30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the 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.
That proposals to amend the consumer price index by eliminating particular items from the index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged 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 Bourchier, Mr Bradfield, Mr Falconer, Dr Klugman and Mr Ian Robinson.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission of 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 Bradfield and Mr Morris.
Petition 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 humbly 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 citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We therefore call upon the Government to implement the recommendations of assistance for air passengers, made in Mr Nimmo ‘s report.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Groom.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Jarman.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government should totally finance national highways and half the cost of constructing and maintaining all other public roads.
That since current road funding arrangements have seen a deterioration in road assets, this backlog in construction and maintenance needs to be reduced by the Commonwealth Government undertaking to make a larger financial contribution. by Mr King.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is he aware that in the area serviced by the Heidelberg branch of the Commonwealth Employment Service alone there are 1382 people unemployed and only 62 registered vacancies despite the diligence of the personnel of that office? Is he aware that over 45 per cent of those people are under 2 1 years of age and that despite the good intentions of the local community youth support scheme group, very few of them can be helped? In fact, over 600 people of the prescribed age are unaided and remain unemployed. What plans does the Government have to aid promptly and humanely the young unemployed in all electorates, especially those like mine? What does the Minister intend to do about the fact that there are only 4 jobs registered at the Heidelberg CES office for girls under 21 years of age when there are 360 females of that age group unemployed?
– I am not aware of the precise figures quoted by the honourable gentleman although, of course, I am aware that the number of job vacancies falls far short of the number of those seeking employment. I emphasise to the honourable gentleman that the Government, with regard to youth unemployment- a section of our community which is bearing a very substantial part of the unemployment burden- has introduced a range of measures designed to help them. In particular, in association with State Labour Ministers we have introduced the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full Time Training scheme- CRAFT. I am pleased to be able to report to the House that in 4 States indications are that apprentice intake is up by between 15 per cent and 25 per cent since the announcement of that scheme.
Furthermore, while the CRAFT scheme will ensure an adequate supply of skilled tradesmen in the future obviously it will take some time for the products of that scheme to enter the work force. For the immediate short term we have introduced the special youth employment training scheme. From memory I think some 7000 young people are now engaged in in-plant, on the job training learning the skills for which there is a labour market demand. Finally, in addition to those 2 schemes we have introduced, as the honourable gentleman stated, the community youth support scheme which is designed to ensure that young people who have not been able to gain entry into the 2 areas of employment that I have mentioned, or indeed, into other areas of employment, are enabled to maintain a sense of purpose in life. I am most grateful to the honourable members on both sides of the House who have lent their support to the scheme. Some 100 projects under these schemes are now in operation throughout the country.
– I ask the Minister for Transport a question which is supplementary to that asked him yesterday by my friend and colleague the honourable member for Macquarie. What influence can his Department have in convincing the New South Wales Government that it should proceed with the urgently needed coal loader in Botany Bay? What can be done to remove the risk of new coal mining projects in the electorates of Macarthur and Macquarie not going ahead at the cost of hundreds of jobs, as a result of the New South Wales Government’s failure to proceed with the loader? If alternative export facilities could be provided who would have to pay the multi-millions of dollars of additional costs involved? Finally, what can be done to avert the transport chaos that would result from Botany Bay not being available and all coal having to go through Port Kembla?
– Yesterday in answer to a question from the honourable member for Macquarie I explained that this matter lies squarely in the court of the New South Wales Government. I pointed out yesterday that whilst the New South Wales Government has made some decisions in respect of construction work in Botany Bay it has not yet made any decision in respect of the coal loader. It is a fact that a number of coal developments are planned for the region of concern to the honourable member and that a number of these projects cannot go ahead unless decisions are taken in respect of coal loading facilities. My understanding is that Balmain at the moment is handling something like its full capacity of coal going through that area and indeed is limited by the size of ship that can go into that port. There was a recent visit by a group from the European Economic Community interested in the prospect of purchasing further coal from Australia. The group was concerned that the largest ship that can enter New South Wales ports for the purposes of loading coal is 55 000 tonnes.
It is clear that unless decisions are taken soon in respect of the coal loader in Botany Bay a number of projects will have to be deferred. Furthermore and equally importantly, as the honourable member stated, if the Botany Bay project does not proceed alternative facilities will be required. There will be tremendous environmental difficulties in providing alternative facilities in New South Wales involving both road and rail to a considerable extent and also at a considerable cost. All of these matters must be considered if these coal projects are to get off the ground. Again I point out to the House that this matter lies squarely in the hands of the New South Wales Government and certainly decisions need to be made fairly urgently.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. It arises from the evidence given by the defendant in the espionage trial in Los Angeles yesterday to the effect that part of his daily duties in 1975 as a security clerk with an aerospace firm was to continue CIA deception against Australia and that he documented the alleged CIA activities in Australia in a letter which, he said, was later passed to the Russians. In view of the fact that the defendant was employed by a company which contracts for joint AustralianUnited States defence installations will the Prime Minister draw this matter to the attention of Mr Justice Hope who has been inquiring into the intelligence and security services for him to make an investigation and report? I also ask: Have steps been taken for Australian officials to attend further hearings in this trial and to report fully to the Government on the implications of these grave allegations?
– I shall examine the proposition put by the honourable gentleman. I am not at all sure that it would be the best means of looking at the particular matter. I remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition is responding to charges made by somebody who, as I understand it, has himself been charged with serious security breaches in the United States. One might ask how far one should respond to charges made by somebody in that position. Nevertheless, the Government will look at this matter. I shall see what information might be available.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. The Minister would be aware that yesterday, after discussions with senior officers of his Department, I made a personal appeal to the President of the Civil Air Operations Officers Association of Australia, Mr Charles Stuart, that Tasmania should be totally or partially exempted from the air traffic controllers strike scheduled to commence at 12 noon on Friday. In the event of the air traffic controllers federal executive deciding in principle to exempt Tasmania from the strike, can the Minister assure the House that he and his Department will do everything in their power to see that the exemption for Tasmania eventuates?
– I should point out that the claims of the air traffic controllers are presently before the Public Service Board. I am hopeful that the proposed and intended strike as announced by the air traffic controllers will not proceed, but I would not profess to be terribly optimistic about that at this point, in view of the publicstatement made by the air traffic controllers themselves. I am aware of the immense significance that a strike of this nature could have to
Tasmania. It has been drawn to my attention by the honourable member for Denison and his colleagues from Tasmania many times. I congratulate the honourable member on the initiative he has taken, firstly in having discussions with senior officers of my Department and then getting in touch with the president of the Civil Air Operations Officers Association of Australia in respect of this matter. Hopefully the air traffic controllers will listen to the pleas of the honourable member. Certainly, if they respond to the pleas by expressing the intention of still going ahead with the strike, I shall make sure that my Department co-operates fully to ensure that services to Tasmania continue if the strike eventuates.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, concerns the extensive headlines appearing in this morning’s national Press which resulted from his skilful and vigorous attacks on Mr Hawke at question time yesterday. In view of the fact that the only hope of implementing a price-wage freeze is by gaining the co-operation of the trade unions, and because of the fact that Mr Hawke, whatever his political colour or motives were, was at that time trying to mediate in the crippling Victorian petrol crisis, can the Prime Minister tell me in all seriousness why he chose yesterday to make his attacks and how those attacks will help to bring about closer relations between the Government and the trade union movement?
– I think a number of people had failed to understand that the Government and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions were not closer together. I think that it was perfectly plain, as a result of the speech by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the Australian Labor Party had been using the trade union movement and obviously its titular and factual head, the President of the Labor Party, to spearhead that extraparliamentary attack on this Government. I hope all honourable gentlemen in this House will be able to understand that circumstance. I think that the timing of what I said yesterday was dictated not by any outside events but by the fact that it was the first parliamentary occasion, I think, since the Deputy Leader of the Opposition had made his statement about the use of the trade union movement.
I think the honourable gentleman also needs to ask himself what kind of judgment he can put on a proposition which asks the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to embrace a policy which he and the ACTU have been firmly unwilling to embrace and which they have stated on a number of occasions that they will not accept. Quite obviously we had had very considerable discussion with the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and, as a result of that discussion, there was not the slightest inclination either in the name of his organisation or on a personal basis to accept the objectives, even in principle, of a wage-price pause which had been accepted by all heads of government, including the 3 Labor Premiers. There needs therefore to be some understanding of that circumstance and some understanding of the associations and loyalty of the person concerned.
If the honourable gentleman wants to know what was happening about matters yesterday concerning the Transport Workers Union, I regard the relevant matters as the matters put in train by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the decisions and legislation of the Victorian Government yesterday. As a result of that there was a highly satisfactory solution to the problem this morning.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. When will the Minister be able to announce details of the proposed meat and livestock corporation? Is the Minister able to give the House any details of the progress made to date? What will be the powers of the proposed corporation in respect of trading and how will the corporation be structured in terms of industry representation?
– The Government has now concluded its discussions on the reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board and messages have been sent to each of the State Ministers for Agriculture so that details of their reactions and the position of the respective State governments concerning the reconstitution can be received. The proposal envisages a reduction by one in the membership of the present Australian Meat Board so that instead of there being 10 members there would be nine. The constitution is proposed to consist of an independent chairman, a government member, 4 producer representatives, one exporters’ representative and 2 members with special qualifications.
The exporters’ representative and the producer representatives are to be selected from a panel of names which will flow from 2 consultative groups- one representing the meat trade generally, that is, exporters, processors and abattoirs, and the other being the producers’ consultative group. It is envisaged that the producers’ consultative group will consist of 2 representatives from each State elected from producers in those States. Discussions have been initiated with the producer bodies as to the manner in which the election of those producer representatives should take place. The powers of the new corporation are intended to be somewhat wider than those of the Australian Meat Board. It is believed that, as a result, the new body for which legislation is to be introduced into this House fairly shortly will be able to act more aggressively in what is an increasingly competitive international marketing situation. It is also anticipated that it should be possible with the constitution of this new body to overcome some of the general marketing difficulties which have certainly plagued producers and returns to producers over the course of the last few years.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and is supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Prime Minister aware that the aerospace firm of TRW Incorporated, which employed the defendant in the Los Angeles spy trial, is one of the 2 principal contractors for the joint United States-Australia defence space facilities in central Australia? In view of the fact that the defendant said that he passed information about Australia to the Russians, is this not a grave breach of Australian as well as American security and does it not mean that the functions of the joint facilities may now be known to the Russians?
– I have nothing to add at this stage to the answer I gave the Leader of the Opposition.
- Mr Speaker, my question is directed to you. Has your attention been drawn to a Press report yesterday of a suggestion by the Federal Secretary of the Australian Labor Party, Mr David Combe, that he and the Federal President of the ALP, Mr R. J. Hawke, should be able to attend Caucus meetings here in Canberra as non-voting members? As Standing Orders do not appear to prevent the presence of strangers within the precincts of party rooms, will you as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee carefully consider the very serious implications of this matter before we find ourselves invaded by would-be members of the House of Representatives whose only chance of getting into the House is through the back door?
– I do not propose to follow the course requested by the honourable gentleman. It is a matter for all members of Parliament assembled as parties to decide their own affairs. Whatever they choose to do, provided they are well behaved, will be permitted by the Chair.
– My question is also supplementary to the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. Is the Prime Minister satisfied that the Australian Government is fully and accurately briefed on the real activities at Pine Gap and Nurrungar, in the light of the statement by the defendant in the Los Angeles spy trial that there was Central Intelligence Agency deception against Australia in relation to these bases?
-The Leader of the Opposition, when he was in another capacity, would have been briefed on those functions. I suggest the honourable member address himself to the Leader of the Opposition, unless of course the Leader of the Opposition did not bother to find out when he was Prime Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Following his appeal for submissions from operators of citizen band radio equipment as to what they see as the future of the medium in Australia, can he inform the House what reaction he has had from those operators? Can he also indicate when a Government decision will be made on the future of CB radio?
– After a not too prompt start, a number of operators and organisations have indicated to me their attitude and submitted matters for the Government’s attention when considering what legislation may be enacted. I have received a number of submissions only over the last two or three weeks. I am to see more people during the course of this week. I would be hopeful of being able to put a submission to the Cabinet within the next few weeks, and a Government decision should be taken at that time or shortly after.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure for the December quarter published today show clearly that, as a direct result of his Government’s policies, household disposable income increased by only 12 per cent in 1976 compared with an inflation rate of 14.4 per cent? At the same time did we have a population growth rate of 1.5 per cent? Does this not mean a per capita decline in living standards of 3.9 per cent in 1 976? Is not this decline in the living standards of all Australians since this Government came to power not only the most damning and damaging indictment yet of his Government’s policies but also the reason for workers’ reactions rather than the reason he gave in answer to the honourable member for Hotham?
-The Treasurer will answer the question.
– The national accounts having been published today, it is ironic that the only aspect the honourable member can seek to fasten on in those national accounts is the figures relating to real household disposable income. The honourable gentleman would be very much aware that the figures published today indicate that the Budget strategy is very much on line with that outlined by the Government in the Budget Speech last year. Real household disposable income is one area of the Australian economy in which the Opposition has been guilty of distortion after distortion after distortion. If the honourable gentleman reflects on the maladministration of his own Government he will appreciate the fact that real household disposable income fell towards the end of 1975, as I recall it- the figures can be checked after question time- as a direct consequence of the Hayden Budget. As far as the national accounts are concerned, the final December accounts which were released in Canberra today show that in the December quarter real household disposable income was 1.2 per cent higher than in the December quarter of 1975. I invite the House and the honourable gentleman in particular to compare that against the fall which took place in the latter part of his own administration.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations by saying that all Victorians will welcome today’s settlement of the petrol dispute. Is the Minister concerned that the entire State has been held to ransom by just over 200 unionists? What implications does that have for the future conduct of this Government’s industrial relations policy?
-As the House no doubt knows already, the crippling strike of the tanker drivers in Victoria has now finished and I understand that the men will return to work at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning. That is a victory for common sense. I understand that the unions main claims relating to $5.70 a week increase in wages and payment by the employers of the Medibank levy were rejected. I am not aware at this stage of what was put in detail to the men this morning. What is clear is that one of the most irresponsible and futile strikes of recent times has ended, and it is a good example of the weight of public opinion and resolute action by both State and Federal governments safeguarding the interests of the community. That has always been an essential part of our industrial policies and remains one of our objectives. Legislation now before the House is a further step in protecting the public against totally irresponsible actions of this kind.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. Has he noticed that a person who seconded a research officer to him and prepared material for him had over the same period made away with more than $900,000 in company funds for his private purposes and for quite impermissible uses?
– You were the biggest robber in Australia.
-The Prime Minister will remember that when he was asked -
– You took the taxpayers’ money for 3 years.
-Order! The honourable member for Riverina will withdraw the first remark he made. I was going to leave it until the end of the question, but as he has interjected a second time I call upon him now to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
-The Prime Minister will remember that when he was asked in March last year whether he felt he had compromised his position by using such facilities from persons who were dependent in many ways on government decisions, he answered no. Therefore I also ask: Would he give the same answer today?
– I can see no reason whatsoever to add to what was said on an earlier occasion.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the remarks made in the United States on 29 March by the Chief Minister of the
Ciskei, Chief Lennox Sebe? The Chief Minister said that the United States should get a better understanding of the relationship between black and white in South Africa and that the South African Government was the only one giving help in such matters as financial and technical assistance. On behalf of a great many Australians I ask: Will the Commonwealth Government reconsider its attitude and policy towards the recognition of the independent black state of Transkei in view of the Chief Minister’s remarks that the policy of development of homelands in South Africa is already in its stride and has been given the full support of the majority of blacks in South Africa?
– I have not seen the remarks but I will examine them. The Government’s view on matters pertaining to South Africa, its racism and its extension of that repugnant philosophy implemented through the Bantustans is something that I would not think, despite the reading of those remarks, I would be prepared to change an attitude on.
-Bearing in mind the likelihood of Australia’s declaring a 200 mile economic zone at some time in the future, does the Minister for Defence intend to order more patrol boats and surveillance aircraft than indicated in the White Paper on defence? Are the Tracker aircraft recently purchased from the United States of America in action at the present time? Has the Minister made any decision concerning the order of 1 5 new patrol boats for the Royal Australian Navy? Does he consider that 1 5 patrol boats are enough for present purposes?
– I find it massively tempting, with respect to the last part of the honourable gentleman ‘s question, to say emphatically: ‘No, I am not satisfied’. But all governments must cut their cloth according to what is available. That has been my experience with all Treasurers and the present Treasurer is no exception. The White Paper represents the Government’s program, and the Government intends to ensure that that program is observed. I may inform the honourable gentleman that my understanding is that a decision will be made within the next month or so regarding which type of patrol boat will be ordered.
There are 2 companies heading consortiums in competition with each other for the patrol boat order. Both consortiums comprise a number of Australian components. There is a German company and a British company, Brooke Marine. My understanding is that that decision should be made within 2 months. I have asked the Chief of Naval Staff” and the members of the respective committees concerned with the decision making to seek to expedite a decision. I share the honourable gentleman’s concern with respect to the enormous problems predicated by this country’s acquiring a 200 mile exclusive resources zone in the ocean. I would hope that the House and the country would have some understanding of that problem when I say that the area of water involved is a mere 500 000 square miles short of the area of the land mass of this continent.
– My attention has been directed to that statement by the Australian Industries Development Association. I think the House should be aware that, as well as including the remarks to which the honourable gentleman referred, that very same statement expressed the total support of the Australian Industries Development Association for the objectives of the price-wage freeze which was announced on 13 April. I think that the honourable gentleman does the Association less than justice by not acknowledging the support that it has given. Over the last 6 months this Government has made clear the position and the facts concerning taxation reductions. The honourable gentleman will know that tax indexation will provide benefits of the order of $2,000m as from 1 July this year. Tax indexation represents the most significant tax reform carried out by any government in this country during the past decade.
The Treasurer and the Prime Minister have said that it is not within the economic capacity or responsibility of the Government to give further taxation reductions at this time. The Government has no intention of departing from economic responsibility in these matters. Wc regard the proposal of the Prime Minister and the Premiers of 13 April as being an eminently fair proposal in itself- a proposal which made no reference to tax cuts and no reference to a national conference but merely put the simple proposition that a price freeze was a fair exchange for a wage freeze.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Will the cost of the Government’s 40 per cent investment allowance, fixed at $200m in the Budget of 1975-76, be of the order of $ 100m for this financial year? Further, have the estimates of the costs of the allowance projected for 1977-78 been reduced by the Prime Minister from an initial figure of $600m to $450m? Finally, I ask whether this evidence of below expectation investment levels reveals that this country’s business community has formed an accurate assessment of this Government’s incompetent economic management?
– The facts are quite contrary to the honourable gentleman’s expectations, because the business community has responded very vigorously to the investment allowance which the Government set down for the quite specific purpose of seeking to encourage a greater output in private capital investment spending. If the honourable gentleman wishes to seek evidence of the point that I take I can do no better than refer to the Statistician’s recent survey which indicated that businessmen’s expectations are for a growth of 8 per cent during the current 6 months period. The mining industry, in which capital spending has been in decline, as honourable members would be aware, shows a complete turnabout with an expected rise in capital spending of 41 per cent. A solid rise of 1 8 per cent is expected in the manufacturing industry. Looking further ahead, firm decisions have been made to proceed with a number of significant projects in the minerals sector. I instance that as just one area of the economy in which the point that I am taking is very much reflected. Development by Utah Mining Australia Ltd of the Norwich Park project, at an estimated cost of $250m, is now moving ahead and that will provide employment opportunities for 1000 men during the construction period. There are commitments to expand the Robe River, Mount Newman and Hamersley iron ore projects at a total cost of $600m. Work is due to commence on development of the Agnew nickel mine at an estimated cost of around $ 100m. The proposal to develop the Alwest bauxite aluminium project at an estimated cost of $650m is to go ahead.
The honourable gentleman may have seen last night’s financial Press which reported that Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Limited has just announced a $600m capital investment program over the next 2 years. I mention in passing the $48m exploration program by WoodsideBurmah Oil NL. Apart from those projects that I have mentioned, a large number of coal projects in New South Wales and Queensland could proceed if markets develop. Recent remarks made by the European Economic Community coal mission and the Japanese energy mission are encouraging. In all, if the honourable gentleman cares for once to check the facts he will be encouraged with the results that are reflected.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I preface my question by drawing the attention of the Minister to the constant calls in the past to introduce into this country a trade union movement or a system similar to that which operates in West Germany. Is the Minister aware that in West Germany 75 per cent of the members of a union must vote in favour of any industrial action before such action can be taken? Will the Minister indicate to the House whether such excellent legislation could be introduced into this country?
– I am aware that the union movement in West Germany is organised on rather different lines from the trade union movement here. For a start it has a highly competent and responsible union leadership. It is also based on a system of industry unions which suits that country very well. The honourable member referred to legislation in West Germany requiring a 75 per cent vote before members take industrial action. Successive Australian governments have looked at the possibility of making secret ballots mandatory before strike action is taken. I believe that it would not be possible to carry out such a mandatory provision on all occasions in a country like Australia because some of the largest unions have a large number of itinerant workers. In those circumstances the mandatory provisions would fall into disuse.
I remind the House that section 45 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act enables the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to ensure that a secret ballot is called if it thinks that the calling of a secret ballot will help in the resolution of a dispute. This provision has not been used greatly in recent years, although it has been used successfully on some occasions. As the honourable member will be aware, the industrial legislation which is now before the House proposes new provisions whereby those members of a union who indicate that they do not support industrial action which has been called by their union will have an opportunity to see that their views are made known to the union leadership and to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. In answer to a question from the honourable member for Adelaide he has just said that real household disposable income seasonally adjusted rose by 1.2 per cent during the December quarter. I ask the Treasurer: Did he not mean that money household disposable income seasonally adjusted rose by that amount- 1.2 per cent? Did in fact consumer prices increase by 6 per cent during the December quarter? Therefore, did real household disposable income in fact fall by 4.8 per cent during the December quarter?
– The honourable gentleman always finds it difficult to get his economic sums right, or perhaps I can assume that he is giving me a further Dorothy Dix opportunity to refer to the fact that under his competitor at the present time, former Labor Treasurer Hayden, real disposable household income actually fell as a consequence of the Hayden Budget. This is something for which the honourable gentleman no doubt would not now want to accept any semblance of responsibility.
I repeat the figures that I have used. If we look at the final December quarter national accounts figures released today we find that in the December quarter- this is the best advice available to me from the Federal Treasury- real disposable household income seasonally adjusted was 1.2 per cent higher than for the December quarter of 1975. As for the honourable gentleman’s constant assertions about the rate of price inflation in Australia, he ought well to know- he does but is unprepared to admit it in this chamber or outside- that the actual rate of price increase for the period ought properly to be discounted for the impact of the Medibank statistical aberration.
– Who was responsible for that?
– The honourable gentleman seeks to ask me who was responsible. I do not know of any man in this House who is more responsible for the greatest recession in Australia’s history than the honourable gentleman opposite.
– My question, which I direct to the Treasurer, follows the question asked of the Minister for Defence by the honourable member for Higgins. Will the Treasurer demonstrate to the House that he is a true patriot by giving the House a firm assurance that he will support completely the efforts of the Minister for Defence in the next Budget?
– I have the strongest possible rapport with my colleague the Minister for Defence and I am sure that he would certainly be enjoined in that statement. I am sure there is no doubt on his side or mine that when the Budget for this year is brought down that rapport will be subject to no degree of disrepair.
– My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns statements he made to the effect that no Premier at the Premiers Conference sought tax cuts in relation to a prices and wages freeze. I ask the Prime Minister: Has his attention been drawn to statements by the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, on the radio program AM last Friday in which he maintained that it was not correct to say that no mention of tax cuts was made at the Premiers Conference in that tax cuts were always part of his price-wage freeze proposal, as others were aware; that they were not included in the heads of government agreement because it was put to him that to be discussing publicly possible tax cuts was undesirable, but that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer gave him an undertaking that tax cuts would be considered? Are these statements true? If so, will the Prime Minister now apologise to the House and the nation for having given a completely misleading account of what transpired at the Premiers Conference and for having distorted the true nature of the heads of government agreement?
-The honourable gentleman pretends to ask a question, then gives the answer and comes to a conclusion. On that basis, why does he bother to ask the question in the first place? What I have said about the Premiers Conference was and remains correct. In the forum of the Premiers Conference itself no Premier mentioned tax cuts. There is nothing else to add.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Defence, by pointing out that in 1975-76 some $148m of a total defence vote of $1.8 billion was allocated to defence equipment and stores- hardware, as it is called- according to the publication Public A Authority Finance: Federal Authorities released by the Australian Statistician. Would the Minister agree, as an example, that if the provision of golf courses on Army bases was discontinued, this would not represent a cut in defence expenditure? Would the Minister agree that there are many aspects of the Government’s defence spending that are not directly related to the defence effort? If he does agree, would he give consideration to presenting the defence budget to Australians in such a way as to distinguish between uniformed service and hardware expenditure and other defence expenditure, so that the overall defence budget can become the subject of more critical examination?
