30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cadman, Mr Fisher, Dr Klugman and Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the public library services of New South Wales are inadequate both in quality and quantity and that the burden of provision is placed too heavily upon local government.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries as a matter of urgency.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Charles Jones and Mr Morris.
Petition to the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. 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 Carige.
To Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens ofAustralia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will take such measures as are necessary to implement the recommendations made in forementioned submission and moreparticularly the recommendation that bona fide gold prospectors be granted an annual 500 ounce per 24 acre gold mining lease, tax concession by way of exemption on the first 500 ounces produced from within the lease by amending Sections 23 (0) 23 ( 1 ) and 23C (2) of the Income Assessment Act 1936.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Cotter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Trade Practices Act and the law covering corporations be not proceeded with.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
Royal Commission on Petroleum
The petition of certain members of the Service Station Association of N.S.W. Ltd, and certain members of the motoring public of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Federal Government give every consideration to implementing the findings of the Royal Commission on Petroleum.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to ensure that the needs of the motoring public and the retail petroleum industry are given every consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Dr Klugman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although we accept the verdict of the Australian people in the 1973 election, we do not accept the right of a Governor-General to dismiss a Prime Minister who maintains the confidence of the House of Representatives.
We believe that the continued presence of Sir John Kerr as Governor-General is a cause of division among the Australian people.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will call on Sir John Kerr to resign as Australian Governor-General.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existence of a system of double taxation of personal incomes whereby both the Australian Government and State Governments had the power to vary personal income taxes would mean that taxpayers who worked in more than one State in any year would-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that a system of double income tax on personal incomes be not introduced.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Morris.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that we-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will heed these requests of the undersigned.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Porter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of Australia respectfully showeth that we humbly pray:
That in relation to early childhood, primary, secondary and post-secondary education-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Ruddock.
– I inform the House that I will be absent from Australia from later today until 28 June, during which time I will attend the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in London and have discussions in Europe and the United States of America. During my absence the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) will act as Prime Minister.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Will he be able to let me have, before he leaves, the answer to my repeated questions on unemployment benefits for school leavers which he told me at question time yesterday I would get before the end of yesterday?
– I thought the honourable gentleman was in the House when I gave him the answer at the end of question time yesterday.
-My question without notice- it is without notice- is directed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister seen a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, under the headline ‘Wran attacks Prime Minister’s end of freeze’, in which Mr Wran is reported as saying that ‘Mr Fraser had been premature in ending the freeze and should have waited a little longer”? Could the wage-price freeze have continued in view of the unilateral decision last Thursday by the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, to withdraw from the arrangement.
-There are a number of people who believe that Mr Dunstan himself had ended the freeze. The Commonwealth, as the honourable member knows, made sure that price setters maintained their stance until the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission had given its wage decision. Once the Arbitration Commission had made a decision to give 100 per cent indexation in respect of that part of the consumer price index not related to devaluation there was no way in which it would have been reasonable to suggest that price setters could make no movement in prices. The Government obviously urges all price setters to exercise the utmost moderation as the Commonwealth will be doing with any charges under its control. I think that on the occasion referred to by the honourable member, Mr Wran must have been thinking of Mr Dunstan and what he had done, no matter whom he named.
-My question, to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development relates to the AlburyWodonga development area. Is the Minister aware that the Albury City Council has committed itself to a large amount of borrowings from the Federal Government for the purpose of developing essential services such as sewerage for the growth of the regional area? Is the Minister further aware that this borrowing commitment is now having to be repaid with interest and that the rates in the Albury city area are as high as $450 per assessment whereas within the adjoining Hume shire the rates are as low as $50 per assessment? Is he aware that this is having a very serious effect on the Albury City Council development as people are now finding it more convenient to live outside the city and in the shire area? In order to assist the regional development as a worthwhile pilot project for the national Parliament will the Minister give serious consideration to alleviating the burden of the Albury City Council by giving grants to the Council in lieu of loans and also an interest free holiday, thereby enabling the Council to reduce its commitment instead of having to levy excessive rates on its ratepayers to repay moneys advanced by the national Parliament?
-I am a little surprised that this question is asked of the Federal Government. I cannot recall the exact details but we provide assistance to the 2 municipal organisations in Albury and Wodonga. I am also aware that the Albury municipal body has tried on occasions to get money out of the New South Wales Government and has failed. I place the responsibility squarely on the New South Wales Government to do something about relieving the situation that the honourable member has described so well. As to the specific points he raised about looking at the situation again and perhaps helping the New South Wales Government meet some of its responsibilities which it has failed to meet, I shall certainly look at the proposition he has made. I have to be blunt and say that it will be very difficult to do what he has suggested but I will look at the proposition.
I make one other point: The honourable member talked about relief of the Albury- Wodonga area in total. Let us be clear. This Government has provided $21m this financial year to keep that project going. In all, the Federal Government has provided $100m for the AlburyWodonga area. Over many months this Government has been negotiating with the governments of New South Wales and Victoria trying to get them to come back to the table to help us prosper that project. We are failing dismally because the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, despite assurances they have made to the people of that area, have failed completely to come even half way to meeting us on the propositions we have been making.
