a cost of more than $2,000m, representing about 70 per cent of our petroleum requirements compared with the current 30 per cent. This eventuality will place enormous pressures on Australia’s overseas reserves and balance of payments. We must, of course, maximise the use of indigenous fuels. However, where an excess of any energy resource exists, such as coal, uranium and natural gas, these could be exported to balance the costs of our imports.
Research activities are also areas which call for close attention. Transport is one area where serious consideration of alternatives has not occurred. Over 95 per cent of Australia’s transport is fuelled by petrol and diesel. Our options include imported crude, more use of electricity in the radway system, oil from coal and the conversion of vehicles for the use of liquid petroleum gas or electric vehicles. It is clear that research should be intensified into the use of solar energy for medium grade heat, for industrial use and oil from coal for transport use. At the same time, I believe we should continue to monitor the nuclear industry as nuclear power will ultimately be needed in Australia. In short, Australia must develop as a matter of urgency a coherent national energy policy designed to achieve a balanced development of our energy resources rather than allow economic pressures to lead development. Energy consumers should be given options of supply based on a combination of factors, such as the life of the resource, security of supply, pollution of the local environment as well as simple delivered costs. In this manner the actual fuel chosen may not be the cheapest for the consumer but the choice will be more in the country’s interests.
-The honourable member for Farrer (Mr Fife) is a person for whom I have quite a deal of respect as I had for his predecessor who, I am sure, will serve Australia with distinction in another sphere. The honourable member, however, did himself rather less than justice when he was incredulous at the statements made by the honourable member for Batman (Mr Garrick) on the economy, inflation and unemployment. I am sure that he must be starting to weaken in his resolve when he asks himself the question how long he and his colleagues can get away with blaming everything that happened between 1972 and 1975 on the Labor Government. That was a time when the Labor Government had to try to carry out massive legal and social reforms which resulted from 23 years of conservative neglect. It had to try to carry out those programs with the obstruction of not having a majority in another place. Yet there is a group of members on the Government side who came into this place with the story that they were better economic managers. They have an untrammelled majority in both Houses and preside over the greatest unemployment that Australia has seen since the Depression years and over a completely pessimistic business sector. How long can Government supporters continue with these excuses? How long do they think they can fool the public?
I suppose that after 25 years of the reign of Her Majesty it was an historic occasion when she presented this Speech to the thirtieth Parliament. One would have hoped that the speech supplied by her Government would have contained more substance and more optimism for the Australian people. That would have been fitting for the occasion. I have read the Speech of Her Majesty in order to speak in this Address-in-Reply debate to try to find some glimmer of hope. I find emphasis in this very generalised speech on individual rights, on equality of opportunity and on equality and opportunity. Mention is also made of creativity. All these are laudable objectives in a contemporary democracy but I doubt whether this Government understands the terms it uses in that respect.
I turn to an area of international concern with respect to the legal laxity in Australia’s securities markets. This is something that is written about in those magazines that deal with the subject and the plea is made that even weak laws would help in this respect. The securities industry is scarcely an area of productivity. It is scarcely an area of equality of opportunity or even creativity. Certainly, in a perverse way, it deals with the rights of individuals. It deals with their rights to act as brigands in commercial piracy, preying on the weak, the small investor who is perhaps bemused by avarice and so easy prey for the smart boys. What is the history of this situation? Just recently the international magazine Newsweek of 14 March had quite a deal to say on this matter. The first sentence of the article stated:
Stock-market reform has been a hot topic in Australia ever since a spectacular boom in mining shares collapsed in a series or equally spectacular scandals six years ago.
I ask honourablemembers to note that this happened 6 years ago during the term of office of the supposedly superior economic managers. The recent report prepared for the Attorney-General of the State of New South Wales has highlighted some of these areas. In particular, it referred to the failure of 2 companies that were closely connected with the mining boom. One was Mineral Securities which handled $330m worth of mining shares during the boom and the other was Patrick Partners, a Sydney brokerage house that collapsed 18 months ago. If one looks at further references one sees that there is an allegation in the report that Minsec directors made a sham transfer of stock from one subsidiary to another to turn a $3.3m loss into a $3.5m paper profit. With regard to Patrick Partners the Commission charged that the firm’s brokers had violated stock exchange rules on liquid assets for nearly a year before the company’s collapse. Does that mention of Patrick Partners create a twinge of conscience amongst members of the Government Parties or even in one member of the Government parties? If so, can we expect a byelection?
Further in the report, with regard to mining, it is stated that alleged financial journalists were paid to promote stocks in the Press and that pools of unscrupulous investors would sell each other large blocks of stock at inflated prices and then dump their holdings on an unsuspecting public. So much for the freedom of the Press if financial journalists could be so led away from their duty. Were these the same financial journalists who sold Australians the idea that this conservative group who now govern the country were superior economic managers? No wonder that inflation is unremitting and that unemployment is rampant.
The Government stated in the Queen’s Speech that the prosperity of the Australian people depends inter alia on Australia’s mining industries. What happened in the securities area? Of the millions of dollars that pour into mining shares, according to one study, only 27 per cent was actually used for exploration, equipment and development. Yet, still there is no control in this area. Freedom of individuals! Yes. Virtually free! I say that because the problem in this nation’s investment industry is that a group of brockers, company directors, accountants and financial experts has been allowed to run astray on stock exchanges virtually free from outside interference and nothing is done. Without action being taken, an old boy network has been running this investment industry, unchecked. We hear plenty of union bashing going on but we hear darned little about action being taken to control these commercial predators. Is it because this old boy network are those who finance the conservative parties’ election funds?
