30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-I have to inform the House that the Honourable Tupuola Efi, Prime Minister of Western Samoa, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
Mr Tupuola Efi thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Abel, Mr Armitage, Mr Baume, Mr Bradfield, Mr Ellicott, Mr Fife, Dr Klugman, Mr Lucock, Mr Neil, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Ruddock, Mr Sainsbury and Mr Sullivan.
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 SO per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That as 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 Bonnett, Mr Braithwaite, Mr Goodluck, Mr McVeigh and Mr Porter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the consumer price index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the consumer price index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr William McMahon, Mr Sinclair, Mr Gillard, Dr Klugman and Mr Ian Robinson.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Mr Bourchier and Mr Lloyd.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the zone allowance provisions currently included in the Income Tax Assessment Act require variation from the point of view of boundaries and value of the allowance in view of the substantial changes of circumstances over the last decade, brought about by the coal mining enterprises in the Central Queensland highlands.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we request that your Government take immediate action to have established at Moranbah, Australian Broacasting Corporation television without further delay. by Mr Braithwaite.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the public library services of New South Wales are inadequate both in quality and quantity and that the burden of provision is placed too heavily upon local government. Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we are deeply concerned at the threat to the continuation of symphony orchestras throughout Australia posed by the Industries Assistance Commission and Green reports.
We believe that the Government should not allow the symphony orchestras of Australia to be reduced in any way at all.
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to ensure the continuation and growth of our symphony orchestras, thereby ensuring that the quality of life of the people of this country shall be maintained.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
Mr James McCrudden
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
The House notes with concern that Mr James McCrudden, a Sydney solicitor who was a Liberal candidate at the last election for the New South Wales Legislative Assembly electorate of Mount Druitt, apparently arranged for an American gangster known as Vincent Teresa to be met at the Sydney International Airport and to be accompanied to and through customs by Commonwealth Police without information concerning his arrival being provided to any other department or agency, State or Federal.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House notes with concern the attitude of the Fraser Government towards local government, in that it has-
Reduced funds to local government to such an extent that increases in municipal rates are inevitable;
Forced councils to use rate revenue to finance services that are properly a charge against taxation revenue:
Failed to recognise that the inequitable rating system places a burden on low income families;
Ignored the effect of rising municipal rates on the cost ofliving;
Rejected local government as a legitimate tier of government in Australia;
Created uncertainty about the future of community involvement projects, such as the Area Improvement Program, the Australian Assistance Plan and others introduced by the Labor Government; and
Refused to allow funds to be directly allocated to regional councils and individual councils after advice from appropriate commissions that have considered submissions by councils.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the continued criticism by chief magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory of the Government’s failure to introduce law reform in the Australian Capital Territory in respect of 2 matters. The first is the Government’s failure to amend breathalyser laws. This was criticised on 1 1 February. The second matter, referred to yesterday, is the Government’s failure to introduce an ordinance approved last December by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly relating to giving independent statutory office to magistrates. I ask: Why has the Government failed to act in these urgent matters and why is it giving such a low priority to law reform in the Australian Capital Territory?
-The Government is not giving a low priority to law reform in the Australian Capital Territory. As I hope the honourable member will know, my colleague the Minister for the Capital Territory has taken some steps in relation to introducing the results of the breathalyser report of the Law Reform Commission. I understand that further steps will be taken in the near future. This is outside my portfolio but I can inform the honourable gentleman of that fact.
In relation to the other matter, I understand that a question did arise in the Magistrates Court yesterday about the independence of the magistracy. Last year an ordinance was prepared and it was presented to the Legislative Assembly. The final printing of the ordinance was completed yesterday. That ordinance should become law on Friday. What happened was that some of the magistrates themselves raised questions about the terms of the ordinance and the nature of their own independence under the ordinance. The magistrates seemed to take the view that because they were independent they should be treated as judges. I take a slightly different view but I did listen to their representations. I hope that the ordinance will become law on Friday. Any questions relating to the independence of the magistracy will then be resolved.
– Is the Minister for Transport aware of suggestions made in Hobart yesterday that as from Monday next meals will no longer be served on the Tasman Limited, the train which carries passengers between Hobart and north-west coast centres of Tasmania, and that certain parcels offices will close on 1 May? Is there any substance to these suggestions?
– It is not correct to say that, as suggested in the honourable member’s question, meals will cease to be served on the Tasman Limited. I must make the qualification that because of the lack of customers the standard of meals is to be reduced- I suppose that is the word to use- to light refreshments rather than the full fare that is presently being served. I make the point again that it is because of a lack of customers. If the honourable member wants to see a return to the full fare that is presently being served on the Tasman Limited, it would be necessary for him to encourage more people to use the dining facilities provided on that train. As to the second part of the honourable member’s question, I have to say that again there is no truth in the suggestion that the parcels service will be abolished. What will occur, though, is that the parcels and goods services will be rationalised together. The same service will be provided after the amalgamation.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Did the Government say at the Tripartite Indexation Conference on 23 September last year that its inflation target for the end of the financial year was a 7 per cent annual rate? Is the annual rate of inflation now likely to be 1 7 per cent at the end of the financial year, as stated by the Government in evidence to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in the current national wage case? Does that mean that the effect of devaluation has been to raise the annual rate of inflation by 10 per cent?
– I find it a matter of supreme irony that the honourable gentleman should seek to concentrate on the impact of devaluation, because he knows full well that he and his colleagues did more than any other section of the Australian community to assist speculation against the Australian dollar. Therefore, to the extent to which that decision was taken, given the inevitability of the process against the background of the speculation which he and his colleagues fueled in this House and outside it, he must accept basic responsibility for the decision. As I have made perfectly clear in this House that decision was taken against that background and the background of an increasing lack of competitiveness by Australian industry with industry abroad.
So far as the wage case is concerned, the honourable gentleman would know full well that the submission made by the Commonwealth in that case is, of course, a matter of public record. He would know that the Commonwealth’s submission incorporates a series of projections as to what might be the rate of inflation. But the honourable gentleman would have been fairer in accepting the point that obviously the rate of inflation will be derived from many influences during the period ahead. One of the significant areas in that context, which is not yet subject to decision by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is, of course, that which relates to wage indexation.
I might say in passing that the honourable gentleman should not seek to reflect any interest in the question of inflation and also the question of what happens before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. All I need do in conclusion, I think, is to say to the honourable gentleman that, if he is concerned about what happens before the Commission, if he accepts, as
I hope that he does, that wage thrust does have a direct bearing on the rate of inflation, I find it curious in the extreme that the same honourable gentleman in putting out on behalf of the Opposition what I would have thought he assumed to be a coherent, comprehensive economic policy did not refer to wages at all.
-Is the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade aware of reports that the solar research team of the University of Sydney has made a significant breakthrough in the application of solar energy which could be of particular relevance to the mining industry? Are Professor Butler’s comments in yesterday’s Australian regarding the inadequacy of research funds correct? Will the Minister recommend to the Government that solar energy research receive a high priority for research funds? In his capacity as Minister for Overseas Trade, will he take action to ensure that the rights to Australian inventions are made available for the development of this nation before being sold abroad?
– About a week or so ago, Professor Messel came to see me for the purpose of bringing me up-to-date with the work with regard to solar energy that is going on at the University of Sydney. I also had the opportunity of reading the comments of Professor Butler in the newspapers today. The research team at the Sydney University believes that it has made some major breakthroughs. It states that it needs more finance to prove fully the research that it has done so far. I told Professor Messel that, when appropriations are being made this year, certainly the work of Sydney University will be put before the appropriate authorities so that it can be evaluated and given the priority that it deserves. On the question of royalties, it would be very hard for a government to be arbitrary and say that Australia’s rights must be preserved. Certainly it is in the interests of Australians to see that people such as those in universities are assisted in taking out copyright for any such inventions so that we get the maximum benefit. If I can help people such as those in Sydney University with their research work in getting such copyright I shall do so.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. It concerns his requiring the Prices Justification Tribunal to examine the seemingly exorbitant mark-ups on many replacement components throughout the motor industry to which the Industries Assistance Commission had drawn attention. Since the Tribunal has ruled that the terms of the Minister’s reference require it to confine its inquiry to the spare parts supplied by the 1 5 distributors giving evidence before it, I ask him whether he will now consider as a matter of urgency enlarging the terms of reference for the present inquiry so that manufacturers as well as distributors are studied by it and so that the whole of the evidence painstakingly compiled by the automobile associations may be put before it.
-I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. I have had this matter under consideration for some 2 weeks and I have today decided that it would be appropriate to extend the terms of reference of the inquiry to cover component manufacture. Details of that decision will be announced either later today or tomorrow. The names of the companies involved in that extended inquiry will then be made known.
-The Attorney-General would be aware of recent action taken by the governments of Queensland and Western Australia to question the right of representation, both in this House and the Senate, of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Can the Attorney-General inform the Parliament as to whether the Commonwealth will be defending actions brought against it in the High Court? When is the hearing expected? Will the Attorney-General confirm that he has received a joint approach from all 7 elected representatives from the Territories on behalf of the people of the Territories that the Commonwealth arrange for those Territories to be separately represented in the High Court challenge? Can he indicate whether the Government will agree to assist and fund such separate representation on behalf of the interests of the people of the Territories?
– The honourable members for the Australian Capital Territory are very active today. The Commonwealth will defend these proceedings. In relation to the matter brought by the northern State of Queensland the defence has already been put in and the Commonwealth will uphold the validity of the legislation. So far as Western Australia ‘s challenge is concerned the defence has not yet been put in but I can assure honourable members that when it goes in it will also uphold the validity of the legislation that allows the honourable member for
Canberra and others to sit in this House. It is anticipated that the hearing of this matter will come before the High Court early in May in the Melbourne sittings.
I have received representations from honourable members from both Territories to have in effect the right to be represented and some sort of legal aid in relation to their representation before the High Court. I shall give consideration to that matter. Whether they really need it of course is another matter because of the fact that the High Court will have before it the Commonwealth Solicitor-General putting arguments in favour of the validity of the legislation. However, it may be that the Crown Solicitor could be asked by me under section 55e of the Judiciary Act to represent them. I shall give consideration to providing at least junior counsel to appear on their behalf.
– I ask the Minister for Construction: Did spending in the non-residential sector of the building and construction industry decline by 1 per cent in real terms during 1975- 76? Do the latest estimates project a decline of some 4 per cent to 5 per cent in real terms during the 1976-77 financial year? Do these figures also show that activity in the residential sector has declined in the second half of 1976- 77? If so, how can the Government justify its claims that the building and construction industry is recovering?
– I have a number of half-yearly reports and annual reports of companies. In fact, in my office I have a file which I should like to use in this Parliament. I have been hoping that someone from the other side of the House would raise for discussion a matter of public importance regarding this matter so that we could debate it rather than deal with it at question time when there is not the opportunity to spend time on it. Let me take a few examples. Within the last 2 or 3 days we have received a report from Costain Australia Ltd that its profit is up by 39 per cent. That is its eighth profit increase. A survey by John P. Young and Associates Pty Ltd indicates that there is an upturn in all sections of the construction industry. These are people who are not in any way beholden to the Government. Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, a firm of consultants in the construction industry, indicate that the property market is showing distinct signs of coming out of the recession. John Holland (Constructions) Pty Ltd has had a record profit. Brickworks all over the country have shown a profit. I think that E. A. Watt Pty Ltd, for example, is back operating on a profit making basis after a period of making losses during the term of office of the previous Administration. I have a list of literally hundreds of companies which are now operating on a profit making basis. I refuse to agree that there is any recession in the building industry. The building and construction industry is improving. If I might be allowed to deal with a few statistics -
– Just incorporate them, John.
– I should like to incorporate them in Hansard but I doubt whether I would receive agreement to that course being followed. The value of all building approvals for the 12 months ended December last has risen from $4,720m to $5,800m-a $ 1,100m increase in all building approvals. That is hardly a slip backwards. For the months of January there have been steady increases, from $320m in January 1975, the year when the Australian Labor Party went out of office, to $537m last January- the most recent figure. The same pattern emerges when we look at New South Wales which has been in the most difficult situation and from which State the honourable gentleman who asked the question comes. The total value of building approvals for that State is up by $200m over the 1975 figure and the January approvals this year are up by 45 per cent over the January 1975 figure. I think that the number of housing approvals was dealt with yesterday by the Treasurer. The value of non-residential approvals which is the most difficult area also has shown a steady increase over the last 12 months. Contrary to what the honourable gentleman infers, the private sector is emerging much more strongly than the government sector. I think it is fair to say that the Government’s policies are working. I think that people who try to talk down the building industry are doing the industry a bad turn. I suggest that some of the Premiers, significantly the one from New South Wales, ought to be doing more to encourage private investment in their States and in that way encourage not only the building industry but all industries. I believe the Government policies are working very well.
– I direct my question to the Acting Foreign Minister. Is the Government aware that the Indonesian Government and its people are being subjected to a communist organised campaign to denigrate Indonesia in the eyes of the world? Is the Government concerned about this campaign? Have any members of the Association of South East Asian Nations indicated any support for Indonesia in its actions on East Timor and its actions against communist aggression in our general region? In regard to the overall regrettable situation in East Timor, have any members of the Australian Labor Party, particularly the left wing -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will be out of order if he asks that facet of the question. The Minister is not responsible for statements of the Labor Party Opposition.
-May I rephrase the last part of the question?
– I doubt that the honourable gentleman would be able to reframe the question to put in it order.
– I think I can.
-He can try.
– In regard to the overall regrettable situation in East Timor, have any persons who have been and are hitting the headlines complained to the Government about the murder of thousands of innocent East Timorese people by the communist supported Fretilin forces?
-It is quite notable that the left wing seems to isolate particular areas in which it apparently believes that some overall advantage flows to it in its ideological cause. Every Australian is concerned about man’s inhumanity to man, whether it happens on a domestic or an international level. Equally we are concerned at circumstances not only in countries such as East Timor but in other countries. The Minister for Foreign Affairs in his statement recently explained our attitude towards Uganda. There have been on many occasions from this side of the House expressions of concern about what happened in Indo China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. In those circumstances it seems extraordinary that a few individuals have seen fit to isolate one area for their attacks. It is, I think, most regrettable that in the pursuit of ideological causes there has been an identification of one area, insofar as there are so many other regions in the world where, tragically, similar circumstances exist. As to the balance of the honourable gentleman’s question, I am not aware of any member of the Australian Labor Party, of the left wing ideology or of any of the associated parties in Australia saying anything about any other attacks on the Timorese people.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. I refer him to reports that it is felt in financial circles that the Government has not been able to keep its bonds and treasury notes competitive with the private sector bills and Certificates of Deposits. Will the Government raise its interest rates on government paper to remove the estimated $3 billion of short term private paper dependent on inadequate liquidity backing, or does the Government foresee some other method of reducing the volume of private paper money in circulation?
– The honourable gentleman really is an economic ignoramus-
– Do not build him up.
– If the honourable member for Hume thinks that I am endeavouring to build up the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I apologise. That certainly would not be my intention, even if I would not necessarily want to be putting him down. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is obviously an economic ignoramus or, alternatively, as on the question of devaluation, he is seeking-
– That is better than being a dingo.
– I take a point of order. Mr Speaker, can you tell me why you did not take exception to the Treasurer being called a dingo?
-The Treasurer was not called a dingo, nor is he.
-Mr Speaker, I want to thank you for that assurance. I sometimes have my doubts. The honourable member asked me a question to which I would like to give an answer. I was saying that the honourable gentleman is either an economic ignoramus or alternatively, as on the question of devaluation, he is seeking to reflect his best endeavours here to be at their most destructive.
– The Treasurer -
– I understand that the nervous honourable gentleman who is interjecting has his problems. I will leave him to work out his own fate.
-I suggest to the right honourable gentleman that he proceed with his answer.
– That is fair enough. I accept that. I am doing so with a certain amount of difficulty, Mr Speaker, and in saying that I mean no offence whatever to the Chair. I said to the House a few moments ago that if the honourable gentleman was not being utterly ignorant about the nature of the question he put to me the alternative inference that one draws is that he is seeking to be utterly destructive. Any honourable gentleman on either side of the House knows full well that one does not ask the Treasurer whether he is putting up interest rates. The question of the position of interest rates has been made perfectly clear by me in the House before. I refuse to speculate on movements in interest rates or on Government policy. It is not appropriate here to raise matters of Government policy on the question of interest rates, capital markets or any other such subject.
If the honourable gentleman wants to know how to sell more government paper I invite him to ask the honourable member for Oxley because in a somewhat- it is difficult to find a term for itscrappy Press release issued representing his own policy he charged the community at large with the fact that he had some secret weapon about how to sell more government paper. If he has a secret weapon, let him put it on the table.
- Mr Speaker -
-What does the honourable member for Oxley intend to say?
– I ask the Treasurer to withdraw that comment.
– If the honourable gentleman feels inadequate, I certainly will.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the livestock slaughter levy which under the present system is paid by meat processors and then deducted from payments due to producers. Is the Minister aware that some butchers are buying cattle ostensibly for slaughter and hence liable for the deduction of the levy from producers, but then because those animals are in fact not slaughtered, pocketing the amount of the levy? Is the Minister in a position to change the method of collection of the levy so that the processors who actually pay the levy reflect the amount of the levy in the price they offer in the market place?
– Quite a number of allegations have been made about the extent to which there has been an abuse of the levy. It has been said that stock has been purchased, the levy deducted and then the purchaser has turned that levy to his own advantage. It is alleged that he has recognised the levy as being part of the profit that he has made on the handling of each particular beast. On each occasion I have received representations I have endeavoured to seek some confirmation of this practice. To date no one has been able to produce actual physical evidence. However, I do not doubt there have been abuses. There certainly have been widespread rumours of their incidence. I have looked at the possibility of changing the character of the levy. If the abuse were to continue, I would certainly think of making a recommendation to the Government. There is no doubt that the purpose of the levy would be totally defeated if the levy were used as part of the profit of those who deal in livestock and not directed to its purpose. Of the total levy $ 1 is to provide funds for the eradication of brucellosis and tuberculosis and in general the balance of 56c is for the administration of the Australian Meat Board and for research and promotion on behalf of the meat and livestock industry. I can assure the honourable gentlemen that if he has any specific evidence of the practice that he mentioned I would be delighted to receive it and only too happy to follow it through to see what corrective measures could be undertaken by the Government.
-Is the Minister for Health aware that the waiting period in New South Wales for the provision of hearing aids to pensioners and others in need is now in excess of 8 months? Is this situation another result of the Government’s policy on staff ceilings and economic stringency in the Public Service? Does he believe that it is fair and reasonable to expect handicapped people with hearing defects to wait this length of time for the supply of a hearing aid? If not, will he take immediate action to provide additional staff to the National Acoustic Laboratories?
– The problem in respect of waiting times is due to 2 factors. One is the popularity and efficiency of the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney and some other cities. There is a waiting period of 8 months in Sydney, as the honourable member has mentioned. I am currently discussing with my Department the problem concerning staffing at the National Acoustic Laboratories in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. I hope that as soon as we have completed our review I can bring the honourable member better news.
Mr Donald Cameron proceeding to address a question to the Attorney-General-
-Order! The question is out of order. It has a hypothetical basis.
– How is it out of order?
-I call the honourable member for Hughes.
-I ask the Treasurer a question. In view of his address to the Victorian State Council of the Liberal Party in which he foreshadowed further reductions in expenditure on health and welfare services in this year’s Budget, I ask: Will he assure the House that the Government will not restore the means test on pensions for persons over the age of 70 years or reintroduce university fees and loans in breach of the 1975 election commitments?
– It is a nonsense to expect me as Treasurer or any member of this Administration, to make judgments now on any matter in relation to forward estimates. The honourable gentleman who posed the question ought not to seek a policy response and ought not to take any reference or inference in my response to the question as an indication to him that we are moving in certain directions. I mentioned in the House yesterday -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. There are far too many interjections. A serious question has been asked from the Opposition side of the House. The Treasurer is answering it. As a request for information was made, the answer giving the information ought to be heard in silence.
-I mentioned during the weekend, and I think I repeated it here yesterday, that there has been a dramatic increase in government outlays in many areas in recent years. Of course the Government is now in its normal- I underline the word ‘normal’- forward estimates process. It is very much aware of the need to reduce the rate of” growth of public expenditure during the period ahead because of the explosion that took place under the Australian Labor Party Government, which did little or nothing to assist those who were really poor, those who were really indigent, those who were in need and those who constitute the disadvantaged sections of the Australian community. We have said, as a matter of basic philosophy and firm conviction, that we aim to assist those in need. I instance here in passing that major social welfare initiative taken by this Administration-the family allowance program. In order to assist people in need of course we have to look very carefully at the rate of increase in total outlays. The honourable gentleman, who would not understand these things, talked about reducing expenditure. There is a basic difference between a reduction in expenditure levels and a reduction in the rate of growth of outlays. I commend the point to the honourable gentleman, who obviously does not understand it.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether the Australian Telecommunications Commission has let a contract to a French company for the supply of teleprinter and associated equipment. Was the intention to let this contract brought before the Cabinet sub-committee which was established to consider the interests of local firms and existing employment? Is the Minister satisfied with the criteria of cost advantage and technical superiority which resulted in the Telecom order going to a French company? Will the Minister give the House detailed information of how the decision was justified?
– The contract referred to by the honourable member for Deakin was a substantial one. Because of its size and nature it was held up by me for some weeks while it went under intensive study. There has been a change in the traditional suppliers to the Australian Telecommunications Commission from the German company to a French company. I have looked at the matter very closely. Telecom has helped in every way and has given me all the information which I have asked for. There is a price advantage- not a large onewhich rests with the French company. With regard to local content and therefore employment opportunities there is little difference between the two. The German company as of now has a greater capacity for local employment. Over a period the employment opportunities will be very much the same. Therefore, first of all with regard to price, there was an advantage in the change. Secondly, with regard to local content and employment, there was little impact over the time. The main reason for my accepting the advice of the Telecommunications Commission lay in a technical area. I have here a statement from Telecom with regard to the technical advantages. I wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition would be prepared to allow me to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
SAGEM machine offers programmable functions compared to the Siemens machines’ fixed functions. This gives more flexibility and allows a greater range of options to be offered to the customer.
SAGEM machine is designed to operate over a range of speeds much higher than the Siemens machine which is limited to the maximum specified speed.
SAGEM machine has a high degree of mechanical reliability particularly when operating at the lower specified speeds.
This mechanical reliability offers opportunities to exploit the higher speeds in new services.
SAGEM incorporates in its design modular logic circuits which, for maintenance purposes:
make it easier to maintain at lower cost;
In comparison, the Siemens machine has interdependent integrated circuit board which:
i ) is costly to maintain; and
More costly and complex test equipment is required for the Siemens machine.
SAGEM design offers compatibility with the existing data teleprinter for computer terminal use where the Siemens design of a data printer is completely different from their telex machine.
SAGEM machines offer cost savings to the customer in terminal use (by virtue of the higher speeds customer pays for less computer time).
Partly arising from the design approach of Siemens, its machine does not meet the functional specifications in respect of: off-line tape preparation; multiple copy requirements; identification of text as sent/received; local print on all copies; minor alarm and auxiliary features.
Summarising, the SAGEM has a superior electronic and mechanical design, it is the only machine to meet all of the technical requirements as well as being functionally more attractive.
-I address a question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He will have noted my question a week ago to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs about the report that was made last July by a working party consisting of officers from that Minister’s Department, his own Department, and the Departments of Social Security and Education, appointed to study the problems of Aboriginal employment, including the impact of unemployment benefit payments on Aboriginal communities. That Minister replied that he had not yet put to the Government the submission which the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations had drafted for him last November on those subjects. I ask: Did the
Queensland office of his own Department last January restore the requirement which had been eliminated in 1973 that Aborigines who are fulltime residents of church missions and government settlements must accept work away from those communities in order to qualify for unemployment benefits? How many Aborigines in Queensland are now regarded as lapsed from the register, to use the terms of the directive, as a result of this change of policy? At what level was the decision taken to pre-empt the Government’s consideration of the working party’s report and his Department’s submission and, in particular, to frustrate the proposal to convert unemployment benefits within communities into work projects payments?
-The Leader of the Opposition has asked a number of detailed questions. The question of Aboriginal unemployment is of concern to the Government and the Government is still in the process of working out a comprehensive employment strategy for Aboriginals. My Department is in consultation with the other departments that the honourable member has named. We are still engaged in that process. As soon as the submission is ready it will be brought before the Government. In relation to the other detailed questions that the honourable member has asked, I shall ensure that he gets a written reply.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Health. Will the Government give consideration to withdrawing the bulk billing facility which is currently available for those services relating to the termination of pregnancy?
– The Government is currently undertaking a complete review into bulk billing in respect of services provided to patients other than pensioners and their dependants and repatriation beneficiaries, particularly in relation to charges by pathologists. I have also asked my departmental officers to undertake in conjunction with the Health Insurance Commission a complete review of bulk billing of medical fees. I have been concerned that a number of commercial free standing abortion clinics operating in a number of capital cities, excluding the Australian Capital Territory at the present time, have been using bulk billing as a means of obtaining revenue to run their clinics and I will be looking very seriously at this aspect of their operations.
– I direct to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question with a short preface. Under the rules of some unions- one large union that I know of- the membership year commences on 1 August in a particular year and the ballot for offices is held between then and 3 1 December of that year, but the financial year of the union does not end until, say, May of the following year. I ask the Minister to tell the House how the Commonwealth Electoral Office will be able to forward ballot papers to those members entitled te vote in a union ballot, when the rules are as I have just described, where- and I repeat- the rules of that union fix 1 August as the beginning of the financial year and 31 December as the deadline for the ballot to be held in that year, and a date 7 months later for the end of the financial year and for the return of all ticket butts, which prevents the compilation of an electoral roll before the end of May of the following year, 7 months after the ballot has been completed? I also ask the Minister. Do the regulations already published make provision for the Registrar to be informed of the opening and closing dates for nominations and for the publication of those dates in the case of unions whose rules do not specify opening and closing dates?
– It is true that there can be some unions- indeed, I understand that there is at least one- whose rules provide for the sort of timetable that the honourable member has indicated. 1 gave a reply yesterday on the regulations, now gazetted, relating to notification to the Industrial Registrar of forward election dates. It is true that the sort of situation outlined by the honourable gentleman could create some difficulties. As I indicated yesterday, the Industrial Registrar must be notified by 1 September of elections which will be held in the succeeding calendar year, that is, from 1 January in the next year. If the union rules provide for elections to be held, for example, between September and December, those elections will not comply with the regulations as gazetted. lt is my understanding that in circumstances like this the legislation provides enough discretion to the Registrar to enable him to advise a union that, if its rules state that the financial membership starts at a certain date and that nominations for elections must be on a certain date, the relevant elections would have to be held in the first half of the succeeding year. I believe that in that way we can get around the problem which the honourable gentleman has quite properly raised.
– Is the Prime Minister still confident that the referendum relating to the retiring age of Federal justices will succeed?
– I am very confident that that particular referendum and the other questions which will be put before the people of Australia will succeed. I think it ought to be noted that referendum proposal on the retiring age for Federal judges was recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which is an all-party Committee. At the Constitutional Convention it was supported by the Government, by the Opposition and by all State governments but one. So there is obviously a wide body of political opinion which believes that it is reasonable in the circumstances of 1 977 to have a retiring age for Federal judges. I believe that a number of changes have led to the greater realisation that this should be so. I think people would be able to see a very real reason for and a great deal of common sense in having a retiring age forjudges appointed to the Federal Family Court. Of course, no referendum can apply to existing judges; it can apply only to judges appointed after the referendum. So the present position is maintained for present judges. The changed obligations and responsibilities of the Commonwealth have, I believe, altered the circumstances.
In relation to the High Court, which has the highest possible reputation in Australia and overseas, while quite clearly a retiring age of 70 years will mean that some people of great capacity who would be able to continue to serve that Court with excellence would be denied the possibility of doing so, I think it will be admitted by most honourable gentlemen and by the wider public outside that there are also some people whose powers do not continue forever as they get older. There have been a very large number of justices of the High Court who have continued until the age of 80 years and beyond. In the Press statement or letter issued by Sir Robert Menzies they were not all mentioned. I do not think there is any cause or need to mention names but I believe that there is a general view that, if something is lost because somebody of great excellence retires at the age of 70, by and large when the capacities of all people are considered and when one considers what happens to people beyond the normal retiring age which is accepted in nearly every walk of life, the reputation of the High Court will be enhanced by the acceptance of this referendum proposal.
Having said that, I am glad to see Sir Robert Menzies join in the public debate on this particular matter. I always respect his views and I am glad that he is of a mind to express his views on this issue forcefully, as he always has. There was an occasion, of course, when the Opposition wanted a retiring age for Prime Ministers because at the age of 70 or 7 1 Sir Robert was still flailing the Opposition, as it was then, with devastating effect. I respect his views and value his opinions whether or not I agree with them.
– For the information of honourable members I table letters sent by me to the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Canada both dated 4 February 1977 relating to nuclear safeguards. I also table the reply I have received from President Carter.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, last night by the honourable member for Macarthur who had misrepresented me also on the 18th of this month. In relation to the question whether the honourable member was or was not, had been or had not been a partner of Patrick Partners I had stressed the necessity for companies and securities legislation in my speech on the AddressinReply. Last night the honourable member said that I had devoted 3 pages of my speech to this question. In fact there was only half a page. He said that many of the things I had said were patently untrue’, other things were ‘totally untrue’, I had made ‘a scurrilous attack’, I had made ‘vile accusations ‘ and what I -
– Why do you not say it outside the Parliament?
– In fact I have. I have quoted Mr Masterman ‘s report outside the Parliament. The honourable member for Macarthur also said that I, among others, had said things about him which were vicious, untrue and with malice aforethought. All that I have said has been based on Mr Masterman ‘s report to the New South Wales Government. I think it would save time and give all the facts to honourable members if the passages of that report concerning the honourable member were incorporated in Hansard. I seek leave to have them incorporated.
-Is leave granted?
– The whole report.
-No. To be specificMr Sinclair- No, the whole report.
-Yes, I can get the whole report and have it-
– I have something to say about that. The request is for the incorporation of part of the report in Hansard.