– I am sure that if the honourable gentleman looks at the White Paper and the Defence Report he will find that the suggestion he has made has been substantially, if not completely, met. The only other comment I would make is to point out to the honourable gentleman that the provision of recreational facilities would seem to me to be very much a matter of everyday Service life.
– Give us an example.
– One can use the example of a golf course or, indeed, a swimming pool. I am sure that the honourable gentleman would find that if his life was entirely given over to work he would be somewhat on the dull side. The aim of the Service is to ensure that those who serve in the armed forces are given every opportunity to have access to recreational facilities. If there is any particular detail which is bothering the honourable gentleman I would be under obligation to him if he would furnish me with it.
– I have received letters from both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 107 I have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, namely:
The Fraser Government’s inaction on the teaching of migrant languages in schools.
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 continues to ignore one of its primary responsibilities to Australia’s migrant population. One in every 3 Australians is a migrant or the child of a migrant; one in every 5 Australians has a native language other than English. Yet almost nothing is being done to promote migrant education or the teaching of foreign languages in Australia. Almost nothing is being done to enable hundreds of thousands of Australian children to study their native languages in schools, let alone to acquire a general education through the medium of their mother tongue.
– They should be learning English.
-A Government supporter interjects: ‘They should be learning English’. It is in fact easier for a migrant to learn English if he is able to attain or acquire some skill in his native language as well. By condoning this situation we are condoning a far more subtle, and in the long term effects, a more drastic form of racial discrimination than anything known or practised hitherto. Barriers of silence and isolation are blighting the lives and stunting the opportunities of countless Australian families. There are millions of Australians whose limited knowledge of English is restricting their opportunities and condemning them to needless hardship and deprivation. There are at least 700 000 Australian school children with a first language other than English, and many of them are experiencing serious learning difficulties, including serious learning difficulties with English. They need to be taught English as a second language. Every report, all the evidence on these matters, has been ignored or suppressed by the Fraser Government. In 1974 a joint inquiry into schools of high migrant density was undertaken by a working party from the Federal departments of Education and Immigration and the New South Wales and Victorian departments of Education. The inquiry noted in its report in June 1975 that there was little systematic recognition of the cultural heritage of migrant students in learning programs. Reduced levels of educational achievement among migrant and locally born children were almost universal in the schools studied. These problems are growing year by year, and despite a growing body of evidence about the difficulties experienced by migrants, almost nothing is being done to help them.
Language teaching is the key to the successful integration of migrants and the key to genuine equality of opportunity in education and employment. Yet the teaching of foreign languages in Australia has declined, not increased, in recent years. A survey by the Universities Commission in May 1975 revealed that the proportion of students studying one or more foreign languages at matriculation level had dropped from 40 per cent in 1967 to 16 per cent in 1974. The Commission estimated that in 8 years- that is, by 1983, if the present rate of decline continuesmost of the foreign languages at present taught in secondary schools will no longer be taught. This trend has alarming implications for Australian-born children; its implications for migrants are critical. Even now, in New South Wales, only 10 of the 50 languages commonly spoken in Australia are recognised for the Higher School Certificate. If the decline continues Australia will be culturally poorer and migrant children will continue to be socially isolated and to suffer in their education.
The disadvantages already suffered by nonEnglish speaking children in schools were noted by the Henderson Commission of Inquiry into Poverty. The Government has no excuse for ignoring these problems. In its fifth main report- on Poverty and Education in Australia, issued last December- the Henderson Commission stated that migrants were particularly handicapped by the Australian school system. Many migrants failed to overcome the cumulative effects of economic hardship, language difficulties and cultural differences. The Commission recommended that pilot schemes in bilingual education should be established under the auspices of the Schools Commission in schools where there is a high concentration of migrants. The Commissioner for Community Relations, Mr Grassby, in his first annual report also pointed to the impact of language difficulties on the progress of migrant children. He reported:
Pupils who function in another language are gravely disadvantaged. At present these children face the dual trauma of acquiring a foreign language rapidly and at the same time abandoning a hitherto developing mother tongue as functionally useless.
Only yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported a submission from the chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council to the New South Wales Law Reform Commission in which the Australian legal profession was accused of indifference to the needs of non-English speaking people. The submission states that despite the large increase in the proportion of people of non-British origin, the legal profession is becoming more insular. The submission goes on:
It is a fallacy to assume that language difficulties would be overcome simply by the provision of an adequate interpreter service . . . Australia is a country where people, including professional people, are proud not to understand any other language but English . . . There are heartbreaking stories around of cases being lost or people being wrongly convicted because of a wrong translation.
The same thing can be said about doctors, hospital staffs, accountants and tax agents, council officers and public servants- Federal and State. Migrants receive poorer service and advice, slower service and advice, because the people from whom they are entitled to receive adviceprofessional, private or public- are not familiar with their languages. All the people from whom they receive advice are very much English language oriented and English language oriented alone.
The Fraser Government has done nothing about these urgent and timely warnings. We have had the clearest indication of the Government’s attitude in its treatment of the report of the Committee on the Treaching of Migrant Languages in Schools. This was the first systematic study of this crucial problem. The Committee was appointed in November 1974 by my colleague, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), when he was Minister for Education. The Committee made its report just over a year ago, in March 1 976. The Fraser Government sat on the report for 9 months before it was tabled by the present Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in the Senate on 8 December. The report was tabled in this House on the last day of the sitting before the Christmas recess. Nine months is the conventional period of gestation but, unfortunately, the report apparently has been stillborn. This needless and unforgivable delay prevented public study of the report and forestalled any debate on it in the Parliament. No explanation was given for the delay. No justification can be given for such a delay. By contrast, whenever my Government received the report of an expert inquiry, it was tabled immediately, even before we made decisions on its recommendations. We sought and received many reports on educational matters. All of them were promptly published. The Government could consider them, the Opposition could consider them, the public could consider them and the peers of the experts who were commissioned to make the reports and who made them could examine them and criticise them. The Liberal Government’s response, as always is suppression, secrecy and delay.
The report of the Committee on the Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools showed that only 1.4 per cent of migrant children in primary schools and about 10 per cent of secondary schools were studying their mother tongues in
Australia. We can only guess at the hardship and handicaps these children have experienced in their school lives and subsequent adjustment to adult and working life. The report noted that there are strong educational and social reasons for enabling a migrant child to learn his own language as well as English. It recommended that all children should be able to study languages and cultures other than their own. It recommended that governments throughout Australia should enlarge the opportunities for children to study languages and cultures in both primary and secondary schools. In New South Wales the Labor Government has already announced the introduction of wider and more varied language courses in schools. The New South Wales Multicultural Education Committeean independent expert body promoting migrant education- has estimated that it would cost the Fraser Government only $2m to implement the Committee’s recommendations in New South Wales this year. I repeat that the figure was $2m. One would expect that it would cost $5m at the most in the whole of Australia. We are asked to believe that for the Fraser Government to give migrants an equal opportunity for life in the country which their parents have chosen would be a waste. It would be intolerable extravagance!
Liberal governments have always believed that their responsibility to migrants ended at Tullamarine or Woolloomooloo- the moment they arrived in Australia. There is no moral or legal support for such an attitude. The Fraser Government cannot dodge its responsibilities to migrants by leaving everything to the States. It has a legal- in fact, a constitutional- responsibility for immigration and the welfare of migrants and their families. Under the Constitutionfrom the outset- the Federal Government has been able to make laws on immigration and also to make laws for the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. The Fraser Government cannot wriggle away from the responsibility always reposed by the Constitution on the Federal Government. Yet it is trying to do just that. At a conference of Ministers for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in Melbourne on 22 October last the present Federal Minister described the Federal Government’s responsibilities towards migrants in these terms:
As I understand it we do have the responsibility in terms of entry into Australia, in terms of immigration programs, deportations and the like, temporary entries and so forth. However, when does a migrant cease to become a migrant? What we are talking about is the integration of people who have come to make Australia their new home into the total Australian society, and that is a very different kettle of fish entirely. As I understand ethnic affairs, it is a very broadranging term dealing with the process of integration. When does this process of integration finish? When does a migrant cease to be a migrant and when does the Commonwealth responsibility finish?
What the Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs- a Liberal Minister- was saying in that quotation at that conference with his State peers was that once a migrant arrives in Australia he ceases to be a migrant and the Federal Government can wash its hands of any responsibility for him. Its sole concern is with recruiting, vetting or deporting migrants, it has no responsibility for migrant welfare, health, education, housing, employment. The whole process of integrating migrants into society and making them happy, useful and fulfilled members of the community is a different- in fact, a very different- kettle of fish. That is someone else’s responsibility- not the Federal Government’s responsibility.
The Fraser Government will grasp at any excuse to avoid its responsibilities. It quibbles over the definition of a migrant. Surely any person whose first language is not English is still a migrant. Language is the very definition of migrant status. Migrants should take note that the Federal Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has gone on record with the view that ethnic affairs are not the concern of the Federal Government. We have it in the Minister’s own words- the ultimate abdication of Federal responsibility for our migrant communities. It is another example of the real meaning of Fraser federalism- ducking responsibility even in areas where the Constitution itself permits and in fact requires the Federal Government to act.
Liberal governments have not only ignored their moral responsibilities to migrants but also have breached clear international obligations. It took Australia 6 years to accede to the 1960 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation convention against discrimination in education. Article 5 of that convention obliges the parties to recognise ‘the right of members of national minorities to carry on their own educational activities’ and ‘the use or the teaching of their own language’. Australia has also signed migration agreements with Turkey, Italy, Yugoslavia, Malta and Iran which recognise the importance of migrant languages. The cultural agreement which I signed with the Prime Minister of Italy in January 1975 reiterated that obligation on the part of the Australian Government. For example, article 1 1 of the agreement between Australia and
Yugoslavia which entered into force on 20 May 1970 requires Australian authorities to give the children of Yugoslav workers the opportunity of learning their mother tongue. Similar agreements with Italy, Turkey and Malta, all of which entered into force during the period of office of Liberal governments, require Australia to provide opportunities for tuition in Italian, Turkish and Maltese languages. Under the Fraser Government there has been little or no progress towards implementing these agreements in practical terms.
There is abundant evidence already that migrants are among the most disadvantaged sections of the community. An exhaustive survey by Eva Isaacs of the education problems of Greek children in Sydney pointed to extraordinary hardships endured by Greek children from poor families.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Leader of the Opposition’s time has expired.
– I listened with some interest but certainly not with any acceptance to what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) had to say in endeavouring to support his matter of urgency concerning the teaching of migrant languages in schools. It was a mixture of comments upon not only the subject matter of the debate but also migration generally. In it he sought to attribute to the present Government a number of base motives and actions with regard to migrants generally and the teaching of migrant languages in particular.
My colleague in the other place, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), tabled on 8 December 1976 the report of the Committee on the Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools for the very purpose of allowing public study and comment upon the report and to obtain public reaction to the recommendations within it. That in itself is a proper thing to do in respect of all reports of this kind that are sought by any government. The Government’s action was far from any action of secrecy, suppression or delay. It was quite to the contrary. It is a responsible thing on the part of any government to consider reports such as this along with other matters dealing with the same subject matter. I refer the House to some of those matters. I refer the House to the Fitzgerald report on poverty and education; to the fact that the Education Research and Development Committee- the ERDCestablished a study group to examine the research requirements of multi-cultural education; to the fact that the Curriculum Development Commission has set up a study group to examine the curriculum development of multicultural education; and to the fact that the ERDC, which I have already mentioned, has established a separate study group to discuss possible research initiatives by the ERDC in foreign languages.
Related reports which also are being considered by the Government are the first report of the Committee on Foreign Languages of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the report of the working party on languages and linguistics to the Universities Commission in May 1975. Any responsible government, any responsible Minister, would want to study the question of the teaching of migrant languages in the context of all those related reports and matters and not simply take one report in isolation or act upon one report in isolation. The present Minister is undertaking a comprehensive analysis of all those interrelated reports across his own portfolio. I am advised that within a few months- we cannot be more specific than that because of the magnitude of the task to be undertakena consolidated report will be possible. On the basis of that I can assure the House that the Government will give serious consideration to the implementation of what is necessary in this area of the teaching of migrant languages in schools.
No matter what the honourable gentleman seeks to say about the federalism policies of this Government, the undoubted fact- it is even a fact from which the honourable gentleman cannot run away- is that the teaching in the States is done through the State education systems and in the Territories through the Commonwealth education system. So whatever the Commonwealth might seek to do must be done in co-operation and consultation with the State education authorities. But more than that, what has to be done has to be done through the teacher training colleges which operate within each of the States. It may well be, from what the honourable gentleman has said, that he would want to discard the responsibilities of the States in this field and have them all taken over by the Commonwealth. If that is his intention and if that is to be the policy of the Australian Labor Party, let him come out plainly and in the open and say so. If it is not to be that, it can only be the alternative, which is to operate through the State education systems and the State teacher training colleges.
The honourable gentleman attempted to challenge the acceptance by the Government and the present Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities with regard to migrants. He made the paltry statement- that is what it wasthat the present view of the Government is that its responsibilities to migrants end at the aprons of the Tullamarine airport and of other airports in Australia. I feel sure that the honourable gentleman has read the Government’s published immigration and ethnic affairs policy. I am sure he knows that it is squarely based upon the acceptance of Australia as a multi-cultural society with all that that implies with respect to languages and cultures, the promotion of the teaching of languages of migrants, the acceptance of communication through their languages and the acceptance of the enrichment that can come to this country from the acceptance and recognition of their cultures. I am sure that he has also read what the Government says in its policy statements about migrant education. I am sure that he has read, in the objectives of the policy, that the Liberal and National Country Parties recognise the special needs of migrant peoples in this country. That means what it says- when they are in this country.
It is of no use the honourable gentleman playing around with superficial arguments and setting up his own conundrums like: ‘When is a migrant not a migrant?’ This Government operates on much more effective attitudes than playing with silly conundrums like that. Having regard to the fact that the honourable gentleman so deliberately sought to challenge the policies and views of the present Government, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the published policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties on immigration and ethnic affairs dated August 1975.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
THE LIBERAL AND NATIONAL COUNTRY PARTIES
IMMIGRATION AND ETHNIC AFFAIRS POLICY
Immigration is an essential instrument of Australia’s population policies and of the broader national strategies and objectives to which those population policies are directed.
The Liberal and National Country Parties are therefore committed to the active encouragement of immigration at a level and of a pattern which best suits Australia’s national interests.
The policy will be guided by principles of humanity, equity and compassion and by the Australian people’s economic, social and cultural capacity to successfully accept and integrate migrants.
The Liberal and National Country Parties recognise the special needs of migrant peoples in this country. To fully overcome these needs and at the same time offer the maximum opportunity for ethnic groups to continue to contribute to Australian society in general, the Liberal and National Country Parties will establish a separate Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
The Liberal and National Country Parties are committed to the preservation and development of a culturally diversified but socially cohesive Australian society free of racial tensions and offering security, well-being and equality of opportunity to all those living here.
A Liberal and National Country Party government will constantly re-appraise its immigration policies to ensure that they continue to contribute to the steady improvement of the standard of living for all people in Australia. To this end, full and continuing consultation with ethnic groups and research into migrant’s needs and problems will take place.
The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that an active immigration programme is essential to the growth of Australia’s population.
Immigration is vital if Australia is to enhance the living standards of all its citizens and if it is to successfully take up . the challenges which future decades will bring.
The humanitarian and compassionate aspects of immigration will not be subjugated to short-term changes in economic conditions.
The Liberal and National Country Parties support the principle that entry into Australia should be selective but not discriminatory.
The welfare and settlement prospects of the individual migrant will take priority over the immediate needs of the employment market.
The assisted passage scheme which ultimately benefits the community as well as the migrant will be continued and improved.
The presence of close family relationships in Australia will be an important consideration when approving migrant entry cases, while a complete review of the existing conditions of entry will be made. Specific provisions will be introduced to enable cases to be reviewed on compassionate grounds.
In line with its determination to preserve a culturally diversified but socially cohesive society, the entry criteria for the selection of migrants will also embrace:
Skills and qualifications
Character, willingness and ability to become integrated into Australian society
Sponsorship (with adequate controls to prevent exploitation)
Opportunities for employment
Consideration will also be given to questions of age and sex parity in migrant selection.
The Liberal and National Country Parties believe that the acquisition of Australian citizenship is of great importance both to the migrant concerned and to the community at large.
The Liberal and National Country Parties will reinforce the significance and dignity of citizenship proceedings and naturalisation ceremonies.
Persons who have lived here for three years or more will not need re-entry visas into Australia should they leave for temporary periods of absence overseas of up to three years duration. Persons who have lived here for less than three years will not need re-entry visas into Australia should they leave for temporary periods abroad which are less in duration than their period of residence in Australia.
The Liberal/National Country Parties will establish a separate Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to ensure the efficient administration of immigration policy through a single department instead of the present fragmented approach.
A separate Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will also ensure the coordination of immigration policy with other major national objectives and provide a single focal point through which matters of interest to migrants can be given prompt and effective attention.
A Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will give explicit effect to Liberal/National Country Party objectives of taking immigration out of the narrow ‘ manpower policies ‘ which at present dominate it.
Special arrangements within the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs will be made by a Liberal/ National Country Party government to provide both a reference point for individual migrants problems and assist the many migrant welfare organisations.
A Liberal/National Country Party government will actively support and encourage the activities of regionalised Good Neighbour Councils and other migrant welfare organisations.
To provide ‘grass roots’ contact and accessible participation channels, a Liberal/National Country Party government will establish migrants consultative councils in each State. These committees will help to ensure a more coordinated immigration policy between the Federal government instrumentalities, the States and the ethnic communities.
A Liberal/National Country Party government will assist and encourage industry to provide migrant advisory services and assistance schemes within their own structure and generally take a greater responsibility for the welfare of migrant workers.
It will encourage special courses for supervisors of migrant workers and investigate the introduction of industrial safety courses within its programme of intensive English instruction in factories.
In addition, a Liberal/National Country Party government will investigate the possibility of implementing a cassette information service for migrants ‘on the job’ covering a wide range of matters on which they may need advice.
Within the new Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, a Liberal/National Country Party government will establish a refugee mechanism to cater for emergency situations instead of making ad hoc responses as at present.
To ensure that immigrant movements are geared towards overall demographic and population considerations, a Liberal/National Country Party government will establish demographic studies administered by the Depart.ment of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to provide continuous information on long term population trends.
The Liberal/National Country Parties recognise that understanding of the language is the most serious problem to face many migrants. In an effort to overcome this, a Liberal/
National Country Party government will strengthen and emphasise a programme of pre-embarkation language instruction through various means including cassette information and audio-visual aids.
Immediate English language classes for migrants on arrival will be extended, and in major ports of disembarkation, put on a full time basis. These will be particularly directed towards employment assistance, industrial safety and specific areas of ‘day to day’ language requirements.
To speed up the processes of migrant education and language instruction while improving migrant counselling services, a Liberal/National Country Party government will make thorough investigation into all aspects of audio-visual aids for use in schools, factories and specific migrant centres.
In addition to this, a Liberal/National Country Party government will seek the cooperation of the States to establish bi and multi-lingual language and cultural courses in schools, particularly those with a high percentage of migrants. Australians generally will be encouraged to develop an understanding of the cultures, language and history of migrant source countries.
In connection with the Liberal/National Country Party policy of encouraging migrants to retain and share their own cultural heritage, a Liberal/National Country Party government will cooperate with the States to introduce appropriate ethnic sections into the Teacher Training Curricula.
Following on from this, a Liberal/National Country Party government will consult with and support ethnic communities in their own programmes of ethnic education.
To cater for migrant day-to-day problems, a Liberal/ National Country Party government will establish migrant education, information and interpreter centres in strong migrant areas to act as an accessible reference point, particularly for migrant wives.
A Liberal/National Country Party government will further the potential of ethnic community access radio stations as both a means of language instruction and cultural dissemination. Ethnic involvement in the running and programming of these stations will be encouraged to the fullest and care will be taken to ensure a balanced and representative utilization of the medium.
A Liberal /National Country Party government will assist in the establishment of language instruction courses in factories employing large numbers of migrant workers. It will encourage courses during working hours and without cost to the migrant.
A Liberal/National Country Party government will, in conjunction with the States, encourage the cooperation of source countries to embark on a teacher exchange scheme, to improve the standard of migrant education in Australia as well as to overcome the ‘brain drain’ complaint of some migrant countries.
To assist migrants with their initial period of language understanding, a Liberal/National Country Party government will ensure that government information is available in a variety of languages, and will seek the assistance of the trade union movement and individual employers to make information and safety instructions available in migrant languages.
The Migrant in the Community
As outlined under general objectives, ethnic groups should not feel that they are expected to renounce their links with their former cultures, even though the process of integration means adapting to a certain Australian lifestyle. It is therefore imperative that the Australian community be aware of the need of migrant groups to retain and develop their cultural past.
In furtherance of its immigration policy, a Liberal/ National Country Party government will also-
) Assist in the retraining of migrants so that their skills and abilities may be fully utilised in Australian conditions.
Provide full and accurate information to intending migrants concerning their future prospects, thereby encouraging their satisfactory adjustment and permanent residence in Australia.
In conjunction with the States, establish multi and bi lingual nursing and medical staff in hospitals, particularly those in migrant areas, providing a special ‘after 5’ service for working migrants.
) Investigate the means of supporting pre-school childcare centres in migrant areas, to cater for the special requirements of migrant children.
Actively pursue the extension of reciprocal social security and similar arrangements with migrant countries. ( 0 Support the establishment of appropriate ethnic clubs and organisations to facilitate social interaction.
Broaden the base of the advisory panels of the Committee on Overseas Qualifications to include representatives of technical and other occupations, and provide additional support for the qualifications review section of the Committee. We will encourage the development of nationally and internationally recognised ‘certificates of competence’ in the trades and in the professions.
Ensure regular contact and interchange with the ethnic press by establishing a position of ethnic press liaison officer in all States, and investigate ways of possible government assistance to encourage the further development of ethnic press operations.
Authorised by: Tony Eggleton, Liberal Party Federal
Printed by: Paragon Printers, Fyshwick A.C.T.
-I thank the House. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) when tabling the report under discussion pointed out that the major recommendation of the Committee is that education authorities should create widespread opportunities for children to study migrant languages and cultures in schools. The Committee emphasised that schools themselves should take the initiative in deciding to what extent and in what ways migrant languages and cultures should be studied, after consultation between school principals, teachers, parents and the community. Such consultation would help the school to respond to the expressed educational needs of the children in its area. The Committee also suggested that education authorities consider establishing a co-operative program of limited duration and with denned funding to implement its detailed recommendations for the teaching of migrant languages and cultures in schools.
I take up the recommendation of the Committee that schools themselves should take the initiative in deciding to what extent and in what ways migrant languages and cultures should be studied, after consultation between school principals, teachers, parents and the community and apply it to my own electorate of Stirling in Western Australia, parts of which have a heavy concentration of migrants, particularly Italians and Yugoslavs, and some Greeks. I know from having discussed this problem with school principals and parents how valuable they have found consultation in respect of primary schools in particular because migrant children who do not know or understand the English language can be much better prepared for their further education through communication in their own language. It is certainly something that is known and is being acted upon already, I am sure, not only in my electorate in the example I have indicated, but also throughout Australia. I am sure it is recognised that it is the responsibility of teachers to see that their teaching is effective in respect of migrant children.
One matter of concern, of course, is the adequacy of teachers who can teach in migrant languages. This has been a matter of discussion recently between the Minister for Education and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. They have been discussing ways in which teachers who are recruited from non-English speaking countries may be equipped to teach migrant languages in Australia. It is believed that it is a sound principle that such teachers should have at least part of their pedagogical training in Australia. It is relevant in this respect that we have developed bridging courses for overseastrained teachers whose qualifications are not sufficient to be recognised immediately for employment by the State and Catholic education authorities.
I mention here courses which are already running at the State College of Victoria at Toorak and the Sydney Teachers College in New South Wales. The courses include 6 months English language instruction followed by a one-year teacher training course. English tuition is continued concurrently with the teacher training component of the courses. The State and Catholic education authorities in New South Wales and Victoria have been closely involved with the establishment of these courses and successful students will qualify for employment at primary school level. So, far from the accusations of the honourable gentleman having any veracity at all, here is a practical example of where effort is presently being undertaken to equip teachers from overseas to teach migrant languages in primary schools in Australia.
Of course, those teachers who are so equipped through these courses will be placed in schools with a high proportion of migrant children. That is an obvious practical necessity so as to concentrate effort where it is especially required. I am advised that the majority of graduates from the first course in Victoria have already been placed in such schools. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition, one would have thought that any program that a government under him would embark upon would really be a scatter-shot program right through the community, not a program directed to the special areas of need where there are concentrations of migrant children at the primary level in particular and also at the secondary levels.