I turn to examine the Government parties and why .they take the attitude to unemployment and inflation that they do. One might fairly say that some Government supporters are silver spooners and those are the conservatives I can best appreciate because they do not understand what happens at grass roots level. They may have worked hard, but it has never been a case of work where one does the job to get the money to get the food to get the energy to do the job and so on ad infinitum; it has been hard work where they have always had security and could knock off when they wished. But there is another element in the Government parties which indeed has some knowledge of grass root conditionsthe conditions of the ordinary people. The members of this element are the worst because in many cases they have succeeded in business and professions and believe that they have put themselves amongst the ordinary men who work with their hands and produce the goods that are used in the community.
I think it was J. B. Priestley who wrote of the dangerous corner- that incident in a man’s life which can mean the difference between success and failure- matters often beyond his control. These men ought to reflect on what they know of those base conditions and why they should be concerned that we have inflation virutally unchanged and unemployment soaring. Some day they will have to run on their own record and when that happens the economy will be the issue. They will have to have an answer for that. I warn with regret that what they are facing in that respect is a harvest of hate because they have revived the old class divisions in the community which we hoped had been softened to give us a more egalitarian society.
There must be understanding of what inflation and unemployment does. This week a report was produced from the Australian Government Commission of Inquiry into Poverty that dealt with lifelong education and poor people. There are some studies in that which indicate what can happen under fairly ordinary conditions. But one must appreciate the fear, the hopelessness, the despair and the loss of self-respect that occurs amongst people subjected to massive unemployment- the people who normally produce the goods that are used. There is the fear amongst the men over SO years that not even the skills they have acquired or the work they can do will preserve their jobs. There is the hopelessness and despair of those school leavers who cannot find jobs to go to and who see life as a purposeless thing. This is not helped by this talk of the dole bludger syndrome, a thing that has been poured on since 1975 and which no Government Minister or Government supporter yet has proved to be a substantial component of unemployment. I have had individuals complain to me that they talked to their colleagues in their clubs and everyone is aware of dole bludgers who are cheating the system. But none of them gives specific instances. It is always what Joe told them or what Bill told them. This sham will lead to a harvest of hate in the near future.
The other interesting thing is to look at the business supporters of this Government. I was interested to read Rydge’s of December 1976. In fact I read it, I think, just after devaluation occurred. I would believe that Rydge’s represents a group that would support this Government. The article I read was: ‘Why devaluation would fail’. It states:
Despite the devaluation rumours, our credit rating in overseas capital markets is high so there is no lack of ability to borrow.
The article goes on to explain the traditional methods of borrowing that the Government had used. The article was prepared before the devaluation. It stated further
Devaluation, of course, would also increase the cost of overseas borrowing, . . . The economic impact of devaluation could be widely unfavourable.
The next month that journal published an article entitled: ‘Another push for inflation’. As I said, the publishers of this magazine are people who would support the conservatives in their actions. They state that the mining industry has been very persuasive in this area. This is an industry in which we are told that investment is important and in which, as I said before, because of the manipulation of investments and so on, 27 per cent of the money finally got into exploration, exploitation and development. Devaluation in itself had marked inflationary ramifications. These were the greatest disadvantages of it. These are some of the things the country is suffering from now.
I turn to another matter. The present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has always presented himself as a keen parliamentarian and a very vocal advocate of the parliamentary system. In fact I seem to recall that when I was sitting on the Government side of the House one of the arguments he put forward for using the non-Labor members in the Senate to block supply was that the Australian Labor Party tried to usurp the role of Parliament by actions outside it. As I understood it, at that time he undertook to restore the dignity of the institution. But what has happened? Is Parliament a serious debating forum where Cabinet may rule but with some sort of regard for the elected representatives on both sides? If Parliament is to carry out this role, Parliament must be able to exercise scrutiny over executive action. Yet this Prime Minister has deliberately pursued policies aimed at minimising parliamentary oversight. In a report in the Australian Financial Review it is suggested that Cabinet decided last October that Parliamentary
Counsel should give particular attention to leaving as much as possible to regulations rather than to substantive legislation. The legislative program on today’s notice paper is distinguished by the absence of substantive legislation. It was revealed in early January this year that last year under this conservative government, no fewer than 300 regulations and ordinances had been gazetted- probably more than in any year since the war. This abuse of executive power is very hard to stop. One could go on with this ignoring of the parliamentary process. One sees the Prime Minister afraid to face the Opposition on urgency motions- a deliberate technique whereby the Prime Minister avoids examination. In concluding my remarks on the Address-in-Reply, I regret that there is not more hope in the Queen ‘s Speech. I regret the attitude taken by the Government and I warn Government supporters to think seriously about what they are doing because of the harvest they will reap.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-May I say how much pleasure it gives me to joining in this debate on the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty and how grateful I was to be present on the historic occasion of her delivering her Speech to this Parliament. May I also thank the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) for raising the matter of Patrick Partners. May I thank him for asking the question: May we expect a by-election in the seat of Macarthur? The answer is very forcefully no, you may not expect a by-election in the seat of Macarthur despite the vicious, malicious, disgraceful statements made within the privilege of this House by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). It is extraordinary that in a debate on an Address-in-Reply to a Speech outlining the future economic direction of the nation, outlining certainly in brief terms but nonetheless in very cogent ones, the course of action of this nation, at a time when, according to the Opposition at least, there are serious problems in front of this House, the Leader of the Opposition decided to spend 3 pages of his speech attacking me, attacking one back bench member of the Government. This was a most interesting exercise by the Leader of the Opposition- an exercise aimed more at consolidating or attempting to consolidate his shaky position in his Party than at dealing with the matters of moment in front of this House and indeed in front of this nation.