– Leave is refused to incorporate it in Hansard. The Leader of the Opposition may wish to pursue an application to table the report.
– I ask specifically whether I may have leave to have incorporated in Hansard that portion of the report of an inspector appointed pursuant to the Securities Industry Act of New South Wales to investigate and report on certain matters concerning Patrick Partners from 1 July 1974 to 6 August 1975 which is entitled: ‘The Position of Mr Baume’. I ask leave to have that portion incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– No, Mr Speaker. The whole report may be tabled but no leave will be given to incorporate only that part in Hansard.
– Leave is not granted to incorporate in accordance with the request by the honourable gentleman. But I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman to the fact that the Leader of the House has indicated that he would be willing to grant leave to table the report.
- Sir, in that case I ask leave to table the report.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is granted.
– The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) asked me whether I would mind if the letters that I had just tabled were incorporated in Hansard to make it easier for honourable members to get copies and to read them. If the House wishes I certainly have no objection to that.
– It would be simpler if the right honourable gentleman asked for leave to incorporate them in Hansard.
– I ask for leave to have those letters incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Prime Minister Canberra 4 February 1977
Dear Mr President,
I have been most interested in the views you have expressed on the question of strengthening restraints on nuclear weapons proliferation. For Australia’s part we share the concerns you have expressed and fully support the objective of strengthening the non-proliferation regime. The importance which you have attached to this accords with my own assessment that there is a need for intensified efforts to reinforce the control regimes necessary to prevent peaceful nuclear development from giving rise to the proliferation of nuclear weapons capabilities.
I have noted, in particular, the emphasis you have placed on effective control of that portion of the nuclear fuel cycle concerned with spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing and plutonium. This corresponds with the emphasis of the first report of our own Environmental Inquiry and the Inquiry recently conducted in the United Kingdom. I am aware that there is a good deal of new thinking internationally on adequate control of reprocessing and plutonium management, including studies being conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency. I shall be most interested in the way your policies evolve in coming months.
Apart from our general commitment to non-proliferation Australia’s particular interest- and perhaps our scope in future to exert influence on international developmentsrelates to our potential as a supplier of uranium. Australia would certainly want nuclear material deriving from any uranium it may supply to be subject to stringent control. You may be aware that the Australian Government does not intend to take final decisions on the issue of future marketing of Australian uranium until it has received the final report of the Environmental Inquiry which is currently being conducted in Australia.
The first report of the Environmental Inquiry, which dealt with the more general issues involved in uranium export and nuclear power, stressed the need to ensure that effective restraints exist against nuclear weapons proliferation and it stressed also the need for the fullest and most effective safeguards on uranium exported by Australia.
The Australian Government will be giving close consideration to these matters in the near future in the context of formulating a national Australian policy on nuclear safeguards. Naturally we wish to take full account of any new thinking as it develops in this area, especially to ensure that our policies and those of the United States and other like-minded countries, such as Canada, are mutually reinforcing. Australian officials already have held detailed and useful consultations with United States officials and I am sure you would agree that it is highly desirable that this be an ongoing process. I believe this constitutes a particularly fertile and important area for co-operation and for co-ordination of the policies of our two countries.
In view of Canada ‘s well-known interest in this field and its position as an important nuclear supplier, I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr Trudeau.
Mr Jimmy Carter, President of the United States of America, The White House, WASHINGTON D.C. U.S.A.
Prime Minister Canberra 4 February 1977
My dear Prime Minister,
I understand that you will shortly be having discussions with President Carter and that nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation stand high on the agenda.
I therefore enclose, for your information a copy of a letter I have written today to President Carter about Australia ‘s concerns for co-operation in the development of policies in those fields.
The Right Honourable P. E. Trudeau, M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Parliament House, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 11 March 1977
Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I thank you for your letter of 4 February. As you know, I am deeply concerned over the implications of further nuclear weapons proliferation for our common security and well being. International progress in dealing with the nonproliferation problem is one of the key foreign policy goals of this Administration. That is why I was so glad to get your letter of support.
As you are aware, we are currently making a comprehensive review of U.S. non-proliferation policies. Among other things, we are actively examining ways to provide guaranteed fuel supplies to countries which are willing to accept constraints consistent with our non-proliferation objectives. This will help to reduce proliferation by giving nations an incentive to place their nuclear facilities under international safeguards and not to acquire sensitive nuclear facilities. As you noted in your letter, Australia ‘s potential as a major supplier of uranium gives you a particular interest in this aspect of the subject. If the U.S., Australia, Canada and other likeminded countries collaborate on policies for the supply of natural uranium, we can play a vital role in reducing the threat of proliferation.
In view of your Government’s past support of nonproliferation and the importance I attach to holding early consultations between allies whenever possible, I would hope that your Government would soon be in a position to arrange exploratory consultations here with appropriate U.S. officials so that we can have the benefit of Australian thinking.
Sincerely, (Signed ) JIMMY CARTER
Motion (by Mr Scholes) proposed:
That the report be printed.
– The honourable gentleman is not entitled to move that motion.
– I move:
-I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the fact that the honourable member for Corio purported to move a motion for the printing of the paper which is described as the Masterman report. The honourable gentleman had no right under the Standing Orders to move for the printing of that report. The honourable member for Corio has followed that up by moving that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent him from moving that the report be printed.
- Mr Speaker, with the leave of the House, the document is a State document. I do not believe it appropriate that this Federal House should take action of that character. We are not opposed to the document being tabled and accordingly have granted leave to that end. But I do not believe it appropriate that this Federal House should take action to print a State paper. Therefore, we will not accept the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
-I will permit within limits some discussion of this matter without proceeding to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. At the outset I indicate that from observation of the report it is a rather long report and quite clearly will have been printed by the State authorities in New South Wales. If the purpose of the printing which the honourable member for Corio wishes to achieve is that copies be made available to members, I assure him that I will communicate with the State authorities to see whether enough copies can be obtained for distribution to those members who wish it.
– Leave was not granted to have that particular section incorporated in Hansard and therefore it is not available to members. There are not unlimited copies of the report available. I agree that it is not reasonable to seek to have the whole of the report printed. But if that is the only means by which that section of the report will be made available to members, we have no alternative. It was my contention and intention that that section of the report on which there is considerable debate in this chamber and which has been debated for some considerable months should be readily available to members. That could be achieved by incorporating it in Hansard. That course has been denied to us; that is why I have pursued the other course.
-In the circumstances, I feel that it would be an inappropriate course to move for the printing of the whole report. I will take such action as I can to put a copy of the report in the Parliamentary Library. If any honourable member wishes a copy of the report to be made available, I will pursue the matter with the authorities in New South Wales who have printed the document.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has just claimed, once again falsely, that I was protesting at his quoting from the report. That is totally untrue. I protested at his selective quotation; at his deliberate leaving out of sentences, conclusions of the report, which gave the absolutely opposite impression to those about which he was endeavouring to mislead this House. I seek the indulgence of the House to read those sections of the report that the Leader of the Opposition deliberately avoided in making his statement. I seek leave now to read them into the record.
-The honourable gentleman is not entitled to seek leave to do what he sought to do. The honourable gentleman can seek leave to incorporate documents in Hansard or he can read them into the record if they are relevant to getting rid of the impression that he claims is a misrepresentation.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will read the continuation of the section which the Leader of the Opposition avoided.
-Mr Speaker, the Opposition is prepared to grant leave to the honourable gentleman to have the relevant section of the report incorporated in Hansard.
-Is that the request of the honourable gentleman?
- Mr Speaker, I would rather read these sections into the record. They can be tabled. The full report is there. I can give honourable members opposite the quotation and reference numbers but I would rather -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will proceed and not argue.
– At the end of the section quoted by the Leader of the Opposition it says that from the end of February 1 975, Mr Baume:
Mr Masterman says in the conclusion to the report: in February 1975 and thereafter had minimal contact with the financial affairs of the firm.
These sections were deliberately left out of the statement by the Leader of the Opposition. On page 129- again not quoted by the Leader of the Opposition in his attack on me- it states:
I am satisfied -
This is Mr Masterman- 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 that it was at least a real possibility that Patrick Corporation Limited would be placed in liquidation in the near future. I am also satisfied that all the Partners (again with the exception of Mr Baume) were aware of the involvement of Patrick Intermarine Acceptances Limited in any downfall of Patrick Corporation Limited and also of the likely consequences to Patrick Partners itself.
These statements were deliberately left out and another section from the conclusion to the report was left out by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Masterman repeats:
I am satisfied that at the very least by the end of May all the partners (with the exception of Mr Baume) were fully aware that it was at least a strong possibility that Patrick Corporation Limited would be placed in liquidation in the near future. I am also satisfied, as already indicated, that all the partners, (again with the exception of Mr Baume) were aware of the involvement of Patrick Intermarine Acceptances Limited in any downfall of Patrick Corporation Limited . . .
The point I wish to make is that in his misrepresentation of me the Leader of the Opposition claimed that I was objecting to the presentation of material in this report. The facts are that this report quite clearly clears me of accusations of being aware of anything improper. In fact to my knowledge no charges have been made. No accusations have been supported by charges. To my knowledge there is nothing that I should have been aware of in any event. It may well be shown to be so later on, but I have been totally misrepresented in a disgraceful way.
-Order! The honourable member for Macarthur, in the course of making his personal explanation, used words to the effect that certain quotations were deliberately left out. I did not interrupt him while he was making his statement, but he is not entitled to attribute that motive. I ask him to withdraw the word deliberately’.
-I substitute the word ‘accidentally’, Mr Speaker.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-The honourable member for Macarthur, (Mr Baume) has misrepresented me. He used words such as ‘falsely’, misled the House’, ‘deliberately left out’ and misrepresentation’. I am happy for the report to speak for itself. Since, however, the honourable gentleman has asserted that I have incorrectly stated that he was a partner of Patrick Partners during the relevant period, I shall quote what was said by Mr Masterman on this subject. On page 86, Mr Masterman says:
In my view his signature -
That is, Mr Baume ‘s signature- on the various documents connected with the renewal of his Dealer’s Licence in June 1975 constitute clear admission that he remained a Partner.
Mr Masterman then gives a reference to footnote number 10. That footnote states:
Indeed it would be in my view a most serious misrepresentation to a statutory authority if Mr Baume had signed these documents as a Partner when he was not. On the view I take of his continuing legal status as a Partner no question of such misrepresentation arises.
I also quote from page 84 where Mr Masterman reports on documents signed by the honourable member. He says:
On the evening of Friday, 25th July 1975 Mr Baume was telephoned and told that there were problems facing the Partnership. As I understand the evidence he participated in discussions which took place during Sunday the 27th July. Ultimately on Sunday, the 27th July, it was decided to appoint Mr Jamison as Trustee under Section 188 of the Bankruptcy Act. Each of the eleven Partners besides Mr Baume signed a separate Authority entitled ‘Authority to Registered Trustee to Call Meeting of Creditors and take control over Property’. On Sunday, 27th July 1975, Mr Baume also signed an Authority with the same heading and in indentical form. A photocopy of this document bearing the signature of Mr Baume, Mr Jamison and that of Mr Applegate, a member of the firm of Messrs Sly and Russell -
I interpolate that it is a distinguished firm of solicitors in Sydney- was produced to me during the investigation … On Monday 28 July after obtaining legal advice from another firm of solicitors, Mr Baume indicated to Mr Jamison that the document which he had signed on the Sunday was ineffective. The substantial grounds of his contention as I understand it was that despite the signature of Mr Applegate appearing on the document it had not been signed in his presence.
In a footnote on page 85 Mr Masterman said:
On the question of partnership Mr Applegate ‘s evidence is that the allegation that Mr Baume was not a partner of Patrick Partners as at 27 July 1975 was not made to him until after that date. Mr Applegate had observed Mr Baume attending meetings of the partners on Sunday, 27 July and nothing was said in his presence on that day or earlier to indicate that Mr Baume disputed in any way that he was a partner.
I can quote the whole report. I have sought to have it incorporated in Hansard so it can speak for itself. Nothing which I have said here or elsewhere is other than completely based on Mr Masterman ‘s report, commissioned by a Liberal government in New South Wales and presented to a Labor government in New South Wales.
Mr BAUME (Macarthur)-Mr Speaker, I apologise for continuing this matter.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– I do.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) claimed that I objected to his saying that the Masterman report claimed that I was a partner in Patrick Partners. I have not objected to that statement. My objection- I repeat it, because it has been misrepresented again- is to his selective quotations from that report. I also took strong objection not to his quoting from the report in his speech of last week but to his very offensive remarks about me and the conclusions which he drew from that selective reading. That matter is clearly offensive to me. I would have sought withdrawal of those comments if I had been in the House at the time. I simply invite the honourable gentleman to repeat in Kings Hall the speech he made in this chamber.
– I cannot permit this matter to continue any further.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the fortieth general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered that the report be printed.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank the House. In tabling this general report on the activities of the Public Works Committee, I point out that for the first time the report includes a summary of the progress made on the construction of works proposals after they have been reported on by the
Committee. The summary covers the period between 1972 and 1975. When reviewing this summary, there is a noticeable time gap between the Department of Construction’s estimated date for the completion of the work and the date the work was actually completed, the average delay being nearly 2 years and being applicable to works both in the Northern Territory and elsewhere. It would be useful to have some response from the Government on the cause of these delays. It will also be noted that there has been an escalation in costs. However, as the note at the end of the summary points out, the Department of Construction has made no provision for the escalation of building costs, in accordance with Treasury policy.
Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissentient voice, leave is granted.
– The Government appreciates the work done by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. In fact, I am sure the Parliament does. The Chairman, the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), indicated to me that he would be raising this matter in his statement associated with the report, so I have had an opportunity to prepare a response on that subject. The position is that the comments in the summary referred to by the Chairman are virtually confined to one line or 2-line entries. For this reason they tend to oversimplify the situation. The estimated completion dates have been calculated by adding the estimated time required for documentation to the estimated time required for construction. These times presume that the project will be included on the next works program. This is not always possible because of Budget constraints. The Geelong animal health laboratory is one of 12 projects not yet admitted to a works program but still in the design stage.
The estimated completion dates also do not allow for possible external delays such as alterations by a client department, changing conditions in the industry and other influences. For example, the tabling of the Tennant Creek Hospital report and expediency motion enabling the Department of Construction to proceed with design were delayed by 4 months due to the double dissolution of Parliament in April 1 974. Some of the anticipated completion dates given under the column ‘ Current Position ‘ refer only to minor aspects of the project where practical completion was achieved much earlier. An example is the East Alligator Road which carries the comment ‘99 per cent complete, anticipated completion May 1977’. This road reached practical completion in November 1974, which was on time, but finalisation of some minor items has been prolonged mainly because of cyclone Tracy.
Another problem with time estimation occurs with very large developments which are staged and introduced to the works program in a number of separate elements, as budgetary considerations allow. An example is the Townsville Royal Australian Air Force base development, which was shown on the schedule and described in evidence as consisting of 2 stages, with documentation and construction of stage one taking 25 months. This implied a completion date of October 1974. In fact, this project has been introduced to works programs in 18 separate elements from November 1973 to the current year’s program. I have arranged for my Department to prepare an analysis- the Department prepared the schedule- of all 64 references, and I shall make this information available to the Committee as soon as it is ready.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government’s Medibank changes to satisfy the community’s need for health insurance.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The community’s need for health insurance stems from the nature of illness and its unpredictability, coupled with the very high costs of medical care. In that situation insurance is a method of pooling the risks and the costs, to protect the individual at a time of great need. Insurance in this field is not new. Under the previous Liberal Government’s voluntary health insurance system we had experienced government moves in this field which had sprung from previous moves in the community dating back many years- moves to get a comprehensive insurance system to cover illness. The Liberal Government’s comprehensive health system was unsatisfactory at best, and inequitable, inefficient and the cause of great hardship to many people at worst. In case honourable members think that is just my imagination, I will quote from the findings of the Liberal Government’s inquiry into health insurance as published in what has come to be known as the Nimmo report of 1969. The committee found that the operation of the health insurance scheme was unnecessarily complex and beyond the comprehension of many, that the benefits received frequently were much less than the real costs of treatment, whether hospital or medical treatment. It found that contributions were often beyond the capacity of some members of the community and involved considerable hardships for others. Further, it found that the rules of the organisations allowed disallowance of some claims for conditions that had not been perceived by the would-be patients beforehand and the result was that this disallowance caused serious and widespread hardship. It was also found that the level of reserves of these organisations was unnecessarily high and, incidentally, their administrative costs were also found to be unnecessarily high. I claim that all of these things that were found by the Nimmo Committee to be wrong with the Liberal Government’s voluntary health insurance system up to 1969 would be found to be wrong with the present Liberal Government’s Medibank scheme.
Because of the failings set out in the Nimmo Committee report the Labor Government campaigned on, and finally succeeded in introducing, Medibank in July 1975 to provide universal health insurance in an efficient, equitable and comprehensive manner. This was achieved despite Liberal Party opposition at every step of the way. The Liberals claimed the scheme would be too expensive and open to abuse. What has been the result? Let me quote from an article by Philip Conford which appeared in the Australian of 2 February 1976. He stated:
None of the calamities which doctors and private medical funds predicted for Medibank have happened. After six months of infancy, Medibank has proven that it works.
While Medibank has given health protection to an extra one million people who didn’t have it before, the stampede of patients which was to have ground doctors under foot- so excruciatingly and repeatedly predicted by the Australian Medical Association and the funds- has not eventuated.
Nor has the public and private hospitals system broken down. If it has failed to function in some areas- out-patients in New South Wales and elective surgery in Victoria- it is because the doctors have withdrawn their services while they haggle over money.
Doctor-patient relationships appear not to have run into any of the trumpeted foul-ups.
The article went on to state:
If Medibank has had failures, it has been in not winning over a large percentage of doctors who still retain an obstinate dislike for the system despite the fact that it has raised doctor incomes.
The article continues:
In extreme cases, this has led to deliberate abuse and cheating. In fact, while pre-Medibank it was the doctors predicting that patients would abuse and over-use the system, actual practice has shown that almost all the abuses have come from doctors, albeit a very small number of them.
The public, which was rather shamefully expected to bludge on the system, has remained honest.
In other words, the intention to provide the automatic cover for everyone was achieved with a minimum of confusion and with no dramatic increase in services and hence in costs due to abuse by patients.
The Liberals’ criticisms and claims of excessive expense and abuse were further refuted by evidence in the second annual report of the Health Insurance Commission which was tabled in Parliament on 22 February 1977. Medibank under-spent by $156m in 1975-76. Total payments were $l,288m, and administrative costs amounted to $53m. This means that the administration expenses of Medibank accounted for only 4 per cent of the total pay-out. This was a very marked improvement on the private funds which had had administration expenses ranging from 12 per cent to 20 per cent. According to the report, there was no dramatic increase in services and hence in costs due to abuse by patients. The report did not draw attention to this sort of abuse at all, but it pointed out that doctor abuse had occurred under the previous system and under the Medibank system. On this question of abuse the report pointed out that a number of cases had been referred to the Commonwealth Police. The Commission said that it decided to refer all cases of reported abuse to the police. Eight of those cases involved doctors and sixteen involved members of the public.
When we consider the number of practising doctors treating patients on a private fee for service basis- not all the doctors in the community would be in this category because obviously many of them are salaried doctors- and bear in mind that the ratio of patients to doctors is of the order of one doctor to about 1000 patients, we can appreciate that a disproportionate number of doctors is cheating the system.
A topical example of this very issue is found among pathologists. Let me quote from a letter signed by the Vice-President of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia, which was published in the Age on 15 February. The letter stated:
For more than 10 years-
Long before Medibank was introduced- the college has been very actively concerned about various abuses and possible financial ‘kickbacks’ occurring in the practice of pathology in Australia . . .
This has nothing to do with patients- just doctors. The letter continues:
The escalating costs of pathology are contributed to by many factors, not the least of which are over-use and abuse of this essential and often life-saving service.
The patients cannot over-use the service. It depends on doctors referring patients for this treatment. So that is saying that it is the fault of the doctor, not of the patients. This letter was in response to an Age editorial entitled ‘Pathological profiteering’ published on 14 February 1977. The editorial mentioned some of the techniques. I will just mention some of them. One is false claims for tests of services that had not been performed. Another is the practice of some pathology laboratories offering inducements and rebates to general practitioners as an encouragement to them to order batteries of expensive but unnecessary tests. The editorial says that evidence of this double racket is formidable and disturbing. It also mentions the excessive fees which are charged by pathologists for services mostly performed by laboratory assistants using automative equipment. In fact, I have received a letter on this matter which I would like to read because I think it is very illuminating. The gentleman who wrote the letter states:
Recently it became necessary for me to have pathology tests carried out, upon receiving my account I discovered another account -
Copies of which he enclosed in his letter- had accidentally been enclosed in the same envelope and to my surprise my account was … 1 Vh per cent dearer for every item.
This was for identical items. The letter continued:
When I questioned the difference in the accounts with the Pathologist’s staff I was asked what fund I was in, to which I replied it was none of their concern, however I realised that they were already aware that I belonged to Multicover as my GP asked the question when rilling in the Pathologist’s form. The Pathologist’s staff then informed me that I needn’t worry as the fund would fully reimburse me which proved to be correct . . .
This gentleman says that he noticed when he got his refund back that in one column under HCF there was an amount that had been charged to the other patient and in another column the extra charge made to him which was covered by his multicover. His letter continued:
Sir, when I joined multicover, it was to cover myself and family for additional out-of-pocket expenses that occur, at no time did I imagine or intend that I would be contributing to a doctor’s over award payment scheme . . .
That is in essence what the present scheme has now turned out to be. What has the Government done about these blatant abuses which were revealed by the working party on pathology back in April 1976? Not very much. I would like again to quote from the Age editorial. It pointed out:
But efforts to curb more serious racketeering have been inadequate, in effective or tardy. Admittedly, policing the proliferation of pathology tests will not be easy . . .
The editorial went on to state: lt is also true that any health insurance scheme-
Private or otherwise; this has nothing to do with Medibank- where the patient does not pay directly, or fully, is open to abuses. But the Government’s Medibank changes have obviously not eliminated such malpractices. Indeed, the diffusion makes it harder for health authorities to keep a computer check on doctors who appear to be responsible for excessive claims.
This is really the heart of the problem. The Government’s changes to Medibank- changes which were trumpeted so loudly as being necessary to prevent such abuse- have not eliminated this malpractice. In fact what they have done has been to make it almost impossible to detect such abuses. I contrast this with the original Labor Medibank scheme for which statistics would have been readily available and which would have helped to detect these deficiencies. It would have enabled the ready establishment of a peer review system. It would have provided a forecasting of needs or an assessment of changing needs for health resources in both the developing and older areas. It would have raised the standards of the planning process. It would have enabled better monitoring of health care costs. All of this has now gone by the board largely because of the meddling with Medibank which has now resulted in a diffusion of the statistics all over the place- in Medibank and the private funds. So now it will not be possible to get a quicker and accurate assessment of the situation.
The reality for the Australian community is that the Government’s Medibank monster is a costly monument to the obsession of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to prevent what he calls ‘the socialisation of medicine’. By this he seems to mean reducing the Government’s responsibility for the health care costs of the community. His concern with socialisation seems to imply that Labor’s Medibank scheme suddenly brought in government subsidised health care. This is just nonsense. The reality is that the Government has been funding and will continue to fund the vast majority of the nation’s health care bill. In 1974-75 the public sector funded 70 per cent of all the health care expenditure in the country. That was before the introduction of Medibank. This year the public sector’s share is likely to continue to rise despite the Prime Minister’s meddling with Medibank. In other words, the real motive behind the Medibank mutilation was to reduce the Commonwealth’s share of health expenditure. The fact that the Government’s meddling raised the total cost of health care to each and every Australian was of no concern to the Government. The Age in an editorial in August 1976 described the results of the Prime Minister’s surgery as an emasculation of Medibank. It pointed out that the Medi-maze simply grows more complicated every day and that people have to sit down with a computer to work out what they might or might not get. It went on:
All of which provokes the question: What will be left of Medibank by October 1? A dismembered corpse, in all likelihood. A shadow of the universal health insurance scheme which Labor introduced. The Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, insists that this is not the case. He maintains that far from dismantling Medibank, the Government has improved it by offering people a choice of health insurance. The evidence all seems to point the other way.
An editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 September 1976 condemned the Government in the following terms:
Medibank Mark II, which will come into operation on Friday, must be considered the most notable political and administrative ineptitude of the present Federal Government ‘s first year in office.
It went on to give some of its reasons:
Its complexity replaces the simplicity of Medibank Mark I, and that alone is a step backward, not forward.
Medibank Mark I was the Labor scheme. The present scheme does not provide genuine choice because people still have to insure one way or another. That is forcing a lot of people out of Medibank into the arms of the private sector. It was claimed that 50 per cent of people would be forced out of Medibank. In fact between 50 and 70 per cent have been forced out back into the arms of the private funds. Nor is there any doubt that in future most Australians will pay through the nose for their health insurance. In fact that editorial concludes that when you consider all these propositions and the meddling of the Government that there is a strong case, because of the increase in the cost to the individual, to suggest that people should not insure themselves at all. It states:
There is a great deal to be said for paying the levy, getting only basic Medibank cover in return, and paying for all extras … out of their own pockets. For these extras will attract a measure of tax-deductibility, whereas the premiums will not.
That is a monstrous situation. The whole point of the exercise was to provide a comprehensive system of health insurance. Yet the newspapers- I think responsibly, because they could hardly claim to be supporters of the Labor Party- in assessing what has gone on have come to the conclusion that it may be better for people financially to opt out of the whole system if they can or to take the minimum, just pay the Medibank levy and pay their private fees. That is a exact negation of the whole concept of comprehensive health insurance. It is confirmation of the fact that the Government’s meddling with the system has destroyed the basic concept.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– This matter of public importance is clearly nonsense. It states:
The failure of the Government’s Medibank changes to satisfy the community’s need for health insurance.
I did quite a lot of research, expecting from the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) some really astonishing argument that would put me on my mettle. I am afraid he has not come good. I think his argument was about as effective as the claim made last year that Medibank had been dismantled by this Government, which of course was also a complete and utter untruth. The modifications that were introduced on 1 October have been implemented. They are working extremely well. There have been administrative problems, but the Health Insurance Commission has them well in hand. I take this opportunity of paying Mr Williams, the General Manager of Medibank, and his staff full credit for the way in which they have been able to accommodate the modifications that were made effective as from 1 October. I will accept the fact that there were some difficulties in adjusting the administrative system to accommodate the modifications, but generally the scheme has settled down extremely well and we believe it is operating beneficially to the Australian people.
There is no such thing as free health care. The community does pay one way or another. To that extent, I agree with the honourable member for Maribyrnong that the community will pay by one means or another. It is true to say that what we did was to redistribute or reallocate the means of paying for it. There are already indications that in the first months of operation we could well see a $150m saving or reduction on the estimates that we made earlier in the year. So it is running extremely well and we are effecting efficiencies that needed to be effected.
The facts are that in less than 12 months the Australian Labor Party’s Medibank dream became nothing short of an economic nightmare. The scheme soon became plagued by allegations of abuses and rip-offs, and it would have cost taxpayers no less than $2000m, probably more than that, in this financial year. Health costs have been exploding in this country at an uncontrollable rate, far in excess of the already excessive rate of inflation generated by the Whitlam Government, which undoubtedly must go down in history as the most economically incompetent of governments ever to govern this country. It was a government which inherited a stable economy in 1972 but which in 3 years reduced Australia to one of the worst economic categories in the Western world.
When Labor assumed office in 1972 there were 136 000 people or 2.4 per cent of the work force unemployed. By December 1975 there were 330 000 or 5.4 per cent unemployed. Inflation in 1972 was 4.6 per cent, but when Labor went out of office it was 14.1 per cent. The Whitlam Government inherited a Budget deficit of $774m, but by 1975-76 it was escalating to $4000m. Receipts from personal income tax increased by 89 per cent in the first 2 years under the Labor Government, and indirect taxation increased by 28 per cent. In the wake of the inflation generated by the Whitlam Government unemployment rose by over 150 per cent.
The whole health insurance proposal introduced by Labor was open-ended and gave no consideration to any checks or balances, which seemed to be characteristic of so many schemes that Labor introduced. No emphasis was given to quality assurance or to peer review in the medical profession. The honourable member for Maribyrnong mentioned that. It has been this Government that has entered into discussions with the Australian Medical Association to bring about peer review and try to get some quality assurance and quality assessment within the medical profession. We have also informed the AMA that we would expect it to undertake peer review systems within the profession at the end of a 3 year period.
The quality of health care was not a priority under Labor’s Medibank scheme. People were brainwashed into believing that they were receiving free health care. Australia was certainly heading down the same road as the United Kingdom with its national health scheme. I am reminded of the old saying that any government that is big enough to give you all you want is strong enough to take away everything you have. This is precisely what was going on under the Whitlam socialist regime. This is precisely why the Fraser Government had to take some hard decisions. Many of the decisions that were taken last year were hard decisions. One of them was a decision to introduce full indexation of personal income tax to the rate of inflation. Such a scheme was designed to stop the Government making huge income tax rake-offs as a result of inflation. It represents a gain in this financial year of $ 1,000m to taxpayers and over $ 1,000m to taxpayers in the next financial year. This would not have been possible if we had not made modifications to the method of paying for universal health insurance. Responsible administration demanded that the present Government take action to bring the exploding costs of universal health insurance under control.
Our estimate of health costs in Australia, including both the public and the private sector, for this financial year was about $5,400m, which is an enormous sum of money in anybody’s language when compared with the value of exports of iron ore, coal, wool, wheat and meat which we anticipate will amount to about $4,500m. So we were looking at a figure of $5,400m, exploding health costs, with no guarantee that the health of the Australian people was getting any better. Nor was there any guarantee that the Government resources were being allocated to those in greatest need. If we had allowed the situation to go on unchanged, the cost of universal health insurance would rapidly have consumed the social welfare dollar in this country. There was no attempt to direct the scarce resources in the health area to the needy sections of the community by means of the health insurance system. It is true that community health centres were being established. I give credit to the former Government for having initiated the community health program. It was a very worthy program.
– Do you not think that that does anything towards improving the quality of care?
