30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 Abel, Mr Cadman, Dr Klugman, Mr Uren and Mr Wilson.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of New South Wales Limited, 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 Cadman and Mr Uren.
To the Honourable the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, through Mr Ray Braithwaite, the honourable member for Dawson. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth numbly showeth that the undersigned are deeply concerned:
That abortion is the destruction of innocent human life,
That on 10 May 1973, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected the Medical Practices Clarification Bill, which sought to legalise abortion on demand in the Territories controlled by the Federal Government,
That the Legislative Assembly in Canberra should consult Parliament again before discussing and debating the opening and operations of Population Services International and Preterm Foundation in Canberra,
That the situation regarding abortions in the Australian Capital Territory is the same as that in New South Wales where the statute prohibits abortion but allows a defence,
That the situation in the Australian Capital Territory has a great impact on situations in the States.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray :
That the Federal Government will act immediately to prevent the establishment and/or operation of Population Services International and Preterm Foundation, and other private clinics, in the Australian Capital Territory,
That taxpayers’ money may not be used, through Medibank, to finance abortions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Fraser in the Australian Capital Territory respectfully showeth:
That we are deeply concerned at the threat to the Health Centres Program in the Australian Capital Territory posed by a lack of funding and the decision not to replace salaried medical practitioners who leave the Health Service for whatever reason.
We believe that the Government should not allow any diminution in the concept of health care in the A.C.T. as originally proposed. We believe that the A.C.T. ‘s unique health care system should not be destroyed by either deliberate political action or by a process of neglect and starvation of funds.
We believe that the Government should advise people of their role in the management of Health Centres and take steps to see that community awareness of the original program be again promulgated throughout the A.C.T.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government, as a matter of urgency, bring the level of staffing at Kippax Health Centre, Holt, A.C.T. back to its original three salaried medical practitioners and those of other Health Centres in the A.C.T. back to their original planned numbers.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
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 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 existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray:
That in relation to early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned children of Highbury Primary School South Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray, that we believe that no one should dump nuclear waste near Australia ‘s lovely land-mark, Ayers Rock.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– Did the Prime Minister, just before the Premiers Conference last week, receive from Treasury and other official sources advice to the effect that inflation and unemployment would get worse? Was that one of the reasons for embracing the smokescreen proposal of a wages and prices freeze? Finally, will the Prime Minister tell the House what measures the Government intends to take to reduce unemployment and inflation?
– I know quite well that the honourable gentleman’s remedy for the matters to which he refers would be to spend more of taxpayers funds or to run the printing presses faster. Indeed, that was the remedy that was tried when the honourable gentleman was in office. In 1974-75, when government expenditure went up by 46 per cent in one year, unemployment increased to approaching 200 000 in that one year. Honourable gentlemen need to understand that it is not possible for governments to go on absorbing a larger and larger proportion of the real resources of this country and to expect to have a healthy economy which can provide employment for those who want to work. The Government’s economic policies are pre-eminently directed towards re- establishing full economic health in the private sector so that there will be jobs for those in Australia who want to work.
– My question which is addressed to the Prime Minister is almost supplementary to the question just asked. I refer to the prices and incomes pause and the fact that it seems to be almost pointless to call a national conference -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will cease commenting and ask the question.
– My question is: In view of the remarks by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, widely published today, can the Prime Minister say why the Government believes that there is now no point in calling a national conference in relation to the prices and incomes pause?
– If a national conference is to be successful I believe there has to be a major commitment by all of those who would be participating in its particular objectives. There can well be a danger, with 7 governments and with employers and employees, that if people were not to attend a national conference with a common commitment, that conference could turn into little more than a theatrical exercise. It does require all participants to agree with the objectives and to be willing to contribute to the success of the proposed pause- in this case a pause in prices and wages.
So far, the only suggestion from the Australian Council of Trade Unions, for example, is that there ought to be a Commonwealth tax cut, in return for which it would consider calling a further conference of its own. In spite of the fact that we tried on a number of occasions to achieve either a commitment on behalf of organisations, or, if that was not possible, a personal commitment in principle in line with the objectives of the heads of government agreement, we were not able to obtain that commitment from members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or from the majority of the other people at the discussion that took place yesterday. Against that background we could see no good purpose in pursuing the national conference.
I pointed out last night how tax cuts of $1.5 billion or more would have been needed to compensate for the last quarterly increase in wages. On that basis we would very soon trade off all the Commonwealth’s revenue, and that is obviously a financially irresponsible matter to pursue or to propose. I do not believe that proposals related to indirect taxes would have any greater chance of success or viability, largely for similar reasons. We were not in the position in which all participants were in agreement. I think that is sad and tragic for Australia because there is obviously an overwhelming wish throughout the Australian community that the wage-price freeze be successful. But, as we have all pointed out, that would need a commitment on the part of all Australians. As far as I can see the only people who do not have that commitment are some gentlemen sitting behind the Leader of the Opposition, but not the Leader of the Opposition himself, and some trade union leaders. I am quite certain that if they made reference to their own members- their own constituent parts- they would find there was that commitment. I believe that this morning’s reports of yesterday’s events have left an enormous feeling of disappointment throughout Australia at the intransigence and unwillingness even to accept the objectives of a wage-price freeze in principle. We made it quite plain that if the participants were prepared to accept that proposal in principle and as an objective, the national conference would be called. They were not prepared to agree under those circumstances.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Did he say last Thursday that it was not possible to apply price restraint to perishable foodstuffs such as fish and vegetables, that it is impossible to determine a minimum or maximum price for produce sold at auction and that it would be difficult to apply a freeze to products which have a seasonal availability? In view of the Prime Minister’s assurance when asked specifically about this matter 2 days ago that there ought to be no exceptions to the freeze, and the Prime Minister’s further assertion that the policy was stated for the whole Government, I ask the Minister: Has he approached primary producers’ organisations and marketing boards to seek their co-operation with the freeze? What proposals has he put to them? What has been their response and what will be its effect on the prices of the very large range of household foodstuffs and processed products involved?
– I am disappointed, knowing the degree to which the Leader of the Opposition is normally most assiduous in reading Hansard, that if he did not listen to my answer yesterday he did not at least read it in Hansard. I replied yesterday to the question that he has just now asked and said in effect that I do believe it will be very difficult in a number of areas for price restraints to apply. It is because the Government believes it will be difficult that it suggested that a committee, which would be able to oversee price restraint, should be constituted. Through that committee it would be possible for individual citizens, consumers or even the Leader of the Opposition to make complaints or to establish a different procedure. Even the honourable member for Port Adelaide, who seeks to interject, could do so although he seems most critical of efforts being made in terms of price restraint. Through this committee it would be possible for individuals to suggest ways by which a price level might be determined.
I believe that it will be most difficult in a number of areas, but the Government does not shy from devising ways by which price levels might be maintained. On the other side of the ledger, I hope that the same measure of persistence might be pursued by the Leader of the Opposition in seeking to achieve from the President of his own Party and others in the trade union movement a determined effort to achieve a way by which wages can be restrained also. In terms of correspondence to organisations and approaches made to organisations, my colleague the Prime Minister has already announced the extent to which and the numbers of people with whom direct contact has been made to seek their co-operation in what the Government hoped would be a national price and wage freeze.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I ask whether his attention has been drawn to an announcement by a major motor company increasing the prices for certain of its motor vehicles. Is this action in conformity with the general response of the business community to the call by State and Federal governments for a price and wage freeze?
– My attention has been drawn to a statement made by the managing director of the Leyland Motor Company announcing price increases effective as from last Friday. I should make it very clear that the Government deeply deplores the action of that company and particularly deplores the truculent attitude of the managing director of the company when the statement was made. Equally, I should make it very plain to those honourable members on this side of the House who are still very interested in the success of this venture that the Government applauds the reported attitude of Bryson Industries, the company which is the principal distributor of the motor cars in question, that it does not intend to pass on the price increases announced by the Leyland company.
I think the behaviour of the Leyland company and its managing director in this matter is starkly out of step with the general response of the Australian business community. The truth of the matter is that very many companies throughout Australia have freely and generously, at some considerable cost to themselves, responded to the Government’s call for price restraint. That, I think, makes all the more blameworthy the conduct of a company which in the past, as honourable members opposite would know, has not been ungenerously treated by Australian governments. The Government is particularly disturbed at the action of the company and at the manner in which the managing director saw fit to make the announcement. It was suggested in one of the Press articles that the company’s application for price increases did not come within the surveillance of the Prices Justification Tribunal because of the prices of the vehicles involved. This company did have an exemption from notification from the Prices Justification Tribunal on account of the low volume of sales and not on account of prices.
There is another matter that I think is relevant in this context. Honourable gentlemen ought to be aware that under the Prices Justification Tribunal Act as it presently exists there is a power under section 17 for the Minister to direct the Tribunal to conduct an inquiry into the prices charged by particular companies for the whole or part of their product range. This power, if exercised, means that for the duration of the inquiry the company is not permitted to make any price increases at all. This power has been used by the Government on several occasions. It is the power that was used in respect of the inquiries I ordered into the pricing of farm machinery and motor vehicle spare parts. I should also point out to honourable gentlemen, that, as was apparent from the decisions of the Prices Justification Tribunal in respect of inquiries into stevedoring and container charges, the Tribunal has the capacity, having completed its inquiry, to request a price reduction. That is precisely what occurred in respect of Seatainers Terminals Ltd and in respect of the Patrick company. I think it is important that that power be borne in mind by all parties in present circumstances.
-I ask the Prime Minister: In view of the fact that prices are determined by employers and wages are determined by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and employers, exactly how much say will trade unions have in the wage-price freeze? If he is so confident that -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will not argue the issue; he will ask the question.
– If the Prime Minister is so confident that both employers and employees will benefit equally from the wage-price freeze, will he assure the trade union movement that the Government will argue at future national wage case hearings that if the consumer price index indicates that prices have risen then an increase in wages equal to that prices increase will be granted retrospectively?
– I think that it ought to be understood that there are considerable powers in the Prices Justification Tribunal Act. My colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has just pointed out to this House, and to a wider audience outside I would hope, the powers that are available to the Government and to the Tribunal. We suggested that there should be a committee with representatives of the Prices Justification Tribunal, employers and employees on it to help survey the prices pause. This would give the union movement, employees, the opportunity of significant input into what was done because it would be open to that committee directly to recommend to government certain actions it indicated- even actions suggesting the amendment of the Prices Justification Tribunal Act. Obviously, with the power that the Minister has just outlined to the House, this committee would have a significant role in suggesting that inquiries should be held in one area or another if it wanted to exercise its position in that way. But this of course was one of the things which the Government had in mind in suggesting that the committee ought to be established.
I should like to point out that not all wages are established by the Arbitration Commission. There have been attempts to go outside that Commission, as honourable gentlemen know. I believe that the Arbitration Commission in any determinations that it makes in a situation where government had been pursuing a price pause and wage pause would need to take into account to a significant extent the degree of compliance in the prices area. One would not expect an arbitration commission or anyone involved in the wages area to make decisions unrelated to compliance in the prices area. I would have thought the Commission is well able to make competent judgments in that matter.
– What about retrospectivity?
– I think the question of retrospectivity can apply in more than one direction. One of the things that we have said is that once into a price freeze and a wage freeze people would obviously be asking: What happens at the end of 3 months? We had proposed that the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Committee which we have suggested be attached to it, and the Arbitration Commission would all be able to make constructive and useful suggestions about a fair and equitable transition beyond the end of 3 months. But it was a question of getting into the pause in the first instance. We have not yet by any means given up hope in that particular matter. We believe that there is a very real wish throughout the wider Australian community and we hope that it will be possible through the avenues open in the Arbitration Commission to explore the real possibility of a fair relationship between the prices pause which is in place and a situation in relation to wages that we hope can be established.
-Can the Treasurer say whether the Victorian Premier has sought reductions in sales tax in the context of the proposed prices and incomes pause? If the Victorian Premier has done so, will the Treasurer tell the House what the Commonwealth ‘s reaction has been?
– It is a fact- and I confirm this to the House- that the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, did raise with the Prime Minister and myself privately outside the Premiers Conference last week the possibility of reductions in sales tax being made by the Commonwealth as part of a prices-incomes pause. As I mentioned, that suggestion was made outside the Premiers Conference. The difficulties and impracticability of reductions in sales tax at the present time were explained then to the Victorian Premier and, in the event, the matter was not put formally by the Premier to the Premiers Conference. Let me be quite firm and clear in saying that the Commonwealth does not intend to pursue this proposition. Cuts in sales tax, without offsetting expenditure reductions, would of course add very significantly to the Budget deficit and, as a consequence, would create very serious problems for monetary management. As I have said to the House on several prior occasions, some idea of the cost which is involved can be drawn from the fact that it would take some $400m in indirect tax cuts to reduce the rate of inflation by a single percentage point.
Quite apart from the sheer economic impracticability of the proposal, I point out that the Government, as it has made clear on earlier occasions, intends to give first priority to reductions in the burden of the rates of personal income tax. It is of course- and I place some stress on this point- open to the Premiers themselves to reduce the rates of State indirect taxes or to forgo a proportion of their State tax sharing entitlement to offset the cost of any reductions in sales tax by the Commonwealth. If Victoria or any other State believes that reductions in indirect taxes are essential to underpin a pricesincomes pause, it has the direct capacity to undertake the necessary arrangements in its own jurisdiction.
– I address my question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The April issue of the Survey of Manufacturing Activity, when referring to the previous quarter, states:
A further fall in employment and continuing rises in productivity were reported.
Would this not mean that there has been a fall in the wage factor in costs during that period and a potential increase in profits, which is continuing now? Therefore, in the face of those developments, would not any suggestion that wages should be frozen mean that the wage earners of Australia are to carry the burden of readjustments in the economy and that their standard of living will be decreasing? How on earth can the Government expect rational, commonsense people to fall for that proposition?
-I think that the honourable gentleman’s question, if we boil it down, calls into question both the relevance and the value of the proposal made by the Prime Minister and the Premiers last week. The honourable gentleman is entitled to take the cynical view that there is no value in the proposal, but that was not the view taken by the 6 Premiers and the Prime Minister last week. I suggest to the honourable gentleman that it is not the view that is shared widely throughout the community. The fact is that, on the best information available to the Government, there was a real increase in net disposable incomes in Australia for the December period of last year. I believe that there is value and relevance in the proposal. I regret very much that the honourable gentleman does not accept that.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry confirm reports that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has just revised its forecast of income per farm for 1976-77 to $200 a week compared with its December 1976 forecast of $169 a week and its September 1976 forecast of $126 a week? Can the Minister say how much of this substantial improvement is due to action taken by the Government in the past year to assist primary producers?
-I do not know that I can quantify the benefit, but it is quite true that the BAE has just released its latest assessment of trends in Australian agricultural commodities and, as the honourable gentleman’s question indicates, has revised upwards the estimate of returns to farmers. I think it is important, however, that the members of this House and the community at large realise how low that return still is. It is certainly true that it has been lifted to an average of $200 a week. But that is not peculiarly for the farmer’s labour. It also takes into account a return on his investment and his managerial skills, both of which in normal circumstances are given some significant justification for the return. It is equally important to recognise that in so many areas in which a person is in receipt of wages alone he receives about that sum. Indeed, average weekly earnings are not far below that figure.
The third factor is that it is important, I think, to recognise the benefits of the steps that have been taken by this Government over the course of the last 18 months, which have certainly been significant in improving that position. There is no need for me to list them, but it is true that the lift in the first payment for wheat, the benefits of devaluation, the raising of the floor price for wool, the improvement in the market access for beef, the underwriting of the dairy industry and the stabilisation assistance given to a range of industries have all played a part in these improved returns. This Government, in quite marked contrast to its predecessor, has provided a significant measure of government help which at least is helping to bring the income of primary producers to something in line with those in the rest of the community.
Finally let me say, however, that the farmers still are concerned, as everybody else is concerned, with the level of prices and the price escalations in the community. It is for that reason that I am quite sure that, to the maximum, they will be prepared to get behind the price-wage freeze if it still has a chance of going. One would only hope that the members of the Opposition and the trade union movement will still give it a chance to get going.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. In the interests of proper national debate will the Treasurer table the advisings that he received from his Department in respect of the proposed wage-price freeze?
-The honourable gentleman really is being quite ridiculous about this matter. I have seen certain references in the Press to suggestions made by the Permanent Head of the Federal Treasury in a meeting outside the Premiers ‘ Conference. I suggest that the honourable gentleman direct his attention to those comments. Of course, I do not confirm or deny matters that are confidential, but if the honourable gentleman reads those comments he will be better informed.
-I ask the Treasurer a question concerning the thickness of 10c coins. I have before me 2 piles of coins, each to the value of $4 and both of which were obtained by me from the Parliament House Post Office. I sorted these coins into 2 lots- one of 10c coins minted before 1972 and the other of coins minted after 1972. The Treasurer will see that if these stacks to the value of $4 are placed side by side the coins minted after 1972 are not as high a stack as those minted before 1972. There are a lot of comments about the Labor Government causing this, but in the post- 1972 stack one needs coins to the value of $4.10 to equal the height of the pre- 1972 stack. Can the Treasurer supply me with a reason for this? Have standards at the Royal Australian Mint changed? Is the same amount of silver and nickel used in minting post- 1972 coins as was used prior to 1972? In other words, has the missing silver and nickel been used to fund the deficit? Why are the coins shrinking and where has the money gone?
-I must say that after the other questions this morning the honourable gentleman really poses a question of some light relief. Clearly, honourable gentlemen on both sides of the House will understand that I will find it very difficult to satisfy the concerns of the honourable gentleman. I simply remind him without going into party politics that the debauching of the currency, including coins as well as notes, obviously is entirely attributable to the activities and policies of the former Administration. But in a more serious way, let me say that the weight and -
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. If the Minister attributes the size of coins to any administration he might tell us what happened to the original 50c coins which were changed under a former Liberal Government.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The weight and size of coins are governed by currency regulations. I am informed that they have not been changed since decimal currency was introduced in 1966, apart from the denominations being expressed in metric units. These regulations specify for each denomination a standard weight with a maximum tolerance, a maximum diameter and a maximum thickness. As in any manufacturing process involving large scale production, some minor variation must occur in one or other of the characteristics of the product. The minting of coins is essentially a manufacturing process. I am informed- and I believe the advice available to me- that the Mint at all times operates within the prescribed parameters. Finally, I have been assured by the Controller of the Mint that in producing the large quantity of coins required annually -
– They reduce in size when they are frozen.
-I would like to put you in the deep freeze; that is for sure. May I repeat what I was saying: I have been assured by the Controller of the Mint that in producing the large quantity of coins required annually- some 500 million- he could not reduce the minor variations in the thickness of coins.
-Perhaps the Treasurer could shrink his answer a little.
-I will do that. The Controller cannot do that while meeting the other prescribed size and weight requirements and minting a well struck coin.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he recalls that, prior to the Whitlam Government’s referendum proposals on price control in 1973, he stated publicly:
Price controls . . . would inhibit growth, enterprise and private initiative. Such controls would do much to hamper the economy. They will stop the initiative of small industries and will probably gravely damage decentralisation.
Does the right honourable gentleman still hold to that view?
-What was said then was in the face of the then Government’s seeking arbitary powers. What was proposed recently with the agreement of all Premiers and the Commonwealth was something of a quite different character. In relation to that, I think it is appropriate that people’s views should have changed from the views they expressed on that referendum. I regret very deeply indeed, as I am sure the whole community regrets, that the ACTU has not also altered its view.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Will the Federal Government approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and if so when, to try to preserve the wage-price halt agreed to last week by the heads of government and rejected yesterday by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and other official union bodies?
-The Government is awaiting the response of the State Premiers. Three have indicated their support for the Federal Government and one Labor Premier has rejected the proposal. But whatever the results of this approach, it is nothing short of a national tragedy that Australian union leaders yesterday let down their members by ignoring the overwhelming weight of public opinion in support of the wageprice pause. The Government had hoped that the public enthusiasm for the heads of government agreement for a voluntary wage-price pause would have changed the attitude of the official union leadership from that expressed in 1973. Regrettably that has not been so and if the Federal Government is not successful in its efforts to preserve the agreement the losers will be the people of Australia, including the people whom the union leaders claim to represent.
-The Government has determined that adjustments to wages which are part of existing agreements and awards ought to be made- that incremental payments under existing awards ought to be made. It is my understanding that that would certainly cover the lead bonus. I think that the honourable gentleman is right to point to the record of industrial relations at Broken Hill. There are many unique characteristics about the industrial and commercial relationships in that area and they have many attributes which can be highly praised, no doubt largely due to the honourable gentleman’s representations.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Defence and preface it by drawing to the Minister’s attention 2 items on the radio program AM this week concerning 2 American magazines. One magazine called Assassin- The Secret World of the Killer Elite, asks readers to work out how they would kill the American President and gives instructions and ingredients for the construction of a nuclear bomb. The other is a do-it-yourself urban guerrilla book. I ask the Minister: If the life of an Australian Prime Minister, political leader or head of State was in danger from assassins, if an Australian Prime Minister, political leader or head of state -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is being very hypothetical.
– You will hear the purpose of this, Mr Speaker. If an Australian Prime Minister, political leader or head of state was held hostage by a terrorist or guerrilla group; if any establishment such as the Lucas Heights atomic reactor was threatened by nuclear terrorists -
-Order! I draw the attention of the honourable gentleman to the fact that his question is hypothetical. If he does not put his question directly, I will rule him out of order.
-I ask the Minister: Would the Australian defence forces have a specialised unit trained, equipped and available at short notice to protect such persons and establishments? If not, will the Minister consider urgently the creation of such a unit?
– The honourable member for Evans asks a very thought provoking question. The first observation I would make is that the orthodox protection of individuals, Prime Ministers, or ordinary citizens against attacks such as he adverts to is primarily a responsibility of the civil power. But taking the honourable gentleman’s wider question, namely the issue of terrorism, he raises what is regrettably today one of the most frightening and perplexing problems which faces the Western world. Terrorism does not follow any orthodox ways. The problem that it poses to a civilised society is very grave. It is a particularly difficult problem for a federal system of government. The Commonwealth has a clear responsibility to protect the States against invasion and also to assist the States against domestic violence. But before the Commonwealth can move to assist the States against domestic violence, there must be a request from the executive government of the State concerned. Plainly, the honourable gentleman and the House will see at a glance that very difficult and technical problems are involved. I can assure the House and the country that this matter has received and will continue to receive the most earnest attention of the Government.
I excuse myself from saying in particular what has been done. But the Chiefs of Staff Committee, acting in co-operation with advisers from the Attorney-General’s Department and from the Department of my colleague, the Minister for Administrative Services, has ensured that such steps as would appear to be adequate have been taken. Doctrines and techniques have been developed. While this country to date has been spared any terrorist attacks, regrettably no such guarantee can be given as to the future. I can assure the honourable gentleman that within all reasonable limits every precaution has been taken. Such precautions will continue to be taken and to be refined.
-The Prime Minister will remember that at question time on Tuesday, in answer to a question about exemptions from the price freeze for perishables and for companies canning fruit and vegetables, wholesalers distributing them and retailers selling them, he asserted the broad view of the Government that there ought to be no exceptions. I recall that last night he said that immediately after the Premiers Conference messages were sent to over 200 major employer, employee, professional and community groups. I ask the Prime Minister: Were primary producer organisations and marketing boards among the groups to whom he sent those messages? If so, with which of them has the Government discussed the proposal to establish a committee to look at ways of applying and maintaining a voluntary price freeze? In that case, what responses have been received from them?
– If my memory is correct, a number of primary industry organisations have supported the Government’s wageprice approach and the approach of the Premiers. I will, in fact, get the list of people who were contacted in that telex and table it so that honourable members may see it. I add also that representatives of primary industry were at the meeting of the employer organisations that was held last week.
– Can the Minister for Health indicate whether Australia faces any risk of an outbreak of blue tongue virus, which would have dire consequences for the sheep industry? What quarantine and veterinary precautions have been taken to guard against this disease?
– The honourable member for Calare would well know that Australia runs a constant risk of the entry of blue tongue virus and foot and mouth disease. This is a matter of constant worry to sheep and live stock breeders in Australia. Australia has had a very good record in respect of keeping such diseases from entering this country. It has achieved that record by strict surveillance through quarantine processes in this country. Blue tongue virus, of course, has never occurred in this country. We have decided that, in the event of blue tongue ever occurring, we should have vaccines available in an effort to overcome and to counter the problem. Last year I arranged with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to send a number of officers to one of the research institutes in South Africa. Those officers returned to Australia with 14 purified strains of blue tongue which are now stored in the high security laboratory at the Melbourne headquarters of Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. They will not be used for any other purpose than to be kept for the purpose of manufacturing vaccines in the event of an outbreak of the virus in this country. Our aim is to ensure that, if an outbreak does occur, we will have immediately available the pure strains of blue tongue vaccine which will be necessary to try to overcome the problem as quickly as possible. I take the opportunity to say also that we are continuing to enforce the strictest rules and regulations in respect of quarantine generally, because if blue tongue or foot and mouth disease were to enter Australia this would spell disaster for the economy and for whole sections of the Australian community.
– I ask the Treasurer: What are the cost calculations carried out by Treasury in relation to revenue collections forgone and additional outlays necessary if the prices freeze were to be implemented. I refer, for instance, to outlays- this is only one of the many instances that could be cited- to cover deficits on the trading operations of public instrumentalities such as the Milk Authority of the Australian Capital Territory. What effect would those costs have on the deficit?
– I find it absolutely curious that the honourable member should be interested in the impact on the deficit when in fact he will remember that under his own hapless administration the deficit was looming at $5 billion when we came into power. It was only as a consequence of very firm management procedures introduced by this Government that that deficit was subsequently substantially reduced. Of course, the income-prices freeze will have an impact upon the Budget process, upon revenue items, and on the question of revenue forgone, as was mentioned by the honourable gentleman. But the impact upon the Budget will be more than matched, more than overcome, by the breakthrough which the heads of government agreement has in fact provided. The honourable gentleman and others of his type on the other side of the House have been involved in recent days in that form of critical examination which has been designed to be destructive and not constructive and which has been designed to seek to offset what in fact has been a great move by Australians everywhere, including the trade union movement and presumably some of those people who voted for the honourable gentleman. I suggest to the honourable gentleman who, in particular, has a capacity in this House and outside it to provide some semblance of national leadership and in fact who is seeking to do so at the present time through the Australian Labor Party -
-Order! I suggest that the Treasurer’s answer should be relevant to the question and that he should not deal with the personality of the questioner.
– I thank you, Mr Speaker. I am simply suggesting to the honourable gentleman that his question is one of a series of questions which honourable gentlemen opposite have raised this week and which have been designed not to support, to assist or to aid a great national appeal but designed simply to destroy, to sabotage, and to back some members of the militant sections of the trade union movement and those Labor Premiers who have sought to welsh on an agreement.
– My question which I direct to the Prime Minister concerns the circumstances of the freeze and the Government’s case to be presented to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. If, as alleged, only details of the case account for the submission not receiving the support of State Labor governments, has the Prime Minister received any indication that the governments of New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania will intervene in similar manner, and with their own emphasis on detail, before their own arbitration tribunals and wages boards? Have those governments given any indication that their State tribunals will be asked to accept a lead given by the Arbitration Commission?
-Those governments have given no such indication, but the Commonwealth at this point is in contact with the State governments. We have had support from a number of States in relation to the broad thrust of what we would wish to put to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. At the same time we are still in communication with other States and we would hope to be able to attract even greater support for the views we would be expressing. I think therefore that it would not be appropriate to canvass further the nature of the Commonwealth’s submission to the Arbitration Commission pending communications that I hope will be passing back and forth between the States and the Commonwealth. Just as on a previous occasion we sought to get the maximum degree of support for what we would be putting to the Arbitration Commission and therefore sent the States a copy of our submission and modified it in the light of their reactions, so too on this occasion we would want to achieve maximum support for what we were putting and take into account the views of the States. I have been assured of support for the Commonwealth’s view by a number of States. One or two States have asked questions. So communication is continuing.
I might add that we will put it to the States that any decision or attitude of the Arbitration Commission is one that they might suggest should be followed by their own tribunals. I think the honourable member has made a constructive suggestion in this respect.
– I ask the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whether a price freeze, if implemented, would mean that prices would be held for the next 90 days and that a wage freeze, if implemented, would mean that wages would not be adjusted for price movements that had already occurred over the last 90 days?
-The honourable gentleman raises a proposition that has been argued in the context of this current debate. In examining the proposition and in responding to the question I do not think we can chop off the proposition just at a consideration of the factual consequences -
– You are as bad as the Treasurer.
– I am trying to answer the honourable member’s question in a direct manner. I hope that I will be given the opportunity to do so. The question was asked seriously by a person who behaves courteously in this House, unlike the honourable member who has just interjected. I do not believe that we can cut off an examinaton of that type of question just in respect of prices for the period of 90 days or wages for the period of 90 days covering the freeze. Whilst there is substance in what the honourable gentleman has said, there is also substance in the proposition that those prices which are reflected subsequently in wage increases have in turn been caused by wage and other cost movements that occurred at an earlier period of time. I believe that if there is to be consideration of the type of proposition the honourable gentleman has raised, it is equally fair to look back over a period of time in respect of wage and price movements. As has been said in response to similar questions asked by the honourable gentleman, I do not think it is fair to leave out of consideration of this whole issue the extent to which wage movements in Australia during the years 1973 and 1974 represented, on an annual basis, the type of increases that were attributable normally to that previous period.
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to be relevant to the question.
– With all respect, Mr Speaker, I have been asked a question about the consequences in the interrelationship of a price and wage freeze and I think it is highly relevant to talk about the impact of wage increases on price movements in Australia. Whilst I accept the relevance of the question asked by the honourable gentleman, I do not think a total and fair examination can be made unless one also takes into account the relevance of wage and price movements over a considerably greater period of time than the period of the 90-day proposed freeze.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does he recall writing to me on 7 April intimating that expenditure of $3869m in his Budget estimates for this year might reasonably be termed as being for capital purposes? Was this whole amount included in his estimates of expenditure, which led up to his estimate of a deficit of $2,608m? Does he recall that in making this estimate of a deficit he did not credit loan raisings for capital purposes? Is it a fact that, because of the terms of the Financial Agreement, the Commonwealth borrows money for State capital works programs and then transfers these loan proceeds to the States? In his Budget estimates, did he include the State capital works programs as a Commonwealth Budget expenditure without any offset in credit for the proceeds of loans raised on behalf of the States, so that State capital expenditures appear as part of the Commonwealth deficit?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will now ask his question.
- Mr Speaker, they are all questions. These are somewhat complicated matters and therefore I ask finally: In order to clear up these facts in the minds of the Australian public, would the Treasurer be willing to discuss them with me on television if arrangements could be made at some future date?
– The answer to the first question is yes. The answer to the second question is yes. The answer to the third question is yes. The answer to the fourth question is yes and the answer to the fifth question is yes. There the harmony dissipates and I must say to the honourable gentleman that as much as I would like to have discussions with him in public or in private, I think the matters which he would seek to raise with me as Treasurer would be those that might be discussed at that luncheon which I offered the honourable gentleman quite some time ago. I am not sure whether that opportunity was not taken up by him or by me, but I suggest that we might, in fact, discuss those matters on a personal basis.
What the honourable gentleman really is saying in relation to these matters is, of course, a charge which he has made before. That concerns the accuracy of the presentation of the Budget accounts which, of course, must comprehend the question of capital as well as recurrent expenditure. The Budget accounts in this country are based on recommendations of the United
Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and are consistent with overseas practice. I have rejected the suggestions made by the honourable gentleman before. I am quite happy to discuss them with him but on this occasion in this House I reject them again because they tend to represent no more than a type of camouflage by those who would seek additional spending by the Commonwealth Budget but at the same time are unprepared to see that reflected in the way in which it ought to be reflected. A quick example for the House, as I have mentioned before, is that the Budget itself is designed to measure impact upon economic activity and that must clearly comprehend capital purposes as well as recurrent. There is, in terms of economic impact, broadly no difference between the impact of a salary of a crane driver or that paid to a school teacher. However, I would be happy to talk to the honourable gentleman.
– For the information of honourable members I table a list of documents relating to the prices-incomes freeze, including a statement of certain determinations made by the Government relating to it.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House that, acting on the advice of the Executive Council, the Governor-General has directed that redistributions shall be effected in all States. The proclamations directing the redistributions were gazetted on 12 April 1977. The appointment of the following persons as Distribution Commissioners was notified in the Australian Government Gazette today:
The Commissioners will shortly publish an advertisement in the Australian Government Gazette inviting suggestions in writing relating to the redistributions. Suggestions must be lodged within 30 days of the date of the advertisement. Immediately after that 30 day period the Commissioners will make available for perusal copies of any suggestions lodged with them and a further 14 days will then be allowed for comments relating to the suggestions to be lodged with the Commissioners.
– I table, as I indicated I would at question time, the list of those organisations which were approached in relation to the wages-prices freeze. I point out that the first fifteen or sixteen organisations in the list are either involved in primary industry or closely associated with primary industry.
– Will the Prime Minister also table the responses?
-The list of approaches that I tabled is a list in the hands of the Commonwealth. A number of responses have been made publicly. I think in the document that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs tabled there is a large list of responses that have come in either by telex or by public statement. I think that would be the complete list of responses.
Proposed Joint Committee
– I move:
That a Joint Committee be established to inquire into and report on unemployment in Australia, with special reference to:
1 ) the extent of unemployment and the degree to which it has become a long term problem;
the degree to which unemployment bears particularly upon certain industries, regions and sectors of the workforce;
the social implications of prolonged large-scale unemployment; (4 the applicability to Australia of innovative employment creating schemes operating in other comparable countries;
the extent to which unemployment could be reduced by implementing and expanding manpower programs;
other means by which unemployment could be reduced, and
the extent and nature of possible conflict between the objective of reducing unemployment and other policy objectives.
This motion seeks the establishment of a joint committee to inquire into and to report on unemployment in Australia with special reference to various matters to which I shall refer later. I move this motion because surely there can be no matter more deserving of detailed scrutiny by members of this Parliament than the issue of unemployment. Australia is now in the midst of a prolonged recession a key aspect of which is greatly increased unemployment. The signs are that it will become even more acute in the immediate future. But it is generally accepted, certainly by the Government department responsible for employment, that unemployment is due not only to the general economic malaise but also to structural factors which, unless corrected, will ensure the continuance of a comparatively high level of unemployment, even if there were to be a substantial economic recovery. Continuing high unemployment is surely a matter of enormous importance for this Parliament. It is not simply a matter of considering some overall economic aggregate; it involves the lives of hundreds of thousands of potential Australian workers and their dependants. It is in other words not just a largescale economic problem but a major social issue as well.
It could be wrong, indeed it would be unforgivably neglectful of this Parliament, to ignore or give only passing consideration to such a major issue. But that is what will happen unless a joint committee such as I propose is established. So far as the Government is concerned this matter is best buried in a welter of obfuscation. Thus we have had the Goverment ‘s campaign of denigration of the unemployed as dole bludgers and its attacks on the unemployment statistics as being so unreliable that one Minister dismissed the whole matter of unemployment as a myth. The Government’s initiatives to reduce unemployment have been few and perfunctory. It has refused to carry out its own election promise to introduce work relief programs such as previous Liberal-Country Party governments introduced in periods of much lower unemployment. The Government’s spokesman says as little as possible about the matter. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in a major address to the nation on television 2 weeks ago regarding the state of the economy, said practically nothing about unemployment. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), in announcing the March unemployment figures before Easter, which were the highest on record for March, had absolutely nothing to say about them. It took him S days to produce any comment.
The only time the problem of unemployment is discussed by this House is when it is raised by the Opposition. The Government’s response is to declare that it yields to no one in its concern for the unemployed, to refer to its perfunctory programs and to rest on its anti-inflation policy as its basic solution to the problem. Such an approach is remarkably deficient. It seems to ignore the deep-seated structural problem that will not be overcome by general economic recovery. It ignores the fact that the measures taken by the Government as part of its anti-inflation program have increased unemployment- such as the ruthless cuts in government expenditure which have reduced the real level of government spending and thereby reduced government demand for goods and services and hence lowered the demand for labour and so increased unemployment. The same can also be said for the Government’s anti-inflation program in relation to wages. Its constant campaign to reduce the real level of wages reduces the ability of wage earners to spend thereby reducing the possibility of a recovery in consumer demand which the Government said in its Budget last year was basic to economic recovery.
The Government’s approach is also inconsistent in that whilst it says reduction of inflation is basic to reducing unemployment it then takes action which adds remarkably to inflation, and hence on its own logic to unemployment. Thus the increase in inflation through the Medibank rearrangement and devaluation will, on the
Government’s own figures, add at least 6.2 per cent directly to the consumer price index. It follows that that increase in inflation will mean more unemployment. Its own policies therefore, by its own admission, add directly to the level of unemployment.
If the Government is really concerned about unemployment it will cease ducking for cover on this issue and agree to the establishment of a joint committee to examine the problem. As my motion indicates, there are many aspects which are deserving of detailed consideration by this Parliament. The extent of unemployment is something about which there is a great deal of confusion. Because we have 2 measures of unemployment- the Commonwealth Employment Service figures and those produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in its quarterly labour force figures- there is confusion as to the real level of unemployment. Currently the Commonwealth Employment Service figures show for March a total of 326 SOO persons registered as unemployed and seeking fulltime work. However, the latest Bureau of Statistics survey, which is for February, shows that the total number of unemployed seeking fulltime work is 275 000, which is almost 70 000 below the February figure produced by the Commonwealth Employment Service. However, the Bureau of Statistics figures also give figures for persons unemployed who want part-time work. In February 1977, they numbered another 60 000.
Clearly there are all sorts of definitional problems involved in reconciling the 2 series. The Commonwealth Employment Service figures undoubtedly include some persons who have obtained jobs but whose registrations have not lapsed from the rolls, whilst other persons who are unemployed do not bother to register. The Bureau of Statistics figures do not include the unemployed persons who are not actively looking for work, other than being registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Thus long term unemployed persons, who have lost hope of getting a job and ceased looking around for one, may be counted as not being in the work force, even though they could be receiving unemployment benefit. This is surely an irony. This componentthat is, this factor of people just giving up hope of getting a job and who are therefore not picked up by the Bureau of Statistics as being unemployed- would seem to explain why there has been some drop in the labour force participation rate in the last year or so. Therefore they are counted as being in the labour force.
This leads to the concept of the hidden unemployed. In fact, if we look at the number of wage and salary earners who had jobs at the beginning of 1976 and at the end of 1976, we will see that there has virtually been no change. In a whole year in which we would normally have had an increase in the labour force of approximately 150 000, there was no change in the number of persons who had jobs as wage and salary earners- a remarkable factor. The fact that that element has not shown up in the very big increase in unemployment figures must indicate that there has been a substantial increase in the number who can be described as hidden unemployed. So, the actual extent of unemployment is something about which this Parliament is currently unclear. It should investigate the matter. However, it is quite clear that, whatever measure one takes, the trend in unemployment is up. The Commonwealth Employment Service figures for unemployed are 48 500 higher or 17^ per cent higher than they were a year ago. The Bureau of Statistics figures for unemployed persons seeking full time work were 32 000 higher in February than they were a year before- an increase of 13 per cent. So, on either basis- the Commonwealth Employment Service basis or the Bureau of Statistics basis- over the last 12 months there has been a substantial increase numerically and in percentage terms.
Thus, with these trends, it is not surprising that the duration of unemployment is increasing substantially. According to the Bureau’s figures, in February 1976 the average duration of unemployment was 14.4 weeks; that is, in respect of the number of persons who were out of work, the average period for which they had all been out of work was 14.4 weeks. A year later- in February 1977-that figure had stretched to 16.8 weeks, which is an extraordinarily long time to have as the average duration of unemployment. It means that on average every person who becomes unemployed spends almost 17 weeks finding another job. That surely is an extraordinary factor. The number of persons who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks is growing rapidly. In February 1975, there were 20 000 persons in the category of very long term unemployed persons who were out of work for more than 26 weeks. By February 1976 that figure had grown to 44 500. In February 1977- a year later- that number had increased to 70 000. I emphasise to the House that on the latest figures available there are now 70 000 persons who have been out of work for over half a year- an extraordinary number to be out of work for such a long time.
Thus it appears that unemployment has become very much a long term problem, particularly as surveys of future trends give little hope of a reduction in the level of unemployment. I again draw the attention of the House to a survey I have mentioned once before in this place, that is, a survey taken recently by the Australian Industries Development Association. That Association did a survey of companies employing about onetenth of the Australian private sector work force. So, it is a very representative sample. In that sample the Association found that:
If perchance the respondent firms experienced a substantial growth in their sales and production in real terms (meaning by this, a 10 per cent increase) the vast majority of the companies would be able to accommodate such a sharp production increase either by a run-down in stocks or an increase in overtime and shift working and therefore by either making no new hirings or increasing their employment by no more than about 2 percent . . .
So, with a 10 per cent increase in output and a remarkable economic recovery, those companies said that they would increase employment by only about 2 per cent which would, at best, take up the increase in the work force anyway and would do nothing about the current level of unemployment. But those same firms also said that very few of them expected more than a 3 per cent to 4 per cent growth in output and a large number were still working for Budget and marketing purposes on the assumption that real output in 1977 would be no greater than it was in 1976. So, most of them expected a very small increase in output only. The consequence of that of course was that they expected little or no increase in their employment levels in 1977. Not only has unemployment become entrenched as a major factor with very long term rates of duration of unemployment and high levels of people out of work for a long time, as well as large numbers who are unemployed, but also have we the prospect this year of a substantial worsening of unemployment because the private sector, even if there were substantial economic recovery, is not going to take up the increase in the work force.