Regrettably I was not in the House at the time because he had not done me the courtesy of advising me that he planned to attack me. I believe that was a grossly discourteous act. I also suggest that many of the things that he said at the time he could not have- if I may use the expression- ‘got away with’ not only because they were untrue as they were patently untrue but because the forms of the House would have allowed me to protect myself had I been in the chamber. His determined decision to made certain I was not in the House in order to get his scurrilous attack on the record is, I believe, another example of the desperate things a desperate man will do to stay in power even though the power base that he enjoys is one that I certainly do not look forward to occupying from this side of the House for many, many years, if at all. I would suggest that when the Leader of the Opposition so scurrilously attacks a member of the Government or any member of this House with points that are totally untrue, he should have those points thrown back in his face with extreme vigour.
The facts remain as I have always stated them in my relationship with the Patrick Partners. I left Patrick Partners in February. The Masterman report very clearly and distinctly states what Mr Masterman takes to be my relationship with that firm. His statements, the statements of the official investigator in New South Wales, in no way support the vile accusations of the Leader of the Opposition; they do exactly the opposite. They also deny in their entirety the smears of the former member for Macarthur who, I might say, was foolish enough without the benefit of parliamentary privilege to say things of which not only he ought to be ashamed but for which I hope he will be brought to account. The former member for Macarthur stated in a Press report in my electorate that the Masterman report said that I was involved in and aware of the firm’s difficulties and the actions taken. It would have been a good idea had his stooges in this place provided him with the full report instead of the selected bits with which they let him go into bat. His friends here let him down. According to the former Labor member for Macarthur, I was involved in and aware of the firm’s difficulties and the actions taken. I quote from page 129 of the Masterman report wherein Mr Masterman says:
I am satisfied that at the very least by the end of May, and certainly before the Application for Renewal of Licences on 4th June 1975, all the Partners (with the exception of Mr Baume) were fully aware . . .
This situation persists. It is repeated 4 times in the report. There is no way in which an honest, decent person making a fair and just comment on what that report says could have failed to note that. There is no way in which someone with any sense of justice in his heart could have deliberately ignored it because that report quite clearly, quite strongly supports the proposition that I have been maintaining in this House ever since I got here. It completely denies the sorts of attack that the Labor Party, both within and without this House and in other Houses, have been maintaining scurrilously against me. Yet the previous member for Macarthur says I was involved in the situation.
Let me point to another section of the report. This is very curious because it is the section of the report that follows immediately after a long quotation given by the Leader of the Opposition when he attacked me. Immediately after that long quotation there comes this passage: . . . in February 1975 and thereafter had minimal contact with the financial affairs of the firm.
Is that involvement? Does that justify the smear? The Masterman report clearly stated that I was not aware of all the accusations. It clearly stated that I was not involved. Yet smearing by the Opposition continues. It is extraordinary. May I go back to the basic trustee or partnership deed of that broking firm- a partnership deed which I did not sign because I was not a person who would be obliged to sign it. I was not a party to that deed. That deed stated:
Staff partners shall have no right to or any interest in, the goodwill or capital of the firm.
When I became research manager of that firm I was obliged to sign another deed, a supplementary deed, clause 3 of which stated:
That the equity partners do, and each of them doth hereby covenant with Baume to pay and discharge all the debts and liabilities of the firm and to keep him indemnified from all actions, proceedings, claims, demands and liabilities on account thereof.
Everything which I have said is truthful and honest and can be shown to be. Everything which the Opposition has hurled at me has been vicious, untrue and with malice aforethought. The facts clearly show that I was not and never had been an owner. The facts clearly show that I was not involved. The facts clearly show, I believe- I hope I will be judged as such- that I was not aware of all these disgraceful accusations, none of which has been proved. The facts will show, and have been shown in the Masterman report, that I was not involved in or aware of these things. Yet there is this persistent, vicious, personal attack. It is extraordinary that in the face of the facts these people, both inside and outside the House, should be prepared to carry on in this disgraceful way.
I know it is an extraordinary thing that in such a debate the economy should arouse any interest in members of the Opposition. It appears to me that at least the speeches of its leaders are more involved in scandalmongering and buckettipping than in discussing matters of any moment. However, I would like to raise economic problems which are, I think, of great concern to all of us. In particular I refer to the scope- it is a serious problem- that remains for this Government to provide the sort of relief that is so desperately needed by large sections of the economy which are being obliged to pay for the programs that are still, regrettably, heavily under way, and solidly under way as a result of the nation being set on a disaster course under the 3 years of Labor.
I presume that most people are sick and tired of hearing the Government say that this is all the fault of the Labor years. The extraordinary thing is that when one looks at the scope in the present Budget for making the sorts of reforms which we need to restore incentive and to restore a sense of purpose, we see that something like threequarters of the Government’s likely expenditure is totally committed to existing programs and that there is very little or next to no scope for making the dramatic reforms that are needed to restore a sense of purpose, a sense of drive and a capacity to work and get rewarded in the society. It is a most depressing situation. I can assure the people who are saying ‘for Heaven’s sake, stop blaming the previous Government for the current problems’, that just as prosperity continued for a while under the Labor Government as a result of effective years of administration before 1972, just as prosperity continued until roughly the middle of 1974, disaster has a momentum which is just as effective. That disaster is still well and truly upon us.
What interests me very much is that when the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) introduced his curious ‘reformist’ Budget he managed to do a sucker job on most of the financial commentators in Australia. So effectively did he do it that the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), when he made a very strong and a very effective speech in 1975 attacking that Budget, was universally howled down. Yet what the honourable member for Wannon, the present Prime Minister, said at that time was accurate. He said: ‘The Hayden Budget is a hoax’. It was a hoax. It was shown to be a hoax. Yet the situation now is that the man who introduced the tax on pensions, the honourable member for Oxley, is now seriously putting himself up as the likely Leader of the Labor Party. I earnestly hope that he becomes the Leader. I know that the 14 000 pensioners in the electorate of Macarthur would be overjoyed to know that to vote for me would be voting against the man who introduced taxes on their superannuation or pensions. I have a letter, recently received, from a voter in which he said:
I recently received my tax assessment for the 1976 year and was so stunned by it that I inquired from the Department whether there was some mistake. I was told that there was no mistake. The vast increase was caused by the new method of assessment.