I draw the attention of the House to the figures in tables 1 1 and 12 of the report under discussion. These tables list the estimated number of teachers currently teaching modern languages in responding schools and the estimated number of teachers who claim to be so qualified but who currently are not so employed. These figures indicate that a proportion of teachers already available in the Australian teaching profession come from a migrant background.
I mention these things to indicate that the Government is active in this field. It is conscious of what needs to be done. It has a policy commitment to do things, as evidenced by the policy statement now incorporated in Hansard. The Minister for Education has given an assurance that this report, along with all other related reports, are presently undergoing comprehensive study within his Department. When that study is completed a report will be made available upon which action can be taken.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
-The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) put a very challenging question to the Opposition. He asked: Is it the Labor Party’s policy to have teachers colleges centralised under the Commonwealth? May I draw to the Minister’s attention the fact that teachers colleges have now become colleges of advanced education and their financing is entirely centralised under the Commonwealth, that that was done by the Labor Party and that the present Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is continuing that policy. So what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs regarded as a very sinister piece of centralisation is his own Government’s policy, which was adopted from us. The second thing I should like to say to the Minister is that the Commonwealth Government is perfectly capable of suggesting to the Commission on Advanced Education or to its successor, the Tertiary Education Commission, that certain additional things may be necessary in the work of teachers colleges. We vastly increased federal funds available, first to teachers colleges and then to the teacher education section of colleges of advanced education, with suggestions at various times that they should do things about Aboriginal education and other matters like that. So it is perfectly possible for the Commonwealth to make suggestions.
I am not interested in proving that the Government is wrong and the Opposition is right, or in playing the old Westminster skin game that the world is getting so sick of. We are discussing a question which is a quite serious one for a lot of migrant people in Australia, the question of the language difficulties of their children. I have said before in this House that the educational world is admiring the work of Hart and Walker at Mount Gravatt College of Advanced Education. They have established that English speaking children from homes where a different form of English is spoken from that used in the primers and the school books are finding great difficulty in establishing literacy. Hart and Walker have established primers in the language those children actually use. As a result, the children are acquiring literacy and are becoming able to transfer it to the more formal English of the ordinary school books.
If that is the position of Australian children who have an English speaking background, how much more disastrous is the position of children who do not have an English speaking background? I urge on the Minister that initiatives are required from the Commonwealth. If the Minister, who like myself is a West Australian, will look at section 32f of the Western Australian Education Act he will find a draconian provision that if any principal of a school or any proprietor of a school, which picks up the non-government schools, dares to conduct the school with a medium of instruction in a language other than English he is fined $200 for the first day and $50 for every day he continues to do so. By that provision Western Australia effectively denies an education to Aboriginal children of a nonEnglish speaking background. We in the Commonwealth introduced, and the present Government has continued, the bilingual program for Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory under which the schools at the moment are conducted in 20 Aboriginal languages. It can be said that where that does not take place the children have very little chance at all of an education.
Exactly the same position applies in migrant education. The present Government continued a committee originated by the Labor Government. Many of its members were defeated, but I went on to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties, which deals with the learning difficulties of children and adults. One of the things that that Committee pointed out was the lack of enterprise of State governments and State Education departments as compared with banks. It is standard procedure, at least in the capital cities, for a bank to have Greek, Yugosalv and Italian young people who are bilingual. They are second generation Australians, and migrants can come to the bank counter and there find someone who speaks their own language. But the courtesy which is extended to bank customers most education departments have not extended.
The Minister was proud of the fact that there was a delay in the tabling of the report of the Committee on the Teaching of migrantlanguages in Schools. Aboriginal children’s education is rotten in the States. The education of migrant children, outside the Catholic sector, has rotted in the States precisely because there is no commission administration, there is bureaucratic administration. The whole essence of departments is to hold close to their chests anything that is wrong. It is the duty of the director of education to defend the government and not rock the boat. The Labor Government established the system of commission recommendations for schools to blazon from the housetops what was wrong and what needed to be done. We began a process in migrant education that needs to be finished. The Right Honourable John Gorton early in 1971, when he was still Prime Minister, admitted that the Commonwealth migration program was creating a crisis for State Education departments and that the Commonwealth would have to put in a special expenditure. The expenditure he arranged was $4m over 3 years. The moment we started these reports on what needed to be done, the expenditure on migrant education in 1974-75 was not $4m over 3 years but $20. 4m over one year. An honest effort was made to start this process.
The Minister has referred to reports. Let me quote to him from the report of the Inquiry into Schools of High Migrant Density, which states:
There is no doubt that the school is an alienating factor in many migrant homes, particularly between the mother and her children. In many instances the parents are illiterate or barely literate in their own language . . . They are subject to very powerful ethnic group pressures to conform and to maintain their culture. Their children are, in many cases, more highly educated in terms of formal schooling than themselves. They can frequently speak better English than their parents, sometimes at the expense of their own native tongue. They are immersed in social values quite foreign to their parents and are subject to very strong peer group pressures to conform to the modern youth culture . . . Many teachers -
This is something that needs to be dealt with in teachers colleges and in teachers unions- are openly intolerant of the expectations of migrant parents and believe that they should be ignored or destroyed, in the interests of the children.
The serious problems of parental involvement, etc., cannot be viewed in the narrow focus of the school itself, but must be observed in the context of the total community.
Many of these children will get a first class effective education only if, where there is a high concentration of migrant children, there is a bilingual education. I draw the Minister’s attention to the fact that at Randwick primary school 70 per cent of the children are Greek. It is of no use subscribing to the view that we in Australia believe in a multi-cultural society. We have 25 1 000 children in primary schools who are from bilingual homes or from a home where the language is a migrant language. The Minister knows and I know, and we lie if we stand up and pretend anything else, that the basic assumption in the Australian community is that everybody should be assimilated. When I was young it used to be a vulgar accusation that someone was heard on a bus speaking in his own lingo, as the great expression was. Not too far below the surface that is still the attitude of the Australian community. I believe that we will make a better society for ourselves if we make sure that we have more bilingual citizens. In relation to children who do come from bilingual homes and are caught between 2 languages, if we assist them to establish literacy in their own language, as surely as night follows day we will also assist in their establishment of literacy in English.
-I think the House will have very much appreciated the thoughtful address just delivered by the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who was a former Minister for Education. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, has reminded me that section 32F of the Act to which the honourable member referred was repealed last year especially to allow bilingual education in north-west Australia.
– I was informed that the only reason for that amendment was to increase the fines.
– Perhaps the honourable member and I could have a private discussion on this outside the House and settle it together. When I travelled to Western Australia, the honourable member’s State, with the Government Parties Education Committee. I was certainly most agreeably impressed by the large number of colleges. We wondered whether one of the problems would be a duplication of a number of courses. I am certain that some of the courses offered at the Western Australian School of Technology would be of great interest to the Department of Education. We looked at similar courses being offered in other education establishments in the same area. What I am saying is that the giving away of millions of dollars by the Australian Labor Government did not necessarily solve the problem. I am not being uncharitable in this, but I ask: How much of that money went to the Aboriginal children and to the schools for Aborigines? How much of that money went to improve migrant education? I should like to see established a college of ethnic education- a whole college specifically devoted to the purpose sought in the report. I should like to think that the Opposition would have mentioned this a long time ago. Let us stop trying to throw money across the chamber at one another to prove that somebody has done something for either the Aboriginal children or the migrant children.
I went up to examine the schools in the Bathurst Island area. One of the most distressing things I saw was that, whilst there were beautiful buildings like the Kormilda College where the ratio of teachers to pupils was excellent in every way, there was a lack of facilities in the outback area and at the stations where the Aborigines were really being taught. I much appreciated the secondary school correspondence scheme which had been undertaken by some of the Aboriginal children as a result of the co-operation between the South Australian Government and the Northern Territory authorities. I will not make the same sort of Macbeth venomous speech which we heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). Let him stir his old kettle pot and talk to Hecate, Banquo’s ghost and all the witches who are hunting him now.
I would like to say one or two things about this report of the Committee on the Teaching of Migrant Languages in Schools. It is absolutely correct. It calls for a larger number of bilingual teachers in the schools and a concentration on areas where there is a high percentage of migrant students. Let me take as an example the St Mary’s Secondary High School at Fitzroy. Every message sent home with a pupil attending that school is written in 2 languages, and the child has to explain to the parent what is the message from the headmaster, Mr Roy Barlow. That is a good example of what is happening at one school. I invite honourable members to go and look at what is happening. I am sure that the honourable member for Fremantle, the former Minister, has seen the work done in his time as Minister. I congratulate him on what was done. A library paid for with Commonwealth funds was built at the school and many other changes were made in this migrant area of Fitzroy. These things are a credit to the Party opposite. But it does not do honourable members opposite any good to make speeches like the one made by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. He complained about the length of time taken in presenting the report and what has happened since its presentation. I understand that the report was tabled in December.
Let us have a look at what the Victorian Government did. It wanted to increase the number of migrant teachers in Victorian schools. On 1 1 January, a team went out to Greece for the very purpose of making sure that we have more teachers of the Greek language in the schools. The members of the team interviewed 50 people and now thirteen of them have arrived in Australia. They are qualified teachers and they will assist not only in the teaching of the Greek and English languages but also in maths and science. Yes, they arrived last week. Yes, they are at work in the schools now. I am showing the Opposition exactly what happened when one of” the governments practising the new federalism started to work on this report. It is only a beginning. We do not say that it is magnificent, but at least it is a start. That is the position in the secondary schools.
The primary schools present a little more of a problem. I am very glad to say that I have just had a talk with Mr Ian Adams, the director of ethnic education in Victoria. He has said that, thanks again to the National Employment and Training scheme- a very good operationmigrant people who have been teachers in the past have attended the Toorak College. They have improved their English and improved their understanding of teaching. Sixteen such people are now going out to give advice on migrant teaching programs in primary schools. It should have been done years ago. Perhaps it should have been done in the time when the honourable member for Fremantle was the Minister for Education. But at least this report has started off a serious feeling of concern about the teaching of migrant children in primary schools. I do not think that the problems are understood properly. There are about 1 52 different migrant groups in Victoria alone.
The only thing that rather spoiled the speech of my friend, the honourable member for
Fremantle, was his reference to some attitudes towards people who speak another language. I am very glad to say that in the area from which I come that attitude is dying and is almost dead. For example, on Australia Day this year eleven of the ethnic groups came together to celebrate Australia Day. Each raised their own flag after the Australian flag was raised. This happened at the first international all-day ethnic celebration. Each group had its own tent in various corners of the field in Dandenong. Everybody was allowed to go around, observe and take part in their cultures. The concept that we in this country could insist on enforcing our culture on people whose culture goes back over centuries is a very unpleasant form of snobbery of which I simply cannot approve. It is now totally out of date. There is now no compunction on anybody of any ethnic group not to feel at home in Australia in his own community and enjoying the life we have to offer in Australia. The vulgar jibe was made that the object of the Liberal Party- a Party whose philosophy is based on that of Greece and humanity- was to drop off the migrants at Tullamarine airport or somewhere beyond Woop WOOD or Wollongong and leave them. That is a complete denial of the whole philosophy which the Liberal Party stands for. Therefore, all I can say to the Leader of the Opposition is that his speech stands condemned. I have a worry that the spirit of Enoch Powell, his Greek teacher, has got into his soul. Has it turned his soul to steel and iron and in his old days is he beginning to complain and to make harsh remarks about this generation? I give to him the advice contained in the old expression: Physician heal thyself. He should not come into the House and make such ridiculous speeches which do damage to his Party and damage to the very teaching which Enoch Powell gained from ancient Greece.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 26 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Lionel Bowen had moved by way of an amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, the House is of the opinion that-
the disadvantaged position of technical education in Australia be recognised and that adequate financial resources be made available to the technical sector to raise its standards to levels envisaged in the Kangan Report;
further measures be taken to ensure that technical education in Australia is not further isolated from secondary education, and
every effort be made to ensure full provision for the development of further education.
-We are debating the Tertiary Education Commission Bill 1977 and the Commonwealth Teaching Service Amendment Bill 1977. 1 wish to address my remarks mainly to the Tertiary Education Commission Bill whose purpose is to introduce a new commission to the Australian education scene. The Tertiary Education Commission will replace the 3 existing commissions and have overriding control over the whole post-school sector of education. I think that all honourable members on both sides of the House and indeed those people in the community interested in education will welcome this move, bearing in mind that the 3 existing commissions will be continued in the form of councils to advise the Tertiary Education Commission. It should be borne in mind also that the chairmen of the 3 councils- I refer to the 3 councils, as they will be known, involved in the areas of universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education- will be full-time members of the new Commission.
The obvious benefits that will occur will be seen, firstly, in the technical and further education area. Many people have been concerned that that area has been somewhat the underdog as regards government payments and grants. However, it has been developing in the education field, and I shall return to that point in a moment because I wish to express some reservations about what is happening there as well as welcoming the changes or the advancements that have occurred.
No doubt there are many members of Parliament and certainly many members of the public who, while working on or being a representative on councils of various colleges, universities and so on, have very often been frustrated by what appears to be a preference by governments for one sector or another of education at different times. In other words, there has been an apparent non-agreement between the 3 commissions in regard to what is best for education in the whole post-school sector. The Commission which will now be formed will obviously have the power to take control of those situations and will help to bring to the whole spectrum of education a greater degree of liaison and planning.
A balance must be reached in all areas of education. The amalgamation of the 3 existing commissions into one new commission should help to achieve that balance.
I have noted that in his second reading speech the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) refers to 3 main reasons why the establishment of the Tertiary Education Commission represents a major advance on the present system. He says that the area of technical and further education will be included as part and parcel of the Commission. I have mentioned that point before, and I come back to it now. If one looks at the Budget figures- not just the last Budget but many previous budgets- one finds that technical and further education certainly did not receive anywhere near the allocation of government resources as did the other 2 sectors of education, namely, universities and colleges of advanced education. Of course, that is understandable if one is talking of colleges of advanced education which are attended by what one would call daytime or regular students. But one must bear in mind that many more students and people are involved in technical and further education. I believe that, on the basis of the number of students attending the various institutions, the allocation of moneys is not in proportion.
But I urge caution here in that we must not go overboard and decide that technical and further education is the be-all and end-all. I trust that when the new Commission is established the 3 full-time members, in conjunction with the Chairman of the Commission and the 5 parttime members, will exercise a great deal of care and caution in developing the field of technical and further education in a balanced way. We all want to see the technical and further education area developed. We want to see it receive a fair proportion of the funds that are available for distribution for education. However, it is most important that the situation is not seen in the wrong perspective. In other words, we do not want an over-balance in correcting the imbalance that has existed in the past.
As a person representing a rural or country area, or more particularly what one would call a regional area, I am concerned about what will be the make-up of the 5 part-time members of the Commission. A recent meeting of the principals of regional colleges of advanced education- a regional college is established in an area where no other form of tertiary education is available; in other words, the college of advanced education is the only form of tertiary education available in that area- expressed concern about this matter, and that concern has been relayed to those of us who represent such areas. The concern expressed was that there could be an inbalance of representation unless great care is exercised by the Government in the appointment of the part-time members not only to the Tertiary Education Commission itself but also to the 3 councils. There is concern that there should be representation for those regional areas in which there is only one type of tertiary education institution, whether it be a university or a college of advanced education.
I mention this matter as being one of great magnitude as regards colleges of advanced education. For too long those colleges, particularly the ones located in regional areas, as I mentioned, have seen their efforts being overridden by what could be described in all of our politics as the metropolitan base or the power base. I hope that those honourable members who represent metropolitan areas agree with me when I say that because of the voting strength they hold the metropolitan areas in the various capital cities throughout the nation are the power bases for the Government, the Opposition and, indeed, just about every other organisation in this country. We need to display fairness and balance to ensure that the less densely populated areas have equal representation in the field of education. I trust that the Government will take this matter into consideration when appointing the part-time members to these bodies.
I believe that there has to be regional representation, irrespective of how little that representation is. I suggest that at least one of the 5 part-time members on the Tertiary Education Commission should represent the regional areas so that there is an input of what is required, and what action ought to be taken in support of the regional areas. As a member of the council of the college of advanced education in my area, too many times I have had to struggle to ensure that the funds that have been allocated to the college have been spent in the proper way in the areas to which they were directed. There has always been the tendency on the part of the powers that be to divert funds back into the metropolitan area if there is the slightest chance of a hold-up occurring in the completion of a contract or because of any other reason. I strongly oppose that kind of action. I believe that it is time that we as a government, as a responsible body, should ensure that the weaker side or the lesser side in the education scene covered by this Bill- I am talking about the regional areas- are thoroughly represented.
I wanted to say only those few words on this matter because I regard it as being very important, as I am sure do many other honourable members who are associated with education, particularly in the regional areas. In concluding my remarks I mention that I have written to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on this subject. I trust that he will take note of what I have said. I hope that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table and who in this debate is representing the Minister for Education, will also take note of it and will take some positive steps to see that what I have suggested is put into operation.
-The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) has mentioned one of the difficult matters in technical education and that is how technical education can be made available for rural areas. There are some real problems in this area. In spite of what was said in a recent speech the amount of money appropriated does matter to the States and their education departments. The Labor Government almost immediately increased the amount of money available for technical education by 350 per cent when it came into office. One of the points that interested the Ministry and as a consequence the Interim Technical and Further Education Commission, known as the Kangan Committee, was the fact that the enormously expensive equipment put into technical colleges requires a considerable number of students to use it. This cannot happen in rural areas. We were faced with the problem of what we were going to do about rural students who wished to study a subject which required the use of this expensive machinery. We came up with the answer to build residential colleges for the first time to be attached to technical colleges. Because historically students who went to universities were gentlemen or perhaps originally monastic, universities in the English tradition had residential colleges. But this arrangement has never been made in respect of technical colleges. So an appropriation was made for residential colleges to be constructed and attached to technical colleges.
There are regions which, because of some unique characteristic, should be the centres of a remoter area form of post-secondary education. One such centre was Katherine in the Northern Territory which is situated in an area of tropical agriculture. The Labor Government started the process to establish a college at Katherine. I am sorry to say that the college has not been proceeded with. If the honourable gentleman’s plea for colleges to be established in remoter areas means that there will be some acceleration of the proposal for Katherine I will be very pleased. I believe that the Government would be thoroughly justified in constructing a specialist college in this area.
I would like to refer to the speech that was made last night by the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman). I would like to say to the honourable member that at the moment we do not know whether our literacy standards are advancing. The first real studies conducted into the standards of 10-year-old and 14-year-old Australian children- 10 years as being near the end of their primary education and 14 years as being near the beginning of their secondary education- were the Australian studies in school performance. This work was done by the Australian Council for Educational Research, known as ACER. This work was carried out under the sponsorship of this body following directions given in my time as Minister for Education. The Council reported subsequent to the fall of the Whitlam Government. We will be able to say 5 years hence if these tests are repeated whether or not the standards are advancing. But we do not have any spot checks in Australian educational history on which to base anything. A test of all 11 -year-olds was made in 1949 in the United Kingdom. The Plowden report found that in 1965 the reading age of 1 1 -year-old children in England had advanced by 17 months over that period of time. However, the reading age of 1 1- year-old children did not advance in the next 10 years to 1975. There is worry about this lack of advance. A study of the reading needs of children- for instance taking the minimum requirement of being able to read newspapersshows that their standards need to advance. In 1949 that great and glorious paper the London Daily Mirror needed a reading age of nine. In 1975 it needed a reading age of thirteen. Therefore a 9-year-old would not be able to comprehend the London Daily Mirror in 1975. Papers like The Times require a tertiary standard of reading. The studies of literacy and numeracy conducted by ACER included various items to test the reading standards of children. It was found that in this area the score for Australia was 94, England 90, Scotland 89 and the United States of America 87. In the case of reading comprehension it was found that the score for Australia was 70, for England 68, for New Zealand 75, for Scotland 70 and for the United States 79. 1 will not go through all of the figures because to do so might bore people. But I am bound to say that New Zealand had a slight edge all the way through. Otherwise, the Australian figures at most levels were virtually identical with or a little in advance of the figures for the United States and the United Kingdom.
I am not complacent; I think there is real illiteracy in Australia. But I am hesitant about saying that there was a good old day when there was not. When I went through high school only 7 per cent of Australian children completed a high school course. The great majority left school at the age of 14 years and quite frankly nobody knows whether they could read or not or whether their performance would have been better than 15-year-olds now or not. But the fact remains that these children did not remain at school. Their capacity did not gratify teachers and their incapacity did not worry teachers. They simply left school. Now that young people are staying on at school we are beginning to ascertain whether they have acquired skills. So I would not be dogmatic about this matter.
There is too much pretence that something new is coming into technical education as a result of the present Government’s decisions. Enrolments in technical education under the Whitlam Government increased in a very short space of time from 400 000 to 705 000. This was the fastest rate of increase in Australian history. Technical education was made free. The 705 000 enrolments are not full-time students. I think the honourable member for Bendigo touched on this matter in giving us a warning. The fact that they are not full-time students is no criticism of them. The purpose of a technical college is to provide re-entry into education by people who want to upgrade their qualifications. In point of fact a technical college ought to be able to pick up the problems of the adult who is illiterate and make him literate. This has been done on quite a considerable scale at the Canberra Technical College. This is why I regret that the Government proposes to include technical and further education with the other 2 commissions. If we are honest we cannot stand up here and say that we know that such a move will be disastrous for technical education. Nor can honourable gentlemen opposite say that they know that such a move will be good for technical education. But I do point out some of the difficulties. First, the Commonwealth totally funds universities and colleges of advanced education but it does not totally fund technical colleges. Secondly, as the honourable member for Bendigo suggested, the technical sector of education is overwhelmingly part-time and is used by people of a comparatively advanced age who return for some reason to technical education.
– Without criticism.
-That is right. I am not suggesting that there should be any criticism. I am saying that they have a different nature. Thirdly, I do not know whether this trend will change; I think it would be a good thing if it did. We now have the position where a teachers college- I doubt whether it is still called by that namewith 700 students has access to a Commonwealth commission. However, a technical college of 36 000 students, such as a college in Sydney, cannot do anything without a director of education holding the principal’s hand. The principal is not the head of an autonomous college, although he ought to be. I am not making criticism for the sake of criticism, but what worries me about the Government’s policy- and I am making a genuine query of what I think is undesirable- is this: I can understand the Government responding in this way because I think that a habit of mind has developed in teachers’ unions, in the media and in the State governments which would lead a government to defend itself. I am glad that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) who is sitting at the table, sees that there is a new federalism. As I read the accounts of the Premiers’ Conference it sounds very much like the old separate and colliding sovereignties, that the States are willing to attack you if you do not give enough money to these sectors and they will claim all the credit for what is done. That to me smacks of the old federalism that I saw. Although the Labor Government increased their grants in its last Budget- I mean general grants, not specific grants- by 38 per cent, they were still maintaining that it did not keep up with inflation. Of course, an ignorant public would believe them. The inflation rate was about 14 per cent and the grants went way beyond inflation. I remember that when the Labor Government increased the money for schools from $1 12m to $794m, one distinguished State Premier- not of the opposite Party, as it happens, but a Labor Premier- said: ‘It is only our own money’. If that is correct it meant that William McMahon was hanging on to $682m to which he was not entitled and at least the Labor Government was entitled to the credit for giving it up. But that is beside the point.
What I do not like about the present procedures for the Commission is the guidelines. I believe that the Government is entirely entitled to lay down guidelines but I believe that the virtue of the Commission system is to state everything that needs to be done. Of course, if the Government does that and cannot accept the colossal expenditure that will be recommended, it will be told, even if it is adding $ 1 50m in real terms to education expenditure, that it is making cuts because the amount is not as high as was recommended. State governments will join in that untruthful chorus. Teachers’ unions and the media commentators- God bless them- who know no better will do exactly the same thing. This will go out to the Australian people as gospel truth. Even if a very large rise in expenditure is taking place it will be called a cut. The thing therefore that a government does to defend itself is to start instructing the commissions beforehand with guidelines. The moment that is done the whole value of the commission system goes by the board and you are back at bureaucracy. You are back to the secret relations between a Minister for Education and the Director of Education where the advice is private.
It is on this basis that for years and years States like Western Australia were subject to the former section 20 and- I hope the Minister is right- the former section 32 (f) with regard to education. The handicapped or the people in need of a linguistic education were inarticulate minorities and nothing was done about them. Year after year there was no commission declaring what was needed to be done, or advertising their problems, or taking evidence or seeking evidence. It was the good old relationship between Directors of Education and their Ministers. The second point that worries me, apart from the fact that the guidelines really are beginning to overthrow the nature of the commission system, is the eclipsing of the Technical and Further Education Commission when it had existed for only 2 years. The Labor Government intended to combine the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education. The reason we were driven to do that was the competitive recommendations in the capital field. Nothing else particularly mattered. But the Commonwealth would receive a recommendation for $36m worth of buildings at the Western Australian Institute of Technology alongside $13m worth of buildings at Murdoch University, and the Commonwealth would be going into the State of Western Australia and bidding against itself for labour and materials and driving up the costs. So, the Labor Government felt that the Universities Commission and the Commission on Advanced Education should be combined; that there should be 2 councils but that there should be a common capital recommendation to stop competitive bidding for building material and labour.