-Has the Minister for Post and Telecommunications seen reports that he is considering appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Council in the very near future? Is he also aware of submissions to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal inquiry into selfregulation which would impinge on the nature of appointments to the proposed Council or which even question the desirability of such a Council? Can he give an assurance that he will wait until he receives the report of the Broadcasting Tribunal on the concept of self-regulation before proceeding with any appointments to the Council?
-I can give that assurance, although I want to make it perfectly clear that an Australian Broadcasting Council will be set up. However, it is desirable that we await the outcome of the result of the inquiry by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal into the question of self-regulation. I have been encouraged by the interest taken in this inquiry by the community throughout Australia. I have had to give to the chairman of the Broadcasting Tribunal an extension of time for reporting to the middle of July. The Government will then consider the findings of the inquiry. I hope to proceed with appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Council, which are dependent to a degree upon the result of that inquiry and the Government’s decision, early in the Budget session.
-I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. With the abductions of Australian children overseas annually running at an exceedingly high rate, will the Minister advise the result of the undertaking of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to carry out an urgent investigation with a view to preventing these abductions and the anguish caused to Australian parents?
– My colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs initiated a review at the suggestion of the honourable gentleman of what seems to be an alarming increase in the number of child abductions. I am advised as a result of that inquiry that the present position seems to be that for the issue of a passport to a child under 17 years of age, the consent of both parents must be given. There is a provision for a parent to lodge with the Department of Foreign Affairs an application requesting that a passport be withheld from a child when it is thought that abduction is likely. The Department receives about 200 such requests a month and passports are withheld accordingly. I am told that there is no action the Department can take to prevent children from being removed from Australia if the children have citizenship of another country and travel on a passport of that other country.
Section 62 of the Migration Act, which comes within the responsibility of my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, requires that a parent should not remove a child from Australia where there is an order of an Australian court entitling the other parent to access to or custody of that child; in other words, irresepctive of the fact that the passport may not be an Australian passport. This provision of course does apply therefore to children of any nationality. Section 63 of that same Act, that is the Migration Act, makes provision for a parent to serve notice by statutory declaration upon carriers that they shall not, without reasonable excuse, permit a child to leave a port or place in Australia for a destination outside Australia when such an order is in force.
The review that was undertaken at the behest of the Minister for Foreign Affairs has indicated that within the ambit of the present responsibilities of the Department of Foreign Affairs therefore, there is little that can be done by it alone to prevent child abduction. However, as a result of the review an approach has been made to set up an interdepartmental committee to see whether, in conjunction with all departments, further steps might not be taken to ensure that child abduction does not continue to the extent that it has in the past.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. He will be aware that the dairy industry is anxiously awaiting a
Government decision on the underwriting of manufactured dairy products for the new season commencing 1 July. I ask: Has a decision been made and, if so, what is the level or what are the levels and what products are included?
– An approach has been made to State governments with respect to underwriting for the 1977-78 dairy season. The character and basis of the underwriting are similar to those now prevailing. But before any public announcement is made, I believe it only proper that negotiations with the State governments should be commenced. I hope at a later stage to make a second reading speech with respect to the introduction of the marketing changes for stage 1 of the Industries Assistance Commission Crawford proposals. At that time I hope to be able to make more details available to the Parliament.
– My question is to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the funds made available for women’s refuges in this financial year have been barely adequate for the maintenance of those refuges approved and supported by the Labor Government and that this has inhibited their development? Is it a fact that in view of the success of these centres there has been a dramatic increase in demands for the establishment of more of them and that a number in fact have been started up without any Government financial support? Can the Minister give the House an assurance that there will be either an increase in funding for these services to ensure the survival of those already established without Government financial support to date, or at least that there will be an increase in funding to compensate for the effects of inflation on the already inadequate funding provided this financial year for those refuges established before December 1975?
– The Government has of course maintained the funding of women’s refuges on a 100 per cent basis in the States through the community health program. The Minister for Social Security and I have been having discussions on ways of funding women’s refuges for 1977-78. Those discussions are still going on, but I cannot pre-empt the considerations of the Government with respect to the Budget that it will bring down later this year. The Prime Minister has written to the Premier of Queensland indicating that the Government wishes to continue the funding of 2 women’s refuges in Queensland which the Queensland Government has not been prepared to fund out of the resources of the community health program. The Government generally feels that there is a need for refuges for women who are in distress. Some of them may not be run terribly well but we are looking at the way in which they are being conducted in Queensland and the other States since we are committed to a 100 per cent funding of them. I cannot give any guarantee as to the level of funding for 1977-78.
-The Prime Minister would be aware that the Nimmo royal commission report concerning Norfolk Island contains some 74 recommendations. Is he aware that there have been Press reports that the Government has already made up its mind to make Norfolk Island part of Australia and to impose Australian taxes on the residents of the Island, and that theroposed visit of the Minister for Administrative Services and the Attorney-General in early June is merely to inform the Islanders of that decision? Is this conjecture true or entirely misleading and unnecessarily alarming the Islanders?