Me gave figures showing his tax payments for the past 4 years. They show a massive and an unbelievable increase in his tax. The increase in his gross income between 1973 and 1976 was not much more than $1,000. This is a man on superannuation. Yet his tax rose by over $1,400. I hope that he writes a letter to the honourable member for Oxley- I have suggested that he do so- thanking him for his ‘reformist’ Budget and asking him whether he has any further reforms in mind if he achieves the role of Leader of the Opposition. This is the story throughout my electorate and, I believe, throughout Australia. This chap wrote:
I am retired, and am trying to live on an income from investments which I made with the idea of keeping myself in modest comfort without having to call upon anyone for help.
He does not want to call upon the nation, the state or the taxpayer for a hand-out:
The only way I can increase my income is by saving something each year and investing it.
There is a whole host of people in similar situations who will certainly, determinedly vote against the honourable member for Oxley or any Party he leads or in which he is involved- the man who has destroyed the standard of living of people who endeavoured to look after themselves.
I earnestly seek and have earnestly sought the present Government to act as soon as it can to change this situation that was introduced by the Labor Government. The serious problem is that three-quarters of the Government’s expenditures are now totally committed to maintaining existing programs introduced by the Labor Government which we have not been able to wind down sufficiently to enable the sort of justice that these people need to take place. There is a cost of everything. I am afraid that the pensioners in Australia are carrying the cost of Labor’s excessive and reckless financial waste.
– Honourable members will have observed the large size of the Notice Paper which is currently running at more than 80 pages. This is due to the large number of questions on notice which are being received. Already this session 473 questions have been placed on notice. In order to save checking and printing time and costs I recently submitted to the Party leaders a proposal that the complete Notice Paper, including all unanswered questions, be printed only once each week on the first sitting day. I propose that all other Notice Papers for the week would contain the usual notices, orders of the day, general business, etc., but only those questions on notice which appear for the first time that week. With the proviso that the numbers of all unanswered questions would also be listed, agreement has been reached to implement this proposal on a trial basis for the remainder of these sittings. Accordingly the Commonwealth Government Printer has been directed to produce the Notice Paper in accordance with the proposals outlined.
The result of the implementation of this proposal is that, due to the decreased amount of checking required, it will be possible to extend the cut-off period for the receipt of questions on notice to 8 p.m. I should emphasise, however, that the later close-down time depends on the ability of the Printer to meet all deadlines and it is most desirable that honourable members submit questions as early as possible in the day. I ask for the co-operation of all honourable members.
Western Suburbs of Sydney: Radio Station- Lithuanian National Day- Migrant Education- Religious Persecution in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- Commonwealth Employment Office in Wollongong- Tasmanian Railways
– It being after 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.
-This morning in answer to a question asked by the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) was, to say the least, particularly in answer to interjections from myself, very evasive. I am referring, of course, to the decision of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to recommend to the Minister that a licence should be granted for a high powered radio station to operate in the northwestern suburbs of Sydney. The Minister referred me to his,Press statement on this matter. He said that if I had read that statement I would have an answer. I have read his Press statement but it did not give any answer. The Minister announced in his Press statement that the licence would not be issued. It stated:
The Minister said that he had taken into consideration a recommendation made by the previous Australian Broadcasting Control Board that a licence should be granted to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd but that he had decided not to grant a licence for the area.
Mr Robinson went on to say that he would be reviewing the position in relation to the area at a later stage. The northwestern suburban area and adjacent areas were experiencing considerable changes and he had instructed his Department to develop a planning proposal involving this and other relevant areas.
Change and growth have taken place but there has been no dramatic change since the Board made its decision.
I recount what happened. It is now 40 years since a commercial licence for a high powered station has been granted in the Sydney Metropolian area. In that time the population has grown from 750 000 to 3.5 million. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board asked the then Minister for the Media to invite applications for a high powered commercial radio stations in the north-western suburban area of Sydney, Wollongong and Mornington Peninsula. The then Minister called applications on 14 January 1975. There were 5 applicants. The inquiry, which cost a colossal amount of tax payers money, continued from 21 May 1975 till August 1975. Of course, the basis behind this was that the Labor Government’s wish to try to break the existing monopoly of commercial stations in Sydney. Of course, that monopoly objected. To give an example of the objection I quote from the Twenty-Eighth Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. It states:
The Board, pursuant to the provisions of section 22 of the Act, gave approval to Mr G. Bates, solicitor, to appear at the inquiry on behalf of the licensees of the existing six Sydney commercial broadcasting stations, as a person interested in the proceedings.
In other words, after 40 years the Government objected to another high-powered radio station being established in Sydney. This high powered radio station would broadcast to the western suburbs of Sydney where today a great proportion of the population of Sydney lives.
– Station 2 JJ is up there.