A matter which must also be of extraordinary interest and concern to this Parliament is that the unemployment burden is falling heavily on one sector of the work force; and that is the young, particularly teenagers. The unemployment rates for teenagers as shown by the Bureau of Statistics survey reveal appalling high levels of unemployment. In February this year the survey showed that the unemployment rate for teenage boysthat is, those 15 to 19 years of age- was 14.6 per cent. That means that one in every 7 boys who left school and who wanted to get a job could not get one at that time. One in every seven of them was out of work. The rate for teenage girls was much higher than that; it was 19.6 per cent. That is, one in every five girls in the 1 5 to 1 9 years age group who wanted to get a job was unable to get one. That is an extraordinarily high figure- in effect an unemployment rate of 20 per cent. In both cases there had been a substantial increase over the figures for the previous year. For boys the number had risen from 13.1 per cent to 14.6 per cent. For girls it had risen by 3.4 per cent to 19.6 per cent. There has been a substantial worsening of those percentages in respect of unemployed teenagers in the last 12 months. If one compares those rates with the rates for adults, the contrast is even greater. For adults the unemployment rate was 3.7 per cent. There is no doubt that the unemployment burden is being borne substantially by the young people in our community. The total number of unemployed teenagers at the end of February was 125 000-17 000 more than in February 1976. All this is an extraordinary problem for this country.
What is the effect on the people involved, these young people starting their working life - and I use the word ‘working’ in inverted commaswho are unemployed for long periods? We simply do not really know. Very little in the way of studies has been undertaken in this area. One can find some articles but there is a paucity of information available to give us any substantial idea of what the effect is. I am sure that all members of Parliament would agree that it cannot be to the good either of the people involved or of the society in which they live. Such extraordinarily high rates of unemployment must have a disastrous effect on the people involved and on society generally. Can we really expect these young people to share society’s values and act according to its norms if they are unable to get jobs? I do not think that we can expect them to do so and I do not think that they will do so. I think that they will become anti-social. One can understand why that will be the case.
Already there is some evidence from South Australia that the number of juvenile offences is much higher among the young unemployed. A study which was undertaken last year in South Australia and which is entitled Report of the Youth Unemployment Working Party concluded: an analysis of the juvenile offenders, statistics suggest that the juvenile offending rate is linked to the unemployment rate.
A table was prepared showing the percentage increase in relation to several classes of offenders in the period from June 1973 to June 1976. The report then set out a table of statistics in relation to offenders aged 14 to 18 years. The increase in total offenders in the period from June 1973 to June 1976 was 56 per cent. For school attending offenders it was 40 per cent and for work force employed offenders it was 37 per cent. But for work force unemployed offenders it was 238 per cent. So there was an enormous increase in the offences committed by young people who were unemployed compared with those committed by young people who were either at school or in jobs. Of course, that is the sort of thing that one can expect to happen because they are being rejected by society and are not going to abide by the norms of society. There is a dearth of real information, however, on the effect of long term unemployment on the unemployed and society. There is a real need for this Parliament to investigate this matter. That can be done only by a parliamentary committee. We are not going to investigate it in this House, but we ought to establish a committee to have a look at this terribly important matter which is affecting the young people of this country.
The terms of reference of the committee I have suggested should be established refer to many particular items. I shall mention briefly some of those items. The terms of reference refer to the need for job creation programs and to look at the job creation programs established by other countries. In fact, most other countries have established job creation programs in the face of substantially increased unemployment. We are almost unique in the Western world in not having job creation programs. Canada, the United States of America and most of the Western European countries have job creation programs. Let me quote briefly from a journal known as European Community, which is published by the European Economic Commission, for September 1976. In an article on job creation schemes in Europe it states:
Schemes have been launched in most member states to reduce the level of unemployment . . .
Job creation schemes include projects to improve certain basic social infrastructures (construction of roads, bridges and public buildings) and restore the environment (afforestation, land utilisation, etc). They may also be devoted to the development of local services.
Clearly that is what is happening in Western Europe. Sweden, of course, has gone far beyond that with its introduction of quite innovative programs, such as the development of investment funds whereby funds are taken from companies in the good times and handed back in the not so good times so that the companies can invest with those funds at a time of recession. Assistance is given to companies to stockpile so that they can continue production in times of recession. Other means are also utilised to ensure that production continues. We should be looking at those sorts of areas. We should be looking at the kind of manpower programs that can be developed, particularly in relation to apprenticeships, retraining programs, vocational training programs, vocational guidance and career counselling. There is a whole range of issues which ought to be analysed by this Parliament through a parliamentary committee.
Recently an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development committee investigated educational policy in this country. It has made an interim report, which was recently made available to me. That report contains many recommendatons in relation to the training of young people in this country for jobs. I recommend that OECD publication to members of parliament. It recommends in relation to apprenticeship, for instance, that we ought to be looking at compulsion and not just -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I second the motion moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and commend it to the House. Members of the Opposition are, of course, committed to the support of the motion moved by my colleague. I am quite sure that the wisdom of it will filter through to the supporters of the Government and that they also will display their concern for this problem by voting for this motion and offering no opposition to it. As the honourable member for Gellibrand has pointed out very well, the whole question of unemployment in Australia is one that deserves serious consideration. What more serious consideration can any issue in this country receive than to have a joint committee of this Parliament specifically charged with the responsibility of inquiring into it in the terms set out by my colleague.
It is not out of character for the present Government to hold inquiries. Quite recently it announced the setting up of a committee of people- not parliamentarians- to inquire into the Australian Council for Trade Union Training. This action was taken without any consultation with the Council. No consultation was had with either the Australian Council of Trade Unions or any body connected with that organisation. But this Government did not hesitate to set up a 3-person committee to inquire into that organisation. The Government said that the reason for doing so was that there was some concern that public funds were being used to train trade unionists in their trades. The same thing is not said about public funds being used to train doctors or lawyers in their professions. The Government had no hesitation in appointing Dr David Meyers to inquire into the payment of unemployment benefit. That is a nice way of saying that the Government is trying to find a way in which to harass and pursue those people who suffer the indignity and unfortunate position at the moment of being unemployed and, even worse, of being unemployed because of the actions of the Government.
The Government is a government that does not enjoy the trust of the Australian people. It is led by a Prime Minister whose credibility rating is just a little bit higher than that of his Treasurer, whose credibility rating is at 14 per cent. Fourteen per cent of the people of Australia believe the things said to them by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). I should think that one or two per cent more than that believe the things that are said to them by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). So, with such a government, there is no doubt that there will be suspicion and that there will be concern about the inquiries that the Government sets up, especially when they are inquiries into situations that the Government itself has caused. I speak again of the people receiving unemployment relief. The Government has perpetuated the unemployment situation in this country and it is now trying to take the heat off itself by having this inquiry.
To digress, I was reading a very interesting article in a newspaper the other day about a person who lived in about the middle of the 17th century and who is now known as Count Dracula. He solved the poverty problem in his country. He rounded up all the beggars and put them into a barn on the pretence that he was going to give them a feast and he did in fact give them a feast, except that he then locked the doors of the barn and burned it down, burning all the beggars, and then announced that he had no poverty in his country. Is the present Government going to do that? Is that why it is going to pursue those whom it regards as dole cheats or dole bludgers?
I come now to the proposition put to the House by my colleague and supported by those of us on this side of the House. As I said earlier, I feel quite sure that it will be supported by all reasonable people sitting opposite. My colleague is suggesting and we of the Australian Labor Party are suggesting that, rather than run around with window dressing exhibitions of chasing the so-called dole bludgers and ‘sloganeering’ and then trying to find actions to fit the slogans, the Government should get down to the very nub of this question. It is all very well for us to hear the rhetoric that goes on in this House when responsible Ministers sidestep questions asked of them and ‘sloganeer’ from the other side of the chamber rather than answer those questions, which genuinely seek information not only on behalf of we as parliamentarians but also on behalf of the Australian people, but what is the Government in fact doing about getting down to finding out what are the problems that are causing the unemployment situation in this country?
We have heard all sorts of reasons. We have heard of a lack of consumer spending. We have heard of investment allowances being provided to industry to encourage it to put in new machines. What a delightful thing to do! The Government is providing industry with an allowance to enable industry to put in machines that are less labour intensive than the machines that were there previously. It talks about unemployment in the community. It has contributed to unemployment simply by that means. I am not suggesting for one moment that Australia ought to return to the time when all things were done manually. In fact, my own philosophy leads me to believe that man was not born to work but to have work done. This is why he has intelligence higher than that of other animals on this planet. It gives him the wit to determine a better way of doing the work than a way that causes callouses on his hands and perspiration to run from his brow. Of course all work as far as possible should be done by machines.
This brings us to the only question that still faces us. How do we then distribute the wealth that is created? As long as we live in a capitalist society of course we never will distribute the wealth. That by its very being will bring us to a socialist state in which there will be equitable distribution of the wealth created without some people in the community- I repeat ‘some people’- having to labour. In a nation with 13½ million people our work force numbers fewer than 5 million. Fewer than 5 million can provide the other 8½ million with the goods and services that they need. So it must become obvious that unemployment is not a phenomenon just now. It is something that will be with us for a long time.
The rhetoric and sloganeering of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who actually demeans the unfortunates who cannot find employment in the economic conditions that he supports, will not go down any longer with the Australian people. He is a farmer. I am reminded of the farmer who in bad times called together his farm hands and said: ‘We are in trouble. Unless we all work a little harder the farm will go back to the bank and none of us will have anywhere to work’. So the farm hands worked very hard, the crop came in and the money was sent to the bank. The farmer then called his hands together and said: ‘You did a damn fine job, lads. I still own the farm’. That is the attitude of the whole squatocracy that is endeavouring at the moment to mismanage the affairs of this country.
– They are doing a good job of it.
– They are doing an excellent job. The terms of reference with which my colleague would like to see a joint committee charged bear repeating because they are intelligent. They must be intelligent; the honourable member for Gellibrand drew them up. They have depth to them. The honourable member has great compassion for the people. He wants to ensure that those who want employment find work. He wants to know the extent of unemployment and the degree to which it has become a long term problem. He indicated that no satisfactory information is available to the Parliament or the people on how many people are actually unemployed. Nobody knows this. For example, a lot of families rely on the wife working. If she loses her employment she does not necessarily register as an unemployed person, but the family surfers hardship because of her lack of employment. Many unemployed are just not counted. On the other hand, people who have found employment may be counted because they have not yet been struck off the roll.
The Parliament and the people ought to know the true position. If we are to be charged with the responsibility of making decisions in this place, we are entitled to the best information that we can get. The information that we get at the moment is self-contradictory. Information from one source contradicts information from another source. We want information on the length of time involved and whether the problem has become a long term problem. The honourable member for Gellibrand spelt out loud and clear that many young people in particular have been unemployed for more than 6 months. Surely that disturbs Government members. Surely they would like to have the true information about that. Surely they would like to receive that from a committee comprising members from this House and the other House inquiring into the matter.
If it comes down in the long term to people working less than 40 hours a week so that those who want to work can share the work that is available, I would not expect to hear screams coming from the other side as I did when the working week- I was much younger then- was reduced from 48 hours to 44 hours and eventually to 40 hours. We were told that the country could not stand it. In fact the country has never been so prosperous as it has been since working hours were reduced. That is just fact; there is no economic theory about it. Nobody could explain how the country would be better off if everybody worked longer hours. It would only compound the unemployment problem.
In my view, for what it is worth, we are not looking at buyer resistance but at a community that is saturated with goods. It just does not want to buy any more. It does not need any more. Yet we are trying to base the solution of our whole unemployment problem on manufacturing industry manufacturing goods for a local market that is already saturated and a nearby market of people who cannot afford to buy the goods. It is about time these questions were investigated. Such a committee could inquire into them. We might be advised to reduce the regular working hours from 40 hours a week so that the available work can be shared among those who wish it. We may have to move away from thinking about manufacturing industry as the only source of employment.
In a nation of 3 million square miles we need to develop the infrastructure. Yesterday in this House we debated roads and the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads. Honourable members spoke loud and clear about the lack of roads and the poor state of roads. This situation will continue unless this mingy, mean Government- the mingiest and meanest government this country has ever had- makes more funds available. Let me remind the House that the Australian Government does not construct many things. It employs private enterprise constructors to construct. Were it to release its purse strings a little 3 things would happen. The lack of infrastructure would be corrected. There would be better roads, ports facilities, airports and all the other things required. They would be owned jointly by all the people, unlike the private railways put in by the mining companies, which belong only to those mining companies. There would be a reduction in unemployment. Clearly if there is work to be done, albeit this work will be principally capital intensive and mechanical rather than labouring work, it will flow through the community and people will be absorbed into it. Not all the work will be entirely mechanical; neither will it be all labouring work. Road builders need surveyors, chain men and plenty of skilled people. We are not talking of only unskilled people. We are not necessarily talking of people in a particular age group.
These sorts of things are suggested solutions that could be presented to this Parliament by the proposed committee if it were set up. I feel quite sure it will be. The Government and its supporters have expressed in this House for a long time- certainly before December 1975 and since- their great concern about the unemployment problem. Today they have an excellent opportunity to declare their sincerity and to show the people that they have concern for the unemployed, that they care, that they understand that there is an unemployment problem, that it will be a long term problem and that it needs solution. Let honourable members opposite stand up and tell the people loudly and honestly that they understand that their Cabinet room is not the repository of all wisdom. Let private members on the Government side express their personal view on our proposal and not just be rubber stamps of their Cabinet. Let them not listen to the plaudits and blindly say. ‘I am a member of the Liberal Party. I cannot cross the floor and vote against my Government’. If they sincerely believe that the unemployment problem is as serious as we on the Australian Labor Party side of the House know it to be, let them agree with the motion that the Parliament set up a committee to inquire into this very problem and report back to the Parliament so that a debate can ensue in the community.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Government opposes the motion proposed for the Opposition by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). To begin with, let me state clearly and unequivocally that the Government is most concerned at the continuance of the high level of unemployment in Australia and the resultant scarcity of the job opportunities for a large number of willing job seekers. It is concerned with constructive measures to overcome the current situation. I will shortly indicate the action the Government is taking to gather the very information which it is proposed should be gathered by the committee that the motion before the House would set up. I will also outline the constructive measures this Government has taken to assist and retrain the unemployed. But first it should be stated that the Opposition when in government created massive unemployment and wrought long term damage on the Australian economy. It was responsible for economic vandalism which reduced employment opportunities and frightened away investment that would have created new employment opportunities. As has been pointed out before in this House, when the Labor Government came to office it inherited an unemployment figure of about 135 000. When it left office the rate was 328 000. Moreover, as far as unemployment amongst the young is concerned- amongst those under 20- when Labor came to office the figure was 80 000 and when it left office the figure was 152 000, or nearly double. We can credit the Opposition with at least one thing, and that is with being experts in the creation of unemployment.
The honourable member for Gellibrand in his comments asserted that this Government was seeking to direct the blame for the unemployment situation on the supposed inadequacy and the method of collection of the unemployment figures by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Certainly members of this Government have raised valid questions about the appropriateness of the method of collection and of some of the figures that are collected. But the honourable member for Gellibrand cannot claim innocence in that respect because in Hansard of 11 September 1975, when his Party was in government, he asked the following question in this House:
Can the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration inform the House why the unemployment figures compiled by the Department of Labor and Immigration from its Commonwealth Employment Service records are substantially in excess of those produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics through its quarterly labour force survey? In view of the fact that the Bureau’s unemployment figures are compiled on an internationally accepted basis, what reliance can be placed on the CES figures as an accurate measure of unemployment in this country?
I do not complain about the honourable member asking that sort of question, but it does indicate that at least he has had some doubts, certainly while his Party was in government, about the accuracy of the figures produced. We do need to make sure that the figures are as accurate as possible and give as comprehensive a range of information about the composition of the unemployed as is possible.
The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) in his comments made a remark that this Government had set up an inquiry into trade union training without consultation with the trade union movement. I point out that the inquiry is to be conducted by a 3-man committee comprising a chairman, who is a Commissioner of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, a businessman, and the President of the Trades and Labour Council of Queensland. Some lack of consultation when there is a trade union leader on the very committee which is to conduct the inquiry! I also point out that the Government has already established certain official inquiries which will look into many of the aspects mentioned in the Opposition’s motion. Firstly, let me refer to the Norgard inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service. The terms of reference of that inquiry state:
The Review should include an investigation of the provision of special employment assistance to particular groups who need additional help to find suitable employment . . .
They further state:
The Review should extend to an examination of the provision of occupational information and counselling as to occupation/vocation and as to how best to facilitate placement in suitable employment.
They go on:
The role of the CES in the collection of information on the labour market which may be ised for economic policy purposes and the development and modification of manpower policies and programs, as well as to meet operational requirements of the CES, should be investigated by the Review. In this, regard should be had to the limitations inherent in the data provided by the Service as identified by the Report of the Advisory Committee on Commonwealth Employment Service Statistics.
In other words, that inquiry will deal with the very question raised in this House by the honourable member for Gellibrand on 1 1 September 1 975. A related inquiry which has been instituted by this Government is the Myers inquiry into unemployment benefit policy and administration. The terms of reference for the inquiry require it to examine the adequacy in present circumstances of the underlying concept and philosophy of the existing system. The inquiry will bring forward recommendations as to whether the system requires modification and, if so, in what respects, to adequately express the Government’s basic policy of directing assistance to those most in need. The inquiry is also to assess, in the light of any policy changes it may recommend, the extent to which present administrative arrangements and procedures may need to be modified to ensure effective administration of both the national employment service and the provision of income support to unemployed persons. The inquiry will take into account the material submitted to and the conclusions reached by the Norgard review of the CES on unemployment benefit administration.
A further inquiry will be conducted into postsecondary education by Professor Williams, and certain aspects of that inquiry relate to the matter presently before the House. A major purpose of the Williams inquiry is to examine the adequacy and appropriateness of the training offered by post-secondary institutions as a basis for people’s productive and fulfilling participation in the work force. The Government recognises that there are many people who wish to work but cannot find acceptable employment. It is also undoubtedly the case that many employers regularly advertise for staff but receive Utile response or, alternatively, receive a response from people who are unsuitable for the vacancies available. There is therefore an imbalance in the labour market. In some occupational categories there is a shortage of trained people. In other cases, employers are willing to employ only the very best applicants offering because of the high cost of employing labour. Many employers would prefer to leave positions vacant rather than fill them with people they assess as marginally productive workers who may not enable the business to recoup the cost of employing them. This is the process of wage increases pricing workers out of a job. As a former Minister for Labor in the Australian Labor Party Government said, ‘one man’s wage rise is another man’s job’.
The Government has taken constructive steps to deal with the situation of the imbalance in the labour market. Firstly let me outline some of the important changes which have been implemented in the National Employment and Training scheme. In January 1976, shortly after the present Government took office, some 7300 persons were training with assistance under NEAT. In the time since then a quite remarkable growth has been achieved. At the end of February 1977 NEAT trainees numbered 15 500 as against the 7300 I mentioned earlier. That represents the highest level of trainees obtained since NEAT began in October 1974. Thus, under the present Government in just over one year general labour market training under NEAT has drastically increased. Basic to this growth has been a major reorientation of the training undertaken. Of the 7300 trainees at January 1976, 70 per cent were receiving assistance with training, which comprised attendance at educational institutions. However, it was evident that numbers of them were training for jobs which would experience a reduced demand in the labour market, and certainly events since then have proved that point. The Government therefore endorsed the approach that the NEAT scheme should complement the Government’s overall policy in bringing about economic recovery in Australia, that is, that it should be more closely oriented to the needs of the labour market, and emphasis was needed under NEAT on assisting the unemployed and getting them into secure employment. This entailed assistance for more onthejob training. Despite its cost effective features, this form of training had previously been only a minor part of the NEAT scheme. In the result, 85 per cent of NEAT trainees are currently undergoing this revised form of training.
I point out also that in our amendments to the National Employment and Training scheme, we have implemented a special youth employment training program. The special youth employment training program was begun last November. The purpose of that program is to help young people who have been unable to establish themselves in stable employment by giving them the opportunity for a reasonable period of up to 6 months of on-the-job training. Employers who take on people who have been previously unemployed are subsidised in order to give such persons an approved program of training. In this way we intend to make sure that people get proper on-the-job training which will fit them for a productive role in the work force.
I wish to speak about the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-Time Training scheme- CRAFT- which the Commonwealth has introduced. Great improvements have been made in the assistance available for apprenticeship training in Australia. An increase in the supply of skilled tradesmen is a vital ingredient of economic recovery. Apprenticeship provides the main source of our future tradesmen. The purpose of CRAFT is to increase the training of tradesmen through apprenticeship and to provide more opportunities for school leavers to train for worthwhile and satisfying careers. Grants have been made to the States for that purpose. I point also to the educational program for unemployed youth which has been instituted. The Government has made available to the States grants to a total of $ 1.5m for 1977 for the development and conduct of courses which would be specially designed for the young unemployed who have educational qualifications which are low or inadequate in today’s labour market conditions. Again, this is a constructive step to try to improve or to correct the imbalance in the labour market.
Before I finish, I point out that the Commonwealth has implemented the community youth support scheme which provides financial assistance to community groups, including recognised youth organisations, for supportive programs and services to the young unemployed. These programs and services will seek to improve the ability of unemployed youth who apply for jobs and find employment. It will help them to maintain a sense of direction and purpose including an orientation to work. It is important to note that in all of these measures the Government has taken a constructive attitude in the setting up of inquiries to provide further information in areas where there is doubt and dispute about the accuracy of information already available and also to implement, wherever possible, constructive schemes which will ensure that people are given a productive role in the work force instead of merely roping them into make work schemes which keep them busy for a few months but do not provide them with any qualifications, training or skills which they can offer to potential employers and which will enable them to take a constructive role in the work force. That is the problem with a number of these make work schemes. It is true that they do to a large extent remove people from the unemployment lists. But they do not give them the long term skills which they need to make them productive and useful members of the work force who can carry out their functions in a fulfilling way.
All in all, I suggest that the Government has beaten the Opposition to the punch and already launched inquiries and programs which are designed to deal with the matters raised in the Opposition’s motion. The Government therefore rejects the motion. It believes that the steps it is already taking are appropriate ones which recognise that there is a problem. We are dealing with it in the most constructive way.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think that the honourable member for Casey (Mr Falconer) might take note of the Government’s programs- the pre-apprenticeship training -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question put.
That the motion (Mr Willis’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
-Order! I point out that Mr Speaker stated during the counting of a previous division that people in the galleries are not supposed to talk to honourable members at any stage while they are in the House. I remind honourable members of that and ask them to see that the standing order covering this matter is observed.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
According to the latest figures that we have, almost 250 000 people are receiving unemployment benefits. In order for a person to receive the unemployment benefit he or she must first be registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service. According to the latest figures, 70 per cent of those registered as unemployed are drawing the unemployment benefit. Now we have been told, on inquiry, that more than 29 per cent of those registered as unemployed are not genuinely unemployed. It is obvious, therefore, that something quite serious is wrong with the system.
Usually only 29 per cent or 30 per cent of those registered as unemployed draw the unemployment benefit. Naturally in times of high unemployment, as at present, that percentage rises. When one compares the 2 figures, it is obvious that something is seriously wrong. Much more important than what the figures show is the fact that something is seriously wrong with morale in the community. We know that many of those who are registered as unemployed are not genuinely seeking work. We know that many of those who are drawing the unemployment benefit are not genuinely seeking work. This erosion of morale, particularly among young people, is most serious for the whole community and is even more serious than the cost of the unemployment benefit, which at the present time is running at almost $600m a year.
There are 2 things, I suppose, chiefly to be said. The unemployment benefit is necessary. Although not all of the people who draw it are entitled to it, most of them are entitled to it. Some of them are in genuine need and, I think, are entitled to even more than they are receiving in terms of the actual benefit. Sure, there are dole bludgers, but the majority of the people drawing the unemployment benefit does not fall into that class at all. By cutting down the number of dole bludgers we can give more help, as it should be given, to those in genuine need.
Something is wrong. It is good that the Government has recognised that fact as demonstrated in the recent appointment of Dr Meyers to head an inquiry into the whole philosophical basis of the system of unemployment benefits. That appointment was made subsequent to my giving notice of the motion I have just moved, but I do not see any reason why the present motion should not proceed. We in this House have a duty and a responsibility to talk about some of the things on which Dr Meyers has been very properly appointed by the Government to report.
The first point that I make is that the employment benefit is very necessary under the present circumstances. One is not in any way endeavouring to level an attack on those who are genuinely unemployed.
The second point I make is that the unemployment benefit is different in character from most of the other social service payments that are made. Most of those people who receive other social service payments get that entitlement through something definite that has happened: A person is over 70 years of age or 65 years of age; a person is handicapped; a woman is widowed. These are definite events which give an entitlement to social service payments. They are not events which depend upon the whim of the recipient concerned.
The unemployment benefit is different because it is given to those who are unemployed, most of whom are genuinely unemployed but some of whom are unemployed virtually by their own choice. The question of motivation must always be considered. Therefore the administration of the unemployment benefit has to be radically different from the administration of most other social service payments. With respect to those other social service payments, one wants the minimum of inquiry, the minimum of administration, but the maximum of privacy. Because of the nature of the unemployment benefit and the way in which it can be tied to the motivation of the recipient, the principles of administration may be entirely different.
Let me divide the recipients of the unemployment benefit into 3 classes. Firstly, there are those who are properly in receipt of the unemployment benefit. I would say that that group accounts for by far the majority of the people concerned. One is not in any way endeavouring to attack or to impugn that genuine majority. Secondly, there are those who are in receipt of the unemployment benefit because of deficient departmental procedures. Let me give the House an example. The unemployment benefit is paid a fortnight in advance. If people obtain, as they very often do, employment in that fortnight they make in practice no refund in respect of the part of that period which they have worked, although they should. This is one of the defects in administration. I believe there are many defects and that the tightening up of administration in this respect could cut down quite substantially the cost of unemployment benefit and, incidentally, make it possible to give better benefits to those who are genuinely entitled.
The third category is the case of deliberate fraud. I am afraid there is evidence of a good bit of deliberate fraud and moonlighting- people who have part time or even full time jobs and who register as unemployed and perhaps go from one office to another and evade the quite inadequate checks that are at present inherent in the system. So we have 3 categories- the genuine unemployed, those who are drawing the unemployment benefit because of administrative defects and those who are deliberately defrauding the Government. All 3 categories exist. The great majority of unemployed people are in the first category. They are the people who are genuinely entitled to the benefit. We have to find some way of endeavouring to remedy the defects and to cut out improper payments. Perhaps we could also find some ambit for an increase in the level of proper payments.
Something more should be done about the staffing of the Commonwealth Employment Service. There has not been an adequate increase in the staff in spite of the fact that recently the Government did allow a certain increase. The Service has been quite overstretched. The staff was quite adequate when there was a small number of unemployed. But that number has multiplied by five, six or seven times and as a result the staff cannot give proper attention to its work, it cannot police the payment of unemployment benefit and it cannot help adequately in finding jobs.
Some time ago during the time of the Labor Administration there was a proposal to provide computer facilities to the Commonwealth Employment Service and to the Department of Social Security to facilitate the finding of jobs and the payment of the unemployment benefit. That proposal was canned by the previous Labor Administration in the interests of so-called economy. Therefore the proposal was not adopted. I believe that at the present time there are some moves to reverse that decision. I am sorry that the present Government has been a little slow to reverse a Labor mistake. But it is essential for the proper operation of the Service that use be made of a computer.
I would now like to refer to the administration of the work test, which is an important subject. If the administration of the work test is to be conducted in a feasible way work must be available. I believe that more should be done to make work available either on a part time or a full time basis. I am not altogether an opponent of the socalled Regional Employment Development scheme of the previous Government. This scheme, which was abandoned by the Labor Government, was in many respects very badly administered. However, it was a scheme which did have some kind of inherent merit which might be considered. But the work test should undoubtedly be tightened up. However, as I have said, more work must be available than there is at the moment for the work test to operate successfully.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The time allotted for precedence to general business has expired. The honourable member for Mackellar will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed. The resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day under general business for the next sitting.
-Mr Speaker has received letters from both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107, Mr Speaker has selected one matter, that is that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, namely:
The Fraser Government’s improper and unfair efforts to deny unemployment benefits to eligible persons.
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 Fraser Government has been caught out in a shoddy attempt to bypass the law on the payment of unemployment benefits to school leavers. Last Friday the High Court ruled that the Government had exceeded its powers in denying unemployment benefits to school leavers for up to 3 months. The Government’s treatment of young people seeking jobs, always insensitive and incompetent, is now shown to have been illegal as well.
The treatment of school leavers is by no means the only example of the Fraser Government’s determination to make life difficult for the victims of its economic policies. In March last year a whole series of stringent, illiberal and in many cases humiliating new tests and conditions was imposed on applicants for benefits. In November the Government sought to trim the unemployment figures for the holiday period by directing local managers of the Commonwealth Employment Service to reduce the figures to rock bottom. In February I made public a minute from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations showing that the Government had instructed CES managers in Queensland to take unemployment benefits away from Aborigines on church missions and government settlements.
Throughout the whole period of this Government there has been a campaign of intimidation and harassment of the unemployed, with the workless branded as loafers and dole bludgers. The Government’s record on unemployment is first to deprive people of jobs, then to stigmatise them as misfits and bludgers, and finally, by fair means or foul, to deprive them of benefits. It is a breathtaking combination of mismanagement, meanness and arrogance.
It is deplorable that young victims of these shabby and underhand methods have had to seek redress from the High Court itself. In Karen Green’s case Mr Justice Stephen’s judgment is worth quoting. The Government deserved all the humiliation it received at the hands of His Honour last Friday. He was in no doubt that the Act meant precisely what it was always understood to mean and what Parliament intended it to mean. He said:
The state of being ‘unemployed ‘ I regard as satisfied as soon as a student leaves school, with the intention of not returning but, instead, of entering the workforce, and begins to seek employment.
The judge concluded that while an applicant must have taken reasonable steps to obtain work, this did not entitle the Department, on the Government’s instructions, ‘to impose a quite arbitrary time of almost 3 months before this criterion is to be regarded as having been complied with’. Mr Justice Stephen declared that the Government’s policy could ‘frustrate rather than aid’ young people m obtaining the unemployment benefit. In other words, in the view of the High Court, the Fraser Government exceeded the law, acted in an arbitrary fashion, and did its best to frustrate the victims of its economic policies. If the Government wanted to deprive school leavers of benefits it could, and should, have amended the Act. Why did the Government take the coward’s way out? Why did it tell public servants to circumvent the law instead of amending the law in Parliament?
The Government was ashamed of its policy, but more likely it was frightened of the reaction from its own supporters. It is one thing to implement stringent and illiberal measures; it is another thing to go on record as supporting them in the Parliament. A year ago Liberal senators went to water over another notorious example of the Government’s heartlessness and penny pinching- its refusal of funeral benefits to pensioners. Plainly, the Fraser Government feared a repetition of its humilitation in Parliament last year. How much easier it is for Ministers to instruct public servants on a new policy directive than to get Government members in both
Houses to stand up and declare themselves on unpopular legislation. The Fraser Government thought it would get away with it. It thought it could tell public servants to fob off applicants for the unemployment benefit instead of amending the law. Instead of being humiliated on the floor of Parliament, the Government has been humiliated by the High Court.
Let it be quite clear that the Government has not simply been proved wrong on a technical interpretation of the law. It has been caught out in a deliberate attempt to bypass the law. It has sought to bypass the Parliament. We know that the avoidance of the parliamentary process in favour of executive decision and the use of regulations has now been elevated to the status of official government policy. Cabinet decision No. 1 6 1 5 of 9 October states:
The Financial Review ofl! October reported:
The Legislation Committee of Cabinet … has effectively opted for procedures which could certainly limit the opportunity for Parliamentary debate on legislation. The Committee has agreed that ‘parliamentary counsel give particular attention in drafting bills to the possibility to leaving to regulations details that are liable to frequent change’ . . . The combination of these changes of emphasis goes against much that has been preached by the Government about the importance of Parliament.
Of course it does. In this case an arrogant and dictatorial Government went too far. It exceeded its parliamentary authority and pre-empted the findings of at least 2 inquiries- the Norgard inquiry and the Myers inquiry- which it appointed to look into the workings of the Commonwealth Employment Service. If the Government believes that some forms of welfare ought to be reviewed- and there may be a case for such reviews- it should at least have the decency to wait for the findings of its own inquiries. If it decides on changes in the rules, the proper way to make them is after debate in this Parliamentdebate on legislation to amend the law- not by ministerial fiat or bureaucratic obstruction. Mr Justice Stephen stated:
The prevention of abuses of the Act cannot be made the occasion for disregarding the statutory criteria of eligibility in favour of a requirement which finds no place in the legislation and the effect of which is to deny, for almost 3 months, to the great body of honest school leavers an opportunity to qualify for unemployment benefits.
The Government knows very well that in attacking the rights of school leavers it is attacking the largest single group and the fastest growing group among the unemployed. Earlier this month Senator Sibraa released a table prepared by the Commonwealth Employment Service showing that more than a third of the registered unemployed in the Sydney metropolitan area in February were under 2 1 years of age. Yet people under 2 1 normally make up about 12 per cent of the work force. The numbers of young people out of work because of this Government’s economic policies have grown dramatically. In November 1975 there were 103 093 unemployed young people under the age of 21. In January 1977 the figures had jumped to 155 944. Youth unemployment has increased by 51 per cent since the Fraser Government came to power. At the end of March 1977 there were 44 359 more people receiving unemployment benefits than at the end of March 1976. Yet at the end of January 1977 there had been 19 204 fewer recipients than at the end of January 1976. The huge rise in the number of recipients after the holiday period reflects the number of school leavers denied benefits by the Government’s policies.
The explanation appears in the answers given to my colleague the honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart). On 31 March Senator Guilfoyle informed him that 6895 school leavers applied for the unemployment benefit during the week in which the official school year resumed in their respective States. By 11 March 22 215 school leavers had applied for the unemployment benefit since the end of the week in which the official school year resumed. To that date 32 368 school leavers had been granted the unemployment benefit. In another answer from the same Minister on the same day to the honourable member for Lang it appears that between 29 November 1976 and the official resumption of the school year in each State 34 455 school leavers lodged claims for the unemployment benefit. That is the number claiming the unemployment benefit. Yesterday my colleague, the honourable member for Lang, was given an answer by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) on the number of school leavers registering as unemployed from the end of the 1976 school year to the beginning of the 1977 school year. It appears that during the relevant months 47 159 males and 40 009 females who had left school had registered as unemployed with the Commonwealth Employment Service. During that period only 1 1 626 males and 683 1 females had been found jobs by the CES.
The Government has twisted and floundered in its attempts to justify its decision to deny school leavers the unemployment benefit for a whole 3 months. In response to repeated questions by members of the Opposition the Government has failed to produce any statistics of the number of abuses of the law or any legal advice supporting its policy. On 6 December my colleague Senator Grimes asked the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, to table a copy of the advice which the Government claimed it had. The Minister undertook to table the advice and indeed tabled a document the following day. That document did not relate to the payment of the unemployment benefit to school l eavers, but to the payment of a benefit to tertiary students on annual vacation. Senator Grimes on 8 December again asked the Minister to table the advice. The Minister undertook to ascertain whether the Director-General of Social Security had any advice in a form suitable for tabling. Of course no document has been tabled because the Director-General was given a political direction by the Government. He received no legal advice. It is typical of the Fraser Government that it should direct its economic policies against the weakest and most defenceless groups in the community. It has picked on young people and it has picked on Aboriginals. On 3 February I was given a copy of a minute from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to employment office managers in Queensland. Its effect is to take away the benefit from unemployed Aboriginals living on church missions and government settlements. I seek leave to incorporate a copy of that document in Hansard. It was also published at that time in the Australian Financial Review.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
EO File: 2/8
Personal Appearance’- ‘No employment interview can be undertaken’ ‘Evidence of Attitude to work’- ‘Applicant is living in an area where no work is available and he/she is not prepared to work in another locality’.
Following this action, the Department of Social Security will be in a position to determine whether unemployment benefit or special benefit should be paid.
A/Asst Director, Employment Services 27 January 1977
– The document shows that where claimants are not prepared to work away from the mission or settlement where they have always lived, they should be regarded as unavailable for work. This is a cruel, legalistic and discriminatory decision. My Government recognised that Aboriginals often have a traditional association with the land where such missions and settlements are established. For the sake of a marginal reduction in the numbers appearing on the dole, the Fraser Government will force these people from their traditional homes or render them destitute. In taking its decision the Government has, in fact, pre-empted the findings of its own working party appointed to examine the problems of Aboriginal employment.
The facts appear in question on notice No. 536. Before the end of May last year the Ministers for Employment and Industrial Relations, Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and Social Security had discussions on the problems of Aboriginal employment, including the impact of unemployment benefit payments on Aboriginal communities. Thereafter, on 28 May last, officers of those Departments and of the Department of Education were appointed to a working party to make a full study of these matters. The working party completed its report on 3 1 July last. Thereafter, as appears from various answers to questions I have addressed to the relevant Ministers, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations prepared a submission to the Government. That decision should have been before Cabinet. It was expected to go before Cabinet on many occasions but, in fact, it has not yet been determined. Similarly, reports which the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of the former Labor Government made, tabled on 30 October 1975, and reports which the Senate Select Committee on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders made on the question of Aboriginal employment, tabled on 26 August 1976, have not yet been considered. In the document which I have tabled it is plain that the Government has pre-empted the discussion, the decision by the Government, the discussions by departments, on a report which was sought last May and which was received last July.
The Government is treating Aboriginals with the same callous indifference, the same heartless incompetence and arrogance as it has shown to school leavers and the unemployed generally. We get no honesty, no candour and very little action from this Government. In one case its actions are exposed by leaked documents; in another they are checked by a judgment of the High Court. It is interesting to reflect that in all the flurry and fury of litigation against my Government’s programs there was never any challenge upheld to the basic legality or constitutionality of our measures. There were many attempts, but none succeeded. Now, on the first High Court challenge to an action of the Fraser Government- not on some new interpretation of its powers, but on the application of the existing law- the Government is exposed as exceeding its powers and defying the Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The time of the Leader of the Opposition has expired.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– In response to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), I do not intend to dwell on the question relating to the nonpayment of unemployment benefits to school leavers during the last December and January school holidays. Let me explain the reason for that course. Mr Justice Stephen, in the High Court of Australia, handed down a judgment on Friday last resulting from the action of Karen Christine Green (by her next friend Patricia Ann Truman) v. Laurie Daniels, Brian Wraith and the Commonwealth of Australia. I seek leave to have the judgment incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
KAREN CHRISTINE GREEN (by her next friend PATRICIA ANN TRUMAN)
The plaintiff is a girl of sixteen who completed her fourth form school year on 26 November 1976 at Clarence High School in one of Hobart’s eastern shore suburbs.
During 1976, while still at school, she had discussed with a school guidance officer and others possible employment opportunities. On 25 November 1976, the day before the end of the school year, she visited a branch office of the Commonwealth Employment Service so that she might register for employment and seek assistance in finding it. She duly registered and some details of her school record were taken. She was told that there was no work available for her and that she should call in again later on when she had received her complete school results.
She received these results some three weeks later and called again with them at the office of the Service on 20 December 1976; she was interviewed, was told that no jobs were available and that she could not as yet receive an unemployment benefit because school leavers would not be receiving it until 22 February 1 977. Details of her school record, as previously recorded, were supplemented and corrected in the light of the examination results she had brought with her. She was handed a printed form of letter from the Department of Social Security, apparently prepared for distribution to those leaving school that year, together with two forms issued by that Department and headed respectively Record of Applications for Employment and First Income Statement. These she was told to bring back, duly completed, on 22 February 1977. She then also completed a claim for unemployment benefit. She was then taken to the Department of Social Security where she made application for a Special Benefit available in certain instances to those not entitled to unemployment benefits; however this application was later rejected upon the ground that her mother, a widow, would continue to receive an additional benefit in respect of her until she obtained employment or until 22 February 1 977, whichever should be the earlier.
Then, in January 1 977, as a result of receiving a letter from the Commonwealth Employment Service, she had a telephone conversation with an officer of the Service in which she was asked whether she had already ‘registered for unemployment’. On hearing that she had, the officer told her, in response to a question, that she need not again visit his office until 22 February and that she should then bring with her the completed forms she had been given.
During the months of December, January and February the plaintiff made a number of efforts to secure employment, she responded to advertisements and registered with two private employment agencies but all without success.
On 22 February 1977 she again called at the office of the Commonwealth Employment Service with the forms which she had by then completed and which she then lodged. She askedabout job vacancies and, after some enquiry was made, was told that there were none. She filled in a further form, concerned with tax instalments rebates, and shortly afterwards received her first cheque for unemployment benefits, computed as from 22 February 1977.
The plaintiff is still unemployed despite what are admitted to have been reasonable steps taken by her since 22 February 1977 to find employment; consequently she is still in receipt of unemployment benefits. It is agreed that during the period from 20 December 1976 until 22 February 1977 the Commonwealth Employment Service was unable itself to find employment for ner or to refer her to any available positions.