This Government has taken this into the field of technical and further education and I regret it. I would regret it doubly if I thought that the
Technical and Further Education Commission was being punished because, in effect, it did not accept the guidelines. It gave 3 alternative reports and it made these comments:
The main report has three major sections. The first section examines the significance of the guidelines for the development of TAFE over the three-year period 1977-79 and, by implication, in the longer term. In particular, it seeks to demonstrate that the minimum growth rates in Commonwealth grants for TAFE contained in the present guidelines are insufficient if TAFE is to discharge its task as the major provider of skilled manpower in the Australian Labor Force.
Our expert Commission- although the Government has taken pride in 7’/i per cent real increases-has made the comment that these guidelines lay down a growth rate insufficient to provide Australia with the skilled manpower it needs. It made recommendations- if you like- at the minimum. Then it made recommendations at a more generous level and recommendations at an even further level. I am unhappy about the disappearance of the Technical and Further Education Commission for a number of reasons. Apart from the question of total funding of the other 2 Commissions, and merely topping up in the technical and further education area and apart from unhappiness about the extinction of a commission which has been critical of the guidelines that have been given it by a Government, I believe that the area of technical and further education is not neces’sarily postsecondary.
The Government is referring to a postsecondary commission. What is needed increasingly in Australia is the re-entry into education of people who are not post-secondary. This problem has been encountered at a number of levels. I inherited from the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who was my predecessor as Minister for Education, a secretary- Mr Gordon Hurst. I kept him on in my office because he knew every pigeonhole in the Department. He knew where all the obstructions were. He had had 3 years experience under the previous Minister and I believed that he could guide me through the minefields, which he did with very great skill. He drew my attention to the fact that there is a large number of young people who probably had been quite stupid at the secondary level of school and who had wasted their time. Then, when they reached the age of about 19 or 20 they realised that they had been foolish. They realised that matriculation is important and wanted to go back to school. But they were at a tertiary education age and they needed some money. They were not just secondary school children of 14 or 15. The Labor Government established a system whereby they were given the tertiary allowance although they were only at the secondary level and they re-entered the field of education.
Phillip College in Canberra is par excellence a place of re-entry and the fact that young people of 20 or 21 or 22 come back into secondary education, really flat out to study, enhances enormously the prestige of education to the other young people in the College. In fact, Phillip College is now a learning community which is really operating, I believe, at first year university level. Technical colleges are admirably adapted to reentry into education. They are not like universities. They are not like colleges of advanced education. Of course, with a master at blaming the Commonwealth and extracting the maximum advantage out of the Commonwealth, like Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Government may find that technical and further education disappears altogether and is included with colleges of advanced education which are funded totally by the Commonwealth. Mr Bjelke-Petersen very adroitly is making technical education a function of colleges of advanced education, which are funded totally by the Commonwealth, instead of by topping-up grants. But not every State Premier has such footwork. There is still, in my view, a very clear case for a special and separate consideration of an independent technical and further education commission. I believe it was abruptly destroyed when it had only just begun its work. It had not had 15 or so years of existence like the other 2 commissions and as a matter of personal judgment- I am not making a great issue of this- I think it would have been a good thing had it been left to exist independently.
Debate (on motion by Mr Fisher) adjourned.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Customs TariffProposals No. 1 1 extend the present level of duties applying to tyres pending consideration by the Government of the report on tyres by the Industries Assistance Commission. Under the provisions of the Industries Assistance Commission Act the temporary duties applying to tyres would terminate today if no legislative action were taken. A comprehensive summary of the changes is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the house.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
-We have reached a stage in Australian education where an obvious rationalisation and accurate assessment of the post secondary area is needed. Since I was elected to Parliament some 5 years ago I have witnessed many important initiatives and innovations of our Federal governments. Education has rapidly become a significant issue in our community and in our parliaments. A study of the historical development of education in Australia, however, indicates an urgent need for a planning body to introduce a balance in funding and programs with the long term interests of the nation’s population in mind. Too often education appropriations into each area of education have relied upon the ability of many groups to impress their will on the governments of the day. Out of this has grown an imbalance and deficiencies and duplication of physical, financial and human resources. On 27 August the Canberra Times stated:
Apart from inertia on the part of the planning authorities the lack of any rational co-ordination between all sectors of tertiary education, the neglect of careers guidance and the absence of close links between TAFE and the secondary schools, and the misplaced emphasis on the value of university degrees, there has been an unforgivable failure to understand and constantly bear in mind that the creation of the wealth upon which all the people in Australia depend for their livelihood and affluence is primarily the work of the skilled tradesman and the primary producer. Without its wool, wheat, sugar, meat, milk, timber, steel, fruit . . . and other products Australia could not support in above average comfort its tens of thousands of academics, public servants, politicians, entertainers, and market speculators.
The report went on:
The urgency of allocating more resources to technical education in underscored by the facts that we can no longer count as much as in the past on the skills brought in by immigrants, on the strong belief that the young in Australia are in for prolonged periods of unemployment, that the demand for skills and for the upgrading of existing skills will increase, and that our technical education facilities have long been starved of funds for capital equipment . . .
It is the intention of the Government to do just this. The new Tertiary Education Commission is to develop and to recommend policies on the basis of government 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 influence the future character of postschool education in Australia. To achieve this goal the 3 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 corresponding 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 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 3 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-ordination mechanism would be to fail to appreciate the inevitable working interface between colleges of advanced education and institutions of technical and further education and of course 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 post-school sector.
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 sectors and their views will be made known both to the Minister for Education 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.
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. I wish to emphasise that this Bill, in establishing the Tertiary Education Commission, should not and will not remove from any government its responsibility for policy, for establishing its own objectives and for providing adequate appropriations. Decisions will still have to be taken after reports are received. What is important though is that such decisions or the setting of guidelines by a government can be assessed through the medium of public reports and be of long term educational value to this nation’s community.
Recently I have been involved in visits to educational institutions in various States. While recognising areas of deficiency throughout Australia I also recognise a high level of education achievement. The demands upon this nation’s resources make it imperative that there be a realistic disbursement of funds and objectives to all sectors of education. It can only be in the interests of our young people and adults seeking education and training that the best possible use of resources is made. To establish the aims of this new legislation it is wise to discuss briefly the way that these 3 sectors being brought together under this overall umbrella can operate and some of the disadvantages of these changes.
The Universities Commission has developed over the years into a body with expertise. Because of the small numbers of institutions they have had direct access to the Commission and to the Government. I believe that this position will not change. However, difficulties and frustrations have been encountered by the colleges of advanced education. The major difficulty they have encountered is a duplication of responsibility at State board level and in Canberra. The technical area of course has been largely State funded and there has been a large degree of flexibility in planning. This flexibility has allowed the technical colleges to respond to community needs. In doing so, however, particularly in introducing some courses, they have put themselves in direct competition with colleges of advanced education which perhaps have committed already resources, funds and staff to similar courses. Whilst these courses may be at different levels, often they have been meeting the same community demand. I do not believe that this flexibility that the technical people have had available to them should be diminished. But there must be responsibility for all in the postsecondary area.
The Opposition has gone to great lengths, both in this House and in the other place, in this debate to attack the Government on its education policy. I feel that it is important to recognise that in a time of economic hardship and restraint, it has been possible to continue to support education in a positive and increasing manner. The previous Government made many notable achievements in education and our Party has supported these advances on almost all occasions. But what the Opposition has failed to mention during the debate in both Houses are 2 most important facts. I am quite sure that honourable members opposite omitted them because they were not proud of them. One was that possibly their most successful and perhaps only successful Minister during their term in office, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), was relegated to the back bench for his enterprise. I believe that this has been to the disadvantage both of the Australian Labor Party and of the nation. The other was that the last Whitlam Budget reduced expenditure on the 4 education commissions by $ 105m. It set aside the triennial basis of funding which was then operating. This was a particularly serious thing to happen. It froze all student allowances at the level operating at June 1 974. Of course, because of the Whitlam Government’s policies- its tariff cuts and its economic mismanagement generally- it created more juvenile unemployment and in fact created a greater demand for education under the new economic conditions.
In this situation in 1 977, the Liberal-National Country Party Government has put more money into education. Not only did we provide money to cover inflation, but we put in more money again to create real growth. We re-established the rolling triennium with appropriate minimum funding guidelines. We have increased student allowances and we have started new training schemes. We all are aware of the appointment of a most important and significant committee- the Williams Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the expenditure programs of the various education commissions.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The Government acknowledges the excellent work done in the past by the Technical and Further Education Commission. There has been an increase in expenditure of some Vh per cent on this section of education. I am hopeful of further major increases in this area. There is undoubtedly a shortage of skilled tradesman in many technical fields. This is deplorable at a time of high juvenile unemployment. However, a majority of students have been seeking university education to the neglect of the technical areas. Of course free university education has assisted this trend and today we see many graduates from many faculties finding difficulty with employment whereas manufacture, commerce and industry are seeking qualified technical tradesmen. In our country there are limited tertiary opportunities in many areas.
Mention was made of the fact that 10 per cent of our students take advantage of tertiary education throughout Australia. However, I believe that in country areas only 2 per cent of our young people have the opportunity and are able to take advantage of tertiary education, mainly because of the lack of facilities. Accommodation of students in country areas is often a limiting factor, even in areas where facilities do exist. I firmly believe that increased funding in this area is essential. The National Country Party supports this Bill. We believe it sets a basis for education in the tertiary area to develop in a manner best suited to the needs of the Australian people (Quorum formed).
– I wish to reply briefly to the matters raised in this debate. There is no need for me to deal with them at length because the matters raised by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), and other members of the Opposition were raised also in the other place. They were effectively dealt with by the
Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Might I just point out in this House the attitude of the Opposition to the proposals in this Bill to create the new Tertiary Education Commission and separate councils for the different sectors. In the Senate, Senator Wriedt, on behalf of the Opposition, said: … the Opposition will not oppose the concept of including the technical sector in this new Tertiary Education Commission because we feel that there have been sufficient safeguards written into the legislation to ensure that the technical sector is not disadvantaged.
So there is no need to elaborate greatly on the debate itself.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a personal explanation.
-Does the Prime Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– I want to make sure that the House fully understands the position and Hansard might misreport me if it does not know the position. I was asked a question this afternoon which, in its opening words, stated:
My question, which is addressed to the Prime Minister, concerns statements he made to the effect that no Premier at the Premiers’ Conference sought tax cuts in relation to a prices and wages freeze.
At the end of my answer I said:
In the forum of the Premiers’ Conference itself no Premier mentioned tax cuts. There is nothing else to add.
What I said is perfectly correct in relation to a wages-prices freeze. I should draw the attention of the House to the fact that on an earlier occasion I think Mr Dunstan- quite unrelated to a wages-prices freeze and not even on the same day- had mentioned tax cuts. I would not want it to be thought that he had not done so. Other Premiers might have, but not in relation to a wages-prices freeze. I only repeat that when that part of the discussion was being undertaken no Premier mentioned tax cuts. I think it would be rather odd for all Premiers to put their signatures to a document which did not mention tax cuts in relation to a wages-prices freeze if they in fact thought that tax cuts ought to be mentioned in relation to a wages-prices freeze.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted?
– No. It was a personal explanation.
-Leave is refused.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
-The Leader of the Opposition will have to move for the suspension of Standing Orders. His motion is not one that I can accept.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I move:
-Could I have the motion in writing? Is the motion seconded?
-I rise to a point of order. It was not a matter that was raised; it was a personal explanation. Consequently I query the form in which this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders is itself expressed.
– I will wait until I receive the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in writing before I consider the point of order. I take it that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will be seconding the motion.
Mr E. G. Whitlam having submitted his motion in writing-
-The motion before the Chair for the suspension of Standing Orders is in order.
– Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
-The question is: ‘That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard’.
– I wish to raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. My point of order is that in moving the motion that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard the Leader of the House is misusing the forms of the House inasmuch as the Prime Minister misused the forms of the House previously by saying that he wished to make a personal explanation on the basis that he had been misrepresented, and that was not so.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Banks that he is reflecting upon the Chair. The Prime Minister made a personal explanation that was accepted by the Chair and the Leader of the Opposition has now moved for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable him to speak on the subject that was reintroduced by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House was quite entitled to move that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard.
– I am not in any way canvassing your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker, but if my memory serves me correctly you asked the Prime Minister whether he had been misrepresented.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Banks that the original question before the House is that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition speaking on the matter raised by the Prime Minister.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. Upon the Leader of the Opposition commencing to speak the Leader of the House moved that the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard and that is the immediate question before the House. It is quite in order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, my question to you is: What exactly was the Prime Minister doing?
-That is not a point of order at this stage.
– But it is important to the role that we on this side of the House are playing.
-If only the honourable member for Port Adelaide would listen; I have already stated that the Prime Minister sought to make a personal explanation.
-That was not a personal explanation.
-That is a matter for the Chair to decide and for members of the House to take objection to at the time it is being made. The honourable member is out of order in raising the matter at this stage. The question before the House is: ‘That the Leader of the Opposition be not further heard ‘.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Is the original motion seconded?
– I second the proposition put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam).
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member for Reid be not further heard.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-The question now is that Standing Orders be suspended.
-The Opposition is seeking an explanation of the action of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) -
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Mr E. G. Whitlam’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 8- by leave- taken together and agreed to.
Clause 9 (Reports by Commission).
– I move an amendment in the following terms:
After sub-clause (4) add the following sub-clause:
Minister who shall, as soon as practicable, cause such report to be laid before each House of the Parliament. It will be noted that at the present time clause 9 makes some provision for a Minister to table a report but it does not go to the extent that the Parliament might require. Clause 9 has 3 subclauses. Sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 9 reads:
The Commission shall furnish to the Minister such reports relating to the performance of its functions as the Minister requires and may furnish such other reports as the Commission thinks fit.
So under clause 9(1) the Commission can furnish a number of reports relating to the performance of its functions as the Minister requires and on any other matter that the Commission thinks fit. Sub-clause (2) of clause 9 reads: . . . the Commission shall, at such times and in respect of such periods as the Minister directs, furnish . . . reports containing recommendations with respect to the matters referred to in sub-paragraphs 7 (1) (a) (i) and (ii)
So the Commission has to do those things in respect of those specific matters. Sub-clause (3) of clause 9 then provides:
The Minister shall . . . cause each report under subsection (2 ) to be laid before each House of the Parliament.
Accordingly, any report covered by the provisions of sub-clause ( 1 ) does not have to be laid before the Parliament. As was mentioned during the debate in the other place- I mention it again here- it is important that this Parliament should be advised as to all reports of the Commission. It is particularly important if one looks at subclause ( 1 ) of clause 9 which provides that the Commission, if it thought fit, would be able to make a report on any matter. Yet such a report would not have to be tabled in this Parliament because the only reports that have to be tabled are those that are made pursuant to sub-clause (2) of clause 9. Accordingly, my amendment has a lot of substance in it.
I read that part of the Hansard report of the Senate debate which gave the explanation that the Government was not doing anything novel in relation to this matter but that it was copying the Labor Party’s proposition contained in the Technical and Further Education Commission Act. It will be noted that the provision in that Act is not quite the same as that contained in this Bill. Section 8 of the Technical and Further Education Commission Act 1975 provides that there shall be reports. Section 8 ( 1 ) of the 1 975 Act is similar to clause 9 (2 ) of the Bill under consideration. So it can be seen that the position of that provision has been changed in the relevant legislation. Section 8(1) said that the Commission shall report in respect of matters as the Minister directs. Section 8 (2) reads:
The Minister shall, as soon as practicable, cause each report . . . to be laid before each House of Parliament.
Sub-section (3 ) of section 8 reads:
In addition to the reports referred to . . . the Commission shall furnish to the Minister such reports as the Minister requires and may furnish such other reports as the Commission thinks fit.
So it can be read into the existing section that the Commission makes reports as it is obliged to do and that the Minister shall table them. If in additionthe important words are ‘in addition’- it decides to make other reports, of course, one would read into that provision that they also would be tabled. The wording of clause 9 is altogether different. It is turned round to say in the final sub-clause that the Minister shall table only those reports referred to in sub-clause (2).
It is for that reason that the Opposition feels that the Parliament and the people should always be appraised of what the commissions are saying when they make reports. We want them to be able to object to the guidelines if they think they are unwieldy or unfair or too restrictive. We want those sorts of reports made available. We realise that we cannot have every report. The Minister may want a detailed report on a specific matter. We are not seeking those reports. But, in the ambit of this clause, in the case of the Commission making reports as the Minister directsthose reports will be tabled because the Act says that they must be tabled- we do not have the advantage of seeing those reports which, under clause 9(1), are ‘reports relating to the performance of its functions as the Minister requires and may furnish such other reports as the Commission thinks fit’. I would say that that provision is not the same as that contained in the earlier legislation because, under the earlier legislation, if Commissions were to make those reports they would be deemed to be in addition to the other reports. I read the words ‘in addition’ to mean that they would have to be tabled in addition. Therefore the Bill now under consideration is not drawn in the same way.
It is for those reasons that I have moved this amendment. I know that the Minister will say: ‘Of course the Government will table these reports’, but I want it to be written into the Act that there is to be an annual report so that there will be no doubt about what the Commission has to do as regards the Parliament. It has to report at least annually. We would have no objections if it were to report more frequently. That is a matter for the Minister’s discretion. But at least an annual report would cover the whole ambit of sub-clause ( 1 ) and sub-clause (2) of clause 9 and not just leave the legislation with the present restrictive position that we can get only those reports covered by clause 9(2).
– The Government does not accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). A similar amendment was moved in the other place and was rejected there by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has now sought to put his argument on the basis that what the Government proposes in clause 9 of the Tertiary Education Commission Bill 1977 is in fact different from what is provided in the present Technical and Further Education Commission Act. I invite the honourable gentleman to have a good look at section 8 of the present Act to see how sub-section ( 1 ) of that section has a direct relationship to the provision contained in subclause (2) of clause 9 in this Bill. The effect in both cases is that it is mandatory for the Government to table reports relating to financial arrangements and also those reports which come from the councils to the Commission. In additionthis is really what the honourable gentleman refers to- there is the provision in subclause ( 1 ) of clause 9 which says:
The Commission shall furnish to the Minister such reports relating to the performance of its functions as the Minister requires and may furnish such other reports as the Commission thinks fit.
That is, reports on matters other than those financial arrangements and reports of the councils to the Commission. One can well imagine- I think the honourable gentleman would realise this- that in the field of operation of such commissions there may from time to time, and not necessarily on a regular annual basis, be other reports which the Commission itself may want to forward to the Minister or which the Minister may require. They may be triennial or quinquennial reports or they may be provided at some other periodic intervals. There was not a requirement for the presentation of annual reports under the former Labor Administration, but there was the requirement for furnishing reports with regard to financial arrangements. The present Government has followed that approach. So there really is no need for the Government to accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 36- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 37 (Advice by Councils).
– I move:
After sub-clause ( 5 ) add the following sub-clause: ‘(6) Each Council shall furnish an annual report to the Minister who shall, as soon as practicable, cause such report to be laid before each House of the Parliament.
It will be noted that this amendment is in terms very similar to the amendment which has been rejected by the Government. I notice that in this clause there is no provision at all for the tabling of any of the reports of the councils. I think it is important that the Government at least gives an undertaking that it will table as many reports as possible. That request would apply to the clause we have just discussed. I do not think we should be hiding any information from the people, particularly where educational matters are concerned. The clause says that the advice of council shall be by way of report which will be given to the Commission and to the Minister. But at this stage I do not see any obligation for the reports to be tabled in the Parliament.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 21 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 1 March, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not wish to waste the time of the House in exploring the relationship between Australia and New Zealand on the question of trade. Members of the Opposition have absolutely no opposition to the repeal of the legislation which obviously has become redundant in its operation, it is certainly not operative in terms of the manner in which it was set up and in its usage. Let me just say that the fact that we have no opposition in no way underestimates the importance the Opposition places on trading relations between Australia and New Zealand. Whilst we will not explore the ramifications of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement, perhaps it would be wise for the Government to consider making a statement on the Agreement so that the Parliament could debate this matter and perhaps become a little better informed on how the relationship is developing after over 10 years of operation of the Agreement. I think it would be a vast improvement for the Parliament to do so rather than for members to rely on ministerial handouts at the conclusion of ministerial meetings. As I have said, the Opposition supports the measure before the House.
-First of all I would like to congratulate the Ministers concerned for being able to come to arrangements with New Zealand to alter the apparel arrangements that exist under the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement. Those of us who represent electorates which contain textile industries are very appreciative of the actions that have so far been taken that will afford some protection to Australian made goods and Australian manufacturers. Despite the comments in the second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) that the facility to ship goods from New Zealand to Australia had been little used recently, it has become increasingly obvious that the facility is being used to ship goods through New Zealand to Australia. Those of us who have anything to do with the textile industry in any way know that this has been doing on. I have a number of textile firms in my electorate. I have noticed that the textile industry has been suffering because goods were coming through New Zealand which were not New Zealand made. We will certainly be appreciative if the legislation before the House limits this practice.
I am sure that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, who is at the table, will make certain that further measures will be taken in the field of quotas to afford a fair share of the Australian market to Australian manufacturers. When it is all boiled down the manufacturing industry, particularly the textile industry, employs a greater number of women than any other industry. Unless the textile industry is protected and given a fair share of the market we will not succeed in overcoming the over all problem of bringing down the rate of unemployment.
In supporting the Bill I congratulate the Ministers concerned. I want to express my appreciation on behalf of textile manufacturers, particularly those in the woollen blanket area. It is rather a sad and strange thing that this industry, which produces possibly the best woollen blankets in the world, is unable to sell its product in Australia because of imports from New Zealand which are not necessarily manufactured in that country. I believe that the same thing applies to carpets and footwear. The Government is to be congratulated for having taken very wise and prompt action.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of this legislation. I also thank the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) for his remarks. Whilst this Bill has nothing in fact to do with the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement the points he made are fundamental to trading relations between Australia and New Zealand. He was correct in noting the significance of the arrangement concluded by my colleagues Senator Cotton and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) at the recent NAFTA talks at which it was agreed that in the future imports from New Zealand in the apparel area will become part of global quota allocations. The significance of that decision will not be lost on local manufacturers in Australia.
I also inform the honourable gentleman that certain decisions affecting the textile industry, particularly regarding quotas, have been taken by the Government in recent days and full details of these decisions will be disclosed, I hope, tomorrow in a joint statement from Senator Cotton and me. Those decisions bear very directly on the points raised by the honourable member for Bendigo, who once again has demonstrated to this House his continuing interest in the real problems of decentralised industries in this country. He demonstrates a concern for those industries which sets an example to the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Howard) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 1 April, on motion by Mr Newman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. The Bill does raise some important questions about the future of the Government’s welfare and housing programs. I want to draw attention to them quickly. This program, which provides dwelling units to single aged and single Service pensioners was introduced by the coalition Government in 1 969. A total of $25 m was appropriated for a 5-year period on the basis of $5m a year. The Labor Government made some minor changes to the program but continued it for another 3 years. It increased the annual amount to $ 10m a year in 1974. Now this Government wants to extend the Labor scheme for another year, again with some minor changes. The second reading speech of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) made clear that this is an interim measure. The Government wants to hold the line until a review of the future of this scheme is undertaken. In a broader context, the Government is trying to fit the scheme into a much wider ranging program.
Two committees of inquiry have made recommendations on possible placement of this scheme. The Bailey report recommended that it be included in a comprehensive welfare housing scheme. The Holmes report saw this as only one option. In general terms the Holmes report favoured the block grant approach to the care for the aged and the infirm. In this way housing would be linked with a proper domiciliary care service, and housing for the aged and the infirm would be located in an area where proper care and services are available. The main criticism which has been levelled at the dwelling for pensioner scheme has been that it provides housing in areas where there has been a lack of proper support facilities. This was particularly the case between 1969 and 1972. To my mind this is a valid criticism. It is one which the approach of the Holmes report tries to remove. The third approach is to absorb the scheme into the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. Until it is known exactly what the Government intends with regard to the new agreement it is not possible to offer an informed opinion on this option.
The new Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement legislation will not be introduced until next year. It will be late in the year before negotiations with the States are completed. I might say that the present negotiations, if reports getting back to me are accurate, are not going too smoothly. It remains to be proved that bringing the scheme into the new Housing Agreement is the best solution. It certainly will dress up the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and make it appear more attractive by providing a straightout grant element. I stress this point that I believe that irrespective of whether it remains under the present scheme or whether it is absorbed into the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, it should be clearly identified. There should be direct grants. This type of housing should not be a further burden on State instrumentalities. The Government might use this program to reduce the criticism which very substantial changes to the long accepted welfare housing policies will bring. If this were done it would be purely on a political basis and for political reasons only.