– Yes. The only licence issued has been to station 2 JJ which Government supporters have attacked at every possible opportunity because it takes an independent attitude. The Minister was certainly aware that this matter was to go to the High Court. Proceedings were due to begin on 15 March this year. But before the matter could go to the High Court to be considered the Minister abrogated the authority of the High Court by deciding that the licence would not be issued. In other words, he deliberately set out to frustrate the court and to frustrate the inquiry by the former Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I ask: Who was the man principally involved in the organisation appealing to the High Court? It was a person by the name of Cottee who is said to have influence within the Liberal Party. All I can say is that the Minister is deliberately ignoring the needs of the western suburbs of Sydney. Like the Commonwealth centre which was to be established in Paramatta, this matter has been deferred. It has been deferred against the interests of the people of the western suburbs.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Thank you for calling me, Mr Speaker. I caught your eye and I am grateful for that. Something caught my eye yesterday afternoon. About a month ago I was privileged to be present when the Lithuanian immigrants of Western Australia, now Australian citizens, observed their national day on Sunday, 20 February. This day commemorates their independence which was achieved on 16 February 1918 when Lithuanian freedom fighters, after the First World War, declared their independence. The independence was recognised by all nations including Bolshevik Russia. Of course, Russia was then too weak to do anything else. It knew very well that Lithuania had been a free and independent nation for many centuries; in fact, as far back as the Roman Empire. Almost every historian knows that the Lithuanian peace, called in Latin the Pax Lithana. ruled central Europe for 300 years, starting in 1200. Even the princes of Moscow paid tributes to the Lithuanian states and the Ukraine at that stage was an integral part of Lithuania.
The Lithuanians were a peace loving people. For that reason, as always, they became disunited in the sixteenth century. Internal jealousies among the Lithuanian and Polish princes caused the neglect of defence and foreign policies. Eventually there was a partition by Prussia, Austria and Russia which unfortunately left Lithuania under Russian domination. Poland, separated from Lithuania, was under
Prussian and Austrian domination and was treated rather better than the Lithuanians were under Russia. It was a capital offence to speak the native language and people were imprisoned and even deported for doing so.
The independence of Lithuania lasted only 22 years until 1941 when Hitler and Stalin agreed to partition Poland and Lithuania. Later they fought each other in the middle of Lithuania, reducing it to cinders. England and France had solemnly pledged that Poland and the Baltic states would be free after the Second World War- so much for political promises. We all know now what the situation is in eastern Europe. Lithuania, owing to weakness in leadership in the west at that time has, of course, been incorporated into the Russian empire. At the moment there exists quite inhuman persecution of the Lithuanian people. It seems that the free world, of which we are part, knows little and cares even less. That is one of the reasons why the Lithuanians in exile try to be united and try to keep their spirit of freedom alive throughout free nations. There are more than a millian Lithuanians in the United States of America. They have a reasonable diet of freedom. They have their own daily Press and they are perhaps the best politically informed people in the world.
In Australia Lithuanians say to each other, and they say it to all other Australians, that Lithuanians do not sleep but they watch every political development because, having already suffered the dreadful deprivation of their own country, they do not want it to happen here. They say to each other on their national day that those who do not love their country- they talk in this case about Australia- have lost their human dignity. They try as hard as they can, wherever they are in the world, to draw attention to the plight of their enslaved brethren who are still under Russian domination. They make representations to every member of Federal Parliament. Some respond positively and some do not. I suppose representatives of all the conquered countries have their problems and all of them from time to time approach us and draw attention to the plight of the people still in those countries. On this occasion I wanted to say something about the Lithuanians because sometimes their particular problems become completely submerged in the problems of other people who are under Russian domination. It is my pleasure to have commemorated their national day with them. I hope to do it very often with them in the future and to draw the House’s attention to the problems of all of the people who now exist in slavery behind the Iron Curtain.
– I rise this evening to point up once again the hypocrisy of the Government in the way in which it deals so blithely with migrant problems, particularly in some of the areas represented by honourable members on the Government side, who day after day pay lip service to what they say they do in the interests of the migrants in their community. The plight of the migrant children should be well known by now. Because of the confusion about teachers’ qualifications, the bureaucracy, language difficulties and cultural peculiarities, time and time again we see migrant children discriminated against. The idiot from La Trobe smiles blithely when I talk about the things that are involved.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw.
-I withdraw. His attitude is the attitude that we have learnt to expect from individuals like him. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) goes on like a yahoo. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to the gesticulations of the Minister. It shows his attitude to migrant children when he treats what I am saying as blithely as he does.
The Victoria Teachers Union today issued a statement of which honourable members opposite should take note. The migrant English teaching programs in schools are being severely held back because of staff shortages. The reason is that the amount made available in the Budget by this Government for migrant education is down $ 10.7m. The direct result of that is that the children who are trying to put their backsides on 2 stools, who are losing their mother tongue, who are trying to learn the English language, and who cannot get a text book to be able to compete on an even basis with English-speaking children are discriminated against. Whilst our friends on the other side of the House may laugh their heads off, it is a fact that parents of the children concerned do not think it is terribly funny. They are very incensed about the attitude of this Government, which has cut the amount made available for educating migrant children in Australia in general.
The Victorian Teachers Union points up this problem. Victoria began this year with 107 fewer migrant English teachers than in 1976. At this stage no replacements have been made by the Education Department but it has agreed to put on 50 more teachers. When there is a dearth of teachers this is an insult to the migrants and to the kiddies who go to Victorian schools. The Victorian Minister for Education must make a decision to fill all 107 positions. But the Victorian Government claims that the Federal Government is at fault. If one examines previous Budgets and associated documents, therein lies the story, because the allocation this year is down by $ 10.7m. The needs of migrant children will not be met unless the Victorian Government is able to provide the extra teachers. It is a disgrace that less can be done for migrant children in 1977 than was achieved last year. The acrosstheboard staffing ceilings applied by the Victorian Government have created the absurd situation where specialist staff is not replaced. Last year there were 863 migrant English teachers for primary, secondary and technical schools. The main shortage now is in primary schools where only 30 of the 81 vacancies are to be filled.