– I think that it does assist but I do not for one moment believe that a universal health insurance system does anything actually to ensure that the quality of health care is improved. It is true that it helps people to pay for their health costs, but under the system which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) was responsible for introducing, the richest and the poorest could receive the same care at no direct cost to them. In order to tidy up an unholy mess, the Government commissioned the Medibank Review Committee under Mr Austin Holmes and a pathology working party under Dr Sax. The honourable member for Maribyrnong made great play on the difficulties and some of the abuses that have been going on in the pathology area. But what did his Government do about them? Not one thing. It did not do a thing about the abuses that were going on in the pathology area. It was this Government that set up the pathology working party under Dr Sax. Its first report has been tabled and has been acted upon. Its second report is in my hands at the present time. Some of the matters which the honourable member for Maribyrnong has mentioned will be dealt with very shortly.
In the course of those inquiries certain irregularities became apparent. Recommendations were made to the Government in respect of the operations of universal health insurance, charging and professional conduct in the pathology area. The Government has not hesitated to act where loopholes for abuses existed and where abuses were taking place in the public interest. There was no provision for anything but an open-ended arrangement with the States whereby the States passed on to the Commonwealth on a monthly basis their bills for the operating costs of the hospitals. We have renegotiated the hospitals agreements with the States so that there is proper accountability as between the Commonwealth and the States. Already those joint committees have been responsible for shaving off $ 126m from the original estimates. Half of that benefit goes to the States and half goes to the Commonwealth. The total benefit goes to the Australian taxpayer who is paying the price anyway.
On the medical side of Medibank, the cost could be $ 100m under our earlier estimates. It is too early to be accurate but clearly we are getting towards that possibility. The new arrangements that became operative on 1 October, far from taking from the needy to support the affluent, are firmly based upon the capacity of the people to pay. Those on the lowest incomes and most pensioners pay nothing for Medibank benefits. Those on the highest incomes pay up to 15 per cent of real costs for Medibank Standard. Those who pay 2Vi per cent plus the hospital only- on average they are the middle income people- are meeting approximately 40 per cent of their health care costs. Those who take out the full private insurance are naturally, generally speaking, those in the higher income levels. They are contributing about 70 per cent on average of their total health care costs. The universal health cost cover has been retained. Of course Medibank has been retained. In fact it has been broadened so that its function also provides for private health insurance. I am pleased to say that Medibank Private is now the second biggest private insurance fund in Australia. I repeat that everybody in this country is covered for health insurance but people pay according to their means.
The new arrangements have introduced a dual system of public-private competition with inbuilt cost restraints on the private sector and the medical profession. The profession is conscious of this change and the need for moderation in fee increases. The entry of Medibank Private into the market can only increase competition between the funds and make them all the more efficient, which is undoubtedly in the public interest. The fact that 70 per cent of the Australian people retained private health insurance was very much a deciding factor in our planning for modifications. Clearly a significant percentage of the Australian people wanted the doctor of their choice in hospital, and the modifications that we made accommodated that obvious desire. One of the encouraging signs that became very clear to us after the modifications were implemented came from the Australian Hospital Association itself. It stated publicly that the Government’s health insurance proposals had made the first real attempt to come to grips with the enormous escalation in health cost while maintaining the principles of universal health insurance. The new system provided private medical practice in Australia with the opportunity to show its responsibility in the constraint of costs. With half the population insured privately under the new arrangements the onus would be on doctors to ensure that their fees did not rise faster than the rate of increase in average weekly earnings and that they did not provide excessive services.
The honourable member for Maribyrnong raised the point that it is the doctors who make the decisions and not the public at large. Of course that it so. Unless the medical profession responded by exercising professional responsibility and restraint, the premiums that people would have to pay for private insurance would inevitably rise to a point at which many people would have no incentive to remain privately insured. The lesson to be learnt from any universal health insurance system around the world is that unless there are proper inbuilt cost constraint mechanisms- I know that the honourable member for Oxley agrees with this- clearly the cost will get completely out of hand and will consume the social welfare dollar. We were on the road in Australia. I am sure that inwardly the honourable member for Oxley blesses what we did.
-The Government’s changes to Medibank are a red hot rip-off of the Australian public. The public are blatantly ripped-off collectively and they are ruggedly rippedoff individually. The Australian public had a simple, efficient universal health insurance system which was capable and was in the process of applying effective cost controls. They now have a clumsy, unsatisfactory, inefficient system which contributes nothing but confusion and dissatisfaction in the Australian community. A few things ought to be made clear in this debate. I refer to some of the points made by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). He talked of the cost level which was involved under the original concept of Medibank as introduced by the former Government and maintained for 12 months in this country. The fact is that the changes to Medibank represent much greater cost in real terms to be borne by the Australian community than was the case before. The people are paying in a full year something like $900m more for their health insurance cover than they were paying previously under the original concept of Medibank.
Let us have no more of this nonsense from the Minister that the public are better off, that the Government is concerned about the costs which the community has to bear and that the Government is alarmed about the level of taxation that has to be borne by the community. This is a high tax government. The Government, the coalition of conservatives, has been responsible for ripping off from the Australian public about $900m in a full year. That is what the cosmetic deal in relation to the changes to the Medibank program is about. The public was receiving hospital and medical insurance cover under the original principles of Medibank. All of the costs to be met under that program were being paid. Doctors were not missing out on payments. We are being told that the Government could not arrange an overdraft at the corner bank. Governments do not function in that way, although, having listened to the Minister for Health a few moments ago, one could be excused for thinking otherwise. All of the costs were being met. Those costs are sul! being met. But the public is paying $900 m more and it is not getting one thing more in terms of better quality health services and it is not getting one skeric more in terms of health services in any form at all.
How has that come about? Why has that come about? It has come about because the Government had and still has a neurotic pre-occupation and a complete misunderstanding about the role of deficits in budgets and had accordingly decided that it wanted to raise more revenue. So it massacred the Medibank program as it was originally introduced and it introduced various charges which were nothing more than thinly veiled increases in revenue and taxation. The public is now $900m worse off collectively because of that red hot rip-off.
I digress very slightly and momentarily to respond to a couple of comments that the Minister made. He talked about tax increases under previous Labor governments. What gall it is for anyone in the present conservative coalition to criticise any earlier government of any colour at all for the rate of tax increase imposed on the public! This year the rate of increase in net payasyouearn income tax collections will be of the order of $ 1,800m, which is an increase of approximately 25 per cent. That is the highest monetary level and the highest percentage rate of increase that has been seen in this country. The coalition Government has been responsible for that increase.
The Minister expressed some concern about the rate of utilisation in pathology and suggested that the Medibank program was responsible for it. Nothing could be more dishonest coming from a person who can credibly lay claim to having knowledge of the background of the health insurance programs in this country going back over the past decade or so. Indeed, one has only to go to 1974, while we were in government but while the previous private health insurance program was functioning, to recollect the findings of Mr Justice Ludeke when we set up the fees determination tribunal on the matter of pathology utilisation. The reports in the newspapers of the ways in which pathologists were exploiting health insurance then were scandalous and did no credit to that section of the medical profession.
What happened under Medibank? For the first time the Government could pinpoint areas of abuse. That was something that could not be done previously. There had been no comprehensive statistical compilation of utilisation rates by medical professionals. That is one of the reasons why the Australian Medical Association opposed so bitterly the Medibank concept. It knew that we could establish utilisation profiles and that we could pinpoint where the abuse was going on, where the public were being ripped off by less than ethical members of the medical profession. For balance, I might mention that the medical profession is not alone in this community for want of ethics and for having amongst its members people engaged in this sort of monetary acquisitiveness. But the fact was that abuse was going on before. Only Medibank was able to pinpoint it and only Medibank would have allowed the opportunity to prevent the abuse from continuing.
The Minister suggests that the costs have to be borne by someone. Of course they do. They were being borne by the community before. The community should not be deceived. The additional costs that the community now has to bear, collectively and individually, come about not for any reason associated with Medibank but because the Government wanted more revenue. Let us not be told this nonsense that public expenditure of this nature is, per se, inflationary. I would like to see this country being as successful as is Sweden, for instance, in controlling inflation and in maximising the efficient activity of its economy. That country has a much higher level of public expenditure than we do and it has a health insurance scheme not terribly dissimilar from our own.
Let me talk about the rip-off of individuals that is going on at the present time. The average income earner is paying about $3.60 a week as his contribution to Medibank. He did not pay anything before. He is paying $3.60 a week but he is getting nothing more for it. He has had that additional charge imposed on him. After 30 June he will pay about $4.80 to $5 a week because, as the Minister well knows, the rates will go up. Perhaps we could do with a little publicity being focussed on that.
Let me deal with another aspect of the Medibank rip-off which has not been attended to so far. I refer to the double taxation effect of Medibank. The Medibank levy is a tax. It represents an increase in the personal tax paid by the community. I have just pointed out that the rate is of the order of $3.60 a week. But before that $3.60 is paid, taxation at the appropriate marginal rate for an average income earner is paid on that $3.60, and the marginal rate is about 35c in the dollar. So the taxpayer who has already paid $1.25 on that $3.60 straight out in tax then has to pay his $3.60 Medibank levy. So currently he is effectively paying nearly $5 a week. Let us be more accurate: He is currently effectively paying $4.85 a week for his Medibank contribution. He pays tax on his Medibank tax. He is paying on that levy tax at the rate of 135 per cent. That is the sort of deal that the Government is offering the Australian community.
Let me move on to deal with the efficiency of Medibank and nail the lie that Medibank would lead to abuse by the Australian community. The 1975-76 annual report of the Health Insurance Commission nails that lie, I hope, for all time. Using earlier reports from the Department of Social Security, I think it was, it is shown that the average number of medical services for a person covered under the old system of private health insurance was 5.1 in 1975. In 1976 under Medibank the average number of medical services a head of population, up to and including those 64 years of age- that is fairly much comparable with the earlier example I gave- was 4.06. That is, the utilisation rate was not as high. Even allowing for any adjustments necessary to get strict comparability, the fact is that Medibank did not lead to abuse and Medibank was efficient. The average turn around time of all medical claims from lodgment to payment was 10.7 days in 1976. No private health insurance fund has ever equalled that standard either before or during the period in which Medibank operated in its original conception. No private fund is able to achieve that standard today. Several weeks delay was the average situation in the late 1960s and the early 1970s.
The old scheme and the present scheme bog down in inefficiency, unsatisfactory procedures and, most of all, in a complexity that most people cannot penetrate. It is to the everlasting disgrace of the Government that it dishonoured its promise to maintain the original concept of Medibank.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have had the benefit of listening to the contributions made by both speakers from the Opposition side. I can say only that the Opposition must be desperately short of important matters to debate in this Parliament. I am bewildered as to why it would list as a matter of public importance the item that we have before us today. It is a complete waste of valuable parliamentary time to do so.
I must say at the outset that my regard for the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) as a person is high. I am rather impressed by his performance as a member of my House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Conservation and indeed by his conduct in this Parliament. But, having brought forward as a matter of public importance the Medibank health insurance scheme, I believe that he is nothing more than a charlatan. The matter of public importance is a farce. Some of the most shallow arguments that I have ever heard brought forward in this Parliament on any matter of public importance have been brought to light today.
I want to deal, first of all, with the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He talked about the present Government as being the ‘high tax government’. Let me remind the honourable member that it took the national Parliament 71 years to reach the stage of having a $10 billion Budget. Yet in 3 years under Labor this excalated to $2 1 billion. Let us have a look at the sort of taxation that was ripped off the public by the Labor Government. Receipts from personal income tax increased by some 89 per cent in the first 2 years under Labor and indirect taxation increased by some 28 per cent. Inflation, of course, was running at the rate of 4.5 per cent when Labor took office in 1972. It rose to something like 16 per cent during the time Labor was in government, and of course we saw the level of unemployment, which was generated as a result of inflation, rise from 128 000 to some 300000. Let not the honourable member for Oxley, who I am afraid did not have many troops behind him today to support him in his leadership struggle, say that this Government is a tax rip-off government. He also cited the example of Sweden as being a country to which this nation could look. Let me assure the honourable member for Oxley that Sweden is in deep trouble with too much social welfare being at the root cause of its troubles. I also want to say to the honourable member that Medibank is not a tax. Medibank is a charge for a specific purpose. The charge for 1 lb of butter, I lb of bananas or whatever is the same for the rich man as it is for the poor man. A visit to a doctor costs the poor man the same as it does the rich man. Medibank is not a tax in the true sense. It is a levy; a charge for a specific purpose.
Let us look at the arguments of the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). What a lot of platitudes they were. He quoted journalists and one Phillip Cornford as an authority. The honourable member talks about abuses which he admitted were small in number but came mainly from the medical profession. He then quoted from the report of the health insurance organisations and talked about the underspending of, I think, $156m on Medibank. He then referred to 4 per cent administrative costs and praised this. Whatever sum may have been underspent in terms of what was estimated in the Budget, it still represented a tremendous amount of money out of the consolidated revenue, and the people of this nation had to be shown just what Medibank was costing them.
The honourable member talked further of doctor abuses. Of course doctor abuses are to be deplored, but after all who was it that initiated discussions with the Australian Medical Association? It was none other than the present Minister for Health, and these discussions will result in the setting up of a Peer Review Committee. So the abuses existed under the previous Labor Government. No doubt the responsible people in the medical profession are also most unhappy about the abuses that we see from time to time. All I can say to the honourable member for Maribyrnong is that all abuses that are brought to the attention of the Minister are followed up, and it is the responsibility of every member of this Parliament to bring to the attention of the Minister and his Department any abuses which come to his notice. Of course abuses and malpractices have always existed, and if the honourable member for Maribyrnong believes in the shallow arguments that he has brought forward today that they are going to be abolished he has another think coming.
Let us look at the Labor Party’s position and the trade union movement’s stance on Medibank. If I may go back some years, the honourable member for Oxley introduced this scheme knowing that only 8 per cent of the Australian population was not covered by private health insurance organisations. He proposed a 1.35 per cent levy across the board. We naturally opposed this because we opposed the total concept of Medibank as it was introduced at that stage. Once this proposal was defeated the honourable member then introduced the socalled free scheme. When are the champions of social welfare in the Labor Party going to realise that there is nothing free in this world? It has to be paid for. It is well known that Mr Hayden was deeply concerned at the escalating costs of the scheme. It was a monster that he could not control. What about the trade union movement’s view on the whole matter? At one stage it advocated the introduction of a levy of 1.6 per cent. One could be excused for thinking that the Labor Party, the present Opposition, did not know what it wanted and where it was going in relation to this matter.
I now turn to the Government’s position on Medibank which has been quite clear, quite consistent and quite proper. We opposed any substantial change to the private health insurance scheme that was instigated and operated under the Liberal-National Country Party Government. That scheme had worked well. It had served the nation and the people extremely well. The policy prior to the last election was that we would retain but modify Medibank. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Health, who is seated at the table, for the tremendous amount of work that he put in to the modifications that were introduced to Medibank. So all of the things that the Government has said when it was in Opposition and indeed since it has been in office it would do, have been done.
I thought that in introducing this subject for discussion, namely the failure of the Government’s Medibank changes to satisfy the community’s need for health insurance, the honourable member for Maribyrnong would have been looking at the scheme, how it was operating administratively and how well it was serving the public because after all it is the service to the public that really matters. The scheme has been in operation for 6 months. It is operating quite smoothly. One might say at the moment that the dust has settled. At the moment I find no criticisms of the scheme. Indeed, few complaints about it have come to me. I believe that the dust has settled. The people accept today that they have to pay for their health insurance. It is an identifiable cost to the consumer.
Let us look at the costs for a moment because a number of people are quite in error in believing that they are paying the total cost of hospital and medical care in this country. I shall give the estimates for the financial year 1976-77. Commonwealth revenue is estimated at $ 1,120m. The State governments will contribute $840m. Insurance premiums will amount to $985m and levypayers will contribute $375m. That is a total of $3, 320m. So it is easy to see that the levy contributors and those who are contributing to private health insurance funds are paying less than 50 per cent of the total cost of the scheme although a good portion of that cost has been identified to the consumers.
I briefly want to refer, if I may, to how well the scheme has served the public. It has served the public extremely well. Medibank in itself, as the Minister stated earlier, is the second largest private health insurance fund. The offices have been retained. The service is still there. I deplore the Opposition for bringing forward such a farcical matter for discussion as a matter of public importance. As I said earlier, it is a complete waste of the valuable time of this Parliament. It is another one of the matters of public importance that have been introduced in recent weeks by the Opposition that have fallen flat. They are meaningless matters of public importance. It is to be hoped that the Opposition can do a little better in future.
-The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. In fact, I can go further and say that the Opposition supports the Bill. I remind the House that the Asian Development Bank makes a very useful contribution to increasing the resources available to developing countries in our region. I also remind the House that this Bill authorises an increased capital subscription to the Bank by our own nation as part of a scheme which roughly doubles the Bank’s authorised capital stock. There will be no actual payment by the Australian Government in the current financial year in making this contribution to an increased capital stock, but payments in the next financial year will amount to about $8.65m. In the subsequent 3 financial years there will be payments, making the total about 10 per cent of the $US346.1m which Australia is obliged to pay under the agreement made in relation to the Asian Development Bank increase in capital stock. The balance of the $US346.1m over that 10 per cent which will be paid in in the 4 years will be on call. The Opposition welcomes this new arrangement, this new commitment by the Government, modest though it is. However, this frankly will do little to increase Australia’s aid to the target level of 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) keeps reiterating what he describes as the Government’s commitment to this aid target of 0.7 per cent of GDP but he does not give a date for the achievement of this target. The target, of course, is one laid down by the United Nations and is a target for all nations, not only Australia. But a target without a date is no target at all.
This is simply another of the Government’s propaganda exercises, this time to appease those humanitarian Australians who are quite rightly deeply concerned about the problem of international economic inequality. The ruse, however, is so transparent that all those people genuinely concerned about levels of aid will, I believe, see through it and will be strongly critical of the Government’s persistent failure to set a definite aid target. The reason given for this failure does not make sense. The Minister for Foreign Affairs stated with regard to the target:
Regrettably, present economic circumstances preclude our setting a date Tor its achievement. In the meantime, however, we are endeavouring to maintain our aid at the highest level consistent with economic and budgetary constraints.
The Government’s argument for its budgetary constraint is that increased government spending is inflationary. Honourable members will have heard me point out in this House and outside that government spending devoted to areas where there are unemployed men, women and other resources is not inflationary.
Ignoring this argument, all aid is, by definition, sent overseas or should be sent overseas. This is acknowledged by the Government because it presents its deficit in 2 forms, a domestic deficit and an overseas deficit. Money sent overseas cannot possibly directly affect the level of demand in Australia and at present there is no balance of payment constraint either. So the Government is using its general argument for budgetary restraint quite improperly in the context of aid. I believe that, in seeking to appease those humanitarian people who so wisely understand the need for foreign aid, by talking about Australia’s aid target without setting a date for that target, the Government is once again misleading the Australian people. Already this week I have had the duty of bringing up a matter of public importance concerning this Government’s misleading of the Australian people, particularly in relation to the economy. I had the same task last week. Here there is another example of the deception that is going on.
As usual, deception has serious consequences. This time the consequences of the deception are serious for the developing countries. Relatively wealthy Australia is denying to the developing countries resources which they could use effectively to increase income earning capacity and their capacity for self-reliant growth. We need not be supporters of this attitude only for humanitarian reasons. We can support this attitude for very good, self-seeking reasons. The more quickly the Asian nations around Australia build up their economies, the more quickly we will reach a stage where greater trade is developed between Australia and those countries. This greater trade will, of course, assist enormously in lifting the wealth of this country and the standard of living of the Australian people. It is for what one might call selfish personal reasons that one can support aid as well as for the humanitarian purpose of improving the lives of many millions who have a far lower standard of living than our own.
Of course, some of Australia’s aid is spent in Australia. In part, this is because a portion of our development assistance is used to pay the salaries of well qualified personnel who work in developing countries at the request of those countries. As well, some of the aid funds are used to purchase suitable equipment and supplies available in Australia and needed in the receiving countries. In both cases the flow back of funds is in the interests of both the recipient countries and Australia, the donor country. However, a portion of our so-called aid is not aid at all. For example, superannuation payments and payments for loss of salary to retrenched Australian public servants from Papua New Guinea are included in the Government’s aid classification. This is inconsistent with the Government’s agreement with the Papua New Guinea Government to exclude these termination payments and retirement benefits from aid to that country. Another part of our development assistance is less effective than it could be because it is, in effect, tied to purchases in Australia or payment of salaries to Australian personnel with skills which could be obtained elsewhere less expensively.
The often repeated claim of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that Australia’s aid is good quality needs some modification. Whilst he is right in asserting the importance of giving aid in grant form, rather than by loans, there are these other aspects of Australia’s aid programs which reduce their real value to developing countries. Some of Australia’s aid flows back to Australia and adds to domestic demand. Does this mean that the significance of the overseas deficit concept is reduced? It would be interesting to have some clarification from the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner) on this point if he intends to enter this debate. I hope he does intend to speak in this debate because I would like to hear his views on the points that I have raised. If the Government is concerned about the effect of aid on domestic demand, it should simply improve the quality of aid by making it completely untied, entirely in the form of loans and aimed at increasing the purchases by recipient countries from other developing countries. Any argument that aid should be restrained because of its effect on domestic demand amounts to no more than an admission that our aid is rather less effective than it should be.
It appears that this year the amount of aid provided will be underspent. The monthly financial statement issued early in March for the first 8 months of the financial year- the Niemeyer statement as it is still called- suggests that the
Government will not spend even the limited resources it allocated for aid in the Budget. In the first 8 months of the year only 64 per cent of the budgeted figure had been spent rather than the 67 per cent which would have been spent if expenditure in this area had been proportional with the Budget estimate. This suggests that spending on overseas aid may be at least $15m less than the Government announced at the time of the Budget. Perhaps spending in this area has been actually cut. It will be interesting to see at the end of the financial year whether the Government has fulfilled the aid commitment it announced in the Budget.
There is another example of the gap between the Government’s professed concern and its actions relating to the integrated commodities program and the common fund proposals which were agreed to at the UNCTAD 4 meeting held in Nairobi last year. In his foreign policy statement last week the Minister for Foreign Affairs said that the proposals for a new international economic order were one of the important global issues. I welcome that statement but I believe that the Minister’s comments on these proposals were only platitudes. He offered nothing except bland generalisations and we want more than just those generalisations. There was nothing at all conclusive in his speech despite the importance of the integrated commodity program and common fund proposals to the developing countries. It appears that the conservative Australian Government which we are suffering at the present time may be moving away from the support it gave these proposals at the Nairobi conference. In answer to a recent question asked in the Senate the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade (Senator Cotton) said:
The Government remains to be convinced of the need for a common fund as an element of that program.
He was referring to the integrated program on commodities- or that an early decision on its establishment is necessary to ensure success of the program.
Yet the proposals are eminently sensible and Australia should be supporting in principle the negotiations to establish a common fund and should be speaking in favour of the fund in international forums. We should also be giving an early indication of our willingness to contribute to the satisfactory common fund. At this stage we should be participating fully and effectively in discussions about the precise form of the fund.
The aims of the common fund, as I know you will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, are modest- to stabilise prices and to improve the reliability of supply of primary commodities. This is in the interests of both the producer and consumer countries, and Australia is in both categories. The integrated commodities program and the common fund proposals offer real hope for Third World countries which suffer from fluctuating commodity prices. Of course, if fluctuations of prices for commodities which Australia exports could be reduced this could be of considerable benefit to our own producers. The value of this scheme has apparently been perceived by President Carter and his advisers because they are reported to have agreed that the United States should adopt a more accommodating posture on the developing countries’ proposals for the establishment of a common fund. Is this another area where our Australian Liberal and National Country Party Government will be left behind in the field of international affairs because of lack of imagination and rigidity? I hope not. At least in this Bill we see that the Government has got behind a great improvement in the matter of giving aid.
I take this opportunity to draw attention to another way of giving aid, of supporting the new economic order, namely, through more active participation in the discussions on the common fund. I interpose to remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the House of the fillip given to the discussions on the common fund by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in their recent meeting, deciding to give an enormous contribution towards the common fund. This was lost in a lot of other news that came from that OPEC meeting because of the unfortunate increase in the price of oil that was announced at the same time. But at least we must allow that there was a silver lining to the cloud of that meeting when the OPEC countries gave such support to the common fund proposals.
The failure of the Government to take international development seriously is symbolised by its decision to abolish the Australian Development Assistance Agency. But we will be debating this decision next week so I shall not discuss that now. Australia must take seriously the consequences of continuation of the appalling international inequalities of income. Of course, that is one of the points of this Bill. Before moving too far away from the common fund I think it proper that I should draw attention to a Press release for the Common Fund Campaign dated 18 March, only 5 days ago. The heading of the Press release reads: ‘Economists Support New Trade Plan’. The Press release states:
A group of 12 economists from 4 Australian universities have come out in support of a new trade scheme presently being negotiated in Geneva.
The economists, which include Dr H. C. Coombs of the Australian National University, Professor A. M. Kerr of Murdoch University and Professor John Nevile of N.S.W. University, have signed a petition urging the Australian Government to support the present negotiations to establish a common fund for commodities being held in Geneva under the auspices of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
I could quote more from that Press release as it is relevant to this whole matter of giving aid to under-developed countries which is under discussion in this debate but I shall merely draw attention to how so many prominent people in Australia are behind the actions of any government in improving aid- not only the amount of aid but the form of aid- being given to underdeveloped countries which is so important for peace as well as economic security in our world.
The Bill we are now debating makes a tiny contribution of the type required. It is sad that other decisions by the Government frankly have been inconsistent with this approach. It is interesting in this context to note that the Liberal and National Country Parties’ joint platform for the last election included a proposal on foreign policy to attempt to tie even aid given through the Asian Development Bank to interests of this country. One advantage of multilateral aid such as that which we are giving in this Bill is supposed to be that it reduces the danger of manipulation by the donor country to its own advantage.
I believe that the undertaking in the LiberalNational Country Parties platform was a mistake. I hope that the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) and the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean) who are in the House and who may be following me in this debate will give an assurance that they will seek to have that part of the Liberal-National Country Parties’ platform removed so that there is no undertaking in the Government Parties’ platform to tie aid in this way given through the Asian Development Bank. It is important that this Bill does not so tie that aid. To that extent the Government is not following its platform. We welcome the fact that the Government is not following the platform of its Parties in this matter and that this money will be made available to the Asian Development Bank for this good purpose. I repeat that the Opposition supports the Bill.
-I listened with great interest to the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I must confess that I had difficulty following his comments upon the Asian Development Bank. His remarks on the common fund meeting which is about to take place in Africa, which occupied most of his speech, were interesting. I suppose it would be fair to say that there would be few people in this House who would not approve of the common fund in general principle. But governments cannot live on those sorts of aspects to international affairs. I point out to the previous speaker that when we talk of the common fund we cannot ignore existing international arrangements in all commodities and particularly commodities about which the common fund people are presently talking. I was pleased to hear that the Opposition supports this Bill. It is not my intention to repeat the second reading speech of the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner).
In view of my professional experiences with the Asian Development Bank during the 3 years when I was not representing the electorate of Cook in this Parliament, I shall make a few points in this debate. Firstly, I believe that it should be clearly emphasised, despite what the Opposition has said, that Australia’s heavy involvement in the Asian Development Bankonly Japan, United States of America and India exceed our subscriptions to it- reflects the very strong view of this Liberal Government and particularly preceding Liberal governments that our contributions should pave the way for large scale development projects in the Asian and Pacific region. They have done this. As a result of its successful operation this Bank has emerged as a major force for development in the work of the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who is at the table has said, the Bank should be regarded as an effective and efficient vehicle for regional co-operation and development in our pan of the world.
It is worth recalling that the basic role of international development banks- I point this out to the previous speaker- which have available to them large amounts of capital from donor governments, is to supplement and to add to the flow of aid going to developing countries from government sources. Developing countries themselves either do not have access to these markets or else would be required to borrow at very much higher rates of interest. I believe that the Asian Development Bank was established to add substantially to the amount of capital available for development purposes to the poorer countries of Asia. I think it is worth pointing out to this not exactly full House that something like 62.5 per cent of the subscriptions are held by regional members and that only 37.5 per cent is available for such non-regional members as the United States, Canada, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom. So the Bank will be seen to be a good example of Asian regional countries looking towards caring for their own less affluent areas.
There is no question- I repeat that- there is no question on this side of the House that we should not accept this added involvement in a venture which must be regarded as a vital part of Australia’s total overseas aid. It reflects this Liberal Government’s sincere wish to assume all its responsibilities in the South East Asian area. It is worth pointing out to members that although this Bill seems to be concerned only with international finance and capital markets, it will facilitate in real and practical terms loans to personal and small scale enterprises throughout Asia and the South Pacific region. I believe that our contribution to this Bank cannot be viewed in isolation from our general foreign aid program, nor in isolation from our involvement in other international agencies, which, with their ability to draw on the resources of many donor countries, have the capability of determining by expert long-term analysis and experience the needs of developing countries in our region. In fact, I believe that our involvement in the Asian Development Bank and other similar international agencies has allowed Australian governments on both sides of the political spectrum to plan more effectively aid programs to neighbouring countries.
A little earlier, I mentioned the ‘Asianness’ of the Asian Development Bank. I believe honourable members would be interested to know that nearly all the Bank’s technical officers and senior staff are from regional member countries. These officers are superbly professional and able and we should be grateful that people of their character and capabilities are drawn to the ADB as a career. I would be failing in my duty if I did not pay tribute to the great contribution made by Australians at the Manila headquarters over the years. In particular I pay tribute to the present Director of Operations, Dr David Fisher, an outstanding public servant, who has made a most significant contribution in this sensitive and responsible senior position for some years now. It is to be hoped that when Dr Fisher’s term of office ends, Australia will make full and appropriate use of his remarkable experience with the ADB. However, there are a large number of Australians on the staff there and I pay tribute to each of them as well. Here in Canberra there is a fine group of public servants who give advice to Australian professional consultants wishing to tender for many of the ADB’s projects. Much of the success of Australian firms which have won tenders has been as a direct result of the objective, professional advice given by these Canberra-based people.