-The conjecture is unnecessarily alarming the Islanders. My colleagues will be visiting Norfolk Island early in June. The main purpose of that visit will be to assess the views of Norfolk Islanders themselves. When a report ultimately has been made to the Government the views of Norfolk Islanders obviously will be given heavy weight in any decision the Government may make. I know that the honourable member has shown an interest in this matter for some time. I am advised that there are 2 areas- only two- where decisions have been made, and they have already been announced, namely, that Norfolk Island will remain a territory and that for a limited term East- West Airlines Ltd instead of Qantas will run the air service to Norfolk Island. On that basis I think Norfolk Islanders can rest assured that their views will be given serious consideration by the Government. The Minister for Administrative Services will be there shortly and I hope that all Islanders who hold strong views in these matters, as I know many do, will take the opportunity of making sure that their views are made directly known to the Government.
– I address a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It concerns a matter upon which he made statements last week and the week before in Brisbane and Townsville, namely, the responsibility for two telephone accounts for $17,000 for overseas calls made and accepted by subscribers, a man and his wife, at Atherton late in 1975 and early in 1976. He will remember that the woman, who has been made bankrupt because she cannot pay the Telecom Australia account, and her husband have sworn under examination at bankruptcy hearings in Townsville that the calls were made and accepted on behalf of the Federal Government and that one of the services- an unlisted service- was installed for that very purpose. I ask: Will the Minister table the applications which were made over the last 2 years for the installation or transfer of these services and the itemised accounts in respect of each service, showing the overseas numbers to which calls were made and from which reverse charge calls were accepted during the period?
– The Leader of the Opposition has asked me to table a considerable amount of information. I will look at the request. I made comments in Brisbane and Townsville about this gentleman, who I believe is a bit of a screwball. I made it perfectly clear then, and I repeat it now, that I have never met him and I never want to meet him. All I want him to do is to pay his phone bill. The Treasurer wants people to pay their taxes to enable him to get his deficit down. I want people to pay their phone bills to enable me to get the Telecom surplus up. That is my approach to the matter. I am not aware of any relationship this gentleman has had with the Federal Government; nor am I awareMr E. G. Whitlam- But Anthony and Lynch recommended him.
– The Leader of the Opposition may believe what he reads in the newspaper; that is his affair. As to the request that he has asked me to consider, of course I will consider it, and I will see how much I can do to accommodate his requirements.
-Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that the firm M. B. John Ltd in Ballarat this week retrenched seventeen of its employees? Is he also aware that in a statement to the Press the company said that it had taken this action because of a depressed level of demand for its products, due in part to competition from imported valves from low wage countries? Is it a fact that the company applied to the Temporary Assistance Authority last year for temporary protection and that the Authority heard the application but that the details of the Authority’s subsequent report have not been released? Can the Minister advise the House of what action may have been available to ensure the continued viable operation of this major Australian manufacturer of valves?
-I am aware that, unfortunately, M. B. John Ltd, which is a major employer in the city of Ballarat, this week retrenched seventeen of its employees. There is no doubt that this was due in part to the erosion of the company’s competitive position insofar as imports are concerned. Once again we have a demonstration of what happens to Australian industry and the employees of Australian industry when the bloated cost structure of this country, particularly in the wages area, causes its valuable customers to import.
It is a fact that the company applied last year to the Temporary Assistance Authority for temporary protection. The Authority has reported and the Government has considered the Authority’s report, which will be released today or tomorrow- as soon as practical arrangements can be made to table it. The Authority, having heard the company’s application, recommended against the granting of any temporary protection to the company. As the honourable gentleman will be aware, in those circumstances the Government has no capacity under the existing provisions of the Industries Assistance Commission Act to afford any form of temporary protection, be it in the way of quotas, subsidies, bounties or otherwise. In those circumstances any suggestion that may be made in Ballarat or by the company to the effect that the Government has been inactive in the matter is quite wrong. The Government commissioned a Temporary Assistance Authority inquiry. The Authority did not recommend temporary protection and as ought to be plain to honourable gentlemen that means that the Government’s hands are tied in terms of assistance so far as the existing provisions of the Act are concerned.
I should mention to the honourable gentleman that, concerned as the Government is regarding the employment situation, in the past week there has been contact between the company and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. This has led to the acceptance I think of some 30 persons for retraining under the National Employment and Training scheme. That contact will continue and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations will be anxious to assist further where possible in respect of the provision of NEAT facilities.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. I refer him to the official figures reporting that the price of inputs into manufacturing industry rose by 7.1 per cent in the March quarter. Does the Treasurer agree that this will provide a substantial inflationary pressure likely to show up in the June quarter consumer price index figures? Also, does the Treasurer agree that industrial output is stagnant in areas where sales are susceptible to consumer spending? Finally, can the Treasurer say how Australia is to achieve an economic recovery in employment creating industries if the Government’s failure to implement election promises both on tax indexation and wage indexation has the effect of reducing real incomes?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked a mishmash series of questions. I say to the honourable gentleman that economic recovery is taking place. I remind him of the response I gave to the question he raised in the House yesterday. I also remind the honourable gentleman of figures relating to industrial production indices and the factory production index which I quoted in respect of the Australia and New Zealand Bank series. I will not quote them again to the honourable gentleman because they are a matter of record.