I heard honourable members on the other side of the House tonight arguing for a migrant intake increase as though we had all necessary resources available to meet their various needs. The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) well knows that the investigation into specific learning difficulties in this country highlighted the necessity for having specialist teachers available to ensure that migrant children had opportunities equal to those of other children in this country. Here we have the absurd situation of the Federal Government paying lip service, through the great harangues we heard tonight, to the population policy inquiry report while on the other hand there is a cut in Budget expenditure which has relegated the migrants who are now here, and ignoring those who arrive in the near future, to second class citizens destined for the major part to spend the rest of their lives at the end of a pick and shovel.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is over 3000 years since Moses led the Jews to freedom from Pharaoh. That exodus was so hurried that they were unable to bake their bread properly and to leaven it before they left. Ever since, in commemoration of that incident, it has been important to Jews to have ceremonial unleavened bread for the Passover. This is a matter of some consequence to them. Today, honourable members received parcels of unleavened bread or matzah, as it is known, for forwarding to Jews in the Soviet Union who are unable to get the proper bread for their celebration of the Passover this year. This is one of the ways in which the atheistic Soviet Government persecutes all religions and I have here an account of the mean and horrible way in which it has endeavoured to deprive the Jews in the Soviet Union of the ceremonial bread which they need for their celebration of the Passover. I ask for leave to have this document incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
12th Floor, 343 Little Collins Street, Melbourne 3000
The Matzah Problem in the U.S.S.R.
Restrictions on the manufacture and import of Matzah have a long and inconsistent history in the Soviet Union.
For many Passovers up until 1962, Jewish people in Moscow and Leningrad were allowed to bake their own Matzah in state-owned bakeries near the Synagogue. As Moscow and Leningrad were the main centres for tourist traffic, the baking facilities were the showcase of Soviet broadmindedness. However, even while such freedom lasted, the amounts baked catered for nowhere near the demand.
Meanwhile in the provinces (with the exception of Georgia, where the Jewish community had enjoyed a much larger degree of religious freedom) the situation had already deteriorated by 1960.
The Bans in the Provincial Towns
In the Spring of I960 applications for the baking of Matzah made weeks in advance by the local Jewish communities, were refused in Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov, Saratov, Kubishev Riga, Grodno, and Lvov, to name but the major provincial cities. Appeals to the central authorities were to no avail. On the eve of the Passover many Jews came to Moscow from cities all over the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania, and Latvia to buy Matzah for the festival. But their requirements could not be met, as the baking of Matzah was forbidden in Moscow a few days before Passover and supplies were, therefore less plentiful. Unable to procure Matzah legally, many Jews in provincial towns resorted to clandestine baking. The Soviet press indignantly denounced the ‘swindlers and crooks’ who did such baking ‘under unsanitary conditions and without prior registration and medical checkup, thus violating Paragraphs 127 and 129 of the MSST Penal Code.’
There seemed to be, however, much more than officially designated ‘unsanitary conditions’ behind the refusal to permit baking of Matzah in most of Soviet Russia ‘s Jewish communities. Lvovska Pravda probably revealed the real motive when it argued that in the ritual of eating unleavened bread the Jews express the hope that next year they will eat it in Jerusalem. The Jews should realise, the paper commented, that Israel is ‘an obedient tool of western imperialists. ‘ Packages of Matzah which the Chief Rabbinate of Israel tried to send to various Jewish communities were, accordingly, refused admission. The Rabbinate was informed by Intourist, the official Soviet travel agency, that the authorities would not allow Matzah to be imported. All correspondence of the Israeli Rabbinate with the Soviet religious communities was reduced to a minimum.
A feuilleton by S. A. Axelrod, ‘The Food of the Gods,’ published on 12 April 1960, in the Russian daily Kazak.stanskaya Pravda, shed significant light on that phase of the Matzah problem. It revealed that in Alma Ata’s Jewish community people involved in helping to bake and distribute
Matzah included a ‘M.SH. Mufel . . . with a (Communist ) Party card in his pocket, ‘ a M. G. Rappaprt of the Town Water Supply Service, ‘ a ‘I. A. Shulkin of the Town housing management and Auto-Base,’ a ‘V. E. Gross of the champagne distillery’, as well as such proletarians as a carpenter, a shoemaker, a hairdresser. The article also related how the synagogue matzah plant ‘ faced no difficulties in the supply of raw materials’ in 19S9. One of the ‘leaders of a certain religious community’, Abram Gershovitch Shcherb had at that time approached Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Trade, which in turn ordered M. S. Levin, the man in charge of supplies, to ‘discuss this question.’ A certain Jewish lady, Faina Mikhailovna had telephoned a fellow Jew, Nathan Yakovlevich Katz, of the Town Trade Management and asked for help. He ordered the head of the Trade Department to ‘give’. And thus ‘eleven tons of flour were directly supplied from the storehouse to the synagogue’.
That was in 1959. But in 1960, complained F. G. Kushnirov Chairman of the Jewish Community, ‘things are no longer the same. ‘ The authorities did not grant permission to bake Matzah and no flour was made available. Nevertheless, the feuilletonist fumes, ‘fifteen workers toil day and night in the blasting heat of the dough-kneading machines’ in the synagogue on the Tashkent Street and the baking and supplying of Matzah’s amounts to a great enterprise’.
On 17 March 1962 a total ban on the baking of unleavened bread in state bakeries was imposed for Passover. ( 1 ) It was the first time Jews in the Soviet Union faced such a restriction- even Stalin had not imposed it.
The 1962 ban meant that the Soviet Jewish community became probably the first Jewish community in history (with the exception of those under Nazi captivity ) to be officially prevented from celebrating their ancient festival of freedom.
The ban led to an outcry by Western public opinion which was ignored or denied by Soviet authorities.
Early in 1963, permission was granted for Jews to bake Matzah in their own homes and to receive gift parcels from abroad, undoubtedly due to foreign pressure. However, these practices were soon subjected to official action that discouraged them. In July 1963, four Jews were tried in Moscow and charged with selling Matzah for profit. Subsequently, similar cases occurred and the Soviet press began printing attacks about Western Matzah shipments and packages as ‘ideological sabotage’ and ‘ideological Subversion’. (2)
Attempted Airlift by Jews Abroad to U.S.S.R.