Nevertheless, I believe that this is an area where much yet remains to be achieved. Goodness knows, our engineering, architectural and management skills- and they rank among the world ‘s best- are being under-utilised at the moment. I believe that we could use some of the Japanese techniques in having our experts employed more than is the case at present in these major Asian developmental projects. I seek a fairer go for Australian professionals in this aspect of the Asian Development Bank which is to provide technical assistance to developing member countries. The fault does not lie entirely with the ADB, for many Australian firms have not geared themselves to providing the service specifically required. Our Government would do well to devote more effort into informing and coaching, if not training, likely Australian firms for this most important aspect of the ADB’s operations. Admittedly it can be very confusing for Australian consulting firms to work out the appropriate method of registering with the various international organisations and without local lobbyists in Manila to assist, registration for the various tendering documents that come forward from time to time is too often delayed for Australian organisations. As I have suggested previously, perhaps consideration could be given by the Government to a better method of disseminating information by using more effectively our trade commissioner facilities in Manila as well as developing further the facilities in the Department of Overseas Trade in Canberra.
I do not wish to take up much of the time of the House on this aspect, but I should like to quote from one of the Asian Development Bank’s documents as to why technical assistance is such an important element of the Bank’s developmental role and why I am most anxious for Australian consulting firms to play a much more important part. The Bank says:
Such assistance is particularly needed by the Bank’s smaller and less developed countries where there are generally substantial gaps in technical know-how and expertise.
The Bank, therefore, attaches considerable importance to this branch of activity, which covers assistance in project preparation and implementation, sectoral studies, policy formulation, development planning, institution building and any other economic problem of national or regional concern. As in the case of lending activities, the Bank has also given specific attention in its technical assistance projects to the training of local personnel.
The Bank’s technical assistance operations have been widely appreciated because of their beneficial impact on the capacity of developing member countries, especially the smaller or less developed countries, to utilize external financing. No less important, such assistance also helps to replenish the pipeline of loan applications to the Bank.
The use of the technical assistance aspect of this organisation is vital and it is one in which we can play a pan. My colleague, the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Sainsbury) who will follow me as the next speaker from this side of the House, will no doubt talk about the number of Australian organisations which have been used. I include in that list the Snowy Mountains Authority, or rather, its successor. But as the Asian Development Bank has declared that 44 per cent of the total amount of technical assistance has been given in the agricultural and agroindustry sector, it becomes obvious that we have a great deal to offer in the way of consultative expertise. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, are very involved in that activity in Australia and would be very well aware of it. I know that the senior officers of the Asian Development Bank would gladly use more Australian technical consultants either as individuals or as organisations. It behoves us as a Government to do all we can to prepare Australians for this task.
If this were a debate on our aid program, I would take the trouble to answer all the questions raised by the previous speaker; but the debate is limited to the Asian Development Bank, our involvement and its role. I think one of the interesting aspects is that since the Bank’s establishment back in 1966 it has received bipartisan support in this Parliament. I think it is fair to comment that all countries in the region are pleased, if not always completely satisfied, with the general thrust of the Bank’s policies. I believe it must continue to function in its strictly nonpolitical way as indeed do all the international banks. I believe that the future of the Bank must always remain an integral part of our aid policy.
At this stage I feel inclined to answer one criticism. For the past 2 decades Australia has been renowned amongst recipient countries as being one of the few countries that have not tied their aid to their own advantage. I think it is totally distressing that a man who now has the responsibility of such matters for the Opposition- the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide- should believe that our aid program is tied, as perhaps may be alleged with regard to one or two European countries, to the donor country’s advantage. If there is one thing in our aid program on which we can hold our heads very high it is that we have maintained a policy of not tying our aid to our own advantage. I strongly support this move by the Government and I am delighted to see that on the list of speakers there is a large number of people on this side of the House wishing to speak and to show their great interest in what I think is a most significant part of this Government’s aid program.
-At one stage our subscription to the Asian Development Bank was within my jurisdiction. I am not sure whether I was called a governor, but I was associated with the Bank for 2 years. It is interesting to see that the measure has the support of both sides of the House. I would like to draw attention to the inadequacy in the long run of what is being done by all these institutions in relation to the great need that exists. We are talking about a sum of $3,460m or something of the kind. Australia must find about a tenth- $346mYet, the latest annual report of the Asian Development Bank that is available to us, the annual report of 1975, referred to a deficit on an annual basis of between $12 billion and $13 billion that the group of countries that it calls the DMCs- the developing member countries- face. This rather small amount really is inadequate in terms of need.
We are talking about sums of money, and in the long run sums of money are only sensible in as far as they are able to bring those who want to borrow the money into contact with physical resources that they feel they need. I think I said on an earlier occasion, in the group that was known as the Committee of Twenty in the International Monetary Fund, that in the long run the division over getting international monetary reform went on the rocks for 2 sorts of reasons. Firstly, there was the difficulty of individual nations yielding what they call their national sovereignty over controlling exchange rates. At the other extreme there was the idea that what were called the LDCs- the lesser developed countries -wanted access to real resources that they did not have.
The honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) referred to Japanese contractors being more assiduous, zealous or effective in securing for their country contracts that could be carried out with loans that could be made available by the Asian Development Bank. This simply highlights in some respects the lack of enterprise that is shown by private enterprise in Australia. I know at times one gets squeals of horror from the other side of the House when it is suggested that private enterprise is unenterprising. All I suggest is that in the years ahead Australian enterprise, particularly in construction areas, must seek work outside this continent. To my mind, it is to the credit of the Japanese that they were so enterprising. One of the criticisms when I was attending meetings of the Asian Development Bank was that far too high a proportion of the funds available went to Japanese contractors. The work needed to be done, and the Japanese contractors were more efficient in getting it done. If we belly-ache about it, fair enough. I suggest that we must be more enterprising. It may be that Australian firms will have to work in a consortium rather than tendering individually for contracts. I know that there are all sorts of difficulties. There are difficulties of employing labour. There are difficulties in knowing the law in respect of land in other countries if one wants to establish factories, buy property and so on. All these sorts of difficulty must be overcome.
I do not know how many members of the House received a copy of a letter that I did from a former colleague from the other side of the House, Mr Len Reid. He wrote a letter on behalf of an organisation called ‘For Those Who Have Less’. It is a very long letter. I realise that perhaps there are some difficulties involved in what he sees as a simple project. Surely this is the kind of physical, technical and resource problem that we must endeavour to overcome. I would say that it is correct that it would cost something like $500 to ship a beast from Australia, and maybe the $500 could be spent in some other way. Surely when one hears the sorts of questions asked here, particularly by the group which is not represented in the chamber at the moment, the National Country Party, about what it calls the beef crisis, we perhaps should adopt new and novel methods. I commend to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is deputising for the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)- I think the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is a humane kind of person- that the Treasurer might give serious consideration to the matter raised in Mr Reid’s letter on behalf of the organisation called For Those Who Have Less. Is it a practical proposition to ship cattle from Australia? I doubt that it is. Surely these are some of the problems that are raised. People say that cattle are being destroyed in Australia when there are hungry mouths to feed somewhere else. Part of the reason for the cattle being destroyed in Australia is the difference in cost between leaving cattle here and sending cattle to somewhere where they can be sold. An economic problem emerges.
The point which I am trying to highlight in this debate is that these sums of money sound very large, but they are really a very small amount in aggregate when one is dealing with needs. If one takes mainland China out of the consideration and looks at countries such as India, in particular, Pakistan and countries in South East Asia, one is dealing with something like 1000 million people and their needs. Sums of $34m, or $350m over a 10-year period, are not very large. Australia has never begrudged giving assistance. That has not varied whoever was in government at the time. I think we must somehow evolve new techniques to try to make available the capacities which I believe we have and which are not being fully utilised.
– The Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation could be utilised.
– The honourable member for Eden-Monaro refers to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. This seems to me to be the sort of body that could assist in quite a lot of the irrigation, road construction and damming projects that need to be undertaken in countries not very far from us. I hope that perhaps a little more imagination will be used in bringing together those who have the capacity and those who have the need. I do not think that strict banking canons always bring together those 2 necessary elements. I believe Australians can do more in the development of parts of the world about us. I have said previously that I believe that Australia’s defence would be much more adequate if we reduced our total defence expenditure by something like $200m and increased our aid in real physical terms by something like the same amount. I think that in the long run Australia’s best defence is in showing not that it can be aggressive but that it can be socially useful to those against whom we somehow believe we must defend ourselves. I think it is time we must acknowledge that we must have defence, but we must ask repeatedly what we are supposed to be defending ourselves against. I do not think that question is asked often enough.
Debate (on motion by Mr Sainsbury) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22 March, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen be agreed to:
Most Gracious Sovereign:
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.
-We are now debating Her Majesty the Queen’s address to the Parliament on the occasion of the opening of its second session. Her address, in document form, is slender; blunt expression would have us say, slight. In so saying we would be talking of its content as much as of its physical dimensions. It really is a cruel experience to see the Monarch of England used in such a cloying but superficial political exercise as presenting such a flimsy, deficient statement of Government intent.
In the Speech, ghosted by the Government, we are entertained by such robust bons mots as ‘My Government is . . . taking action to restore the economy’. We are used to this sort of shallow unconvincing posturing on the part of the Government but surely the visiting Monarch should be protected from being innocently cast into the same company. By now Australians must be heartily tired of the falsely confident predictions and artificially jolly reassurances that the economy is about to turn the corner for better days. This is palpable nonsense when the Government has the economic regulator so firmly locked in reverse.
The economy is blighted by the worst unemployment since the Great Depression of nearly half a century ago; inflation for the latest quarter that is exceeded only by the record level set in 1952 by an earlier coalition government and business activity that is cramped and stifled by the worst recession for over 4 decades. The most recent key economic statistics give no encouragement to believe that relief is on the way. There has been no improvement in aggregate civilian work force levels over 1976 in spite of the fact that the available labour force would have grown by 2 per cent or by more than 1 20 000 over the year. Retail sales for the December quarter increased by 2.2 per cent while inflation increased by 6 per cent, a net reduction in sales in real terms of nearly 4 per cent.
Production statistics for January, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) pointed out in this House a week ago, disclose that in seasonally adjusted terms falls in production outnumber rises by three to one and that for the 12 months to January more production indexes had fallen than had risen. In short, the claims of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and his henchmen that recovery is underway is empty gasconade on their part. On top of this there is an unrelenting squeeze on wage earners which, if continued, will undermine consumer spending further and, accordingly, set back the existing weak state of business activity.
In the 12 months to December 1976 inflation increased by 14.4 per cent and economic activity by 2 per cent to 3 per cent.
The average income earner’s income packet increased by only 1 1.6 per cent which means that in real terms he is some 3 per cent worse off at the end of the period or $5 a week behind in his real purchasing power over the beginning of the year. He gained nothing from the increase in productivity or, in relative terms, he was disadvantaged some $5 a week on this score. On top of this he now pays over $3.60 a week Medibank levy. That is, he is contributing that much more as increased tax. In sum then he is about $14 a week worse off in real comparative terms at the end of 1976 than he was at the beginning. And the squeeze on his pay packet, whether he is a blue or white collar, whether he is middle or working class, has not ended. The Government’s aim is to reduce his pay packet a lot more- big deal for the income earners of the country! In the 1975 Budget I was able to point out correctly:
The average employee ‘s real after tax earnings in 1 974-7S rose by 7 per cent. When the increase in publicly provided benefits in education, health, social security and so on is added in, his total real income rose by 9.3 per cent.
The effective reduction of about $14 a week in income that I mentioned, after 12 months of conservative coalition Government, is equivalent to a reduction of the order of 8.5 per cent in after tax earnings for the average employee over the course of 1976.
Life was not meant to be easy under the Fraser philosophy- unless of course you inherited wealth. In the latter case you have a God given right to moralise to others less wise in the selection of their parents and the patrimony that is theirs. That and that alone is the ethical justification the Prime Minister can claim for his censoriousness towards we helots who make up the rest of the population.
I must take this opportunity of nailing the mumbling confusion of the Treasurer in failing to distinguish between average earnings and household income. Last week I asked him a question in this chamber about the erosive effects on average incomes of Government policies. In detail it was similar to the information I have already set out. The Treasurer responded by quoting disposable household income figures. Incidentally I am told the figures he quoted cannot be made to conform with published data on household income. I wonder whether unwittingly he has confused the improvement of his own household income since becoming a Minister with that defined in the national accounts.
Phil is better so he assumes everyone else is better off.
What was clear was that the Treasurer, in his distinctively turgid and directionless rhetorical style, really believed that national accounts household income was some sort of average of the incomes for Australian households- a measure he seemed to see in his foggy way as intrinsically analogous to average earnings. What appalling ignorance! The economic affairs of the nation are in the hands of a man who suffers from economic autism. National accounts household income is a rough, aggregate statistic that tells us nothing at all about how the average household ‘s income stands in this country.
It includes, as well as pensions, imputed interest from life offices and superannuation funds, also incomes of unincorporated enterprises including farms, third party motor vehicle and public risk insurance claims paid, property income received by non-profit organisations such as private schools, churches, charitable organisations and so on. It is significant to note that probably the sort of increase he has been referring to is explicable in terms of the substantial increase in unemployment benefits paid- scarcely an improvement in the average standard of living for people in the community. It is clear from the Treasurer’s answer on this question that he neither knew nor understood the simple but important and clear distinction between average earnings and household income. It was equally clear that he still firmly clings to his personal axiom ‘When in doubt, talk’. He talks a lot, so much so that he recalls Moliere’s Damon the talker for us– his strange mania for reasoning makes him talk and never say a thing. His discourse in obscurity abounds and all you listen to is merely sound.
At this point it is appropriate to recall that the people of this Government are the same sort of people who gave us that enduring monument to conservative government’s blundering incompetence, moral bankruptcy, and crude dishonesty in public office-Vietnam. The economy is ploughed into a deeper and more depressing furrow of recession while Government spokesmenlike the Prime Minister who was Minister for the Army and then Defence Minister at the time of our dishonour in Vietnam- tell us things are getting better and better and soon they will be quite good. We had a binge of that bosh and tosh during Vietnam. As we sank deeper and deeper into that quagmire of conservative government making we were told that the light was at the end of the tunnel if only we would see and believe. The Government record in office showed us then that its public utterances could not be trusted. It still nogs the same sort of horse and still it cannot be trusted. Now we are regularly told to look for the glimmer of hope in the latest set of statistics released and if we demur we are accused of seeking to undermine the Government’s economic efforts; as if mere comment could add to the harm being done by the Government itself.
A striking example of this empty posturing, this false assertion was covered in Saturday’s Australian- not the most challengingly critical newspaper where the Government is concerned. It reported:
National accounts figures released yesterday confirmed that Australia’s growth was back to normal for the first time in 3 years, the Prime Minister, said last night.
Then the report added, for balance I expect:
Mr Fraser admitted he had not seen the latest national accounts figures . . .
The need to know before surrendering to the desire to talk is certainly no impediment to our Prime Minister’s opinionating himself publicly. On the contrary, the national accounts justify no such freely optimistic conclusion. If anything, they disclose that any improvement in real activity was due to external trade factors, that with the faltering of the world economy this stimulus has petered out and that in the last quarter the Government’s clumsy economic management measures were proceeding to push the brake pedal through the floor boards. Real domestic product seasonally adjusted fell 1.7 per cent in the December quarter. Consumption spending in that quarter was artificially inflated by expenditure on imported cars rushed as a hedge against inflation; so there is no substance, only elusive shadows, for the Government to find there in its search for evidence of recovery. There was a 22 per cent decline in construction industry activity. Stock accumulation proceeded in the face of a contraction in imports and generally restrained consumer behaviour.
Clearly the momentum this trend gave to the economy will come to an end in the face of falling demand. Signals on the performance of the economy such as these and those I mentioned earlier are cold comfort for the Government and the community.
The most encouraging prospect seen by manufacturers, as reported by the latest Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia-Bank of New South Wales survey on industrial trends, is for a static economy, according to the Australian Financial Review report of that survey. That is a bit like telling a fisherman who has firmly run aground and is floundering in the shallows that there is good news for him; nothing much worse can happen to him except perhaps he might sink. The dismal prospect is that the worst of the inflationary pressures released by the Government’s November devaluation have yet to work their way through the economy. By the end of this financial year we will be experiencing an annual rate of inflation of the order of 1 6 per cent to 1 8 per cent. This in turn raises important implications for the performance of the economy over the rest of this calendar year. Over the rest of this financial year, economic management and community reaction, to whatever measures are applied coupled with community expectations will powerfully determine whether the Government has any success in trying to recapture the control of the economy which it clearly lost in 1976, or whether it will be another fumbling case of trying to catch and squeeze mercury by hand into a narrow-necked bottle. A pointer to possible problems ahead can be taken from the poor February Commonwealth Loan result. The amount raised, $I71m, is the lowest since 1974. As the newsletter of the broking firm, Hill Samuel, for this month points out:
This poor February result has only succeeded in creating an even higher degree of uncertainty within the financial markets as regards the future trend in interest rates.
Doubts of this kind, that is, a loss of confidence in Government economic management, tend to be self-reinforcing and to determine the outcome of future monetary action. Already the Australian Resources Development Bank has upped its loan market offerings by between 0.4 per cent and 0.7 per cent. This movement in market rates is the sort of early warning that market forces are on the move and will force the Government’s hand; that is, the low interest rate Government, as it claims to be, already responsible for the highest interest rates ever, is about to increase them even more. Business costs soar and housing mortgages price home ownership out of the hands of even more young marrieds, solely through the Government’s policies of dearer money caused by higher interest rates. Given the clear trends underlying the economy as a result of economic measures taken by the Government, especially devaluation, a further hike in interest rates looks certain. The degree of loose liquidity floating about in the economy at present underscores that point. Higher interest rates are merely gauge readings of how control of the economy is slipping out of the Government’s hands.
But there is in the economy an even more disturbing underlying trend, if I may be allowed the indulgence of mentioning again the argot so favoured by the Treasurer. As inflation mounts over the next few months there will be growing community unease. People with liquid assets will be searching for hedges against inflation. They will find no havens in Australia and accordingly they will be looking overseas. Most of our major trading partners have been reasonably successful in winding back inflation. In fact they are winning while our Government continues to lose. Their currencies will provide more attractive resting places for liquid assets than can be obtained in Australia. Furthermore, the initial advantages from devaluation for our exports and import competing industries will erode. If these 2 trends develop markedly, as I expect they will, on the basis of how things stand at the moment, the pressure of our balance of payments will be towards another devaluation. It is not necessary that that should arise, but that is the sort of trend which is starting to show up now. I predict now that the uncertain hand of the Government on the tiller of economic management seems certain to guarantee this sort of outcome. If it does happen, and I sincerely trust it does not, this country will have been projected into the economic instability of a banana republic. This is the outlook now staring bleakly at this country because of the uncertain grasp the Government has on the nation’s economy.
All of these problems will be added to by the liquidity squeeze on the private sector in the next few months as company tax and provisional tax payments totalling some $3,000m become due. The capacity of the trading banks to fund this sort of massive transfer from the private sector to the public sector will depend, among other things, on the Government’s monetary measures. Further calls to statutory reserve deposits offsetting any easing of liquid and government securities ratios will have disastrous effects on the trading banks’ capacity to finance the private sector’s liquidity needs over the next few months.
In short, the picture is of an economy in worse shape at the end of 1 976 than at the end of 1 975, of a government not skilful enough to pick up and foster the early, developing recovery of late 1975 which by its own momentum spilled over into early 1 976, of an economic outlook for this calendar year which is grim and fraught with several real dangers as a result of clumsy Government practices. With these troubling circumstances besieging the economy we are served with such thin fare in the Queen ‘s address as:
Uncertainty, feeding a waning public confidence, both the product of Government deficiency in handling the economy, is the worst enemy with which the Government now has to contend. The public needs to be informed of the Government’s monetary management intentions. If declining confidence in the face of mounting inflation and climbing interest rates leading to a destabilising outflow of capital is to be avoided, the Government has to state with some firmness and detail its economic management measures and expected goals over the next 6 months. At this stage, there can be no confidence that the Government will adequately handle these matters.
Further crackdowns on already austere levels of Government expenditure, as proposed by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer over the weekend, only further erode confidence. Reductions in Government expenditure in real terms for the year, as provided in the last Budget, of over 56 per cent in the national sewerage program, more than 48 per cent in urban development, exceeding 12 per cent on roads, about 10 per cent on railways, and a 45 percent reduction in proposed new capital works all signal the degree to which the private sector- I stress that it is the private sector- has been hammered by the unnecessarily tough policies of the Government; that is, in those few areas major construction works with strong multiplier effects in the economy were cut severely, disabling the private sector.
The options available to the Government in drawing up its 1977 Budget are shrouded in foggy confusion because of the Government’s self-imposed halters. It has promised a no growth Budget, which inevitably implies substantial cuts in some programs to give room for promised growth in others, such as defence, or to cover commitments easily made last Budget but which have to be paid for in the next Budget. Commitments such as investment allowances, stock valuation adjustment, concessions to the mining industry, concessions for private companies, and estate duties alone will claim nearly $ 1,000m in next Budget money terms. For a no growth Budget in a slack economy with little, if any, growth in the workforce and therefore little scope for growth in revenue, the Government has painted itself into an intolerable ideological corner if it seeks to cling to ideological hang ups on the Budget deficit and the level of government spending. Further cuts in existing programs aimed at accommodating its objectives will really bust the private sector. I repeat that. Further cuts in government expenditure in the next Budget will drive the private sector over the brink.
-(Mr Ian Robinson) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to support the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech by Her Majesty the Queen. Recent days have been significant ones. Opposing forces have geared themselves for the battle. The battle is tradition and established constitutional procedures versus anarchy and republicanism. The Queen’s visit has capsuled the struggles. Her quiet dignity and charm as the upholder of tradition and democracy surely must have left a lasting impression on the majority of Australians. How would any responsible Australian citizen be impressed by the riotous behaviour of the Whitlam storm troopers as they galloped, once more, into the antimonarchy attack with great enthusiasm? Led by Donald Home- self appointed leader of the republican storm troopers, but with the blessing of the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam)- they blew their horns at a meeting in Sydney and at the National Press Club dinner on Monday, 7 March. Both these diatribes were extremely tasteless, and examples of gratuitous rudeness to our Queen and Prince Phillip.
The primitive display of bad manners can be excused, I suppose, in the Whitlam storm troopers. The Leader of the Opposition has stated on a number of occasions that Australia will become a republic. But the National Press Club cannot be excused for its programmed timing in having an anarchist address its meeting the day before our Queen arrived. It is true that the Press Club, by its nature, has a cloth woven pattern of membership, but its boorish attitude in providing a national forum does not bring it credibility. Its primitive assumption that it has divine right to discuss any matter at any time merely places it under the tarpaulin of irresponsibility. The National Press Club would do well, after its display of a peculiar talent for gracelessness two weeks ago, to rethink its place in society. It is not the vestry of social conscience. One questions whether it has a conscience at all. Quite obviously the forum extended to Donald Home was a forum motivated by revenge, not by concern for the public good. If the National Press Club wants to become a credible organisation it must have an inbuilt mechanism to steer the course of respectability. If it is merely to be a forum where its prime purpose is to build weedy little old men like Donald Home into robust pillars of might and muscle, then its meetings will have about as much value as a marihuana testimonial obtained in a hippie colony for pot smokers.
The National Press Club deserves very severe censure for the format of its meeting during the week of the Queen’s visit. Surely there are enough members of the Club who are aware that one of the greatest arguments against the establishment of an Australian republic is the very event which spurred on Mr Home to advocate it- the dismissal of the Labor Government on 1 1 November 1975. This action of Her Majesty’s representative, Sir John Kerr, displayed the inbuilt protection which our monarchical system possesses against the excesses of an arrogant and incompetent government. Greece found a republican system of very doubtful benefit, and even that haven of republicanism, the United States of America, has found some of its Presidents to be very dubious assets. We on this side of the House respect Queen Elizabeth as our monarch. We want a continuation of the monarchical system. We do not want a republic. We will, at all costs, maintain through our monarchy the rich dyes of the ancient cultures and conditions of democracy. Let the people decide. If the people had not had the opportunity of deciding in 1975, through the completely correct action of His Excellency, Sir John Kerr- a great Australian- the result would have been a thought too awesome to even contemplate.
The Government can look back with pride at what has been achieved in the last 14 months. Recent releases show an impressive increase in national production. Real gross domestic product for Australia, seasonally adjusted, for the September quarter 1976 was 6 per cent higher than that of the corresponding quarter for the previous year. Gross non farm product was 6.9 per cent higher. The quarterly increase in the latter aggregate was one of the highest quarterly figures recorded for some years. The real rate of inflation, excluding the once only Medibank component, was 10.6 per cent- indicating that the Government’s policies are effective. Our goal has been, will be and must be the control of inflation. Governments alone cannot control inflation. People must be part of the control mechanism. State governments which continually advocate taxation cuts, and at the same time call for greater funding from the Commonwealth, merely kindle the flames of inflation.
Like the Commonwealth and the people, State governments have to be serious about controlling inflation. ‘Canberra bashing’ has been part of the armoury of the States for far too long.
State Ministers, who for the sake of cheap political propaganda and personal notoriety- unfortunately we have plenty of them in Queenslandcriticise their Federal counterparts for not giving them sufficient finance for their pet theories and projects, must shoulder the major blame for developing a consensus of isolated responsibility in the community that ‘restraints are necessary to control inflation providing you do not put restraints on me’. I submit that this cult must come to an abrupt halt. Those State Ministers do themselves, their State and their country a disservice by their supercilious, and callous statements of disregard of the nation’s welfare.
Greater government spending can be obtained only by greater taxation or deficit funding. The latter fuels inflation and increases interest rates. The former bogs down initiative, creates unemployment and saps the strength and vitality of the nation. If the State Ministers want to be popular through funding of their impossible dreams, I serve notice on them that they can do this by imposing their own taxes. For far too long they have hidden under the umbrella of passing the blame to the Commonwealth. It is time they stood up like men, not like the babies some of them are, and were counted. Let them impose their own taxes and realise what accountability means. They appear to be under the misapprehension that criticism, not accountability, approaches statesmanship. None of the National Country Party members takes offence at measured aggression but we submit that ‘Canberra bashing’ is a gross dereliction of duty by State Ministers.
We are at the very threshold of decisionmaking of taxation policy. Private industry needs an injection of reward to get it pulsating again. No one in a highly competitive economy, where failures are common and disasters are regular, will take the risks involved in establishing new industries, expansion of existing ones, creating job opportunities, if the real stimulusreward is to be ripped off him in taxation. The Government is recreant to its responsibilities if it does not eventually and with reasonable haste have a wholesale slaughter of the existing taxation scale. Speaking bluntly, people and business will not work overtime if the fruits of their labour and enterprise are to be minimised through personal taxation. We have done much in general taxation. Since it came to office, the Fraser Government has made sweeping tax changes and granted tax reductions to individuals and businesses that will mean revenue lost to the Federal Government of an estimated $1,1 95m in 1976-77 and $2,079m in 1977-78. The means of revenue forgone to the Federal Government in 1977-78 are a total of $ 1,050m for personal tax indexation- let us not forget that this is the only government that has had the courage to do that- which is the most important tax reform ever in Australia, unlike the Hayden Budget which taxed age pensioners; $550m for the 40 per cent investment allowance; $400m for the trading stock valuation and investment scheme introduced in the last Budget; $40m in mining industry incentives, in which the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) played a marvellous part; and another $39m in private company concessions and estate duty charges. However, I want to talk about personal taxation.
– When will you cancel the means test?
-Will the honourable member be quiet. He has a headache. He always gets one when he starts to think. The rates have not altered in almost a quarter of a century. No longer, if free enterprise in this country is to survive, can rates of taxation applicable to income earners a quarter of a century ago be still applied to people who today are merely low income earners. Too much of the working man’s wage is taken in taxation. Too much of the private company’s hard earned profit is taken in taxation, whilst taxation applied to companies and to individuals on the dividends received from companies, is a contributory factor in pricing their end products off the market shelves of the world. Our survival as a nation depends upon reasonable taxation policy as well as the destruction of the myth that the government must provide every possible service and amenity. We must get away from the Labor Party’s handout mentality. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) quite rightly has tailored Federal Government spending to available resources. He has used the financial shears to prune the self-perpetuating ideas of the bureaucrats, many of whom believe that money grows on trees and does not come from the taxpayers’ pockets. Gone are the extravagancies of the Labor Administration; rapidly disappearing over the horizon, thank goodness, is the handout mentality associated with the socialist philosophy of the welfare state.
But we have not gone far enough. Too much of the nation’s resources are being used for the payment of unemployment benefits. The Labor Government will be remembered as the ‘government of unemployment’. It adopted as one of its objectives- it was done by stealth- a policy of unemployment; obviously, move No. 1 in the revolution of the workers. When Labor came to office in 1972 unemployment was 136 000 or 2.4 per cent of the work force. When the people of Australia at an election brought on by a great Australian, Sir John Kerr, passed judgment on the Labor Party in 1975 and floored it for the full count after 3 short years, unemployment was 328 000 or 5.4 per cent of the work force. Quite obviously the Labor Government is the ‘government of unemployment’. No fancy rhetoric, no nifty footwork can assuage the deep feelings of resentment permeating the nation and the workers following the slaughtering of jobs for Australian men, women and youth by the Australian Labor Party. People under 21 years of age unemployed when Labor won office totalled 80 000 but in 3 years this figure almost doubled to 152 000. Labor extinguished the fires of aspiration of job opportunities for our young people.
– What were those figures again?
– When the Liberal Country Party Government went out of office in 1972 there were 80 000 young people unemployed but there were 152 000 unemployed 3 years later. More than that Labor has inculcated in the minds of many in the work force a lack of motivation for work and a disrespect for the great personal dignity of a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. Our Government could do well to consider developing a discipline for work because that discipline was destroyed in 3 years of Labor Administration. There is absolutely nothing worse than young people lazing and lounging about. Soon they will not want to work. They will believe the Government owes them money to do their thing. We have not been tough enough with the bludgers or the strike-prone unions. I do not accept that the previous Government’s Regional Employment Development scheme was a disaster. There were many fine projects. Others were dimmed through administrative difficulties. When these were being ironed out by the then Minister for Labour and Immigration, the Honourable Clyde Cameron, he was, as the House will recall, unceremoniously removed by his Leader. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has regretted that action and he will continue to regret it. The honourable member for Hindmarsh is having his revenge but it will not be by the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) replacing the present Leader of the Opposition.