It may well be that the recommendations in the Bailey and Holmes reports are sounder in welfare terms than what the bureaucracy is proposing and the Minister should not cut off these options. I think that greater consideration should be given to both the Holmes report and the Bailey report. It might not be in the best interests of the scheme to include this in the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I hope the Minister and his officers give a great deal of thought to that suggestion. The Bill removes the requirement which was contained in the previous legislation that the Federal Minister should approve each project. This may be consistent with the Government’s so-called new federalism but, again, I do not think it understands why the Labor Government included the need for the Minister to have a say in the legislation. It is contrary to proper planning and co-ordination of the programs on the basis of need. As I said earlier, before the Minister entered the chamber, the Labor Government drew from experience and found that a great deal of this housing was not located near where the services for the aged and the infirm are needed. One must recognise that many of these people may move into the single units when they are in their sixties but within a decade they need a great deal of medical care and medical services. Therefore, these units should be located near where these services are available.
The risk is that giving the States full control may- I use the word ‘may’ deliberately- mean that pensioner housing will still be sited where there are no domicilary support services. I want to stress that point. The Labor Government inserted this provision to try to avoid these problems. With regard to this aspect there is no record of a great deal of centralism occurring under the Labor Government. In fact, there was under a Labor Government a co-operative spirit and I want to stress this point that the Opposition wants to see, as much as possible, in all of these schemes a real spirit of co-operation between the Australian Government and the State governments. They must inter-relate these services, wherever possible. I do not want to see the States adopting a selfish, parochial position. At the same time, I do not want to see too much centralism from the Australian Government. I want to see a spirit of co-operation at the political level as well as at the bureaucratic level. I have always found that a spirit of co-operation will break down the distrust that exists amongst Federal and State public servants. When we get a real spirit of co-operation real progress is made.
I have seen co-operation bridge enormous political gaps. Some of the differences in political attitudes were enormous when I was entering into agreements as Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government. For instance, I can well recall that after discussions with the awfully- I do not use that word as a slur- conservative, some people called him reactionary, Premier of New South Wales, Mr Tom Lewis, in the 1974-75 financial year, the Labor Government entered into 8 agreements with that State. Most of those agreements required the co-operation of Country Party Ministers. I can recall entering into agreements with Leon Punch, with Tim Bruxner, with Deputy Premier Cutler and also with Sir John Fuller. The Federal Labor Government was able to do so because there was give and take, and also because it was found that public servants in the Federal and State spheres had built up a remarkably good basis of goodwill. I want to see this spirit continuing at all levels and on an even broader basis in the Parliamentary sphere.
Any safeguard is better than none and for this reason it would have made sense to retain this provision abolished by this Bill. Whatever decision is made about the future of this scheme, there is no doubt that the assistance it provides is inadequate. I think that even the Minister would agree with me that the contribution of $ 10m is inadequate. It is a great pity that the Urban and Regional Budget Paper has disappeared from the Budget Papers as it has done this year. I hope that in the coming year it will be reintroduced because it was a document which, I believe, provided a great deal of assistance in resource allocation, particularly with regard to urban and regional development. According to the Urban and Regional Budget Paper for 1975-76, the scheme provided a total of 3325 units of accommodation to pensioners between 1969 and 1974.
According to the Minister the 3-year scheme which is about to expire has provided another 2017 units. This makes a total of 5342 single units of accommodation which have been provided since 1969. The latest grant will add another 600 units or so. This means that in total we have provided about 6000 units to date. Unfortunately the Minister did not give any figures on the demand for this sort of housing, that is how many units we really need. But bearing in mind the number of aged and invalid pensioners, class B widows and repatriation pensioners in Australia there is no doubt that the supply is completely inadequate. I stress this. By the use of the census figures it should be possible for the Government to give us an estimate of the number of single pensioners who need these dwelling units. I have no doubt that the number of units that would be required runs into tens of thousands. I emphasise the words ‘tens of thousands’. To date in this so-called enlightened year of 1977 we have provided only 6000 single units in the previous 8 years whereas in fact we probably need tens of thousands of them. These single units remain within the public sector and that is an aspect that we should encourage.
The Government has held the allocation steady at $ 10m. As I said, in our 3 years we made $30m available. I think the Minister will agree that building costs have increased a great deal since that time. This amount takes no account of that increase. In the coming Budget I hope that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development will be striving for a greater allocation of funds for this purpose. I know that the Minister will remind us again that it is all right to develop the private sector but we cannot develop the public sector. And of course this is a public sector project that we need to develop. Therefore I realise that under this Government it will be given a low priority.
We do not oppose this legislation. I think that with the objective criticism that I have given and also the 2 reports that are available- the Holmes and Bailey reports, which contain a good deal of research- there is much evidence to consider. I hope the Government does just not run too quickly and use this important issue as a political football and include it in the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement as a gimmick. That is the last thing in the world we want to do with the people involved with pension dwellings. I am glad to see the Minister nodding his head in agreement. I hope that I can get him to agree with me at a later date when the new agreement is before us that this matter will not be used as a political football in the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
-The House is discussing the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill. I commend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) for a temperate and considered proposition that he has put to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman). I hope the Minister will accommodate those points of view that have been put so eloquently. This is not a controversial Bill by any means, yet it is of great importance to a large number of Australians. I know that a great deal of public interest will be centred on this debate. Before I make the significant points that I should like to make I put it to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that it might be an appropriate time to suspend the sitting.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The Minister sitting at the table- the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development- is sometimes referred to in this Parliament as the undertaker of things, especially those things associated with housing, since he, more than any other Minister, is involved with this process of devolution, process of jettisoning initiatives taken by the Labor Government. Of course, here tonight in this debate on the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill, yet another great initiative is about to go down the drain. This one was not initiated by the Labor Government; it is one of long standing. It was introduced way back in 1969.
– By the Liberal-Country Party Government.
-As the honourable member for Darling Downs said, it was introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government. I think that at that time the arrangements were to the effect that $5m would be expended each year over a 5 year period. The Whitlam Government took this measure a step forward, not in a destructive way but in a constructive way, as I think the Minister would readily acknowledge. I well recall introducing into the Parliament legislation which had the effect of widening eligibility and increasing the amount of money to be made available to the
States for the purpose of providing dwellings for pensioners. I think it is important to recall that that 1974 legislation, which was introduced under the Whitlam Government, increased the annual allocation by 100 per cent. That is to say, $ 10m was made available each year of the 3 year program.
– Twice as much.
-It was twice as much as had previously been allocated. With regard to the widening of eligibility, the scheme was applied to single aged persons and also to class B widows, that is, widows who were 50 years of age or more without dependent children or widows who were 45 years of age who no longer had dependent children, and to single service pensioners who were permanently unemployable or who suffered from tuberculosis. In my second reading speech in 1974, as the then Minister for Housing and Construction, I mentioned that this program was of a temporary nature while a survey of pensioners was made by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This study which I initiated was completed late in 1975. It was the subject of comment by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) last year. This program is being reactivated on a much reduced level which is a matter for regret, having regard to the results of that study.
Perhaps at this time it might be appropriate to refer to that study which I commissioned. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, acting for the Department of Housing and Construction, in November and December 1974 undertook the first national study to provide detailed information on the characteristics of aged persons’ accommodation. The objective was to link this information with data on household incomes and expenditure on housing. The study was limited. It covered a representative sample of 4700 survey units- couples or single people. It involved the inspection of some 2000 dwellings occupied by such persons. The study found that the great majority of aged people were well housed. That is acknowledged. But nevertheless, it also found that a substantial number of dwellings- no less than 1 1 per cent of the totalwere rated as unsatisfactory when assessed in terms of factors such as the condition of the roof, walls and floors, adequacy of plumbing and various health and safety aspects. It was estimated that 14 per cent of single aged persons and 7 per cent of aged couples in Australia were living in dwellings which were in need of a great deal of attention or beyond repair. Of course the Australian Housing Corporation, which was another Labor initiative disposed of by the Minister in his negative pursuit of things housing, had a capacity to innovate processes which would have assisted in repairing the inadequacy of pensioners’ housing. However, I am not sure that there is much available to serve that purpose at the present time. The State with the highest percentage of the aged in unsatisfactory housing was the State from which the Minister comesTasmania. Here 19 per cent of housing was designated as unsatisfactory. I am, of course, referring to housing occupied by pensioners.
I hope that the Minister, in reply, will be able to indicate what kind of facility he will invoke to overcome this very great social problem in his own State because the Bill before the Parliament at present is a finale Bill. This is the end of the section so far as these non-interest grants to the States are concerned to provide additional funds for housing. The Housing Corporation which, among other things, was going to provide the facility to repair, renovate and rejuvenate pensioner housing has now, of course, gone out of operation. The Minister has a special responsibility to his own State. Is he going to leave this problem unattended? Does he intend to turn it over to the States in terms of federalism, declaring it as an objective but one for which there will be no federal finance? I ask him to look very seriously and sincerely at the needs of the people he represents in the Bass electorate and of people in other parts of Tasmania. But it is not only Tasmania that is involved, though Tasmania is in the most serious situation, with 19 per cent of pensioner housing designated and described as being inadequate. The figure is 12 per cent in Victoria; 1 1 per cent in Queensland; 10 per cent in South Australia; 9 per cent in New South Wales and 8 per cent in Western Australia. The report said that the proportion of the aged living in unsatisfactory conditions was higher outside capital cities- 14 per cent as against 8 per cent in the cities.
One would have thought that the Country Party, whatever it is called in the various States, might have demonstrated some interest in this matter. Two of its representatives are sitting in the chamber in a nonchalant and fairly disinterested way at the moment. I am not even sure that they know what the business of the House is, but they ought to be aware of the fact that despite 23 years of Liberal-Country Party government, the situation in regard to pensioner housing in country areas is more serious than it is in the city areas. It was the intention of the Labor Government to redress the situation through the Housing Corporation. There is no program on the statute book at present or even heralded that might attend to this very serious social problem in country areas. I know that the 2 honourable gentlemen in the House at the moment who represent the National Country Party have an interest in these things. I suggest that they ought to get up and say something about them. The survey found that 16 per cent of the rental accommodation occupied by aged persons was unsatisfactory, compared with 10 per cent in the case of owned accommodation. Of course, the survey provides a lot more information than what I have been able to indicate in this cursory account of its work.
The fact is that pensioner housing has been the subject of examination by several task forces in recent times. If one looks at the report of the Committee on Care of the Aged and the Infirm- a report often referred to in this Parliament as the Holmes report- one will see that the Government has in mind a number of new initiatives that have not been effectively revealed in the legislation. All we know is that this Bill is not to be applied after a 12-month period and that the slack is going to be taken up in some other way. Presumably it is going to be taken up by way of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, but we cannot be sure of that by any means. Paragraph 1.9 of the Holmes report reads: . . . the Committee recommends cessation of capital assistance Tor self-contained accommodation in 1979 at the end of the current 3-year program for expenditures under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act and the Aged Persons Hostels Act.
The mind boggles at what result will ensue. The massive funding that has occurred over the years has been responsible for alleviation of the housing problems of many thousands of pensioners. That undoubtedly has been the main initiative of successive governments. Yet we have the recommendation mooted in the report that there be a cessation of those programs and then it is mentioned that the States are to share the costs for aged persons homes, hostels and nursing homes. All this is very ambiguously put. Nobody knows the details. We are operating in an area of the unknown in respect of these matters. There is highfalutin talk about the States taking over the responsibility, but there is no certainty that they are going to be adequately funded. Paragraph 7.B of the report states:
Organisations managing self-contained accommodation should be encouraged to admit the needy without donation or, in some cases, with only small donations.
That might not be too bad. The paragraph continues: . . . these organisations should be encouraged to charge other incoming residents a donation approximately equal to the replacement cost of the accommodation which will be occupied.
Mention is then made of the possibility of housing for pensioners being incorporated in a new Commonwealth housing agreement. I think I had better read that. Paragraph 7.J states:
The States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act should be extended for one year until 30 June 1 978 so that it can be considered in the context of negotiations for a new Housing Agreement. Consideration should then be given to the possible inclusion of guarantees of access for the single aged under the new Housing Agreement; this could obviate the need for a separate program.
The Minister might like to explain today whether he is going to give effect to that recommendation and, if so, whether he has in mind that the aged people who will become the beneficiaries of the new scheme will be assisted by way of substantial subsidies or otherwise. We all recall that for some 20 years under the administration of Liberal-Country Party governments the process was to make funds available at 1 per cent less than the bond rate. The Minister is looking puzzled. Let me explain to him that that was the basis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Funds were made available to the States at an interest rate not exceeding one per cent less than the bond rate. I am now putting it to the Minister that if that principle is to apply pensioner housing will be very expensive, irrespective of whether it is to be purchased or rented. It is time that the Minister came clean and indicated what kind of basis might be contemplated for the purposes of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
I think it is important to refer to the recommendation contained in paragraph 7.A of the Holmes Committee’s report. It might come as a surprise to honourable gentlemen opposite to know that it has been recommended that subsidies under the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act for the construction or purchase of self-contained accommodation should be discontinued at the end of the current 3-year program. The report goes on with quite a bit of criteria in that regard. It is very important for the House to contemplate the importance of the legislation that it is currently debating in circumstances where the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act might be abandoned or brought to finality. In other words, are we to have an on-going program for aged persons housing?
– What do you reckon?
-I do not know. We have certain reports before us. Those reports, of course, have been brought down in accordance with the terms of reference given to the committees. It seems to me that the Government is intent at the present time on bailing out of its obligations to aged persons housing and turning the whole situation over to the States without giving adequate guarantees that they are going to be properly funded and assisted to meet the very great need that still prevails in aged persons housing in Australia. We have this Bill for the winding up of this additional support for the States and we do not know at this time what is intended to take its place. I ask the Minister to throw some light on this matter because it is giving very great concern to the organisations concerned and the States, which are intent on ensuring that adequate funds are available to meet the very substantial problem that still prevails in aged persons housing in Australia.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just experienced the arduous task of listening to 40 minutes of Opposition speeches- two successive speeches- devoted to the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Bill 1977 and I must say by way of introduction that I do not think I have ever heard such a lacklustre performance. I am surprised that members of the Opposition have not seen fit to develop this debate into a general discussion on the state of housing in the country at the present time. This Government is vitally concerned that Australians should have reasonable access to home accommodation, whether it be for rental or for purchase. But of course, being a Liberal-National Country Party Government, we are primarily concerned to see that as many people as is possible should have the opportunity to buy a home of their own.
– It is the basic right of every Australian.
– As my friend says, it is the basic right of all Australians. It is an objective which Liberal-Country Party governments have pursued for many years- in fact, over 30 years. We are prepared to say that the record achieved prior to 1 972 was one of which a Federal government could reasonably be proud. I would not go so far as to say it was good enough, but in excess of 70 per cent of Australians were buying or owned their own home. In the intervening years, when this country got into such economic difficulty, when interest rates went through the roof and when housing and land costs went through the roof, the prospect of home ownership and the right to own a block of land and to build a house on it went far beyond the grasp of many Australians. Today only slightly in excess of 60 per cent of Australians own or are in the process of purchasing their own home. I was surprised to hear the honourable member for Hughes claim that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) had a puzzled look on his face. After listening to the honourable member for Hughes for so long and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) before him, the Minister was not puzzled; he was just plain bored.
The Bill is basically an interim measure. It serves to provide continuity for the various State housing authorities to build housing units for aged people until such time as the next Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement is completed. In this regard the House will recall that the Minister and his officers are presently negotiating with the States to come up with a formula for the next 3 year housing agreement. The efforts that this Government will be putting into getting a satisfactory, worthwhile solution to the various problems in the welfare housing field shows that the Government regards this as an absolute top priority. The Minister has been very active in this regard.
The Government believes that many people enjoying the benefits of the welfare housing programs in the various States are in a financial position to make more of a contribution towards either the rent or the repayments on the homes they are occupying. It is all very well for members of the Opposition and State Labor Party Premiers to mischievously claim that the Government is determined to increase the rents for people in welfare housing. Nothing is further from the truth. What this Government believes determinedly is that the people who should have first access to the welfare housing units and the people who should be paying nothing more than the minimum repayment or the minimum rent should be the people who have the greatest need. That is the principle and the criteria that the Government will be laying down. If Opposition members cannot associate themselves with those criteria, why do they not say so in the Parliament? We have heard nothing in this regard except abuse in the Press from State Premiers who are taking cheap political points on welfare housing by claiming that the Fraser Government is seeking simply to increase the repayments and other dues of people who are in needy circumstances. I positively deny that on behalf of the Government and I challenge Opposition members who disagree with that comment to say so during the course of this debate.
The legislation provides for a further $ 10m to be paid to the States as an interest-free and nonrepayable grant. I seek leave to incorporate a document showing the breakdown between the various States.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. The home units that will be built as a result of this grant will be for single pensioners, particularly those entitled to the supplementary assistance from the Department of Social Security. Of course the original Bill was introduced, as the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said, by a Liberal-Country Party Government in 1969. Under the original grant some 3325 selfcontained units have been built. Since the subsequent Act of 1974 an estimated further 2050 self-contained units have been provided.
There are some significant changes in this Bill. Firstly, it will no longer be required that State governments submit details of every scheme to be financed under the program. The House will recall that under the previous Government before commencement could take place the various State Housing authorities had to submit to the Minister in Canberra detailed plans of any project and no project could commence until he had given the OK to it.
– There was a very good reason for that.
– We know what the reason was. The Labor Government stressed it in all the programs in which it was involved. It believed that the only wisdom resided in Canberra with the Federal Minister. Time and time again with programs administered by the Labor Government it was necessary for the Minister in Canberra to put his signature to a proposal before it could proceed. This was revealed in the preliminary negotiations for the 1974 CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. The Labor Government insisted in the early negotiations that all the homes built under the welfare housing agreement should be for rental purposes. At the same time it positively excluded the sale of any of those homes. There we immediately saw the Australian Labor Party’s attitude to home ownership. It was determined that no homes built under these provisions should be made available for people to buy. Thereby it would have excluded in one sweep thousands of people who had not only the means but also the determination to own a home of their own. I am glad to say that during the course of subsequent discussions good sense prevailed. The honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) probably used some of his good offices and his logical approach to these matters and was able to change the position so that 30 per cent of the homes could be made available for purchase. That was something of an achievement, and it was something of a philosophic review of the Labor Government’s attitude. In Victoria, for instance- I cite the situation there because obviously I know it best- I would like to see in the next agreement which the Minister will negotiate a provision that up to 50 per cent of homes may be made available for sale.
– One hundred per cent.
– The Minister supports me in that, and I am grateful for it. I believe he would like to see it above 50 per cent. I would only say to him that if he can get the various Labor governments in the States to agree to that he will have achieved a very remarkable objective and I shall be the first to congratulate him. It will not be necessary for every proposal to be submitted to the Federal Minister in Canberra before it can commence, but as a matter of responsible housekeeping a report will be tabled in the Parliament every year to indicate how the money is being spent. At least for the year that this program will run an annual statement will be made. As I said earlier, I was disappointed that the Opposition did not see fit to expand this debate into the broader aspects of housing in Australia.
– I remind the honourable member for La Trobe that had members of the Opposition done that they would have been called to order by the Chair and told that the subject matter of the Bill is limited. They would have been out of order if they had expanded the debate, as any honourable member will be if he expands it.
– With deference to your suggestion, Mr Deputy Speaker, honourable members opposite did go a little wide of the mark and perhaps you will also allow me to make one or two comments on matters about which I feel very strongly. On the subject of rental accommodation, one of the things I would like to point out is that the Henderson Committee reported that six times more people in private rental accommodation need support than those in public housing systems in the various States. I think that answers one of the points raised by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson).
While the provisions to be made through the use of this $ 10m in the next year are considerable, and notwithstanding the need which we know exists, it is a fact of life that outside the public housing instrumentalities a great deal of renting is going on and many of the people in those areas are in need of support. I support very much the Minister’s proposal for a housing allowance voucher experiment. For many people the basic housing problem is not the lack of suitable accommodation but that they cannot afford what is available. They pay too much for what they have and too often the housing is substandard. The needy very often have been left out. As I said, six times as many needy people rent privately as rent from the housing commissions. The housing allowance vouchers are an innovation to provide a subsidy direct to families according to their personal needs and will commence in an experimental form at the beginning of next year. Under this approach, families who cannot afford even a modest standard of accommodation will receive a special housing allowance based on family size and income and the cost of a standard house or flat in the local housing market. The family will be required to pay a rent contribution based on a realistic percentage of income, and the housing allowance voucher will make up the difference. The prospects for that sort of program to be applied by housing commissions in assisting people to purchase will I believe bear close examination. I commend it to members of the Opposition to follow very closely.
General encouragement for home ownership in this area should be supported by all governments. If one does not go to a housing commission, what is the next area? It must be the cooperative or terminating societies, where there is also a limit to a person’s capacity to gain finance. The cut-off point is earnings of something like $165 a week. If a man is earning more than that terminating funds simply are not available to him. Because of favourable interest rates, the program I have mentioned allows purchase by people who do not have the capacity to get housing commission homes but who fall short of obtaining finance through the normal financial markets. At current figures, the gap between the $165 a week which attracts a terminating loan and the $200 a week which is the minimum level for market loans is an area where many people find the greatest difficulty. Once achieving a total family income of over $200 a week, prospects for home purchase are greatly improved. One has only to look at the figures provided by building societies to realise that that is so. I might mention some figures which indicate the average age of purchasers and the number of loans approved. People between 21 and 30 years of age but mostly between 25 and 30, who are the ones who have this access, tend to be skilled people. More than half of them receive an income of $200 or more a week, but a quarter of them are receiving between $176 and $200 a week. With an income of $200 or more a week, finance would come from banks, building societies, insurance companies, or private financial institutions such as hire purchase companies. Hire purchase companies and financial institutions tend to provide stop-gap mortgage funds. They provide bridging finance or a second mortgage which allows entry into a home at reasonably high interest rates.
-Order! I hope that the honourable member’s brief comment has just about come to its conclusion. His brief comment has been expanded a little.
– I accept what you say, Mr Deputy Speaker. I get carried away on the subject of housing because I am so interested in it. I am pleased that we have a Minister who is also interested in it and is prepared to do something about it.
I think that we have put into perspective the fact that this is a serious debate about a matter of national importance. I also reinforce the point that this Minister and this Government are interested in both the welfare housing and private housing sectors. We are determined to see that in the course of this Liberal-National Country Party Government and the next one, that the percentage of people who can get into a position of home ownership increases dramatically and that the benefits to be obtained from welfare housing programs go to those people in the greatest need.
-As one who has been genuinely committed to the welfare of pensioners and the under-privileged since I first came into Parliament 1 1 years ago, may I say that I support the legislation and I congratulate the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) on the manner in which he is performing the duties of his portfolio. Despite his obvious advantage in being a Tasmanian, I suggest to the House with respect that he has been one of the most outstanding Ministers in the Fraser Ministry. His sincerity and dedication to helping less privileged members of the community should be a lesson to honourable members opposite and to certain Labor Ministers in the Labor States who seem to delight in denigrating him when he endeavours to do something to uplift a section of the community which took the greatest battering in its history under 3 years of Labor administration from 1972 to 1975. 1 can demonstrate, and would if I were permitted in the debate on this Bill, that the sections of the community which suffered most from the economic ravages of the Whitlam Government between 1972 and 1975 were the pensioners, the poor and the underprivileged.
I congratulate the Minister because he has brought this legislation before the House as an interim measure to continue a scheme set up in 1974. It is fascinating to hear honourable members opposite complaining about the inequities of the legislation and alleging injustice, but in fact they brought in this scheme in 1974. Why are they complaining? They are complaining because the Minister has arranged and the Government has commissioned the preparation of some very important reports on the future of this type of welfare housing. Rather than bring about a complete breakdown of the programs, the Government considered it appropriate and fair to extend the 3-year plan into a 4-year plan. This small but very significant piece of legislation is to appropriate the sum of $ 10m to the States to enable the plan which has operated over the last 3 years to continue until, I have no doubt, a much better, more realistic and perhaps more just plan is forthcoming when the reports are to hand. I congratulate the Minister on his sincerity and dedication.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the former Minister for Housing in Tasmania, the Honourable Darryl Baldock, for his sincerity and his hard work on behalf of the people of Tasmania. The Honourable Darryl Baldock would be better known to most Australians as a champion footballer. He has been one of the successes of the Neilson Ministry, particularly in the area of the poor and the underprivileged. He was hard working. He never sought publicity. He never attempted to take cheap political points off his Federal counterpart.