On the question of inflation, if the honourable gentleman is honest he will recognise the very significant progress that has been made in curbing inflation during the course of the past year. As the Statistician reported in his last monthly document, the rate of inflation as measured by him, excluding the impact of Medibank, was 10.2 per cent, which was a very significant winding down during that period. I particularly draw to the attention of the House the very encouraging result for the March quarter of 2.3 per cent. As for the forward indicators of inflation, obviously there will be factors moving to put pressure on the price mechanism and there will be other factors moving against it. I have no doubt that inflation will continue to be abated during the period ahead as the Government’s policies continue to have their effect.
-On 22 March last I asked the Prime Minister a question about the subject of service to the public by counter staff in the Commonwealth Public Service. In his reply he indicated that an interdepartmental committee had been set up to look into the question. I ask the right honourable gentleman: Is that report yet to hand? Have any decisions been made in respect of it? Are any changes to either practices or training procedures planned? Is the right honourable gentleman aware that there is a vacancy for a counter pensions officer at the Prahan office of the Department of Social Security that services both my electorate and the electorate of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports? Will the Prime Minister use his good offices to have this vacant position filled?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. I was not aware of the particular vacancy. I suggest that the honourable member should take that matter up with the Minister concerned. In relation to staff ceilings, we have indicated that counter service to the public must not be penalised as a result of those decisions. That has been a firm instruction to all departments and to all permanent heads. I hope that that matter can be rectified. The report concerning counter staff and additional measures to improve service to the general public is now in the hands of the Government. It is being examined. I believe that a decision about the report will be made quite shortly. I think it is a very useful document. The Government believes that a good deal of sensitivity, understanding and concern needs to be shown in the area of service to the public, especially in the circumstance that a significant part of the Australian community was not born ere and sometimes has difficulty with English and in understanding and knowing how to get the necessary information out of government departments. The honourable gentleman will know that through the various interpreter services which have been established, measures are already in train to meet this situation. This is an important area of the government bureaucracy’s contact with the public. I hope that a decision on the report will be taken shortly.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Is it true, as reported, that the Medibank computer rejects claims for item 8530, mam.maplasty augmentation prosthetic, in the case of males who wish to undergo sex change? Is this a permanent refusal to pay or is it only a refusal to pay until the fact is established that such an admittedly very rare operation was really performed? Does the Minister know whether the other funds take a similar line? Are there any other medical services for which refunds are refused on what appear to be moral grounds? Does the Minister feel that it is the function of the Government, the Health Insurance Commission or the funds to make moral judgments on what legal operations should or should not be performed with the consent of or at the request of patients?
– The honourable member shows an incredible knowledge of detail of the medical schedule book. I am afraid that I do not know to which service he refers. I have not programmed my computer. I shall go into the matter in more detail so that I can identify the service and give him further information later in the day. As for service 8530, 1 would not have a ruddy clue what that is.
– Does the Minister for Post and Telecommunications recall that following his release of the report on the introduction of a citizen band radio service in Australia in January, on a number of occasions since he has indicated that a decision would be made on the future of citizen band radio within the next two or three weeks? Is the Minister aware of the rapidly increasing illegal use of citizen band radio and of the desirable and undesirable purposes for which CB radio is presently being used? Is the Minister in a position to report any progress towards the legalisation and control of citizen band radio?
– Yes, I am aware of the increased and continuing interest in citizen band radio. I hope- in fact I expect- that we will get a decision on the matter within the next two to three weeks. I know I have said that before, but matters have progressed. I now have a submission going to the Government within the next day or two. I approved of it last night. We ought to understand that the reason for the delay has not been just because of my inability to make up my mind as to what I should recommend. There have been problems in getting the people involved to say what they believe. I think it is desirable when considering legislation to have the views of interested people, and they have been a little lethargic in expressing their opinions to me. I also wanted to spend a considerable amount of time talking to people. The matter is very complex, and we do not want to make the same sorts of mistakes that were made in the United States of America in the legallation of CB radio. There are, of course, very desirable elements in it. I know that a lot of Australians are wittingly or unwittingly breaking the law, and that is not a good situation. But we have to be careful that we do not arrive at any conclusion which would allow this equipment to be misused. A tremendous number of matters have to be considered, and that is why it has taken some time. A recommendation is now going to the Government, and I hope- in fact I expect- that we will get a definite decision within the next two to three weeks.
The facts are that, but for the mining industry, the man on the land would be facing a far better future than the dismal one he now must inevitably come to terms with.
– I can agree with parts of the honourable member’s question, but parts of it I would want to question further. Certainly I agree that Broken Hill has made a magnificent contribution to the Australian economy over a long period of time. In fact, Broken Hill is the basis of all our major industrial growth in this country, and I think we would all recognise that. As to what my colleague the honourable member for Macarthur said, I would not like to accept the interpretation of the honourable member for Darling.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Transport. Can the Minister indicate whether any progress has been made to ensure the maintenance of King Island air freight services?