I find as further facts that by the end of her 1976 school year the plaintiff had determined to leave school and to seek employment at the end of the school year in November 1976; that she abided by this decision and to the best of her ability sought employment, without success, from the month of December 1976 onwards; that her lack of success was not due to any want of trying but rather to her relatively poor qualifications combined with the depressed employment conditions then being experienced in Hobart.
It is in the light of these facts, together with others to which I shall refer in the course of this judgment, that the plaintiffs claims to relief are to be determined. These claims are, as I understand them, essentially two. First, that she was entitled to unemployment benefits throughout the period from 27 November 1976 until 22 February 1977, that they have been wrongfully denied to her and that she is entitled to a declaration accordingly and to payment of the arrears due to her. Secondly, that she is entitled to damages reflecting the amount of lost unemployment benefits, her entitlement being founded upon the negligence of the defendants in misinforming her concerning her lawful entitlement to such benefits. This second claim to relief is contingent upon success in establishing the entitlement to unemployment benefits claimed in the first claim and is put forward lest that entitlement, if established, should nevertheless prove fruitless because of the terms of s. 132(3) of the Social Services Aci 1947. That section provides that an instalment of a benefit shall not be paid later than twenty-eight days after it became payable unless otherwise determined by the Director-General.
I put aside this second claim for the moment and turn to the first, the plaintiff’s claimed entitlement to unemployment benefits from 27 November 1976 until 22 February 1977.
Section 107 of the Act provides that a person who
is residing in Australia on the date on which he lodges his claims for a benefit and-
satisfies the Director-General that he-
It is not in dispute that the plaintiff satisfies the requirements of paragraphs (a) and (b). Had paragraph (c) concerned itself only with the factual circumstances referred to in its three sub-paragraphs, I would have no difficulty in concluding that on 20th December 1976, the plaintiff had complied with the criteria in at least sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii).
However, paragraph (c) is not directly concerned with factual circumstances, but rather with the state of mind of the Director-General. The criteria it prescribes are matters to which the Director-General must turn his mind and it is his satisfaction as to an applicant’s compliance with them that determines whether or not an applicant becomes ‘qualified to receive an unemployment benefit’. It was conceded that in the case of sub-paragraph (ii) he had been satisfied on or about 20 December of the plaintiff’s compliance with it. There is no doubt but that it was not until 22 February 1977 that the Director-General became satisfied in terms of subparagraphs (i) and (iii) of paragraph (c). The question is, therefore, whether he wrongly precluded himself from attaining the requisite state of satisfaction, and, if he did do so, what are the consequences in law for the plaintiff and the remedies open to her.
Counsel for the plaintiff contends that he did so preclude himself, that he ought to have been so satisfied and that in these circumstances this Court should now substitute for his erroneous want of satisfaction what should have been the state of satisfaction which, by 20 December 1976, he ought to have attained. The plaintiff it is said, thus becomes entitled to an appropriate declaration as to qualification for unemployment benefit as from that date and to payment of benefits from that day onwards. It was, so it is said, only as a result of the application to the plaintiff of an inflexible policy (better perhaps expressed as the inflexible application to her of a policy) that the Director-General failed to be satisfied; that policy was that school leavers should not be treated as qualifying for benefits until the end of the school holidays.
For the defendant it is said that the departmental policy was no more than a quite appropriate general rule, which was subject to exceptions for special cases and which was necessary to provide general guidance in dealing with the difficult case of school leavers and their entry into the work force. The plaintiff was offered the opportunity of showing that hers was a special case but she failed to take it, by her failure accepting the view that she had not then satisfied the Director-General. In any event, so it is said, the plaintiff by 20 December 1976, had not stated that she was both unemployed and was not returning to school; not until 22 February 1977 did she inform the Department that she had in the interim been seeking employment. Accordingly, the Director-General’s want of satisfaction was entirely reasonable. It was further contended that the plaintiff’s writ, issued on 24 December 1976, was premature, that if any remedy were open to her, it was by way of mandamus, that this Court could not substitute its satisfaction for that of the Director-General, that any state of satisfaction could not be made retrospective; that in any event unemployment benefits are by way of a gratuity which may not be sued for and recovered, as the plaintiff seeks to do.
These, then, were the general areas of dispute over which argument ranged; of course my description, confined to a few sentences, does less than justice to the fullness of the arguments relied upon.
At the heart of this litigation lies what was called in argument the departmental policy applicable to the grant of unemployment benefits to those leaving school at the end of the 1976 school year. This policy itself is described in some detail in a departmental publication the relevant portions of which are in evidence, the Unemployment and Sickness Benefit Manual. This manual contains instructions concerning the administration of the present legislation and paragraph 7.301 states that full-time students are ineligible for unemployment benefits, whether in term dme or during vacations. Paragraph 7.302 refers to past instances in which school leaver claimants had been paid unemployment benefits, only later to resume their studies. Thus, it is said, they received benefits to which they would not otherwise have been entitled. Then follows this passage:
As a general rule, therefore, people who leave school and register for employment within 28 days prior to the end of the school year, or at any time during the long vacation, will not be in a position, until the end of the school vacation, to satisfy the conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefit which require the claimant to be unemployed and to have taken reasonable steps to obtain work.
One who leaves school well before the end of the school year is, apparently, to be treated significantly differently; instead of having the general rule applied to him, his particular circumstances are, in each instance, to be considered. Thus paragraph 7.303 reads:
Where a student claims that he has terminated his studies more than 28 days before the end of the official school year and that he intends to join the workforce, it will be necessary to look at the circumstances of the individual case to establish whether he has in fact ceased to be a student.
Paragraph 7.304 puts the position affirmatively; its opening sentence reads:
A student who intends to enter the workforce and not resume his studies will, as a general rule, be eligible for unemployment benefit from the date of commencement of the following school year or from the seventh day after the date of lodgment of the claim, whichever is the later.
A portion of the last sentence of this paragraph describes his position before that date arrives when it says: because of the operation of these instructions, there is no entitlement to payment.
The operation of this policy is demonstrated by what is said in paragraph 7.307 about the special case of a student intending to resume his studies, but who is unable to do so at the resumption of the usual academic year and who seeks employment in the meanwhile. He will be eligible for unemployment benefit from the date of commencement of the school year subsequent to the cessation of his studies, or from the seventh day after the date of lodgment of his claim, whichever is the later, and until such time as he resumes his full-time studies.
This policy, as it was applied to the plaintiff, first manifested itself when, on 20 December 1976, she was told in response to her application for unemployment benefit, that school leavers ‘were not getting it’ until 22 February 1977, the date when the school holidays ended. The standard form of letter addressed to school leavers which she was handed, after speaking of the need to satisfy the condition of eligibility for unemployment benefit relating to the taking of reasonable steps to obtain work, went on to say:
The effect of the above conditions is that, as a general rule, persons who leave school in November or December will not be in a position to meet the conditions of eligibility for unemployment benefit until the end of the school vacation’.
That letter ended with this paragraph:
Persons who left school at the end of the school year, who are not planning to undertake full-time education or training and who are still seeking employment at the end of the school vacation, will be eligible for unemployment benefit from the date of commencement of the new school year’.
Two further circumstances illustrate the application of the policy to the plaintiff. The ‘Record of Applications made for Employment’ which she was given on 20 December and which required to be filled in with particulars of job opportunities sought by her contained a printed box bearing the legend ‘date of lodgment’; when the form was handed to her it was filled in with the date ‘22 February 1977’. This had been written in by the issuing officer, who told her to bring the form back, completed with details of her applications for employment, in two months time on 22 February 1977, the end of the school holidays. Again when, on 20 December, the Commonwealth Employment Service referred the plaintiff to the Department of Social Services, it was so that she might apply for a Special Benefit, a type of benefit only available to those not entitled to unemployment benefit.
Whatever hint of flexibility and of room for consideration of exceptional cases may be thought to be conveyed by the Manual’s use of the phrase ‘as a general rule’, repeated in the standard form of letter to school leavers, the application of the general rule to the plaintiff contained no suggestion of anything other than an inflexible rule, a rule which prevented her from being considered for unemployment benefit at any time prior to 22 February 1977. It is said on behalf of the defendants that the plaintiff has herself to blame for this, since she failed to tell the Department on 20 December or at any time prior to 22 February 1 977 what she had done on her own behalf by way of efforts to find employment.
To this, the plaintiff replies that she was not only not asked for such information, but was expressly told that it should only be supplied on the date fixed for her next visit to the Commonwealth Employment Service, at the end of the school holidays. But more than that, there was, in any event, nothing very exceptional about the plaintiffs position of which she had to tell. I must, I think, infer that very many other school leavers would have been in precisely her position; that is, having decided to leave school, they would have taken some steps on their own account to seek employment, but would have met with no success. There was much evidence of the difficulties experienced by school leavers in obtaining employment in Hobart in the summer of 1976, including evidence that when advertisements of jobs available appeared in the daily press, very large numbers of applicants would appear in response, lt is clear from the standard letter addressed to school leavers, from the ‘Record of Applications made for Employment’ and from a pamphlet which is in evidence ‘Help CES Help You’, apparently commonly issued to school leavers, that it was contemplated that school leavers should make their own endeavours to obtain employment as well as registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service. The plaintiff had, by 20 December, made about three such applications for employment; she made a number subsequently, but there is nothing to suggest that she did any more than any other school leaver inner position.
Accordingly, this is not, I think, a case of a person in an exceptional situation being denied the opportunity of having her particular circumstances considered on their peculiar merits, but rather one in which the plaintiff, together no doubt, with very many others, has been dealt with in accordance with a general administrative rule intended for just such an ordinary case as hers.
The question is, then, whether this general rule is no more than a permissible instruction by the Director-General to those to whom he has delegated his powers under s. 107 (c) as to how they are to determine whether they are satisfied of the matters there referred to; or whether on the contrary it reveals an attempted substitution of inconsistent departmental criteria for those which the Parliament has enacted as appropriate to qualify an applicant for unemployment benefit.
Before going to this question, there are two related matters to which I should briefly refer. First, I do not regard this case as involving the introduction of irrelevant factors into a decision-making process; the fact that a purported school leaver applies for unemployment benefit during the school holidays will bear upon though it can hardly be at all conclusive of, the question whether he is truly an intending entrant into the work force or is, on the contrary, merely seeking unemployment benefit during a holiday interval occurring in the course of his continuing school career. The type of error involved in employing that fact as a conclusive test will not be that of permitting irrelevant factors to affect a decision-making process. Secondly, in saying this, I have adopted as correct what was implicit in the arguments of both parties, namely that a person is not unemployed within the meaning of s. 107 either when actually attending school or tertiary institution or when on vacation before returning to school or other institution. The term ‘unemployed’ is not defined in the Act and it would, in my view, be inconsistent with ordinary usage to describe such a student as unemployed in the context of this legislation ‘s provision of benefits for the unemployed. On the other hand, one leaving school with the intention of not returning to his studies but, instead, of seeking work and who begins to seek employment appears to me thereupon to answer the description of one who is unemployed. He will continue to do so so long as he remains out of employment and retains his intention of entering the workforce. This said, I return to examine the question earlier posed.
In doing so, it should be remarked that the function of the Director-General under s. 107 is to be distinguished from that of tribunals, such as licensing justices, which, in their exercise of discretionary powers to grant or refuse licences, may give effect to some general policy that they see as desirable so long as in doing so they do not preclude themselves from considering on its merits the exceptional case. The DirectorGeneral is not concerned, in his administration of s. 107, with the carrying out of any policy. No general discretion is conferred upon him; instead specific criteria are laid down by the Act and all that is left for him to do is to decide whether or not he attains a state of satisfaction that the circumstances exist to which each of these criteria refer. He must, no doubt, for the benefit of his delegates and in the interests of good and consistent administration, provide guidelines indicating what he regards as justifying such a state of satisfaction. But if, in the course of doing this, he issues instructions as to what will give rise to the requisite state of satisfaction on the part of his delegates and these are inconsistent with a proper observance of the statutory criteria he acts unlawfully; should his delegates then observe those instructions, their conclusions concerning an applicant’s compliance with the criteria will be vitiated.
This is what has happened in the present case. The criteria ins. 107 (c) (i) and (iii) those of being ‘unemployed’ and of having ‘taken reasonable steps to obtain such work’, have had superimposed upon them a requirement which prevents them from being satisfied by any school leaver during the school holidays, a period of about three months, and which, in effect, renders them inoperative during that period.
The position may be tested by examining the matters arising for consideration under each of these two statutory criteria and the effect, in each case, of the Director-General’s requirement. I take first sub-paragraph (i) of s. 107 (c). The state of being ‘unemployed’ I regard as satisfied as soon as a student leaves school, with the intention of not returning but, instead, of entering the workforce, and begins to seek employment. The only element in that set of circumstances which is not readily ascertainable by the Director-General is the school leaver’s intention. That intention he has chosen to ascertain by waiting until the outcome reveals itself at the end of the school holidays. To do so no doubt ensures that the Director-General’s state of satisfaction of mind will accord with the truth of the matter in the case of those applicants, surely only a small proportion, who seek to deceive him when they say that they do not intend to return to school; as to them his refusal to be satisfied until the end of the holidays will ensure that he is not deceived. But he has only attained this result at the cost of being wrong in case of all those other applicants who have truthfully told him that they have ended their school days but whose statement he has refused to accept until proved correct at the end of the school holidays. In the case of all these, unemployment benefits will have been denied them during the school holidays and this because the Director-General will erroneously have failed to be satisfied as to their true position. Those, too, who at the beginning of the school holidays intend permanently to leave school but later change their minds, perhaps because of the lack of job opportunities, will also be treated erroneously by the Director-General; so long as they retain their original intention they must, I think, be regarded as ‘unemployed’ but they will nevertheless be denied eligibility to unemployment benefits. Any method which produced erroneous results of this magnitude is clearly unacceptable as a means open to the Director-General in satisfying himself as to the subject matter of s. 107 (c) (i).
This must be the more so when other, conventional means of learning of applicants’ intentions are not only open to him, but are in fact used by him; the ‘Record of Applications made for Employment’ issued to school leavers itself contains a form of declaration to be made by applicants that ‘I will not be undertaking full time education or training in 1977’; in the present case, the plaintiff made such a declaration. Such declarations the Director-General presumably disregards. In addition to such declarations, he could have regard also to the nature of the efforts by the school leaver to seek employment. The present case provides an example, the plaintiff s record card maintained by the Commonwealth Employment Service discloses that the plaintiff was seeking employment in itself quite inconsistent with an intention to resume studies in the succeeding school year, employment as an apprentice cook.
The second criterion, that in sub-paragraph (iii) relating to the taking of steps to seek work, no doubt presents considerable scope for the giving of instructions by the DirectorGeneral to his delegates as to what is involved in “reasonable steps”, it does not, however, in my view, entitle him to impose a quite arbitrary time of almost three months before this criterion is to be regarded as having been complied with. It is arbitrary in two respects: it depends not at all upon matters relevant to the application- upon factors such as the range of available employment opportunities consistent with the applicant’s qualifications, skills and general capacity, the current state of the employment market and the locality in which employment is being sought. Indeed, its duration is dictated by an entirely extraneous circumstance, the period which State education authorities happen to have fixed upon as the duration of school holidays in the State, a period which the evidence shows to differ from State to State, the effect of the Director-General’s direction varying accordingly. Again, it is an exclusively temporal concept. No doubt some attention must be given to the element of time, the taking of reasonable steps may well require sustained activity over a given period; but even if a period of three months were to be thought of as reasonable, as to which I say nothing, it cannot be proper to impose such a period in the case of one class of applicants, those who leave school within 28 days of the end of the school year, while imposing upon no other class of applicant any such requirement relating to a minimum period of job-seeking.
The reason why the Director-General’s requirement produces inappropriate results, which, when viewed in the light of the criteria in sub-paragraph (i) and (iii), can be seen to frustrate rather than aid in their application to school leavers, becomes apparent once it is appreciated that his requirement is not, in truth, concerned with the formation of a correct state of satisfaction of mind by him. What it is in fact concerned with emerges from paragraph 7.302 of the Manual, part of which I have already quoted. That paragraph first identified the abuse to be guarded against, the improper payment of benefits to school leavers who are later found to have returned to school at the beginning of the next school year. This is an abuse because students, whether in term or on holidays, are ineligible for unemployment benefits. Then follows the statement of the remedy for this abuse, which begins with the words ‘As a general rule, therefore, . . .’ and which goes on to prescribe the DirectorGeneral’s requirement, the three month waiting period for school leavers. Such a requirement, specifically designed to cure a particular abuse, of its nature is unlikely to provide a satisfactory basis for the general determination of the eligibility of school leavers for unemployment benefits.
The statement of the abuse in paragraph 7.302 in itself calls for some correction, arising from what I have said earlier about school leavers who change their intentions. The paragraph refers to school leavers who ‘for one reason or another have returned to their studies’ on the resumption of school in the succeeding year. Where the reason is a change of intention, perhaps occurring shortly before the beginning of the new school year and perhaps induced by the inability to obtain employment, there is, in my view, initially, until that change occurs, no abuse to be cured; until the change of intention, the former student was ‘unemployed’ within s. 107 (c) (i). Only if he continues to receive unemployment benefit after that change, having failed to inform the Department of the change, will there be any abuse.
It is, then, only where deceit has been practised upon the Director-General that there is an abuse to be prevented. It will, no doubt, often have involved the making of false or misleading statements, a matter dealt with by the penal provisions of s. 138 of the Act, which includes a power to order repayment of benefits procured by such statements. Presumably these have been found to be inadequate to deal with the matter. Whether or not this be so, the quite understandable desire to prevent what is seen as an abuse of the Act by dishonest school leavers cannot be made the occasion for disregarding the statutory criteria of eligibility in favour of a requirement which finds no place in the legislation and the effect of which is to deny, for almost three months, to the great body of honest school leavers an opportunity to qualify for unemployment benefits.
If then, the Director-General, by his delegate, did apply an erroneous test in determining the ineligibility of the plaintiff to unemployment benefits during at least part of the period ending on 22 February 1 977, what flows from this?
For the plaintiff, it was urged that I should form my own conclusions as to the plaintiff’s compliance with the requirements of s. 107, that these should be in the plaintiff’s favour, that I should then impute to the Director-General my own state of satisfaction under s. 107 (c) and should accordingly declare the plaintiff to have been qualified to receive an unemployment benefit as from 27 December 1976, being seven days after her application was rejected on 20 December 1976. Even were I minded to find the necessary facts in her favour, as to which I say nothing, the course suggested is not, I think, one which is open to me. It is to the Director-General or his delegates that the legislation assigns the task of attaining satisfaction and the Court should not seek to usurp that function. The only authority which Counsel for the plaintiff cited as supporting such a course was the decision of Donovan J. in Hamilton v. West Sussex County Council (1958) 2 QB 286. That case is, in fact, no authority for the proposition which the plaintiff seeks to establish. All that his Lordship did in that case was to make good the failure of a planning authority to express approval which, the authority having already in fact satisfied itself that a development duty complied with the law, it had failed formally to convey to the developer because of its mistaken view of the law.
If, as I find to be the case, the plaintiff’s claim to unemployment benefit was not considered as s. 107 contemplates that it should be, the plaintiff is, I think, entitled to some relief. But that relief does not extend so far as the plaintiff seeks to press it.
On 20 December 1976, the plaintiff made an application, a claim for unemployment benefit, and her qualification for benefit should then have been enquired into. What the delegate of the Director-General ought to have done, had he not been distracted from his task by the requirement laid down in the Manual, was to have applied his mind to the plaintiff’s eligibility for unemployment benefit, testing it by reference to the criteria in s. 107 (c). Sub-paragraph (ii) would have occasioned him no difficulty; it would be upon the matters referred to in sub-paragraphs (i) and (iii) that attention would have had to be concentrated: whether the plaintiff was unemployed, involving the question of whether she had genuinely ended ner school career and was seeking a place in the work force, and whether she had taken reasonable steps to obtain suitable work. If, on such material as she could then have placed before him, he would have been satisfied, that would then have been an end to the matter; if not, she could try again later on when she thought that she had made good the defects in her material, as, for example, by having made further efforts to seek employment.
It is declarations concerning what ought to have thus been the action of the Director-General in response to her claim made on 20 December to which I regard the plaintiff as entitled. For the defendants, it was said that no duty owed to the plaintiff was imposed upon the Director-General by the Act. With this was associated the submission that an unemployment benefit was no more than a gratuity which, once granted, might be cancelled or suspended by the DirectorGeneral in his uncontrolled discretion- s. 131. The absence of any obligation imposed by the Act upon anyone to make payments of unemployment benefits was also relied upon and reference was made to authorities in the field of the assessment of damages, the most recent of which being The National Insurance Company of New Zealand Ltd v. Espagne ( 196 1 ) 105 C.L.R. 569. These authorities were said by the defendants to support, and by the plaintiff to deny, the view that unemployment benefit is no more than a gratuity, to payment of which the plaintiff can have no rights enforceable at law. Equally, say the defendants, the plaintiff has no enforceable rights in relation to the manner in which the Director-General dealt with her claim to unemployment benefit under s. 107.
In part, the defendants’ submissions were in answer to claims to relief made on behalf of the plaintiff and which went far beyond such declarations as I have foreshadowed. To the extent, however, that they are put as a ground for denying her any right to such declarations they must, I think, be rejected. Her direct personal interest in due compliance by the Director-General with the requirements of s. 107 (c) is clear; upon it depends her eligibility for, and her prospect of obtaining payment of, unemployment benefits. She has what Megarry J. found wanting in Thorne Rural District Council v. Bunting (1972) Ch. 470, at p. 477, a substantial interest recognized by the law; and if in fact she lacks a cause of action in the strict sense of that term that will not debar her from declaratory relief- Rediffusion (Hong Kong) Ltd v. Attorney-General of Hong Kong (1970) A.C. 1136 at p. 1167. The power to give declaratory relief is, as Viscount Radcliffe observed in Ibeneweka v. Egbuna (1964) 1 W.L.R. 219 at p. 224, conferred in wide and general terms; it is not excluded by the availability of an alternative remedy by way of certiorari Pyx Granite Co. Ltd v. Ministry of Housing and Local Government (1960) A.C. 260 per Lord Goddard at p. 290- and no different considerations should apply when mandamus might lie- see generally Zamir, The Declaratory Judgment (1962) at p. 98 et seq. and De Smith, Judicial Review of Administrative Action (3rd Ed.) p. 442, 465 and 490 et. seq. In Forster v. Jododex Australia Pty Ltd (1972) 127 C.L.R. 421, Gibbs J., with whom, in this respect, all other members of the Court agreed, examined in detail the extent of the jurisdiction to grant declaratory relief. What his Honour there said, including his reference to and his distinguishing of Toowoomba Foundry Pty Ltd v. The Commonwealth ( 1 945 ) 7 1 C.L.R. 545, 1 would regard as applicable to the present case.
It was further urged on behalf of the defendants that the provisions of s. 1 5 of the Social Services Act should, as a matter of discretion, result in the refusal of relief to the plaintiff. That section confers upon a person affected by a determination of an officer other than the Director-General a right to appeal to the latter. Having regard to the nature of the determination, (if it was in truth such) which is here in question, a determination which did no more than reflect the instructions of the Director-General as to the disqualification of school leavers for unemployment benefits during school holidays, it may be that the determination of the delegate, that the plaintiff was not qualified, should be regarded as in fact that of the Director-General. But in any event, the nature of the matter here in dispute, not at all concerned with the quality of a particular exercise of discretionary power by an officer but rather with the validity of a general rule of administration adopted by the Director-General, is such that I would not, as a matter of discretion, regard the existence of the right conferred by s. 15 as a reason for refusing declaratory relief.
To make a declaration in the form proposed will not involve any element of futility, nor of retrospectivity. The fact that the plaintiff has now been recognised as qualified to receive unemployment benefits as from 22 February 1977 does not affect her complaint that prior to that date she was denied qualification for a reason which lacked statutory justification. There remains in question her eligibility before that date; should the Director-General, in conformity with my declaration, undertake a re-examination of the plaintiff’s position and conclude that, on the facts then existing, she was in fact qualified as from some earlier date she will, no doubt, receive payment accordingly, but this will not involve, in any true sense, the making of a retrospective determination.
I should advert to the effect of s. 132 (3) of the Act, to which passing reference has already been made; it reads:
Where payment of an instalment of a benefit has not been made within twenty-eight days after the day on which the instalment became payable, the instalment shall not (unless the Director-General, in special circumstances, otherwise determines) be paid ‘.
This sub-section only applies to delay in payment after an instalment ‘became payable’. It can, I think, have no application in the present case since, unless and until the DirectorGeneral is satisfied as to the holiday-time entitlement of the plaintiff to unemployment benefits, no question of any benefit or any instalment becoming payable to her will arise.
The writ by which the proceedings were instituted issued on 24 December 1976, four days after the plaintiff’s second visit to the Commonwealth Employment Service and before any payment would in any circumstances have been due to be paid to her by way of unemployment benefit. This is because a benefit only comes payable seven days after an applicant either becomes unemployed or makes a claim for unemployment benefit, whichever be the later- s. 119(1). The defendants contend that for this reason the proceedings are premature; so they might be, were they no more than proceedings for the recovery of moneys said to be due by way of benefit payments due and unpaid. However, the form of declaratory relief which I propose is not subject to any such objection; the plaintiff had been affected by the DirectorGeneral’s general rule well before issue of her writ and was already, before its issue, entitled to complain of the denial of an opportunity to seek to satisfy the Director-General of her entitlement to unemployment benefits pursuant to s. 107.
It is for the foregoing reasons that I conclude that the plaintiff is entitled to declarations of the general nature already indicated. She is not, however, entitled to a declaration that she was, in respect of any period before 22 February 1977, qualified to receive unemployment benefits; any such qualification remains for determination by the Director-General or his delegates in the light of s. 107 (c) and of the particular circumstances of the plaintiff at the time. It follows from this that there can be no present order or declaration as to entitlement to, or payment of any unemployment benefits to, the plaintiff in respect of the period before 22 February 1977.
It remains only to dispose of the plaintiffs second claim, which is said to sound in damages for negligence on the part of the defendants in wrongly advising the plaintiff as to her rights. This claim was put in varying ways during the course of argument but, however expressed, cannot entitle her to relief in these proceedings. The plaintiff faces real difficulties in establishing either that, in reliance upon the defendants’ negligent advice, she acted to her detriment (bearing in mind that only four days after that advice, her writ was issued with a full statement of claim signed by senior and junior counsel) or that she has in consequence suffered damage. But, more importantly, I am not satisfied, assuming for the moment (although without in any way so deciding) that there existed some appropriate duty of care owed by the defendants to the plaintiff, that the facts disclose any breach of that duty. In any event, this particular claim to relief was, as I understand it, put forward only because of apprehension lest, being found entitled to payment of some money sum, the plaintiff might then find herself deprived of the right to payment of it by the operation of s. 132 (3) of the Act. The view which I have already expressed concerning the operation of that provision disposes of that fear. Accordingly, I make no order as to relief in respect of that claim.
The declarations to be made fall considerably short of those sought by the plaintiff in her amended statement of claim. I have prepared declarations in draft form; they will be available to the parties and I will be prepared to hear any submission as to the precise form they should ultimately take.
– As the matter is still incomplete and subject to discussions with Mr Justice Stephen and the other parties if they so wish, there is no point in pursuing this issue until the final declarations have been made and the Government has considered the reasons for any decisions that are given by the court. We feel that it is not a matter that should become the subject of political debate in this place.
However, I nail the lie that the Government has shown a complete disregard for those school leavers who suffered hardship during that time.
In cases that were brought to the Department’s notice, compassionate consideration was given to specific cases. As a consequence of the compassion and concern of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Department, about 100 special benefits were paid to school leavers. This is not to say that some may have suffered hardship and the circumstances were unknown to the Department and to the Minister. However, where hardship cases were identified, special assistance was provided. In most cases where school leavers were living with and supported by parents, there was no greater hardship than when they were at school. I suspect that the Leader of the Opposition is doing his best to squeeze the last drop of political mileage out of this issue. I do not think that it does the honourable member any credit to be pursuing this issue at this time when the judgment of the High Court is still subject to judicial consideration.
In respect of the claim that Aboriginals are being discriminated against, I categorically refute the allegation that the Department of Social Security or, for that matter, any other Department has discriminated against Aboriginal people. There are no changes in policy regarding the eligibility of Aboriginals since the Fraser Government came to office in 1975. Indeed, there is no discrimination against Aboriginals in the Social Service Act. The term ‘Aboriginal’ does not appear in the Act.
Allegations have been made that a circular was distributed on 27 January 1977 by a Mr E. G. Cruice, Acting Assistant Director of Employment Services in the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Senator Grimes in another place referred to this circular- and indeed the Leader of the Opposition incorporated it in Hansard- as an attempt to make a case that the Government was seeking to prevent Aboriginals living on settlements or missions from qualifying for unemployment benefits. This is just not true. It was never circulated. It is understood from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, Melbourne, that the circular was prepared to be sent to employment office managers, but all action was subsequently suspended. Thus the circular was not distributed with the authority of the central office. There has been no change in the policy under which Aboriginals may qualify for unemployment benefits without offering for work outside missions or settlements. It was not distributed. In the Unemployment and Sickness
Benefits Manual, under the heading ‘Unemployment Benefit’, with regard to Aboriginals living on settlements or missions section 14 states that:
Unemployment benefit is payable to Aboriginals living on settlements and missions provided they are capable of and willing to work and no such work is available on the settlement or mission, in other words, an Aboriginal is not required to leave the settlement or mission in order to qualify for unemployment benefit.
One of the fundamental requirements of efficient administration of social welfare and unemployment benefits is to ensure that eligibility for benefits is determined. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has an important responsibility in apply work tests to determine eligibility. Unemployment benefits, social welfare benefits and other benefits are designed to relieve people of hardship and suffering and are paid for by the taxpayers and the community generally. The Department and the Government have a very real responsibility to protect the community and the taxpayers from abuse. With this in view, it was felt that there needed to be a thorough review of the whole question of unemployment benefits in Australia. There are 2 inquiries under way now- the Norgard inquiry and the Myer inquiry. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the terms of reference of those inquiries which are seeking to ensure that justice is done both to those who are eligible to receive unemployment benefits and to the community generally.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
TERMS OF REFERENCE OF NORGARD ENQUIRY
1 ) The Review should address itself to an examination of the objectives and functions of the CES (including its role vis a vis unemployment benefit) in the light of the significantly changed environment in which it now has to operate and the current and prospective demands for its services.
With regard to the objectives as determined by the Review, it should then proceed, as a matter of priority, to investigate the primary function of the Services which is the placement of unemployed persons and others seeking improved employment in suitable jobs and the finding of suitable people for job vacancies notified by employers, including the finding of labour for special needs and projects.
The Review should include an investigation of the provision of special employment assistance to particular groups who need additional help to find suitable employment, for example, physically, mentally and social handicapped persons, young people without previous job experience, persons emerging from rehabilitation programs, persons experiencing long periods of unemployment, migrants, Aboriginals, ex-prisoners, etc.
The Review should extend to an examination of the provision of occupational information and counselling as to occupation/vocation and as to how best to facilitate placement in suitable employment.
-Perhaps the Minister could seek leave to incorporate also the provisions of the manual relating to Aboriginal unemployment.
– Yes. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have the relevant section incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
TERMS OF REFERENCE: (MYER’S INQUIRY)
The inquiry should make a fundamental examination of Unemployment Benefit policy and administration. In this process it should examine all aspects of the present Unemployment Benefit system and assess to what extent Government policy and administrative arrangements need to be changed to meet present-day requirements. In particular the inquiry should:
. Examine the underlying concept and philosophy of the present system and assess how appropriate these continue to be.
Against the Government ‘s basic policy of directing assistance to those most in need, examine and recommend on a system of income support for unemployed persons having regard to:
the level of benefits the community should provide to those unable to find work, including new entrants to the work force;
the extent to which the applicant’s previous income and any other income the person or their family are currently receiving should limit the level of income support during a period of unemployment;
whether arrangements should be made to adjust benefits and, if so, on what basis;
the effect of income support measures on the incentive of unemployed persons to actively seek employment;
what limits, if any, should be set to levels and duration of payments;
the conditions which should be met by individuals before they become eligible for income support.
Examine, in the light of any recommended policy changes, the present administrative arrangements and procedures and assess the extent to which these arrangements may need to be changed or modified to ensure effective administration of both the national employment service and the provision of income support to unemployed persons, having in mind the need to provide for
service to clients, including prompt payment to those who qualify to receive benefit;
prevention of abuses and protection of public expenditure;
the most economic and effective deployment of Government staffing and facilities.
Take account of the material submitted to, and the conclusions reached by, the Review of the Commonwealth Employment Service on the question of the administration of Unemployment Benefit.
The inquiry should be expected to complete its task within three months.
U + SB MANUAL-UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT-SECTION 14
ABORIGINALS LIVING ON SETTLEMENTS OR MISSIONS
14.201 Unemployment benefit is payable to Aboriginals living on settlements and missions provided they are capable of and willing to work and no such work is available on the settlement or mission, in other words, an Aboriginal is not required to leave the settlement or mission in order to qualify for unemployment benefit.
– When the Whitlam Government came to power in December 1972, Australia’s total unemployment stood at 136 769 or 2.4 per cent of the work force. Of this number, 80 395 were under the age of 2 1 years. When the 3 years of Whitlam management ended, total unemployment stood at 328 705 or 5.4 per cent of the work force, with 152 543 people under 21 years registered as unemployed. I reiterate those figures: In 1972, the total number of unemployed was 136 769 or 2.4 per cent of the work force and in 1975 the total number of unemployed was 328 705 or 5.4 per cent of the work force. So under 3 years of Labor rule, unemployment nearly trebled while unemployment of people under the age of twenty-one virtually doubled. When the Fraser Government was elected to office in December 1975, the Government virtually had to act as an official receiver of an economy which was bankrupted. The restoration of the economy and employment opportunities has proved a task of mammoth proportions. I believe that the erosion of employment has been arrested or at least there is evidence to indicate that this is so. At the end of March there was 326 549 unemployed persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service or 5.4 per cent of the estimated labour force of 6.1 million. Unfilled vacancies declined during the month by 5 402 or 18.7 per cent to a level of 23 468. During March 1 977, a total of 20 1 119 persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. They were either placed or their registration lapsed and therefore they no longer required the assistance of the Commonwealth Employment Service. In addition, referrals to employers totalled 129 808.
Members of the Opposition should not delude themselves that the people of Australia have forgotten the Labor Government’s shocking record and should not try to adopt a holier than thou attitude from the privileged position of Oppositiona position that I submit they so rightly deserve to hold after their fumbling of their chance in government. During the Labor Government’s period of office not only the unemployment figures but also inflation soared. That is the other side of the shabby economic record of that Government. The Whitlam Administration came to power with a 4.6 per cent inflation rate and left office with a 14.1 per cent inflation rate. It inherited a 1972 Budget deficit of $774m. When it left office it had, by its own management, lifted the deficit to $3, 585m. When we came to office it was soaring to no less than $4,000m. What an amazing record!
– What is it at the moment?
– At the moment we project that it will be of the order of $3,000m by the end of the financial year. But it has been a very hard job indeed to try to overcome the problems that the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues generated while they were in office.
– How much of the previous deficit was caused by your voting against the Medibank levy?
– I am sure that the honourable member for Corio has no answer for the economic quagmire created by the rapid succession of Treasurers, who were shuffled around from one end of the front bench to another. The current Government inherited the situation and is doing all it can to rectify the situation. No one in Australia can derive comfort from the unemployment figure, but the people of Australia know that it is easier to break down than it is to build. The Leader of the Opposition should be aware of that as he led the breakdown of the Australian economy from 1972 to 1975. He and his Treasurers left the Liberal and National Country Party Government with a battered and bruised economy that was wandering aimlessly.
The Federal Government has sought to rectify the problems of youth unemployment. In March of this year the number of unemployed school leavers decreased by 1 1 888. The number of claims for unemployment benefit lodged by school leavers from the resumption of school to 4 April 1977 was 13 617. An additional 24 137 claims were lodged from 7 January to the resumption of the school year. The number of school leavers granted unemployment benefit from the resumption of the school year to 4 April 1977 was 29 977. Those figures surely speak for themselves.
Among the number of Federal initiatives was the establishment of the State committees to assist in the administration of the community youth support scheme, which provides financial assistance to community groups and recognised youth organisations for supportive programs and services to improve the ability of young people to find employment and to help young unemployed persons to maintain a sense of direction and purpose. To date some 100 programs have been approved in which about 14 000 young people are expected to participate. The State committees will consider and approve applications for funds under this scheme. They will also be responsible for oversighting the progress of approved projects. The 3-member committees consist of representatives of the Commonwealth and State governments and an independent chairman appointed by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The chairmen are associated with community activities in their respective States. In each case the Commonwealth representative is the State Director of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. The Commonwealth Government has sought to update the structure and operation of the Commonwealth Employment Service.
So a tremendous amount has been done to try to overcome the real problem and also to overcome a degree of abuse within the system of which we are all well aware. The Leader of the Opposition objected to the use of the term ‘dole bludgers’, but yesterday he said: ‘The farmers, many of whom are no more than corporate dole bludgers’-
– What did he say?
-I will repeat that. He said: ‘Last year the farmers, many of whom are no more than corporate dole bludgers . . . ‘. I do not deny that there are people trying to get at the system, to get at the Australian taxpayers, and put their hands in the till. But they represent a small percentage. I am sure that the actions we are taking will bring justice to the unemployed and people generally.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has now expired. The discussion is now concluded.
– I table a document comprising a summary of the responses to the Prime Minister’s letter regarding the wages and prices pause.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill will amend the income tax law in several important respects and, in so doing, will give effect to the first stage of company tax indexation. The major proposal contained in the Bill is the introduction of a special deduction which in effect adjusts the value at which the cost of trading stocks is brought to account for income tax purposes. As I foreshadowed in my Budget Speech, and explained at greater length in my statement of 9 December 1976, the Government has decided that the impact of inflation on trading stock financing should be taken into account in assessing the income tax liabilities of business enterprises. The new deduction proposed in the Bill will provide very significant income tax relief for firms and companies carrying trading stocks for business purposes. The estimated cost to revenue next financial year of the new deduction is around $360m- equivalent to an acrosstheboard rate reduction for all companies of 5te percentage points.
It is important to understand that the deduction will have a differential impact on businesses according to the degree to which they are adversely affected by inflation and this is, of course, the principal reason why the scheme contained in the Bill is far more equitable than an acrosstheboard rate reduction. Under existing income tax rules, businesses are paying taxes out of what amounts to no more than paper profits and this has limited, and in many cases depressed, the general level of business activity within the economy. To put it another way, existing legislation has led to a substantial erosion of the capital base of the free enterprise sector.
The changes being made by the Governmentchanges that its predecessor in office refused to make- will give to the business sector, for the first time, a significant measure of protection against the effects of inflation. The provisions contained in the Bill are in line with the comprehensive description given in my statement of 9 December 1976 and are explained in detail in a memorandum I have arranged to be circulated for the information of honourable members. In this introductory speech I will therefore refer only to the principal features of the scheme.
For a continuing business, a special deduction related to the taxation value of specified trading stocks on hand at the beginning of the year of income is to be allowed, commencing with assessments based on income derived during the 1976-77 income year. The deduction in assessments will be ascertained by applying to the value of the trading stock, not being a value higher than the cost of the stock, one-half of the percentage increase in the goods component of the consumer price index measured from the June quarter of the year preceding the year of income to the June quarter of the year of income. For 1976-77, therefore, the relevant increase will be that occurring from the June quarter of 1976 to the June quarter of 1977. Most classes of trading stock, including livestock, required to be brought to account under the general trading stock provisions of the income tax law will be eligible for the deduction. The deduction will not, however, be available in respect of land, buildings, construction work in progress, consumable stores, spare parts, shares, debentures, public securities or other choses in action or animals for use in sporting or recreational activities or for domestic purposes.
Special arrangements are to apply where a new business is commenced during an income year or where a business changes hands during an income year. A proportionate deduction will be allowable for the part of the first year in which a new business is carried on. As there will be no trading stock on hand at the commencement of this first year, the deduction for the year is to be calculated in repect of two-thirds of the value of stock on hand at the end of the year. Where a business changes hands during a year of income, the deduction allowable will be apportioned between the vendor and the purchaser according to the period of the year in which each carried on the business. In such a case, the deduction will generally be measured by reference to the value of the trading stock at the beginning of the year in which the change of ownership occurs or the value at the date of sale, whichever is the less. Where, as in the case of a reorganisation of a company group, a business is transferred from one company to an associated company, the latter company will, if both companies elect, be entitled to the deduction otherwise allowable to the vendor company in addition to any entitlement of its own. As a general rule, a deduction will not be available for an income year in which a business ceases operations. However, where a business is terminated on the death or bankruptcy of a proprietor, an appropriate part year deduction will be allowable.
To prevent the use of the deduction to obtain unwarranted tax advantages, safeguarding provisions will apply to reduce deductions otherwise available where there is a permanent reduction in the scale of operations of a business or a business is holding an unnecessarily high level of stocks. Where a permanent reduction in the level of business operations occurs, the deduction will be based on the closing instead of the opening stock. Where the Commissioner of Taxation considers that, with a view to maximising the stock valuation deduction, a business is holding an unnecessarily high level of stocks, he will be empowered, subject to the usual objections and appeals provisions, to base the deduction on a lower value of trading stock.