I am sad to say that I cannot say the same nice things about the present State Minister for Housing, commonly known in Tasmania as Headline
Harry. The honourable member for Bass, Mr Holgate, known as I said as Headline Harry, has reacted in a completely improper manner in respect of this legislation and, indeed, in respect of the Government’s housing policy generally by making wild statements which appear in the Press and which put fear and trepidation into the hearts of pensioners and the underprivileged not only doing this Government a disservice but also doing a great disservice to a section of the community for which I feel keenly and which should not be used as political cannon fodder. I believe that the subject of welfare housing is above and beyond party politics. I want to say that Mr Holgate would do far better in his Ministry if he adopted the hard working and sincere approach of the former Minister, Mr Baldock, and did not try to score cheap political points off the present Federal minister, Mr Newman, simply because Mr Holgate and he both happen to represent the electorate of Bass in northern Tasmania.
Having made those comments, I shall refer briefly to 2 aspects which I believe are important in the overall appreciation of the significance of this legislation. Contrary to what Mr Holgate has said in Tasmania, namely that ‘in my opinion the Federal Government is progressively trying to opt out of government housing leaving the States to accept the financial burden’ and ‘that is why Mr Newman wants to cut off our supply of low interest money which we depend upon so much to charge reasonable rents’ this Government, under this Minister, is determined to get better value for its welfare housing dollar. Far from abrogating its responsibilities, it is facing up to them to ensure that firstly the taxpayers’ dollar is wisely spent and secondly that it gets to the area of most need. Claims by Mr Holgate, the Tasmanian Minister, that the Commonwealth is opting out or the disgraceful allegation that he has spread around that we were trying to push up pensioners ‘ rents -
– Quite contemptible.
-The honourable member for La Trobe is correct. Those statements can only be described as contemptible and designed to put fear and trepidation into the hearts of the people in a section of the community for whom I have time and for whom I believe my colleagues the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) also have time. We want to see their position improved. We do not want to see them used as political cannon fodder.
As I said, the Bill will extend the scheme from 3 years to 4 years and will pump $10m into welfare housing for single pensioners. Everybody in the Parliament would like to have seen that $10m raised to $ 15m. No doubt, the Minister, more than any of us, would like to have seen the amount doubled. But in the present economic situation, it was not possible. I repeat that the formula of distribution is that which was fixed by the previous Administration. In the case of Tasmania, that means that $280,000 will be spent next financial year on accommodation for single pensioners. I announced that, following a statement by the Minister in Tasmania, with some pleasure. An amount of $280,000 being spent on pensioners in my State is good news. What did miserable Headline Harry say in response to that? He said that the amount provided had not taken account of inflation and that instead of 20 units Tasmania would receive only 15 units. That, regrettably, is a fact of life, But Headline Harry should be reminded who created inflation and also -
– Order! I think it might be a good idea if the honourable member referred to the gentleman as the State Minister in Tasmania.
-Very well, Mr Deputy Speaker. The State Minister in Tasmania should say: ‘I am glad to get the funds for 15 units rather than not receive funds at all’. Let us face it: The Government could have said that in the circumstances it would let the old scheme lapse until it received the reports to which I referred earlier. Pensioners in great need will benefit under this legislation. The money will be used for the construction by the State housing authorities of selfcontained units of accommodation for a range of single pensioners entitled to supplementary assistance. I still do not know, without being pedantic, why we refer to grants as interest free nonrepayable grants. Let us be quite frank. The money is being given by the Commonwealth to the States.
I wish to mention a significant change for which I believe the Minister should be singled out for special praise. Consistent with our commitment to federalism, having given that money to the States the States will be able to assess their priorities. They will not have to run back and forth from Canberra and to Canberra seeking official approval for practically everything they do. If anything bedevilled the government of this country from 1972 to 1975, it was the centralist panache which insisted that every T had to be dotted in Canberra and every ‘t’ had to be crossed in Canberra. This legislation takes away that requirement that the States must submit to the Commonwealth Minister for his approval details of each building scheme to be financed. I congratulate the Minister for an application of practical federalism. To date, over 20 1 7 units of accommodation have been funded under this scheme. As I said, in the case of Tasmania we will probably receive another 15 or 16 units. They will go to pensioners in need. The sorts of pensioners to which that assistance will go are age pensioners, invalid pensioners, class B widow pensioners and service pensioners who are permanently unemployable, suffering from tuberculosis or in receipt of a pension because of age. No honourable member would deny that these single people are in extreme need of proper accommodation and housing. It is the responsibility of government to provide it.
I mentioned 2 reports- the Task Force on Coordination in Welfare and Health, known as the Bailey report, and the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Care of the Aged and Infirm. The Bailey report is to hand. What a magnificent inspring document it is, one which I hope will be embraced by this Government. In the field of health and welfare it offers a new hope to an Australian marching towards the twenty-first century. It is a magnificent document. It is almost a standard textbook on federalism, government close to the people, getting value for dollar spent and getting that dollar into the area of most need. It is right and proper that the Government should very carefully consider the implications of the Bailey report and the recommendations with respect to SHACC which, in fact, is to be a block grant scheme to take care of this program. Similarly, the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Care of the Aged and Infirm is another document which the Government should consider carefully. I am convinced that under this Minister- in fairness, under the Minister of whichever government was in power- we will come up with an even better scheme for the financial year 1978-79 than the scheme that has operated to date. Is not that what good government is all about? It is correct that we should extend this scheme for that one year so that the impetus which was built up over the last 3 years is not lost. The $30m which has been spent to date will be benefited by the additional expenditure of $ 10m or, in many instances, continuing programs which have been started to date yet not completed. This will be done with the added advantage that in this case the State Ministers will not be hogtied by having to go to Canberra for approval on every detail.
As I said, $10m is money in anybody’s language. I express appreciation of the allocation to Tasmania. As I come to the conclusion of my speech, I wish to refer to the sort of accommodation which will be made available under the legislation we are passing. A typical unit of accommodation would be between 12 square metres and SO square metres in area containing a bed-sitting room or one separate room, kitchen and bathroom with toilet. Some units will be selfcontained in regard to laundry facilities. But in others, those facilities will be shared between a small number of flats occupied by single pensioners. On the subject of rentals, is it not to the credit of this Government and also the previous Government that, whilst there is a variation of rentals between the States, the highest rental paid by a single pensioner in Australia today- in 1977-for this accommodation is $8.90 a week? I believe that is something of which government can be proud. The highest rental paid by a single pensioner in Australia today is $8.90 a week. All pensioner tenants of these units are eligible for the supplementary assistance of $5 a week paid by the Department of Social Security. So the net rental payment is $4.90 a week. I believe that the present Federal Government and the previous Federal Government can take pride in that achievement, namely, that we are able to provide accommodation of the highest quality for single pensioners under disability for $4.90 a week.
Questions have been asked as to why this legislation deals only with single aged pensioners. I might just answer that question. I believe it is established beyond any shadow of doubt that a significant measure of poverty is established by considering disposable income, after housing costs, rather than total income only. Using an after-housing-costs formula the proportion of the very poor among the aged and the non-aged sick and invalid falls in relation to the rest of the population. The second point I make is that both the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty and the 1974 aged persons housing survey establish that the nature of occupancy is central to determining the extent of poverty.
The third point is that the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty- I am summarising these points- showed that the incidence of poverty is greatest in the single male and the single female tenant groups. They are the areas of greatest need. Fourthly, assistance for housing married pensioners is made to the States under the 1973-74 Housing Agreement. These figures, I believe, will interest all honourable members.
The State housing authorities’ waiting list for aged accommodation contained 4300 applications outstanding from married couples and 12 700 from single persons as at December 1975. Fifthly, I make this point in respect of housing demand from 1 97 1 to the end of this century. We can expect the proportion of the population who are aged to rise steadily- indeed, the Borrie report and others prove that beyond any doubtuntil the last decade of this century. In terms of demand for resources, this implies a relative shift of need from the very young towards the very old. Sixthly, towards the end of this century Australia will need to spend relatively more on such things as aged pensions and other age related welfare schemes and relatively less- I am sad to say this- on such things as child endowment, education, creches and the like. If we continue to abort future generations at the rate at which we are aborting at the moment, we will be spending even less- to our eternal shame.
Seventhly, I want to refer to something which I mentioned a moment ago. The Bailey Task Force has proposed the establishment of a SHACC- that is, sheltered accommodationprogram as one of 4 programs in the welfare and health area. Peter Bailey suggested that the aged or disabled persons homes program should be absorbed into a new program. It is for that reason, as the Minister has indicated, that the Government has given preliminary consideration to the recommendations of that report, wants more time to consider their implications and, accordingly, has introduced this interim measure to extend the existing scheme. My eighth and final point is that I believe in this legislation. Indeed, I believe, in the approach and the commitment of our Government that we have demonstrated to the pensioners of Australia, to the poor of Australia, and to the under-privileged of Australia that we have a genuine commitment to their welfare and to their betterment, that we are determined that they shall be properly and appropriately housed, and that they shall be cared for in the twilight years of their lives.
As I said a few moments ago, many of us would have liked more money to be spent. What is being spent is a telescopic projection of what the Labor Government introduced in 1974. I commend our Minister for what he has done. I hope that others- I will not use the description for which I was called to order a moment agowill not again use the pensioners of this country as a means by which to stir up political propaganda of a cheap and unworthy nature. We did not see that occur under our previous State Minister for Housing, and I am sorry to see it occurring under our present Minister. But perhaps I should say no more than that I commend the Government and particularly the Minister. I have much pleasure in supporting the legislation.
Unfortunately, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) during quite a large part of his speech made a petulant personal attack- in fact, one could even say a vindictive personal attackupon the Tasmanian State Minister for Housing, a man who has a good reputation as a Minister. I do not think it really becomes the honourable member for Denison to make this matter such an obvious personal issue between himself and the Minister. As I have said, the Minister for Housing in Tasmania, Mr Holgate, is a respected person. But the honourable member for Denison seemed to be able to see virtue only in those of his own political persuasion. He sees very great bitterness -
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Chifley has just made a statement which is patently untrue, because I spent S minutes of my speech praising the previous State Labor Minister for Housing, Mr Baldock.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member that that is not a point of order. If the honourable member feels that he has been misrepresented he can seek to make a personal explanation to explain the misrepresentation at the conclusion of the speech of the honourable member for Chifley. I call the honourable member for Chifley.
– The point I am making is that I think it belittles the honourable member for Denison to be so vindictive against his political opponents in the States sphere in Tasmania. I do not think his actions help the issue or, one might say, the rational consideration of this legislation. In addition, it tended to become a mutual admiration society between the honourable member and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) who is sitting at the table. I thought that was rather a little ludicrous. I think that we on this side of the House could be excused for feeling that way.
Secondly, I do not think honourable members opposite fully understand why we are critical of this legislation. We support the legislation but we are critical of the amount which it seeks to allocate. The reason for that criticism is that when the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les
Johnson) was Minister for Housing in the Whitlam Government he managed to obtain the passage through this Parliament of legislation which increased the amount allocated for pensioners’ housing from $5m per annum, as it had been from 1969 right through to 1974, to $ 10m per annum. In other words, he doubled it. That legislation was introduced for 2 reasons. Firstly, it ensured that more of those types of dwellings were erected and, secondly, it indexed the funds provided against inflation. But this amending legislation which has been introduced by the Minister simply maintains the figure at $ 10m per annum. It would have been logical and sensible at least to have indexed that amount against inflation and to have brought the figure up to date. Instead of that the allocation has been retained at $10m. In addition, it is very obvious from the text of the Minister’s second reading speech that this will be the last occasion on which the operation of the legislation will be extended. The legislation is extended for one year only, providing an amount of $10m. The reason for this action is stated in the Minister’s second reading speech where he said:
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.
In other words, it is quite obvious that the Government does not intend to continue this legislation beyond one year. Even then it is continuing it only to the extent of a grant of $ 10m for this one year. This expenditure is not indexed against inflation. This will mean that fewer dwellings will be built in this one year than were built last year, or the year before that or the year before that. In other words, fewer units will be completed.
I think the Government should understand that this is why we are critical of the legislation. It is not that we are opposing the extension of the legislation in itself. We are critical of the legislation on 2 counts. We are critical because obviously the program of assistance is being wound down. Obviously the $10m provided for under this legislation will build fewer units than were built under the previous legislation. I would like to refer to an example- and I touch on this point deliberately- of the demand that aged people have for accommodation. I refer particularly to a statement made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in respect of projects approved for funding under the Aged and Disabled Persons’ Homes Act and the Aged Persons Hostels Act, which relate to homes for the aged. She pointed out that there are in the hands of her Department at the moment 900 applications for projects valued in excess of $340m to provide accommodation for 25 000 people. This statement was in respect of homes for the aged; it does not relate to pensioner dwellings such as the dwellings which are the subject of this Bill. In other words, the statement concerns the construction of hostels for the aged- homes of a hostel type for the aged. The Minister said that the Department of Social Security has applications before it to provide accommodation for 25 000 people in that area alone. This is an example of the demand that exists so far as aged people are concerned. This is an example of the mammoth problem which not only faces society at the present time but also which will face society in the years to come.
Most of us appreciate that the proportion of aged people in our country is becoming greater and greater year by year. The position in another decade will be much more critical than it is today and funds must be provided to meet that situation. It is unfortunate today that young people do not look after the aged as previous generations did. For this reason there is a greater need for governments- all governments, Federal and State- to come to the party and to provide the necessary facilities and assistance. This problem is highlighted by the statement of the Minister for Social Security that her Department has applications for hostel type accommodation to house 25 000 people. Of course, it is not possible to satisfy these applications because of the cuts that have been made in expenditure by this Government. In fact, the Department of Social Security is now operating on a 3 year program. Applicants have to notify the Department 3 years ahead in order for something to be done in two or three years’ time, and for the Department to get the necessary funds. There have been quite dramatic cuts in expenditure and quite dramatic cuts in the allocation of funds for the construction of hostel type accommodation for aged persons.
I again mention the point that I made about the bigger and bigger proportion of our population that is becoming aged year by year. It is very important that all sections of our society should become aware of this fact and that provision should be made in the future for the facilities needed by aged people. Up to date this has not been done to the extent that I believe is necessary. I also suggest that the State governments which build pensioner units should endeavour to give greater consideration to allocating units or flats- whatever one may wish to call them- in areas in which the occupants can be near their relatives and particularly their families. There is nothing better for aged persons, be they grandfathers or grandmothers, than to be able to live near members of their family.
– The honourable member is a grandfather.
– Yes, as a matter of fact, as the honourable member for Hughes has pointed out, I am a grandfather, but only once. As a result I am beginning to understand these things. I am getting the wisdom not of the aged but of the middle-aged today. As I was saying, I think it is very important that we ensure that this accommodation is allocated to people in areas where they can be close to their families. A large number of units have been built for aged people in my electorate. However, in many cases they have to live many many miles from any of their relatives. This allocation causes loneliness. Therefore I believe that the humanitarian aspect needs to be taken into account by State authorities when homes are allocated.
With those few words I would once again make the point that the Opposition supports the legislation. But it is critical of the Bill, particularly in 2 respects. First, the Opposition is critical because the Bill allocates only $ 10m which is the same amount as has been allocated in each of the last 3 years. Therefore the funds being allocated have not been indexed against inflation and as a result the actual number of units to be erected during the year would be less than in previous years. The second criticism that the Opposition makes is that obviously, from the very text of the Minister’s second reading speech, the Government intends to phase out this legislation. The Opposition can be excused from making this criticism knowing the Government’s history in the past, knowing its history since it came to office, knowing the history of broken promise after broken promise. We are suspicious that the Government intends to ensure that its responsibility for caring for the aged will be lessened in the future. These are the reasons for our criticism of the legislation.
– Every dollar put into dwellings for pensioners is money well spent and has a tangible, observable and measurable effect. The National Country Party supports wholeheartedly the extension of the legislation for 12 months with an injection of $ 10m to the States as an interest-free non-repayable grant and the authorisation of grants on the basis of schemes nominated by the States without prior approval of the Commonwealth. This money will be well spent. Opposition speakers have continually harrowed the same old sour ground through carping, incessant criticism. I had hoped- at least thought- that the housing of pensioners on a most needy basis would have been approached with a sense of concern and noble aspiration. Let us analyse some of the remarks made by previous Opposition speakers. We of the National Country Party would like to correct an erroneous impression which was circulated by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). During his speech he had only 2 other members of his Party listening to him and we of the National Country Party had equally as many. It was wrong of him to convey the impression that the members of the National Country Party are not interested in this most important matter. Quite obviously members of his Party are either not interested in a matter of principle or- I do not say this uncharitably- they were not interested in listening to his contribution.
I believe that he placed undue emphasis on reading into the excellent second reading speech of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) meanings which one certainly could not possibly apply, even with a most imaginative approach. The situation is that the Government has commissioned several reports. These will have tremendous input into government thinking and, because of their value, they deserve every possible consideration by the Government. It is wrong for anyone to reach the conclusion that the Government will accept or reject every recommendation contained in those reports. It is wrong for any member of the present Opposition to criticise any action of the Government in the housing field. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall that the former Labor Government commissioned a report- the Priorities Review Committee report on housing- which gave very serious consideration to putting a tax on home ownership- an imputed rental value on home ownership. I find it difficult, therefore, to accept that a Party which espoused a tax on home ownership as a matter of serious consideration should criticise positive moves by the Minister to ease a catastrophic and chaotic situation in the housing of pensioners.
The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) offered 2 criticisms of this legislation, one to the effect that no allowance was made for inflation. It is worth recording that the $30m allocated by the previous Government built 2 107 homes whereas the previous allocation by the Liberal-Country Party Government of $2 5 m built 3000 homes. Quite obviously, in a stable governmental situation, more homes can be built for the same amount of money. The honourable member implied that this sum should have been increased. I point out that under federalism there is nothing whatsoever to stop any State government contributing funds for the building of pensioners dwellings. It is up to the States, if they feel it is a matter of high priority, to contribute money to ease the difficult situation. I know that is difficult for a Labor member from the State of New South Wales to comprehend and appreciate because the State Government of New South Wales soon after it was elected, increased the rents on more than 50 000 Housing Commission homes. Pensioners were the people who were hardest hit. Rents were rising by an average of $ 1 a week for Housing Commission homes or flats for pensioners. Other Housing Commission tenants were required to pay an additional $5 a week for Housing Commission rental homes. Quite obviously it is difficult for people from that State, led by a Premier who wants to abolish gaol sentences for pot-smoking -
– Which State?
– New South Wales. It is difficult for those people to appreciate a situation where lip service is given to alleviating areas of great concern. I assure the honourable member for Chifley that the Government will be sympathetic to any proposal designed to solve the housing problems of age pensioners. It is pertinent to remark that the present Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has achieved more positively, in a short period of time, than other Ministers for Housing have achieved in 3 years. He has had the courage to introduce initiatives which will, I believe, contribute in a meaningful and significant way to ironing out not only anomalies but also hardship. The nerve end of the matter in this legislation is the continuation of LiberalNational Country Party legislation introduced in 1969. In effect it is the brainchild of a free enterprise government. The Government, quite wisely, has extended the thrust of the legislation in time to give the States the opportunity to continue their uncompleted programs while a reappraisal of housing on a welfare basis is being carried out.
The Act of 1974 distributed the sum of $30m over 3 years on a pensioner population basis, which works out more or less on a State population basis. Using 1974 population figures New South Wales, 36.4 per cent of the Australian population obtained $12,210,000, or 40.7 per cent; Victoria, with 27.8 per cent of the population obtained $7,590,000, or 25.3 per cent; Queensland, with 15.1 per cent of the population obtained $4,470,000, or 14.9 per cent; South Australia, with 9.3 per cent of the population obtained $2,790,000 or 9.3 per cent; Western Australia, with 8.4 per cent of the population obtained $2,100,000, or 7 per cent and Tasmania, with 3 per cent of the population obtained $840,000, or 2.8 per cent. Some States have responded to the challenges thrown out by the Commonwealth and have contributed out of their own funds to plug some of the gaps that experience has revealed. The honourable member for Chifley ought to tell the Minister for Housing in the State of New South Wales and the State Premier that the States can plug these gaps by using their own funds. The Queensland Government has done this. It has contributed $I.3m, matching the Commonwealth’s contribution of $4.47m over the 3-year period. This money has been channelled largely into the area of married pensioners who are similarly financially situated as the eligible single pensioners covered by the Act and this Bill. In this breathing space of 12 months perhaps consideration can be given to spreading the umbrella of help to married pensioners as well as single pensioners. There is a need. In Queensland there are at present applications by 1154 single pensioners under this legislation and 380 couples under the funds provided by the Queensland Government. In Australia for the period 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1977, 20 1 7 people will have been helped.
In any rental housing scheme 2 factors are involved. Firstly, there is the cost of money and the associated amortisation- interest and redemption payments. Secondly, there are the recurrent costs- repairs, administration and general upkeep. Because these Commonwealth funds are grants and as such are not repayable, the Queensland Government is able to rent to basically the poorest of the poor good accommodation for $8 to $9 a week. The rent is able to be related to the total income received, which is the pension applicable to the various categories mentioned in the Bill plus supplementary rental allowance. If any income at all is received over and above this the person concerned is not considered. If he obtains a part-time job he is not ordered to leave if he is a resident of this accommodation but his rent is increased. One can truly say that the money provided under this scheme is applied for the purposes of upholding the dignity of the individual rather than as a subsidy to a particular house. Where there is personal need help is given. Help is given to the poor and the needy in our society.
Fourteen per cent of all old people living alone in Australia do not have enough money to care adequately for themselves after paying rent. It is distressing to note that 1 1 per cent of their accommodation is either unsatisfactory or beyond repair. Hobart has the worst living conditions for the aged where 20 per cent of old people’s housing is run down, with major problems in sanitation and building design as well as noise and pollution. Notwithstanding that Australia in many instances has a fairly satisfactory record of housing the aged, there are still far too many pockets of aged people who live in poor conditions. The problem is one of the most important housing problems facing the nation. We have to solve these problems. This Bill is designed to alleviate some of those pockets of misery. We can take no solace from the fact that 100 000 aged people are living in sub-standard houses, some of which are structurally inferior and infested with pests and vermin. We must take umbrage at the stark fact that there are 5-year waiting lists for pensioner accommodation in some areas. State and Federal governments have been grappling with the situation. Success has been limited. Notwithstanding many achievements in the care for pensioners it still remains true in far too many instances that after a lifetime of work- and possibly a gold watch to commemorate some notable personal service to a particular organisation- for the pensioner there is nothing to look forward to tomorrow. That is the way it used to be and unfortunately still is for far too many.
There are 5 basic categories of pensioners when it comes to housing. Firstly, those who have nowhere to live; secondly, those who cannot afford decent housing; thirdly, those who have a home but no money to spend on upkeep; fourthly, those in institutions for pensioners; and fifthly, those who have decent housing. Those who have a house but cannot afford the upkeep are in the majority. Perhaps in the next 12 months we should be examining in our perennial problem of how best to employ government funds some initiatives in the area of modernising housing for the elderly and unfortunate to bring them into line with today’s health and comfort standards. In some cases $3,000 or $4,000 would do the job. But this kind of ready cash is beyond most pensioners or superannuitants. Professor Spitzer of the Institute of Technology in South
Australia found in a survey of aged housing in that State that public funds now used to build new units for the elderly would be best spent on remodelling their existing homes and providing backup domestic and nursing help. Many elderly people do not want to leave their existing homes and social backgrounds to move into new units. In Maryborough, Queensland, the State Government took over pensioner units from the local council and spent money on upgrading and refurbishing them. I understand that to build a new single pensioner unit costs in the vicinity of $20,000 while an existing structure in a reasonable condition can be remodelled for $8,000 to $10,000. Pensioners who are happy in their surroundings should not be forced from these surroundings. The land should be used to build new units or the money provided to recondition old ones.
People value their independence. But independence can create problems, as well as save governments money. People who own their own homes obviously do not get any assistance such as the supplementary assistance granted to those who rent accommodation. But in many instances time has passed them by. Once reasonably affluent, they are now the new emerging poor. Unable to do essential repairs themselves, they cannot afford to pay tradesmen’s wages to effect these repairs. Houses become, essentially, mere shells. Serious thought ought to be given to the provision of supplementary assistance to these people to allow them to maintain their own homes in good condition. Is this not more desirable than the Government spending $45m on building homes for the aged and disabled in 1 976-77 with a further $ 1 80m being provided by the Government over the following 2 years? The latter is laudable but given the alternative, many people would prefer to live in their own homes. Why should they be denied the choice? The Government will face decisions on these questions in the next 12 months. I believe that it has been a most desirable initiative by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development to grant an extension of 12 months, plus $10m, plus greater State freedom. We face challenging and thought-provoking times. Many reports on care of the aged, infirm and unfortunate have been written. They have to be closely examined with microscopic care and interest. Cecil Rhodes once said: ‘So little done and so much to do ‘. The quality of our nation can be accurately measured by the care and attention we pay to our old people and the weaker and poorer members of our society. I support this legislation. Its emphasis and intent are good; it is based on justice intermingled with compassion. But the haul to overcome the problem is a long, hard, uphill one. This legislation is the cornerstone on which greater things can be built.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.28)- It is nice to follow the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) in the debate in this House, but I must admit that tonight he has left me a little confused. I found it hard to follow his logic. I took particular notice of the statement he made when he was critical of the number of members of the Australian Labor Party on this side of the chamber. I think that he must have had his blinkers on because if he had looked on the other side of the chamber where his partners in the coalition Government should be sitting he would have found that they had almost completely deserted him. Only the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) was sitting at the table, and it was plain to see that he was very uncomfortable. The honourable member was critical of the Labor Party speakers because they dared to criticise this Government. That was a shocking thing for him to say because when we get legislation in this House which is poorly drafted and cruel to a group of pensioners who are badly in need of housing units, surely it is the duty of an Opposition to point out these things.