– The more one looks at the problems of air services to Tasmania the more confusing the picture becomes. I say that because the proprietor of the company which is presently seeking to secure the DC4s is also the proprietor of a company known as Air Express. In other words, Brain and Brown Air Freight Pty Ltd and Air Express Ltd are both owned by the same company. At the moment, apparently some of the staff of BBA are under threat of dismissal. Likewise, some of the staff of Air Express are under threat of dismissal. Air Express presently has a couple of Bristols in service. BBA has a DC3 and an Argosy stacked up against the fence at Essendon, and from what I understand no attempt has been made to get them back into service. At the same time, both companies have made applications for the import of new aircraft.
To try to resolve the situation, I have today written to the proprietor of BBA and Air Express, being a common proprietor, informing him that I would be prepared to permit the sale of the Qantas DC4s to Air Express subject to him cancelling his application for the import of two Carvair aircraft, which are of about an equivalent carrying capacity. I have also told the proprietor that he ought to recognise that this would permit him, as proprietor of both companies, to make the 2 Bristols available to BBA, his other company, thus resolving the difficulties that BBA faces and saving the necessity of sacking the staff of BBA. It is up to the proprietor of the 2 companies to make up his mind exactly what he wants. What I cannot do is permit all these companies to import aircraft. The first reason for this is that there is an injunction from the High Court of Australia stopping me. That is a pretty fundamental reason. The second reason is that I have a responsibility to make judgments about the capacity of the airlines. On the advice I have received, I have decided that were both these companies able to import the aircraft they want and if the aircraft that are stacked on the ground at Essendon were put back into service, there would certainly be a more than over-generous supply of aircraft to fly to King Island and back and to Tasmania and back. The ball rests very much in the court of the proprietor of BBA and Air Express.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Construction and refer to his widely reported statement about the state of the building industry in which he said that the recession in the building industry had virtually ended, with only scattered pockets of inactivity remaining. How does he reconcile that statement with the claims of the Australian Government Statistician that over the March quarter total dwelling commencements fell by 9 per centseasonally adjusted- and private dwelling commencements fell by 10 per cent compared with the figures for the preceding quarter?
– I think that the honourable gentleman who asked that question does not really understand the complex nature of the building industry. It does not surprise me in view of the fact that he is a former Minister. The honourable gentleman was speaking about housing approvals for the month of March. My reply to him would be to say that he cannot judge the whole of the year’s activities upon the activities for one month. As he has asked about the building industry, I should like to tell him what the Bureau of Statistics has to say about the building industry. In doing so, I acknowledge that there is a temporary slackening in the housing approval area. My colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development would be able to deal with that matter better than I could. If we look at the Bureau’s figures for the number of commencements, the amount of work under construction and the work doneMr Charles Jones- The Government has-
– I can see the honourable member’s lips moving but I cannot hear a word he is saying. What is more, I do not think that I am missing much. If we look at the most recent quarter for which figures are available- the December quarter- we see that all the figures are up, not down. They are the only figures that we can go by.
– What about the Australian Capital Territory?
– My colleague the honourable member for Canberra asks: ‘what about the Australian Capital Territory?’. The Australian Capital Territory figures do not show any growth. I do not think we could ever expect that they could show growth. What do honourable members want the Government to do? Do they want it to build houses in which no one will live? We want growth in this industry.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The number of interjections is excessive. I call upon the Minister to continue his answer and I call upon honourable members all over the House to listen in silence.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. What I was saying is that there has been a steady growth. We do not want a return to the boom conditions of 1973-74 when honourable members opposite were in government and when anybody who knew one end of a hammer from the other was called a carpenter. We just do not want to go back to those conditions. The only official figures available to indicate what the March quarter has been like come from private analysis consulting firms such as John Jackson and Associates Pty Ltd and Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd. These figures show that for the March quarterthey are not Australian Bureau of Statistics figures because they are not released yet -
- Mr Speaker-
-Does the honourable member wish to raise a point of order?
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to withdraw the question because the answer has no relevance to it -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
-He always was a spoil sport. I have been waiting for this question for a week. I thought that question time was getting a bit dull.
The figures that are available come from the private consultants and they show that growth continued into the March quarter. The figures put out by Jackson admittedly do not include projects costing under half a million dollars, but they show that in the quarter ending March commencementsnot approvals- were up by 38.4 per cent on the December quarter last year and 40.4 per cent on the same quarter last year. There is simply nothing to confirm the suggestion that the building industry is in recession and I do not go along with it. Because I fear that I may have transgressed your friendship, Mr Speaker, I conclude by referring to what Mr Shrapnel had to say. He is regarded as a leading economist. He is an economic and business adviser in Sydney and is well known and highly regarded by the building industry. I think he has some other capacity as a former employee of the Reserve Bank. It is important not only that I end my answer but also that I end it on this note. He said not long ago, on 29 March:
The Federal Government knows exactly what it is doing. Its policies are coherent and consistent and it will attain its objectives within the 3 years it set itself.