We do need work creation of a lasting nature through local government and semi-government instrumentalities. It is simply not good enough to say that some International Labour Organisation article or other says that people cannot be made to work in return for unemployment benefits. We are not dealing with international labour organisations. We are dealing with the substance of Australia. Job creation in association with local and semi-government bodies in areas of serious unemployment will have a twofold benefit. It will improve facilities for local communities; it will give some return to the community for taxes paid and revenue used to pay unemployment benefits insofar as money expended will be in lieu of unemployment benefits, and it will sieve out those who are termed ‘dole bludgers’ in that if they do not accept work they will not get social security payments. We simply have to be tougher in this area. No one has been able to convince me that it is an invasion of privacy to have to carry an identity card with a photograph attached when claiming unemployment benefits. If the person is honest and has nothing to fear, he cannot possibly object. By carrying such a means of identification he is preserving his privacy as an individual because unless something is done to stop those who abuse the system we simply will not have any privacy.
Australia faces another indomitable foe- a shortage of skilled men and women. We have reached crisis point. The Australian skilled work force diminished by 12 per cent in the year 1974-75 and it is estimated that it will drop by 25 per cent by 1980. In my State of Queensland, the rapid industrial development during the last decade, from a relatively small base, has produced demands for a range of skills not previously required in our State. Employers have for some time had insufficient encouragement to increase their apprentice intake despite the shortage of skilled men and women in the trades. When a person takes on an apprenticeship the employer becomes the teacher, but, as well as paying a substantial wage, the employer has to use his own time or that of his staff to teach the apprentice his particular trade. At today’s rates, this is an extremely costly exercise.
There are not many other fields of work in this country where a young person is paid a full wage for age while being taught except for teachers who are automatically bonded by the department paying for their training. An apprentice can leave 8 hours after he completes his training and the employer has no kickback whatsoever. I submit it is perfectly reasonable for an apprentice, like the teacher who is bonded to a State government department, to be bonded to his employer for a reasonable period after his indentures have been completed. Incentives must be given to employers to offer apprenticeships to the vast reservoir of unemployed youth. Let us give them encouragement. Our Government’s latest initiative, CRAFT-the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training- goes part of the way to giving encouragement. It aims at reimbursing employers for the full cost of training an apprentice. Each day spent in trade school, whatever year of the apprenticeship, the employer receives a tax-free subsidy to cover the apprentice’s wages for that day. This however, is not sufficient to encourage a smaller businessman to employ apprentices. In practice, he is better off employing a tradesman than paying wages to an apprentice whom he has to release every so often, and who requires assistance and training, and therefore lost time while at work. He does not get the output from his trained personnel because they have to instruct the apprentice.
If we are gong to encourage the hiring of apprentices, I believe our Government must offer more assistance than $ 1 1 per day while the apprentice is at college. That is merely the apprentice ‘s right. Tertiary students receive an allowance every day while receiving training for their vocation. Under the present CRAFT scheme apprentices are offered a maximum of $1,250 over 3 years. Tertiary students on the other hand, get free tuition and a maximum of $ 1,976 each year. I ask: Is this justice? Is that any sort of encouragement to an employer to take on an apprentice? Does it make up in any way for time lost in work output by tradesmen assisting and instructing the apprentice? If we as a government are serious about apprenticeships and the vacuum that will occur if skilled tradesmen are not obtained, there should be a lump sum paid to an employer for each year he completes in training an apprentice, over and above rebates offered by CRAFT. There would have to be a limit stipulated of, for example, one apprentice per 3 tradesmen employed. Such an amount would be a financial incentive which the rebate is not, as the rebate is surely the right of the employer to receive when training a person for a particular trade and the person is not contributing to the business throughput because of his absence at technical classes.
The callous attitude of the previous Government towards the farmer and its deliberate attempts to destroy the concept of the family farm have unfortunately planted in the minds of many, the question: Do we in Australia need a rural sector? We of the Government, of course, are firmly dedicated to its survival. Australia needs agriculture. If one eats, one needs agriculture. If one wishes to survive, one needs agriculture to pay for imports and to keep overseas balances in credit. We are at this time about mending the fences of agriculture so badly damaged by the 3 years of the socialist regime. Let us get the position of agriculture in our economy in proper perspective. For 1976-77 the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has estimated the value of rural exports at $4,725m, about 3.75 times the value of rural exports 20 years ago and 2.25 times the volume. Quite obviously the farmers of Australia are good farmers. Currently, Australian agriculture, fishing and forestry contribute around 8 per cent of gross domestic product and about 45 per cent to export earnings. Mineral exports represent about 45 per cent of Australia’s exports. Mother earth therefore produces 90 per cent of our country’s exports. But minerals having been won merely leave a hole in the ground. The soil, providing it is cared for, will, as has been proved in older countries, go on for ever. Some soils are better than others. Of course, the best soils in Australia and the world are the rich black soil plains and rolling downs known as the Darling Downs. Quite rightly it has been said that these soils, rich in all the essential nutrients could be sold for fertiliser; but we will not sell them or give them away to anyone. Even these soils, rich as they are, need soil erosion control methods and the use of nitrogenous fertilisers to improve yields so necessary for survival in a high cost situation and to improve the protein content of grains, oil seeds and animal products. Government contributions to nitrogenous fertiliser bounties is a good investment.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I want to make a quick reference to a couple of points made by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). I refer to his very vulgar attack on the author and Australian, Donald Home. If members of the National Country Party had looked in the libraries of the schools in their electorates they would have noticed that the Australian Schools Commission which was established by the former Labor Government was able to furnish millions of books throughout Australia for school children and might have applauded the placing in the shelves of the book The Lucky Country. Donald Home seems to have fallen into disfavour with the National Country Party because he then wrote a book called Death of the Lucky Country. I recommend to the honourable member for Darling Downs that he should read about some of the activities of the Un-American Activities Committee which tried to freeze any discussion in the United States by persecuting authors, writers and creative people in that country. By the attitude which he is expressing in this House he is doing exactly the same thing. Donald Home is one of the very few people who commands a massive audience wherever he goes throughout Australia speaking on the subject of the future Constitution of this country. I suggest to the honourable member that if he wanted to debate with Donald Home, he would be pleased to do so. I am sure that he would arrange the venue. In the meantime, if the honourable member checks with the libraries in Toowoomba he will find that books written by Donald Home are being read by his constituents, who take a far more intelligent attitude than he does.
The honourable member referred to the Governor-General as a great Australian about 8 times. I will applaud that statement to the extent that the Governor-General is a great Australian because following his taking the action of 11 November 1975 recent polls have shown that the majority of Australians now favour a republic. To that extent, when the question of a republic in this country is discussed in the future honourable members on the other side of the House will be able to applaud the actions of the GovernorGeneral as having started the great motivation that Australian people now feel towards becoming a republic. To that extent he has done the people who want Australia to become a republic more good than a thousand speeches would have done and more good than the action of 500 000 people marching down the streets of Sydney or Melbourne. His action on 11 November 1975 alone has provoked a lot more people into believing that Australia ought to be a republic. On that point I agree with the honourable member.
This Government once again has shown its limitations and shortcomings. In the Speech delivered by Her Majesty the Queen on behalf of the Fraser Government at the opening of the Thirtieth Parliament business, as well as the Opposition, expected a recognition of the plight of Australian industry. To take it one step further, the Opposition expected official recognition of the much leaked, much publicised and much promised White Paper on manufacturing industry. This Government purports to be a government of business but there was not a word, not a passing reference, to manufacturing industry. Industry, with all its urgent problems stands abandoned because of the ineptitude of a government unable to come to grips with the pressures and problems in this area. The
Government’s White Paper on manufacturing industry was promised 16 months ago. It was promised in the 1975 election campaign. Several drafts have appeared, have been leaked to the Press and then have disappeared. The Government is feeling the temperature of the water with its toe before taking the plunge. It is not prepared to tackle the problems; so industry, already bedevilled by, in Australian standards, massive structural adjustment now knows that it is dealing with a government which believes in double dealing, which is quite expert in the practice and which tries desperately to disguise its limitations.
We are witnessing the dismantling of industries in the short term while this Government, in a most infantile fashion, tries to decide upon policies to suit the long term. This malaise within the Government is one of the strongest features sending Australian industries off-shore. It is not the sole reason of course but how can industry operate in a theatre of uncertainty? Who would take the investment risk of staying in Australia where there is a government with no decisions, no policies, no understanding and no capacity to meet the problems? This is at a time when Asian countries have established long term planning arrangements. Could anyone imagine Korea, Taiwan, Singapore or the Philippines telling potential investors that there is likely to be a change in government policy every one or two years?
These countries promise something which is necessary and which this Government has completely bungled. I refer to long term assurances. Now, at a time of economic recession in this country, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is acting well outside his charter in encouraging Asian countries to commence an onslaught on the protection given to Australian industries. The relationship between the Asian countries and Australia is seen by the Labor Party as a top priority. It is not a winner-take-all relationship but one of balanced trade arrangements accommodating our advanced technology with the industries of the region. While there are many variables in Labor Party policy with regard to tariffs and protection, there should be no misunderstanding which would consciously put Australian people out of work. A policy leading to the removal of existing protection measures, with few available employment opportunities for the Australian work force is, in the opinion of the Labor Party, a very questionable policy.
Basic among the responsibilities of the government of any country is the provision of employment for all those who wish to work. However, it seems that this Government is intent on seeing that fewer and fewer people find employment in our manufacturing industry. People should be the first consideration in formulating policies. While the Australian economy sinks progressively into a state of permanent recession the Australian Labor Party has continued to look for policy initiatives to serve as the basis for constructive debate and the eventual implementation of a bipartisan approach to the most serious economic decline in Australia since the 1929 depression. The Opposition expected this Government to be waiting for the Queen’s opening of Parliament as the appropriate moment to unveil these long awaited policies. Instead, this nation was treated to a speech bereft of so much content that it must surely have been the most embarrassing moment of the Queen’s tour. It is obvious that the Government intends to do virtually nothing, in terms of specific implementation of policies, at least to alleviate, let alone correct, the current economic situation.
Why is it that the self proclaimed experts in economic management are so incapable of action? One could canvass the capabilities of the front bench but that would only be part of the reason. A more significant factor is the desperate adherence of the Government to a now completely outmoded form of economic management based on pre- World War II notions of laissez-faire capitalism, to which has now been added the weird beliefs of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in economic individualism as expounded by the American novelist Ayn Rand. Discarded are the now well developed paths of overall industrial policy, close and continuing guidance of specific industries towards development consistent with a nation’s comparative advantages and positive programs of job creation.
Put simply, the Government is sitting on its hands hoping that something will turn up. It claims that it is looking for an investment led recovery but it consistently fails to answer the question: Why would any company seek to add to capacity when there exists substantial unused capacity due to the levelling off or even decline in consumer demand through progressive reductions in the purchasing power of real wages as a result of plateau indexation, the Medibank levy and the still high incidence of tax increases through steeply progressive taxation? In 1976 consumers lost at least 5 per cent of their real purchasing power as a result of the Government’s policies. It has taken a little time for this to filter through to the community as people offset their loss of purchasing power by cutting back on non-essentials and using available lines of credit. The remorseless squeezing of the economy by this Government is now having its effect. Consumer spending in January and February declined alarmingly, to the extent that even traditional supporters of the Liberal Party in the financial sector and in major industries are publicly expressing their alarm at the rapid deterioration of the economy. Just consider the events of the past month or so. Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has decided not to re-open its recently refitted blast furnace and this could result in the dismissal of about 1200 employees. The building industry is visibly collapsing by the week. One major company after another is either going into liquidation or incurring massive losses which will be offset only by drastic reductions in trading actively and further unemployment. The consumer durables industry is laying off people as sales fall away as a result of the progressive decline in consumer confidence and the slump in the building industry. Mr Gale and certain of his friends, the directors of Gollin and Co. who provided so much economic advice to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), have eventually found that even when one is the personal friend of the Prime Minister one cannot keep a onceproud company afloat. What hope have other companies that are not privy to the Prime Minister’s personal thoughts? And just to ‘speed things on their way’ this Government chooses this moment to close down virtually the entire shipbuilding industry in Australia, throwing further tens of thousands of employees, who are employed directly and indirectly in this industry, on to the dole.
What is this Government’s reaction to this snowballing collapse of the Australian economy? It claims that the unemployment figures are ‘a myth’ and that anyone can get work ‘if he really wants to’. It claims that if we deduct this or that portion of the consumer price index the measure of inflation will, of course, be less than that indicated by the Government statisticians. It claims that various economic indications show that the economy is beginning to improve when the key indicators of unemployment and inflation continue to rise, and investment in the principal industry sectors continues to fall. Finally, it embarks on a union-bashing campaign, in a desperate attempt to prove that somehow this Government’s weird economic policies are not the reason for the worsening economic situation but rather it is all the fault of the unions.
When will this Government concede that it is essential, in attempting to control a wage-price spiral, that increases in both wages and prices are subject to judicial justification? The Prices Justification Tribunal has been virtually gutted of any real temporising effect on the mad scramble to increase prices. The corporate profits which improved so well during 1976 were not channelled into corporate liquidity, as the Government anticipated when it took further counter measures to reduce bank liquidity. Where is the Government’s White Paper on manufacturing industry that it trumpeted so loudly a year agothe White Paper that was supposed to set out a framework of co-operation between industry, government and the unions in getting Australian manufacturing industry into a basis of growth and profitability? Like so many other longneeded initiatives that Labor was moving towards when it was in government, it would appear that the White Paper has been shelved- a sacrifice to the Liberal Party’s archaic thoughts on a laissez-faire economy.
The Australian Labor Party believes that the role of the Australian Government with respect to manufacturing industry is to provide a long term guidance to the industry by way of a continuing indicative planning process. This process must be based on participative industrial democracy and the acknowledgment of the current and developing comparative advantages of Australia against its international competitors- in potential scales of production, the selective application of limited research facilities to the greatest effect, the natural endowments of physical resources and the educational level and social structure of our work force. This indicative planning process must be reinforced where selectively required with government direction through adjustment of the economic indicators by which the private enterprise system operates. Such economic directions must be seen to be part of a longer term perspective if industry is to obtain the essential confidence to commit capital to investment in additional plant and equipment. Manufacturing industry is concentrated in a city-urban environment, is the largest single employer of labour, and fulfils a vital socio-economic role by providing a wide variety of employment opportunities which cannot otherwise be created. It cannot be ignored.
While the tertiary industry sector continues to increase its share of total employment, it must be recognised that much of this growth is based ultimately on the growth of manufacturing industry, whether it be direct employment of clerical and administrative staff to direct the operation of labour and the increasing degree of capital investment in production processes, or indirectly through the retail, transport, insurance, banking, communications, and office services staff which in turn supply the services of an advanced economy to the employees of manufacturing industry, and to each other.
The Australian Government must therefore seek to ensure that its general economic policies and its assistance policies for manufacturing industry are directed to ensuring that sufficient demand for employment is generated in manufacturing industry to result in a total direct and indirect demand in all employment categories that will balance the potential supply of labour. Finally, an Australian government must attempt to maintain a degree of balance in manufacturing industry so that shifts in technology and terms of trade allow Australian industry to take up market opportunities and to maintain a measure of national independence through the capacity to supply the defence forces in times of bad international relations.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-My purpose in speaking in this Address-in-Reply debate is to bring to the attention of the Government the extremely serious situation which has arisen from the recent flooding in north Queensland. This situation concerns the extraordinary damage caused to our road system in the north. I call it extraordinary because I have not seen damage like it for many years. Normally we expect some damage and erosion each year due to the severity of our monsoonal season but this year it was certainly more than we expected. In fact, I anticipate that the cost of repair to our road system, when an assessment can be completed, will be far beyond the amount able to be subscribed by local government, the State Government and the Federal Government under the present system of funding.
North Queensland ‘s economy depends almost entirely on a serviceable, adequate road system. I am well aware that other areas of the nation are in the same situation. But in the north, that dependence becomes vital during the cane harvesting season which, I might add, commences in June. The recent heavy flooding experienced in the north has resulted in washaways, bridge damage, landslides and road deterioration which, to restore even some semblance of serviceability, will tax very heavily the resources of local government and State Government instrumentalities. Without urgently required Commonwealth assistance it could result in the dislocation of road services and usage over a considerable period of time.
The road systems in the Townsville, Ingham, Tully and Innisfail districts have suffered extreme damage. I can speak with authority on this matter as I have had the opportunity of studying this damage. The extent to which the roads have been damaged has to be seen to be realised and understood. Over the last 2 weeks I have presented a number of petitions from residents in those areas who are extremely concerned about this problem and, I might add, their concern is illustrated by the fact that during the 10 years that I have represented the electorate of Herbert this is the first time I have received petitions from these people regarding the state of our roads. I believe that their concern should be recognised and I also believe that it should become the concern of the Government, both State and Federal. Last week I presented to this Parliament a petition containing 6587 signatures, belonging to residents of Townsville asking that the Federal Government take immediate steps to assist in the maintenance of the road system in that city and district. The rapidity of the deterioration of the roads during this current wet season has been alarming. It has also created a hazard for the motoring public. This has led to a series of very serious accidents. The damage has become so extensive that the local councils, despite their all out efforts, are finding it extremely difficult to maintain an effective repair program. When this matter first arose I decided to investigate it to find out what the problems really were. My investigations into the problem have shown that the current wet season we are still experiencing is not the only cause of road deterioration.
For 15 to 20 years Townsville has experienced a period of accelerated growth. The demands on the road system have increased accordingly. Normally the construction of the road system would be satisfactory and would incur no unusual problems, but the city of Townsville has been built on clay-based soils and salt pans, and this factor, coupled with seasonal, high intensity rainfalls has caused problems with construction and maintenance which I am positive are not duplicated anywhere else in Australia. For many years local government and the State Department of Main Roads could cope with the road maintenance problem but in latter years, with the increasing volume of traffic, allied with the rapid growth of the city, the maintenance problem has become extremely acute. Unlike other areas and because of the unstable foundation of the land on which the city was built, deterioration of roadways is more rapid and maintenance costs are much higher. While it is said that hindsight is perhaps the better sight, if governments of years ago could have foreseen the growth of Townsville as we have seen it, more suitable foundations could have been laid which would have eased the maintenance costs we are experiencing today. It would have meant more construction capital outlay but the people would have reaped the benefit of it today. However, that was not done and consequently we face the immediate problem of urgent road maintenance and insufficient finance to manage it.
Townsville is the second city of the State of Queensland. It is recognised as the fastest developing area in Australia, even outstripping Canberra over the last 2 years. Yet it has the worst road system because of the reasons I have mentioned beforehand. The national highway north and south of the city is a complete disgrace. For the thrill of a lifetime I would like to see- I go even further still and invite- members of the departments, both State and Federal, which are responsible for our road system to drive a car along the northern highway in the tourist season when the roadways are cluttered with caravans. That would be the thrill of a lifetime. To the best of my knowledge, only one Minister responsible for our road system has ever tried it and that was Charlie Jones, a Minister in the Labor Government. Believe me, he was not impressed. Maybe if he had lasted long enough in the saddle he would have done something about the situation. But that again is extremely doubtful, for southern interests always seem to get the biggest slice of the cake, even though the north provides the lion’s share of the State economy and contributes handsomely to the national economy.
– What about the west?
-The honourable member for Kalgoorlie can have a burst about the west later. I agree that the west needs roadways, but we need them urgently in the north at the moment. I want it to be understood clearly that I am not playing politics; nor am I saying these things to make some political gain in the electorate. My colleagues to the north, south and west of me are similarly concerned with the problems associated with road damage. But what I want understood is that there is a specific case for special consideration for road reconstruction and maintenance in north Queensland at the moment.
I am well aware that the Federal Government increased the level of Commonwealth funds for roads. I am well aware that the Federal Government provided $ 100m in addition to the previous allocations for 1975-76 and 1976-77, just as I am aware that the State Government’s contribution to road expenditure is declining. In this regard I share the Commonwealth’s view that State governments also have a responsibility to make funds available for roadworks. As far as Queensland is concerned, that share of funding should be increasing, not declining as the figures show. However, this should not deter the Federal Government from taking a special interest in northern Queensland’s road problems. May I suggest to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), who, I know, is very concerned about the serviceability of our road structure and who, despite our difficult economic situation at the present moment, in my opinion is doing a remarkable job with the allocation of funds for roads, that he send a responsible officer from the Department to examine the situation as I have outlined it in the areas which I have mentioned and to talk to local shires and local councils to obtain a first hand report of a situation which is cause for extreme concern in northern Queensland. When my claims have been substantiated, and if special funds are allocated to assist our road maintenance program, can those funds be channelled directly to the local governments concerned? I am sure I would become exceedingly angry if even 1 c of that allocation were to be inadvertently diverted to some other area.
I believe we were greatly honoured recently when Her Majesty the Queen chose to visit us and to open the Second Session of the Thirtieth Parliament during her Silver Jubilee year. I have great pleasure in supporting the motion moved by my colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom).
– In speaking to the Address-in-Reply, I would firstly apologise to Her Majesty the Queen for the shocking material with which she was presented by the Government and which formed the basis of her Speech to members of both Houses of the Parliament on 8 March 1977. Traditionally the address by the sovereign is a summary of the policies which the Government proposes to introduce. I was embarrassed for her, and I am certain that all clear thinking members of this Parliament were equally embarrassed. The Speech by the Queen, which took only 5 minutes to make, was a clear indication that this Government is bereft of policies, has negative ideas and has thrown its hands in the air because of its inability to manage the economy. Of course no blame can be attached to Her Majesty, for she must read what has been given to her by the Government, or, as she referred to it in her Speech, ‘my Government’. No initiatives were announced. The only matter which could possibly be referred to as an initiative was a clear indication that social security and welfare programs which were initiated by the Labor Government would be axed still further and that people who were deserving of assistance were to be deprived still further of a reasonable degree of assistance. Both the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) subsequently confirmed this in speeches made to the inner sanctums of the Liberal Party of Australia and reprinted in the Press -just a further example of what is known as the conditioning process.
I could almost detect a blush on the Queen’s countenance when she read, as she was bound to do, this statement by the Government:
My Government’s economic program is designed to overcome unemployment.
Let us have a cold, hard look at the realities of the situation in regard to unemployment. The official Commonwealth Employment Service figures at the end of February 1977 showed 346 668 people unemployed, which is 5.7 per cent of the estimated labour force of 6. 1 million. This is a substantial increase on the official unemployment figures both at the end of February 1976 and at the end of February 1975. This Government has consistently sought to blame the unemployment rate on the activities of the Labor Government, but this Government has been in office for 15 months. The realities of the situation are that since it came to office the unemployment rate has continued to rise. Unfortunately, if the Government continues to maintain its existing economic policies, the unemployment rate will rise still further. The present unemployment figure is the highest since the days of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Let there be no mistake about it. The ball is right in this Government’s court. I am reminded of a statement on the wall above and behind the desk of a politician of another era. It was ‘The buck stops here’. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he put that sign on the wall behind his desk. He cannot keep passing the buck, for the simple reason that the people of Australia are not fools. The people know, as the gallup polls show, that this Government has failed to live up to its promises to turn on the lights- that well known phrase which it exploited during the last election. For the good of Australia, the Government should resign and go to the people for their verdict. It will not, because it knows that the result would be its own decimation- the fate that recently befell the Indian Government.
The greatest tragedy of the unemployment situation is that which affects the young people of Australia- those under the age of 2 1 years. In my electorate almost 50 per cent of the total unemployed are under the age of 2 1 years. I have no desire to make political capital out of such a tragedy, and it is a tragedy. I recently asked in this Parliament a serious question of the Prime Minister. I asked him to give serious consideration to reducing the age eligibility for pensions to encourage early retirement of people from the work force, thereby creating employment opportunities for young people. There are many people over the age of 60 years who would willingly retire if they became eligible for the age pension at an age earlier than the present 65 years for male persons. The Prime Minister rejected my suggestion out of hand, which showed his callous disregard for the plight of the young people of Australia. I make an appeal to the Government members whose electorates adjoin mine, although they are not in the House at the moment. Possibly they are listening in their rooms to what I say. I make an appeal to them to try to induce this Government, which is their Government, to do something real to fight from within their own Party the cause of the young unemployed and to forget about their Party loyalties, whatever that expression may mean. My appeal is particularly addressed to the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil), the honourable member for Barton (Mr Bradfield) and the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie). The honourable member for Cook is now in the chamber. I note that he is listening intently to what I am saying. I appeal especially to him. We are dealing with people’s lives, I remind the honourable member for Cook, not just petty Party politics.
The thing which disgusts me is the description which Government members apply to the young unemployed. They mouth the words ‘dole bludgers’. What a derisive term; what a way to describe our young unemployed who are unemployed through no fault of their own, the fault lying fairly and squarely on the shoulders of members of the Liberal-National Country Party Government who have mismanaged the economy. How many members of the Government have ever spoken to young unemployed people? If any have, have they ever noted the air of hopelessness and despair which is evident among them? When despair takes over their spirit dies. If this Government will not resign and face the people, in the name of all that is decent it should try to do something to rectify this shocking situation.
Another matter about which I wish to speak and to highlight is the aid, or more correctly the lack of aid, going from Australia to undeveloped countries. Australia by comparison with developing countries is in a most fortunate situation. We are a developed country despite the short period of our existence. We have bountiful supplies of natural resources. We have the facility for becoming the natural granary of the Asian region. We have surpluses of most primary products. We have cattle in abundance. Yet there are millions of people in the Asian region who are starving and who do not know whence their next meal is coming.
There are people in our community who do not know, or do not care, about their starving brothers. I believe it is our duty as legislators to inform our own people of the plight of the people from developing countries. It is a simple matter of economics that if we as democratic people ignore the plight of those who are less fortunate than ourselves someone else will take our place and fill the vacuum. Is it any wonder that communism has taken over in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and that it is only a matter of time before it takes over in Thailand? The lesson is there for all of us to see. If we ignore the plight of those people we do so at our own peril. It is a trite saying that an empty belly knows no loyalty. Even if it is only from the point of view of self preservation, we must help the people from the developing countries of our region.
Financial aid to developing countries has not escaped the cutbacks in expenditure of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). If we are to believe his predictions there is even worse to come. However, what really sickens me is the useless slaughter and burial of surplus cattle which, as we all know, have occurred within recent times in Australia. As an Australian representative at the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference held in Madrid late last year I was ashamed to have to admit that Australia was pursuing this useless policy when there was so much hunger in the world. I have just received a letter, as no doubt have other honourable members, from an organisation known as For Those Who Have Less. It was written by the President of that organisation, Mr L. S. Reid, a respected former Liberal Party member of this Parliament for the electorate of Holt. I seek leave to have the letter incorporated in Hansard. I have the permission of Mr Reid for this course of action to be taken.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LESS
Livestock-Rural Development Sponsorship and Child Welfare Australian-Asian Livestock Society Ltd. 18 March 1977.
V.J. Martin, M.P., House of Representatives, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.
I have recently returned from attending the General Conference of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies which was held in Leysin, Switzerland. This Conference was not only attended by delegates from Voluntary Agencies but also Extra-Governmental and Inter-Governmental Agencies as well. Australian surplus cattle was one of the matters discussed and delegates were told one million cattle had been shot or left to die in the paddock in the State of Victoria last year and more than that number in other States. Delegates were shocked and angered that the Australian Government had not initiated some practical program to send some of the more productive animals to countries that needed them. This resulted in a Resolution being passed on Food Surpluses which evolved around our surplus cattle and called on all Governments and Inter-Governmental Agencies to take urgent measures to ensure that present food surpluses were not destroyed but transported to areas of need and copies of this Resolution were circulated to certain Members of Parliament.
For the past twelve months our own Agency has attempted to highlight the fact we had ten million surplus cattle and that millions of them would obviously be written off unless the Government took some positive action to send some of the better breeds to the Third World. Our own Agency has been sending livestock to the Indian Subcontinent for the past twelve years, so we are not without some experience in these matters and today there are one million progeny from gift consignments sent to the Subcontinent over the past twelve years. However, for some inexplicable reason the Fraser Government has ignored the fact we had millions of surplus cattle and that Australia has a moral commitment in a hungry world. Throughout this crisis of surplus cattle, the Government has persisted with a negative program of giving preference to frozen semen without attempting to send any more than 400 of our more productive dairy animals to India, which in no way has matched the effort of our small Agency. It is well known on the Subcontinent and in most other industrial countries that there is not the technology to handle frozen semen in the rural areas nor are deep-freeze containers or liquid nitrogen available. In addition the conception rate utilizing frozen semen is only half that of fresh semen. The Australian Government is the only industrial country which thinks this way and by so doing ignores their responsibilities regarding our surplus cattle.
In 1972 when I was a Member of the McMahon Government, our Agency requested Government assistance to meet the transport costs on 126 head of dairy cattle to the Government of Bangladesh which were the first cattle to be sent to the new Republic. The then Foreign Minister, Nigel Bowen was advised against it and I was subsequently told they would not survive and that no funds were available. Eventually the German Government chartered an aircraft to fly the first consignment of Australian cattle to Bangladesh. However, these cattle did not die, they quickly grew and multiplied and today we have many hundreds of progeny to prove how successful this project has been.
My own Agency has pure bred Friesians on a desolate island in the Bay of Bengal which are doing as well as those on the mainland and all this runs counter to the opinion expressed by the Australian Government at that time.
Through lack of initiative we missed a wonderful opportunity of being associated with a practical program of helping the new Republic of Bangladesh set up a viable cattle breeding program. Three years later they have opted out for a frozen semen program and it is very doubtful whether this will prove to be a success, mainly because additional breeding cows are required. It is obvious the present people advising the Australian Government have little knowledge of the tremendous potential in the private sector of the Subcontinent. They continue to strongly recommend frozen semen, whilst many farmers in Australia have gone back to more conventional breeding programs.
If these countries are ever to become self-sufficient in milk production, this can only be achieved through cross breeding and by building up the potential in the private sector.
The Australian Government is possibly the only Government in the Industrial world that has not realised the vast potential in the private sector and this is indicated by the fact that no more than a few cattle have been sent into the private sector of these countries. All donor countries today channel vast sums of money through NGOs as they know such aid does not go into some prestige Government project but more so into the private sector where it is more effectively utilized.