I support the Bill to extend the period of operation of the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974 for 12 months to 30 June 1978 because self-contained units for pensioners entitled to supplementary benefits are an urgently needed health and welfare facility. This facility should not be denied to eligible age, invalid and class B widow pensioners, nor should it be denied to Service pensioners who are permanently unemployable or are suffering from tuberculosis or are in receipt of an age pension. It is regrettable that we find here another patchwork job by this Government. How can the States plan to provide a continuing scheme for pensioners when we see this patchwork type legislation coming through this House? Now this scheme is to be continued for another 12 months. The Government has no regard for the fact that this type of legislation is much more desperately needed today than it was in November 1974 when the Labor Government increased to $ 10m a year the appropriation of $5m a year that was brought down by the Liberal-Country Party Government. It is an indictment of this Government that it should make this cruel cutback in funds for such a needy section of our pension community. Speakers from the Government side mentioned inflation. There is no doubt that inflation is a problem in this country, but I do not think that the pensioner group should be penalised because of it. It is the Government’s own fault that it got into this economic mess and continues to go deeper and deeper into it. It might be considered good taste to blame the trade unions for the Government’s economic mismanagement or for unemployment but surely it is going too far for the Government to penalise a group of pensioners, some of whom fought for this country. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development in his second reading speech pointed out that under the previous legislation 2017 units of accommodation were provided. It is a shocking thing that we are now seeing a cutback in funds when those 2017 units were all that were provided for the whole of Australia under the previous legislation. Surely that number would be required in the Darling electorate alone. The survey on the care for the aged at home which was carried out by the New South Wales Council for the Aging points out the inadequacy of the $14 a week domiciliary nursing care benefit. It points out that that benefit represents 8c an hour and that at the same time baby sitters receive $3 an hour. It is a fact that at this rate many people cannot afford to keep aged pensioners in their homes. Thus there is a bigger burden on these housing units. The Minister informed the House that the Government was studying 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. It seems to me that all the Government is ever doing is setting up committees and studying reports. It is time that something eventuated from those reports. It is time that a few more of these housing units were built because every member of this House, without reading the first page of those reports, knows how urgently these housing units are required.
From statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), we all know how anxious they are to become involved in and to accept responsibility in industrial disputes, whether or not they are invited to take part. But what do we find when it comes to spending $10m on homes for pensioners? We find that the relevant section which gives the Federal Government the right to take some responsibility for the way in which this money is spent is to be removed from the Act. The Federal Government is to wash its hands of all responsibility. The Minister, in his second reading speech, said:
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.
No guidelines will be given. The States will be able to please themselves as to the standard of housing. We could have 6 different standards of housing for pensioners in the Commonwealth in much the same way as we had so many different railway gauge line’s. The situation will be just as confusing. This situation is as shortsighted and ridiculous as that tragic situation regarding railway gauge lines. The States do not have to designate the geographical locations of the projects. A State member wishing to gain votes in some area- I do not say a State member would ever do this but he could do so- could build houses in that area although they might be more urgently required in other areas. As a previous speaker pointed out, these houses could be built in areas where health facilities were not provided.
I believe that this legislation is a backward step. The national Government should do much better than this. It is the same sort of thinking as that which caused over-production in fresh and dried vine fruit areas. Year after year in one State we have over-production and in another State new plantings are allowed to take place. In his second reading speech the Minister said that this legislation was consistent with the Government’s concept of Commonwealth-State relations. No national government can shake off its national responsibility by saying a few magic words. It should accept its responsibility and see that these houses are built properly and in the right areas. No wonder people are losing confidence in the Government. Already the cutback in the funds and the existing shortage of housing units for this group of pensioners are forcing the States to reduce their standards. The removal of this provision by the Bill will be a further encouragement to the States to reduce their standards.
A lot of people have been wondering what is meant by this new federalism concept, this new Commonwealth-State relations concept that we hear so much about. I think that tonight the cat has been let out of the bag. Now we know what new federalism means. Commonwealth-State relations are nearly as healthy as Commonwealth-trade union relations or as healthy as Commonwealth-Conciliation and Arbitration Commission relations. The only thing left for the Government to do is to call in the undertaker. The Henderson report on Poverty in Australia points out that pensioners paying less than $5 a week in rent find that these rental buildings are in short supply and that the number of privately owned buildings available at such low rents is shrinking because it is completely uneconomic for landlords to use valuable land for this purpose. The demand for accommodation for this section of the community that is so deserving of our help is greater than the supply. Many elderly citizens still live in sub-standard housing conditions. The need is increasing year by year; yet the Government is making this cruel cutback in the funds available for this purpose. There is no doubt that the shortfall in dwellings for pensioners is very acute. We all know that our building industry is in shambles and that we have a massive unemployment problem. Even if we maintained our spending in real terms it would take 200 years to catch up with the number of units required. I believe that the Government should stop all this talk about federalism and stop bashing the trade unions and the unemployed and get down to doing something concrete for this group of unfortunate pensioners.
-The House is debating the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Amendment Bill. For some unknown reason the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) launched into an attack on the Federal Government’s economic policies. He talked about calling in undertakers. Let me remind him that on 13 December 1975 the people called in the receivers to get this country out of the bankruptcy situation in which it found itself. The country was out on its feet with a $4,000m deficit and the country was slipping down the drain with tremendous speed. The job of this Government is to restore responsible economic management and to try to get this country back on its feet again while still meeting its proper commitments to the humanitarian needs of the people. That is one of the reasons why this Bill has been introduced.
This Bill is an extension of time for the period of operation of the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act. It enables the Government and all other parties involved to have a breathing space before the next phase of implementation of whatever scheme is yet to be brought down. It enables planning by the States. It enables good administration by the Commonwealth and the States on a timed program, which is totally contrary to the approach of the previous Government. The honourable member for Darling talked about cuts. I cannot discern any cuts in a program that increases spending by the sum of $10m. I remind him that in October 1975 or thereabouts the former Government ‘indefinitely deferred ‘-that was the term it used- all aged persons projects in Australia and a huge number of the aged persons institutions in Australia had to stop making preparations and often had to stop contracts from proceeding and in some circumstances even evict people from homes because they had entered into agreements to purchase their homes and then found that they were not able to go ahead and provide them with substitute accommodation.
– That is a lie.
– The simple fact of life is that it is not a lie. The honourable member is seeking to deceive the House. The former Minister responsible for housing signed letters which were sent to every aged persons voluntary organisation and other organisations in Australia in the latter part of 1975 saying that the funds were frozen. Absolutely no limit by way of time was given for the reintroduction of the program and the program was not reintroduced until this Government came to power and instituted the present 3-year program of many hundreds of millions of dollars; yet we have the sheer hypocrisy that we have heard coming from the other side of the chamber.
This Bill relates to a particular class of underprivileged person in this country. It has been said before, and well said, that a nation is often judged by its treatment of the aged. We can see the investment value of money being put into activities for younger persons. We can see the return that we will get later in life. The Philistine might object to the spending of money on the aged because there is no apparent return later to the community. I expect that we humanitarians on both sides of the House would object to such an approach. The aged must be cared for. It is my estimation that the aged pensioners who have accommodation at present are, generally speaking, doing reasonably well. There are, of course, many cases of exception.
The increase in the rate of pension since this Government came to power has been very significant. The increase as a result of the last consumer price index rise has resulted in pensioners obtaining an amount over and above their proportionate increase in the cost of living. They do not pay a Medibank levy but they are getting an increased loading because the Medibank levy is incorporated in the CPI. That must be to their advantage. However, the pensioner who does not have accommodation and who has to pay rent is often in a very difficult situation indeed. I make no bones about saying to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community
Development (Mr Newman) that the rental accommodation problem in the metropolitan cities, particularly Sydney, is acute and, of course, it must be acute for pensioners. Anything that can be done to assist aged pensioners with accommodation must be welcomed. That is why this Act is particularly welcome.
This Act has to be looked at in the context of the Government’s overall approach to aged persons housing. We have a number of Acts under which aged persons can be assisted. There have been many reports in recent years on the topic. The Social Welfare Commission’s report in August 1975 adopted certain approaches. The Holmes Committee’s report, which was released in January 1977, adopted some different approaches from the other report. The Holmes Committee’s report points out the situation in relation to the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act and points out the need for continuation of assistance to those persons. I point out that the Government must link its program for pensioners to the entire program of aged persons accommodation. The whole program must be seen as one. There is one area in which innovative programs could be introduced by the Government which will enable savings of funds, which will enable community need to be met, which will enable some stimulus to the economy and which will enable voluntary organisations to participate to the full. That is in the area of selfcontained accommodation. It is obvious that if monetary savings can be made in this area those savings can be apportioned to other areas. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document prepared by the New South Wales Council on the Ageing, of which I am privileged to be an executive member, entitled ‘A self-help scheme for aged (or disabled) persons dwellings’.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
for Inclusion in the proposed Sheltered Accommodation Programme-(SHAC)
Problems of Ageing Home Owners are Met: e.g. rising rates, costs of repairs, painting costs, inability to care for large gardens, need for alterations such as removal of unsuitable steps, decreasing capital to meet these needs.
It is recommended that a pilot project of this nature be carried out in some local government area, or Federal electorate where there is-
THE EFFECT OF HOME SALES ON THE INCOMES AND TAX POSITIONS OF:
It is not commonly understood how the new age pension policy can assist home owners with pension only income to move from dearly loved but dilapidated homes into new easily cared-for dwellings.
The N.S. W. Council on the Ageing, 34 Argyle Place, Sydney, N.S.W. 2000 1 March 1977.
– That document points out that the Federal Government might well be able to assist voluntary organisations in assisting aged persons with self-contained accommodation. It proposes the scheme that aged persons and persons 55 years and over be called together to discuss a proposal to form a company to erect units or townhouses. The eventual aim is to ensure that local people can participate in the production of good quality accommodation in the local area and to enable people to move into it and thereby enable them to avoid the problems that they have with their pre-existing homes. I take this point further. I take it as being to enable the country as a whole to regenerate various suburbs in the cities. Under this scheme local councils would be approached to assist with regulation easing. The plot ratios in certain areas could be eased. One scheme which is in high demand, already has been started in the electorate of St George by the Congregational Church Homes Trust, which has obtained bridging finance for the project and which to my understanding has achieved notable co-operation with the local council in having some of the restrictions that normally apply in that area eased. The council is to be congratulated for co-operating.
The basic requirement of the Government under such a scheme is to provide some fund from which bridging finance can be obtained. Persons, usually elderly ladies nowadays, will not and are not able to move into new accommodation for 3 reasons. Firstly, there is not enough available; secondly, they want an absolute guarantee that they can get into the new place before they have to sell their old home, and therefore there is a need to find funds with which to build the new place before it can be paid for out of the equity in the old home. The third reason is that until now most of the projects that have been engaged in for self-contained accommodation have involved a founder donation being paid. The person who pays a founder donation of $ 10,000 or so hands over his rights to a property to the body corporate. He does not retain the same type of equity in the property as is retained by the person who owns a home unit. What is required is that persons should retain an equity in the unit into which they move, subject to the rules of the co-operative, which would have a lien or some other right to recoup costs of administration, maintenance and the like.
If these 3 things were overcome- namely, if there was much more accommodation in the local areas, if reasonable bridging finance was provided and if the persons concerned could obtain an equity in the home- then I am convinced there would be a great upsurge in development of these units. I am convinced that builders would want to build them, architects would want to contribute and developers would want to come into the scheme on the clear understanding that it would be based on a low profit or moderate profit arrangement so as to avoid any possible chance of unseemly commercial ripoffs.
It has been investigated by the New South Wales Council on the Ageing. I commend to honourable members its report and suggest they read it in detail. Firstly ask why persons should want to leave their present home. The facts of life are that many homes in the St George area are occupied by elderly people who find them a burden. They may have 4 or 5 bedrooms. The guttering may be getting into difficulties and it is very expensive to fix. In passing, I suggest that the Government should look at introducing a scheme for assistance to persons to help them keep their own homes in good repair to avoid the loss of value to the community at large in the lack of home maintenance on the wide scale.
– You do not believe in public spending.
– I am talking about loans, which could be repayable out of the estate of the individual, for such simple things as fixing the guttering. It might cost $200 or $300. I make clear that I am not talking about the Government spending funds. Rising rates, costs of repairs, painting costs, inability to care for large gardens and the like all prey upon the mind of the elderly person. Where do they want to move to? They do not want to move out into the sticks. There is no point sending elderly people to Mt Druitt in Sydney or other places away from their families and away from the family doctor and the shops. They want to live somewhere in their local area. It is also to be noted that the abolition of the means test on persons over 70 years of age provides a financial incentive to persons in this age group because they may own as much property as they want over and above their own home. So if they sell a home and move into a cheaper unit and have a substantial amount of capital left in the bank, they are no longer disadvantaged because the means test does not apply.
This scheme will obviously assist the building industry, and that is one other thing we would like to see at present. It will assist also in the economical distribution of resources in our society. Some suburbs in Sydney are running out of high school children. That is a fact of life. The population generally is ageing. In the very inner city suburbs and in the mid-city suburbs those children are being replaced principally by migrant children. As the suburbs regenerate the effect of such a policy would be that as elderly persons moved into good accommodation, thereby giving themselves extra money to help secure them in old age, younger groups would move into the homes which might have 4 or 5 bedrooms. This would enable society at large to avoid the need for people to live in vastly spreadout suburbs; it would avoid all the problems of serviced land outside the major areas of the cities; it would avoid the need to build schools and hospitals on the periphery of cities; it would avoid the need for persons to commute great distances from the outskirts of the cities to where they work and it would enable existing hospitals and schools to be used. It would have everything going for it.
The only problem that could arise might be difficulty in working out a scheme with the States. I cannot see any real problem there. There could be a problem if the bureaucratic administration of it, although no doubt well meaning, should become too entangled and cost too much. There could be a problem if it were not done at the right scale of operation. The obvious thing would be perhaps to start in a number of electorates throughout Australia that have a large number of elderly people, such as St George, and take it from there.
Because time is short and because I have been asked to contain this speech- I have tendered a document that honourable members may read- I simply make 2 short points. Firstly, I agree with the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) about the domiciliary nursing benefit. It is not sufficient, but how we approach the matter is important. The important thing to remember is that many people with dedication have cared for elderly people for much of their lives. I know people personally who have spent most of their lives looking after parents who eventually died in their nineties. Those persons have deprived themselves of many of the advantages of life, but they have had poor return from the taxpayer despite saving the taxpayer a huge amount of money. It is also to the benefit of the elderly person to be able to remain in his own home. It would assist these caring people if we gave them a little more assistance financially and if we established day care hospitals throughout the areas of greatest need. There are some in Melbourne, but we need them in Sydney. It would assist if we had holiday homes for the aged similar to those run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I commend the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who has instituted an initial scheme to allow leisure facilities to be used for day care for the aged, and some other schemes that she is bringing in. The proper distribution of resources will not only provide the most humanitarian assistance to persons concerned but also will save the taxpayer a fortune.
The only other thing I want to point out is that the Government is to be commended for introducing the housing voucher experimental scheme, which bears on the overall problem and which shows that this Government has very true concern for the underprivileged. It is a very competent and sensible way of granting assistance to them, contrary to what we have seen in the past few years.
– in reply- I must say that sitting here for the last 2 hours or so I found this a very interesting debate, not so much because of the people who spoke in the debate because an analysis of what has been said on both sides of the House reveals that the Government and the Opposition are united in one resolve- that aged people must be helped to the greatest extent possible. Everybody has espoused the same philosophy without any qualification. But the interesting thing about the debate when one reflects on it is the difference in styles, in approach and in philosophy of the various speakers on the different sides of the House tonight.
May I spend a couple of minutes contrasting them because it is not only interesting but also, I think important. When one distils what honourable members of the Opposition have been saying tonight it boils down to this: First of all, none of the State governments knows what they are doing when they are given money. The Commonwealth must insist on rules, regulations and specifications and tell the States what to do. It is said that they have no idea of how to spend money properly. Everything has to be controlled from Canberra. We heard the well worn theme- we heard it for 3 years- about centralist government and central control; the Federation does not exist. The 6 States and the governments which control them, the legislatures which help rule the Territories, do not know what they are doing. That is the first thing. The second thing honourable members opposite say is that the only way to solve a problem is to spend more money. I should have thought that members of the Opposition had learned that lesson only too well in the December 1975 election. As several speakers on this side of the House pointed out, wanton irresponsible spending led to the inflationary situation which now not only bedevils this country but also strikes hard at the very people the Opposition defended tonight- the pensioners. If there is any one group in the community which suffers from inflation it is the pensioner group.
The next matter which is worth while pointing out is that the very people whom the Labor Party of this country pretends to help and understand, and it claims that it is the only party which can help and understand, are the underprivileged people of this country. But as soon as members of the Labor Party get into a debate, as soon as they have a chance to score a few political points, to exaggerate, the under-privileged are the people they seize on straight away. Tonight members of the Opposition had no hesitation in trying to frighten pensioners into believing that somehow the Bill before us is going to terminate all help to aged persons. I know and members of the Opposition know that that is quite untrue.
– Who said that? No one said that.
– I will come to that point in a moment. That was the Opposition ‘s approach. I contrast that with the approach of Government speakers tonight. They reaffirmed the fact that the Government does understand the needs of underprivileged people. Programs have been developed which prove that point, and as an example I refer to the automatic pension increases tied to the consumer price index. Nevertheless, Government speakers tonight have said that they believe in help for the aged through this program, and they reaffirmed their confidence that the Government will continue to provide that help. In marked contrast to what Opposition members said, at least Government speakers were constructive. I did not hear one Opposition speaker tonight offer one constructive suggestion. Their comments were totally destructive and directed towards the pensioners, who will be frightened by the exaggerations members of the Opposition included in their speeches. We all know what members of the Opposition will do. Tomorrow they will run off hundreds of copies of their speeches. I imagine that tomorrow the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick) will be out there flogging them around his electorate, and the untruths will frighten those people he pretends to support.
Dealing with some of the points that were made tonight, I refer first of all to the purpose of this Bill. Government speakers made it clear, but let me make sure that there is no question of what this Bill is all about. I must say that for once the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) was in a more mellow, conciliatory and reasonable mood than I have seen him in for some time. I do not know what they have been doing to him over there, but it was a very pleasant surprise to come in here tonight and find the Deputy Leader of the Opposition adopting such an approach. More than that, it was the first time I can recall that he actually understood what we were about, which was in marked contrast to many of the people who supported him later in the debate. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the honourable member for Darling, and the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage), as I pointed out in my preliminary remarks, tried to say that after this year there would be no other programs, that this was the beginning of the end for government assistance for the construction of aged persons accommodation. Of course, that was just exaggeration. I heard an honourable member behind me saying that it was a lie, and I suppose it was. I made it perfectly clear in my second reading speech what this Bill was all about.
We have before us a report from Peter Bailey’s Task Force on Co-ordination in Welfare and Health and the report of the Holmes Committee of Inquiry into Care of the Aged and Infirm. Both reports examine the whole range of government programs in this area. As all honourable members now know, the Commonwealth is also in the middle of negotiating a new Commonwealth and State housing agreement. Negotiations with the various Housing Ministers of the States commence on Friday of this week. I hope that the various State Housing Ministers will join with me in a co-operative effort to examine what has been done in the past and to see whether it can be improved on for the future. There is no doubt, as the Holmes Committee pointed out, that there is a need to rationalise assistance to the aged. Several aged persons housing schemes, I suspect, are going in slightly different directions.
Because we have those two important reports in front of us and because we are at the beginning of negotiations for a new Commonwealth and State housing agreement, the Government wishes to have time to consider, time to produce a better policy and, from that, better programs. In recognition of the fact that we need time, we have introduced this Bill to bridge the gap for one year so that proper consideration can be given to the matter, unlike the hasty programs which the last Government jumped into with the devastating results on our economy that we have seen. That is the purpose of the Bill. Let us have no nonsense about it. Let us have no exaggeration about it. It is an interim measure while we look to better policies and more effective programs.
– Co-operative federalism.
– Yes, co-operative federalism. The honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) used that phrase in his speech, and I think it was a very apt one. This Bill is a very good example of co-operative federalism. It is incredible that the honourable member for Chifley, the honourable member for Darling and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition found some fault in actually allowing the States to do their own thing. I must say that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in the conciliatory mood he was in tonight, pointed out why he was suspicious of allowing this freedom. He was quite right in pointing out that when States build aged persons units they should give proper consideration to location in terms of support such as domiciliary or hospital care or just straight administration and the provision of food and other housing comforts. They should take location into account when they site aged persons houses. However, the State governments are the practitioners in the field. They are out there in the front line providing the accommodation. They are grappling with the problems of aged persons. Surely those practitioners in the field know what they are about and it does not take rules and regulations from remote Ministers like me to tell them how to do it. The purpose of this amendment is to enable the States to get on with the job without interference from the Government here in Canberra. That is another example of the practical application of co-operative federalism.
I said that several honourable members on this side of the House made practical, good suggestions about how we should proceed in the interim period in developing new programs and new policies. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), I thought, brought up an interesting point, that is, that there are many thousands of single aged pensioners who live in their own houses and who wish to continue to do so. I am advised that approximately 67 000 aged single persons are in this position, but unfortunately they live in sub-standard dwellings. Incidentally, I am also told that of the 67 000 people, about 5500 people do not have the means for refurbishing that sub-standard accommodation which they own and which they continue to live in. The important point here is that there are many thousands of single aged persons who do not want to move; they want to continue to live in the accommodation they have lived in, perhaps for years and years. As the honourable member for Darling Downs pointed out, perhaps the Government should be looking at this area to see whether some help can be given to them. I think he is correct. I give him an assurance that the Government will have a look at that area to see whether what he is suggesting has merit.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) put an excellent proposition to us which is on the same lines as that suggested by the honourable member for Darling Downs, namely, that where a person lives in a house but would like to leave perhaps the Government should give that person assistance by way of bridging finance so that voluntary organisations can provide other accommodation. I think that idea has merit and that the Government should consider it. I know that my colleague in the other place, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), has given an assurance that the Government will examine that as well.
To summarise the position, the Government, as various members on this side of the House have affirmed again and again in this debate, has a real concern for the problems of housing single aged persons. We intend to make sure that future policies and programs will be better in that they cope with that problem effectively. This Bill gives a breathing space of one year while the various reports and the various existing agreements that we have are looked at and re-negotiated. I think the Government has made its position perfectly clear tonight. I do not think there is any need to labour the point.
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.
Motion ( by Mr Newman) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a thirdtime.
– I shall delay the House for only a minute because I know that those who manage the business of the House want us to commence debate on another Bill, late though the hour is. I am incited by the reply of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) in his second reading speech -
– Incited or excited?
– I was incited by the Minister’s provocative reply to the second reading debate to say something about this Bill. I believe that there is hesitancy on the part of the Opposition in supporting this Bill because we are rightly suspicious about the aims of the Government in allowing only one year’s appropriation for aged persons’ pensioner dwellings. My colleagues on this side of the House have made constructive suggestions. They have quite rightly exercised every opportunity to show their concern about aged people. We have in power a conservative government which is mutilating the public sector, which is reducing the amount of money available for such matters as housing for aged people. Indeed, it has reduced the amount available for welfare for aged people and young people. We have only to look at the Appropriation Bills, if I may anticipate what will come before the House in a moment, to see that that is the case. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) and Appropriation Bill (No. 4), which we will be debating in a moment, show that this Government is hell-bent on mutilating the public sector. Of course we feel a hesitancy about supporting a measure like this.
– A Jeremiah.
– It is because the welfarism of this country is being mutilated in this way-
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. I ask that the statement by the honourable member for Denison be withdrawn.
-I beg your pardon?
– Did you hear the statement of that member?
– I heard an honourable member say that the honourable member for Adelaide was a Jeremiah. The word ‘Jeremiah’ is mentioned in the Bible and I am certain there is nothing sinful about anything mentioned in the Bible. So unless the honourable member for Adelaide takes exception to that statement, I will not ask for it to be withdrawn.