I have two or three dollars to put on that with the honourable gentleman, if he wishes.
-I direct my question to the Leader of the House. In view of the presentation of the Fox report last night, will the House be given an opportunity to discuss uranium this session?
-As the honourable gentleman would know, the Prime Minister made a statement on nuclear safeguards. There will be some opportunity for debate on that statement, I trust, before the Parliament rises for the winter recess. There will be an opportunity to debate the second Fox report during the Budget session. In the debate that might ensue on the Prime Minister’s statement honourable members might find some opportunity to refer to the second Fox report, but obviously the implications of that report are such that honourable members, as well as the Government, will need adequate time in which to consider those implications. Therefore it is appropriate that a full debate be postponed until the Budget session.
– I direct my question to the Treasurer. I refer to the Government’s continuing determination to reduce further the real level of wages and salaries, as evidenced most recently by its submissions in the national wage case. Did the Treasurer note in the latest national accounts that for the December quarter the proportion of domestic product at factor cost going to wages and salaries and the proportion going to profits, allowing for the diversion of resources which had to occur because of the effects of equal pay, indicate that those proportions are almost back on the long term trend line? Is he aware that a further reduction in the real level of resources going to wages and salaries would result in a further faltering in the weak level of demand activity in the economy and would have undesirable effects on the overall economic performance? To what level of total resources does he intend to reduce the proportion that goes to wages and salaries? Why is his Government so determined to reduce, in real relative terms, the living standards of wage and salary earners in the community?
– I noted recently that the honourable member for Oxley had, in fact, greeted the March quarter consumer price index rise of 2.3 per cent with a reference to a false dawn. I reminded myself at the time that that statement was not a reflection of the consumer price index. Anyone on either side of this House who thinks of a false dawn might think of the present pretensions of the honourable gentleman to leadership on his side of the House. In relation to real wages, what the honourable gentleman referred to in our submission before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is absolutely correct. The honourable gentleman took the point that the profit share has been partially restored. That is true. It stood at 14.7 per cent in the December quarter of 1976. As the honourable gentleman ought to be aware, because of his background knowledge of this portfolio, that percentage is still well below normal levels bearing in mind that -
– I take a point of order. The Treasurer is misrepresenting my comment. Allowing for the effects of equal pay the proportions are back on the long term trend line. I put it to you, Mr Speaker, that if it is the Government ‘s intention to argue that there should not be an allowance for equal pay -
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
This is not an opportunity for debate. A question was asked. The Treasurer is entitled to answer.
– I was making the point that although there has been partial restoration of the profit share standing at 14.7 per cent in the December quarter of 1976 it is still well below normal levels, bearing in mind that the average for the 5 years to 1972-73 was 17.5 per cent. In the view of this Government, restoration of that profit share to more normal levels is an absolute pre-condition for the restoration of economic growth, for the further curbing of inflation and for the provision of employment opportunities.
Finally, I make the point to the honourable gentleman who seeks at present to concentrate unduly on the subject of wages that he ought to bear very much in mind the objective criterion of the living standards of the average family, the average worker. That, of course, is real household disposable income. The honourable gentleman knows full well that under his last Budget it fell by around 0.3 per cent. In the past year- I am thinking of the year ending in December 1 976 by comparison with the previous December- real household disposable income increased by 1.2 per cent.
– I move:
-The honourable gentleman will need to put the motion in writing.
– In view of what the honourable gentleman is doing, would it be appropriate at this point to ask that, after the honourable gentleman has finished, any further questions be put on the notice paper?
-The right honourable gentleman is not entitled to do that while the House is in this proceeding. But I remind the right honourable gentleman that any Minister can make that request.
– It is quite clear from the answer that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) gave at question time that he does not understand the key economic elements that were put to him at question time.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the honourable member for Oxley be not further heard.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Is the motion seconded?
-I second the motion, Mr Speaker. The fact is that the
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Government’s wages policy is inequitable and is preventing economic recovery in this country.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the honourable member for Gellibrand be not further heard.
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C. )
Question so resolved in the negative.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a pesonal explanation.
-Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
-In a way; I have misrepresented myself and I would like to correct the position. Regrettably last night a small error emanated from my office in a media release concerning Radio Australia.
– I thought you were correcting your answer to me today.
-No. I would not want to change one single word of my answer today.
– Anthony and Lynch were very upset about it.
– The Leader of the Opposition might cease interjecting and wait -
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will remain silent.
-I want to explain that in the last sentence of the media release last night in my name it was said that the Waller report would not be tabled in the Parliament. That was an error. It should have said that the Waller report would now be tabled in the Parliament. It will be tabled next week.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a statement concerning Aboriginal employment.
-Is leave granted?
– I will be seeking leave after it. I suppose that that will be granted?
-There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Government has recently considered and approved new initiatives proposed by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and myself to deal with the problems of Aboriginal unemployment. I now inform the House about these initiatives, which together amount to a national employment strategy for Aboriginals. So that the Government would be fully aware of the nature of the Aboriginal unemployment situation, my colleagues, the Minister for Education, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), and I established an interdepartmental working party of officers of our departments to investigate and report on Aboriginal employment. The working party has reported. I now table the report for the information of honourable members.