Today our own Agency is able to obtain grants from a number of Foreign Aid Agencies to send livestock to the Indian Sub-Continent, yet our own Government continues to ignore our repeated requests. They continue to say it is impractical to send large numbers of cattle into these countries which is contrary to what other Governments think and are in fact doing.
It is little wonder the dairying industry in Australia is in such a hopeless mess as the present Government seems to be only interested in promoting frozen semen and skim milk powder and completely ignores the fact we have thousands of good productive cattle surplus to our requirements which are urgently needed in these countries. By sending some of our better breeds of cattle, Australia could have created a big demand for livestock from overseas countries. This is in fact what other countries have already achieved and unless immediate action is taken this potential market will be lost to Australian farmers.
As a Society that has been working at grass roots level on the Sub-Continent for the past fifteen (15) years we must completely refute the statement made by the Foreign Minister in his letter to Senator Kathy Martin on 17th December, 1976 in which he states ‘It is neither economic nor practical to send large numbers of cattle to the Indian Sub-Continent’. During the past three years, Sri Lanka, a small country in comparison with India and Pakistan, has purchased thousands of dairy cattle and another eight hundred will be sent there later this year. India, over the same period, has received thousands of cattle from Europe and North America, which is contrary to what the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Primary Industry continue to advocate.
I have, in recent weeks, returned from a further visit to the Indian Sub-Continent during which time, accompanied by livestock specialists from these countries, inspected farms that could handle 10,000 Australian cattle as soon as they could be sent. The Pakistan Government has written requesting 10,000 of our surplus cattle. However, the Foreign Minister has informed them that such cattle would have to be paid for out of their present Aid Commitment (which is 3.2 million dollars). This would mean they would have to provide 1.8 million dollars from their own funds to obtain 10 000 head of cattle as the CIF cost of landing one animal in Pakistan is $500. The same message has also been conveyed to the Government of India, which is proportionately far worse off as they will only be receiving 6.9 million dollars in the current fiscal year. The total amount to both countries comes to 10.1 million dollars which would barely erect a 500 bed hospital in Melbourne or Sydney. It is obvious the Minister was not motivated by compassion when this offer was made and is contrary to Aid Policies of all other Donor countries.
The 31st General Assembly of the United Nations, at its Plenary Session on the 21st December, 1976 has now proclaimed 1979 the ‘International Year of the Child’, and it would be futile for the Commonwealth Government to join any International Committees to plan for the ‘Year of the Child ‘ whilst it stands idly by and writes off tens of thousands of good productive cows whilst thousands of children starve to death every day because they have no milk to drink.
Few countries have ever been better situated than we are at the present time with our large numbers of surplus cattle to make a significant contribution to coincide with the International Year of the Child ‘. By sending thousands of our better breeds to these countries, we could make a positive contribution that would be long remembered. Never again this century will we have so many dairy cattle surplus to our requirements and for that very same reason never again will we be in a better position to help these countries obtain some of our better breeds of animals.
The cow is the foster mother of most of the world ‘s hungry children and Australia would receive wide acclaim if we initiated a program of sending thousands of our more productive cows to Third World countries to establish pilot projects to ensure that the hungry child would be fed.
If some positive action is taken we could send tens of thousands of our cattle to these countries where they would soon become a living symbol of our generosity and help for many years to come and I cannot think of a more practical program to mark Australia’s contribution during the ‘International Year of the Child’.
We appeal to you as a Member of Parliament to see the position in its true perspective and help initiate a positive program to send a minimum number of 10 000 dairy heifers and bulls to the Indian Sub-Continent whilst they are still available in large numbers. If these countries are ever to grapple more effectively with their great human problems we must all do something over and above all else, and I do urge you to raise this matter in the Party Room and in Parliament so that positive action may result.
Yours sincerely, L.S. Reid. President.
– I thank the House. I would like to highlight a few parts of that letter. Mr Reid made the comment:
Australian surplus cattle was one of the matters discussed and delegates -
That is delegates at the Conference he attended in Switzerland- were told one million cattle had been shot or left to die in the paddock in the State of Victoria last year and more than that number in other States. Delegates were shocked and angered that the Australian Government had not initiated some practical program to send some of the more productive animals to countries that needed them.
He went on to state:
For the past twelve months our own Agency -
That is For Those Who Have Less- has attempted to highlight the fact that we had ten million surplus cattle and that millions of them would obviously be written off unless the Government took some positive action to send some of the better breeds to the Third World.
He went on:
The Australian Government is the only industrial country which thinks this way and by so doing ignores their responsibilities regarding our surplus cattle.
I will quote another important part of what Mr Reid said in his letter to myself and to all other members of the Parliament. He said:
The Australian Government is possibly the onlyGovernment in the industrial world that has not realised the vast potential in the private sector and this is indicated by the fact that no more than a few cattle have been sent into the private sector of these countries.
The countries to which he is referring are the developing countries. He went on to say:
I have, in recent weeks, returned from a further visit to the Indian Sub-Continent during which time, accompanied by livestock specialists from these countries, inspected farms that could handle 10 000 Australian cattle as soon as they could be sent. The Pakistan Government has written requesting 10 000 of our surplus cattle. However, the Foreign Minister has informed them that such cattle would have to be paid for . . .
Surely what I have read from the letter is a shocking indictment of the lack of action by this Government. The letter was written by a person of the same political persuasion as this Government. In fairness to Mr Reid I must point out that during his time in this Parliament as the Liberal Member for Holt when his own party was in power he made the same pleas in this Parliament as I am making tonight. But his pleas were to no avail even though he was a supporter of that Government. I am convinced that if we had more people like Mr Reid in the present Government ranks maybe some positive action would be taken by the Government.
The challenge is there for the younger supporters of the Government- younger in terms of the short time for which they have been here- to get off their backsides. The newer members should try to do something for their unfortunate brothers in the developing countries. They can do something in the short period of time that they have left in this House as members of Parliament because I am afraid that most of them will not be here after the next election.
Another example of the lack of concern and foresight displayed by the Government is the advocacy of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) for cattlemen to withhold their cattle from the market in an effort to force up the price. That is a strange statement for the right honourable gentleman to make because if a union leader urged his members to withdraw their labour I am certain that the Deputy Prime Minister would be up in arms and would class such action as an irresponsible strike. We have a person who holds the position of Deputy Prime Minister of this country advocating that cattlemen withhold their stock from the market. Apparently he applies different values to his actions in respect of cattlemen from those he applies when he union bashes. The right honourable gentleman is not alone in this because most Government supporters union bash. But surely if there is any decency within the ranks of the people who represent the Government in this place they would realise that the Deputy Prime Minister was advocating that the cattlemen should go on strike and withhold their cattle from the market irrespective of the inconvenience that they may cause to the rest of the community. As I have said, apparently he puts different values on their actions compared with the values and responsibilities he tries to place on leaders of unions.
In reply to a question in this House on 10 March 1977 the Deputy Prime Minister suggested that by withholding cattle from sale a price increase of $10 to $20 per beast could be obtained with the resultant net increase in the retail price of lc to 2c a lb. They were his words, not mine. Obviously the Deputy Prime Minister knows little about cattle, which is understandable as he is a pig farmer. I do not mean to imply that pig farming is a dishonourable occupation but I suggest that the right honourable gentleman stick to a subject about which he has a greater knowledge.
– And a dairy farmer.
– As my friend mentions, he is also a dairy farmer. But the Deputy Prime Minister obviously has not studied much about the cattle industry because he does not know that the average dressed weight of beef cattle slaughtered ranges between 300 and 400 lb. An increase of $20 a head would lead to an increase of 6c to 7c a lb wholesale and 15c a lb retail. They are not figures I have just plucked out of the air. I have discussed this matter with people who know something about the subject. What an effect there would be on cost of living figures and the resultant increase in inflation. Apparently that does not concern the Deputy Prime Minister, as long as the people he represents are not affected.
The Deputy Prime Minister has been disowned even by his own supporters, including no less a person than Major Harold Conkey from Wagga, a true blue Tory if ever there was one.
He stated that such strike action as advocated by the Deputy Prime Minister would only worsen the situation where many producers were already holding surplus stock on their properties. He also stated that you do not get rid of surplus stock by retaining it. That is a very trite statement, but it is a fairly objective one and it happens to be a true one. There are many other critics too numerous for me to mention in the short space of time still available to me. I highlighted the situation about the possibility of surplus cattle in Australia being sent to developing countries. I suggest to the Deputy Prime Minister that he might give greater thought to that and less thought to withholding stocks from the market with the idea of trying to force up the price. In conclusion, I would say that the answer is quite clear. This Government does not have the answers. I suggest that it should get out now and let a Labor government rectify the situation.
– I found it very interesting to listen to the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin) and hear him say that the present Government should get out of office and hand back to the Australian Labor Party the situation as it now is. I found it interesting because now we are beginning to see for the first time since this Government took office some progress towards undoing the evil and the bad that was done by the Labor Party in government. I enjoyed listening to the speech of the honourable member for Banks. It was a considered speech and it was an interesting speech. It is a little late for him now to be worrying about the fact that Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia have fallen to the communists and that possibly Thailand could fall to the communists in the future, because many people on the Government side of the Parliament told him that back in 1 966 and he scoffed at the so-called domino theory. He thought that it would not ever happen. It was interesting to hear him admit tonight that it actually has happened. Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia have fallen to the communists and, as he has predicted, perhaps Thailand will be next in line.
However I agree with what he said about the former honourable member for Holt, Mr Len Reid. I have worked in conjunction with Len Reid, who was a fellow Liberal member in Victoria for a number of years. I have a great respect for him. Even though he is no longer a member of either the Victorian Parliament or this Parliament he has done a terrific job in the organisation of which he is president, For Those Who Have Less. When I was in New Guinea with him on one occasion he was busy organising with a
Catholic mission to send to New Guinea cattle which could be used for breeding and so help the people of New Guinea. He has done a great deal in India and other countries to see that help is given.
Tonight I want to speak not so much about that matter as about the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen and some of the things that were involved in that Speech. The Speech by Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of the opening of this the second session of the Thirtieth Parliament set out many of the past achievements of the Government and its program for the future. Her Majesty spoke of the qualities of the Australian people and of the great promise and the great challenge which lie ahead for our nation. I was disappointed at the time that it was not until the last few paragraphs of the Speech that the Australian ethnic community was mentioned, and then it said only that consultation with migrant communities and imaginative experiments, whatever that may mean, with migrant resource centres were under way. This of course was understandable as the Green Paper on immigration policies and Australia’s population was due to be tabled and debated in this House, as it was yesterday. I had intended to participate in that debate as I am particularly concerned about immigration policy, but this was not possible as the debate in this House was curtailed. I intend to take the opportunity tonight of speaking about our migration policy.
I hope that the Green Paper on immigration policies and Australia’s population will stimulate throughout the community dialogue and debate regarding the quantity and quality of Australia’s migrant intake. It was an excellent paper and no doubt the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) will be submitting to Cabinet in the not too distant future a report based on its findings. The Green Paper stated that Australia’s migrant intake might need to be boosted to 200 000 in the next decade or so to cope with labour shortages similar to those experienced in the late 1950s. It said that the 1980s and the 1990s might be a critical time for the labour market and stated that Australia could absorb an annual net intake of 50 000 people. A net gain of 50 000 people would involve an annual intake of 100 000 migrants. The Paper also pointed out that Australia’s birth rate had plummeted to a level at which births will soon be offset by deaths. The slower population growth would mean a slower growth in the labour force, possible labour shortages in the 1990s, smaller numbers of school age children and a progressive ageing of the population. It said that if immigration were stopped completely the country would be unable to replace the skills of the 30 000 to 40 000 Australians who leave the country each year.
Post-war migration to Australia reached a peak of 185 000 immigrants under the LiberalCountry Party Government in 1969-70. This figure dwindled to only 50 000 in 1975 under the Labor Government’s restrictive immigration guide lines- the lowest figure since post-war migration commenced. In actual fact there was a net loss in 1975 of more than 6000, perhaps almost 8000, in the number of people entering and leaving the country- the first net loss since our present immigration program commenced in 1946. The rate of natural population increase in 1975 was only 0.85 per cent. Australia had virtually come to zero population growth. Former Liberal and Country Party governments had set a goal of at least a 2 per cent annual population growth rate- 1 per cent through natural birth and 1 per cent through immigration. Until the present Government increased the target for this year to 70 000 from the figure of 50 000 set by the Whitlam Labor Government, it appeared that the population growth rate would not be enough to support the predicted economic growth of this country in the future.
The Whitlam Labor Government reduced the inflow of immigrants because it believed that migrants coming to this country would add to its economic problems by increasing unemployment. This has not been the experience in Canada, and there is strong evidence to show that migrant inflow creates demands and sets a climate for economic growth. In other words, properly selected migrants have a favourable impact on unemployment, and it was wrong for the Whitlam Government to have turned off the migration tap when Australia’s birth rate was falling. It is also worthy to note that it has been estimated that migrant unemployment is approximately half the national average. It is true that we cannot just turn the migration tap on and off at will. I believe that it would in Australia’s best interests if the Government were immediately to increase the immigration target from 70 000 to 100 000. That would probably give us a net population increase of some 50 000 people, as stated in the Green Paper.
Australia has gained enormously from the contribution made by its migrant population. Also it has much to gain in the future. I believe strongly that we should be concerned about Australia’s international image as we have a static population and enormous resources whilst our neighbours have few resources and overpopulation problems. We have a moral obligation to take more migrants into this vast, rich country. I am of the opinion that the present rules of entry are far too strict. Day after day, week after week honourable members receive refusals to cases which they have submitted to the Minister because the applicants do not fall into one of the job categories or because they are not parents or dependent children of people already in Australia. Under our present guidelines, to be a brother or a sister is not good enough. I dealt with the case of an Italian who runs a successful contracting business in my electorate. He wishes to bring his single brother out to work for his firm. He would supply him with accommodation and any other assistance that he might need on arrival in this country. I believe that, with the help of his brother, the man could easily be absorbed into the Australian way of life. His application has been refused. Thus a future good Australian is lost to us, not because there is anything wrong with him but because he does not meet our restrictive guidelines.
– A good worker, too.
– He is a good worker and would prove to be so. I have met him. I have dealt with another case of a lady from Sri Lanka who has 3 sisters and her mother here. She intended to come to Australia with her husband and I understand that this would have been possible because her husband was a doctor, which is one of the job categories allowed. He would have been acceptable to the Austraiian Medical Association. However, just before they applied for entry her husband died suddenly and her application was thus refused. She was not able to join other members of her family in Australia because of that situation. I know the woman. I have been to her home in Sri Lanka. I have been entertained there. I know that she would have proved to be a good Australian. I am told that the standard of applicants wishing to come to Australia has never been higher than it is at present. While we are using every restrictive criterion here in Australia, Canada is availing itself of these people. Australia’s loss is Canada’s gain. Four and a quarter million of Australia’s population today were either born overseas or born to parents who were born overseas. This is one third of all the people in Australia.
– When was it different?
– Much of our economic wealth today has been contributed to largely by people who migrated to this country. They have added greatly to Australia’s culture and economic wealth. Perhaps the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) may disagree with me, but then the Australian Labor Party has never been good to migrants in this country since the days of Arthur Calwell who first introduced this scheme and who pursued it very well and to great lengths. Now the Labor Party is suddenly prepared, for political reasons, to cultivate the ethnic community in our country, but it is not prepared to bring any more migrants to Australia. Let the migrant community know that it was the Whitlam Labor Government that cut down migration for the first time to give us a net outflow of people from Australia. I believe that we are being horribly short sighted- not only the Labor Government before us but even the present Government, even though it has expanded migration- in restricting our immigration to such an extent. I hope that, following the publishing of the Green Paper on immigration policies and Australia’s population, the Government will review our whole migration program. I would like to see our former, pre-Labor policy reinstated and upgraded. I believe that we could readily absorb 100 000 migrants next year. I hope that the Government will make a decision to that effect without delay. Australia has everything to gain and nothing to lose if that decision is taken as soon as possible.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– The honourable member for Deakin has misrepresented me. When he remarked that one third of Australia’s population was either overseas born or derived from parents born overseas I asked him when that situation was different. It has never been different in Australia’s history. The honourable member then went into a diatribe about my opposing migrants. I suggest that he read my speech on the Green Paper and when he has read it he can apologise.
-There is no point of order.
– I was very interested in the remarks of the honourable member for Deakin (Mr Jarman). I agree with a number of remarks he had to say regarding immigration. My electorate has a large migrant population and problems are often placed before me which are forwarded on to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) and his Department. These cases require compassionate treatment. Unfortunately these days I do not meet with many successes. The honourable member for Deakin spoke about the former Government’s policy. His Government has been in office now for fifteen or sixteen months. If it feels that what went on under the Australian Labor Party Government was incorrect the present Government has the power to correct it. I can assure honourable members that in these compassionate cases the restrictions are becoming tighter and tighter.
I would like to refer to several matters mentioned in Her Majesty’s Speech. Various contributors to this debate have professed loyalty to Her Majesty, but also questions have been raised, not so much in regard to loyalty but as to the form of government which Australia should have in the future. We have heard talk of a republican type of government. We now see more support for a republic outside this Parliament than we have ever seen before. We can ask ourselves what is the reason for this. It was not the case 2 years ago. The obvious reason why people are looking for a different system of government can be related to the action of the Governor-General on 1 1 November 1975, which action even Her Majesty cannot take here or in her own parliament at Westminster. I refer to the sacking of an elected government. If we are looking for the reason why many people in Australia are seeking a possible alternative we can find it in the action that the Governor-General took in 1975 when he dismissed the Whitlam Government.
We can also look at how he came to be placed in a position in which the circumstance could arise. Although there was a lot of tut-tutting by many present Government supporters about the actions of the New South Wales and Queensland Governments in appointing non-Labor senators to replace Labor senators, we know that that action led to the events of 1 1 November. As I said, there were no strong protests by present Government supporters. Many of them said that they did not agree with it but they allowed it to take place, with the result that we saw the GovernorGeneral assume authority which Her Majesty, who spoke here a fortnight ago, does not have. In her Speech she mentioned a number of things to which I want to refer. There was very little in the Speech which her advisers had given her that laid down any sort of a program, apart from a few threats. When we look at what promises there are in the Speech perhaps we should have a look at what the Government’s record has been up to date. Perhaps we should start off with a promise that is current, and that is the Government’s promise in relation to the case before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at the moment on wage indexation. Prior to the election this Government said that it would not interfere with indexation. Since this Government came to office we have seen the workers sold down the drain. The Government has opposed all the indexation cases. This Government has tried to deny to employees in industry the wage increases which it said it would not interfere with; so much for that promise. What the Government is trying to do is to throw onto the backs of the ordinary employees the cost of defeating inflation.
It is often said that the worst inflation in Australia’s history was while the Labor Government was in power. Personally I think the worst inflation in Australia’s recent history will be in this year when the Labor Government is not in power. But the worst inflation in Australia’s history was in the early 1950s when the inflation rate was about 25 per cent. What happened at that time was that the then Prime Minister, who has so much to say today about judges over 70 years of age still being capable, went into the Commission and argued with the employers for abolition of cost of living adjustments which gave the workers a fair go. At that time the Commission agreed to the abolition of cost of living adjustments with the result that for many years workers were deprived of any adjustment to their wages because of that decision.
What about this Government’s promise to retain the home mortgage payments taxation deduction scheme? That benefit is now only applicable for the first 5 years. I realise, that this Government introduced another scheme but if honourable members sit down and work out the figures on this scheme they will realise that it is the people with wealthy parents who will benefit under this new scheme. There was also the promise of no interference with Medibank. Now we have the Medibank muddle. This Government introduced a Medibank levy after it had opposed a levy when the Labor Government first introduced Medibank and wanted to finance it by the application of the levy. What did this Government do at that time when it was in Opposition? It opposed that proposal and defeated it by the use of its numbers in the Senate. The Government has conned people into going back into private health insurance funds. The Government introduced a levy and of course emasculated the Medibank scheme as we knew it 12 or 18 months ago.
What about this Government’s fourth promise? This is a promise which was made to the Aboriginal people of Australia. Prior to the election in 1975 the present Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) who was then the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs sent telegrams to the various Aboriginal communities throughout Australia saying that they had nothing to worry about if a Liberal Government were elected to power. I think that the Aborigines themselves now fully realise how hollow that promise was because we have seen cutbacks in special works projects. We have seen cutbacks in finance made available to provide housing for Aborigines. We have seen cutbacks in many areas. In my own electorate of Grey which has a large Aboriginal population the number of homes which were to have been provided for Aborigines this year has been halved. In Port Augusta where I live, an area in which a lot of Aborigines require homes, there was a scheme to provide 53 homes. Fourteen of those homes have been completed and it appears at this stage that that is where the scheme will finish. So we can see that that promise has been broken to the Aboriginal people.
On the question of land rights for Aborigines in the Northern Territory, the Labor Government introduced its legislation but because of what happened in December 1975 the legislation did not come before the Parliament for a decision. The Liberal Government introduced legislation similar in many respects but its legislation took out a lot of the teeth that were in the Labor Party’s legislation and handed certain of the proposed powers over to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, and we know what is going on there at the present time. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is doing a bit of duck shoving trying to get out of its responsibility to implement this legislation.
There are other areas in which the Government has either not kept its promise or has taken steps which have hit the less fortunate people in our society. One area is the provision of aged persons accommodation. Not only has the Government cut subsidies to aged persons homes but it has also cut back on the aged persons homes program generally. In my own area there are 8 projects which have been undertaken by various committees to provide aged persons accommodation. The programs have been spread out over a 3-year period. A nice Press statement was put out that makes the programs sound good but the fact is that these people now have to wait years before they get any assistance. Of the 8 projects in the electorate of Grey only one is to be financed this year. No projects are to be financed next year but there is to be one the year after. No wonder the people who are on these committees to provide accommodation for the aged in our society are feeling frustrated at what they get out of this Government.
In the Queen’s Speech there was mention of introducing industrial legislation. If one looks back into history and sees the record of the Liberal Government on industrial legislation one will see that it is certainly not good. All it has been able to do is bring about confrontation with the unions, confrontation from which in many cases the Government has had to back down. This goes back to the time of Sir Stanley Bruce when a conservative Prime Minister was going to wield the big stick as far as the unions were concerned. But what happened? He got a thrashing. The same thing will happen to this Government if it tries it. We have heard protestations that the people on the other side of this chamber are not union bashers. I do not say that all of them are. I know there are some men on the other side who adopt a very reasonable attitude as regards unions in general, but this Government has its fair share of union bashers sitting on the other side of this House. If there are any doubts about this honourable members have only to read the debates on the trade practices legislation which was discussed here within the last few weeks. When the Liberal Government starts talking about introducing legislation to do something about trade unions and so on the unions have no cause whatsoever to trust that legislation because on very few occasions has this sort of legislation been in the interests of the unions themselves or in the interests of the members of the unions. Anything the Government does will not be trusted by the trade union movement and will only lead to a confrontation with the organisations involved. If we have any doubts we have only to look at the Government’s attitude to the present wage indexation case now before the Arbitration Commission. The attitude taken by this Government will mean that if it gets its way the ordinary workers in industry will be the ones who will be asked to pay the price for solving our present economic problems.
I think there are some who would like the Government to go back to the penal clause days. The penal clause provisions caused more disputes than they ever settled. Again this was an occasion when the Liberal Government did try to get tough with the unions on an issue on which it had very little valid grounds and when the unions stood up to the Government it was not the unions that backed down; it was the LiberalCountry Party Government that backed down.
Of course this proved nothing. By using the big stick you will not get anywhere.
I would like to refer to something of particular interest in my own electorate. It also affects the Newcastle district. I refer to the future of the shipbuilding industry. The present Government apparently is prepared to let this industry in Australia die. It has even tried to place the blame for this on the Labor Government. But again whatever this Government thought of the Labor Government’s policy it has now been in office for 15 to 16 months and it has had the chance to rectify the position if it thought our policy waswrong. Let us look at the reasons why this industry is in its present position. This Government tends to forget the delays that took place from 1966 to 1972 in respect of Tariff Board reports. Government supporters talk about Tariff Board reports. The reports took years to come down. It was not until just before the Liberals were tossed out of office that they came down with a policy but now they try to say that it was the Labor Government that caused the closure of the shipbuilding industry. What about the delays that took place while our competitors- the main ones of Japan and South Korea- were re-tooling and setting up more modern shipbuilding yards so that they could undercut our industry? The whole of the industry in Australia was left in limbo over those 5 or 6 years. When the Labor Government came to power it was faced with the Liberal Party’s neglect of the industry over those years. The industry did not know where it was going. It had no confidence to try to recapitalise, to put further finance into the industry to ensure that it could compete with industries overseas. What happened?
– How many man hours have you lost?
– Look, honourable members opposite have spoken a great deal about disputes in the shipbuilding industry. If workers in the shipbuilding industry had not stopped work for one minute they still would not have been able to compete with the overseas shipbuilding yards because of the antiquated state of the Australian shipbuilding yards. No modernisation works had been carried out. The yards were not prepared to take the risk of putting in more modern machinery. Of course, we have now reached the stage where our shipbuilding industry is not able to compete on an economic basis.
– Nixon has to pay off Japan for beef.
– That is quite right, too. The Government has had opportunities over the last few years when it could have come to some arrangement with the unions in trying to iron out some of the problems. We know that there were demarcation problems in the shipbuilding industry but that has not been the position for the last 5 or 6 years. I can remember that before ever I came into the Parliament discussions took place between the unions in an effort to cease the demarcation disputes that were taking place in that industry. Now we find that all the employees in the shipbuilding industry are under the umbrella of one union and that they can solve their own demarcation disputes. On the matter of disputes procedures clauses, I could talk for hours about disputes at Whyalla, the lack of disputes procedure clauses and what happened there in that respect.
– Spare us.
– The honourable member’s colleague is well remembered in Whyalla for saying that when he went to Whyalla the workers in the yard told him that five of them stood around to determine who should weld a piece of pipe. If he went to Whyalla now, he would be laughed out of the place. Of course, that is the situation in the shipbuilding industry. It does not appear as though the Government is prepared to do anything at all to try to resurrect the industry. The Premier of South Australia made a submission to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) some eight or nine months ago. The Prime Minister has not had the decency to reply to that submission. The Government, it appears, has allowed the Newcastle shipbuilding industry to go down the drain. Although the situation, in Whyalla is not as bad as it is in Newcastle, in seven or eight months’ time the situation will be as bad. Industry in that decentralised area will be hit badly.
During the last few days we have heard honourable members in this place talking about migrants. The greatest percentage of those people working in the Whyalla shipyards are migrants. I would say that they constitute 65 per cent of the work force. A major industry which is located in a country area and which employs a large proportion of migrant people is being shut down. Most of those people have lived nowhere in Australia but at Whyalla. They are building their homes there. Their children are attending school there. What will happen to those people? If the Government is concerned about migration, and if the Government is concerned about the future of a main centre which employs a majority of migrant people, I am sure that it would try to do something for the industry to ensure that the migrants about which it claims to be concerned, would find employment. Certainly there were problems in the industry, but I do not think that the Government has gone a very long way along the road towards trying to take a conciliatory attitude instead of the hard line attitude which it has adopted.
What has the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) done? He closed his door on the industry. Of course, that action typifies his concern for the people who were made redundant by the Government’s actions which were summed up in that cheap bit of doggerel that the Minister put over on the television program Monday Conference a few weeks ago. Of course, the Minister for Transport certainly has no love for South Australia. I am sure that every night before he goes to bed he sticks pins into a map of South Australia. Let us consider what he has done in the last few months. He has endeavoured to increase by 180 per cent the freight rates on Leigh Creek coal. The Australian National Railways Commission carries that coal to some of the main power stations in South Australia. I agree that there was justification for some increase in those freight rates by the Austraiian National Railways Commission, but I think a rise of 180 per cent is a little steep, particularly in a State which has the poorest coal resources in Australia.
The cost of the reports that have been made on the Adelaide-Crystal Brook railway project could pay for the construction of a new Parliament House. The previous Labor Government and the South Australian Government came to an arrangement on that matter. A further report was called for. We had the Fitch report. Then we had the Maunsell report. Then the present Minister called for the Joy report. The Joy report was presented quite recently. That report said that there was no justification for the project to go ahead in its original form. Unless some agreement can be reached South Australia will still be without a rail link between Adelaide and the major standard gauge railway lines throughout Australia. That link is necessary so that South Australia can service its main markets which are in the eastern States.
I refer also to the action of the Minister quite recently in trying to alter the agreement that was signed between South Australia and the Commonwealth in relation to the takeover of the South Australian State railways. The Government is trying to use its new federalism policy to weaken that agreement and to take away some of the advantage that South Australia may have gained from it. It is doing that by taking into account what benefits the South Australian Government will receive in the future. Where will the Minister stick the pin next? I have mentioned just 4 actions that he has taken with regard to South Australia and which will be to the detriment of South Australia. I ask again: Where will he stick the pin next?
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to be able to join in this debate on the AddressinReply to Her Majesty’s Speech on the occasion of the opening of the Parliament. I think the fact that Her Majesty was able to visit Australia in her jubilee year is of great significance to this country. I think that her visit should act as a timely reminder to us all in this House and to the nation as a whole of the significance to Australia of the constitutional monarchy.
Tonight, however, I do not wish to develop that theme. I wish to raise 2 other matters. The first relates very significantly to what our vision is as to the style of government we wish to see in this country. The present Government is committed to the idea and the concept of federalism; that is, the distribution of legislative power between the Commonwealth Parliament, the parliaments of the States and, through the States, to local government. I was pleased to read in Her Majesty’s speech reference not only to the reforms that have already been made but also to those that are to be made. In her Speech she said:
Historic reforms are being made to the nation’s federal financial relations which will return power and responsibility to the State and local levels of government.
In the Government’s federalism policy we laid stress on the fact that in 1 975 the section 96 grant mechanism had been used to dominate State revenues. Indeed, in the 1976-77 Budget section 96 grants continued to dominate State revenues. In that year, the first year of this Government, 46.3 per cent of total Commonwealth funds to the States were made available by way of section 96 grants. Let me translate that into other terms. Those grants, if converted as a percentage of income tax, would have represented 40 per cent of income tax. In our first year in office under the general revenue sharing arrangements we have made great progress. We have provided to the States a share of income tax which is equal to 33.6 per cent of the total income tax revenue.