As I foreshadowed in my statement of 9 December 1976, the Bill also contains other provisions to ensure that the new stock adjustment deduction is not deliberately exploited for tax avoidance purposes. To this end, special provisions are being enacted to combat arrangements between parties not acting at arm’s length for the acquisition by one from the other of trading stocks at inflated prices. Contrived arrangements of this kind can, of course, result in overstatement of deductions properly allowable for trading stock purchases as well as of the new deductions in respect of opening stock values. For this reason, the safeguarding provisions will have effect both for purposes of the new deduction and for the general purposes of the income tax law. The provisions will enable an arm’s length price to be ascribed to the trading stock for income tax purposes in the assessments of both the purchaser and the vendor. An associated measure, directed to the same end, will qualify the circumstances in which trading stock may be transferred at cost price instead of market price where, as in the case of partnership formations, there is a partial change in the ownership of stock.
Before going on to other aspects of the Bill, I refer to representations that have been made to the Government since the release of my statement of 9 December last on the new deduction in respect of trading stock. Without exception, these representations have been on matters that were thoroughly canvassed by the Government before my statement was made. The Government has carefully re-examined its proposals in the light of the representations and is convinced that there should be no substantial departure from the lines of action set out in the 1976-77 Budget Speech and my December statement.
I turn now to other provisions of the Bill that cover several proposals, most of which have already been announced. The new CRAFT scheme- the Commonwealth rebate for apprentice full-time training-provides rebates for employers in respect of wage costs incurred in respect of apprentices who undertake full time off-the-job training. The Bill provides that these rebates are to be exempt from income tax. The Bill provides also that the payment of special allowances to apprentices under the scheme are to be subject to pay-as-you-earn deductions in the same way as similar allowances in the nature of income.
Another matter dealt with in the Bill is the system for the collection of company tax by instalments. The temporary suspension of the system from early in 1 976, a time when the corporate sector faced serious liquidity and cash flow problems, relieved companies from obligations to pay the third quarterly instalment in 1975-76 and all 3 instalments that otherwise would have been payable in 1 976-77. The improvement in company profitability, and business conditions generally, has substantially reduced the need for this kind of interim assistance. In January, I announced a number of fiscal policy decisions, including a decision that, in accordance with the Government’s intention when company instalments were temporarily suspended, the system of collection by instalments would come back into operation in 1977-78. Reintroduction of the instalment system will contribute towards evening out swings in liquidity in the economy within any financial year and thereby add to the efficacy of financial management.
An associated Bill, the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment BDI 1977, will provide authority for the resumption of instalment collections in that year on the basis laid down in the Income Tax Assessment Act. In its present form, the Assesment Act authorises the Commissioner of Taxation to call upon a company to pay 3 instalments of tax plus a balancing payment in 1977-78 and each subsequent year in respect of tax on its income of the preceding year. Amendments proposed by this Bill will reduce to 2 the number of instalments that a company may be called upon to pay in 1977-78 and set the earliest due dates for payment of the instalments as 15 November 1977 and 15 February 1978 respectively. The amount of the instalments will be determined on the same basis as applied before the temporary suspension of the scheme, and any company obliged to pay one or both of them will not be required to pay the balance of tax assessed on 1976-77 income before 30 April 1978.
The Bill also proposes to make an amendment to the averaging system applying to primary producers. At present, taxable income in excess of $ 1 6,000 is taxed at general rates and is also taken in as part of the average income calculations for the year in which it is so taxed and the next 4 years. Commencing with assessments of tax based on 1976-77 incomes, it is proposed to exclude from the averaging calculations any amount by which the taxable income of any year within the averaging period exceeds $ 16,000.
Another provision of the Bill will amend the income tax law to ensure that all pensions paid under the superannuation arrangements for members of the defence force are liable to tax. The need for the amendment, which was announced on 15 April 1977, arises from a recent decision by the High Court involving an invalidity pension paid under the defence forces retirement benefits scheme to a former officer of the Navy who was prematurely retired as the result of an accident sustained in the course of duty. The High Court held that the pension concerned fell within the scope of provisions of the law which exempt from tax pensions similar in nature to exempt repatriation disability pensions. In a setting where tax is levied on pensions paid under other occupational superannuation schemes, the Government thinks it only equitable that all DFRB and DFRDB pensions be taxed and the Bill contains provisions to this effect.
An amendment is also proposed to the gift provisions of the income tax law to provide for the deductibility of gifts to the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Trust for Young Australians. Finally a technical amendment is being made in connection with the rights of a tax agent to apply for a review of concellation of registration as a tax agent. The amendment will reflect the changed review arrangements that have applied since 1 July 1976 under the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. Detailed explanations of the provisions of this and the related Bill are given in the explanatory memorandum of which I spoke earlier. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
Technical provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act which govern the system for collection of company tax by instalments authorise collections in a particular financial year only if a rating Act provides that instalments of tax are payable by a company in respect of its income of the preceding year. This Bill will amend the Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Act 1976, which declared rates of tax payable for the 1976-77 financial year, by including a new section to provide that instalments of tax are payable by a company in respect of its 1976-77 income.
The amendment will implement the Government’s decision to resume collection of company tax by instalments in the 1977-78 financial year, on the basis that I explained when introducing the associated Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77 which, together with Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 which I shall introduce shortly, comprises the Additional Estimates for 1976-77. In these Bills, Parliament is asked to appropriate moneys, under specified heads of expenditure, additional to the appropriations made under Appropriation Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) 1976-77. The additional appropriations total $326.073m; of this, $247.476m is sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and $78.597m in Appropriation Bill (No. 4). I particularly draw the Houses ‘s attention to the fact that the amount of $326.073m in additional appropriations sought in the Bills that I am introducing today compares with $506. 201m provided for last year and $l,240.941min 1974-75.
The proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) 1976-77. 1 am pleased to be able to inform the House that, notwithstanding the additional appropriations that are now sought, the prospect is that the total outlay in 1976-77 over the whole range of expenditures, including those financed from special appropriations, will not vary significantly from the figure of $24,32 lm that was contained in the last Commonwealth Budget. This situation reflects, in a quite dramatic way, the success the Government has achieved in the execution of its policy of expenditure restraint. The additional appropriations sought in the Bills are more than counterbalanced by savings in other annual appropriations that have resulted largely from the Government’s determined efforts to achieve expenditure savings wherever possible. Savings in other appropriations in Appropriation Acts (Nos. 1 and 2) 1976-77 are expected to amount to $505 m. A document showing the details of these savings has been distributed to honourable members.
I now outline the main areas where there has been found to be an unavoidable need for the additional appropriations that are the subject of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77. The most significant area relates to salaries and wages. Honourable members will recall that the Budget contained an allowance of $90m for prospective salary and wage increases for Commonwealth employees but that that amount was not appropriated in individual salary votes. Parliament is now being asked to appropriate $44m in respect of increases in award rates since the Budget. I mention that this amount would have been larger if it were not for the staffing economies we have achieved as the year has progressed. Because the Bill was at an advanced stage of drafting when the national wage decision of 3 1 March 1977 was announced, it does not contain provision for the effect of that decision, the cost of which, for the remainder of 1976-77, is estimated to be $2 8.6m. The cost will be mostly financed from a special appropriation that was included in Appropriation Act (No. 1) 1976-77.
A total of $ 15m is provided in the Bill for the salaries of officers of the newly-created Departments of Finance and Productivity. There are offsetting savings in the appropriations of departments formerly employing these officers. Increases in administrative expenses for which provision is made in the Bill include $9m for the May referenda and $ 1 .9m for payment to private practitioners under the legal aid scheme. Under the heading of Other Services, there are additional provisions totalling $9m for Aboriginal housing and other Aboriginal programs. These arise from the Government’s review of Aboriginal programs pursuant to the undertaking that was made in my Budget Speech. There are also additional provisions totalling $38. lm for defence equipment as a consequence of cost increases, including those resulting from the devaluation of the Australian dollar, and faster contract progress than was expected.
Department of Education requires an additional $32. 5m to meet increases in students’ living and other allowances and relaxation of means tests as from 1 January 1977 and also because of greater student numbers than were anticipated. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations requires an additional $4.3m to meet an increase in the number of firstyear apprentices and the earlier than expected lodgment by employers of claims for payment of the incentive allowance.
Other additional provisions include: $2m for payment of termination benefits to former employers of the Australian Staffing Assistance Group in Papua New Guinea and pension payments to former employees of previous administrations in Papua New Guinea; $6.6.m for the Australian Broadcasting Commission; $3m for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; $5.5. m to meet an unforeseen increase in the cost of providing pharmaceutical services to repatriation beneficiaries; $6.9m for maintenance of repatriation patients in non-departmental institutions.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
I present Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 in which appropriations totalling $78. 596m additional to those made by Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77 are sought for capital works and services, payments to or for the States, advances and loans and other services. As I explained when presenting Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77, the proposed appropriations are needed to meet essential and unavoidable expenditures for which provision was not made in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77.I shall indicate some of the major items in respect of which additional appropriations are included in the Bill.
Capital Works and Services
Under this heading, an additional $8. 16m is required to meet unavoidable contractual commitments of the National Capital Development Commission arising from cost increases during the first half of 1976-77. An amount of $4.29m is being provided for additional expenditure on the Cooper Basin gas field. The appropriation of $2.35m in Appropriation Act (No. 2) 1976-77 assumed divestment of this asset by 31 December 1976. In the event this divestment has not occurred.
Advances and Loans
The Bill includes a provision of $3m for the Northern Territory home finance trustee for onlending under the post-cyclone concessional home loan scheme. There is also a provision of $2.9m for additional working capital for the Government Aircraft Factories.
Payments to or for the States
Additional requirements under this heading include: $7.4m for Aboriginal advancement programs; $3. 4m for the growth centres of AlburyWodonga, Bathurst-Orange and Macarthur; $10m to meet Commonwealth commitments in respect of recent natural disasters including floods in New South Wales and Queensland, bushfires in Victoria and a cyclone in Queensland; $2. 6m to cover increased costs of the Tasman Bridge reconstruction and associated assistance for which the Commonwealth is liable under the agreed arrangements; and $15m for the new rural adjustment scheme which took the place of the rural reconstruction, dairy adjustment and beef carry-on finance schemes all of which expired on 31 December 1976. Savings available from cancellation of the old scheme will more than compensate for this.
Additional requirements under the heading include: $850,000 for the community youth support scheme under which financial aid is provided to community groups which provide supportive services and programs for young unemployed persons; $3. 6m for ex gratia payments to firms affected by the termination of mining on Fraser Island; and $2m for the introduction of the Tasmanian south-bound freight equalisation scheme.
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Government’s decision to extend the period of operation of the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974 by one year to 30 June 1978. The amending legislation will provide an additional amount of $ 10m in interest-free nonrepayable grants to the States in 1977-78 to finance provision by their housing authorities of self-contained units of accommodation for a range of single pensioners entitled to supplementary assistance. The eligible categories are age, invalid and class B widow pensioners and Service pensioners who are permanently unemployable, suffering from tuberculosis or are in receipt of a pension because of age.
Under the current legislation $30m in grants has been made available for the same purpose over the 3-year period from 1 July 1 974 to 30 June 1977. To date this has enabled approval of building schemes to provide a total of 2017 units of accommodation. As the States collectively have committed $29.3m of the $30m appropriated under the current legislation the Government considered that the program would lose momentum if there was any delay in committing funds for 1977-78. It is for this reason that the Bill to amend the present Act is being introduced now. It will enable the States to plan for further construction in the coming financial year and thus preserve continuity in their programs.
The amending legislation is intended to remove the existing requirement for the States to submit for the Commonwealth Minister’s approval details of each building scheme to be financed under the program. Instead, grants will be authorised on the basis of schemes nominated by the States. Detailed planning of each project is a State responsibility and the removal of the requirement for approval is consistent with the Government’s concept of Commonwealth-State relations. The Government is closely studying the reports of the Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health and of the Committee of Inquiry into the Care of the Aged and Infirm. Both these reports present major reviews of Government policy in relation to the care of the aged. Extension of the existing dwellings for pensioners scheme for one year will allow time for consideration of relevant recommendations of these reports and the introduction of changes considered necessary. It will also allow for consideration of the housing of the aged within the context of discussions for new CommonwealthState housing arrangements to take effect from July 1978.
The additional $10m has been apportioned between the States in the same ratio as the original $30m was made available under the 1974 legislation. This was based on the numbers of single pensioners in receipt of supplementary assistance in each State. Thus the amount payable to each State in 1977-78 will be:
I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
– I move:
The proposal is for the construction of a comprehensive quarantine station to allow expert attention, supervision and housing for pedigreed and valuable breeding stock and household pets brought into the country. Construction will be reinforced concrete floor slabs, brick walls and insulated galvanised steel trough deck roofing.
Walls will be face brickwork, hard plaster and ceramic tiles. Floor finishes will suit the requirements of the various areas. Ceilings will be underside of trough deck roofing, plasterboard and fibreboard. Air conditioning will be provided to the administration offices. Other mechanical installations include chiller rooms, cooling, laundry, food preparation and cooking equipment, hot water and vehicle servicing equipment. Other engineering services to be provided include electrical, water supply and sewerage and fire fighting. The estimated cost of the proposal at February 1977 prices is $4.6m.
During the course of a debate we had yesterday on another reference to the Public Works Committee, questions were raised as to whether or not these matters are referred to local government authorities. I draw the attention of the House to page 6 of the statement of evidence which indicates that the proposal presented to the Committee has been referred to the Blacktown Municipal Council, the State Department of Health, the Department of Main Roads, and the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board. All of those bodies advised that there is no objection to the proposal going ahead on the proposed site.
-In regard to the proposed reference to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, I ask the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) to say, if he can, whether such proposals have been prepared by departmental experts or whether, having regard to the fact that there has been considerable utilisation of private consultants, such proposals have been prepared by outside consultants. The Minister will know that there is a great deal of concern among employees in his Department that such work is being done outside the Department and that the number of employees in the Department is being reduced. Can he indicate whether the preparation work has been done by his Department and the extent to which it is being supplemented by other sources?
– in reply- I do not believe that there is concern within the Department of Construction along the lines which have been expressed by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). As a direct reply to his query I can say that the statement I have just made was prepared by the Acting Senior Assistant Secretary of our central office in Melbourne.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 31 March, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Bed Sheeting Bounty Bill 1977 and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill 1977 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 3 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 3 measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– I am not sure whether the Government intends to impose a freeze on these proposed bounties and whether the industries involved may have to wait for the 3 month period to elapse. Nevertheless, these 3 bounty Bills- the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill 1977, the Bed Sheeting Bounty Bill 1977 and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill 1977- are all of immense importance to the industries involved. While the Opposition has no objection to the bounties as they are proposed in the Bills before us, nevertheless there are some comments we wish to make. I think that general approval would be given to the bounty system as against the general tariff system. That is particularly the case inasmuch as the tractor industry, the bed sheeting industry and the data processing industry are concerned, as it is a far cheaper way for Australia to give to local industry the protection that may be required than applying a general duty. There are some similarities between the positions in which the bed sheeting industry and the tractor industry of Australia find themselves.
However, in the first instance, I direct my attention to the agricultural tractor industry. It is certainly not an industry which has been ignored. It has had a bounty payable to it for something like 50 years and there have been 15 Tariff Board reports on the industry in that period. There are 1400 Australians employed in local manufacture. The bounty will attract in its first year $5m, but that figure will reduce to $3m in the early 1980s. There may be some problems in that regard, but it would be far too early to predict those problems now in 1977. Our local industry has only 20 per cent of our total market.
I think that those people who have taken the trouble to read through the discussion paper put out by the Industries Assistance Commission in 1 975 would have noticed that the IAC itself drew attention to the characteristics of our industry here in Australia. I will list just a couple of them. Firstly, as in the case of so many products in Australia, we have a very small market. The market in Australia is only about one-tenth of the size of the market in the United States. We have a great number of makes and models of tractors in Australia. The number is up to, and perhaps exceeding, 100. The shareholdings of the market by overseas manufacturers, of course, total about 80 per cent. As the product is predominantly directed towards agriculture, the manufacture of tractors depends very much upon the fortunes of those people employed in those industries. Whilst sales did not fluctuate very much, say, between 1965-66 and 1973-74- only between 16 500 and 17 000- in that period there were some very violent fluctuations which were based upon the fortunes of rural industry. For instance, in 1968-69 we had a total market of 19 300 tractors in Australia, while in 1970-71 the total was only 13 300. Depressed world prices for primary products and a generally unfavourable outlook for rural industries can bring about such a result. However, a notable feature of tractor usage has been a shift to higher powered tractors to which the proposed bounty is adjusting, and obviously that will give local manufacturers a better opportunity to increase their share of the market.
I refer to the discussion paper of the IAC inasmuch as we can see from it quite clearly exactly what is happening in relation to the projections for the period between now and 1983-84. 1 refer to pages 2, 3 and 4 of Appendix 5 and Appendix 6 of that discussion paper which show quite clearly the direction away from the light and lower medium tractors in the Australian market to the upper medium and heavy tractors. Obviously our local manufacturers, who base their technology very much upon that which comes to them from their parent companies, will be aware of the wants and the demands of the market and will obviously be able not only to maintain their share but also perhaps to increase it. Although I have not spoken to the Minister about this, I seek leave to have the pages of the IAC discussion paper to which I referred incorporated in
Hansard. Those pages deal with the projected sales of tractors between 1974-75 and 1983-84.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Of course there are features about tractor production which have to be looked at besides the power of the tractor, as undoubtedly you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would be aware. The users of these machines have a greater demand for some sort of comfort. The local manufacturers will have to be cognisant of things such as cabin comfort, sound insulation and air conditioning because if the imported product provides all of these comforts and the locally manufactured article does not the share of the Australian market will drop noticeably.
Another difficulty which an industry like the tractor manufacturing industry faces in Australia, like so many other industries, is under utilisation. As unit cost grows the more the capacity of the industry is under utilised. According to the projections of the Industries Assistance Commission it would take something like 40 per cent of the market for the factories of local manufacturers to be fully utilised. On this question I would like to refer to page 23 of the IAC report on agricultural tractors of February 1976 which deals with the question of the industry’s main disabilities. The report states:
The high disabilities of local tractor manufactures arise principally from their disabilities against overseas manufacturers in relation to under utilisation of capacity, small scale of production and prices paid for locally sourced materials and components. While Little direct information on these disabilities was received during this inquiry, it is clear that a major influence is the industry’s inability to achieve cost economies because of its relatively small scale of production. The scale of production overseas is typically more than ten times greater than that of local manufacturers. In addition, the major overseas manufacturers have rationalised component production between various plants in order to achieve further economies.
Disadvantages due to scale may generally be lessened by a rationalisation of the industry or as a result of future market movements. However, the Commission sees little prospect of these factors significantly improving the tractor industry’s competitive position. In regard to industry rationalisation, a reduction in the number of local manufacturers would be unlikely to substantially improve the position of the remaining manufacturer. Because of the varied demands of the market, models previously produced locally could in the main, be replaced by comparable models imported from the displaced manufacturer’s overseas affiliate.
I think that the emphasis on under utilisation is one which the Government will have to look at. It is one which it will have to continue to monitor because, as I said at the outset, it is very difficult for the Government or for those of us on the opposition side of the House to predict the impact of a lower bounty as it will affect the industry by the early 1980s. I emphasise that the bounty is more equitable as it applies to the higher powered tractors which to a very large extent under the old schedule it ignored.
The one final point that I wish to make in regard to the tractor bounty is something which is of great importance to us on this side of the House, namely the implications of the recommendations of the IAC in regard to employment. I want to quote what the Commission had to say because its words give us some assurance of what may happen to the people employed in the industry. At page 29 of the report the Committee stated:
The Commission believes that the employment effects of its recommendations will be minimal largely as a result of the phase-in nature of its recommendations and the increase in tractor production planned by the industry. Thus, while an anticipated reduction in local content is expected to involve about 200 of the tractor manufacturers’ employees, the Commission is confident that more than this number of additional employees will be required by the tractor industry over the phase-in period.
We on this side of the House are prepared to accept the words of the IAC on this point that the phase-in method of the bounty, or perhaps we should say the phase-out of the higher bounty at the end of the 1970s into the 1980s, will allow for restructuring as far as employment is concerned and that there is no direct threat to the people that are employed in the industry at the moment.
The next item with which I wish to deal is the bed sheeting industry and the aspect of the bounty being paid to one section of it. Here again I think that members of the House will applaud the bounty system because it is far cheaper to the consumer to maintain this section of the industry in Australia than, as I said earlier, to apply the general duty to all the imports. In such a case it would be a far more expensive exercise to the consumers. It would be quite a noticeable item of expenditure so far as consumers were concerned once the item reached the retail store.
The recommendation by the Government of a bounty of $500,000 to be provided over a 1-year period has the support of members on this side of the House. The $500,000 will give a bounty assistance to local manufacturers of printed polyester cotton sheeting to a limit of 2.5 million square metres. The total market in Australia for this type of bed sheeting is something like 8 million square metres. So the vast majority of this market will be serviced by imports. If the industry is to have a greater share of the market I put the question to the Government: Does it think it would be wise or unwise to increase that amount of bounty? Again we have a problem of under utilisation in the bed sheeting industry because there can be no doubt that the industry has the capacity to produce more. It is a question of scale of economy as to whether or not the Government sees fit to do it. At the moment I accept that there is no threat to employment in the industry with the present bounty. It is a question of whether we want to use the capacity of the industry to take up a greater share of the market.
I suspect that whilst this Bill covers a one-year period, the Government, again, just as in the case of the tractor industry, will have to look at the long term future of locally produced bed sheeting linen eligible for bounty. We are not talking here in some abstract form about a technologically efficient industry. There has been substantial investment in this industry in the last 4 years. Evidence given to me shows that something like an additional $11m was invested in the Actil plant in Adelaide. The industry has had a fairly torrid time inasmuch as there have been enormous fluctuations in the market. I ask honourable members to look at the figures of the millions of square metres that have been sold between 1971-72 and 1975-76. The total market in 1971- 72 was 62 million square metres. In 1972- 73 it was 65 million square metres. The market jumped to 1 1 1 million square metres in 1973- 74, back to 80 million square metres in 1974- 75 and back to 52 million square metres in 1975- 76. During the period in which it almost doubled local manufacturers had a slight increase in their share of the market. However, the vast majority of the market was serviced by imports. The difficulty now, of course, is that we are back to a smaller market. We can see that that part of the local market produced by Australian weavers is dropping off even further. The question arises as to the extent to which the Government may wish to assist manufacturers of other than printed polyester cotton bed sheeting. I seek leave to have the figures on market supplies incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I also want to refer to some of the reasons that the industry put before the IAC for assistance. I do not wish to read through the total submission that has been passed on to me; it is a public document. I just want to quote two or three reasons which the industry put to the IAC which ought to be open for public debate. As I say, the reasons which I shall outline are some of the reasons and not the total reasons. Firstly, the submission states: the existing long term assistance measures do not provide the local weavers with the level of protection (of about 40 per cent) that was intended.
This is the bounty argument. The submission also states:
Further, the submission states:
This, of course, is the argument put by the industry concerning the benefits of having the bounty struck. Finally, the submission states: . . being considerably less costly, bounty is a far preferable form of protection which ensures that the weaving of sheeting undertaken in Australia is accorded the full level of protection which the Government considers to be warranted.
It may be seen that if the bounty rate was 20c per square metre the total bounty payment to local weavers in 1975-76 would have been about S2m.
With regard to the question of employment, again there are approximately 1300 people involved directly in this industry and the Opposition is not of the opinion that their position is in jeopardy as a result of the Government adopting the report of the Industries Assistance Commission.
I expect that in the long term the most important issue to be discussed amongst these 3 Bills is the question of the data processing equipment. Again we have clear signs for everyone to see. There should be no argument about the level of assistance. The Government accepts that a bounty which would add up to $1.2m over a period should be paid to the industry in Australia. This industry, of course, is what may be classified as an infant industry. It comes into a category for which, when discussions of protection come up, reasons are given that it should be assisted because it is an infant industry which undoubtedly has a future ahead of it. Whether that future is partially in Australia or whether it is totally outside this country is dependent upon the decisions that are taken in this House. I believe that the report on this matter is so important that I want to deal, if possible, at some length with what the Industries Assistance Commission had to say about the industry. Before I do so I want to say that throughout the reports and the discussions which have taken place on this industry, there can be no doubt that the conclusion has been reached that our industries do not have the most up-to-date technology or the technology found in industries in some other countries with which we compare ourselves from time to time.
It is of interest to people travelling overseas and visiting industries to notice the use in overseas industries of equipment which supersedes some of the older technologies which we in Australia are, to a very large extent, still using. For that purpose, I think that this report is very important. I think that the industry itself is extremely important. I understand, from the figures given, that Australia receives only something like $10m of the local sales out of a total market of something like $150m at the moment. But when we consider that the Industries Assistance Commission has reported that we spent $3m on research and development in one year and that in the same year IBM- one company- spent $730m throughout the world on research and development, it gives us some idea of the hurdle we face in establishing this industry in Australia. I think it is of vital importance to Australia and for that purpose I intend to quote at length from what the IAC had to say in reaching its decision to offer the industry this level of protection. I refer firstly to page 5 of the report which deals with the international computer industry. It states:
The first computers were developed in Germany and the USA toward the end of and immediately following World War II. It is little more than two decades since the sale of the first commercially produced computer, yet today the computer industry is a significant international industry. It has been predicted that the computer industry (covering hardware, software and services) will be one of the largest industries in the world by the early 1980s. The high rate of growth in computer usage is attributable to the decreasing cost of computer systems relative to their performance, the advantages they give in dealing with the increasing complexity of data processing requirements in government, industry and commerce, and the fact that they have become easier to use.
Internationally, the computer industry is dominated by USA firms. Some studies have estimated that one company, the IBM Corporation, accounts for in excess of 60 per cent of computer installations in the Western world. About six other firms account for the bulk of the remaining share held by American companies.
Again, I draw attention to the difficulty that Australia would have. Obviously, the report implies that the Government must involve itself if we are to establish an up-to-date, technologically advanced computer industry in this country. I also want to turn to what the IAC had to say about the industry itself in Australia. I refer to the history and structure of the Australian industry. On page 7, the report states:
The ADP industry in Australia consists of a number of small firms concentrating on the production of a narrow range of hardware items and a larger service sector consisting of software houses, service bureaux and consulting firms which supply data processing and other computer services. Local production of ADP equipment supplies only a minor portion of Australian hardware requirements.
The first significant commercial production of ADP equipment in Australia commenced in 1968 with the design, development and manufacture of an educational analog computer by a local subsidiary of a USA firm . . .
It can be seen from what I have said that this is very much an infant industry when one considers that the first commercial production of this equipment was in 1968. Again, it was done with the assistance of an American firm. With regard to the employment of people, there will be no significant change in employment in this industry as a result of the Government’s action regarding the bounty. One would hope that there will be a steady growth irrespective of the Government’s action but there may be more that the Government can do, as the IAC has suggested in its report, than just pay a bounty or just pay lip service. There are a number of ways in which the Government can involve itself in assisting this industry. According to the IAC there are something like 400 people employed in this industry and it is expected that the payment of a bounty will have no effect on their employment. By this, it is not expected that any people will lose thenjobs as a result of the level of the bounty. With regard to the issues put to the IAC concerning why the assistance ought to be given, again I wish to quote from the report of the IAC. It states:
The use of computers and associated services in both the public and private sectors of the Australian economy seems certain to increase at a rapid rate. In considering possible recommendations on the nature and extent of assistance to the local computer industry the Commission has endeavoured to assess the opportunities for local producers to participate in this growth. At the same time emphasis has been given by the Commission to the importance to a wide range of Australian industries of unimpeded access to the productivity benefits associated with the utilisation of computer technology. The latter consideration has been seen by the Commission as fundamental to the issues raised by the reference and has been an important factor shaping the nature of its recommendations.
Further, it states:
While a substantial growth in demand for computer equipment, software and other services can be expected as the decreasing costs of computer power make these facilities more accessible, anticipating growth patterns and the precise nature of future requirements must be regarded as highly speculative. In a rapidly developing and complex high technology industry the most carefully prepared forecasts can be upset by unpredictable developments.
It seems to me that we ought to be cognisant of the prediction made in the first instance by the IAC that it expects this to be a rapid growth industry. I think all honourable members would agree that Australia should be involved. It may be beyond the private sector, left to its own devices, to support this growth. I think there is a good case for the Government to become involved. I think that the further references which were made by the IAC in relation to government action are of importance to Government speakers and to the Ministers involved. On the question of government procurement the IAC report stated:
Submissions from some local manufacturers requested that preference be afforded local production in the allocation of government orders along the lines of the Buy American Act. The use of government development contracts was widely proposed to assist both the hardware and software sectors of the industry. Some witnesses suggested that there is scope for assisting the local software industry through Commonwealth Government departments contracting out areas of workload that would otherwise be undertaken within the Commonwealth Public Service. Evidence was also received on the application of standards to government procurement requirements.
Obviously notice is taken by the IAC that in the procurement of this equipment by the Government it can take a positive role as a big consumer. Later in the report the IAC stated that the Public Service is the greatest single user of this equipment in Australia.
I refer also to Australian industrial participation in overseas tenders. Because of time I ask the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley), who is at the table, and the House, for leave to incorporate in Hansard Appendix E of the IAC report entitled ‘Notes on Australian Industrial Participation in Overseas Procurement’ and the guidelines which have been laid down to assist industry in the way it may be assisted with overseas technology.
– How long is it?
-It is not very long. The IAC is very good like that. Ask Bert Kelly.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
NOTES ON AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRIAL PARTICIPATION IN OVERSEAS PROCUREMENT”
These notes were issued to interested parties in December 1972 and were provided in evidence by the Department of Manufacturing Industry.
Final selection of a contractor for an equipment requirement is based largely on concurrent consideration of: equipment performances; product support arrangements, ie supply and engineering support; price and delivery arrangements; and
Australian industrial participation.
The weight given to each of these factors varies with the operational significance of the equipment.
Australian Industrial Participation
The Australian Government has determined that for all major purchases from overseas sources, opportunities for Australian industry participation will be sought from prospective suppliers. This applies to purchases by Departments, Statutory Authorities, or in any area where there is government involvement in purchasing decisions (for example, in the purchase of large civil aircraft).
Where major purchases are negotiated overseas the overseas suppliers are requested to submit proposals for Australian industrial participation up to a substantial proportion of the Commonwealth order. The willingness of the overseas suppliers to enter into such arrangements and the technical worth and financial value of their proposals may be significant factors in deciding the award of the order.
The objective of the program, within the constraints of practicability and cost, is to secure workload which will: broaden the capabilities of industries of strategic significance to Australia in order to provide in depth defence supply capability; and stimulate technological advancement in key Australian industries.
In general, those tasks will be preferred which have some or all of the following characteristics. They would: be likely to stimulate continuing activity in the same field of technology; involve transfer of technology in areas of significance to Australian defence or industrial development; exercise Australian design and development resources; and provide workload for underutilised sectors of Australian industry of defence or technological significance.
Types of Proposals
Proposals for Australian industry participation can take many forms. Prospective suppliers are required to determine the structure and contents of their proposals in the light of the guidelines set out in this document, discussions with nominated Australian Government Authorities, their own surveys of the current capabilities of Australian industries and any special provisions in a particular tender. The following are intended to indicate possible types of proposals: the overseas contractor could arrange for the manufacture in Australia of certain of the assemblies, sub-assemblies or parts of the equipments being procured by Australia. This is often referred to as a ‘part-production’ arrangement. Such an arrangement could be extended to the manufacture in Australia of additional quantities of these or other types of equipment for sale to other customers of the overseas contractors; a type of coproduction arrangement; a collaborative proposal is sometimes practicable and this could involve the overseas prime contractor in making arrangements for the Australian industry to participate through the conceptual, design, development and production stages; another type of arrangement involves the overseas contractor in an undertaking to purchase Australian products of defence or technological significance to Australia.
Content of Proposals
Proposals submitted in response to invitations to tender should be clearly defined and demonstrably viable and should: state the nature of the Australian industry participation; define penalties in cost and dme resulting from Australian participation proposals. Where options to increase the degree of this participation are included in the proposal, the penalties should be shown for each option; state the proportion in terms of manhours and value and the types of work which will be directed to Australian industry; state the time period (months/years) over which Australian participation commitments are to be achieved; and give an assurance that, should any industry participation proposals submitted with a tender prove impracticable, further proposals will continue to be submitted until the agreed level of participation has been achieved.
Management Responsibility and Cost
The supplier will normally be required to accept management responsibility for the implementation of Australian participation commitments and the Commonwealth will not pay additional costs arising from such participation unless the contrary has been agreed in writing prior to award of contract.
Suppliers of defence equipment are required to report quarterly to the Department of Supply on the progress of implementation of Australian participation commitments. Reports should include details of opportunities offered to Australian companies and contracts concluded.
Suppliers of civil equipment are normally required to submit similar reports to the customer Department or Authority (or as specified) and forward a copy to the Secretariat of the Interdepartmental Committee Procurement Offsets, Department of Secondary Industry.
– Of course, research and development is an area in which we will have to do a lot more. It is an area in which the Government will have to be the main innovator. If the Government opts out of its responsibilities on the question of data processing equipment, if it does not take the lead- it is a rapid growth industryand have our technology intertwine with overseas technology perhaps we will be completely dependent on what is given to us from overseas. My view and the view of the Labor Party is that we ought to take the initiative and establish these industries; that we ought to look at what other assistance may be required. We ought to look at government procurement, research and development and the standards which are set because these will be of vital importance.
I want to make the point, as I started off, that one of the great differences between the industries overseas which have survived or the industries which some of us here may call efficient, and some of the industries in Australia which are described from time to time as inefficient, is the use of this equipment. I was amazed a few weeks ago when I visited the electorate of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to find that Fletcher Jones and Staff Pty Ltd, the largest industry in Warrnambool, has now incorporated into its cutting section a computer system which does all its standard cutting. The company says that one of the things which will allow it perhaps to survive is the use of this up-to-date technology. A lot of other industries will have to incorporate this sort of technology if they are to survive. The only way in which they will have access to Australian technology is by the Government adopting a positive role. As has been pointed out by the IAC the Government is the largest consumer. It has the power as a consumer and an innovator to see that we keep up with world standards. As I said, we should not forget that when a country like Australia is spending $3m on research and development and one American corporation is spending $730m on research and development we are being left in the wake of what is happening in other parts of the world.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It is an exciting day for me to be able to support this Government in its method of protection of industries in this way. Sometimes I have had some difficulty in supporting the Government in tariff matters but today I find myself enthusiastically and with gratification supporting the Government. The reason is that this time the Government has taken the course of using bounties to protect Australian industry and not the other two recognised and all too frequently used methods of quotasquantitative restrictions, call them what we like- or tariffs. The disadvantages of quotas are clear for anybody who knows anything about the system of protection. Some people seem to think that because only a definite limited quantity of goods is allowed to come in it does not have to come in over the tariff wall and is less costly to the consumer. In fact, of course, that is not true. What happens is that where a limited quota is allowed in Australian prices are allowed to rise and there is a windfall gain to the person who has an import licence to import a quota which gives him an immediate financial advantage.
This exposes Government departments to opportunities. I know they do not abuse their positions. But control of these matters is a dreadful responsibility to place in the hands of any civil servant. An import licence is almost a licence to print money. One of the great advantages of the tariff system, with all its disadvantages, is that it allows free competition. Anybody may import if they pay the duty. But with an import licence or with a quota the number of people able to import is limited. Such licences are usually given on a historical basic. That means that the people who were importing before are now the only ones allowed to import. The up and coming young chap who wants to get into the industry is kept out because he cannot get a quota. I repeat that it is one of the grave dangers. Import licencing is banned almost throughout the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade area because of the opportunities the system gives for windfall gains for unearned advantages. I have always insisted that although this system is attractive to many people and although one hears a great many people talk glibly about the advantages of quantitative restrictions, they are dangerous even if they stay for a short time. If they stay for a long time they are doubly dangerous. They ossify the industry in its present condition. I have used the simile before and I use it again: Any economy is like a bucket of worms and anything that stops it turning and shifting and new people coming into replace the old and tired people going out is bad for the industry in the end.
I warn Australia that a too ready, glib acceptance of the system of quota restrictions is a danger because it gives immediate financial advantage to particular people without any legal backing. Just because they were in the business before they get an immediate advantage which is almost like a licence to print money. There are ways out of the problem. I think quotas should be auctioned so that this windfall gain at least goes to the taxpayer, to the general revenue, and not to the man who is fortunate enough- I use those words advisedly- to get a licence. This has been suggested many times. I think the same approach ought to be used with wheat quotas. The wheat quota system is open to the same criticism. I know it well. I beg the Government to realise that, unless it is prepared to face up to the administrative awkwardness and unpopularity of selling the quotas, it faces a problem that I am certain it has not yet recognised.
However, the Government did not use the quota restriction and it did not use the tariffs. At least in this case the admitted cost of the tariffthe $4,300m that Mr Henderson of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia admits to- will not be carried by any particular group, in particular by the exporter. It will be carried by the taxpayers throughout the country. The burden is not going to be transmitted yet again to the rural sector nor to the exporter who, as everybody knows, has been Carrying the tariff burden up till this stage. If protection is given by bounties, the advantage is there for everybody to see. Everybody can see that the bed sheeting industry is getting a bounty of around half a million dollars. It is there for everybody to see. But when tariffs are applied the figure is hidden away and no one knows what it is. That is another reason for being pleased to see that the bounty system has been used. It keeps the Government honest because the bounty is there for everybody to see. It comes up every year in the Budget Papers. Keeping the Government and everybody else honest is something that we are all very keen on these days. I am pleased to see that this bounty method will be used again. I wish it were used more often. I am in good company on this. I quote directly from the Jackson Committee report which states:
We advocate less use of the tariff and more use of bounties to encourage desirable attributes in industry. .
Bounties are often a more desirable form of protection than tariffs in special cases where additional assistance is required.
Later, the Committee states:
A major advantage of bounties is their public accountability through the budget. In addition they are very flexible tools and may be used to discriminate between regions, types of employment, etc.
So, the bounty system is a good one to use because it is there for everybody to see. It is open to the public gaze in the way in which tariffs are not.
– It keeps governments honest.
– It keeps governments honest, which is what we all want to see. It does not impose costs further down the production line. In these 3 items with which we are dealing today, if a tariff had been put on tractors it would have been unjust because it would have imposed an extra cost on the tractor user who also has to pay extra as an exporter. It would have been intolerable. It would have been intolerable also to have imposed a duty on cotton sheets. This would have made more difficult the competitive position of the factory engaged in printing imported sheeting in Hobart. If the automatic data processing industry were to be protected by tariff, as the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) , said, this would have inhibited the growth of that industry. It would have been a very serious step to have taken. So, I am glad that the bounty has been used in this way and we have not applied tariffs.
It is interesting to see that the costs of protection are not eliminated. The cost per person employed in the sheet industry works out at around $1,500. If the honourable member for Port Adelaide checks his arithmetic later, he will see that my information that 40 per cent of the work force he mentioned are employed in the production of these bounty goods is correct. The subsidy from the taxpayer for every man employed in the ADP industry and in making tractors works out at $3,000.
– Is that per year?
– Yes, per year. But it is not an amount paid this time by the exporter and that is the important thing. It is paid on this occasion by the taxpayer instead of the exporter as has been the case with the tariff for so long.
I turn now to tractors and to tractor parts. At the moment the Prices Justification Tribunal is carrying on an interesting inquiry into the component parts of tractors. It is interesting to note that if one bought a group of numbered parts for an International 806 tractor in Australia the cost would be $2,048. If one bought the same numbered parts in New Zealand the cost would be $1,007. If one bought them in the United States it would cost $709. One can understand that there would be a fair mark-up difference between the United States price and the Australian price. But what annoyed me was to find that the Australian price was $2,048 while the New Zealand price was $1,007. As a result there has been a Prices Justification Tribunal hearing into this queer increase in prices. Some quite startling facts have emerged. One of them concerns a large company- I will not mention its namewhich makes tractors as well as other parts. The turnover for all the company’s operations in Australia was $197m and its profit was $6. 2m. No one can say that that company was making an excessive profit. The figures I cited- the $197m and the $6.2m- included the turnover for the spare parts division. But the spare parts division, taken by itself, had a turnover of $30.7m and a profit of $6. 8m. In other words, the spare parts division, with a turnover of $30.7m was making more profit than the rest of the company’s activities put together. I do not know whether this is traditional practice in the industry. I am told that Henry Ford used to say that he would sell his cars at a loss as long as he could make a profit on selling the spare parts.
– He once contemplated giving the cars away free.
-I did not know that. But in this case, on the figures, one would probably be justified in saying that the company ought to sell its tractors at a dearer price and the spare parts at a cheaper price. If that happens people are encouraged to repair their machinery. It is clear that there is a tremendous mark-up. The admitted mark-up on the cost of machinery and parts bought in the United States on the Pacific seaboard which are sold in the bush in Australia is 300 per cent. I know how easy it is to get angry about these figures. I am not going to be critical of them at this stage. But I am going to be critical of the fact that if there is a tariff on a $100 partlet us say a 15 per cent duty is applied- by the time that part reaches the farmer, the tariff induced cost will not be $15 but $45 because we get this multiplier effect. So there is room for grave concern about the way in which the tractor industry is operating in some fields. Because the Prices Justification Tribunal is still hearing evidence on the subject, I have no basis for being critical at this stage, except to go back again to the startling figures. I repeat that the cost of certain parts in New Zealand is $1,007 and that the same parts in Australia cost $2,048. Obviously the people in New Zealand are paying too little or we are paying too much. I am not going to say which is the case.