In March 1964 after the official announcement of another total ban on Matzah-baking for the Passover of 1 964, Jewish communities abroad organised an airlift of unleavened bread for the Passover needs of their Soviet kinsmen. The Soviet Government reacted by doubling the airmail charges, but despite this hindrance the parcels were still shipped. However, most consignments were then impounded at airports.
A campaign in the Soviet press was then mounted and ‘spontaneous demonstrations’ were initiated by the Soviet authorities both warning Jews that ‘these presents are . . . mere ideological subversions . . . And they do not come from philanthropists but saboteurs’ (3). As a result, religious Jews had to be given unprecedented Rabbinical dispensation to eat peas and beans over Passover in order to supplement their diet in lieu of unleavened bread.
Relaxation of Ban on Baking
The ban on the baking of Matzah continued to motivate Jews to activate protest on behalf of Soviet Jews. As the Jewish protest spread throughout the world it found adherents among politicians, churchmen, journalists, academics and others and it soon became clear that the Soviet Government was on the defensive about its Jewish population. It is certain that foreign pressure resulted in the Soviet Government reluctantly agreeing to the baking of Matzah for the Passover of 1966.
Once again, the supply could not cater for the demand, and distribution was hindered by the Soviet authorities. The highpoint of the relaxation was the period between 197 1 and 1974 when the U.S.S.R. was trying to consolidate Kissinger’s detente while it at the same time faced the need to import large quantities of wheat from the U.S.A. due to the failure of the Soviet crops.
The Soviet Pharoahs have a Change of Heart
In the past three years, there has been a hardening of Soviet government attitudes. Parcels of Matzah sent from abroad (including from Australia) to Soviet Jews have been impounded or destroyed by customs officials. Shipment rates continue to rise exhorbitantly for all packages sent to the U.S.S.R. There are now signs that even the nominal baking of Matzahs in Moscow and Leningrad will be stopped.
Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. 1 1 , No. 1 , Decernber 1 962 , pp. 33-36
Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. 1 1, No. 3, September 1963, pp. 26-31
Jews in Eastern Europe, Vol. 11, No. 5, July 1964, pp. 52-62
Similar articles appeared in Izvestia, 2 1 March 1964
– I thank the House. I will not go into the details of this shocking performance by the Soviet Union because the document will appear in Hansard. Those who read Hansard will have the full details of this outrage. But this I would say: The Soviet Union persecutes all religions. Under the pretence of freedom, we know that there are inside the borders of the Soviet Union discrimination, persecution and worse of all who profess any religion because, as Lenin said, communism is necessarily militant atheism. They are doing this, and this is their policy. The Jews in the Soviet Union have fought back. They are making their presence felt and they are getting some protection inside the Soviet Union for the practice of their religion because they have stuck together and they are demanding that they have freedom for religious practice and worship. They are getting support, and they deserve support, from their compatriots outside the Soviet Union.
But it is not only the Jews are being persecuted for their religion. There are other faiths including, and principally, the Christian faith against which continuous outrage and a lying pretence of sufferance is perpetrated inside the Soviet Union. Some of these people in the Soviet Union had had the tremendous courage to face martyrdom to face deprivation, to face discrimination, to face persecution. They deserve our support. I wonder whether they are receiving sufficient support from their co-religionists outside the Soviet Union. I think that in this, as perhaps in other ways, the Jews are showing an example to the rest of the world. It is an example which we might well follow. I hope that the ceremonial bread will reach Moscow in time for the Passover, and I hope that honourable members will see that this is done.
-Briefly I want to raise a matter which concerns the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and to some extent the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). In Wollongong there is an organisation known as the Wollongong Unemployed People’s Movement. It has recently made an application to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations under the Community Youth Support Scheme. In that application some very significant facts have been revealed about the inadequacy of the Commonwealth Employment Service office in Wollongong. Wollongong has a very large population and, historically, it provides the factory fodder which keeps the profits of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other enterprises at a high level. At present there are 5656 people in the Wollongong district unemployed. Of these 3000 are under 2 1 years of age and some 30 per cent are migrants.
This afternoon we heard a great deal of talk about the need to provide adequate care, attention and service for migrants. We have been seeking to lay the basis, through consideration of a Green Paper, for an on-going immigration policy. But one thing that will certainly contribute to a solid foundation for any such policy is adequate care for the migrants who are already in Australia. When it is revealed that 30 per cent of the 5656 unemployed in Wollongong are migrants it will obviously give very grave cause for concern. Wollongong, being a city of steel, lacks diversification of employment. There are many people who just cannot fit into the steel industry and who lack other opportunities. That applies especially to females. The incidence of female unemployment is extremely high. The ratio of staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service office to those unemployed is one to 257, including typists and other staff not dealing directly with the unemployed. There is a staff of twentytwo in that office but very few of them are involved in counselling. In New South Wales the caseload for the Commonwealth Employment Service staff generally is one for every 177. In Victoria the caseload ratio is one for 1 17 unemployed persons. In Wollongong, as I have said, it is one for 257 unemployed persons. Yet in Wollongong not only are the ratios much higher but also the needs are arguably much more pressing because of difficulties relating to language and housing of the large migrant unemployed group. There appear to be no plans for additional aid; no plans for the introduction of a dual hand set telephone service which could have a direct connection with the telephone interpreter service. Yet, in August the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said that such a telephone service would be installed within a few weeks. If Wollongong has been ignored in the placement of these machines, it would be a continuation of this Government’s lack of interest in the problems of migrants who have arrived in Australia and especially a lack of interest in the problems of migrants in Wollongong.