The salient points of the current situation, which are updated from the working party report, are: At the end of February 1977 there were 12 218 Aboriginals registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service, which represents more than one-third of the estimated Aboriginal labour force and is more than 6 times the unemployment rate for Australia as a whole; the working party report indicates that many Aboriginals do not, or are unable to, register with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment and the working party estimates the actual level to be 50 per cent of the Aboriginal labour force; and despite the fact that the Commonwealth Employment Service placed 6600 Aboriginals in employment during 1976, the total number registered as unemployment rose by 1 800 during that period.
These statistics do not reveal the full effects of unemployment upon Aboriginal citizens. Unemployment to this excessive extent, through its inter-relationship with health, housing, education and community development generally, is severely undermining the progress in Aboriginal affairs made by successive governments at considerable public expense since the 1967 referendum. What incentive is there for an Aboriginal child to succeed in his educational studies if his father is unemployed and there is every likelihood that the child may not be able to obtain employment at the conclusion of his or her education?
I now propose to describe the initiatives to assist those Aboriginals who live in remote or separate communities and who do not form part of the open labour market. The lifestyles chosen by Aboriginals living in these remote or separate communities vary considerably. Some, particularly those living in the central desert areas of Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory, prefer, as far as it is practicable, a traditional lifestyle. Others, through their proximity to economic ventures such as mining and the pastoral industry, have chosen a lifestyle based on the kinds of goods and services that are available to other Australians. The traditional Aboriginal lifestyle was one that was full and rich. It provided sustenance by hunting and gathering. In most areas where Aboriginal communities now reside, this lifestyle is no longer possible. Much of the bush food once gathered is no longer found in abundance. Cattle grazing in particular has restricted its growth. Game Formerly hunted by Aboriginal men is now in short supply. Because of this, Aboriginals have become accustomed to food supplied through stores on settlements. Consequently, they have required a cash income. Unemployment benefits have been available to Aboriginals as to other Australians unable to obtain work. In some cases, as the working party report has revealed, the lack of activity when combined with unemployment benefit has produced serious social problems such as alcoholism and other health hazards.
The initiatives to be undertaken in these communities consist of community development employment projects, or CDEPs as they will be known, which will provide work for all Aboriginals in a particular community who wish to work. Finance for the CDEPs will be provided to individual Aboriginal councils to enable the council to pay for work performed by individual community members, preferably on a cooperative, part-time or contractual basis. The total moneys available to a community would be determined in consultation between the community and departmental officers. In determining the amounts available, the entitlements of individual community members to unemployment benefit would be taken into account. The practice of paying lump sums to Aboriginal councils or incorporated groups who contract to perform other kinds of work for government authorities or private firms has much to commend it, and has already started.
As a positive demonstration of the Government’s policy of encouraging Aboriginals to manage their own affairs, the Aboriginal council will be able to determine the projects it undertakes and how it allocates its labour. However, to assist in the elimination of social problems within communities, my Department will encourage the inclusion of projects such as youth activities and alcoholic rehabilitation measures. Projects such as the destruction of pests and afforestation to improve the physical and social environment will also be encouraged. Dr Coombs, former Chairman of the Council for Aboriginal Affairs, is at present consulting with some communities to provide advice on projects.
Also, in conjunction with the CDEPs, special training will be provided for Aboriginals who wish to acquire or upgrade their skills to equip them to either take over skilled jobs within their community now undertaken by non-Aboriginals or, if they so desire, leave the community to join the open labour market. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to have the full guidelines for the implementation of the CDEPs incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT EMPLOYMENT PROJECTS (CDEPs) BASIC OUTLINE AND GUIDELINES
Factors which led to the Development of the Program
High unemployment among Aboriginals living in remote areas or as separate communities where normal job opportunities are inadequate.
The resultant inactivity from unemployment, coupled with the payment of unemployment benefit, has led or contributed to deleterious social effects within the communities including: adverse attitudes of Aboriginal men to work severe drunkenness and associated violence health hazards, and child neglect which occurs because some parents use their unemployment benefit for alcohol instead of food and clothing; and acute juvenile delinquency.
Request have been made by communities to the Minister and Department to provide work instead of unemployment benefits. Certain communities have refused to accept unemployment benefit but face increasing pressure to accept it as a source of cash income.
Large imbalances in income being received by Aboriginals in remote or separate communities: among Regions; among communities; and among individual Aboriginals within communities. Objectives of the Pilot Program
To provide employment opportunities thereby reducing the need for unemployment benefit for unemployed Aboriginals within the community at a cost approximating unemployment benefits.
To include in the employment provided, activities directed at combating the social problems referred to, so as to help reduce their deleterious effects and progressively improve community stability.
To progressively eliminate the imbalances in incomes referred to in (4).
To maximise the capacity of Aboriginal communities to determine the use of their workforce.