The only other thing I want to do is again to congratulate the Government. I am really going to make the most of this opportunity to congratulate the Government. There has been a certain amount of concern in my district about the statements made in this house recently that we ought not to be using certain labour saving equipment. One of the farmers in my electorate has been going round pricing harness for draught-horses. He was delighted when I was able to announce to him that the Government was going to pay this $5m bounty for tractors. He thought that he was faced with a future of having to go back to using horses. That is another reason why I want to congratulate the Government. As I have said, I am almost wallowing in my pleasure on this occasion.
I repeat that my main satisfaction, however, is based on the fact that on this occasion the Government has used the bounty system. I only wish that it would do so more often. Some people think that the subsidy equivalent is something that is just in the mind, but the subsidy equivalent is what the tariff costs. If we were to protect the Australian industry by bounties we would have a bounty bill- a subsidy bill- of about $4,000m a year- or so Mr Henderson says, and who are we to argue with so distinguished a gentleman. On this occasion the Government is using a method which does not impose a burden on the exporting industry, It imposes a burden on the taxpayer which is open for everyone to see. It is examinable every year in the House. No one except the poor old exporter knows the weight of the tariff burden. In this case the burden of protecting the industry is to be borne by the taxpayers. I only wish that the Government would use this system more often.
– I want to speak very briefly in support of the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill and of my colleague the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). Before doing so I must say that I agree entirely with the commendation of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) of the principle of the bounty. There is no doubt at all that it is a preferable way of adding support to our industry to many of the other methods. It is open. One knows what is going on. But, above all, it is flexible and it can be amended and altered to fit changing patterns within a particular industry. That is what is happening in this case.
We commend the Government for the way in which it is harmonising the changes in the bounty to fit in with the changing patterns of demand within the industry. The basic changes, of course, are that the reduction of the bounty will be at one per cent instead of 1.5 per cent for each percentage drop in local content. More importantly, the reduction will start from a 100 per cent local content rather than the 90 per cent situation under the old arrangement. So there is now a greater incentive to keep the content at 100 per cent, which rather extends the incentive in that direction.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide referred to the justification for the request by manufacturers for a freeze in their bounty in view of the present policies of the Government. On reading the proposition I think it is virtually frozen for 3 years. They will get plenty of notice of change. The change will take place over one 2-year period and then a further 3-year period. So there will not be a sudden change. The industry will have plenty of time to adapt itself to the proposed changes.
Another interesting aspect of the Bill is that it provides for indexation of the bounty to take account of changes in import prices. That indicates that the Government is acknowledging in this Bill the harmful effects of devaluation in feeding inflation into rural sector inputs. Farmers realise very well that, although they get an immediate benefit from devaluation in the form of a more rapid gross return for their produce, at the other end of the scale they have to pay for it. It is now becoming apparent how the bad effects of devaluation work against the rural industry. Of course at the other end some of the customers for our export products are now tending to threaten retaliation for our devaluation by putting up barriers against some of our rural exports to their countries. So it is not all pluses for the rural sector when we have a devaluation. The minuses are starting to come home to roost.
One of the most interesting features of this subsidy is the multinational relationship of the 2 companies concerned. Of course, we know that the Chamberlain company is still an Australian company, although only just. I understand that it had some amalgamation arrangement with the John Deere company, which is a multinational company, and that John Deere now owns 49 per cent of that company. The other company- the Harvester company- is, of course, a 100 per cent multinational company. If one looks at their profit situation one finds that, as is usual with multinational companies, they never make any money in Australia. A multinational company has the means at its disposal to fiddle with the cost of the import content of its product so that it does not make a profit and its profit is taken at some other stage or in some other country. This presents quite a problem for Australia in relation to agricultural machinery manufacture because, although it is mostly based on local production and mainly based on the wheat industry, we do have opportunities from time to time to develop export markets.
There is some reference in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission to there having been exports to some Asian and African countries. One of the sad facts is that quite often when an Australian trade commissioner succeeds in getting an order for an Australian tractor or what one thinks is an Australian tractor one finds that the multinational company concerned redirects the order to some other country where it can be bought a bit cheaper. This is a problem that has been mentioned to me when I have been overseas talking to our trade commissioners in undeveloped countries. Perhaps some technique should be developed whereby these countries can specify that they want an Australian tractor, which may have features that appeal to them or suit their conditions of operation. They should insist that it comes from Australia because quite often they are responding to aid programs that we provide to those countries. The price is not everything to them. For the sake of reciprocating they would like to do business with Australia but, because of the multinational set-up the business is directed away from Australia.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide referred to the problem of the scale of operation, as did the honourable member for Wakefield. I understand that, as a rule, the average tractor production operation is at least 10 times greater than the scale of operation in Australia. Of course it will be a long time before we overcome this aspect of the problem, if we ever do. I suppose the compensating factor, if there is any, is that the smaller operation tends to be more labour intensive and less automated. A good comparison is our car industry and the car industry in Japan. We intend to employ more skilled and semi-skilled people per unit than another country which is producing the same sort of product in a highly automated situation.
The quality of the product has been referred to, particularly in the IAC report. I should like to make a couple of comments about that. In terms of servicing, availability of spare parts and certainly in some technical aspects of our local product we score some pretty handsome pluses, which is natural. The product is designed to suit our particular conditions and it should be more adaptable than other makes. At the same time, there are a couple of pretty prominent minuses. One concerns safety. It seems to be the practice in
Australia to buy the safety cabin from a different manufacturer and separate from the purchase of the tractor. Then it has to be adapted to fit the model. This would tend to add to the cost of the unit. Perhaps manufacturers should be looking to produce a wider range of safety cabins for their own product so that people do not have to go to another source. The more important matter I want to mention is the lack of comfort in the Australian tractors. This is often referred to. Certainly there seems to be a growing demand for more consideration of this aspect. It is high time that this came about. Why should a farmer, because he happens to be on the land, put up with sitting on a very rough tractor for hours and hours on end, probably doing permanent damage to his health?
– Now 99 per cent of tractors are fitted with air-conditioned cabins, radios and so on.
– That is a very good move but there is still room for improvement. A lot of ex-farmers come to live in Canberra. Half of them have worn out discs in their back because of sitting on tractors for hours and hours. More attention should be given to the safety, comfort and health of the operator. Driving a tractor is a bit like shearing. All shearers are not as robust as my colleague, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). He survived during the shearing period.
– I go to a physiotherapist every year.
– He goes to a physiotherapist every year. More comfort has been introduced to the shearing industry. I do not know to what extent. Certainly comfort is something that should be looked at more closely. More attention should be given to insulation from both weather and noise, perhaps even to air-conditioning and to devices to relieve monotony. Some tractors even have provision for playing tapes. It may sound a bit far fetched, but I do not think it is. Why should people in that situation have to work in less comfortable conditions than people in other industries. I commend moves towards a more comfortable and safer tractor.
Generally we tend to think that the future of the tractor industry is very closely tied to the wheat industry. This is fair enough, particularly in Western Australia; but a note of warning should be sounded here. While the prospects for wheat are reasonably good, we should take note of the fact that most developing countries do not want to buy our wheat. They want to grow their own grain, whatever it may be. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to the prospects of exporting tractors to third world developing countries. I do not think this is pursued very strongly by this Government. As I have mentioned before, there are something like 40 new independent states in Africa and we have representation in only four of them. Wherever we have representation we have been able to develop trade in farm machinery. Conditions in some of these countries are very comparable with ours, and our machinery has great appeal to them. We should be pursuing the possibility of exporting farm machinery. We have greater possibilities for expanding trade in these areas than is generally recognised. Previously we have tended to look at them as outlets for our primary products. We have to forget about that because they do not want handouts of wheat or other grain. They want the technology to be able to grow their own, and we can play a valuable role. Apart from these few features, there is some future for the tractor industry in Australia. We should continue our flexible approach to the terms of bounties which may be adapted from time to time to fit in with changes that are taking place in the industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr Peter Johnson) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariffproposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs Tariffproposals No. 10 give effect to an agreement reached with the New Zealand Government concerning new arrangements for trans-Tasman trade in items of apparel. This Government has for some time been concerned at the rapid growth in imports from New Zealand and the market distortions resulting from the exemption of New Zealand apparel from tariff quota arrangements. The present open-ended exemption of New Zealand apparel from Australia’s global tariff quotas will be terminated from tomorrow. At the same time provision will be made for special quotas for Australian importers of New Zealand apparel, designed to facilitate imports from New Zealand within existing quota ceilings for the various products categories up to the overall levels achieved in the calendar year 1976. I should mention that goods imported under this arrangement within the quota limits set will continue to be admitted at the existing concessional rate applicable to New Zealand. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
-Some of the debate this afternoon unfortunately has reflected a very simplistic approach to a very difficult problem which this country must face not only today but also in the future. The higher standards of living which the Australian people enjoy requires that our individual approach to bounties, tariffs and quotas must be to ensure that Australians keep their jobs. I commend the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) on his introduction of tariff proposals to change the present position, which has existed over the last few years, in relation to imports from New Zealand. I will refer to that matter at a later time.
Unfortunately, the assertion that we can compete in the world market place with our standards of living and cost structure is not true. To ensure that we remain in the textile and apparel manufacturing sector and can compete in the market place within this country and outside, we need to ensure that bounties are used to achieve that end. But we should realise that we must have an employment situation in which we can utilise the benefits of tariffs and quotas. A member on this side of the House mentioned that a certain person in his electorate was looking at horses and at the price of hay for those horses. I refer the honourable member to an article which appeared recently in the Sydney Morning Herald which stated that one of the largest breweries in England had decided to take that important step. It has built stables and now has horses, and is finding them much cheaper than using the horseless carriage. Perhaps certain people in the honourable member’s electorate who live outside the city area- outside the fiercely competitive market place which exists in the garment and textile area- could take note of the brewery in England. I think they would find that horses are indeed very efficient and considerably cheaper than motor transport.
There has been a dramatic increase in the last few years in imports of bed linen and unraised cotton sheetings. Imports of bed linens have increased by 88.5 per cent and in unraised cotton sheeting by 47. 1 per cent. I believe that that is a very important increase in an area about which we must be very concerned for the simple reason that every time we allow an increase in imports into this country we put in jeopardy the jobs of some Australians. Over 250 000 people are indirectly involved in the garment and textile manufacturing industry in this country. Those people are vital to the future of our country. But what has happened in the last few years, particularly as a result of the previous Government’s decision in July 1973 to cut the tariff by 25 per cent? In January 1974 there were 54 200 people employed in this country in the manufacture of textiles. There were 91 200 people in the knitting mills and clothing area, and the total employed in textiles and apparel was 146 400. The number of employees in the footwear area amounted to 17 400.
The effects of the July 1973 decision began to appear in the early part of 1974 and by December 1974 the number of people employed in the textile area had dropped to 40 900. In the knitting mills and clothing area there was a considerable drop from 91000 to 76 600, and a drop in the total number of people employed from 146 400 to 117 500 by December 1975. The same degree of concern was obvious in the footwear area because the January 1974 figure of 17 400 had been reduced to 12 800 by the end of the year. That dramatic decrease continued in the following months until we had a change of government in December 1975. In the textile area the employment figure rose from 40 000 to 45 000, in the knitting nulls and clothing area it rose from 76 000 to 77 000, and there was a total increase from 117 000 to 122 000 in the textile and apparel area. In footwear there was an increase in employment from 12 800 to 14 800, which reflected a mark of confidence in the election of the Government of which I am a supporter.
Continued employment in this area, I believe, is very important to the future of our country. It is also important for the decentralised areas of Australia. Over 1 5 per cent of the total number of people employed in the apparel and textile industry of Australia live and work in decentralised areas. In the last 3 years, in the midst of the difficulties which have been experienced in the various primary producing areas due to low meat and wool prices, the farmers who have continued despite the difficulties have had the support of an industry which pays its employees weekly. In turn, those employees pay the local retailers, the transport organisations and the travel companies immediately they purchase goods in a small town. That has assisted traders in those towns to extend credit until the primary producers outside the town were in a position to meet the debts that had accrued because of low prices, and I think that is most important. Once the primary producer’s prices increase he is back on his feet, but during the period of time when he is not able to meet his commitments he is greatly assisted by the decentralised operation of the garment and textile industry.
There has been considerable discussion at various times about the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but a lot of people fail to realise that we are the one country amongst the western industrialised nations, and even amongst the developing nations, which is actually being used, and quite unfairly used. At the present time the United States of America imports 1 5 per cent of its woven and ready made garments under the GATT agreement and has 85 per cent protection for its home industry. The European Economic Community has a 10 per cent import content and a 90 per cent local content, which is almost total protection. Recently the Canadian Government decided to stop the rate of unemployment which was affecting this section of its economy and moved very swiftly and surely, to the extent that it now has a 20 per cent import content and an 80 per cent local manufactured content.
What is Australia’s position? Where do we stand in this area? How do we compare with nations with whom we trade which have a similar standard of living to ours? Is our position similar? No, unfortunately, it is not. We have a 60 per cent import content and a 40 per cent local manufactured content. Quite frankly, I believe that the various decision making processes which are necessary in any good government must be hastened to ensure that that situation does not continue. It is not a viable proposition for any organisation to have over 50 per cent of its plant and equipment lying idle, and that is what has happened in a number of areas.
Recently we have read with amazement about a number of organisations which have been well known brand and trading names in this country for years. I think that members on both sides of the House, as younger men and children, wore certain types of clothing which were manufactured in Australia under Australian brand names which over the years had reached an extremely high quality and standard. We now have a situation where major organisations are closing down, and in speaking in this debate today I am deeply disappointed to have to say that that is an unfortunate occurrence which is creating a problem within the Australian community. We are putting ourselves in serious jeopardy for the future. We have to ensure that organisations which have worked hard and which have large investments in plant and equipment continue to exist within our social framework and economic structure. If we are to have some restructuring, let us announce the restructuring and get on with it. At least we should give the individual organisations at present involved in the garment and textile manufacturing area an opportunity to say what their future will be. I believe that we must engender confidence to reverse the problems which we inherited. Unfortunately, it will not take just 12 months to overcome these problems. It will take a considerably longer period.
For too long we have taken a selfish attitude in this area. For too long we have said: ‘Why cannot we have a cheap motor car from overseas? Why cannot we have a cheaper garment from overseas?’ This was the academic theory. In actual practice, the individual retailing organisations in this country followed a different course. For example, if they purchased a garment from an Australian manufacturer for $5 they retailed it for $10. There would be a 100 per cent markup. But if that item was purchased from overseas at $2, the retailers did not reduce the cost to the Australian consumer. They retailed that item at $10 with a 500 per cent markup. I say this quite deliberately: I have seen the invoicing in regard to a number of items over the last few years and again recently. This is the type of thing that has gone on. The previous Government was advised by various academics that if it reduced the cost of an item by importing it from cheap labour countries, that would solve a problem. It was told that that saving would be passed on to the Australia consumer. That has not been so. Unfortunately, we have seen a continuing trend develop of increases in imports. This has meant that Austalians have been taken out of the industry and left on the shelf. This has happened because a large percentage of female employees is engaged in the work force of the garment and textile industry. These women, who have enjoyed the extra comforts which their hours of work have provided, are now in a situation in which they are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet.
I do not believe that the problems we face in this area can be solved quickly. They will be solved over a period and they will be solved by diligence. Unfortunately, it takes some considerable time to phase in new plant and equipment, to change the production schedule and to involve any organisation in a new marketing area. We have heard also over a period that the protection of this industry has been provided at a cost to other sections of industry. I am afraid that this assertion cannot be left any longer in this airy fairy academic area. It has been said that the cost of protecting the Australian clothing industry was $184m annually in gross subsidy equivalent terms. This is an annual cost and is a figure that certain sections of the community view as being too high both in absolute terms and in comparison with other industries. However, to talk in terms of the absolute cost of protection as being $184m annually is just as dangerous as the unions stating that the $100m profit of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is too high. Such figures only derive any significance when they are related to other indicators. In the case of BHP, if the figure is related to funds employed a ratio of around Vh per cent or 3 per cent is obtained. If all things were equal and shareholders could retain their funds, they would be better off placing their money in a bank savings account.
In the case of protection for the industry, it is considered quite valid for the annual cost to be related to the value of retail sales of clothing as it is at this level that the consumer pays, so called, for industry protection. The value of retail sales in 1971-72 was assessed at $1,656 billion. This means that the cost of protection represents the equivalent of 11.1 per cent of retail sales in 1971-72 or the equivalent of 1 1.1c of the retail sales dollar level. The question therefore resolves itself into the following considerations: Is this cost excessive in relation to the value of the industry’s contribution to the Australian economy? If the answer to the above question is yes, what are the alternative industries into which the human and capital resources of this industry can be channelled? What are the prospects of finding these industries? How easily can the changes that are considered desirable be made?
An overall examination of the first question reveals that the value added to the industry in 1971-72 was $427.5m. The value added by the suppliers to this industry in 1971-72 was $224.4m. The total value added in 1971-72 was $65 1.9m. In finding this value added a mutliplier of 1.4 is used. This is a conservative estimate of multiplying factors which can be used to assess the total effective expenditure. The total effect of the 1971-72 value added is $9 12.7m. Deducting the commissions of assessment of the cost of the industry protection, the net value added by this industry in 1971-72 is assessed at $728.7m. This brief examination reveals that this industry’s net contribution to the Australian economy in 1971-72 was 4 times the cost of protection. That situation has changed dramatically. The contribution to the Australian economy has increased to 6 times for the 1975-76 financial year.
Whilst the figures for the 1971-72 financial year may be considered low in relative terms, there remains the undisputed fact that the industry is making a net contribution to the Australian economy which is considerably in excess of the imputed cost of protection. From the experience of members in the industry, it is extremely difficult and almost impossible to envisage alternative industries with a ratio of net value added to cost of protection that is in excess of four that could have served also 130 000 people engaged in the production of apparel and related items. The new opportunities cannot be seen by either academics or the entrepreneurs with the funds available for investment. I consider that this is a terribly important question. I believe that this total area is one which must be under considerable review at all times.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The House has before it something like a smorgasbord of very tantalising and fascinating issues. We are debating at the moment the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill, the Bed Sheeting Bounty Bill and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill. I must confess that I had a childhood interest in tractors and a more enduring interest in bed sheets, but I have never spoken on the question of automatic data processing in the Parliament before. I congratulate the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) who gave such an extensive and effective exposition of these 3 areas. It is incredible that anybody can master such complicated issues with such great capacity and quality.
The question of automatic data processing obviously fascinates the whole world. We live in a computerised era. It does not matter to whom one talks or whom one meets, that person has some association with the computer industry in 1977. Even the school boys and the school girls have some type of computerised apparatus with which they undertake their mathematical calculations and the like. Indeed, it goes well past that into the control of manufacturing processes and into the area of aeronautical operations. All of those people who are employed by a substantial employer, be it government or private, are probably receiving a computerised pay slip. So it goes on. Is it any wonder then that the governments of the world are giving very great consideration to the history of this industry and to the extent of the potential that they see in it? They are concerned with the type of support which it needs. Most people, of course, like to be self sufficient to the extent that they are able. It is foolhardy for us to take the view that we can be self sufficient in everything. The world would be unable to operate in that way. So, we have to be discerning in respect of those things that we can do well as against the things that we can accomplish in only a mediocre fashion.
The purpose of the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill 1 977 is to increase the assistance afforded certain sections of the automatic data processing equipment industry in Australia by means of a bounty. It is important to note that this industry has grown considerably. It is not one of our major industries by any means, but it is taking on encouraging characteristics. It is feeling its oats, as it were. It is certainly entitled to a great deal of consideration.
Let me say, first of all, that I am impressed with the quality of the report presented by the Industries Assistance Commission. Indeed, I am impressed with the concept of the Industries Assistance Commission. I suppose all honourable members can cast their minds back to the period preceding the term of the Labor Government and the innovation of the Industries Assistance Commission when the old cumbersome Tariff Board was operating. At that time there was no regularity or the same involvement and the expertise that we have today probing deeply into the problems of industry. At this time I am very pleased to note that the automatic data processing industry has the benefit of backing and advice and the inquisition or interrogative processes, if you like, provided by these very competent commissioners. This is no time to play around recklessly with any Australian industry. When it is all said and done, we have in Australia at the present time the highest rate of unemployment for some 40 years. Unemployment stands at well in excess of 300 000 people unemployed. So, we do not want to be gallivanting down the political garden path, flirting with some dubious philosophy that could well aggravate this most serious employment situation.
As I have mentioned, this industry is not one of the greatest by any means, but it is still worthy of consideration. I am glad to note that it is receiving in my view, sensible consideration. In 1975, the industry employed some 400 persons, of which 40 per cent were engaged in the production of cathode ray display terminals. We are told that in 1974-75 sales were approximately $10m compared with imports of $153m. So it is apparent that Australia is not a predominant industry in this field but that we have a great dependency on other parts of the world. But it is possible, with sensitive and sensible handling, that that proportion of Australia’s participation in this futuristic industry can steadfastly expand. Prior to November 1976 the industry received limited tariff protection. Cathode ray display terminals received 24 per cent, disc packs and disc cartridges received 35 per cent, and most other automatic data processing equipment received 6 per cent to 7 per cent. I summarise the situation by saying that the legislation implements the bulk of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission, the main exception being in relation to the cathode ray display terminals. The existing level and method of assistance is left unchanged in relation to those items.
Let me look just for a moment at the type of assistance which is being given overseas. On page 6 of its report the Industries Assistance Commission states:
Support measures offered by various overseas governments to their indigenous computer manufacturing industries range from grants to complex promotion programs. Some of the measures provided have included: direct subsidies government purchasing policies research and development grants government development contracts tariffs and other restrictions on imports fostering of mergers of local ADP manufacturers enforcement of industry standards grants to computer education finance for rental schemes and capital investments at subsidised interest rates.
So, it is obvious that a range of options is open to the Industries Assistance Commission and to governments. Some of those options, of course, have been identified in the legislation which is before us at the present time. The industry in Australia is made up of about 6 small hardware manufacturers producing these cathode ray tube display terminals, all but one of which we are told are locally owned. I am not sure that that is the fact of the situation. I shall look at some figures in just a moment which may well throw some light on that aspect. We are also told that in the world environment the industry is dominated by a small number of United States firms. Several major world suppliers have established subsidiary companies in Australia which are primarily concerned with marketing and with software. In that regard I turn to the Directory of
Overseas Investment in Australian Manufacturing Industry 1976. The production of that Directory was another initiative of the Labor Government and it is rendering great service to industries and governments alike at the present time. It is just magnificent to observe the great amount of information which is now available to permit us to be more discerning about these things.
In that Directory there appears a summary of the overseas companies involved in this industry in Australia. I note, for example, that Control Data Australia Pty Ltd is one of the well capitalised companies. That company is involved with electronic computing equipment terminals, and this Australian subsidiary of the parent company has total assets worth $ 19.4m. How much of that is owned by Australians? Regrettably it seems not one solitary cent, since the overseas equity is 100 per cent. Let us then look at another major company, Honeywell Pty Ltd which has its headquarters in Sydney. That company is capitalised to the extent of $29.1m as at December 1974. That is the latest figure available. The figure is probably much more than that at the present time. As at December 1974, the Australian citizen did not have one solitary cent invested in this dominating industry which is involved with such important matters affecting the lives of all Australians.
I go on to note the points made by the Industries Assistance Commission. I see, for example, that funds employed in the hardware sector of this industry in 1974-75 totalled only about $5m. I have mentioned that sales amounted to approximately $10m and that imports were valued at $153m for the year 1974-75. It is notable that some of the local hardware manufacturers recorded losses since their establishment. When profits were made, they were mostly small and irregular. Clearly the electronics industry needs orchestration by the Government- not a stand-off or a status quo attitude which is the tendency of this Government. Real intervention is necessary.
I might just mention the kind of intervention which in my view is necessary to get this industry off the ground. We are told that there are limited prospects of manufacturing large scale computer systems in Australia. The Commission considered that the market for these units would continue to be dominated by overseas suppliers. Hopefully we will get some measure of expansion. There are many interesting comments in the report to which one could refer. But let me say now, lest I forget, that the Commission has recommended that the goods under reference be made dutiable at 6 per cent and that for a period of 7 years the tariff on most goods be supplemented by a bounty which would phase out over 7 years. The estimated cost of the bounty is $1.2m. A tariff would replace the current rate of 24 per cent for cathode ray display terminals and 35 per cent for disc packs and disc cartridges. What has happened in this case- this is a matter to which the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) has referred- is that there has been a sensible marrying of 2 processes, the tariff process and the bounty process. I commend the honourable member for his enduring interest in this matter.
It seems to me that if we are to build great tariff barriers in respect of an industry of such enormous proportions and utilisation we will naturally have the inevitable sequel of prices being pushed up to a level where they will be deleterious to the wellbeing of Australian consumers. I have already indicated the broad application of the integrative nature of the electronics industry which seems to be associated with almost every aspect of the lives of Australians and whose components are used by almost every Australian. So it is important not just to rely on the old tariff technique of building bigger barriers which force up the price of commodities for the Australian consumer. It seems to me to be essential that we allow some influence from overseas production techniques to benefit the Australian utiliser and ultimately, through the chain, the Australian consumer.
Many overseas countries, particularly the United States of America and West Germany and, of course, some of the Asian countries, have the benefit of the economy of scale principle. Australia would be extremely disadvantaged if it sought to be self-sustaining because it lacks that quality- the economy of scale factor or characteristic. I suppose that Australia also would have great difficulty in moving in any rapid way into the export area in close proximity to our own country. In any event the market prices would be phenomenal if we did not take some benefit from overseas economy of scale factors. I do not doubt that if we sought to expand too rapidly the full weight of international companies, particularly multinational companies, would come crashing down upon us.
What is the position of the automatic data processing equipment industry? I note that mention is made in the summary of the IAC report of the fact that the Government is the predominant user of our production capacity in Australia. The Commission states in summary form, and probably in other forms as well:
Government purchases represented a substantial pan of the market for CRTs and data entry equipment and are likely to remain important.
I put it to the House that we should be seeking to expand this industry. There will probably be very great benefit to the nation if we looked at some important objectives involved. Our primary objective seems to be the need to sustain the industry. Our second objective must be to prevent any deterioration in the employment situation in Australia.
– Train more people to work in it.
-Yes, to train more people to work in the industry. In any event we need to make certain that nobody is put out of the factory gate. That should be our first priority in 1 977 and 1 978. Then it is necessary in my view to gain for Australians an increasing say in the operation of these industries. We need to throw off, at least to some degree, the element of overseas domination that prevails through the multinational factor. It seems to me that it is possible to do that bearing in mind the fact that the industry in Australia is being sustained only as a result of tariff protection. I forget the terminology used by the honourable member for Wakefield in this regard. The words he used were to the effect that tariff protection is like giving an industry a golden handshake.
The other factor is that bounties are being paid at the expense of the taxpayer. If bounties are to be paid and if we are to seek to expand an industry there seems to me to be a good case for getting some Australian equity for the Australian people. This is not an exceptional objective because many countries are seeking to do that at the present time. If anyone has the foolhardy idea that he can go into Indonesia, our closest neighbour, for example, with the expectation that he can take some capital in there, take charge of the country’s resources, dominate its industry and repatriate the profits, he is engaging in wishful thinking and does not have a proper understanding of the facts. Therefore I put it to the Government that if we are to spend some money, let us support industries such as the electronic industry. Let us give them the support to which they are entitled- a green light to go on. Let us find a place in Australia for the electronics industry. Let us in doing so have regard for the fact that great financial benefits can accrue if we ensure that the bounty contributions that we make are used to buy some levels of public equity. If this is done, I believe that Australians will be very proud to be associated with what I hope will be the inevitable success of the automatic data processing industry.
-The House is discussing the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill, the Bed Sheeting Bounty Bill and the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill. I would like to address myself particularly to the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill which has been introduced as a consequence of a reference by the Government of the day to the Industries Assistance Commission on 30 August 1974. As bounty assistance has been in operation in one form or another since 1922 and payment since manufacturers first commenced production in the late 1940s has totalled approximately $42m it is proper that a continuing scrutiny be exercised on the fundings under these bounty arrangements to ensure that the taxpayer of Australia is satisfied that the bounties are applied within the spirit of the scheme.
I pause briefly to express my vicarious satisfaction in the manifest pleasure of the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) over the nature of this Bill which he sees at least as a partial vindication of his perennial arguments against the evils of the tariff system in the broad. The Bill, of course, seeks to amend the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Act 1966 so as to restructure and extend the period of bounty assistance on wheeled tractors manufactured in Australia. The bounty is to be phased down over 3 periods and the terminating date for these periods is 3 1 December 1984 or at such later time as may be proclaimed. The reduction in bounty payable as local content of factory cost falls has been changed from1½ per cent for every 1 per cent that the local content is less than 90 per cent to 1 per cent for every 1 per cent that local content is less than 100 per cent. This differs from the existing provisions of the Principal Act. No bounty is payable, of course, where local content falls below 55 per cent. The industry, which has received bounty assistance for more than 50 years, now consists of 2 manufacturers, one in Western Australian and the other in Victoria. The bounty payments in 1974-75 totalled $4.4m, which was nearly $1,300 per tractor. In 1975 local manufacturers sold 3438 tractors, which is about 20 per cent of the total market, and employed approximately 1600 persons.
It is worth noting that the Industries Assistance Commission, in its examination of this problem, could not see any great likelihood of a substantial increase in the level of tractor manufacture within this country in the foreseeable future. The matter of bounty versus tariff, highlighted by the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), is noteworthy as it places fairly and squarely, in identifiable form, the responsibility and the nature of this expenditure inasmuch as it is linked directly and immediately with the continued employment of, in this case, 1600 Australians. It gives the Australian manufacturers a capacity to match the prices of imported tractors which essentially are admitted to the country free of duty. All too often we have seen in cases of government support, be they subsidies or fundings of other nature, something of a stigma attaching to what is regarded by the populous in general as the primary industry beneficiary. It has been almost a forlorn argument over the years that these subsidies and price support programs are destined to subsidise the consumer and not the producer and to ensure that primary produce of first class quality, costed on an efficient basis, is made available to the Australian consumer.
The Industries Assistance Commission came to the conclusion that the question of assistance for the production of tractors, having been last reported by the Tariff Board on 2 1 September 1972 and having in recent years been offset to some extent by inflation, was still at a level adequate to meet its purpose to the extent that the advantage given to the manufacturers was not eroded to the point where the purpose of the bounty was thwarted. The bounty was sufficiently generous to give them the capacity to match the prices and marketing competition of the imported commodity. I think it appropriate at this point to mention that the manufacturers of the tractors benefiting from this bounty should be responsible to their role of ensuring that these taxpayers’ moneys are directed to the precise purpose of the scheme and that they should not be used to gain what might be described as an unfair marketing advantage against their competitors in the market. I have received from time to time disturbing reports that beneficiaries of this bounty have engaged in marketing practices by way of deferred interest and holidays on payments, schemes which seriously disadvantage their competitors. I think a continuing scrutiny is necessary to ensure that the spirit of this scheme is maintained.
The Commission considered that it was unable to recommend assistance at the level that would be required to enable the industry to continue operating largely as it has been in the past because there is no clear evidence over a considerable number of years that the manufacturers have responded in the manner that perhaps would have been sought. Often, in the case of protective devices, a comfortable environment h as been established and the manufacturers and those involved in the operation have been content just to poke along comfortably in their sense of security and not make a sufficiently strenuous effort to relieve the taxpayers of Australia of the burden so imposed. The Commission, as a. consequence, came to the conclusion that the industry could, with re-organisation of its production activities and a more alert sense of responsibility, lift its competitive capacity so that the rate of assistance, declining over the phasing-out period, would not inflict hardship on the industry or make any serious intrusion to the purchasing options of the Australian tractor users.
Certainly, there are high disabilities affecting local tractor manufacturers. The rather modest limitations on their operations naturally have a cost-benefit effect. It is stated that overseas manufacturers and competition usually have a production level of ten times in excess of production levels of Australian companies. The fact that for at least the next 10 years it is not anticipated that there will be any substantial growth in the demand for Australian produced tractors would certainly place a greater emphasis on and create a greater need for Australian manufacturers to rise to the occasion and offset the decline in the phasing out funding through these bounty proposals. Certainly, as the honourable member for Wakefield pointed out, the bounty versus tariff measures are challenging and it is of some interest to note the comments of the Industries Assistance Commission which states:
With tariffs, the initial incidence of the cost of assistance falls on tractor buyers.
It also states:
With a bounty the cost is borne by the taxpayer. On the basis of bounties paid in 1973-74 and their tariff equivalents, the incidence of tariffs and bounties can be contrasted - with .a bounty, tractor manufacturers received $3. 7m. This cost was borne by the community generally; -
It is right and proper that it should be so borne. As I said before, it can be identified immediately as a sacrifice- I use the term advisedly- by the taxpayer in the broad to ensure that fellow Australians have the opportunity to maintain their employment and to have offset to some extent some of the limitations imposed upon their operations. The report of the Commission also states: with an equivalent tariff,
That is, based on the same production and sales which occurred with bounty assistance - tractor manufacturers would through higher selling prices have received the equivalent of a subsidy of $3.7m; however, the community generally would have received about $10m in tariff revenue. The cost of about $14m would have been borne by tractor purchasers although a pan of the cost would have been passed on to the community.
Therein lies the rub that for too long the primary producers behind the tariff barriers have been required to sustain the escalating costs attached to their production. It is significant that as recently as the last 8 to 10 years the price of a popular farm tractor has risen from between 5,000 to $12,000, and $25,000 for a general purpose tractor is not an excessively high level of operation today. It is this squeeze between the costs and returns which is placing primary industries considerably at risk. It is very important that a sense of interdependence be established between the various sectors of the Australian community. It is very significant that all too often workers who in all innocence are involved in the production of commodities for primary industry seem quite oblivious of the consequences of their actions, the end fate of their product. They are living within an isolated environment. They seem not sensitive to the fact that their wellbeing depends to a considerable extent, if not totally in the final analysis, on the prosperity and viability of the primary industries.
I am reminded of an occasion a few years ago when, despite the projections of those who seemed to have competence in this area, it was suddenly discovered that 3 years reserves of harvesters in excess of Australian requirements were on grass as a result of crop failures and other factors that perennially come to bear on primary industries. As a consequence 900 employees were discharged from Massey-Ferguson (Aust) Limited at Sunshine in Melbourne. I venture to say that that would have been the first occasion on which the people engaged in that industry realised how their wellbeing was so closely tied to the wellbeing and viability of primary industry. It seems clear that the structure of the current and past bounty schemes has not induced the tractor industry to adjust to altered circumstances, thereby improving its position. The increasing rate of assistance for higher levels of local content has supported uneconomic production rather than induced the industry to take advantage of improved economies overseas and competent production. Any future bounty scheme should be such that its protective incidence is approximately uniform in respect of tractor size and the level of content.
This Bill, which is required to attend to that level of management for the expenditure of taxpayers’ money responsibly deals with the problem. The Government has taken note that emphasis is to be placed on the higher performance or heavier tractors as the lower powered tractors constitute only 2 per cent of the Australian demand. I am sure that as the phasing out period takes effect continuing scrutiny will ensure that the various parties respond to their own responsibilities in the matter and eventually within an orderly economy this demand on the taxpayers’ money may not be as great as it is presently. I commend the Bill.
– I, as the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) did a little while ago, very much support the Government’s actions in relation to the 3 Bills before the House today. I have no intention of repeating the arguments that the honourable member for Wakefield put. I think that what is important to the rural community in relation to Australian production of tractors is that at least the protection is open and by way of bounty and will not put the price up of tractors purchased from elsewhere. Tractor prices are an important cost ingredient in the total cost of production of farm products in Australia. A lot of the need for this sort of legislation and the need for the Temporary Assistance Authority to examine a wide range of industries and their welfare today in terms of export competition of course was caused by the actions of the Australian Labor Party Government in the last three or four years. We now have the position where at least one direct result of the Labor Government’s bad decisions has been not only a loss of competitiveness on export markets but also the creation of great problems for Australia’s internally produced goods which compete with imported goods. If that is not bad enough, at the end of that line-up the Labor Government left us with a currency that was vastly overvalued.
The Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill is intended to replace the previous bounty scheme which terminated in December 1976. Clause 14 allows tractors of 100 per cent Australian parts and materials and completed prior to 1 January 1977 to be sold after that date and be eligible for a bounty. I shall return to that matter in a minute. First I should like to refer to the Act which this Bill amends. The first point I make refers to the application of sections 15 and 18 ( 1 ) and 18 (2).. It might be of interest to the House to know that these sections provide that a person can be required to convict himself by selfincrimination. Those sections state that a person shall not refuse or fail to answer a question or to produce an account. A person shall present to an officer or other person doing duty under this Act an account book or document and shall not make to such an officer or person a statement which is false or misleading. A penalty of $1,000 or imprisonment for 12 months is provided. That legislation goes back to 1966. That is a pretty grave penalty provided under that Act for any refusal to provide correct information or for any other nefarious act that could arise in relation to the collection of bounties under the Act. I think it does not hurt to point this out right from the word go. Here is a penal clause concerning breaches of a series of conditions that are meant to keep the society in an orderly situation. I apply that remark generally to my own political philosophy.
The second matter I mention is that there is an example of delegated authority in this Bill which I find strange. When the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) responds later I would be interested to hear his reply on this point. This Bill authorises both the Minister and the Comptroller-General of Customs to delegate all or any of their powers and functions but not to re-delegate that authority. Honourable members should remember that only 2 manufacturers are concerned with the bounty payable under this Bill. These immense powers of referral frankly could attract the notice of the Senate at a later date. If a Minister or one other person to whom he could delegate authority could not control the implications of this Bill, minor though they might seem, affecting only 2 companies in Australia, I find the whole situation somewhat strange. In fact I am reminded of the age-old philosophy of Bagehot of English fame. He wrote many books on delegated authority. This provision seems to me a trifle strange.
Returning to the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, I am concerned on 2 counts: Firstly, on the determination of future demands for tractors and secondly, on the possible future for a tractor industry at all in Australia. This Bill changes the emphasis of the bounty from smaller to larger tractors. As my friend the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) said, the old scheme distorted the market. The new scheme is a much better encouragement to proper trends as they will probably occur. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard some figures showing the percentage change in protection on light, lower medium, upper medium, lower heavy and upper heavy tractors from the old scheme to the new one.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Total Power of Tractors Sold in the Period 1965-66-1973-74
N.B. Total Power is estimated by multiplying the number of tractors sold in each size group by the average power (in kilowatts) for that group, in each year.
Average Power is estimated by dividing the total power for the year by the number of tractors sold in that year.
The total fleet as at 1973-74 was approximately 330 000 tractors with average power of each unit 48 kw approximately.
-I point out that I had shown the list to the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) previously. The IAC seems to have relied on sales as a guide to demand, even though it admits that the period under review from 1970-71 to 1974-75 was not typical. For instance, in that period total sales were approximately 60 000-that is, more than 10 000 less than in the previous 5 years. The increase in total rural holdings of tractors in Australia was about only 2 500-more than 30 000 less than in the previous 5 years. I am not one to kick the IAC. In fact with my philosophy I am pleased with the result it has produced and the fact that it has been established. But I think it is necessary sometimes to point out what I regard as a small deficiency in the statistical work the Commission has done in this exercise. I now seek leave to incorporate in Hansard another small chart.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
In the period 1971-75 there were 5585 sales of the largest range of tractors, all imported. Comparing this with the other data in that period.
– Are these incorporations all the work of your research officer?
-They are based on IAC and other government reports. The downturn in the 5 -year period from 1971 to 1975, which the last chart I have incorporated demonstrates, should be considered in conjunction with the tractor population in Australia of about 330 000. This means that slightly less than one-fifth were replaced during that period I have just mentioned, leaving something like 270 000 tractors to be replaced, assuming that they have to be replaced, which at the 1 97 1 -75 rate would take over 20 years.
Hard used tractors do become tired after 10 years or so. Some just sit and pump water and others undoubtedly finish on the scrap heap or are even turned into some form of conveyance, like trailers. Thus suggests that there could be a bigger demand for tractors in the next 5 to 10 years than the Industries Assistance Commission report suggests. It is on this fact that the future of the tractor industry must hang its fortunes. The number of new tractors needed would be less, of course, if bigger tractors were purchased. For example, a large tractor of say 1 10 kilowatt output power theoretically could do the work of 2 tractors with half that power. But even at this one for two replacement it would still take over 10 years to rejuvenate the existing fleet of tractors.
This brings me to this point to which I think the IAC again has not given sufficient attention: What size tractors will farmers want? Obviously big tractors are useful and economical for broad acres such as wheat. For other kinds of farming such as dairying, horticultural and fat lamb areas obviously a smaller tractor could be used to better advantage and at a better economical cost. Farmers will consider the problem of one very big tractor versus 2 semi-small tractors of thenown volition, so we do not have to worry about that. All in all, there seems to be a need to reexamine the market to see how many tractors and of what power farmers will be wanting to buy and when, over the next 5 to 10 years. If the IAC report is negligent in any way it is that it does not attempt to deal with this problem.