This lack of interest was highlighted this afternoon when the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations announced a new service which was to be incorporated in the Commonwealth Employment Service offices. It involved providing evening services correlated with the evening shopping service. It is significant that Wollongong, a city with the most pressing need in this respect, was omitted from this new service. I appeal to the Minister to upgrade the service in Wollongong, to provide counselling services, to institute a bond system so that those people can go out and seek accommodation in other places where employment might be available outside of Wollongong. The neglect of migrants and the unemployed in the Wollongong region has gone on for far too long. I appeal to the Government tonight to have a good look at this question and to redress the neglect which has characterised the administration of the Liberal-National Country Party coalition.
-Under the terms of the transfer of the Tasmanian Government Railways, the Transport Commission of Tasmania was appointed as agent for the Australian National Railways Commission. Consequently, it has continued to operate the Tasmanian railways as agent for the ANRC. Today, the State President of the Australian
Railways Union in Tasmania, Mr Jones, contacted me and advised that the decision had been taken, presumably by the ANRC and put into effect by the Transport Commission in Tasmania, that as from Monday next no full meals will be served on the Tasman Limited which is the major train and, indeed, one of the major tourist attractions in Tasmania. I was further advised by Mr Jones who, as I have said, is the State President of the Australian Railways Union- it is significant- that leading trade unionists in Tasmania are prepared to talk to and to confide in the Liberal members of the House of Representatives. He told me that as from 1 May all parcels offices in Tasmania are to be amalgamated with goods offices.
I will deal with the first proposition. I want to submit to the House that it would be a very false economy if full meals were taken off the Tasman Limited. I am told that as from Monday next, passengers will be entitled to eat only sweet biscuits and sandwiches and drink a cup of tea or coffee on the train. In the case of Hobart to Burnie, a trip of 7 hours is involved. I believe that some nasty little bureaucrat has it in his mind that if the food service is taken off the train people will not travel on it. If people do not travel on the train, business will drop off. This would be a good excuse to get rid of the Tasman Limited. I have appealed to the Minister for
Transport (Mr Nixon) to stay the execution of the order that no full meals are to be served on the train as from Monday next to enable union representatives and people interested in the future of the Tasman Limited in Tasmania to engage in full and frank discussion to fully and properly assess the implications of that rather horrific decision.
With respect to the amalgamation of parcel offices and goods offices, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that in Hobart and Devonport this will cause considerable inconvenience as the goods offices and the parcels offices are considerably separated by distance. In Launceston and Burnie the situation is not so bad. I ask the Minister that these decisions be not implemented until all the implications can be discussed. I have a genuine fear, which is shared by the State President of the ARU, that these steps may be designed to make less suitable the operations of the Tasmanian railways, leading to the eventual closure of the Tasman Limited and the eventual cutting out of parcel delivery services. These 2 matters which I have raised tonight may seem petty, but they are important.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2. 1 5 p.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Who recommended that Lady Kerr be made a Dame of Grace of the Order of St John.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Order of St John in Australia is a private organisation. Any awards that it might make to its members are for the organisation to determine and not a matter involving the Government. Its awards are not part of the Government’s recognised honours system and hence have no official recognition.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 28 June 1976, the Treasurer authorised payments to the States of advance payments totalling $294.5m. This was the amount estimated as being the Commonwealth’s share of the net costs of operating the States’ hospital systems from the end of May until 30 September 1976. Included in these advance payments was an amount of $78.9m, being the estimate of the amount owing by the Commonwealth to meet its share of net operating costs to 30 June 1976.
A reference to this was included in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) Statement No. 3-Estimates of Outlays 1976-77 (p. 69) presented by the Treasurer on 1 7 August 1976.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
) (a) Information on possible aircraft solutions and their performance is still being received and examined; it may be possible to make the generic decision before the end of this financial year.
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance (Question No. 233)
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
When does he expect that Australia will be able to perform her obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance signed on 20 June 1956 (Hansard, 24 November 1959, page 3060, 6 September 1960, page 849, 25 October 1962, page 2034, 14
May 1964, page 1993,5 May 1966, page1593 and 7 May 1970, page 1879).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Section 111 of the Family Law Act 1975 enables regulations to be made making such provision as is necessary to enable the performance of the obligations of Australia under the Convention on the Recovery Abroad of Maintenance signed at New York on 20 June 1956.
I am informed that, initially, after the Family Law Act commenced on 5 January 1976, the Attorney-General deferred the preparation of regulations under this section pending the determination of the challenge in the High Court early last year to the validity of major provisions of the Family Law Act. The provisions challenged included section 75 which enables maintenance orders to be made.
I am further informed that late last year, following the High Court decision, the Attorney-General approved the drafting of regulations under section 1 1 1 subject to consultations with my Department and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The consultations with my Department have concluded, and those with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will, I understand, be completed very shortly.
I also understand that, subject to any problems disclosed by these consultations, drafting instructions will be given immediately thereafter.
Grants for Senior Citizen’s Centres (Question No. 238)
MrE. G. Whitlam asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
1 ) On what date were the State governments requested to provide information in regard to the priority of individual projects to be approved under the $4m annual grants for senior citizens ‘centres in 1976-77,1977-78 and 1978-79.
On what date has each State government provided this information.
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
New South Wales and Queensland have not yet supplied the required information.
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In my answer to that question I pointed out that the question of consumer representation is currently being examined and if the information sought by the honourable member in Question 1204 became available I would be only too happy to provide it for him. As it could be some time before the information becomes available my Department is writing to all registered health benefits organisations so that all the information sought by the honourable member may be supplied to him as soon as practicable.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Firstly, it is hoped to recruit additional permanent staff to this area in the near future and, secondly, a proportion of the outstanding evaluation work will be allocated to external evaluators being recruited at the present time. These are distinguished pharmaceutical chemists currently working in univerities and schools of pharmacy.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770322_reps_30_hor104/>.