What I want to do is to draw to the attention of the House that that is only a beginning, because by far the greatest share of funds that go to the States, based on the pattern of last year and the year immediately preceding, is represented by section 96 grants. The Government has a commitment to reduce section 96 grants, not by cuts in the allocation of resources but by transfers of those specifically tied grants into general revenue grants or by the adoption of a process that ultimately leads to that objective.
– True federalism.
– As the honourable member says, that is true federalism. It is the transfer of specific grants into general revenue so that the general revenue matches the responsibility of the level of government to which that revenue has been transferred. The Government, in its first 15 months of office, has not had an opportunity truly to absorb section 96 grants. However, it was made quite clear in the Budget Papers that the absorption process was not a cutting of the resourse but a transfer of the resource.
In more recent times, in a very significant report, attention has been drawn to this interpretation of absorption. The report to which I refer is the first report of the Bailey Task Force on proposals for changes in the administration and delivery of programs and services. That report places before this Parliament and before the Government a very great challenge. It was written having as a backdrop the Government’s federalism policy and it recognised that the process of devolution requires the taking of some risks. The Task Force considered that the advantages in the effectiveness and delivery of programs it proposed to transfer outweighed the disadvantages. In the short.time at my disposal I shall draw the attention of the House to some of the concluding paragraphs in the Task Force report. Paragraph 296 states:
Our task has been to identify areas where change could be made in the interests of efficiency, economy or better administration or delivery. We are confident that each of the changes we have recommended in Section VIII will stand up to examination against these criteria.
Any failure, therefore, to take up those recommendations is to fly in the face of the careful and close examination given by the Task Force to the advantages to the nation of transferring program responsibility to State or local governments. Paragraph 298 of the report states:
Our recommendations have erred on the side of caution. We have felt it better to be sure of a change, and to pave the way for others, than to risk failure and a deterioration in service delivery. For that reason, our proposals will disappoint some. To them we say be patient. If these changes are successful, more should be possible. Moreover, we shall be considering, in our next report, how the process of review and change in the administrative arrangements can be made a continuing one.
Paragraph 299 continues:
Others, perhaps some Commonwealth departments in particular, will feel we have gone too far to fast. To them we offer a challenge to a new style of administration and the adoption of a role which the Commonwealth alone can performthe oversight of a nation’s activities in a field, the establishing of objectives and the evaluation of outcomes. In these, excessive involvement in detailed program administration is an impediment.
The proposals of the Task Force are cautious.
Let us not be timid. Let us take up the challenge for it is not merely a challenge to Commonwealth departments. It is a challenge to Ministers of the Commonwealth Government. Federalism involves the devolution of responsibility. Members of this Government and of its administrations must take this report seriously and accept a proposal that provides a mechanism whereby there can be a continuing process of devolution to State and local governments so that power is diffused and so that decision making is more sensitive to the needs of the people while the Commonwealth Government, its departments and its Ministers can take on the more exciting challenge of providing national leadership in the definition of goals, in the evaluation of programs and in the introduction of innovatory measures. I wanted to draw the attention of the House to this report and to stress its very great significance in the next phase of the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy.
I turn now to another matter. Over recent months there has been much public debate about the tax burden. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) is on record as saying that the Government is deeply committed to both tax reform and, as circumstances permit, to the process of reducing the real tax burden. There has been a plea for tax cuts. If the Treasurer were to announce tomorrow that most wage earners would have an increased take home pay of $4 a week and many an increased take home pay of $10 a week, that is, an increase net of tax, there would be headlines in the nation’s newspapers. That will occur on 1 July or on the first pay day thereafter as a consequence of the Government’s indexation of the tax system. Her Majesty the Queen referred to this in her Speech when she stated;
Income tax indexation has been introduced, halting automatic increases in the tax burden arising from inflation.
Tax deductions by previous governments have really been a sleight of hand because the system has had built into it an increasing burden and all that governments have done on a casual ad hoc basis has been to relieve the tax paying public of part of that burden.
This Government took a more courageous step, a step designed to keep governments honest and to ensure that as a result of inflation the share taken from wage earners by the Commissioner of Taxation was not increased automatically as a consequence of the progressive rate structure used in this country. The fact is that on present figures it appears that the indexation will result in a 14 per cent adjustment of the general rebate of $620. This adjustment will be increased by 14 per cent and as a consequence people will have their pay-as-you-earn tax deductions reduced by approximately $80 a year or $1.50 a week. The rebate for a dependent spouse will be increased by a similar percentage reducing the tax burden by $65 a year or the weekly pay-as-you-earn commitment by $1.25. There will be adjustments to the steps in the rate scale so that there will be reductions in the liability at the rate of $75 a year or $1.50 a week between that level and $200 a year, or $4 a week, depending on a wage earner’s level of income in the range of $ 1 40 a week or $7,000 a year up to $400 a week. Thus, it can be seen that there are already substantial tax cuts, in the old-fashioned sense of the term, built into the structure.
The unfortunate thing is that people have not been made adequately aware of it. I hope that the Commissioner of Taxation, when he is preparing his documentation for this year, makes clear to the taxpayers the effective result of the automatic indexation of the tax system. It should be translated into weekly terms. People do not understand what the long word ‘indexation’ means but they understand it if it is shown as a reduction in pay-as-you-earn tax that they would otherwise have had withdrawn from their pay packets in dollars and cents each week. It can be demonstrated clearly that as a result of tax indexation from 1 July or from the first pay day thereafter many people will receive $6.40 a week extra take home pay. Others on lower incomes of, say, $100 a week will get $2.10 extra a week. Those on $200 a week will receive $3.40 a week extra take home pay. If those people were to receive a wage increase before tax had been paid they would need amounts substantially in excess of those to gain the same benefit.
I now turn to another aspect of the tax structure. I think tax reform is more important than tax reduction, although tax reduction in itself is of great urgency. The manner in which the present tax system imposes its burden is inequitable in many ways. As a result individuals and households adjust their behaviour patterns to the inequities of the system. Often the nature of these adjustments to the life style of society is contrary to the objectives of the Government and to the desires and wishes of the public at large. Unless in looking to ways in which the tax system can be reformed these inequities are removed we will find that governments will be required to undertake programs which in the long run are far more expensive than the revenue a government would need to forgo to remove inequities from the tax structure. In the process we would find we would be condoning the social engineering that is implicit in the inequalities of the present tax structure. This is happening today in the treatment of families with young children. The longer the present inequalities remain in the system the greater will be the pressure for child care facilities. More and more children will be looked after by mother substitutes because the tax structure is not neutral in its impact and as a result fails to guarantee mothers genuine freedom of choice as to who should care for their children.
Our present tax structure lacks the neutrality that it should have. People should not be influenced to choose one course of action rather than an alternative simply because of the greater benefits to their taxation positions under one of the options. Australia is one of the few countries where the sole unit of personal income tax is still the individual. This may be appropriate in a majority of cases; nevertheless many taxpayer families are disadvantaged by this system. The system was designed when the vast majority of households received only one income. That is not so today. The number of 2-income families is rising rapidly. The calculation of tax according to the income received by each individual imposes an unfair burden on many taxpayers. The available statistics indicate that the majority of mothers with children under 6 years of age stay at home rather than go to work. This is in contrast to the fact that the majority of mothers with children of school going age have a job outside the home.
There are many good reasons why those with young children should remain at home. Many do so because they choose to care for their own children in spite of the high price they pay by way of the personal income their families forgo. But this price is further increased by the inequitable burden imposed on their husbands when they work more overtime or take part time second jobs to make up for the reduction in the gross household income. If that annual household income has been $10,000 while both were earning, their combined tax liability would have been $ 1 , 1 63 if each had earned $5,000. It would have been $1,271 if one had been earning $7,000 and the other $3,000. But if the husband, because his wife chooses to stay at home to look after young children, takes overtime and earns $10,000 the family’s tax liability would be $1,779. Thus the family’s disposable income would be approximately $500 less than if both had continued in employment. The enormous tax advantage of having a given household income earned equally by husband and wife can be clearly illustrated in a table which I have had prepared. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-The extent to which a 2-parent family with one breadwinner will pay more tax and thus be worse off than a 2-breadwinner family with a much larger total income is illustrated in a second table which I have. This shows that a much higher family income can be received by the 2-income family before its liability for tax is the same as the one-income family. One of the goals of tax reform should be to ensure that economic equals are treated equally. I therefore urge the Government to give serious consideration to allowing families with young children to have their tax assessed on the basis of them being treated as a partnership. They should be given the option of being taxed as though they are a partnership, on a notional partnership basis, or, if they prefer for one reason or another to be taxed separately, they should be given that choice. I hope the Government will take this suggestion into consideration.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I should think in 1977 that it would be agreed that the most important problem in Australia is inflation and its consequences. But of course inflation is the result of something, more than it is a cause.
Wherever inflation has occurred no government can claim much success in dealing with it- the Fraser Government no more than any other. Inflation is a result not only of a government but of the system as a whole. Nowhere that it has occurred has the system had any more success than governments in dealing with inflation. One of the main reasons for this is that most problems are treated today as though they are no more than economic problems, as though they can be solved by economic methods alone. But most problems are not merely economic problems; they are essentially social and psychological.
Let me take inflation as an example. Inflation appears to be an economic problem because it is certainly the result of acquisitiveness, the result of the dominance of economics, the result of the endless worship of money. But for centuries humanity saw its nature and its problems as religious, spiritual and social. The advent of economic materialism changed all that. Now in this Parliament, as elsewhere in the community, we always see life as a problem of economics. One aims to get more money or for status, from which money is derived. Our present goals are opportunism in an acquisitive society. Inflation is the result of acquisitiveness and the pursuit of money. But acquisitiveness and the pursuit of money are not alone economic. They are critically social and psychological.
It should be apparent by now that inflation cannot be dealt with by economic methods. Economic methods of dealing with inflation include the Budget deficit, the money supply, the exchange rate and wage restraint. Let us look at what happened to the deficit, the money supply, the exchange rate and wage restraint in recent years. Firstly I refer to the deficit. In 1974 the deficit was $292.4m. In 1975 it was $2,566.7m. In 1976 it was $3,585.4m and for the first 8 months of 1977 under the management of Mr Fraser and Mr Lynch the deficit is $5,532.2m. For strict comparison, let us take the 8 months to February each year. In 1974, in what I can call the Crean year, the deficit was $ 1,678.6m. In 1975 it was $2,769.4m. In 1976, in the Hayden year, it was $4,522.4m and in 1977, in the Lynch year it is $5, 532.2m. Is it not astonishing that the right honourable, as I think he is now, the Treasurer who has been demanding for years and years that the deficit should be cut and stating that a high deficit was the cause of inflation and that the Australian Labor Party Government had been responsible for inflation, should turn in a deficit for the first 8 months of 1977 of $5,532.2m- in other words, $ 1 ,000m higher than in the Hayden year. The deficit in the Hayden year was over $ 1,000m higher than the deficit the year before and the deficit for 1975 $ 1,000m higher than the 1974 deficit. Mr Lynch and Mr Fraser have found out that the economic method of trying to cut the deficit to deal with inflation just does not work. They cannot do it. I do not expect Mr Lynch or Mr Fraser ever to admit that, or to be guided by their discovery.
Secondly, I look at the money supply. The Treasurer, Mr Lynch, has never stopped shouting accusation at his predecessors of causing inflation by ‘printing money’, or ‘turning on the printing presses’ or borrowing too much. But what has happened about money? We can take the net change in treasury notes and borrowing from the Reserve Bank as a good indication of printing money’; turning on the ‘printing presses’ or borrowing too much. These are the figures for the increase in treasury bills and Reserve Bank borrowings:
For the 12 months to 30 June 1973- treasury bills $ 1 64.6m; Reserve Bank nil.
For the 12 months to 30 June 1974- treasury bills, minus $ 137.8m; Reserve Bank nil.
For the 12 months to 30 June 1975- treasury bills $ 1 ,689. 1 ; Reserve Bank nil.
For the 12 months to 30 June 1976- treasury bills, minus $ 1,6 19.6m; Reserve Bank $l,350m.
But in the 8 months to February 1977 under Mr Lynch and Mr Fraser who are never going to turn on the printing presses, we find Treasury bills amounting to $2, 355. 5m and Reserve Bank borrowings of $ 1,200m. More money was issued in treasury Bills and borrowed from the Reserve Bank in the first 8 months of 1977 by the FraserLynch Government- $3, 555. 5m- than came from those sources in the whole of the 3 years before. Most of it- $ 1,446.3m- under a Labor Government. Well, here it is: as a measure of printing money- $3,555.5m spent in the past 8 months under a Fraser-Lynch Government against $ 1,446.3m of money in 3 years, mostly under Labor. How ridiculous it is to believe that controlling money can be a cure for inflation. The economy must have the money it needs and that money must come from somewhere. It has come from the printing presses far more under Lynch-Fraser in the sense that I have been measuring it than under the preceding Government in more than twice the time.
Thirdly, I refer to the exchange rate. What are called devaluations of the Australian dollar have taken place several times. But it has never been claimed by anybody that they can do more than increase prices and, in fact, each of the devaluations has increased prices. So the 3 economic means that have been used to deal with inflation have failed. The only other economic means that seems to be available to deal with inflation is the one upon which the Fraser Government most relies- force down costs by forcing down wages. But the only way there seems to be to attempt this is for unemployment to increase so that workers will become afraid of losing their jobs and will then be afraid to ask for more money or to support union action for more money. But this is not an economic method. Fear is a social and psychological matter. Government policy designed to deal with inflation by unemployment and by keeping down wages is not just economic; it is social and psychological. It is based on fear. However economic and academic in origin in the Treasury and the Reserve Bank and among economists that policy may be, it will not be treated by the people as economic and academic; it will be treated as social and psychological. It will increase tensions and class divisions. It will divide the nation more and will sow bitterness and class hatred to be reaped in years to come.
The main problems any nation has to solve are not merely economic problems; they are social and psychological problems. Yet governments and the system look only to the economists and men of money to form their policies to deal with them. People have real needs and they are not only for money and for getting on in an acquisitive society. They are also for friendship, cooperation and mutuality. They are for what has been called socialism, no matter how impossible to define that word may be. Inflation, like most other significant problems, can be solved only if friendship, mutuality and co-operation can become significant in the operation of the economic and social system.
The main social and national problems that exists are the result of acquisitiveness, of aggressiveness, of lack of friendship and of lack of cooperation and mutuality. I know the answer to this only too well. All the realistic, practical men will say that this is idealism and that only a fool would take any notice. I think the answer lies in the results. The realists and the practical men are not doing too well in solving national and social problems, are they? The standing of national leaders is not very high and in the case of interjectors it is much lower. National output and income have risen rapidly. There are many more motor cars and television sets. But how valuable are some of the components of that national income and output? It is not the quantity of motor cars or television sets which shows how well national problems are being solved. National problems are not solved in the need for television sets and motor cars; they lie somewhere else entirely. It has been found that nearly 10 per cent of adult people are psychiatrically disturbed. Severe alcohol addiction affects 5 per cent of the people while a much higher percentage is harmfully affected by alcohol. Fifty four per cent of crime is committed by the 13 to 22 years age group. Emotional disturbances affect 12 per cent of children, and for every student who enters a university in New South Wales where a survey was made, an equal number will enter mental hospitals or undergo psychiatric treatment. An equal number will spend some, and in most cases, most of their lives in gaol. Heart disorders, accepted as being strongly associated with emotional factors, cause one in three deaths. Even cancer is coming to be seen as related to stress. There will be a continuing increase in the proportion of children who are alienated and neglected and who become aggressive and criminal as a result. There will be a continuing increase in the number of people over 65 years of age and for them isolation, loneliness and uselessness will increase. More than 10 per cent of older people have been found to be moderately or severely disturbed. These percentages have probably doubled in the past 20 years and will double at a much faster rate. A leading American psychologist, Rollo May, has concluded about America:
There is plenty of evidence that the sense of isolation, the alienation of one ‘s self from the world is suffered not only by people in pathological conditions but by countless ‘normal’ people as well in our own day.
Those who think that this is true only for America must know that Australia is going exactly the same way as America, but is just a little behind. Many people know or sense that their real problems are not economic and can not be put right by more money, motor cars or television sets. They know that the problems are of personal meaning and worth and of social relations with other people.
Let us take violence and the results of violence. Violence in many forms, extending down to what is called licence, permissiveness or a ‘just don’t care attitude’, is a significant and growing part of every community. It haunts every suburb of Sydney and Melbourne as well as most other cities. Violence, like every other form of behaviour, is just not accidental and not able to be understood. Violence is a result of a person’s character structure. Character structure is the result of what happens to children, adolescents and adults. The causes of violence of a criminal and of many national leaders are well established in their character structures by the time they reach adolescence. If we are to prevent the establishment of violence in the character structures of individuals we will need to change the ways in which those individuals who suffer from it are brought up and educated.
The evidence shows that violence and other anti-social behaviour are the result of sensory deprivation, of mistreatment and of repression. It has been shown that violence and other forms of anti-social behaviour do not occur when children are born, brought up and educated in a friendly, supportive atmosphere in which their natural needs can be satisfied in a balanced and an easy manner. Many years ago the Labor movement began from this way of looking at things. From it came certain distinctive values. They were the values of equality, co-operation and mateship, as it was called in Australia. They were the values that lay in the belief that the essential thing was something within each human person, was therefore in everyone irrespective of colour, creed or sex, and was not in some nation, party, church, leader or gods. That was the value of universal equality. Belief in equality lay in the conviction that people are not what they are born. The very best and the very worst character can be given to man, as Robert Owen said 140 years ago, by the way he lives, by the conditions of his life. These values, often shared by other people- there is hardly any religion or philosophy in which most of them are not found- have been diminished or destroyed by the economic industrial society of the last 150 years.
It is said that one cannot win elections with these values; one cannot get on in a party, business, union or newspaper if one has these values. People would think one was a fool if one held these values, let alone tried to practise them. These values have declined because the economic system prevails. It is a system of economic growth, of the pursuit of money and of the measure of everything in money. It is also a system of pollution, of violence, of excessive use of resources, of poverty and of threats to human survival. These are the ruling ideas of the system, and they cross the ideological curtain to a very striking degree. They are wherever industrialism is found.
What are the chances of change? What are the chances of our seeing inflation not as an economic problem but as a social and psychological problem? What are our chances of escaping the acquisitive hegemony of the industrial system? First, I suppose the changes can be brought about by what is called advocacy or evangelism, if one likes, by people taking up the values of equality, co-operation, friendship and mutuality, by working for them and convincing others about them. That should certainly be done. In the Labor movement it is especially unfortunate that so many have given up those values in recent years. One cannot do much by advocacy or evangelism against the tide, as 2000 years of Christianity show how difficult it is to work against the tide. Those values are against the tide. They are against the tide of the industrial hegemony which all of us more or less adopt and practise. If it is true that men are the result of circumstances, of the conditions in which they live, there can be no change until circumstances and conditions change, however, effective advocacy might be. Change is significantly a result only of life experience, and only within that is it influenced by advocacy or evangelism.
Change is taking place. Change is taking place because life experience is changing. Acquisitiveness, violence, permissiveness, pornography, corruption and cynicism are bad and are getting worse. People will reject them because they are bad. People will take up other values, other ways of life, other life styles. Because of this a new culture is emerging- what has been called the emerging person, a new and different person.
Assuming that the values of community, friendship and mutuality are indigenous to the natural needs of the human being- I believe they aresociety will change. New values may be essential for the survival of humanity. They are certainly essential for its progress and happiness. The first requirement is to define them, the second is to fight for them, but, more importantly, the third is to know what determines human behaviour and social change so we can understand what we are trying to do and thereby be more effective in achieving it.
– It is an honour to be speaking in the AddressinReply to Her Majesty the Queen’s Speech to Parliament on the occasion of her silver jubilee. On behalf of all territorians I thank Her and His Royal Highness Prince Philip for their continuing and great interest in Australia. I regret that their schedule does not permit a longer stay in such an important part of Australia as the Northern Territory, especially central Australia where after recent rains the country is in great heart and looks a picture. All that is needed is a bit of a rise in cattle prices. The Speech stated:
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 . . .
Territorians are surely considered to be Australian people, although in view of some of the recent happenings one could not be blamed for wondering whether they are. The Speech also stated:
Measures are being taken to secure the rights of those living in Commonwealth territories.
Later Her Majesty said:
The implementation of Aboriginal land rights legislation is proceeding and my Government will continue to revue the effectiveness of government programs for Aboriginals.
I would like to comment on these aspects of the Speech. I ask Australians who are not territorians to consider carefully the words ‘commitment to increasing the freedom, opportunity and equality of Australian people’. The Northern Territory is a vast area- one-sixth of Australia- from which can come great wealth if it is not utterly stifled in the developmental stage by claims made by factions of the community. It seems that the other parts of Australia do not concede that territorians real Australians, mark you- have the right to real representation in this Parliament. I cite the actions of the governments of Western Australia and Queensland which have challenged that representation. I say that it is narrowminded, bigoted and selfish. I ask those 2 governments to look back in history to their own beginnings and to think again.
To the people of Australia I recall the paragraph of the Speech concerning securing the rights of those living in Commonwealth territories’. I remind them that a referendum will be held to seek approval for territorial voters to vote at future referenda. Some will recall that in the 1968 referendum, which virtually concerned the Territory in that the referendum was in regard to Aborigines, those most concerned were denied a vote. Territorians resent that sort of treatment. On their behalf, I ask all Australians to support that part of the coming referendum proposal which seeks approval for territorial voters to participate in future referenda. I now turn to the part of the Speech which states: my Government will continue to revue the effectiveness of programs for Aboriginals.
There was a storm of protest, firstly when the legislation was introduced by the Labor Party in great haste prior to the 1975 Federal election and later during the framing of the legislation, as in part passed, and more recently when the complementary legislation was introduced by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. First, the original legislation was described by myself and others as the most divisive piece of Northern Territory legislation ever introduced into this place. I now read what the Majority Leader, Dr Letts, had to say. He said:
There are still some deficiencies in the Commonwealth Act which are obvious to those who know something about Aboriginal matters. Unfortunately the views of the Assembly and, in fact most of the people of the Territory, were rarely heeded when the Commonwealth legislation was devised and too aften these views were derided, denigrated or ignored by experts whose expertise stemmed from an academic background.
He also said:
I think it is one of the great tragedies that the Woodward Report never received proper analysis and debate in any Parliament in this country.
Of course we must realise that the Labor Bill and the Bill subsequently introduced by the present Government were based largely on the Woodward report. Dr Letts goes on to say, and I heartily agree with him:
I remember saying at the time that territorians could not live with it. There has been a massive campaign by land councils and others funded by the Government against many of those who in reality know and understand the traditional Aboriginal land owner. The wishes of Aborigines and territorians in respect of land councils and advisers have been ignored. Mr Deputy Speaker, the previous occupant of the Chair agreed that I could incorporate in Hansard a list containing some names of traditional owners of land in the central Australian area.
-I point out to the honourable member that it is not for the occupant of the chair to agree. It is for the House to agree. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted, subject to the usual proviso that the Government Printer is able to reproduce its contents.
-Thank you. I notice that the shadow Minister at the table also has changed. It is now the honourable member for Adelaide ( Mr Hurford).
-He is in a very agreeable mood, though.
– I thank the House. The list contains the names of 8 1 traditional owners of land in the Alice Springs area. It also contains some side notes, one of which I shall read to the House. I will not read the others because they are somewhat political and the House has been good enough to allow me to incorporate the list. But these traditional land owners say:
We Aboriginal people want appoint one land commission -
That is not a land council- and to have Aboriginal man full blood man.
That means they want their own full bloods as against part coloureds and people who work their way in as advisers, legal aid experts and so on. The coloured people whose names appear in the list- many of them are personally known to me- came to my office to give me the list. It was written in pencil on some ordinary writing paper.
As regards this matter of the Government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) not taking the slightest notice of the people who are concerned, I wish to read from a series of transcripts statements which the Aboriginal people made of their own volition when they had the legislation translated into their language and put to them. The replies were taped and translated back into English. I shall read a very short passage. I seek leave to have the document tabled. The statement from which I read concerns Luther Upbutja who comes from Papunyah which is situated to the west of Alice Springs. Luther spoke about how the land council interference is unacceptable. He said:
Nobody can come in here. We are the owners of the land. No one else can come. No land council can come in to take our place. Only the owners of the land should stand up. Other people, land council people, they don’t understand this law about the land, they are just boys, they don’t know about this and that’s why they break this law. He is not the owner of this land.
It was also stated:
These people don’t know the law and they don’t know how to sing the songs. They are ignorant of these things.
There are 18 of these transcripts. They were produced when the legislation was being drafted. As far as I can see from the legislation, not the slightest notice was taken of the wishes of these men, many of whom are traditional leaders or of the eighty-one men who signed the list which I received only a week or so ago.
-Order! I take it that the honourable member is seeking leave to table the papers. Is leave granted for the documents to be tabled? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. So much for the transcripts. But the campaign of completely ignoring the people who have the experience and who know what is going on has continued. There has been denigration of the real experts, This has been a feature of the whole Aboriginal lands affair.
I ask honourable members to listen to what Professor Strehlow said in a letter to the Centralian Advocate of 6 January 1977. He is one of the few men alive who really knows the story of land ownership in the central Australian area. He said:
On my 1975 visit to Alice Springs I listened to the fears of many tribal elders, and carefully looked through the Alice Springs land rights applications sent for my opinion by Mr Eames.
I think that Mr Eames is the legal adviser to the Central Land Council. Professor Strehlow continued:
These revealed no ‘compassion’, but only crass whites greed and ignorance.
He went on to say that it was clear that he must take most of his knowledge with him when he died because he had promised the Aboriginal traditional owners that he would not divulge their secrets. He continued:
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies has long since become the million-dollar dump for anthropological and linguistic trivia and rubbish gathered by modern lightweights.
These are the people who advised the previous government and this Government on the Aboriginal land rights legislation. I believe that Dr Nick Peterson is one of them. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr Ellicott), when referring to the Law Reform Commission, said that Professor Strehlow was one authority whom the Commission would seem to be unwise to disregard in its research. He is a man of tremendous knowledge and experience, but he and various other people in the central Australian area were ignored completely when the legislation was being put together. Professor Strehlow concluded his letter to the Centralian Advocate of 6 January 1977 by saying:
The passing of the N.T. Land Rights Bill in its present form shows how the Territory-born residents, both whites and tribal blacks, are still being treated as fifth-rate colonials by many of the sporting political nobles of all parties in that Australian Versailles which is so insensitive to the hopes and fears of most ordinary Australians- Canberra.
That is a pretty fair rundown of what has really transpired with the construction of the Aboriginal land legislation.
There has been a complete lack of understanding of the Territory situation and of the Aborigines themselves, their claims and their background. The complementary legislation which was provided for in the Federal Act has been put down in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. It has been very strongly criticised. A lot of the criticism has been organised, especially that regarding the 2 kilometres of coastline which it has been claimed should be included in Aboriginal land. If this claim were acceded to 85 per cent of the Northern Territory coastline would become virtually Aboriginal land. What would honourable members and the governments of their states think if 85 per cent of the coastline of their State were virtually locked up and one had to get permission to fish in or to use the area. I know that there are sacred sitesrocks, islets and so on- on the north coast. The people I have spoken to tell me that when the Macassars came to the coast there was no locked up area. The Japanese luggers required no licence to fish. No permission had to be granted to them. Now there is a claim from the Northern Land Council. My advice is that in years gone by the Aborigines have not had a real affinity with the sea. Now people are saying that the dreaming comes with the sunrise across the sea. I have heard people who have lived on the north coast for 40 or 50 years say that that is nonsense. Yet people today are saying that it is so. I am sure no one would deny the Aborigines rights to fish off Maningrida, Croker Island, Goulburn Island or Elcho Island.
– Snake Bay?
-If you wish. To lock up 85 per cent of the coast is unfair and ridiculous. The complementary legislation which the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is introducing is a compromise. A hard line is being taken by direct representation to the Minister. On top of the 96 000 square miles of Aboriginal land which was a Northern Territory reserve but which is now Aboriginal land and the 6 pastoral leases which have an area of 7000 square miles, 45 claims were received by Justice Ward for 62 800 square miles, not counting the claim over the Tanami Desert for 14 600-odd square miles, which adds up to a tremendous amount of the Northern Territory. In actual fact it is 40 per cent of the land of the Northern Territory. I think it is 280 000-odd square miles.
This is the sort of attitude which is being taken towards the people in the Northern Territory by those who put together the Aboriginal land rights legislation and who have pushed it on to the people in the Northern Territory without really consulting them. They have taken the advice of the advisers, not the advice of the Aboriginal people themselves. Under the Department of Aboriginal Affairs Maningrida, which is on the northern coast halfway between Darwin and Gove- there must be many other places with a similar situation- is falling apart. There are 600 people in the settlement and 750 in the bush. The social security cheques of those in the bush are being cashed and they are living on a diet of some food but mostly grog. Only recently 40 cartons of grog came off the boat and went straight bush. They did not go into a store. I am blaming the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for the way it has ridden rough-shod over the Northern Territory.
There should be an investigation and there should be a change. I would also say that the Minister is responsible as well because he is the one who has spearheaded this. He is the one to whom we have appealed and who introduced this legislation. He should be listening to what the Legislative Assembly has to say in its complementary legislation and not accepting willy nilly the hundreds of telegrams giving him the advice of advisers and not the real, true traditional land owners. The whole thing is a scandal and should be investigated.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I find the Address-in-Reply debate an unsatisfactory kind of debate. I find it very odd that we have been called together for 3 weeks in this session of the Parliament and have had such a small amount of legislation placed before us for debate. Nonetheless, I suppose any standard text on Address-on-Reply debates and what the speech from the Throne is always supposed to be about would show that in mid-term the Parliament generally reviews the record of the Government, describes the foundations for its future programs on which it wishes to build and talks about the vision for the nation which the Government has and for which it proposes legislation which it will put to the Parliament during the remainder of the Parliament. Those who preceded me in this debate from the Opposition side have pursued the rather thankless and totally useless task of going through the text of the speech that the Queen was given to read a few weeks ago. In vain they have sought to find in it any description of programs being established, of programs under way, of the vision that this Government holds for the nation, of the directions in which it wants to take this nation for the rest of this century and perhaps into the next century. It is completely free of any such language. The only vision which we have heard in this debate came from the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder), who preceded me in this debate. He at least talked about dreaming, but he talked about a different kind of dreaming altogether.