However, assuming that the IAC market forecasts are accurate it is now appropriate to turn to the possible future for the tractor industry in Australia. The IAC points out that the industry suffers from the small scale of operations competing against overseas production of ten or twelve times as many tractors per manufacturing plant. The IAC proposals would almost certainly ensure that the smaller tractors could only be made in Australia at a loss. Therefore, our industry would have to concentrate on larger sizes of tractors, thereby further accentuating the problem of scale of operations. All of this suggests that the new bounty scheme could cause the industry to cease operation unless markets can be found, perhaps overseas, to lend an economy of scale to the exercise. Certainly one can look to an increase in price for the smaller tractors built in Australia unless such economy can be found. Even if the industry does survive and does redirect its resources, presumably fewer bigger tractors would be sold. Consequently, I find it hard to share the IAC’s optimism about employment possibilities in the future. That does not mean to say that I think the IAC is wrong in its decision: I think it is correct. But to be practical, we have to look at the future of these industries. Unless the sort of proposition that I put to the House that more tractors than the current trend signifies will be required over the years, given the scaled down operation of the smaller tractor level of total production, I would not be optimistic about the future of the industry.
At this stage, because many of the things I am interested in have been said extraordinarily well and have been dealt with much better than I could have dealt with them, I should like to sum up the situation in a few terse phrases: The bounties are a very important method of giving support to an industry, if that is considered necessary. This is consistent with the Government’s rural adjustment propositions which, as the House will know will attempt by social and other measures to get uneconomic farmers out of various areas over the years. The tendency and the trend of this Bill is therefore consistent with that policy. It does meet changing market trends. It does not put up the price of tractors generally as tariff protection would have done. This is very much to the advantage of the farming community which has a strong, vested interest in what the Government does in relation to this Bill. I support this Bill.
– I support the Bills before the House. I also support the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and others who have similar points of view. I very much regret that I cannot entirely agree with what the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) has said in regard to certain of these aspects. I do understand his point of view. I should say at the outset that sometimes there seems to be an implication in what the honourable member and various other honourable members have said that the honourable member for Wakefield and the other honourable members who support his point of view are entirely without compassion and entirely without feeling for the people who work in those manufacturing industries which are protected. Some of those industries are highly protected by tariff and are also paid bounties. I do not believe that this is true. I do not believe that the honourable member for Wakefield or anybody else in this chamber lack compassion for the people who have difficulty. In fact, I think the situation is very much the opposite.
Some philosophical principles are involved in these debates as they are in any debates that are concerned with tariff protection, bounty and matters of like nature. When we think of what the honourable member for Brisbane and other speakers have said, certainly the Bills are important, but the reasons for which they are important are the reasons about which we disagree. Bounty and tariff Bills always present an opportunity for those of us who have philosophical convictions about them to say a few words on how we feel about those convictions. My own convictions are that I tend fairly strongly to lean towards a free trade position generally. I find tariff protection in particular bad. I am prepared to accept bounties and in this case, of course, I support the Government because I certainly see the bounty as having far less impact than tariff protection.
I think it is important that we should be able to say how we feel about these things. Certainly for years outside this Parliament I have heard the honourable member for Wakefield putting his point of view and not getting a great deal of support for it. I think that the honourable member’s point of view is that he wants tariff protection reduced. He is a practical man. He has been around this place for a long time. Those who support him have been here a lot longer than I have. I feel that they do not want to destroy industries overnight. I do not think that that has ever been their point of view. It is a matter of gradualism. I think it is fair and truthful to say that the system of bounty and tariff protection has been in existence as a weapon of government policy for much longer than I have been alive. I do not know whether it has been in operation for as long as the honourable member for Wakefield has been alive. But because he is so fit and runs around the tennis court, I do not know that anybody would know what his age is. However, this benevolent government interference in free trade has certainly been around longer than I have been alive. If that is the case, obviously that protection cannot be cut out overnight, certainly not without disastrous consequences. Some of those consequence have been alluded to by the honourable member for Brisbane and others on previous occasions. What I wish to speak more particularly to is the problem that bounties and tariff protection present to States such as my own State of Western Australia. We in Western Australia have the problem of distance to overcome. It is rather interesting to hear the arguments of manufacturers when they ask for larger and larger bounties and higher and higher tariff protection. They say as part of their argument that the transport costs from this side of the continent to Western Australia are such that they find it difficult to compete with overseas products in the Western Australian market. This is an argument that they have used for a long time.
What is the real position? Manufacturers on this side of the continent obtain high protection partly as a result of the freight charged on the transportation of their products to Western Australia. This enables them to blossom on this side of the continent, whereas we in the west finish up paying the high prices that they can charge partly because they have used us as a convenient excuse. The further twists in this story are almost ironic. Periodically there are complaints by our manufacturers in the west- we do have a few over there- that their eastern competitors dump surplus production in our State. Who is going to protect us from the protected?
– This is a good speech.
– I hope honourable members are enjoying it. I hope no one thinks that it is a secession speech. This is, of course, the wrong place to make it. But they are some of the arguments that have been advanced for years by those who believe in secession. The last one is a fairly unanswerable argument. It has its humorous implications, of course. Anyway, we all know that the manufacture of highly protected, high tariff or bounty paid goods is between 5 and 7 times more important to people in the eastern States than it is to us in the west. The position is that the highly protected industries on this side of the continent will, for the most part, keep going and that we in the west will, for the most part, keep paying for their products. I think the reasons are obvious. Honourable members have probably heard the argument all before from the honourable member for Wakefield. He says that finally somebody must pay and it is always the exporter. Western Australia is an exporting State.
I am reminded of what happened not so long ago when the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and I were having some discussions with State members of Parliament. If any of them are listening it may do them some good to learn that the honourable member for Moore has always put a strong case in this place- he has been doing so since I have been a member of this House, anyway- in respect of Western Australia being an exporting State. I think the greatest argument that could be advanced by those in Western Australia who believe in State rights is the fact that Western Australia has to take loads and loads of highly protected goods- bounty paid goods- from this side of the continent and at the same time has to compete with its minerals and rural products on world markets in relation to which Western Australia gets no protection at all. No bounty is paid and no encouragement is given. I think this is one of the peculiarities and the difficulties of Federation. It certainly has been from our point of view since 1 90 1 .
In any case, I have said about the honourable member for Moore that he is continually pointing out this argument or variations of it in this House. There are some people in the State Parliament in Western Australia who are always standing up for State rights and who never hesitate to lecture their Federal representatives whenever they get the chance to do so about the importance of State rights, but I have never heard one of them stand up in recent years and speak about the importance of the matters to which I have been alluding. I say to them, to the country and to anyone else who is listening that the honourable member for Moore certainly has done so and I am pleased to be associated with him in that regard.
The highly protected industries on this side of the continent are geared to supply the Australian market. They are not geared to export. They have located themselves where the large population centres are to be found, which is understandable. That means that they have located themselves on this side of the continent. On the other hand, it seems to be Western Australia’s future at the moment to be a quarry and a rural hinterland of this country. It seems to me that the final resolution of the argument between bounties, free trade and tariff protection will be resolved only when the manufacturing industries in this country are capable of exporting their manufactured goods to whatever markets they can find overseas without one scrap of bounty or government encouragement. Looking at the position in 1977- it started a long time ago- it seems to me that a fundamental mistake was made in the extent of the bounty, of the tariff protection, that was offered to Australian industry. All the classic arguments are to be found in all the economic treatises that have been written about the Australian economy, but it seems to me from this point of view that a fundamental mistake was made in the extent of the bounty paid and of the tariff protection and the like. I believe that the matter will be resolved only when the manufacturing industries of this country are able to stand on their own 2 feet without any sort of government protection. That may be a long time coming. From now until then we will have before us Bills of this nature. If they are doing anything towards reducing the moneys that are being paid out, and it seems to me that they are, I will support them. They will be the cause of reducing economic dislocation from time to time. I support the Bills on that basis.
-Before speaking on these 3 Bills, which have something in common, I wish to take up an earlier interjection. I am a little sorry that the previous speaker-the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr)- saw fit to hand me the couple of bouquets that he did because I had made up my mind to respond to the interjection before those bouquets were handed to me and I would not like it to be thought that I was in any way influenced by them. The honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Peter Johnson) interjected as he was leaving the chamber that the honourable member for Swan had a safe seat, thereby implying that he could say what he liked on this subject. I have known the honourable member for Swan for a long time. I have agreed with him and disagreed with him, but I know from long experience that he speaks from what he believes and that he will be guided by his true beliefs. He speaks from principle. I happen to agree with him on this occasion, but I have not always done so. I find it objectionable that his motives in this matter have been impugned.
The acceptance of reports of the Industries Assistance Commission is the first matter that these 3 Bills have in common. I congratulate the Government for accepting the IAC’s recommendations. The IAC’s advice on these matters is necessarily well informed because of the way in which it is assembled. It is done publicly and it is open to challenge. The Government should always make its political judgments on these matters in the light of the IAC ‘s advice. I put it to the Government that, on balance, on most occasions the IAC is likely to be correct. I congratulate the Government for substantially accepting the advice it has received on these 3 occasions from this well informed body.
Another matter that these 3 Bills have in common is that they all provide for protection to industries by way of bounty. The IAC has chosen to recommend to the Government that the protection should be provided in this manner- a bounty- instead of the other ways by which it might have been provided, namely, a quantitative restriction on imports or a tariff on imports. The advantages of bounty over tariff and particularly quantitative restrictions are manifold. First of all, it spreads the cost of providing the assistance over more people. The cost of providing a bounty is borne by the taxpayer, in other words by the people who will ultimately benefit from the growth of the industry, maintaining the status quo of the industry or the slower rate of decline of the industry as may be the case.
If it is good policy to protect an industry, it is surely good policy that the cost of that protection be borne by all Australians. It would be unfair if the high cost of protecting the tractor industry with tariffs were to be passed on to the farmer alone. He is already someone making adjustments to the changing economic circumstances at a greater rate than are most other people. It would leave him with the necessity to make an even greater rate of change. Since most farming industries but not all receive no nominal protection their protection is in fact negative. They pay to assist in providing protection for other less efficient or less competitive industries. It would be both unwise in economic terms and unfair to load the farming industry with the additional cost of protecting one of the farmer’s tools of trade.
It is easier to direct a bounty to the industry that needs protection. A bounty can be applied more accurately to the section of production that needs to benefit from the protection. There is then less risk of encouraging investment in places where it is not wanted and encouraging an industry to grow in one area when it is not even possible to achieve its survival in another. It is possible for a bounty more accurately to reach the portion of the industry that will require the protection.
It is inherently unreasonable to protect an infant industry by any means that puts up costs to consumers. This is particularly relevant in relation to the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill. If we were to protect automatic data processing equipment by tariff or quantitative restrictions it would raise the price of the goods protected. The protection would be paid for by the consumers of the goods and this presumably would reduce their consumption of those goods. Our infant industry would not be encouraged to grow, certainly not to the extent that it would be encouraged to grow by application of bounty. I have reservations about the all-wise government trying to pick growth industries, direct assistance to them and forecast what is likely to happen tomorrow. However if we are to do this, we might as well do it accurately and effectively. A bounty is far more likely than is a tariff to be accurate and effective.
The most important advantage of a bounty is that it can be seen by those people receiving the assistance. Therefore the fact that it may be withdrawn is within their sight. Their investment decisions are likely to be influenced by the fact that they know they are getting a clear level of protection that is provided to them by the Australian taxpayer. The fact that he may be unwilling to go on paying this for ever must surely cross their minds occasionally. They are therefore less likely to invest capital in non-competitive areas. The visibility of the bounty is more likely to result in investment in competitive areas that will show net increases in our wealth than those that will show a net decrease in our wealth if you book against those activities the opportunity cost of the resources used.
Of course there is a certain honesty about a bounty. It will make government more honest with the people’s money. That is what was said about tax indexation in the Liberal Party policy speech for the last election. Exactly the same argument applies to bounty versus tariff as applies to the argument for indexed tax versus the tax that grows automatically with inflation. They are exactly the same arguments. A bounty makes government honest with the public’s money.
Two of the Industry Assistance Commission reports emphasise the fact that protective measures generally do not create employment. Two of the reports underlined disputes between industries- one receiving a benefit and one suffering from the loss of a benefit. Actil Ltd sought to have the benefit received by Universal Textiles Aust Ltd removed so that it could do better at UTA’s expense. In fact a reduced quota on grey cloth would have removed employment from Hobart to Adelaide. That is all it would have done. What would have been the overall benefit of that? There was also a dispute between Ford on the one hand and Chamberlain and Harvester on the other that would have had exactly the same effect. It would have shifted the employment of those people making tractor cabs from one city to another. There would have been no net gain in employment. I support the Bills. The points I have raised are very important to ponder.
-I should like to say a couple of things about the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) mentioned shifting employment from one city to another. A substantial proportion of employment in the tractor industry is in the area I represent in Geelong where the International Harvester Co. is situated. I do not want to be in the position of supporting any particular company but I suggest that there are good reasons that Australia’s production, even though it is only on a limited basis, should be maintained. I do not think the protection that is necessary to maintain that industry is necessarily to the disadvantage of the purchaser. He does not have to pay the cost of the protection. In other cases he may have to do so. A market presence has some validity as a control factor. Those areas where there is no local market presence tend to suffer from what the market can bear. If there is no control over the market place by some intervention purchasers are likely to be held to ransom and what appears to be an attractive price at which goods can be obtained is not necessarily so attractive. I would only add that bounties are a very nice form of assistance in that they are obviously visible and they do not add to the purchase price. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and certainly the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) would not see this as a form of protection that can be extended ad infinitum. Bounties are a charge on revenue whereas tariffs are a revenue item. One cannot be extended without having at least the other or some substitute for it.
The proposals in the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill constitute a rundown of existing protection. There have been no complaints from either side of the industry, so I can assume at this stage that the industry believes it has obtained, not necessarily what it wants, but all it can get. I ask the Minister that over the period the Bill is in operation it be monitored very carefully because situations in these industries can change very quickly, usually to the detriment of local industry and very rarely to its advantage, and dumping is not an unusual thing. The tractor industry in Australia is vulnerable and, as I said before, I think that it is an essential industry. The monitoring of the Bill will be worth while, even if it allows only for some control in the market place of prices which can be charged and gives us some say in our marketing and style of goods.
In relation to the Automatic Data Processing Equipment Bounty Bill, there is a very large potential development in this area and in associated areas. Recently, not in this area but very close to it a question has arisen in relation to orders by Telecom for telex equipment. A very substantial order is in the pipeline for about $182m worth of data equipment. In the instance of the contract which has been let- I make this point because it is important- the letting of the contract apparently has not altered the Australian content in the long term but it has altered the Australian content in the short term. There will be no Australian content in the first 4 years of the contract. At the end of that period there is a guaranteed Australian content, but there will be a transfer of employment from a firm in Melbourne which has already had the technical capacity to a firm in Sydney which, I think, at this stage still has to acquire the technical capacity.
I make the point that it is not only the protection of an industry or the setting up of an industry in Australia which is involved. If industries are to operate there must be some long term future for the skills which are necessary to be developed. As well as a bounty or other forms of protection there should also be some consideration of continuity. I do not enter into the argument of the contract already let. I have an idea that some of the contract in the Telecom area which has not been let will be let to a firm called Seimens, I think it is.
The point I make is that if short term usage of the bounty is to be the result, then industry as such will be the loser in terms of the continuity, the skills and the technical developments required for such an industry to continue to operate. I think that that is the case in relation to the Telecom contracts. I have not studied the contracts, but I do know that extreme concern has been expressed by the Electrical Trades Union in the Melbourne metropolitan area that an industry already existing will be run down and in 4 years’ time a new industry to carry out the same processes and bring about the same average employment in Australia will be established. That does not seem to me to be in the best interests of the long term activities in the market place or of Australian productivity.
There are a number of things one could say about what tariffs are best. I do not think that they are relevant at this time, but I ask the Minister to give serious consideration to monitoring the market place. I ask also that a much closer watch be kept, not necessarily in this area but in other areas, on the effects of quotas and tariffs.
Finally, I could say that some considerable time ago I took up with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) problems in a number of textile firms and garment makers relating to the changed quotas which had been announced. Some 8 weeks have passed, I think, and I have not been able to obtain answers from the Minister for Industry and Commerce on these questions. A large number of people have lost their employment, and at least one firm has closed while these answers have been awaited, and the future of other firms is extremely doubtful. I think it is important not only that the Government should be seen to be concerned about this situation but that it should be seen to be active and able to react forthwith. I understand that the Minister acts in these areas only where he has advice from the Department of Industry and Commerce. I suggest that the Department is extremely slow in its reactions and far too slow in areas of crisis. I draw that matter to the attention of the House because it is of serious concern to any member who represents an area of limited industrial capacity and limited employment opportunities. I will not press the point at this stage, but at another time I intend to make some much stronger remarks about the lack of response from the Department of Industry and Commerce on this question.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I have just been informed that the Whips want to get this Bill through before the House rises, which gives me about 1 1½ minutes to say what I would like to have said over a much lengthier period on a very important subject. In view of the time, all I want to do is suggest that a few issues have come out of this debate this afternoon. It is interesting to note that this is one occasion on which there has been very little difference between members on either side of the
Parliament. It appears to me that members are not divided according to States but on whether they happen to live in a metropolitan area, a built-up area, a manufacturing area, and so on. If my memory serves me correctly, when I first delivered a policy speech some 20 years ago the subject matter on which I spoke was import duty versus bounties. I still maintain that there is room for both. I believe that there are instances in which import duties are the answer and there are other instances when a bounty is the answer. I am not too sure whether I agree with the suggestion made by the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) that if an industry is worth protecting then the cost of that protection must be borne by all people. I suppose that, as in my case, he did not have long enough to explain what he meant by that. After all, one could say that import duties are borne in certain instances by all members of the community in Australia.
– They are borne only by exporters.
– I will not waste my time by getting involved in that argument, which will keep for another day, because I assured the Whip that I would take only 2 minutes. I want to raise the question of the amount of bounty in relation to the percentage of manufactured items in Australia, and I refer once again to the tractor bounty. I refer also to a fairly substantial manufacturer in my own electorate, A. F. Gason Pty Ltd, farm cab manufacturers. If the situation is not watched closely a substantial factory which has been very successful and has grown from nothing to a point where it employs a large number of people will be driven out of business because of insufficient protection for the quantity of materials used or manufactured in an area which is classified as Australian made. In view of the time I will not enlarge on that problem, but do draw it to the attention of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard). I hope that if that firm does get into trouble the Minister will look at it very sympathetically.
– in reply- I should like to thank everybody for their kind expressions of support for the Government’s policy decision in respect of these 3 Bills. I particularly welcome the expressions of support from the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) and the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde).
– Enthusiastic support.
– Yes-enthusiastic support. In a quite serious vein, I do take note of the remarks of the honourable member for Corio (Mr
Scholes). Of course the Government is worried about the employment aspects of labour intensive industries. For example, tomorrow I will be seeing a delegation of all the textile and rubber workers unions in New South Wales sponsored by the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. The Government is very worried about these matters. I take on board seriously the honourable gentleman’s point about the need to monitor the operation of the Agricultural Tractors Bounty Amendment Bill. I think it is a slight loss to say that it represents any significant reduction in protection. I think rather that it is a readjustment in respect of the various product ranges of tractors.
The Government is pleased that in these instances its decisions regarding the nature or the device of assistance to be used has drawn such strong support. I think that there are limits to the proposition as to how far we can replace customs tariff with bounties. But equally, I think that in cases in which we wish particularly to assist a specialised, highly technical Australian industry with a proven competitive capacity, which is certainly the case in the automatic data processing area, it is very desirable that a bounty be paid.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 31 March, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 31 March, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to establish a Tertiary Education Commission to develop and recommend policies on the basis of Commonwealth financial support for institutions in the whole post-school sector of education throughout Australia. The Commission will be concerned with balanced and co-ordinated development and encouragement of diversified opportunities in post-school education. The new Commission will play a significant role in shaping and influencing the future character of post-school education in Australia. To achieve this goal the three existing education commissions- the Universities Commission, the Commission on Advanced Education and the Technical and Further Education Commission- will be replaced by 3 Councils of the same names. These Councils will preserve much of the essential qualities of the existing commissions while working with and being subject to the co-ordinating functions and authority of the new Tertiary Education Commission.
The title of the new Commission is a matter which has been given careful consideration and, in the interests of avoiding awkward and negative names such as ‘post-secondary’ or ‘postschool’ commission, the title ‘Tertiary Education Commission’ has been adopted. This decision implies, for the purposes of the Bill, a change in the meaning of the term ‘tertiary education* as it has generally been used in Australia. ‘Tertiary education’ has normally been used to include only those studies which require, as a minimum entry level, completion of the full secondary school course; that is, university and college of advanced education courses almost exclusively. For the purposes of this Bill ‘tertiary education’ will also encompass the wide range of courses in the technical and further education area. The terms ‘primary, secondary and tertiary education’ will thus be used for the Commonwealth’s purposes as purely descriptive terms, with ‘tertiary education’ comprising university education, advanced education and technical and further education. I believe that this is a tidier scheme of nomenclature than the present usage, and it is more consistent with international statistical usage.
The decision to establish a new commission was taken in pursuance of the Government ‘s preelection education policy which drew attention to the problems of co-ordination between the existing commissions. The question of what form the new commission should take has been under careful examination for some time, and has been the subject of consultations with a wide range of interested parties. The new arrangements were discussed by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) with the State Ministers for Education earlier this year; and in the process of drafting the present Bill comment has been obtained from State authorities and from people eminent within the post-secondary education sector, including the Chairmen of the existing commissions. All political parties accept the need for co-ordination in the tertiary area. The questions of appropriate mechanisms and the involvement or otherwise of technical and further education constitute points of variance.
The Tertiary Education Commission represents a major advance on earlier proposals for 3 main reasons: Firstly, it will include the important area of technical and further education; secondly, it recognises the distinct nature and status of each of the three post-school sectors; and thirdly, it obliges the Commission to consult with appropriate State authorities in the performance of its functions. To exclude technical and further education from the co-ordinating mechanism would be to fail to appreciate the inevitable working interface between colleges of advanced education and institutions of technical and further education and the continuous need to rationalise functions between the two. It would ignore also the need to upgrade the role of technical and further education in the postschool sector. It is the Government’s firm intention to devote special attention to technical and further education, which has been for too long the area of least consideration to governments in post-school education, particularly in the allocation of resources. The new Commission will have an important role in the development of these resources and of co-operative arrangements with the States for the support of technical and further education.
To assist the new Commission in the performance of its functions, the legislation will provide for a separate Universities Council, Advanced Education Council and Technical and Further Education Council, which will be statutory bodies. The status of these councils will give recognition to the special requirements of each sector. The councils will have the right of investigation and will be expected to conduct detailed negotiations with institutions and authorities. They are to be regarded as important and authoritative sources of advice and contact in their own sector and their views will be made known both to the Minister and to the Commission. The rolling triennial reports of the Commission will incorporate in full the reports of the councils to the Commission. Clause 37 of the Bill provides for the right of each Council, in addition to responding to requests from the Minister or the Commission, to inquire into and advise the Minister upon whatever matters it wishes within its own sector of education. Wherever a Council gives advice to the Minister it is to make that advice available to the Commission also. It is important for the future quality of education that those essentially distinctive and authentic characteristics of the various types of tertiary institutions should be preserved and developed, while recognising that the nature of individual units will change and evolve and the need for new-type institutions will emerge. The existence of the 3 councils in association with the coordinating Commission will provide these opportunities.
The Tertiary Education Commission will have a most important task of co-ordination across the whole area of tertiary education. It will work closely with authorities in the States and will cooperate with them in promoting effective use of resources. Within the Commission’s structure, the inter-relationship between the Commission and its councils is supported by the interlocking provisions of clause 9 dealing with reports by the Commission and clause 37 covering advice from the councils. The Commission will consist of a full-time Chairman, 3 other full-time members and 5 part-time members. A full-time Commissioner will be chairman of each council. The 5 other members of the Commission will be parttime and will be drawn from widely representative sections of the community as a balance to the specialist interests of the full-time members. Each council will comprise, in addition to its chairman, up to 8 part-time members. These arrangements will assist the Commission in its coordinating role, while at the same time enabling each council to have a significant measure of freedom to decide and act within its own area of specialisation.
I would like to emphasise the point made in clause 9(1) that the Commission will be obliged to consult with the relevant State authorities in the performance of its functions and is expected to consult with other Commonwealth and State education bodies. The Government will be paying particular attention to the development of cooperative arrangements with the States. We are well aware of their responsibilities in the whole education field and of their importance to the achievement of rationalisation and co-ordination of the funding of post-school education. Clause 44 (5) of the Bill ensures in particular that the States must be consulted by the Commission before it makes recommendations as to whether a particular institution should be classified as a university or college of advanced education for the purposes of the Act. Honourable members will be aware that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has written to the 6 State Premiers inviting the States to participate at the Education Ministers level in detailed discussions with the Commonwealth with the aim of achieving a more effective co-partnership in the whole field of education. Such talks would include the development of any further co-operative measures among Commonwealth and State agencies which might be necessary to strengthen the functioning of the Tertiary Education Commission and its components.
I am confident that the new arrangements will permit a truly co-ordinated approach to the funding by the Commonwealth of post-school educational institutions and will provide effective means for preventing wasteful duplication and overlap. The new Commission will maintain close contact with the Williams Committee on Education and Training which is currently inquiring into the future goals of education in terms of human fulfilment and career development. That committee is expected to report to the Government next year. Its findings and recommendations will be of particular significance to the future work of the Commission. Pending that report, the Commission will have to pursue some more urgent inquiries of its own, for example the use of resources for teacher education. The Williams Committee will be kept informed about significant developments.
The Government wishes to establish the new Commission as soon as possible so that the benefits it will introduce can be applied to consideration of the post-school programs for the rolling triennium 1978-80. An interim committee of the 3 existing Commissions is already operating to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements soon after the Bill is passed. The Tertiary Education Commission will have the final responsibility for recommending programs for the 1978-80 rolling triennium within guidelines which the Government will issue in the near future. Considerable thought has already been given by the Government to the membership of the new Commission and its councils, and I expect that the new appointments will be made by the Governor-General and announced as soon as the Bill has been proclaimed. In the meantime arrangements are being made for short term extensions of currently expiring appointments to existing commissions. I hope that the Bill’s passage through the Parliament will be a speedy one, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill makes special long service leave provisions for New South Wales technical teachers who join the Commonwealth Teaching Service between 31 December 1976 and 1 April 1977 and who were engaged in full time teaching duties in a technical institution in the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable members will recall that in 1976 the Government decided that the teaching staff of the technical colleges in the Australian Capital Territory should be employed under the Commonwealth Teaching Service legislation. Provision for their employment was made in the Commonwealth Teaching Service Act 1976.
The Bill allows former members of the New South Wales teaching service who were teaching in Australian Capital Territory technical institutions in 1976 and who elected to join the Commonwealth Teaching Service after 3 1 December 1976 and before 1 April 1977 to preserve their long service leave conditions that applied under State legislation in force immediately prior to their joining the Commonwealth Teaching Service and to treat future teaching service as if it were State service for the purposes of that legislation. It also allows the teachers to choose between the better of those provisions just mentioned and those provided for in the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976 including future amendments to that Act. It does not confer eligibility for improvements brought about by changes in State law after the teachers joined the Commonwealth Teaching Service on 31 March 1977 nor does it provide any special benefits for a teacher who joins the Commonwealth Teaching Service after that date. Members of the New South Wales teaching service who taught at technical institutions in the Australian Capital Territory during 1976 and who elect to join the Commonwealth Teaching Service after 1 April 1977 will be subject to the normal provisions of the Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1976. The Bill contains provisions affecting technical teachers similar to provisions in respect of primary and secondary school teachers who transferred to the Commonwealth Teaching Service in similar circumstances at the end of 1973. 1 believe that this legislation should be given speedy passage by the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Les Johnson) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed-
That in the opinion of this House the question of further development of the Australian uranium industry, other than to meet export arrangements entered into before December 1972, and the safeguards to be applied to exports under any future contracts should be the subject of further public debate.
-One finds it curious that this motion should appear in the name of the Acting Minister for National Resources (Mr Nixon) when previously the Government had nominated the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) as the Minister responsible for the management of the uranium debate within the Parliament. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development had responsibility in terms of this debate because the Ranger Environmental Inquiry was established by a Minister for the Environment and the Commission was bound to report to the Minister for the Environment. So one can only now wonder why the Acting Minister for National Resources is now involved. The reason probably is simply that, now the Government has unofficially and quietly decided to support wholesale uranium mining and export, it feels the issue should be managed in the Parliament by one of its more senior Ministers, one of the more accomplished hatchet men of the coalition, in this case, the Acting Minister for National Resources.
At this point I should read the Minister’s motion. It states:
That in the opinion of this House the question of further development of the Australian uranium industry, other than to meet export arrangements entered into before December 1972, and the safeguards to be applied to exports under any future contracts should be the subject of further public debate.
The motion is somewhat ambiguous. I take it that it means that in the opinion of the House the question of further development of the Australian uranium industry and the safeguards to be applied to exports under future contracts should be the subject of further debate- that is, with the exclusion of ‘other than to meet export arrangements entered into before 1972’. In other words, that the House debate the question of the further development of the uranium industry and the safeguards to be applied to any future exports. One can be excused for believing that the motion assumes that future contracts will be entered into and that what is left to be debated is the nature of the safeguards applying to exports under such contracts.
At this point in time that proposition should not be assumed. For the Opposition’s part what should be discussed is whether exports should be permitted and on what basis, if at all. The Opposition’s policy on this matter has often been articulated in the House and is quite clear. Perhaps I should recount the policy to the House. It is:
I might say that the exclusion mentioned in the motion about export arrangements entered into before 1 972 accords with the present policy of the Opposition and we do not cavil at this. That is, provided it is understood that arrangements to meet these pre-December ‘72 contract commitments are supplied from ore mined at the Mary Kathleen Mine in Queensland and ore supplied from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission stockpile. If it is the intention of the Government that that part of the motion is to imply that export arrangements entered into before 1972 are to be met from new mining capacity operated by Ranger and Queensland Mines Ltd, the Opposition would be opposed to the effect of such an interpretation. The policy of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party is as clear as day. At this point in time it is opposed to the fabrication of any new uranium mining and milling capacity and any exports which may arise as a consequence of such a development.
I draw the attention of the House to clauses 2 and 4 of the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party that I have just mentioned. That is, the Labor Party will press for stricter international safeguards and controls over the handling of nuclear waste materials and if in government the Labor Party is satisfied that the hazards of the nuclear industry have been eliminated and satisfactory methods of waste disposal developed, the question of new uranium mining activity would then be reconsidered in the context of full public debate .
In elaboration, the Labor Party believes that the safeguard regime which exists at the moment is next to useless and that the method of handling and disposing of nuclear waste material is unsatisfactory. It is on this basis that the Labor Party is opposed to development of new mining capacity to fuel the developing international nuclear industry. The danger, however, with the public debate on uranium in Australia is that to a very large degree a rigid polarisation is becoming apparent. If this trend continues Australia’s possible role for the improvement in the nature of nuclear development may be jeopardised.
On the one hand, uranium mining supporters want to export large quantities or uranium forthwith without first exacting new proliferation safeguard development from the international nuclear community and before any satisfactory resolution of the nuclear waste disposal problem takes place. On the other hand, some people in the anti-uranium camp are opposed to the mining of uranium in Australia in perpetuity. That is, to close their minds and leave uranium in the ground forever. Such polarisation will do little to resolve the problem which Australia faces by virtue of its large natural uranium endowments. It is important to refer to what I believe is the central thesis of the Fox Commission of Inquiry report on the question of uranium exports. I refer to page 1 79- 1 80 of the report which states:
A total renunciation of intention to supply designed to bring an end to all nuclear power industries or all further development of them would in our view be likely to fail totally in its purpose. If the purpose were simply to draw international attention to the dangers of and associated with the industry, that purpose might be achieved, but it is most unlikely that any worthwhile action would result. On the other hand there are positive reasons against adopting such a course.
The Commission also goes on to say at page 1 80 of the report:
We are of the view that total renunciation of intention to supply is undesirable.
Put another way, Australia, whilst without a nuclear power generation program itself can have an impact upon the development of the international nuclear community. This should be the central aim of Australian uranium policy. It is not in Australia’s interest or the global environmental interest to promote actively the unlimited expansion of nuclear power in the climate of the present uncertainties. Nor is it proper for Australia to withold its reserves in perpetuity and wash its hands of the nuclear problem knowing that it could have been a force for good in the future development of this energy industry.
The United States of America, Canada and Australia control over 80 per cent of the western world’s marketable uranium. It is within the power of these 3 nations to reshape the course of nuclear power development. However, such an undertaking can only succeed if given time. It will never succeed if Australia falls over itself to supply uranium in the immediate future, conscious as it is that the nuclear community is in no position to deal with waste disposal adequately and has not yet had the time or the inclination to develop a sound system of safeguards against the proliferation of nuclear weapons from access to nuclear materials. This is why Australia must delay any decision to develop new uranium mines. Already some encouraging signs are visible on the international horizon.
President Carter twice within the last week has apprised the American people of the difficulties confronting the world in terms of energy availability. But the Administration has taken the important step of enunciating a nuclear policy which disposes of the options of nuclear fuel reprocessing development and fast breeder reactor development. This course is designed to defer indefinitely the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutomium produced in the United States power reactor program in the belief that if plutomium extraction is curtailed, the propensity for terrorism activity and weapons proliferation will be reduced. What is interesting about President Carter’s initiative is that it has taken place with the knowledge and support of the Canadian Government which recently halted all its uranium exports until a new regime of proliferation safeguards are developed to which the major uranium rich countries may subscribe.
If Australians are serious in their belief that proliferation safeguard development and waste disposal must be improved, then the Government of the United States must be involved in such a policy. This is so because of the massive size of the United States domestic nuclear power program and also the United States nuclear hardware industry as well as the pervasive influence of United States nuclear technology within the West. It is through the influence which the United States exercises in the western world monetary system and its defence arrangements that the United States is the pivotal point for change in the direction which the international nuclear industry should take in the future.
No group of nuclear power utilities or mining companies in the United States or Western Germany or Japan will be able to effect such changes in technology. This must be the conscious course of the governments of those states and therefore it is with those governments that Australia must exercise its influence. Japan, Western Germany and the United States have their backs to the wall on energy supply generally. President Carter yesterday articulated the plight in which the United States may find itself in the near future. The same is the case with other countries.
The House will recall that recently a group of United States nuclear power utility representatives visited Australia to study the uranium position. They made some telling points about U.S. uranium self sufficiency. The group said that the total U.S. demand for uranium in the early 1980s would be 35 000 tons, whereas domestic production in that period will be only 25 000 tons. Last year U.S. uranium production was only 1 1 600 tons. Many U.S. power reactors have only two to five years of fuel supply. Less than half of the existing reactors have more than 6 reloads, that is, about 7 years supply. Less than half of the reactors under construction have more than 2 reloads and a large number have none whatsoever. This is indicative of the general uranium shortfall that exists.
The United States, like most nations, primarily acts on its own selfish interest. The same is the case with Western Germany, Britain and Japan, and ourselves for that matter. These countries are now searching desperately for an assured uranium supply into the 1980s and 1990s. If these countries are to give up the option of fast breeder reactors and rely primarily on conventional thermal reactor programs then uranium supply will assume an even greater magnitude in their thinking. Australia can take great advantage of their discomfort by exacting concessions and commitments from them as to the future course of nuclear energy development. But the Australian Labor Party is determined that this opportunity will not be jeopardised or thrown away by any subserviance and compliance on the part of the Fraser Government in wanting to please these countries or to curry favour with our own domestic uranium producers. The Opposition is committed to a policy of opposition to new mining development and the witholding of new uranium exports until it is satisfied that the hazards associated with nuclear industry have been overcome and the important question of waste disposal satisfactorily resolved.
If necessary- and I place emphasis on the words ‘if necessary ‘-the Opposition will take the management of the Government’s uranium policy into its own hands by stressing the prerogatives available to a future Labor Government to restrict any export arrangements that have been entered into by the present Liberal-Country Party Government. The effect of such a move would jeopardise cash flows and endanger the commercial viability of any such uranium mining project. This would be a decision that would not be taken lightly, nor is it a decision which has not been taken already. Clause 3 of the policy which I mentioned above states:
The next Labor Government will not be bound to honour any future contracts entered into by the present Government’.
This does not mean we will not honour any future contracts. However, Labor reserves the right to cancel such contract approval if it believes it is in the national interest to do so. This is not a capricious policy. It is a responsible attitude that makes it clear to the Australian uranium mining industry that any initiatives that the Fraser Government may take on uranium development do not necessarily lock a future Labor Government into such arrangements.
I have personally stressed this plank of Opposition policy to Australian and overseas rnining and finance groups both in private and in public so that they may understand the clear intention of Labor policy. Any investment decision they may then take will be taken in full cognisance of this policy. I have indicated to these groups that uranium mining ventures of up to $250m in capital value could be at risk in the event that the conditions of clause 4 of the Labor policy are not met. The policy of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party is sound on this issue. It reflects the growing concern of the Australian community towards the nuclear industry and the heavy responsibilties that weigh upon Australia with its abundant uranium reserves. The Government must resist the pressures upon it for the premature development of these enormous deposits. It must, in the interest of all Australians, make the right decision. If it does, all mankind will be the beneficiaries.
-I found it interesting to listen to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), the Opposition spokesman in regard to this matter. Despite the comments that he made about the need for widespread public debate it would appear that the Australian Labor Party is making decision after decision pre-empting any national debate in the community and thereby forcing the community into a polarisation in its attitudes to this matter. I feel that this House needs to adopt an individual approach to the matter of nuclear power and the development of nuclear resources within Australia. In that regard it would seem that the members of the Labor Party from November last year have committed themselves step after step irrefutably to a course which would deny the capacity of Australia rationally to debate the problems of nuclear power and the development of nuclear energy, and mining within Australia.
Australia’s energy needs and the total energy situation within Australia cannot be neglected when one comes to consider the importance of nuclear power and the demands that may be made on it. If one looks at Australia’s local primary energy consumption by end use one is brought short to the fact that power generation and transport together with industry take up the general total consumption within Australia. This consumption is basically provided by oil and coal and, coming on line now, natural gas. It is interesting that by 1980 we will see a declining supply from total indigenous oil. It would seem that by 1982 we would need a discovery with the equivalent reserves of the Gippsland fields for us to maintain a capacity to be 50 per cent selfsufficient in our needs. Australia will face some sort of energy crisis. In the last few days President Carter has drawn to the attention of the American people the needs for energy that will be evident in that country.
The Ranger inquiry sets out the world ‘s power demands. It is evident that as we consider the life of various fuel sources commodity by commodity we see that on a world wide basis the life of coal resources is something like 260 years if they are used rationally. The life of oil reserves is expected to be 39 years and of gas, 55 years. These figures of course depend on there being no interference with free market supply. One needs only look at the situation of the inflationary pressures that were put on many countries by the Arab oil embargoes and policies to recognise that there is not a free flow of energy nor is there ready access to the world’s energy by all nations on an equitable basis.
Australia’s supplies for the forthcoming years are, for black coal, 400 years; for brown coal, 444 years, for oil only 14 years and for natural gas about 170 years. This country- and the world indeed- has to throw its mind to the matter of whence is coming our source of energy for continuing production and indeed a continuing way of life at a satisfactory human level. If one visits Japan and sees the great dependence on energy in that country the factors of energy demand are very forcibly brought home. Not only are the Japanese almost completely dependent on sources of oil for continuing industrialisation; they are also dependent on oil for the total wellbeing of their community. The oil crisis of 3 years ago created such a situation in Japan that the Japanese community was faced with a position of continuing decline in its industrial development and way of life. Japan needs to ensure a continuous, steady, reliable supply of energy. The implication, I think for Australia and the world, is a concentrated plan of energy conservation. It seems futile to me that in Western Australia 95 per cent of energy needs are met from oil. Hospitals and factories throughout Western Australia burn oil in their furnaces. This applies throughout the major cities of the Eastern States of Australia to a lesser extent. We are not conscious of what we are doing with the precious energy that we receive from our own wells and the precious energy that lies beneath the ground.
President Carter expressed the matter clearly in the last few days when he said that there is the moral equivalent of war within the United States of America. The President is seeking to conserve energy by reducing by 2 per cent the demand for energy that is made each year in that country. He states clearly that the cost of energy will keep going up. He said:
Six years ago, we paid $3,700m for imported oil. Last year we spent $36,000m-nearly 10 times as much- and this year we may spend $45,000m.
He went on to say:
If we wait, then our factories will not be able to keep our people on the job with reduced supplies of fuel. Too few of our utilities will have switched to coal, our most abundant energy source.
The President clearly sets out for that nation something that all nations in the Western world are facing. In this whole scene what is the place of uranium? In the face of growing shortages where does uranium as a fuel fit in to the total capacity of the world and its energy demands? Somewhere down the line in programs like the Japanese Sunshine program and the massive amount of work going on within the United States there lies the attraction of solar energy, energy from tidal sources, energy from geothermal sources and perhaps even from fusion. At best estimate Australia leads the world in many aspects of solar energy production. Research indicates that the capacity to produce a significant amount of energy from these sources is perhaps 20 years away- maybe 25 years away. The capacity to produce significant amounts of energy from geothermal or tidal sources may be 30 years away and from fusion it may be as far as 50 years away. It would seem that in the short term the world is indeed suffering some sort of energy crisis. If this energy crisis continues and at no time is regard given to it by Australia and other nations the future looks bleak. I quote from an interesting article published in the Australian Financial Review by the columnist Chanticleer. After visiting America he stated:
Like Australia, America has vast reserves of coal- some people say 300 years supply on the basis of present usage. Right up to the 1950s coal was the key source of fuel for the country outside motor vehicle usage.