– I thank the honourable member for Darling, but I do not mind being a Jeremiah if it will point out to the people of this country what this Government is up to in mutilating the public sector. I do not mind pointing out to the people of this country on an occasion like this what dangers exist and that we are appropriating funds for aged persons’ dwellings for only one year when what we require is planning over a longer period. If there is one area in which planning is required, it is housing. As the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) is now indicating that he does not want anybody to incite me any further, I will accept his motions in the spirit they are given to me and will sit down.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 3) 1976-77 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 2 1 April, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore that you permit the subject matter of the 2 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I want some indication of what we are doing. We are providing Supply now to carry us over the remainder of this financial year. I think the matter ought to be taken seriously. Why should the Government bring up this measure 10 minutes before the question is put for the adjournment of the House? I suggest that in all decency the Minister in charge of Government business should now move for the adjournment of the House and that my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) should not be asked to speak at this point.
-Before we obtain any decision from the Minister at the table, let me point out that I had asked the House whether it was the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 2 measures. There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed. Does the Leader of the House wish to respond to the honourable member for Melbourne Pons?
– I am quite happy for the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) to adjourn the debate until the next day of sitting:
– I thank the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). It is unfair that I should be asked to commence my remarks on this major legislation at this late hour. I thank him for his courtesy. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Television Service- Julius Dam Project- Immigration: Dual Nationality- Prices and Wages Freeze- Russian Naval Presence in the Indian Ocean- Textile Industry- Taxation- Uranium- Population Policy
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I want to draw attention tonight to 2 subjects of a very parochial nature. I think that the time is well ripe for this House to look at these particular matters. The first matter is related to the provision of television services to certain parts of this nation which have not had even a test pattern or anything approaching it in the 21 or 22 years that television has been available to this nation. I am led to believe that certain specific investigations are taking place at the present time which could lead to an early and favourable decision in relation to this matter. Having in mind the Government’s extreme economic difficulties, I make the comment that I feel that the provision of such a service would not be a handout to the areas involved; rather it would be an investment to stimulate the morale and the desire of people to stay in industries which are earning for this nation in the vicinity of $4,000m a year. It is all very well to hear people, more particularly people in the Opposition, say that those of us who come from the vast rural areas represent galahs, trees, grass and so on. But it would do well to remember that almost every person who is so described is a very important unit in the productive capacity of this nation. So at a time when budgetary considerations are very much to the fore I appeal to the Government to make finance available to bring television signals to these areas, particularly to my own electorate, the areas of central Queensland. I refer to places such as Pentland, Greenvale and so on.
The second matter to which I wish to draw attention is again an extremely parochial one. Having said that I think I can point to it as being of very significant importance to the economy of this nation. I refer to a project known as the Julius Dam project in the Mount Isa area. I know that the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) who is sitting at the table has a very keen understanding of this matter. I see also in the chamber my colleague, the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann), and the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party, the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair). Those people know that in the far outback of Queensland there exists a water conservation project which is very critical to the economy and to the provision of water to the community of Mount Isa. In case anybody has any illusions as to the contribution made by that community to the nation, it would be well to consider not only the taxes paid to the coffers of this nation by Mount Isa Mines Ltd but also the contribution of many millions of dollars to this nation by the workers at Mount Isa. All we are asking for in return is a comparatively small amount of money.
The funding of this project has been contributed to very considerably by the Mount Isa City Council and the communtiy of Mount Isa, by Mount Isa Mines Ltd and, more recently, by the Queensland Government. I do not think it would be to the credit of the national Government if we were to set aside the consideration of providing funds for that very important project.
A loan of some $2.4-1 emphasise that a loan -was made in 1972. In the 5 years that have elapsed since then no further contribution has been made to this terribly important project. It is a project which in the future could not only prove to be critical to the continuation of the operations of Mount Isa Mines, which is the largest mineral complex of its kind in the world, but also could well be needed to provided water for the further development of other projects in the area. So again I would earnestly appeal to the Ministry, to the Cabinet, to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and to the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) to give very careful consideration during the Budget deliberations to make some financial assistance available for this project.
– I wish to raise a matter which affects naturalised Australians who have dual nationality. Recently my office was approached by one of my constituents, Mr Nicolo Viskovic of 17 Livingstone Street, Reservoir. The approach was made with reference to his 31 -year-old son, Fabio, who at the moment is facing induction into the Italian Army at Trieste. Fabio Viskovic is a naturalised Australian citizen. I have here a copy of his naturalisation certificate. It is dated 28 February 1 969. It might interest you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to know that the usual occupant of that chair was Minister for Immigration at that time. His signature appears on the certificate. At any rate, Fabio Viskovic left Australia on 20 March this year and went to Trieste. While he was there he decided to purchase a vehicle with which to get around during his prolonged visit 10 his country of origin. To do so it was necessary for him to apply for temporary residence. The result of his applying for temporary residence was that he then received notice of callup for the Italian army. Not wishing to join the army he visited the Australian Consulate in Milan where he was informed of his rights regarding his Australian passport and was told that the Consulate could do nothing further about it.
At this end in Australia his parents visited the Italian Consulate and our own Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with no result. They then contacted my office. A member of my staff comments that he contacted an officer of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs. To use his own words, he was told courteously by them the position that applied and that nothing could be done in circumstances where an Australian citizen retains dual nationality because of the agreement between the 2 governments. It occurs to me that one hears of these cases from time to time. Here we have a 31 -year-old man who has been a naturalised Australian for some 8 years and who through sentiment, I suppose, visits his country of origin and suddently finds himself about to be inducted into the army of the country of his origin, with all of the things that flow from that which affect his future.
– They do not even get paid in the Italian army.
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Banks who informs me that they do not get paid in the Italian army. I can understand why the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Sullivan) agrees with that. I wonder how he would have faced up to his long years of career service in the Army if he had not been paid. I am sure that he would have regretted that under those circumstances he would not have been able to obtain the superannuation benefits that he probably gets as a result of his service in the defence forces. I draw this matter to the attention of the House not in any spirit of rancour or any criticism. This is a problem that has to be faced.
– What about your position?
– As long as I can retain the rank I happen to have on the Reserve I would not mind, because I would be as well paid as the honourable member was paid. I raise this matter because I think we probably could give it some thought. Perhaps the Government should contact those governments with which we have dual nationality agreements to see whether this sort of situation can be solved. In this way we could avoid the situation in which 31 -year-old Australian citizens who have been naturalised for 8 years obtain temporary residence permits and find themselves in an army in which they have no desire to be.
– I draw the attention of the House to a report that the New Zealand wage freeze appears to be working. This is another aspect of the modern economic situation that may seem to be unusual. But the situation in New Zealand is a clear indictment of the despicable attitude adopted by the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and trade union leaders over the last few weeks. In New Zealand the consumer price index rose by only 2.6 per cent in the first quarter and there are predictions that the inflation rate will be down to a single figure before the year is out. It is admitted that the freeze in New Zealand had some difficulties. There were problems involved in what areas the freeze should apply. There was some degree of breach. However, complaints of profiteering were found to be not all justified. In fact only a small percentage were justified. It appears that generally speaking the people of New Zealand accepted the freeze.
The freeze in New Zealand was of a different nature to the one that was proposed recently in this country. However, the essential point is that the unions should have given the freeze in Australian a try instead of torpedoing it in the way they did. I remind honourable members that only a very short time after the Premiers and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) signed the document about twelve or thirteen days ago the trade union leadership in New South Wales in the form of Mr Unsworth and in other States in the form of Mr Halfpenny and others rejected the freeze out of hand. I remind the House that the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) in effect poured scorn on it and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) was not far behind him in his scorn for the concept and its prospects of success.
The Australian people overwhelmingly support the proposals for a prices and wages freeze of a temporary nature. The trade union leaders are seeking to obtain advantages at the expense of their members because they are not interested in returning this country to a proper and sound economic footing. All they are interested in is pursuing power for its own sake. How can they possibly believe that a temporary prices and wages freeze would not be of benefit to the community? Now they are talking about the possibility of its not working. Mr Hawke well knows that Australia has a specific type of industrial arbitration system which is almost unique in the world. That is what distinguishes the Australian situation from other, European countries where freezes may not have worked. In Australia there is a centralised system of wage fixation. If from the centre the unions were prepared to agree to a voluntary freeze, contrary to the fixed regulatory freezes in other countries, I believe that the proposal would have had a great deal of potential for success.
A freeze seems to have worked in New Zealand. At least it has provided a circuit breaker. But do the union leaders in Australia admit this? No, they do not. They are seeking to double cross their own members. What did Mr Hawke come up with? He came up with some suggestion that we should trade off tax cuts against the wages freeze. Mr Hawke should realise that the only way we are going to pay for any tax cuts is, putting it very simply, by strike cuts. Prices and wages go together. One is a fair exchange for the other. They should be dealt with now in accordance with the agreement of the Prime Minister and the Premiers. When Budget discussions are taking place possibly tax cuts could be considered at a later stage of our economic development. But this would have to be on a quid pro quo basis that proper industrial relations are established. We have gone through a terrible period in the last few years in this country which was not assisted by the former Government ‘s economic policies. The previous Government brought down its ridiculous tariff cuts. It engaged in a huge number of other incompetent activities. It devalued skill. There was a tremendous upsurge in wages, pioneered and pushed forward by the fat cat syndrome. Those policies produced massive unemployment.
Now, when the Government is seeking as the receiver of the national economy to try to do something about the situation the unions have torpedoed the first consensus we have obtained probably in national history on a very important issue. Even during World War II agreement could not be reached on many fundamental matters such as the use of the Army outside Australia. There were strikes on the docks even in World War II. We have had one consensus since then and the unions have effectively torpedoed it to their everlasting shame.
– It is a pity that the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil ) did not give the facts of the matter about which he has just spoken. I would have liked him to refer to the opinion of Mr George Polites, who advocated a national conference in connection with the Government’s intended wages and prices freeze. Why did the honourable member for St George- purposefully no doubt; he is not a fool- avoid expressing the opinion of Mr Polites to the House? Why did the honourable member purposefully avoid expressing the opinions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which commended the idea that there should be a national conference as advocated by Mr Hawke? I wonder why the honourable member for St George, who comes here supposedly possessing the quality of integrity, did not mention that Mr Bjelke-Petersen advocated substantial tax deductions.
-Who is he?
– I can understand the honourable member for Macarthur asking such a question. He has a tremendous load on his mind and I do not think he knows who his Prime Minister is. I hope that for the sake of his family he is relieved of his load very soon. I think he will do the right thing, due to the cloud that is hanging over his head and resign and have Macarthur recontested. Mr Bjelke-Petersen advocated tax cuts. If a national conference was called all of this would come up for discussion. The honourable member for St George deliberately refrained from mentioning these facts.
The Government has stepped into something it cannot get out of. It cannot extricate itself from its difficulties. It made a sudden decision that will not work. It wants the Arbitration Commission to impose restrictions on wages but it wants the money bags voluntarily to agree to suppress prices. But they will not do this. A representative from the Leyland organisation told the Government that he was not prepared to do this. He made a Press statement that Mr Fraser could go to hell and that he was going to increase the price of Leyland cars.
My purpose in rising tonight is to somewhat put the record straight in this Parliament in connection with the repeated accusations of the supposed gigantic Soviet naval base in Somalia in the Indian Ocean. I notice that the skilled Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) is careful not to put emphasis on the alleged gigantic base of the Russians in the Indian Ocean. But only a few days ago a document came into my possession which I believe gives a fair picture of the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. As a result of the allegations that Russia was involved in a gigantic build-up in the Indian Ocean, the Soviet Union, through the Somali Government, invited some United States legislators to inspect the base in Somalia. They went there to see for themselves. The report says:
The senators could find no facilities for the servicing and storage of sophisticated cruise missiles.
– The Russians do not have any.
-You are not prepared to inform your mind. You are biased and warped, a militarist. The report continues:
Senator Dewey Bartlett saw only some ancient ( 1959 vintage) Styx missiles of 48 kilometre range- and indeed the Pentagon had already admitted that this was all that was there. Lots of navies besides the Soviet Navy have Styx missilesincluding those of India, Iran and Egypt.
I believe that it ill becomes any member of this Parliament to tell lies about a friendly power such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, a nation with which Australia conducts trade.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I have spoken on many previous occasions in this House about the continuing serious situation existing in the textile industry affecting as it does both natural and man-made fibres, and many thousands of people in country areas. I make no apology for raising it again. Honourable members will be aware that the Government has announced recently new and extended terms of reference for the Industries Assistance Commission when reporting on the various sections of the textile industry in September this year. I commend the Government on this action. It recognises basically the importance of decentralised industry. It indicates a much keener, if a little belated, appreciation of the need to examine fully the economic and social impact of any proposed changes to the textile industry. It realistically adopts a course that I have constantly advocated. But the IAC has a responsibility beyond the revised terms of reference. Under the terms of the Industries Assistance Commission Act, Part III, section 22 ( 1 ) (c) the Commission is required to: facilitate adjustment to changes in the economic environment by industries and persons affected by those changes . . .
Up to date the Commission has done nothing to facilitate adjustment to changes. Instead, it has advocated a movement of resources away from high cost industries to so-called low cost industries. Where are, and what are, those low cost industries? Surely the IAC is side-stepping its responsibility under the Act when it refuses to nominate these industries, when it refuses to elaborate on how the industry should be restructured, when it refuses, in fact, to ‘facilitate adjustment to changes’, to use the words of the Act.
Some regrettable restructuring is taking place- restructuring in the form of exporting jobs, of establishing industries in other countries. Faced with an unreasonable volume of imports and unrelenting rises in costs, more and more Australian companies- textile and manufacturing companies generally- are setting up plants overseas in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia. From the official statistics available, Australian manufacturing investment in the South Pacific has trebled since 1971 and the rise in manufacturing investment in Asia has increased eightfold. The Australian work force is therefore faced with a double squeeze. Not only is unemployment created but also the worker is faced with the ironic situation of increased competition from imported goods, made in Australian owned factories situated outside
Australia, at a cost with which the Australian worker cannot hope to compete.
The wool textile section of the industry is one area that is being very seriously disadvantaged by the volume of exports as well as by the radical changes that have taken place in the market for wool. As a result, many firms have been forced to close. Others have drastically cut back their operations. Some have started manufacturing offshore, and employment in this section of the textile industry has been halved in the past 3 years. The situation is even more regrettable when one realises the contribution that the wool textile industry has made in the field of research and technical improvements. The imposition of more reasonable import quotas more aligned to the domestic demand would give the textile industry a breathing space. Such a realistic and responsible approach by the Government would create a climate in which investment and employment opportunities would be encouraged. I therefore urge the LAC to make recommendations in the September report which will help the textile industry. I further urge the Government to avoid adopting any policy towards the textile industry which would lead to further phasing out of sections of the industry.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I take this opportunity tonight to agree basically with one person and one group with whom I normally do not agree. The person is the temporary honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) who, in an article in the April issue of Quadrant, signed ‘Michael Baume’, when talking about the state of the economy in Australia at the present time and what the Government has done, said amongst other things:
The average middle-income earner is probably taking home a slightly smaller proportion of his pay than under Whitlam.
Later he said:
And on top of it all, when tax has never been higher, Canberra keeps insisting that it has handed out a $ 1 ,000m tax cut through tax indexation to the inflation-hit taxpayer. It is hard to convince anyone that they have had a tax cut when their pay packets tell them clearly that income taxes and levies collected this year are rising at a faster rate than wages.
I congratulate the honourable member for his perceptiveness although I do not agree with much else that is in the article.
– Incorporate it.
– It is a bit long, I think. One point in the article that I would like to challenge is that the honourable gentleman has not done his homework on the question of tax deductions and tax rebates with respect to children. He claims that this Government in effect abolished tax deductions for dependent children. This was, in fact, done under Hayden when tax rebates were introduced. The second group I would like to congratulate is the Institute of Public Affairs. There is a very impressive list of large businesses associated with this body. In its March issue, speaking about the economy and the Government, it says, amongst other things:
But notwithstanding its unswerving adherence to textbook orthodoxy, the harsh fact remains that it has not put the runs on the board. In 1976 the actual rate of inflation at 14.5 per cent has turned out to be marginally greater than in 1975. The Government is reluctant to face up to this unpleasant reality; it keeps harping on the underlying rate of inflation, comparing it favourably with the rate under the Labor Government. Even from the standpoint of political point-scoring, this is to make a foolish mistake. The Australian people are not concerned with fine statistical technicalities; they are interested only in the results. All they are worrying about is the horrifying figure of 6 per cent for the last quarter- a higher figure than in any quarter since the Korean inflation of the early 1 950s. The Government should forget about politics. It should be concentrating its entire energies on the future, instead of harking back to the past.
Later, it says:
The 6 per cent is frightening not only in itself but for what it portends. Some estimates suggest that for the three quarters to June this year prices could rise by some 14 per cent in the absence of any wage increases at all.
This is emphasised in the editorial. It goes on to say:
This could spell desperate trouble for the Government toward the end of 1977. It would certainly spell desperate trouble for the economy: among other things, the near certainty of another devaluation, and thus a further push to inflation.
If the Government has, on the whole, acted wisely and courageously, why has it failed to achieve results in its major policy objective, the slowing down of inflation?
Its plans have clearly been upset by the reconstruction of Medibank and will soon be further frustrated by the November devaluation.
It goes on: … in retrospect the changes to Medibank must be adjudged a serious blunder. The restructuring of Health Insurance should clearly have waited until inflation was on the way to being defeated and until the economy was back on the highway of growth. The Government was overambitious; it should have devoted all its energies to the immediate and vital tasks. Medibank could have waited; it was not an urgent priority.
I completely agree with the editorial. It exposes clearly just what is wrong with the ridiculous economic thinking- that is an exaggeration; it should not be called economic thinking- on the part of this Government. The prejudices of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) are enforced no matter what are the economic consequences. He has always believed in devaluation because basically he is a peasant farmer and he feels that the only way we can get anywhere in Australia is by flogging as much wool overseas as we can. He has not thought the matter through. I am glad that the honourable member for Macarthur and the Institute of Public Affairs have taken the Government up and exposed its ridiculous economic policies.
-It is rather cheering to a newcomer to be the subject of 2 criticisms, attacks- I suppose the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) would say congratulations- in this chamber in the space of 10 minutes. I express the hope that the next time the honourable member for Prospect reads one of my articles in Quadrant he understands it. I suppose that would be a hope that many of us here would share because if he read the article and understood it he would realise that it dramatised and pointed out the significant and magnificent social welfare reforms that this Government has introduced. That was the burden of the article. Everyone I have spoken to appeared to understand that, with the exception of the honourable member for Prospect who is incapable of recognising that it was not the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) who introduced the great social reform of getting rid of tax concessions of either kind for children and replacing them with this magnificent family allowance. The allowance provides for the poor of this nation at last their proper due whereas in the past, and under the Hayden Budget, the rich got more for having children than the poor did.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I quote from the article:
The richer you were the more tax benefits you received for having children.
This was not true. There was a tax rebate of $400.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member knows that that is not a point of order.
– It seems that any tactics will be used by the Opposition to prevent me from telling the truth to this House. I am also intrigued to note that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) said that there was a cloud over my head. I can assure him that the only cloud over my head is the cloud of nonsense that is being spread around by the Opposition. It might be cirrus cloud but it certainly is not serious. I wanted briefly to express some concern at the apparent inactivity of the Government on a matter of immense seriousness; that is, its inability to provide sufficient information to exporters of uranium so that they could in fact guarantee to export that material. Two corporations which had been assured by the previous Government and by this Government that their exports contract would be honoured have been obliged to declare force majeure. It is a matter 1 think this House should take very seriously indeed.
Basically the reasons for this decision by the corporations is that the stockpile available from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission of roughly 2000 short tonnes was not to my knowledge adequately tested. In other words there is a degree of uncertainty about the quality of that stockpile. I believe the corporations involved have had great difficulty in getting assays of it. I believe they eventually got them towards the end of last year. The Commonwealth is not guaranteeing those assays yet it requires the corporations when repaying that stock which is being borrowed to guarantee that they will do so with stock of a commercial grade. It strikes me that if in fact we are to honour obligations made to the Japanese we should not put impediments in the way of corporations being able to meet those undertakings.
I hope that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) will do what he can to make certain that we will be able to meet solemn undertakings made. Certainly there will be some problems about price. I am concerned that we do not delay this undertaking so much- the first shipment was supposed to be on the water by 30 June- that we will effectively blackmail the Japanese into accepting a questionable material- that is the stockpile material- because in fact they will not have any alternative source since we have left it so late. I do not believe that is the way we should conduct our trade.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise this evening in the adjournment debate to draw the attention of the House to some of the inadequacies of the way in which the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) is handling the important issue of the debate on population policy. The White Paper will be tabled following the findings of the Green Paper. It is advocated rightly by the Minister and those who spoke in the debate on the Green Paper that it should be a matter of -
– Did you let the Minister know you were going to raise this matter?
-No, I did not let him know but I do not think that is anything that is very serious.
Somebody on your side can do that if he so desires.
– That is typical.
– You are a microbe.
– I withdraw the remark. Although the Green Paper purports to be a discussion paper in which various options are present, in fact it is a highly political document. Its presentation is extremely biased and in fact there is no public discussion. The newspapers and others, as well as the media which normally do the Government’s bidding, are projecting views in a completely biased way. It will be really hard for those who want to enter this debate to get a true perspective of it because there is not a clear and accurate account of some of the opposing views and how the erroneous concepts that have developed in the Green Paper are being projected to those who may finally make the decisions.
The Minister made a speech- he did not advise me that he was going to deliver his speech, so I suppose it is par for the course- and he talked about the decline in the growth rate of the labour force without immigration. He went on to raise the question and perhaps pose the notion that this would cause a catastrophic situation in the foreseeable future. But the fact is that something like 800 000 to 900 000 jobs are about to disappear.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to item 12 on the notice paper and ask: Is it in order for the honourable member to debate what in fact he is debating, namely, item 12?
-When the honourable member for Melbourne commenced his remarks I felt that there was a reference to a matter before the House. On the other hand the honourable member is referring to a speech made by the Minister outside the House. In the circumstances the honourable member is in order in referring to that speech which must inevitably cover what is on the notice paper, but the honourable member cannot be stopped because there is a subject matter on the notice paper.
– I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your ruling- a sound one. The real issue here is that this address and this information from the Minister are absolutely misleading. There is a shortage of skilled tradesmen and we have people coming out of high school and coming out at every level of our education system who simply cannot find employment in the levels in which they anticipated or hoped that they would find it.
The whole question of skilled labour is there for us to manage in an education program if that is what we desire. I just draw to the attention of the House that this continuing display of incompetence in projecting a view that ought to be projected is presented in such a way that a public debate is being undermined by the type of evidence being produced by the Government and in particular by the Minister. It is being projected by the media at large. This is certainly not doing justice to a debate that is worthy of a better effort.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.
House adjourned at 1 1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Is a register of the National Estate being compiled. If so, when will it be completed.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Heritage Commission has been developing the Register of the National Estate as its priority task. The honourable member will be pleased to know that the first substantial list of places to be considered for the Register of the National Estate was published in the Australian Government Gazette and newspapers throughout Australia on 29 and 30 March respectively.
In addition I have been advising all members direct of the places in their State that are on the list.
VIP Flight (Question No. 183)
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I decided to hold Press conferences in Adelaide and Sydney with Press, radio and television representatives, in order to clarify the Commonwealth’s position and to set at ease the minds of those people who had been needlessly alarmed.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
Have any reductions in quarantine staff been made as a result of Government staffing policies. If so, what quarantine positions have not been filled since implementation of new staff ceiling limits.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
No reductions in overall quarantine staff numbers have occurred as a result of the implementation of new staff ceiling limits. Within the limits of the Government’s staffing policies a small increase in total quarantine staff numbers has been achieved.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
In view of the successful offer by the Channel 9 network for exclusive rights to telecast the forthcoming test cricket series against England, is the Australian Broadcasting Commission negotiating with that organisation to allow ABC channels in non-metropolitan areas to relay test cricket programs.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The ABC has negotiated an agreement with the Nine network to ensure television coverage of the test matches throughout Australia.
The ABC has exclusive rights to televise the test matches throughout Western Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory and in all nonmetropolitan areas in the other States.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 March 1 977:
How many passports were issued to residents of the electoral division of Capricornia during the last two years.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In 1975 and 1976 the issue of Australian passports to residents of Queensland totalled 35 397 and 42 137 respectively. As no statistics are kept as to the areas from which applications are received, it is not a practical exercise to determine how many of the grantees resided within the electoral division of Capricornia.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 23 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The amounts proposed for New South Wales are (S million): Urban arterial roads, 28.7; Urban local roads, 7.4; Rural arterial roads, 1 8.0; Rural local roads, 25.8.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 April 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770427_reps_30_hor105/>.