It is not my style in these kinds of debates to pursue personalities, but I suppose that if the Government is unwilling in a speech of the type about which we are talking now to place before the members of both Houses firm and specific programs which it proposes to put to us during the rest of this Parliament, we have to content ourselves with looking at what it has done in its first 18 months. I emphasise 18 months because this Government has been in power as long as the Tories who come to this Parliament would permit a Labor government to govern without going to the people again. So 18 months ought not to be, in the nature of the way the Government looks at things, merely a mid-term review, but a final and definitive judgment of its stewardship of the nation. So let us look at how well the Government has done. Let us look at each and every one of the ministries and at the way in which the Minister has set the directions of the department of state with which he is charged.
Let us start with the leader of the Governmentthe Prime Minister- who stole his way into power in December 1975 by clamming up and saying nothing, who hoped that by not committing himself on the specifics he would not simply get in with a blank cheque, with a mandate to do whatever came into his head, but in fact to cut and to decimate so many of the programs that the Labor Government during the preceding 3 difficult years had just got started. Let us look at the directions that that man has set for this nation. Each and every one of us in this Parliament receives by courtesy of a service called the ministerial documents service- I interpolate here that that is exactly the kind of information service which was so deplored by honourable members opposite when they were in Opposition- the ministerial statements for the preceding day. The person interjecting is the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). He is talking about a service that the Prime Minister cut off. He cut off the distribution of ministerial statements, which is one of the things that this Government does consistently. I am talking in English so that even the Government Whip will understand me. Constantly in this place he shows nothing but contempt for the immigrants who come to this country and who are struggling to learn English. He exhibits contempt at every turn, out of the side of his mouth -
– I take a point of order.
-What I have just been saying about the honourable member for Bendigo -
-Order! The honourable member for Grayndler will resume his seat. The honourable member for Bendigo is raising a point of order.
– The honourable member for Grayndler ought to withdraw that remark. He has no foundation for it and it is an utter lie.
-Order! The honourable member for Bendigo knows that the term he has used is considered offensive by the House. I ask him to withdraw it.
– Well, ask him to withdraw it.
-If the honourable member for Bendigo found the remarks offensive I must ask the honourable member for Grayndler to withdraw them.
– In response to your direction, Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw. I was talking about the advantage that we all have now of reading the speeches delivered outside the Parliament by the Ministers and the real advantage that we enjoy by having also the speeches of the 4 Opposition leaders. One of the most amusing speeches that we get to read each week is the electoral talk from the Prime Minister. It would double with the speech which the Queen was given to read the other day. It is full of the same cliches. It is full of the same schoolboy rhetoric, suitable for speech days and other such blah occasions. It is the same kind of rhetoric which the Prime Minister so easily spouts but which means absolutely nothing. It is empty talk. Honourable members will remember that the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) asked the Parliamentary Library staff if they would research the Prime Minister’s speeches for cliches. After having gone through one week the Library service staff said that they had to give up, that they had collated so many examples that they were unprepared to go on. What does this kind of empty talk mean?
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) heads a party which he cannot control. The Prime Minister, in relation to the referendum proposals, on which we will be voting on 21 May, has made his position perfectly clear. To date he has been able to keep in line each of the Premiers who belong to the same political party as himself. But the Deputy Prime Minister, who goes out and supports this Government’s policy, is unable to convince the Queensland Government to support the same kind of propositions. If during Labor’s period in office any government headed by the same political party in a State disagreed with the Federal Government it was represented as some kind of calamity. But here we get none of that kind of talk from the Press, which connived in the coming to power of these men. The same person in his capacity as Minister for National Resources is going to preside over the disposition of a priceless national asset- the assets of the Pipeline Authority. He will oppose the development of that facility for the users of all energy in this country, not simply domestic users but also in industry. This is the same man who when in Opposition said that at a stroke the return of a conservative coalition government would see the immediate start-up of new mineral development projects. Where are they? Which Government supporters in this debate have instanced them?
– Duchess Phosphate.
– I am hearing from one of the prime examples of the flotsam that came in at the last election, who is spouting again the slogans on which they were elected. The Government falls completely into 2 categories. These are the old hardened men who do not really believe the rubbish, and they sit to my immediate left. Across on the other side are the people who believe ‘Turn on the Lights’ and such silly slogans.
The third ranking member of the Government is the Treasurer (Mr Lynch ). The Treasurer daily parades here his complete ignorance of economics. He is a man who connived at the grossest form of racism. I do not withdraw that word. He never misses an opportunity in this place to stand up and play ethnic politics at the basest level for the cheapest purposes by decrying the emergence as an economic power in the world of the Arab nations. As far as I am aware the only person who entertained Arab financiers recently in this country was the Treasurer when he was in Opposition. The only government cars in which they ever travelled were government cars booked through the office of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he occupied that position. The Treasurer has never missed an opportunity in this place to use the basest form of racism. It is something that does not do him any credit. It is something that is resented by the more intelligent members of the Jewish community in this country. The Treasurer would do better to own up to the fact that in every Eurodollar offering that the Government has floated in the past year- in a moment I will come to them and say how necessary they are- there has been a significant representation of Arabowned banks. Why should there not be, indeed? Of course there should be.
– Are they the ones who went to breakfast?
-I think that the Whip is still eating his breakfast and talking out of the side of his mouth or at least obscuring what he is saying with that usual gross hand half across his gob.
– At least he was here when it all happened.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am enjoying the interjections relating to the international financing expertise of the Treasurer.
– What do you know about international finances?
– I say to the honourable member who interjects that I dare say I have read more offering circulars and more prospectuses than the Treasurer has seen in his life or been referred to by any third party. He has never read one in his life. The ones issued by this Government are an absolute disgrace and the borrowing policies pursued by this Government are an absolute disgrace because they are borrowing in currencies overseas- in case the honourable member does not know it the Government is borrowing in Swiss francs and Deutschmarks that are not required for our balance of trade purposes. They borrow at excessively high interest rates because we choose to have public offerings instead of private placements, and they are placed back on deposit at lower interest rates with exactly the same persons who have arranged the borrowings for us.
This is an absolute disgrace and it represents an unnecessary charge on the Government revenues and expenditure of tens of millions of dollars which could be avoided. This is from a Government which talks about waste and extravagance. That is waste and extravagance. It is waste and extravagance directed at the beneficiaries who are the Government’s old friends. They are the same bankers who own the companies who pay the finances of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party and who conspire to see that they are returned by foul means back into government in this place.
The fourth ranking member in the Government is the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). I suppose there has been no sorrier spectacle than the division wrought in this country by the opportunistic members of the Country Party or the National Country Party or whatever they call themselves and in addition by the Liberal members representing rural seats. They have driven divisions in this community that are totally unnecessary. For 3 years the fiction was put about -
– The honourable member for Grayndler would not know what a rural area was.
-For 3 years the fiction was put about- especially by the honourable member for Bendigo- that the difficulties being experienced by rural industries and the privations being suffered by persons in remote communities were in some special way the result of the Labor Government action here in Canberra, but of course whenever the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) who is seeking to interject asks these questions of the Minister for Primary Industry at question time he gets the response that now it is all the fault of world trade or the weather. Of course what the Minister for Primary Industry says is in part right. There are world trade cycles. World trade cycles did not start on 11 November 1975. They existed during the preceding 3 years. During that period there were changes in the weather and they had an effect on primary production. The Country Party has been caught out as the fraudulent party that the Labor Party has always maintained it to be.
But what is disgraceful and what these men will carry with them to their graves is the certain knowledge that for short term political expedience they have driven this division into the community; they quite unnecessarily have turned elements in the country area against their fellow citizens in other States and in metropolitan areas. People in country areas are waking up to them, but at what price? Can a nation like this, long endure when men like this for their own narrow purposes make these divisions in the community and when they get into power dash the hopes which they raised so falsely as they certainly knew they would be dashed? It will be of no satisfaction to anybody on this side of the House to know that many of them will disappear after the next election but that will not be good enough. We would much rather have it that this wound had not been opened up by these members of the Government parties who are now so disgraced.
– The greatest division that was ever created in this country was the one between city and country which was caused by your father when he was Prime Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins) Order! The House will come to order. I have tolerated from both sides of the House interjections which, as honourable members know, are disorderly. We have now reached the stage where despite my good hearing I cannot hear what the honourable member for Grayndler is saying. I ask the House to come to order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will not disadvantage you any longer. I shall speak even more clearly. The divisions that the Country Party members and their rural allies in the Liberal Party have wrought in our community will be with us after they have gone from this place. Their action is to be deplored. That kind of thing will no longer, hopefully, deface political life in Australia.
The fifth ranking member of the Government is the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). He is a man who administers, I suppose, one of the laws which is of most concern to most members of this Parliament at the moment, and that is the law concerning the electoral system. The electoral system is something in which this Minister has a long standing interest. His attachment to democratic principle is of course well known. I remember particularly what a colleague of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) who is seeking to interject, Senator Ian Wood, a member of the Government parties, said about this man and his attachment to principle. He said in fact that his motto at the referendums on 2 1 May ought to be: Vote for the hippos’- vote for the hypocrites. That is not something that was said by a Labor person. That is something that was said by a member of the Liberal Party; by a member of the Government parties. He said: ‘Vote for the hippos’. He spelt it with an ‘I’ not a ‘Y’. He meant it was an abbreviation of ‘hypocrite’. He meant that a government that opposed propositions in 1974 and now turned around and supported them for narrow short term political purposes ought to be condemned. Let us contrast that kind of behaviour from a Minister for Administrative Services with the principled support for the propositions by the Labor Party which does not seek such short term political advantage but which exhibits in this House and in the other place a constant attachment to democratic principles.
The sixth ranking member of the Government is the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton). The Minister for Industry and Commerce in alliance with his junior Minister, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard), is turning back the clock in Australiaback on the debate about industry in this country, back on the public debate that was encouraged by the Labor Party. Those Ministers will introduce very shortly disgraceful amendments to the Temporary Assistance Authority legislation which a member of that Authority has indicated are so reprehensible that he will be unable to enforce them or to administer them. He will not in any way go along with this disgraceful Government attempt to subvert open legislation.
To conclude in the half minute remaining to me in this debate, if there is one element of its style which distinguishes the Fraser Government from the Labor Government which preceded it for 3 years, it is its lack of openness, its unwillingness to confront the people of Australia with the facts, its unwillingness to allow independent authorities to make recommendations and to give to the people information on which the Government’s decisions in this country ought to be made. That kind of distinction will eventually bring its downfall.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to engage in a slanging match with the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) but what a gall to speak of lack of openness, to accuse this Government of conspiracy and to talk about this Government’s loan raising activities which have been carried out correctly, publicly and from impeccable sources. How can the honourable member have the gall, speaking from that side of the House, to conveniently forget that infamous occasion on the 1 3
December 1974 when there was a conspiracy, a real conspiracy to bypass the law, allegedly to raise money for temporary purposes. It was a conspiracy to raise for temporary purposes a loan of the order of $4,000m from dubious sources, and through the most dubious intermediaries and in return for that to put this country in hock to the order of$ 19,000m.
I want to address my remarks in the short time available to me in this debate on the Queen’s Speech to the priority of this Government to restore the economy, to bring about lasting recovery and to restore impetus to economic growth and full employment. Of course that is not the only aim of the Government. The Government has pursued and will continue to pursue its program of major social reform. But a healthy and growing economy is a necessary condition for an effective social welfare program. Indeed, reduced inflation and increased employment are part and parcel of such a program. So to restore the economy is the all important aim.
– Tell us how you finished up on the back bench?
-I will not respond to that sort of interjection or the negativism and the gloomy prognostications that we have had from the Labor Opposition in the course of this debate today. I refer to the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). Rather I intend to set out positively what the Government has done and is doing. First and foremost, I stress again that a significant measure of economic recovery has taken place. I do not claim that the economy is booming. The recovery is uneven and there are uncertainties.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-In the House last night I referred to a decision by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) who arbitrarily and dictaatorially announced without any basic reason being given that he had rejected a decision by the Australian
Broadcasting Control Board to grant a high powered radio licence for the north-western metropolitan area of Sydney to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd. I pointed out that an appeal had been made to the High Court of Australia by MetroWest Broadcasters Limited, a principal of which is a Mr Harold Cottee of Cottee fame. I also pointed out that the decision of the Minister was made on 10 March 1977 and that a hearing was to be commenced by the High Court of Australia on 15 March 1977. The Minister is in the chamber tonight; I warned him that I would be bringing up this matter in the adjournment debate tonight. The hearing of the High Court was due to commence on 15 March 1977 but the Minister deliberately made this decision to abrogate and to short circuit the High Court of Australia for fear that there may have been a decision in favour of Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd.
Since I brought this matter up last night further very interesting information has come to my notice. It concerns Mr Harold Cottee. Last night I knew only that he may be connected in some way with the Liberal Party of Australia. Who is this man who, it is alleged, has brought pressure to bear on the Minister to make this decision? He is a Federal councillor of the Liberal Party of Australia. He sits on the Mitchell Federal electorate conference of the Liberal Party of Australia, the area to which the licence refers. He is also a member- this is the allegation- of the Castle Hill Branch of the Liberal Party of Australia, to which area the licence refers. Furthermore- and this would be of great interest to the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman)- he sat on the Hills preselection committee of the Liberal Party of Australia and was its chairman after the death of the late Max Ruddock.
In other words, he is one of the powers to be and of the powers associated with the Liberal Party of Australia and is a member of its Federal Council, or Federal Executive, the policy making body of the organisation, to which the Minister bows. He is also a very great influence in the north-western suburbs of Sydney, the area to which this licence refers. One must ask oneself: What are the pressures being brought to bear on the Minister? One must ask oneself why the Minister is ignoring the interests of the north-western suburbs of Sydney and why he is deliberately abrogating and trying to circumvent the decision of the High Court of Australia. Why is he deliberately making sure that this licence is given to people who are connected with the Liberal Party of Australia? That is the Minister’s intent. The evidence is coming out and the more this issue goes on, he will no longer be able to ignore this question as he did last night.He will have to face up to the House and give his reasons for the rejection of this decision of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I refer tonight to the critical situation facing the Australian beef industry. I believe the continuing low prices together with the weekly variation in those prices is the major problem confronting Australian agriculture and the rural policy credibility of this Government at the present time. In my electorate the 15-month old drought and shortage of irrigation water is forcing thousands of chopper dairy cows and unfinished steers onto the market. These are additional to the thousands of cattle shot in the electorate last year. Confirmation of the unfair price being paid for cattle is shown in the percentage of the final price that the farmer receives for beef. In 1970 the farmer received 6 1 per cent of the final price and in July 1976 he received 37 per cent. Two weeks ago in Adelaide the figure had dropped to 20 per cent. In my home market of Rochester the figure is in the low twenties at the present time. One must be critical of the processors and exporters for not passing on the increased prices due to devaluation and improved markets, but the major reason for the drop in the percentage going to the farmer is the high wages paid in abattoirs and right throughout the system. The processors can claim with some justification that constant strikes and threats of strikes prevents a true return to the producers.
A fair return to the producer would be better for everyone, particularly for the Government, because it would mean increased prosperity in rural Australia and a saving of millions of dollars in reconstruction assistance. I acknowledge the support that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and this Government have given to the beef industry. I emphasise that time is running out for the beef industry and that unless prices improve the Government must intervene. I suggest that Australia should look to New Zealand for 2 possible initiatives for intervention. One is a price smoothing system similar to that introduced by New Zealand last October. We have been told that an objective classification scheme cannot be introduced for several years, but a classification is a prerequisite for a stabilisation scheme. The Minister said yesterday that the New Zealand visual type classification scheme could not be satisfactorily introduced as an interim measure because of certain differences in the New Zealand situation. The Government may have to think again about whether a visual type appraisal scheme can and should be introduced. New Zealand prices are higher and more stable than those in Australia. The present Australian price, as stated by the Minister yesterday, is 50 cents per kilogram for steers. In New Zealand the scheduled price, that is the selling price, this week is 67 cents New Zealand or, converted to Australian values on a 13 per cent differential, 59 cents Australian. That is 59 cents as against 50 cents. For manufacturing beef the price is 42 cents Australian. In New Zealand the price is 53 cents New Zealand or 47 cents Australian. If one takes into account the fact that expenses in New Zealand are about two-thirds of expenses in Australia, one can see the real advantage that the New Zealand producer has over the Australian producer.
Furthermore, although New Zealand prices have dropped slightly they are still higher and more stable than Australian prices. For example, the New Zealand prime beef schedule did not vary for 5 weeks in December and January. In my home market of Rochester the price of an animal in the $50 price range can vary by up to $10 per week. At the present time in Rochester the chopper cow price, or manufacturing price, per kilo is not even 42 cents; it is between 35 cents and 37 cents. This is well below the price of 47 cents a kilo in New Zealand and below even New Zealand minimum prices. If that is not the desired initiative for Australia I suggest we look at direct government intervention by the Australian Meat Board supported by the Government as the New Zealand Government did for the 3 years 1974, 1975 and 1976 and as the Australian government did with wool in 1970-71 and 1971-72 by provision of a deficiency price scheme under which the government paid out to wool growers $52m in 1971-72 and $22m in 1 970-7 1 . The Government must indicate that the industry is worth preserving and must be preserved for the future of Australia and that the Government will intervene if necessary if the market will not return a true living to the beef producers of this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Some time ago I asked questions in this House regarding Laurence Charles Gruzman, Q.C. He challenged me to prove the truth of these allegations regarding his activities on behalf of the Bartons and threatened to take legal action against me if I repeated the allegations outside the Parliament. Unfortunately for Mr Gruzman I am not a man who is afraid to reveal the truth. He tried to bluff me. I will not be moved. Now I propose to prove the truth of my allegations. Firstly, I shall lay on the table of the House a photostat copy of an agreement between Gruzman and the Bartons. It is in Gruzman ‘s own handwriting and signed by the Bartons and initialled by Gruzman. Gruzman is a prominent member of the legal profession in New South Wales, of which the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) is a distinguished member.
On their return to Australia on 8 January 1977 the Bartons prepared and signed an affidavit regarding their association with Gruzman. The first clause stated that they should agree to pay him a fee of $70,000 a year for a period of 1 years to act as their legal adviser. The second clause stated that they should agree to give Gruzman or his nominee an option for 70 000 shares in Intercontinental Corporation Limited for 3 years at a rate a long way below the current market value for Intercontinental. Intercontinental was the real estate and property base for the Barton operations. It included considerable real estate holdings on the Sydney North Shore. The agreement also provided that the Bartons would transfer 150 000 shares in Intercontinental to Gruzman with all the capital required being provided by the Bartons. I suggest that this proves that Gruzman was mainly interested in getting his hands on what he considered to be his share of the loot from the Bartons’ manipulations. I further suggest that it proves that Gruzman was engaged in legal extortion from the Bartons.
Barton said that in May 1973 he met Gruzman who was accompanied by Sir Arthur T. George in Zurich, Switzerland. An amount of $288,000 was transferred by the Bartons to the order of a Swiss bank account named ‘L. Charles, a pilot’. I suggest that this account was the property of Gruzman and that he used part of these proceeds to establish the Merimbula Flying School Ltd and also to bid for the Airfast group, a transaction that was reported in today’s Australian Financial Review. In May 1974 Gruzman, accompanied by another Sydney Queen’s Counsel, Mr L. J. Priestly, visited the Bartons in Brazilia. The Bartons told them that they had decided to return to Australia and face the charges against them.
– I rise on a point of order. I do not intend to take long raising my point of order. I would not do that out of courtesy to my honourable friend. May I inquire whether what he is discussing is now a matter that is in the courts and therefore sub judice?
-I was listening closely to what the honourable member for Hunter said. To this moment he has said nothing that is contrary to the Standing Orders of the House.
-The Bartons told the 2 barristers that they had decided to return to Australia to face the charges against them. They said they gave Gruzman instructions to approach the New South Wales Government. Gruzman said: ‘Stay calm. Don’t get excited’. He told them to await the decision of their Privy Council appeal which would take only two or three weeks. Gruzman made no attempt to contact the New South Wales Government. In January 1976 Barton had a conference in Paraguay with Priestley Q.C. regarding extradition proceedings in that country. The Bartons and Mrs Barton senior have all given evidence that it was Gruzman who gave them the advice to go to Brazil to evade the jurisdiction of the New South Wales law authorities. I suggest that if, as alleged, the Bartons were engaged -
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-i seek the tolerance of the Chair for an extension of time to be granted to the honourable member. He needs only about one minute to complete his speech. The interjections and the point of order reduced his effective time.
-That is not within the province of the Chair; it is the province of the House.
– The Bartons and Mrs Barton -
-Order! Unfortunately under the sessional order there is no provision for an extension of time. An extension of time cannot be granted to the honourable member.
– I raise tonight a matter dealing with the administration of this House. In particular I refer to the poor back-up of clerical and typing facilities which are available to members on both sides of this House. Mr Deputy Speaker I should like you to convey these comments, criticisms and suggestions to Mr Speaker. I do not normally raise matters of an administrative nature in this place. They are of no interest to my constituents. But I believe all of us in this place suffer in the way we represent our constituents by the lack of back-up facilities. As I see the situation at the moment for all back benchers- there are 127 of us minus the ministry and the Opposition front bench- there are 5 dictating machines to be shared amongst all of us. There are 3 official non-party stenographers who can do our representation work and all the typing that is connected with it. In addition to that there are about half a dozen party stenographers, but they are normally required to do typing and clerical work of a political nature. They type our speeches, questions and all other matters of political consequence. The 3 official non-party secretaries are here only 3 days a week and they work only 8 hours a day. So they are not on call for us when we need them. The whole of our representation work is borne by these 3 people and by the 5 dictating machines which we have to share amongst us. We all know that we have a consistent and heavy electoral load to carry in this place. I raise this matter because of the difficulty we have and I had today in getting hold of one of these machines. There are only five to go around so if one is lucky enough to get one when one leaves one’s office to go to the toilet or a committee meeting when one comes back one finds one ‘s machine is gone- someone else needs it.
– Hear, hear!
– I am sorry I took the honourable member’s tonight. This is a serious problem. One cannot have a dictating machine for more than four or five hours a week. I do not think that is good enough. I am not casting any aspersions on the secretaries. They do their work efficiently in difficult circumstances. Even if one is lucky enough to get a machine and to put some letters on tape, if one does that after Tuesday night one is then told by the secretaries that they will not be able to type the letters before one leaves this place and returns to one’s State. That is even a greater problem for those of us who have to go back to Western Australia or to the Northern Territory or to other outposts of this country. We might be lucky enough to get a tape full of correspondence ready for typing finished on a Tuesday night but we cannot have it typed here during the week. If we take it home on Friday we find that our secretaries in our electorate offices already have enough work and they can do the typing only during the weekend. That is not good enough and they cannot be expected to do that all the time. What happens is that we dictate a letter one Tuesday and we bring back the tape with us the following Tuesday. Then, after it has been typed by Wednesday or Thursday, it can go in the mail. Therefore it takes 2 weeks from our initially dealing with the correspondence to that correspondence getting to the constituents. I think that we deserve better. I think that our constituents deserve a better service from us. I think that the expense involved in getting one or two additional non-official party stenographers in this place would be minimal.
Accommodation problems would exist but I cannot see why we could not utilise some of the empty rooms at the Hotel Kurrajong to house these people. We can get the tapes and the letters transferred there quite easily. It appears to me that some of the attendants in this place are not flat out all day every day, and it would not be hard for them to do this kind of messenger work which would enable all of us to do our representation work on behalf of our constituents much more efficiently. Mr Deputy Speaker, I should like you to convey this matter to the Speaker and to ask him whether he can do something about it very urgently.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. You gave a ruling concerning the speech of the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) that the matter was not sub judice. I now give notice to the House that I shall place a motion on the notice paper tomorrow contesting that ruling and seeking a decision of the Speaker as to whether or not the speech of the honourable member for Hunter referred to a case which is in process in our courts of law and which this House may not discuss.
-Order! I call the honourable member for Hunter.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to you and to honourable members of this House because what I am submitting in resuming my speech on the adjournment debate I think would be of deep concern to every Australian. The Bartons and Mrs Barton senior have all given evidence.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point or order. I have now given notice that I wish to place on the notice paper a substantive motion indicating that what the honourable member for Hunter is discussing is sub judice and is under discussion in the courts of this country and therefore may not be discussed by honourable members of this House.
-Order! I point out 2 things in regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Holt. Firstly, I point out to him what I said when I gave the ruling. I said that what the honourable member for Hunter had said was not contrary to our Standing Orders and that is correct. I suggest to the honourable member for Holt that he makes a study of what is and what is not sub judice. Secondly, I point out to the honourable member that he gave notice of the motion for tomorrow. He cannot move that substantive motion this evening. I call the honourable member for Hunter.
– I repeat that the Bartons and Mrs Barton senior have all given evidence that it was Gruzman who gave them the advice to go to Brazil to evade the jurisdiction of the New South Wales law authorities. I suggest that if, as alleged, the Bartons were engaged in a conspiracy, then Gruzman was a very active participant in that conspiracy and should be charged with them. How long must Australians suffer the lack of adequate companies and securities legislationlegislation that would prevent men such as Mr Gruzman, the Bartons and the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) abusing the public trust? Despite the overwhelming evidence of the Masterman report that the honourable member -
-Order! I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that if he has a charge against a member of this House, he knows the forms of the House that should be used in that regard. I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that he withdraw the remarks and the reference to the honourable member for Macarthur.
– I withdraw the words’ ‘abusing the public trust’ and I substitute the words arousing the interest of the public trust’. Despite the overwhelming evidence -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
-If the honourable member for Holt would resume his seat we might be able to get some stability into the proceedings of the House. The honourable member for Hunter knows the reason he was asked to withdraw the remarks concerning the honourable member for Macarthur. I suggest therefore that the honourable member for Hunter also withdraws references to the honourable member for Macarthur in the same strain.
-I withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the Materman report that a member of this House was a member of Patrick Partners when it collapsed, that member continues to deny in this place his liability and complicity.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Hunter is making a further reflection with respect to the honourable member for Macarthur by making a statement which is completely untrue and which the honourable member for Macarthur dealt with in a personal explanation today. My respectful submission is that the honourable member for Hunter is completely out of order. He must be called upon to withdraw his remark.
-Order! In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Denison, the words used at the time by the honourable member for Hunter were to the effect that the honourable member for Macarthur was a member of a certain firm.
– And that is not true.
-It is not within the bounds of the Chair to know whether it is a correct statement or otherwise. In that statement itself and if there is no further reference there is no justification for a withdrawal. If the honourable member for Macarthur feels that there is a personal misrepresentation, when the honourable member for Hunter has finished speaking he has the opportunity to make a personal explanation. But at the moment it is not possible for the Chair to rule on the statement made by the honourable member for Hunter. The honourable member’s time has now expired.
– Remember the Watergate cover-up. You cannot cover up this.
-Order! I suggest that it is not helping this House for interjections or comments to be passed back and forth across the chamber. I suggest also that the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) is completely out of order in that he is not even within the precincts of the chamber. I call the honourable member for Evans.
-The parliamentary system that we have in this country is one of particular pride and privilege to every member who serves in this House. But to see the parliamentary system that has been with us since Federation abused and dragged through the mud constantly and continuously brings contempt upon the House. We, as members of this House, should hang our heads in shame that we allow a colleague to get up in this House not once, not twice, but constantly and use parliamentary privilege to grind defenceless men into the ground. Tonight the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) has chosen to abuse an honourable and a distinguished member of the legal profession, Mr Laurence Gruzman, Q.C, a man whom I have never met. I do not know him other than by name. The honourable member for
Hunter has chosen to use the privilege of Parliament to put this man before the public as being some sort of criminal.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The honourable member for Evans is making an accusation against the honourable member for Hunter. The honourable member for Hunter said that he would table a document which was a statement in writing by Mr Gruzman. If the honourable member wishes to examine that at the moment and if he can find that that document is a false statement, he may have a case against the honourable member for Hunter. But the honourable member for Hunter has offered to table in this Parliament in good faith a statement by Mr Gruzman.
-Order! There is no point of order involved. I call the honourable member for Evans.
– As I said at the outset, Parliament should be used for debates on matters of importance to this nation. I believe that debasing the name of a learned Queen’s Counsel is not correct.
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m. -
– He is a defender of crooks.
– Order! The honourable member for Hunter -
– Did you hear that, Mr Deputy Speaker? The honourable member for Hunter said: ‘He is a defender of crooks ‘.
– That is right. He said that. He said: ‘He is a defender of crooks’.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Chifley that he might have regard to the dignity of this chamber. When the honourable member for Hunter was speaking he asked for leave to table a document. At the end of the speech I did not ask whether leave was granted. I now ask: Is leave granted for the tabling of that document?
-Leave is not granted. I heard the honourable member for Melbourne say that he did not interject when I said that he had interjected from outside the chamber. If he did not interject, I apologise to him. That will stand for one of the times when he interjected and I did not take any action against him.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, if the Minister for Construction does not allow the tabling of that document -
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– I am giving -
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. It is after 1 1 p.m.
– I am giving notice that if the Minister does not -
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition cannot move any motion.
– If the Minister -
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I do not want to take any action against him, particularly at this hour. It will not be of any advantage to either him or the House. It is past 1 1 p.m. -
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence. The request to table the document was made in good faith. It was on the basis that the document would be accepted. There was no objection at that time. If that document is not allowed to be tabled, we in the Opposition will refuse to give leave to the Government for it to carry out certain procedures in this House. This is the issue. I give notice of that. I am asking you to put the question again to the House.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. No individual member has a right to table a paper, except by leave of the House. A Minister can table a paper without leave. A member must have leave to table a paper. Leave was not granted. That is the position.
– I am making it clear -
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat and will remain seated. As no Minister wishes to speak, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770323_reps_30_hor104/>.