But in the post war years it was overtaken by clean natural gas which was priced cheaply so that everyone simply squandered it. Now production is declining and Americans realise that this was their most valuable fuel which should have been listed at the highest possible price so that it would be conserved and only used for special purposes.
He goes on to say that if the proper use had been made of these fuels, there would be more to use at the present time. He concludes by saying that unless the red tape is cut through on at least coal, the forecast for 1985 comes closer to reality. He puts the proposition very clearly. There have been articles such as the CIA report on Australian capacity for oil production, and the energy crisis and many other comments in papers and columns of recent days.
Nuclear power concerns many people. They are fearful of the repercussions of a nuclear war. They are fearful of the repercussions of the difficulties of nuclear waste disposal. In this regard, the present Government, indeed the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- wrote to President Carter recently and requested President Carter’s active consideration of the matter of nuclear power and the disposal of nuclear waste. President Carter replied to the Prime Minister also indicating his concern in this matter. I should like to read to the House one paragraph of the President’s letter. It states:
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 . . .
The letter goes on in similar vein. There seems to be some basic agreement on and some expression of concern for the future use of nuclear power between the 3 nations producing uranium- Australia, Canada and the United States of America. I think Australia has a very great challenge to take up the guidelines that were presented by the Government to the Ranger inquiry, the guidelines which expressed the Government’s concern about the future of uranium and the future of its control. At the same time it indicated the importance of uranium as a fuel source in the world ‘s overall supply.
I put it to the Australian people that the use of uranium may be a short term need in the total scene of the world ‘s energy requirements. It is a step that cannot be taken lightly or easily. It is a step that must be taken with a deep concern for future generations and a future capacity to control the use of that commodity and its byproducts. Therefore the challenge before this nation and the Government of this nation, above all else, is first of all a willingness to conserve energy and a willingness to make sure that those sources of fuel which cause less concern are spread evenly and used to the best advantage. Australia also has an important role to develop new technology in the use of many alternative types of energy. Indeed the Minister has indicated that he is most concerned to see a continuing capacity for Australian scientists and technology to stay in the forefront of world development.
We have a further responsibility- it is probably the most important of the lot- to be active in world scenes and in world forums ensuring that the future use of this precious, this difficult, this dangerous commodity is such that future generations are safeguarded. Only by being active in world forums can we play this part. Only by being active in world forums will anyone say that Australians are prepared to consider this matter seriously. If we withhold these resources indefinitely we will have no capacity to speak on the world stage. We must ensure that our own commodity is used by those nations which would use it to best advantage. We must ensure that it is used by those nations which will recognise the need for safeguard provisions. We must ensure that always our voice is heard on the world forum. This is one role that Australia can play on an international stage without fear or favour.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– In its third recommendation, the Fox Commission made a statement of basic importance. It said:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry. Complete evaluation of the extent of the risk and assessment of what course should be followed to reduce it involve matters of national security and international relations which are beyond the ambit of the Inquiry. We suggest that the questions involved are of such importance that they be resolved by the Parliament.
The Commission had referred in Chapter 16 of its report, to the regulations and controls which should be applied strictly to the development of Australian uranium mines and to the export of Australian uranium. The Government has not acted on the Fox report. It has been expecially negligent of its third recommendation. The Opposition has therefore developed policy in this vital area, an area in which the Government has nurtured a policy vacuum.
The imperatives of Australian policy, the questions which Australian policy must address, are unambiguously clear. The growth of the nuclear industry throughout the world brings with it a significant threat to the security of the world. The only conditions under which that industry can be permitted to develop are those under which adequate safeguards against the diversion of nuclear materials from peaceful to military uses are established.
On 29 March, the Opposition was obliged to move an urgency motion on the Fraser Government’s efforts to pre-empt and distort the uranium debate. In the statement I made on that occasion I set forth 5 basic features of an Australian uranium export policy. Those 5 features constituted an outline of the safeguards which must apply in order to ensure that the future export of Australian uranium would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those 5 requirements were consistent with the recommendations and concerns of the Fox Commission. They are unqualifiedly compatible with the decisions that have been taken subsequently by President Carter. They were in advance of anything the Fraser Government has indicated it would be prepared to consider.
On the following day the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) arranged for himself to be asked a question about the safeguards policy I had outlined. When giving his answer he tabled an extract from Government evidence given to the Fox inquiry on 8 April 1 976. Although he did not say so, the evidence he tabled was given by Mr John Larkin of the Department of National Resources. He claimed that Mr Larkin ‘s statementthat is, the statement of a public servantgave the Government’s ‘indicative thinking of what stringent safeguards there should be for the sale and export of uranium.’ There can, of course, be no doubt that Mr Larkin gave his evidence in good faith. But there is every reason to question the extent to which it reflected the thinking of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Government. The Deputy Prime Minister’s statements when he addressed the National Press Club and when he launched the book Uranium on Trial gave the clearest indication of the staggering extent to which he fails to understand the significance of the uranium question and has sought to subvert the findings of the Fox Commission.
The Commission left no doubt about the need for effective controls. It said:
We are strongly of the view that, if the mining and selling of uranium proceeds, it should be on a strictly controlled and regulated basis. We see uranium as a highly strategic material … In our view it cannot be treated as an ordinary trade commodity, or even an ordinary fuel commodity.
The Commission then listed 8 detailed control procedures. The so-called ‘indicative thinking ‘of the Government on the safeguards which should apply to nuclear materials exported by Australia falls frighteningly short of the Commission’s recommendations. Those recommendations were translated into practical effect in the 5-point outline I gave on 29 March. The Deputy Prime Minister’s assertion that those 5 points were based on the Government’s ‘indicative thinking’ is without foundation. Our 5 points came to grips with the safeguards problem seriously and comprehensively; the Government’s approach has pitifully failed to do so.
The crucial question is that of the plutonium economy. The Government has said nothing about this; it remains in blissful ignorance. The third and fourth principles I outlined on 29 March dealt specifically with that question. The same concern has been central to President Carter’s decision, announced last week, to abandon within the United States the development of a plutonium economy, and to insist that United States nuclear materials and technology will not be supplied to any other country where the result of that action would be the development of fast breeder reactors and an increase in the availability of plutonium.
Uranium is unique amongst the sources of energy. Conventional sources can be used only once. Once they have produced their energy they are gone forever. Future sources such as solar and tidal power are perpetual. The energy they provide is always there. The ability of uranium to breed plutonium for future electricity generation, while it is itself producing electricity, makes it particularly attractive to countries which anticipate energy supply problems in the coming decades. But the breeding of plutonium gravely threatens the security and health of the world.
– Only if they are in-breeders.
-Yes. Just as it leads uniquely from current power generation to the source material for future power generation, the production of plutonium from uranium brings into existence nuclear weapons grade material and one of the most toxic substances known to humankind. It might be recalled that President Ford warned that solar energy could not be harnessed overnight. President Carter may well be remembered for his warning that the plutonium economy could bring about an endless night.
The major threat to nuclear non-proliferation is posed by the reprocessing of spent uranium reactor fuels and the breeding of plutonium. This poses a significant policy challenge for Australiado we refuse to supply Australian uranium to countries where it would be used to increase the availability of plutonium? The answer must be an unequivocal ‘yes’. We refuse to supply it. Giving that answer involves the Australian Government in at least 3 unavoidable obligations.
First, on the technical level, Australia must join other countries in the development of safeguards agreements and safeguards systems which will ensure that uranium is not diverted, at any stage in the nuclear fuel cycle, to the manufacture of plutonium. Australia should therefore lend its support to proposals for the development of an international fuel cycle evaluation program. This would explore the economic, resource, environmental and waste disposal characteristics of different reactor technologies and fuel cycles with a view to solving safeguards, physical security and non-proliferation problems. Such a program could evaluate coprocessing, partial separation and other alternatives to plutonium separation with a view to finding methods for extracting value from spent fuel without incurring proliferation risks.
Secondly, Australia should support programs to evaluate the problems of storing spent fuel. This should range through basic research on nuclear storage to consideration of regional or international storage facilities under international management and control. Thirdly, on the level of international relations, Australia must use its influence as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the extension of IAEA inspection of nuclear materials to a 24-hour, around-the-clock regime. Under no circumstances should nuclear materials supplied by Australia be permitted to be used without constant surveillance and physical accounting. These questions are of the utmost gravity and cannot be set aside by Government rhetoric. The Deputy Prime Minister’s claim that Mr Larkin ‘s evidence before the Fox Commission outlined a Government commitment to adequate safeguards is a hollow deception.
It is sometimes suggested that the only safe way of dealing with Australian uranium is to leave it in the ground. Such a decision would remove from Australia the only significant source of influence it has over attempts to ensure that the proliferation of nuclear weapons does not take place. As the Fox Commission pointed out, Australia is uniquely placed to exercise such influence. The decision taken by the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on 17 November last, that is when the Government could not itself reach any decision on uranium export policy, involved a fundamental acceptance of Australia’s international role. The meaning of that decision and my statement on 29 March, and of this present statement, is to urge the Fraser Government and the people of Australia to recognise the great responsibility that our control over 20 per cent of the world’s uranium imposes upon us. The fact that Australia’s uranium is needed for future energy generation in other countries allows us to bring about the conditions under which uranium everywhere could be safety handled. We must set the example. We are able to do so. We must join our allies- in this case principally Canada and the United States- in councils of the world and in direct negotiations with potential customers to insist that the only circumstances under which Australia’s uranium can be supplied are those I have outlined.
I need only mention, in order to dismiss, the ingenuous and far-fetched argument that even if it proves safe to export Australian uranium it would be economically harmful to us to do so. Australia does have very considerable advantages in its pastoral, agricultural and mineral resources. The respective profits to be made from selling them may vary from generation to generation. We need to develop a rational mix and balance between the various exports. Our export income is safer the more varied its base. There is no necessary antipathy or irreconcilability between argicultural and pastoral exports on the one hand and mineral exports on the other.
It should be made clear beyond any doubt that Australian uranium will not be supplied until safeguards against its diversion from peaceful to military uses are established. It should be established that it will never be used in the production of plutonium and its waste products will be stored in ways which offer no danger to life and the environment. We know, for example, that Japan hopes to obtain uranium from Australia for its electricity generation program later in this century. The Fraser Government must make it clear now that the only conditions under which Australian uranium will be supplied to Japan, in the future, are those we have outlined. The Fraser Government must also accept that its rhetoric about our relations with the United States is now being brought to book. The President of the United States has committed his country to precisely the same kind of control over nuclear materials and technology as the Australian Labor Party has outlined over the last 5 months. He has committed the United State to unqualified opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. He has sought to give the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty its full and urgently needed effect.
Failure by any Australian government to recognise the significance of these commitments, both internationally and in its direct relations with the United States, would be a tragedy. The blind exploiters of the National Country Party and the right wing paranoiacs of the Liberal Party must not be permitted to divert us from this major national responsibility. The Fraser Government must instead set aside its past obsessions. It must face this vital policy challenge with foresight and energy and it must keep this Parliament and the people of Australia informed of its actions. Deception, obfuscation and uranium do not sit well together. The stakes at issue are too high.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your call. In saying that, the problems involved in the calling of an Independent member of this House have not yet been resolved, but, because of arrangements that have been made, I thank you for your call. I have spoken twice on the subject of uranium. Therefore I realise that for me to use up any time tonight would be selfish because there are so many honourable members on the list who want to speak. My views are well known. They have been stated twice in this House and published in the newspapers. Therefore my aim tonight is to do 2 things: Firstly, to commend and thank the Government for honouring its promise to bring back this motion for parliamentary debate; and secondly, to test the House by moving an amendment which I will try, by using all the forms of the House, to press to a vote. Therefore, after moving the amendment I will simply sit down and hope that some honourable member seconds it so that the amendment will appear on the notice paper and honourable members will be given an opportunity to vote on it. My amendment is almost identical to the amendment I moved to the motion that was on the notice paper before the Parliament was prorogued. I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. The mining, export and processing of uranium raises the most vital question facing humanity. It is the survival of the human race. Normally in the case of uranium this question arises because of the dangers of radiation when uranium is used, the dangers of nuclear explosions and breakdowns caused deliberately or by accident when nuclear power is being produced, the dangers of radiation from nuclear waste, especially plutonium, which so far as present knowledge goes cannot ever be eliminated, and the fact that peaceful uses of uranium cannot be separated from the production of nuclear bombs. The mining and export of uranium from Australia will inevitably increase the number of nuclear bombs produced and the number of countries which will produce those bombs.
Let me take each of these matters in turn. Each one alone presents a reason why in present circumstances uranium should not be mined, exported or processed. In the case of radiation from the normal processing of uranium, it is assumed that in setting radiation protection standards any exposure to radiation involves some risk of injury. There is no threshold dose. For many years that matter was subject to hot debate. The view that there was a threshold dose has now been rejected in theory and practice. In the meantime many thousands of people have contracted radiation disease. It is to the credit alone of those who oppose nuclear processing that the acceptance of a threshold dose now underlies radiation protection standards. But there is yet no reason to believe that protection standards can prevent radioactive contamination in some cases. Processing of uranium in the foreseeable future, no matter what the standard of protection, will involve some addition to background radiation and, if there is no threshold, it will involve people in radiation sickness in some significant numbers.
The chances of explosion, breakdown or fault in a plant or in transportation by accident or design will increase in proportion to the number of reactors, and if reactors needed to fulfil projected electricity demand in the next 20 years are built, then trains and trucks loaded with deadly radioactive materials will constantly travel across the United States, Europe, the Soviet Union and many other places. The chances of explosion by accident or design would be sufficiently great to make avoidance of accident unlikely. In these circumstances, it would be only a matter of time until an explosion or breakdown released deadly radioactivity and caused a disaster of great significance.
In the case of Australia, it is easy for those who believe that as owners of industries, or as workers, they will benefit in money from the mining and export of uranium to say, in effect: ‘It won’t be processed here; there’s no immediate risk for us. These risks will be exported with the uranium’. This is the ultimate immorality. There is nothing Australia can do to reduce the risk of explosion or pollution in other countries, in a nuclear plant, or in transport of radioactive materials by accident or design, but there is something Australia can do to share the costs of radioactive contamination from plutonium wastes- that is to take back the radioactive wastes of the processing of Australian uranium and try to store them away safely for the next 25 000 years. Such a proposal may yet be put to Australia and it would at least test the integrity of those who are anxious to export both uranium and the risks of uranium, and bring the issues home to the public much more vividly.
The possibility of explosion by accident or design has to be seen in the intricate network that industrial society has become. The people are separated from one another in every human sense, but they are locked together by technology and economics. Everyone depends on someone else for his life- upon the road engineer, the assembly Une worker, the airline pilot, the scientist in the laboratory and many others. We know what can happen when 2 jumbo jets collide. But a nuclear reactor is a far greater potential threat than 2 jumbo jets. One unnoticed slip or one unsure act and dozens or hundreds of people are dead. That will become thousands if nuclear reactors proliferate in present circumstances.
The chances of serious accidents will increase. Lives will depend on technologies in reactors and in transport which are not now safe, and lives will depend on fallible performances. With low risk technology this maybe acceptable. With high risk technology it is not. Not only is high risk technology now in increasing use, but it has concentrated vast numbers of people in dense populations. The increasing oneness of mankind has been recognised in words, but in practice all that has happened is that technology and economics have concentrated people together in areas of increasing violence and risk. Technology and economics produce violence as significantly as they produce material goods. This is the strongest reason of all why there should be a reassessment of the race into nuclear technology.
The last of the 4 points I have mentioned is the impossibility of separating peaceful uses of uranium from the proliferation and production of nuclear bombs. Today more than enough nuclear bombs exist to destroy mankind many times over. They have been used in war twice only, and never by those called our enemies. They will be used again. The world has treated nuclear bombs more as a deterrent than as a weapon since 1945. But that is because they have been possessed by nations in some kind of stable relationship with each other. Proliferation of nuclear bombs amongst many nations will not be likely to have that result. It is highly probably that the present rate of development of nuclear power will proliferate the possession of nuclear bombs, resulting in an unstable relationship between nations. It is highly probable that these bombs will be used, and not alone by nations, but by smaller groups of people. The essence of the case for the development of nuclear power industry lies in the argument that human happiness depends on a constantly or rapidly rising consumption of material goods. It does not. Historical evidence shows that in the competitive, acquisitive society, or probably in any society, a rising consumption of material goods increases human happiness up to a point, but not beyond it. Historical evidence shows that rising consumption of material goods beyond a point increases alienation, anxiety, violence and, above all, powerlessness for the majority of the people. Erlich has put it vividly: . . beyond a certain per capita energy level, the political system and cultural life of any society decay.
It is unlikely that the non-competitive, perhaps less acquisitive, but disciplined societies of the Soviet Union and the European state economies will any more achieve increasing human happiness from increasing consumption of material goods. At any rate, to believe that uranium should be mined, exported and processed because it will give a higher level of happiness from a high level of consumption of material goods is a delusion, and it is a delusion which sooner or later will have terrible consequences.
Yet another essential feature of the case for the development of a nuclear power industry is that shortage of oil, coal and other energy sources demands that nuclear energy must be used. Here the choice is that more and more energy must be continuously used, or less. Those who choose more are, they say, realists; they are wrong. The use of more and more nonrenewable energy only postpones the day when the decision to use less must be made. The world’s population is now almost 4000 million and is increasing at a rate of about 2 per cent a year. If this rate continues the world’s population will double every 35 years. World industrial output has been increasing at the rate of 7 per cent each year- less in the past 3 years- but at a rate that doubles almost every 10 years.
Given continuation of these rates for one lifetime only, four times as many people- 16,000 million- will be producing and consuming 128 times as much output as at present. This is impossible. And this is the result in many cases in only one lifetime. It is impossible even if a large pan of the world’s energy supply comes from renewable sources like sun and water; and perhaps nuclear fusion can be included in that. It is impossible because the level of demand on resources other than energy will have exhausted many of them by then. A few estimates show how likely that is. According to Erlich, if we assume 5 times the known resources of each mineral, and consumption even at low constant rates of increase, the year of depletion of each key mineral is: aluminium, 48 years from now; copper, 41 years from now; iron, 66 years from now; lead, 51 years from now; manganese, 87 years from now; mercury, 34 years from now; nickel, 89 years from now; tungsten, 65 years from now; zinc, 43 years from now; petroleum, 43 years from now; natural gas, 42 years from now.
It is not a simple matter of these resources suddenly running out. What will happen is that the price of them will rise to higher and higher levels until only the rich nations and people can use them. The argument that rising consumption standards and nuclear power are all necessary for the poor, especially for the poor in the developing countries, is not a valid one. Rapidly rising use of energy, especially nuclear energy, will be concentrated in the hands of those who are rich and powerful already. They will grow richer and far less will seep down to the poor, both between the rich and poor nations and within each nation. As the use of more and more energy uses up more and more aluminium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, tungsten, zinc and other minerals the prices of those minerals will rise, no matter what the advances of technology and productivity may be. To introduce nuclear energy is going to accentuate all this and exhaust those minerals so much earlier. What will happen can be seen by what happened in the case of the OPEC rise in the price of petroleum. This did not harm the worlds huge petroleum companies, or the ruling classes in the OPEC countries, or in the developed countries. They all became richer because of the rise in the price of petroleum.
Now who was it who was not better off? Those who lost from the rise in the price of petroleum were firstly, the developing countries. And their loss was one of thousands of millions of dollars; secondly the poorer people in the developed countries upon whom fell the impact of inflation. Inflation never hits the non-poor. They are powerful enough to pass on the costs. Inflation hits those who are not powerful enough to pass on its costs. The whole process of new and excessive use of energy, especially nuclear energy, will increase the rate of diminution or exhaustion of the world’s basic minerals. It will increase the cost of them and impose the burden of that process upon the poorer people of the world. It will increase inequalities of power, wealth and income.
Not only will the process of obsessive economic growth not increase human happiness in the future for poorer mankind as well as richer, but it involves a process of conflict which humanity shows, as yet, no ability to be able to handle. What will happen if the increasing scarcity of basic minerals, and probably energy, actually takes place? It will result not only in a rise in the cost of those minerals and of energy and in continuing inflation, but it will also result in conflict. It is unlikely that excessive consumption of resources can go far without conflict between nations, and within nations, because of the ever tightening straight jacket of scarce resources.
I see no way in which the world can handle scarcity better in the next SO years than it has handled growth in the past 60 years and it has experienced two world wars and many others in that time. Over 100 million people have died of man made violence in the past 60 years, and many more of starvation and disease. This has happened in the years of growth. What may happen in the years of increasing scarcity?
For some, or many people, these are unnecessary warnings. They are the prophecy of doom. But they are not. They are the statement of a challenge- the challenge fully to revise what is involved in mankind’s insatiable consumption of natural resources and its alienation from nature and from itself. It is a challenge to try to devise better ways and better values, not alone because of the threat of survival which may be there, but because those ways and those values are what humanity should aspire to in any case. We should repond to the magic of free life far more than to threats to human survival. But we should respond. Of that there can be no doubt.
-I welcome the statement by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) as it has given us yet another opportunity to debate whether or not our uranium resources should be developed. I wish to speak to the motion moved by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and to the amendment. We have just listened to a nonsensical and scaremongering speech by the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns). His speech was not based on fact, it was not substantiated by expert evidence, and it was twisted in its approach. It was designed simply to install fear into people who are still trying to make up their minds. I suspect that the honourable member’s motives are clearly designed to put obstacles in the way of the development of our nation and that his real aim is to promote some other lifestyle in our country. In pointing up the shortages and the shortfalls, in fact he made a good case for the development of new energy sources, particularly uranium.
The present Government has always approached this subject with consistency and frankness. Members of the Government have been willing to debate the matter at every opportunity over the last 2 or 3 years in a sensible and balanced manner. We are willing to keep open minds on the subject, and my Government has consistently said that no firm decision will be made before the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry is received. All of the debate on this side of the chamber and all of the opinions expressed are made within the context of that understanding. When the time does come after the receipt of the second Fox report, the elected Government will make a decision on whether or not we will mine and process our uranium. I should like to speak about the possible development of the mining of uranium in Australia should the Government desire that the industry proceed. At page 70 of the first report of the Fox inquiry it is stated:
Clearly, the development of nuclear power in the rest of the world can continue whether or not Australian uranium is made available. The evidence indicates that, if nuclear power programs proceed at the rate projected in 1976, additional uranium production capacity will have to be established in other countries to meet projected demands in the 1980s. Sufficient supplies of higher grade ores appear to be available for this purpose. Consequently, the unavailability of Australian supplies in this period would not make an appreciable difference to the average price of uranium.
It would seem that the availability of Australian uranium will have little or no effect on the ultimate development of power generation by nuclear means. I quote again from the first Fox report. On pages 1 79 and 1 80 it is stated:
A total renunciation of intention to supply designed to bring an end to all nuclear power industries or all further developments of them would in our view be likely to fail totally in its purpose.
Apart from financial consideration, which are not to be neglected, there are considerations to which we referred when dealing with the topic of proliferation. A total refusal to supply would place Australia in clear breach of Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and could adversely affect its relation to countries which are parties to the NPT. These matters might not have been of any concern at all had we not advanced our preparations for uranium mining to the stage they have now reached, so that our readiness and ability to supply within a few years are now obvious. We are of the view that total renunciation of intention to supply is undesirable.
On the evidence available to us no country with an expressed intention to buy Australian uranium will in the meantime be dependent on Australia, in the sense that supplies at reasonable cost could not be obtained elsewhere. Japan is perhaps the country most likely to need Australian uranium and it has already contracted for supply of all its requirements until 1985, almost entirely with countries other than Australia.
Furthermore, many countries throughout the world, including Asia, have firm commitments to develop nuclear power generation. I quote from the publication Nuclear Power Developments in Asia and the Pacific:
According to statistics compiled by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) there were 150 nuclear power plants operating in 19 countries at 30 June and a further 337 units were under construction or on order. Thirty countries, including for the first time a number of developing countries, had a firm commitment to nuclear power for energy generation. In the Asian and Pacific region India, Iran, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan all have commitments.
They are forced to this situation by the desperate shortage of fossil fuels throughout the world and the immense dangers which are inherent in burning fossil fuels, particularly coal. Almost daily people are dying from the pollution effects of coal fired power stations. Yet no one is getting emotional over mining and burning of coal. Its a bit like the terrible carnage on our roads. Because it happens every day no one seems to care any more. Nonetheless the hazards of coal fired power stations have not diminished. In fact there is every reason to believe that the CO2 catastrophe is possibly the most portentious aspect of our entire long range energy policy. It is my belief that once the CO2 problem becomes widely understood, even given all the uncertainties, it will become the single strongest argument for turning to the nuclear alternative. Most scientists viewing the accelerated burning of fossil fuels now agree that CO2 will warm the earth’s surface temperature significantly. It seems improbable that the opposing factors would nicely follow. I quote again from Nuclear Power Developments in Asia and the Pacific:
In 1975 oil supplied 45 per cent of the world’s primary en ergy (including that used to generate electricity), coal 30 per cent and natural gas 1 8 per cent, nuclear energy contributed only 1 . 8 per cent. Installed capacity of nuclear power stations has grown rapidly since 1970.
But I am so far only talking about the possible mining and export of uranium subject to acceptable safeguards and only after the Government has reached a decision following the receipt of the second Fox report But even from mining and exporting of uranium the benefits to Australia are immense.
At this stage I quote from a paper by J. M. Silver and W. J. Wright. They state:
The main point, however, is that irrespective of the assumptions used the mining and export of uranium could make a substantial contribution to Australia’s future economic well-being.
I quote again from the paper of J. M. Silver and W. J. Wright because they give some interesting facts:
Honourable members can see that this is not of insignificant importance to Australia. The mining, milling and export of our low grade uranium deposits, principally by open pit methods of mining and a leaching process of upgrading is entirely safe. I know of an area where kangaroos and birds are constantly drinking water direct from an open pit in an uranium ore body with no ill effects. I also know that people have been drawing water from bores that have been sunk in uranium bearing ore for over 50 years with still no ill effect. But in any case honourable members can rest assured that the Federal Department of Health, after consultation with Federal and State government departments, trade unions, trades and labour councils, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and mining Companies, has developed the world’s most stringent code to govern the mining and milling of uraniumshould the Government give permission for mining to commence- subject to receiving the second Fox report.
We hear so much from highly emotional but uninformed members of the public putting forward views that mining of our uranium will lead to genetic mutations and all sorts of strange illness. This is not supported by medical fact and so far a search to find such genetic mutations in the populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been unsuccessful. If such mutations were going to appear then surely these 2 cities would be likely breeding grounds. These horribly misleading stories are deliberately promoted by emotionally unbalanced people who have scant regard for the truth. In fact, their one common objective would seem to be to prevent the proper, sensible development of our country and the maintainence of our high standard of living. To talk of a 2-year moratorium is utter nonsense. The uranium debate has been going on now for over 30 years in Australia and the expert knowledge available in Australia is second to none in the world.
To say that the decision should be made by any group, whether environmental or other, outside Parliament is fundamentally wrong. Even the Fox report states on page 185:
We suggest that the questions involved are of such importance that they be resolved by Parliament.
I submit that this elected Parliament is the only competent body to make such a decision.
There are some points I would like to make in conclusion. Firstly, there are no plans to introduce nuclear power stations into Australia. Therefore, there will be no nuclear wastes created in Australia. Secondly, all that has been talked about to date is the possibility of mining, milling and exporting uranium subject to the receival of the second Fox report. These activities do not create any nuclear wastes in Australia. Nor will any conversion or enrichment of uranium in Australia create any nuclear wastes within Australia. The responsibility for the disposal of nuclear wastes resulting from nuclear power generation lies with the countries which might purchase our uranium. Satisfactory methods already exist for the safe storage and disposal of wastes in consumer countries overseas. The waste can be fused into a vitreous glass which is unaffected by the elements. These glass rods can be safely stored in properly constructed deep silos.
Conceding that there are proven reasons which would preclude our mining and exporting of uranium, I ask: Will there be a nuclear power industry around the world, including in Russia and China, regardless of whether Australia mines and exports uranium? The answer is clearly yes. Over 30 countries are already committed to nuclear power generation programs irrespective of Australian uranium. Is the Aus.tralian economy so strong that we could deny ourselves the clear economic benefits that would flow from the mining and export of uranium? We could not. Are the economies of local remote regions so well based that these regions can turn away from the benefits that the mining or uranium or some other mineral can bring? The answer is clearly no. Is our employment situation so good that we can ignore the new jobs which a mining and export go-ahead on uranium would create? I say that it is not. Finally, with the mining and export of uranium in Australia we have the opportunity to delay the development of the fast breeder reactor and the plutonium society with all its attendant dangers. By the devlopment of our uranium, we may be able to safeguard significantly the welfare of mankind.
-Order! I should explain to the House, that, due to the imbalance in the number of speakers from either side of the chamber and in view of the fact that we have already heard from 3 speakers from my left, I now call the honourable member for Macarthur.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am glad to follow in the debate the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) who has presented what I believe is the practical man’s approach to this debate. I think it is a contribution which is essential if there is to be a sensible and balanced debate on this matter and if there is to be an understanding of the realities of the issue. We need to look not only at the evidence which is being widely presented by one set of scientists in various disciplines, some of which are even related to the matter in hand, but also at the evidence being supplied by people with an expertise in the matter. I think it only right that all participants in this debate should recognise the genuine concern being rightly expressed by conservationists, for example, about the problems- to an extent, the unknown problems- of nuclear development. It is a concern which, I think, is properly expressing itself in a national debate on this problem. My disappointment is that in fact this debate appears to be taking place only within this House. For example, I do not know of any major public involvement in the matters of great concern. It may well be that the public is sufficiently convinced by the practical men- the men like the honourable member for Kalgoorlie who I believe presented a very strong case for the immediate mining in Australia. On the other hand, it could well be argued that there are some members of the anti-uranium lobby whose motives are dramatically suspect.
I do not want to develop at great length an anti-Arab line of reasoning, but I think it would be recognised that there is a curious link between various left-wing forces in Australia and various Arab forces in the Middle East. It seems more than a coincidence that those Arab forces in the
Middle East appear to have a dominant position in the supply of a major energy resource, that is, oil. There is no doubt that the group which will benefit most from the strong anti-uranium activity in the world are the Arab oil producers, who have managed, because of the energy shortage, to hold the rest of the world to ransom with their energy source. It seems to me unfortunate that large sections of the anti-uranium lobby appear to be identified with the same people who take very strong pro-Arab positions on other matters. To that extent I would say that there is a degree of risk that sections of the anti-uranium campaign may well be tainted. However, I stress that the bulk of conservationists are expressing a real and genuine concern. My only worry is that some of them may be misled, some of them may be misinformed, and some of them may in fact be deceived- I put that point as strongly as I can- by people with a vested interest, people who are working in Australia’s worst interests and who are trying to keep Australian uranium in the ground in order to maintain the international price of oil which is owned by the Arab producing nations.
I then proceed to outline some of the major problems with which I believe conservationists have not adequately coped. I stress the points made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie about carbon dioxide. He certainly stated the position very clearly; there is a real risk to our existence on this planet from carbon dioxidefrom the burning of fossil fuels. I would like to hear the same kind of analysis of the risks applied to our existing fuel usage as has been applied with extraordinary enthusiasm to the projected fuel usage of a material which is available in Australia and whose development would be to our national advantage. When I hear a comparable analysis from the conservationists group, I will believe that they have a far sounder basis on which to approach the people of Australia with a rational argument.
As has been pointed out by Dr Weinberg in the paper to which the honourable member for Kalgoorlie referred, the CO2 catastrophe-the carbon dioxide catastrophe- is possibly the most portentious aspect in our entire long range energy policy. If the carbon dioxide concentrations increase, more radiation from the sun is directed back towards earth and the earth’s temperature increases. It is, of course, the green house effect. Since the mid-nineteenth century there has been an estimated 10 per cent rise in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. About 50 per cent of the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels goes into the atmosphere and stays there. If the world continues to increase its usage of fossil fuels at a rate of 4 per cent, atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide will double by the middle of the twenty-first century, according to Dr Weinberg.
Let us see that kind of position attacked. Let us see the evidence against it. Let us see the evidence against the continued use of fossil fuels. Then when we produce an argument on the same level, adopting the same criteria, it may be conceded that the conservationists have a point. I believe at the moment in the absence of that evidence and in the face of the clear evidence of the risk to our survival as a world as a result of the increasing burning of fossil fuels that there is a desperate and urgent need to develop uranium which is a far cleaner fuel, with far fewer dangers, than any of those that are clearly established to be evident from the burning of fossil fuels at the rate which appears to be likely.
That is not the only problem, I believe, that emerges from taking a position against uranium. I believe that in a misguided way- in most cases, it is genuine but misguided- conservationists who are opposing the development of Australian uranium are forcing the world into the plutonium age. If we refuse to supply the energy hungry nations of this world with our uranium at reasonable prices, what are the alteratives? Are the major energy users going to say: ‘Okay, we will not use energy any more’, or are they going to say: ‘Let us see where we can get energy’? In the first place the simple thing to do, of course, is what the Japanese are doing, and that is to produce, at a cost, uranium from sea water. It is extraordinary that the uranium debate in this nation appears to be based on the fact that if we do not provide uranium the consumers will not be able to get it. That is unutterable garbage. It is established to be untrue, and yet we keep hearing it being pounded forth. I cannot understand the logic which suggests that because we have a cheaper form of uranium we should therefore keep it because it will not be available otherwise. Not only will it be available otherwise, but also will users be forced to look seriously at plutonium and to move towards the plutonium age where in fact hardly any uranium is used at all.
I point out to the people who are so opposed to uranium what will happen if they pursue the perhaps’ proposition. Their ‘perhaps’ proposition is that if we do not supply it perhaps other nations will not get it from anywhere else, which is nonsense. In pursuing that proposition, all they will achieve is the denial to this nation of export income because the uranium age will be a shorter age if users are forced instead into the use of plutonium. In other words, instead of having a 25-year market we will have, say, a 20-year or 15-year market. Heavens above, who knows what the motivation would be for the consumers of energy consuming nations to spend millions of dollars pursuing the plutonium age if nations like Australia refuse to supply them with uranium for their present reactors.
Let us be clear that the level of danger in the present breed of nuclear reactors is minimal compared with the risk of using fast breeder reactors and the risk of using plutonium. The major risk we run with the current level of reactors is in their waste products, which do contain plutonium but not in a concentration which can be easily or readily used for any improper purpose. It is true that the waste products can be used; that has been demonstrated. But the point I am endeavouring to make is that surely we can do nothing about the fact that these waste products will be available. They will be available anyway and as I have demonstrated, the risks of their being available are far less than the risks that emerge from the continued use of fossil fuels.
There is something even more disgraceful than that if we refuse to allow our uranium to be made available. I believe that if we force energy short nations into the nuclear club we will be doing something that we should carry on our consciences forever. The point is that if we do not supply many energy short nations with our material we will face a disaster because as fossil fuels continue to run out their price will continue to rise. The honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) talked about the length of time that our reserves will last. In view of his interesting figures I think I had better produce some others which are slightly different and in which I have much more confidence. If the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas continues at the same rate as in 1975 present recoverable reserves of coal will be exhausted in 206 years, all oil reserves will be exhausted in only 39 years and natural gas reserves in only 55 years. If we deprive the energy hungry developing nations of oil by keeping prices up because of our massive demands for it we will in fact be denying those nations the opportunity of getting a reasonable energy supply. I believe that we have a moral requirement to substitute our wasteful use of fossil fuels with nuclear power in the major developed nations which are the main users of nuclear power. A massive increase in the substitution of fossil fuel power by nuclear power would have an immediate market impact on the price of fossil fuel. It is self evident that such a course would have a major impact on the poor nations which are being priced out of the fuel business, particularly in respect of the oil market. As a result of this the developing nations are being priced out of the opportunity to develop their industries which are so essential if they are ever to establish a reasonable standard of living. If the conservationists do not give a damn about the standard of living of the developing world, that is fine. But I believe that the consequence of such an attitude ought to be on their consciences.
In conclusion, I believe that Australia, a major potential supplier of uranium, has a major role to play in policing the use of this mineral. We can exercise our power as a policeman in this area only if we are in the market place and if we are conditional suppliers. If we do not make our supplies of uranium available I believe that other nations will avoid using our uranium and will either go to other sources or other alternatives such as sea-water, or, as is the case in South Africa, to the production of uranium as a byproduct of gold rnining. Other nations could turn to plutonium. It is extraordinary that so many people in this nation are concentrating on the dangers of going nuclear whereas the indisputable evidence is that the dangers and risks involved in not going nuclear are so much greater. The dangers are greater not only in strategic terms in the sense that we will create a large unhappy element in the world if we do not supply this energy source; in economic terms they will be intolerable. We have a moral duty to develop and export our uranium.
-I speak in this debate in an endeavour at least to put the arguments in some perspective. We have heard the stock exchange operator trying to put this Parliament -
– I rise to order. I assume that the remark made by the honourable member for Melbourne was directed at me. I further assume that he is using it as a pejorative. I object in any event as it is untrue.
-Order! I cannot perceive any point of order.
– I object to the remark.
– The debate -
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has not been called yet. The honourable member for Melbourne has not tied in his remarks. I do not know how he intends to connect what he has said. At this stage I do not think that he is out of order.
-If the cap fits, wear it. The debate on uranium mining and export has reached the stage where the recommendations of the Fox inquiry have been reduced to a farcical level by the Government. It is obvious that the Government acted with indecent haste and, while it protested that it had not reached any conclusion on future mining of unanium resources, it is clear that there are strong proponents of unrestricted uranium mining among influential members of the Government. It is clear that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who is sitting at the table, fall into this category. They cannot control their impetuosity. They want to move in as quickly as possible and exploit Australia’s uranium resources purely and simply from the motive of profit, despite uranium’s potential as a pollutant, as a killer, as a danger to the environment and to the lives and future well being of human beings, born and unborn.
The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development dashed into the media as soon as the Fox report was released with a statement that the report had given the green light to the mining and export of uranium. The report is clearly open to a different interpretation from that wishfully thought upon it by the Minister. Let me quote from page 185 of the report to reinforce that contention. The report says:
Policy respecting Australian uranium exports, for the time being at least, should be based on a full recognition of the hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy, and should therefore seek to limit or restrict expansion of that production.
That is a long way from being a green light. At best it is an amber cautionary light. It could also be seen as a flashing red light with the clear warning: ‘Don’t proceed until you are absolutely sure that the way ahead is clear and safe’.
Then we have the Deputy Prime Minister throwing proper caution to the winds and launching a book entitled Uranium on Trial- a. publication that supports the mining and export of uranium. This is a disgraceful situation when the Government is supposed not to have reached a conclusion until there has been a proper and adequate public debate, and at least until the proposed second report has been tabled. The Government is paying absolute lip service to the promises that have been made. It has acted prematurely and impetuously. A more enlightened view than that adopted by either of those Ministers and by others on the Government side has been taken by the Executive Committee of the Australian Council of Churches. The Executive Committee late last year unanimously passed a resolution which, among other things:
The Australian Council of Churches Committee also stated:
The resolution also called for ‘a significant increase in Australian Government investment and support for research and development into alternative non-nuclear energy sources such as solar, wind, tidal and bio-medical energy. ‘ The Fox report gives anything but the green light to uranium mining and export. The Australian Council of Churches recognises that fact and so does the Labor Party. The Labor Party believes that there should be a genuine public debatenot all this rubbish that is going on at the present time. If the Government has the idea of proposing a referendum, why does it not put both arguments to the people now? Why does it not put the for and against arguments when it is distributing the referendum material? Why does it not ask the Australian people what they really believe ought to be done for the future of the mining industry? As I say, the Fox report gives anything but the green light. The report also rightly sounds other warnings which are ignored by those in the pro-nuclear lobby who, heedless of the future, would mine uranium on an unlimited scale for the enrichment of a few at the expense of the overwhelming majority. For example, the report states:
There is at present no generally accepted means by which high level waste can be permanently isolated from the environment and remain safe for very long periods.
Because some people wear red underpants in this place, the Government sees communists under beds. Everything that is involved in a particular question deters the Government from looking reasonably at any matter. With regard to this issue, surely there is a challenge for those who respect the future of mankind to look seriously at this question and for once set aside this mad desire to make profits and pour millions of dollars into the pockets of those individuals represented by Government supporters. While these adequate safeguards are not satisfied, we must again refer to the report, which states:
While provision of security adequate to guarantee against terrorist intrusion - honourable members should think about that- is theoretically possible . . . there must be a question whether adequate precautions will in fact be taken.
The report also refers to the ‘very real risks that the opportunity and the motive for nuclear blackmail will develop within time ‘. It is a frightening prospect, standing on the edge of the unknown darkness, yet there are those honourable members opposite who would push civilisation into that black void to satisfy the financial interests of the few who stand to make huge amounts of money out of the mining and export of uranium.
Fortunately, there are researchers- and we have them here in Australia- who share the Fox report’s serious reservations about the development of nuclear energy. This point brings me to the question raised by the Australian Council of Churches Executive Committee in its resolution, that is, the question of research and development into alternative power sources. Let me quote a general conclusion from work done at the Department of Engineering Physics, School of Physical Sciences, at the Australian National University. That conclusion states: the urgency for the development of nuclear energy has been exaggerated.
It goes on to list the reasons why this is so, reasons to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. Firstly, nuclear power is not a substitute for oil. It is only a substitute for coal and there are sufficient supplies of coal in Australia for our own use to last 800 years. Taking the more realistic view that we would have to share our supplies of coal with the rest of the world, the known reserves are sufficient to last 100 years. I would like the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development to answer that point some time. Secondly, known uranium reserves economically suitable at current planned development rate of nuclear power would last about 30 years. In this period large quantities of dangerous waste would have been parked around the world. If some people have their way Australia would become a super-parking lot for all the world ‘s nuclear waste in exchange for the very short term and extremely dubious advantage of income from the mining and export of uranium.
These researchers believe that there is every possibility that within a period of IS years to 20 years- and beyond doubt within 30 years to 50 years- electrical power will be able to be generated from the sun for the same cost as generation of electricity from coal or from nuclear power. Research workers from the Australian National University can produce water temperatures of 450 degrees centigrade from solar heat. The research workers are certain that there is no technical problem between them and their capacity to operate a steam turbine from solar heat, which means that they would be able to generate electricity. The scientists are also confident that within 5 years they could establish a pilot plant to generate electricity if the Government would make available the necessary $2m. Given the acknowledged magnitude of the energy problem, this is not a large amount of money spread over a 5-year period. Given the high human cost of a mistake made in formulating nuclear policy the amount involved in pursuing this solar energy development is minute.
I am told by scientists that solar power today is in the same position that nuclear power was 20 years ago. At that time the cost of nuclear generated electricity was about 10c a kilowatt hour. Today it costs about 2c a kilowatt hour. Today solar energy can be costed at about 5c a kilowatt hour. It is almost certain that with the development of economies of sale and with a fraction of the research and development program undertaken for nuclear power, solar power will cost less than half of this amount long before coal supplies run out. Solar power will be cheaper than either coal or nuclear power. None of the scientists to whom I have talked pretends that they can develop economical power from solar energy in one year, two years or even five years, but beyond that most are confident that somewhere in the world this work is being done.
– Why 25 or 50 years.
-The Minister talks about 20 years to 25 years. If that is the price to be paid for protecting unborn generations, it is a very minute price to pay. But if as a result of what the Government does now children are bora with deformities it will be on the conscience of the Minister. The decision that the Government takes ought to weigh very heavily on the shoulders of the Minister because it is a decision that he will have to sleep with, and die with eventually. I put it to the Minister that the question of disposal of nuclear waste is one to which he should give very serious attention. I wish to quote further from the report. It states:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching, and, depending on development, regular and frequent assessment.
If the Minister commits himself in an economic sense, as our sabre rattling friends on the Government back bench want him to do, then forever more he will be indicted as an individual who subscribed to that viewpoint purely and simply for economic advancement. This Government cannot make any decision on the future of mining and export of uranium until the second report of the inquiry is tabled. It should not do so. But it should not add lip service to this public debate. Surely the proposition of the Council of Churches for a moratorium should be considered-
I have been hailed in the Press as a supporter of the export of uranium. I am totally opposed to it and if it would not be grandstanding with a lot of other people I would be supporting a S year moratorium. I have declared in this situation that I support the decision taken. I support the Australian Labor Party’s opposition to the proposal. This Government cannot make any decision, as I have indicated, until the second report is tabled. After all the time, all those witnesses, all those pages of transcript and all the exhaustive inquiry the first Fox report still leaves its options open against a background of extreme caution. The only thing that it is really sure about is that at this time Australia should not commit itself to withholding for all time its uranium supplies. The Parliament should adopt the precepts of the Fox report and be extremely cautious about this issue. I conclude with the quotation from a resolution to which I referred before. It states:
We are charged to be caretakers of Creation not only for ourselves, but for future generations. Even if tonight were the world’s last night, the decisions we take should be such that future generations would have no cause to curse us.
-(Mr Ian Robinson) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just heard a very pessimistic and calamitous speech by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). We support the development of uranium mining in Australia and the export of uranium. The honourable member asked why we do not include this question in the referendum proposals which are to be put next month and get the opinion of the Australian people. The latest gallup poll showed that 70 per cent of Australians were in favour of developing uranium mines in Australia; 17 per cent were against and 13 per cent did not know. Seventy-one per cent of Australians interviewed in this gallup poll were shown to be in favour of the export of uranium from Australia; 2 1 per cent were against it and 8 per cent did not know. I venture to say that when the people of Australia are acquainted with the facts about uranium mining those who did not know will certainly make up their minds and will be in favour of the export and development of Australian uranium.
I have never heard so many pessimistic speeches by Opposition members as we have heard in this debate. Surely they must realise what a great benefit uranium will be to Australia. It will be to our economy what oil has been to the Arabs. Australia has the largest uncommitted resources of uranium but substantial deposits exist in the United States of America, Canada and indeed in Africa. Australia possesses 25 per cent of the presently known high grade uranium reserves in the Western world, but low grade reserves of a much greater percentage exist. Indeed in Australia there would be many more uranium fields yet to be discovered. The uranium industry is a large potential industry. It would contribute significantly to the future growth of and investment in Australia. It would improve our standard of living. It would make a growing contribution to exports and help to finance imports of all kinds, including oil and capital equipment. The uranium industry would be in low income areas of Australia. It promises to raise income in those areas. Most of the uranium finds are in the sparsely populated areas of Australia and would provide employment for approximately 3000 people in these areas when developed. This would be of great benefit to Australia.
The Fox Uranium Inquiry found that mining and milling of uranium, properly controlled as it is in Australia, presents hazards no worse than those incurred in any other mining operation. It believes uranium mining can be developed. I say that it is a much safer operation than, for instance, the production of coal, iron ore and other minerals that are mined in Australia. The report also found that current operations of nuclear power stations, properly controlled, are safe by any reasonable standards. The mining of uranium in Australia is a perfectly safe operationpossibly the safest of any mining in this country. It is sheer nonsense to say that uranium mining is more dangerous than other mining. If we look at the record in Australia we find that uranium mining was carried out successfully and safely in Australia from 1954 to 1971. It is interesting to note the amount of ore treated during that period. The figures were: Rum Jungle, 863 000 tonnes; United Uranium, 128 000 tonnes; South Alligator, 13 000 tonnes; Mary Kathleen, 2 947 000 tonnes- that mine is now operating again- Radium Hill and Port Pirie, 970 000 tonnes. The question to be asked is: Why should uranium mining be less safe now than it was then? We must realise that uranium is being mined on an increasing scale in overseas countries including the United States of America,
Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, France, Gabon and the Soviet Union.
If uranium mining is unsafe, why do these nations do it? Uranium is a harmless mineral in its natural state. Even in the great nuclear power stations throughout the world where enriched uranium is used the safety record is unsurpassed. I have a set of figures here which I should like included in Hansard. They show the actual statistics concerning the risk of fatality by various causes in the U.S.A. The chart shows that in the 100 nuclear power stations in the United States there has not been one fatality. This figure is compared with figures for other items such as motor car accidents, drownings, fire arm accidents, etc. The figures indicate conclusively that there is little danger of any fatalities in this great industry. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– I thank the House. Research has shown that 160 nuclear power stations are already operating and there has not been a single death or injury to the public at large as a result of the operations of these stations. Nuclear power is the power of the future. As we have abundant supplies of the raw material- uranium ore- we should be developing the mining and marketing of it immediately. Even when these mines are developed it will take some years before they will be in a position to supply the world market with uranium.
All nations have access to uranium ore from the ever-growing mining industry or from sea water. The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) mentioned tonight that the Japanese are devising a method and the technological knowhow to obtain uranium from sea water. In the Press today there is a report from Japan that the Japanese are experimenting with producing uranium from phosphate rock. So how stupid would we be not to get on the job and get our uranium moving. If the Japanese develop these methods of producing uranium from sea water and phosphate rock we will be stuck with a useless commodity in the ground whereas now we can sell it. We ought to be jolly well doing what we can to produce it. Separation processes can be used to acquire weapons material from these sources. The denying of access to Aus.tralian uranium therefore can have no effect on the spread of nuclear weapons. People of the world, both poor and wealthy, require more and more power to improve their standards of living. The demand comes from them. A splendid example of this is the rapid increase in the consumption of electrical energy all over the world.
A nation such as Australia which has far more uranium than is required for its own energy needs, has a duty to sell the excess to these less fortunate nations. If we do not sell our uranium, we could be classed as being selfish and this could lead to international tensions. We will not need to use uranium in this country because we have ample supplies of fossil fuel to provide the electrical energy we need here. So let us get on with the job and export the uranium.
At the present time Australia is in the fortunate situation of being able to supply 70 per cent of its petroleum requirements from indigenous crude oil and 30 per cent from overseas from places like the Persian Gulf, the Bahrain Islands, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Unless we discover more profitable oil fields in the near future, by 1987 we could be importing nearly 100 per cent of our petroleum from overseas. What a drain on our overseas balances and on the economy of this country. This means that possibly we would have to find $2.5 billion to $3 billion a year to provide the transport industry and motorists with petroleum products. By 1985 the Australian uranium industry will be capable of satisfying 20 per cent of the world market. It could earn for Australia $3 billion a year and thus offset the great drain on our economy or on our overseas balances for oil. What a great situation to be in! Yet there are those in Australia who vehemently oppose the development of an industry that can save Australia economically.
There appear to be many people in Australia who fear the issue of disposal of high level waste. This would not concern us for some long time in Australia but, nevertheless, world-wide it is a subject of great importance. High level waste has been in existence since 1 948- the beginning of the weapons program. The method of storing this waste has been as a liquid in tanks. This has not been the best method for long term storage. There have been some problems. The amount of high level waste already in existence is equal to the amount which is likely to be produced up until the year 2000. At the present time, considerable investigation is going on as to the best method of storing this waste. This is taking place in small areas set aside for this purpose. I have no doubt that this investigation will be finalised and that a completely satisfactory method will be devised by the technologists.
The Government has no plans to introduce nuclear power stations into this country. Therefore, there will be no nuclear wastes created in Australia. All that has been talked about to date is the possibility of the mining of uranium ore and its export from Australia. These activities do not create any nuclear waste in this country nor will any conversion and enrichment of uranium create any nuclear wastes here. I may have time later to quote from a letter by Senator Mulvihill which was published in the Australian Financial Review which implied that wastes from uranium mining and wastes from nuclear power stations are the same. They are not related in any way. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), who is at the table, when speaking on 1 1 November last in respect of approved sales of uranium said that the handling and disposal of radioactive waste resulting from nuclear power generation lies with the countries concerned, that is, the countries to which Australia exports uranium for electric power generation. The handling and disposal of such waste are subject to the strictest regulations and controls in these countries within existing technology.
Some concern has been expressed from time to time about radon gas in uranium mining and milling. It is true that radon gas is a problem which is found particularly in underground mining. But it is not such a problem in open cut mining of the type carried out and envisaged in Australian uranium mining. As a member of the Government Members Trade and Resources Committee, with colleagues I have visited many of the uranium mines in this country. Indeed, they are safe mining operations. The environment is restored to its natural state. Trees are planted and, in many circumstances, the environment is left in a far better state than prior to the extraction of the uranium from the ground. We support the uranium industry, its development in this country and the export of uranium overseas.
– I spoke on this matter on a previous occasion and I do not intend now to canvass the same areas. I am rather amazed to hear repeatedly the assertion that scientists and technologists apparently have the competence to overcome the technical difficulties of conversion for either solar or fusion energy purposes, yet oddly enough the same scientists apparently do not have the competence to solve the issues involved in fission power.
I should like to refer tonight to a speech made by Sir Brian Flowers late last year in the United Kingdom, when he explained his methodology and approach to his report on nuclear power and the environment. Quoting from his report, he said:
There are few subjects in the field of environmental pollution to which people react so emotionally as they do to radioactivity. One reason is the association with the destructive uses of nuclear energy’. We recall ‘The development of reactors to harness nuclear energy for the generation of electrical power stemmed directly from the weapons programs’. It is an historical barrier which, like Ireland and the Middle East, will not be easily overcome.
We set the international scene in its long-term context in paragraphs 7 and 8 where we said (paragraph 7) ‘The sudden increase in the price of oil in 1973 provided a sharp warning to industrialised countries of their vulnerability on energy supply. . . .’
He went on to say something that adds credibility to what I said in the previous debate:
The world reserves of coal are relatively very large but it is by no means clear that coal could be mined on the scale that would be needed to meet growing energy demands, or that the environmental problems arising from its extraction and use would be acceptable. Moreover, it must be remembered that fossil fuels will be needed not only as a source of energy but as raw materials for the chemical industry. It has been said that our age will be condemned in retrospect for its profligate use of these fuels. Against this background the emergence of nuclear power as an alternative energy source for mankind appears providential.
When I was in California at the height of the Californian campaign a Professor Manne, who was highly regarded in the United States, passed an observation on the alternative which Carter faced and which was reported as follows:
A Harvard economist, Professor Alan Manne, recently told an audience at Stanford University, California, that substituting coal-fired plants for new nuclear facilities would cause an estimated S000 more deaths annually across the nation by 1985.
About half the deaths would come from increased air pollution, with the rest resulting from mining accidents and other activities needed to generate the energy.
I think that is a simple fact which ought to be taken into consideration. Undoubtedly it is one which the United States will have to face up to. Flowers, quoting again from his report, went on in his speech to say:
On the other hand, nuclear power introduces environmental risks and problems, and some of these appear unique in their implications for society . . .’
He went on to make a very pertinent observationan aphorism. We ought to remember it. He stated:
Prosperity without pollution is impossible, so an industrial nation’s view about the seriousness of pollution has to be tempered by many conflicting considerations in order to achieve an acceptable balance. I believe it is Sir Hermann Bondi who is credited with the aphorism: ‘if war is too dangerous to be left to the generals, peace is too important to be left to the pacifists’. One could equally say that if prosperity is too important to be left to the industrialists, pollution is too important to be left to the environmentalists!
He went on to say:
In the course of these early chapters we laid to rest a number of horror stories. Regarding genetic effects we said: At the levels of radiation likely to be permitted in relation to possible somatic effects, the genetic effects should be of little concern’. As the population at risk throughout the world increases, genetic aspects will have to be borne in mind. Also concluded that no case has been made for the potential cancer producing substances of ‘hot’ particles of plutonium absorbed by the lung, a story causing great alarm a couple of years ago because it would probably have meant, if true, the abandonment of nuclear power. On the contrary we were convinced that the present standards of plutonium exposure and intake were not seriously in error.
We also did our best to compare the hazards of nuclear power with other hazards of ordinary and industrial life, and to keep them in perspective. We agreed that the famous piece of plutonium the size of an orange contains enough of the substance to kill everyone on earth’, but pointed out that it is impossible that it could be so distributed as to have this effect’. We likened it to saying that ‘a two-millionth part of our annual production (of chlorine) would, in theory, suffice to kill the entire population ‘-which is equally true, but the theory is equally naive. We realised enough of the difficulties … to be wary of making such comparisons lightly … it is better that they are not made at all except on the basis of authoritative toxicological studies and with scrupulous attention to the circumstances in which different substances are used.
Frankly, I think far too much emotionalism is being injected into this debate. I found when I went to California last year at the height of the debate that, as a prospective source of energy, nuclear fission is not what it was when the Californian debate began- and for a fairly obvious reason. As the campaign started to mount, Californians began to come to the realisation that more was at stake than just the 3 existing nuclear power plants in California or even the 3 1 that were planned for the next 20 years. The Californian campaign was a forerunner to the national campaign in the United States. Everybody in California came to the realisation that the United States relied for its basic energy needs on oil and gas, that since 1968 Californian oil and gas production had been rapidly declining and that this had brought a rapid dependence on imported oil from over the Californian border and perhaps a reliance on either Algerian or Indonesian imported gas.
California is a contradictory place. It is a high consumption area that is obsessed with material needs. The part of the world in which it is situated has a high regard for the environment. In fact it had lead the world in this area. The battle that developed in California really was between competing scares, if you tike- the fear of nuclear accidents in the future or the fear of an energy shortage and economic retardation virtually immediately. For what it is worth, I found when I got there that over 5200 scientists, 9 of whom were Nobel Prize winers, had signed a petition in California in support of nuclear power. One might put one ‘s construction on that for what it is worth, but that petition had a remarkable impact upon California.
The other matter to note is the matter of the escalating debate in West Germany against nuclear power, but if one reads the small print carefully one comes to a couple of pertinent observations. For the first time the West German Government has started talking about the country’s prospects without nuclear energy. It drew a gloomy picture of unemployment rising to 8 per cent by 1980 and growth reduced to a mere 1.5 per cent a year- not the sort of thing the good living burghers of prosperous Germany would readily accept. The other thing to note is that the trade union movement in Germany, because of an increase in the unemployment factor, is supporting nuclear energy.
I have said before in this House and I repeat that regrettably it is energy that is going to determine policies and not the other way round. The world does face a uranium problem in the coming decades; there is no question about that. But, even more critical than that, the world faces an energy problem. Before we can reasonably decide whether or not we should export uranium, we should be aware of the world’s energy position, particularly in Western Europe, Japan and- as recently revealed- in the United State of America. The information on world energy needs and supplies is becoming more available and more reliable as nations devote more and more attention to energy questions in the aftermath of the 1973 price hike. Last month’s issue of the International Petroleum Encyclopaediawhich I commend to honourable members- contains a thorough examination of expected energy trends for the remainder of this century. Its authors assume that energy consumption will grow only modestly in developed countries, certainly at a rate lower than in recent times. Long term increases in oil demands are expected to average between 2.5 per cent and 4 per cent a year. These growth rates would be much lower than those of recent decades which were between 7 per cent and 8 per cent a year.
The authors point out that despite all the proposals for alternative energy sources, including nuclear power, by 1985 more than 40 per cent of expected oil production outside the Middle East would have to come from reserves not yet discovered. Honourable members ought to note that. Whatever any honourable member may say in this chamber now or in the next 10 to 1 5 years, it will be a scramble for that resource that will dictate what energy input goes into various nations. The encyclopaedia’s authors make the point that in the next 10 to 15 years it will be vital to develop all existing energy resources to their maximum potentiality, if shortages are to be avoided. There is no chance that alternatives can be devised sufficiently in that time to make a contribution or take up the slack.
In the case of nuclear power, the authors expect that its contribution to the energy needs of the West will be about 15 per cent. This would clearly involve the construction of a large number of nuclear power stations in the next few years, bearing in mind the lengthy period involved in the design and the commissioning of such plants. The figure of 15 per cent of all energy needs by 1990 takes into account enormous amounts of other fuels. Oil and natural gas will already be in short supply by 1 990 and the use of coal will have to be expanded to near feasible limits. To increase further the contribution from coal, restraints would have to be lifted on massive strip mining of coal in the United States. This will force and flush out no end of environmentalists. New reserves of coal will need to be discovered. In addition, huge amounts of coal will almost certainly be required for conversion into petroleum or gas by the turn of the century.
The conclusion to be drawn from the world energy outlook is that even with a greatly increased nuclear program, with reduced energy growth and with the greatest possible expansion in oil and gas production, the Western world will still face an energy deficit after 1990. As coal alone cannot fill this gap, there will be an enormous pressure to expand nuclear power production rapidly, particularly after 1980. 1 support my Party’s policy; I am committed to it. But I want to put my attitude on the world energy question clearly on the line. Some idealists argue that the way to improve the quality of life is to renounce technology and all its works and to return to primitive simplicity. But realists ought to accept, I suggest, that improvements in the quality of life depend on and must be sustained by increases in economic output. Even quite modest assumptions about the world’s economic growth point to a dependence on energy by the end of the century which can, in my opinion, be met sensibly in the interim, only by recourse to nuclear power.
– I realise that I have only a couple of minutes, but I take this opportunity to say something, and I will continue my remarks at a later time. Sure, there are great dangers in nuclear energy and its development, but there are even greater dangers in not developing nuclear energy. That is true both on a global scale and in regard to Australia’s own particular interests. It seems to me that we should be looking at both the world situation and the particular interests of Australia. In relation to the world, let me say this: I withdraw nothing that I said previously in regard to the dangers of world nuclear proliferation.
Communications in Isolated Areas- Anzac Day -Political Refugees -Naomi Women’s Shelter, Adelaide-Community Services Directory
-It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March, I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (10.30)- I raise a matter that is a continuing issue in my electorate. It is the matter of communications. A few weeks ago I informed the House of the problems with television coverage in isolated areas in my electorate. I have sent several letters to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) on this matter. On every occasion I have been informed that it is impossible to extend the television coverage in these isolated areas because of the cost factor. But owing to pressure from the United Farmers and Wool Growers Association, various shires and Lions International, I approached the Minister to send to my electorate a high official from Telecom Australia to explain to the people the problems connected with supplying television to these areas. Unfortunately this request was dismissed out of hand. The Government probably has some problems in getting television coverage to these isolated areas but it is going a bit too far when it dismisses out of hand a genuine request like this from organisations. I ask that the Government have another look at this problem and send someone to talk to these people because the problem of isolation might not be as big as the Government thinks it is.
I bring up another problem concerning communications. It concerns country newspapers and in particular the Lachlander, a small newspaper based at Condobolin. In October 1973 I mentioned the fact that there was an attack on this newspaper by a large Orange based company, Western Newspapers Ltd, which was trying to take over this small country newspaper. I am happy to say that the newspaper is still being published, but unfortunately the husband of the family who was running it has since passed away and the newspaper is being published by Mrs Rider- Wood and an invalid son, who is the photographer. They are doing a very good job, but unfortunately the cost -especially the cost of postage- is showing its weight, so much so that recently Mrs RiderWood made an application to the New South Wales Government Small Business Agency for assistance to circulate this paper in Ivanhoe and Trundle, two very isolated towns. She was informed by the Small Business Agency that assistance available from the Country Industries Assistance Fund was restricted to manufacturing industries, that publishing was regarded as a service industry, that the Agency regretted therefore that financial assistance was not available through it for the Ivanhoe and Trundle newspapers.
It seems to me that it is very unfortunate that something cannot be done for communications in isolated areas. It could be said that this Government has a poor record when it comes to inland communications. A lot of promises seem to be made at election time, but once the Government has won the people’s problems are dismissed out of hand. I ask that the responsible Minister re-examine these matters, have a close look at the problems and show some genuine concern for the problems of the people in isolated areas. If it did that it would find that these people are good Australians who have done much not only to develop Australia but also to help themselves. They are capable of helping themselves on this occasion if they get the right assistance. I believe that it would not cost the Government as much as it makes out. I ask the Government now to see whether it can get someone out in these isolated areas to look at the communication problems and talk to these people.
– I rise tonight to remind honourable members that on
Monday next, 25 April, Australia will celebrate Anzac Day. In the five minutes I have in this adjournment debate I would like to try and put into words some of the things which make Anzac Day so special for the true Australian. The day enables us, as a nation, to pay tribute to those men and women who did not return from wars, and the important thing is that we pay this tribute as free men and free women. Perhaps more importantly we are free men and free women because of the sacrifices made by those men and women we honour on this occasion. We should not, indeed must not, forget them.
There can be no suggestion that by remembering these men we are perpetuating a war spirit. No one who has actually experienced war speaks in favour of the act of war itself. No one who has lost a friend in battle would ever want to face the same horror and grief a second time, and yet some have had to do just that, and by so doing their detestation of war has not been lessened. I invite the critics of Anzac Day to go along to the ceremonies which will be conduced on Monday as I know that they will not witness a war spirit, a love of war or a celebration of killing. Mr Acting Speaker, they will only see groups of men and women, many sadly getting on in years, yet marching and participating with pride- a pride derived from the knowledge that they were once able to serve their country in an hour of need. On this day they gather to think back, to mourn and to remember mates who did not return. I believe we still owe them, and particularly those who have died, a tremendous debt of gratitude and thanks. We owe them this debt because the simple fact must be recognised that unless they had served we would not be lucky enough to be here now, as I have said, as free men and free women.
We are all aware that the tradition or spirit of Anzac was born on that catastrophic day 62 years ago when thousands of young Australians joined New Zealanders and Englishmen to take part in the abortive landings on Gallipoli. Nearly 1000 Australians died during the initial assault. All of them were intelligent, thinking, reasoning men who were serving their country by choice. What they did not want to do on that day was to die, but if it it had to be, they would die as menand they did- fighting for a cause called freedom. Since that first awful day in 1915, more than 120 000 Australians have given their lives in many parts of the world for the same cause and in so doing they have perpetuated the spirit of Anzac.
Names and battles such as the Somme, Pozieres, Menin Gate, Lone Pine, Tobruk, Crete, Kokoda, Coral Sea, Malaya, Singapore, Borneo,
Kapyong and Long Tan, to mention but a few, are names not remembered because they were remarkable military victories but because they were all places where some of the finest men this country ever produced died whilst serving as soldiers, sailors and airmen.
If we deny that these men were fighting for a cause we do them a terrible injustice. If we believe that we should forget them and their cause we really do not deserve the right of choice, the right of free men. Indeed, Mr Acting Speaker, if we should ever forget them and their cause we will deserve to lose the right of choice and the right of free men. Therefore on Monday, let us ali pay tribute to these fine Australians. Let us be proud of the fact that these men were our men. Let us be humbled by the sacrifices made by them. Above all let us cherish the spirit and he tradition of Anzac, and then perhaps in some way, by remembering them and their deeds, we can say, they did not die in vain.
-I rise in this adjournment debate to draw attention to an issue which I think is disturbing a lot of people. Perhaps the name of Hishamuddin Rais is not well known but it does indicate our lack of understanding and our failure to meet our responsibilities. It enshrines the policies of the Government and its failure to act responsibly when people in this country are seeking assistance and support, when people are apprehensive that their future in their country of origin is in doubt and when their apprehension can be supported by fact. Hishamuddin Rais is a student, and it might well be said that he is a person who came here understanding clearly what might be the consequences of leaving the country at a particular time. The question which should be asked is this: How do we deal with our refugee problem? Every time the question of refugees arises we hide behind the United Nations definition, which can be interpreted in whatever way one wishes. By hiding behind that definition we can evade our responsibilities, and apply our policy in respect of refugees in a discriminatory way.
This person has been involved in a number of activities in his own country of Malaysia. He was amongst the Moslem minority involved in the suppression in Pattani. He was involved in the protests against the war in Vietnam and in the struggle against the Thai military regime. He was also involved in the Tasek Utara squatter uprisings- all issues that went to the question -
– You talk about Jim Cairns!
– You are a fascist and you would never ever believe that he should have a fair go anyway.
-Order! I think that the honourable member for Melbourne should withdraw that remark.
-I withdraw it, will all due deference to you, Mr Deputy Speaker. In any event, that is the reaction of our power hungry sabre rattling friends on the back bench. It is their attitude that anybody who is against them ought to be destroyed- ought to be burnt at the stake. That is their attitude towards anybody who does not agree with them. Here we have an individual who it is now agreed should not be forced to return to his country of origin.
Some incredible propositions were put forward in a letter I received from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), supported by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), indicating that Mr Rais would be given 6 months to find another country. If it is accepted that what I have spelt out is reasonable, then his apprehension about his return to his own country is well founded and the bona fides of the Government should be questioned. If it is reasonable for Rais to be said to be in a position where he is apprehensive about returning to his own country, then why do we not accept our responsibility and allow him to stay here? But no, we will send him away to some other country. I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it is our responsibility and we should accept it.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This evening I wish to draw attention to a scandalous and sad situation for those of us who believe that women’s shelters have a valuable role to play in our community. The issue I wish to raise relates to the mismanagement of the Naomi Women’s Shelter in Adelaide, and particularly the involvement of a Ms A Wilcox m the problems of that shelter. Ms Wilcox is a Labor Party activist who, on previous occasions, has caused embarrassment to the Dunstan Government. The matter of the abuse of taxpayers’ money at this shelter has already been debated in the South Australian Parliament. I need therefore only refer briefly to the main elements this evening. A statutory declaration shows that Ms Wilcox as secretary of the Management Committee ran this organisation without reference to the trustees or the chairman, Mrs Delores Gill, refused to call meetings and obstructed the chairman in her legal obligations.
She hired inappropriate staff. She used government money dishonestly by charging a percentage loading on food costs. She misappropriated government money by purchasing a vehicle unsuitable for the centre’s needs for her own personal use. She used the facilities and staff of the shelter in a Labor Party pre-selection campaign. She deposited shelter moneys in a private bank account.
All these actions are contrary to the intended way in which women’s shelters should operate. In particular, they are detrimental to the welfare of the women who are dependent on this shelter. Ms Wilcox abused a facility provided by the tax- g ayers for people in need to serve her own ends. »n this matter the Dunstan Government indulged in a massive cover-up. If it had not been for the probing of the Liberal Opposition that Government’s incompetence in administering taxpayers’ money or, should one say, its protection of one of its own activists, would not have been brought to light. When the Government was cornered it tried to blame the Federal Government in the State Parliament and also in a letter which Mr Dunstan wrote to Mrs Gill. Referring particularly to the vehicle purchase, Premier Dunstan said:
The van was bought with Federal funds, and is not a matter for the State Government
That is patently not true. Funds for women’s shelters are provided under community health projects. Commonwealth financial assistance for community health projects in the States take the form of annual block grants covering each State’s total program of projects, including projects conducted by non-government organisations such as the Naomi Women’s Refuge. It is a matter for the States to make allocation to individual projects from within their respective block grants. The State authorities are regarded as having primary responsibility for the administration of projects operated by the States and for the immediate supervision of projects operated by nongovernment organisations, such as Naomi Women’s Refuge, thus ensuring that the nature and standard of services are appropriate and that public moneys are duly accounted for.
Is there no end to the ways the Dunstan Government will squirm from its obligations? It condemns the Federal Government for not giving enough funds on the one hand, then, on the other hand, when funds are provided it ignores its supervisory responsibility. This, of course, indicates the real reason why Mr Dunstan objects to the new federalism. It is not that funds will be cut but that he will have to accept more responsibility. Responsibility is something on which the
Labor Party anywhere has never scored highly. Then, with the ball back in its own court on this issue, the State Government tried to put the responsibility on to the women themselves. The South Australian Community Welfare Minister, Mr Payne, said in State Parliament:
The Management Committee and some others wish to run the show. That is their business and not mine. It is up to them to run their own affairs and up to women especially to run the affairs of women ‘s shelters.
The administrative arrangements show that the State Government is responsible for supervising the use of funds. The Dunstan Government again stands condemned for its incompetence and dishonesty.
The real tragedy is that in the Kingston electorate the women’s shelter at Christies Beach, run by dedicated and competent people, is struggling desperately to survive, starved of funds. The State Government has refused to provide funds for it from the Commonwealth Government grant for this purpose. But the Naomi shelter, run by a Labor Party hack, is so flush with funds that abuses are occurring right, left and centre. This is a clear case for the Commonwealth Government to step in, override the State Government, remove the funding from the Naomi shelter and give it to a deserving one such as the Christies Beach shelter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-! have just heard in the last few minutes what the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) had to say. I think I heard the name Wilcox mentioned. I also heard the Naomi women’s shelter mentioned.
– He is a gutless wonder.
-I personally know Ms Wilcox and I know her family. About 3 or 4 years ago she was successful in establishing the Naomi shelter in an area of Adelaide where it was particularly needed.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I heard the honourable member for Melbourne direct a most offensive term to the honourable member for Kingston. I ask that he withdraw it.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to take a point of order.
-No, the honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat. Unfortunately, I heard the term used. This debate is not being broadcast. As no reply was made to the interjection, it would not be recorded in Hansard. I felt in the circumstances that it was wiser to let it go rather than draw attention to it, have it recorded in Hansard and then have it withdrawn. The remark has now been drawn to my attention. The honourable member for Melbourne used the phrase. If he was referring to the honourable member for Kingston, I ask at this point of time that he withdraw it.
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker, in all deference to you, I will withdraw -
Honourable members interjecting -
-Order! I ask the honourable members to be quiet. If they do so, we may progress.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I withdraw it but I challenge the honourable member to have enough intestinal fortitude to say outside what he said in here.
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne will resume his seat. When an honourable member withdraws a statement, he does so because it is unparliamentary, not because of any deference to the chair.
– I withdraw it.
-I call the honourable member for Grey.
-Ms Wilcox, whatever her faults are, from all the reports I have received has done an exceptionally good job in the work she has been doing. She has provided a service to deserted women, to women who have been bashed up by their husbands and to the children of those women.
– You are the only one who claims that.
– The honourable member should go outside the Parliament and say that where Ms Wilcox can have a go at him instead of saying it in this cowards’ castle. What the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) has done is typical of what the South Australian Liberals have done. On 2 occasions they have used the privilege of Parliament in South Australia- their cowards’ castle- to make similar charges against Ms Wilcox. The Premier of South Australia himself said that the Department would conduct an examination of the books and that if anything was wrong it would be reported. But nothing has come from that examination yet. The members of the Liberal Party in South Australia, as has the honourable member for Kingston tonight, have used the privilege of Parliament to attack a woman who has been prepared to go down to what the honourable member for Kingston would have to admit are some of the worst slums in Adelaide and do one of those jobs that many people would not be prepared to do.
On 2 occasions, Liberal parliamentarians have raised this matter in the South Australian Parliament. On one occasion, they did not pick a member from Adelaide to do it; they picked the member for Mount Gambier. He read a statutory declaration in the House. Of course, Ms Wilcox cannot take any action against these people. They are prepared to speak in their cowards ‘- castle- under the privilege of Parliament- to make those charges. I suggest that if they want to make those charges, they make them outside the Parliament where Ms Wilcox will have a proper right to defend herself in the courts. I suggest that honourable members who hide in their cowards’ castle as we have seen tonight and as has been the case on 2 occasions in the South Australian Parliament to run down this woman in the manner in which they have, should examine their morals.
-I call the honourable member for Hume.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am interested, as are the honourable members, in the community and the services which are available to communities. I have seen published and I have encouraged in my electorate, the issuing of community directories. I think that it is always healthy if people in the community are prepared to put some time into making available to members of the community listings of the services that are available to the community in which they live. Therefore it was with a great degree of interest that I looked through a rather handsome community services directory which I understand had been issued in the Rockhampton district and noted that the cover of the community services directory for Rockhampton boldly displays the symbol of the boy scout movement. I turned the cover and read inside that the publication is being organised on such a basis that the profits from it will go to the boy scout movement. That is something which all members of Parliament would commend. The document is being sold for $3 a copy and 90c a copy which we assume will be the profit on it will go to the scouting movement. I then read through the document with interest and was amazed at what I found.
This document is nothing more than a front for the Australian Labor Party. In my view the boy scout movement has been abused by the Aus.tralian Labor Party in Queensland and particularly by Mr Keith Wright, the State Labor member for Rockhampton. I briefly want to reveal to the House the results of my quick research through this document once I saw the tenor of it. The name of Mr Keith Wright, who also happens to be the President of the Rockhampton Community Service Club which published the document, the State Labor member for Rockhampton, and also the President of the District Scouting Association, is mentioned not less than S 1 times in this document. His telephone number is listed in it not less than 67 times. The Australian Labor Party is mentioned not less than 79 times. By comparison- honourable members might be interested to hear this- the Liberal Party is mentioned twice, the National Party is mentioned 3 times, the Federal member for the Division of Capricornia, Mr Carige, is mentioned 3 times, Senator Collard, a National Party senator for Queensland, is mentioned once, and a State Minister, Mr Hewitt, and another State member, Mr Hartwig, each get 3 mentions. Every trade union in Queensland is listed and the names of all other Australian Labor Party senators for Queensland are mentioned. There is a listing of all the Australian Labor Party councillors in the Rockhampton area, there is a listing of all ALP branches in the Rockhampton area but there is no mention of the National Party or Liberal Party branches. One very interesting point in the book is that the former member for Capricornia who lost his seat a year before its publication is listed under the category of the member for Capricornia.
Our celebrated Mr Wright who is abusing the boy scout movement and using it as nothing more than a front for the ALP propaganda and publicity machine, has listed himself in this document 51 times. He includes himself as being the person to contact -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have seen crocodile tears in this House on many occasions and we have just seen the greatest dose ever. The National Party controls every newspaper, radio and television station in the area. I suggest that any member of the Labor Party would get a mention in only the obituary notices in that area. The speech we have just heard about someone who obviously put together a directory was made by an honourable member from New South Wales, not the honourable member for the area mentioned, to try to denigrate some community service and something which is also of some benefit to a particular organisation. One wonders how many similar directories are being put out by organisations and how many publications are being put out, especially from the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) at the moment, with Commonwealth money to mislead the Aus.tralian public into believing some of the fallacious and ridiculous supposed policies being put forward by this Government.
-Order! The debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. on Tuesday next.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Movements in sea freight charges to exporters of wheat from Australia to the stated destinations and from mainland States to Tasmania are shown in the following table:
Current comparative costs per tonne per kilometre of shipping wheat:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Appointment of Charges d’ Affaires (Question No. 80)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March:
Has there been any occasion when an officer from a Department other than his own has been appointed Charge d ‘Affaires a.i. in charge of an overseas mission in the absence of the head of the mission?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes, on many occasions. There have been 2 recent examples. The Counsellor (Commercial) in Jeddah was Charge d ‘Affaires a.i. in the absence of the Ambassador in Kuwait, and for some months the Trade Relations Officer in Kingston, also an officer of the Department of Overseas Trade, was the Acting High Commissioner in the absence of the High Commissioner, first at the United Nations General Assembly and then on leave and consultations in Australia.
am asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 1 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Committee of Inquiry into Australian Government Transport Undertakings (Question No. 271)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figures above are appropriations made under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969, National Roads Act 1974, Roads Grants Act 1974, Roads Acts Amendment Act (No. 1) 1976, Roads Acts Amendment Act (No. 2) 1976 and Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974.
It should be noted that certain of the road categories under the CAR Act 1969 are not directly comparable with categories in the current roads legislation. The main differences being:
The Transport (Planning and Research) legislation is not related only to roads but also provides funds for planning and research in connection with urban public transport
A table of State quotas for the period 1971-72 to 1976-77 is set out below:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
The proposal, also made by the World Food Conference, for the establishment of an interim international reserve for emergencies (IRE) was taken up at the seventh special session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 1975 which specified a target of 500000 tonnes of foodgrains. Contributions to the IRE are now being received by the World Food Program. Australia has indicated to the Committee on Food Aid Policies and Programs, the governing body of the World Food Program, that it has under consideration the question of an Australian contribution to the IRE.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
With reference to the answer to question No. 845 Hansard, 21 September 1976, page 1270), were any premises outside the metropolitan area of Melbourne treated following the detection of Khapra beetle infestation on the vessel Catherine S. If so, how many, and where were they located.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Yes. One. The Storage area of a clothing factory in Wangaratta was sprayed and packaging materials destroyed.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
When will a decision be announced regarding the 3 possible routes for the proposed new Stuart Highway.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Steering Committee which reported on the Stuart Highway Corridor Study recommended that 2 routes be considered for the ultimate alignment of the Stuart Highway. In general both of these routes are in the vicinity of the present tuart Highway. The report proposed that a decision on which of these 2 routes should be adopted should take into account, in particular, the long term future of the Woomera Research Establishments’ range.
Consultations are taking place within the Commonwealth on these matters and, in addition, I have been in touch with the South Australian Minister for Transport. I hope that a final decision can be taken in the not too distant future.
Foreign Fishing Vessels in Australian Waters (Question No. 487)
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Notes on the Table
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 March 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
From that examination it is not clear whether intrastate operations by the Australian National Line in Queensland would, in the absence of a reference of power from the State, be authorised by the Constitution.
Of the 5 Justices who heard the case, three found that the Australian National Airlines Commission was empowered to carry on certain intrastate operations in Western Australia.
However, two of those three relied solely on the Commonwealth’s Constitutional powers in relation to territories. Accordingly, unless the ANL services related to a territory it might not be lawful for ANL to operate intrastate.
It is evident from a majority of the judgments that the mere fact that intrastate services were incidental to interstate services would not be sufficient to make them lawful.
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
On what dates, at what places and with which government officials and international organisations were discussions held on nuclear safeguards matters by the group of officers from the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Resources and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission between 22 November and 22 December 1976. (Hansard, 8 December 1 976, page 356 1).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The group in question held discussions with Government officials of the United Kingdom (in London, 25 and 26 November 1976), the Federal Republic of Germany (in Bonn, 6 December 1976), Canada (in Ottawa, 8 to 10 December 1976), the United States (in Washington, 13 to 15 December 1976) and Japan (in Tokyo, 20 and 21 November 1976). Discussions were also held with officers of the Commission of the European Communities (in Brussels, 29 November 1976, and in Luxembourg, 30 November 1976) and staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency (in Vienna, 2 and 3 December 1976). In addition, officers of the Depanment of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission stationed in Vienna held discussions with Government officials of France (in Paris, 9 and 10 December 1976) and Italy (in Rome, 13 and 14 December 1976).
First-class Air Travel (Question No. 551)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
What portion of the answer to question No. 866 (Hansard, 21 September 1976, page 1271) provided the information sought in question No. 105.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Part (4) of my reply to question No. 866 was given only after officers of my Department had assured me that the information was not available in the Department.
Mr Renzo di Piramo and Weisscredit (Question No. 555)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 30 March 1977:
Have any authorities for which he is ministerially responsible had inquiries (a) from Switzerland or (b) from any other country about (i) the operations of Weisscredit in Australia or (ii) the whereabouts of Mr Renzo di Piramo.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1 977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 April 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770421_reps_30_hor104/>.