Community Development Employment Grants will be applied to provide employment to unemployed members of an Aboriginal community and will be confined to Aboriginals living in remote areas or as separate communities where there is high unemployment and inadequate job opportunities and where the projects have been specifically requested by a community.
Grants will be paid to Aboriginal community councils but where appropriate may be paid direct to clan groups.
- Grants to individual communities should not exceed the total entitlement of individual members to unemployment benefits as determined by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in consultation with the Department of Social Security.
Specific grants may be made for the purchase of materials and equipment required for the implementation of a particular project.
The type of employment to be undertaken will be agreed between the individual communities and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Projects may include: economic ventures; town management activities; social advancement; and environment improvement.
Each community will be encouraged to establish its own method of remuneration for its members who participate in the project provided that
all unemployed community members, eligible to apply for unemployment benefits will be given the opportunity to participate;
each participating community member, provided he contributes the required minimum hours or satisfies other minimum criteria determined by the community, will be guaranteed a minimum income approximating his normal unemployment benefit entitlement,
In assisting communities to determine methods of remuneration for individual members, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will encourage communities to adopt cooperative and/or contract employment systems.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs will assist and advise communities in the implementation of the projects.
It has been agreed that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations will provide/arrange vocational training to assist Aboriginals to participate in the project or where desired to obtain normal employment outside the community.
The community, when required, shall satisfy the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that the project is being implemented in accordance with these guidelines.
The community shall assist the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of the project, including its social effectiveness.
-Initially, the CDEPs will be implemented in about a dozen communities. They will be carefully monitored and evaluated. If they prove successful, and there would seem to be every indication that they will, they will be progressively expanded to other communities. The Government does not regard CDEPs as a panacea for the problems of Aboriginal communities but it hopes they will help eliminate some of them. I am encouraged by a positive response from communities which have so far been consulted. Already a CDEP has commenced at Bamyili in the Northern Territory. Initial reports from the community indicate that it will be successful. Communities at Ernabella and Fregon in South Australia have also advised that they wish to have CDEPs for their communities.
I now turn to the initiatives to be taken in respect of Aboriginals who live in, or wish to move to, urban and rural areas where they will have access to the established open labour market. Many such Aboriginals do not have the skills or work experience which would enable them to compete in the open labour market for jobs. The Government therefore proposes to expand the services available to Aboriginals in the employment and training fields.
As a first step there is a need to expand the number and variety of employment opportunities available to Aboriginals in both the private and public sectors. It is proposed to initiate a national campaign, through the medium of a national Aboriginal employment committee, to persuade employers at top management level to train and employ Aboriginals in their establishments. Support will be available for training under the National Employment and Training system- that is the NEAT scheme- and the Commonwealth Employment Service will assist in identifying suitable Aboriginal applicants for the jobs which become available.
The Commonwealth Government will take specific measures itself to increase employment for Aboriginals in Commonwealth departments and authorities. Initially, assistance and training will be provided under the NEAT system to prepare Aboriginals to compete for employment. The Government is also examining measures to provide employment for Aboriginals, particularly in specific positions which need to be staffed and in which an Aboriginal background is required. In localities, where there is an abundant supply of Aboriginal workers, contractors on Commonwealth construction and similar projects and mining companies will be encouraged and assisted to explore means of offering employment and training to Aboriginals. This may be either in the form of direct employment or by way of contracts awarded to Aboriginal communities for the supply of goods or services.
Complementary to those initiatives to increase employment opportunities are programs to prepare Aboriginals for entry into employment so that they can take full advantage of the additional job vacancies. Increased staffing and other resources will be provided to the Aboriginal employment sections of the Commonwealth Employment Service to permit them to extend their efforts in the training and placement fields. The specialist vocational officers in these sections are responsible for providing job information to young persons and adults, counselling them on their employment prospects, contacting employers to obtain suitable vacancies, arranging training and work orientation programs and inplant training, arranging transport and accommodation, providing support and counselling during training and induction periods in employment and generally facilitating the transition into employment. In performing these functions the vocational officers are in contact with Aboriginals in urban and rural areas and in their communities. The increased resources which are to be provided will permit wider coverage and more intensive placement activity.
Vocational training activities will be expanded to assist the preparation of Aboriginals for jobs in the open labour market and for employment in their own communities. Already several successful initiatives have been taken in providing vocational training, especially tailored to Aboriginal needs, in most States and in the Northern Territory. Further development of such training courses in collaboration with technical and further education institutions and other organisations, with support from the NEAT system, is now planned. The NEAT system will also provide support for extended programs of onthejob training. One facet of this will be the development of training schemes using training facilities available in Commonwealth departments and authorities to prepare Aboriginals for employment in both the public and private sectors.
Fundamental to any long term improvement in the employment status of Aboriginals both in remote communities and in the open labour market is an improvement in the levels of educational attainment by Aboriginal students. My colleague, the Minister for Education in consultation with the Mininster for Employment and Industrial Relations and myself, will promote a redirection of education programs to prepare Aboriginals for a work environment or for specific job training.
The initiatives I have outlined involve action to be taken by several Ministers, including the Ministers for Education, Employment and Industrial Relations, Social Security as well as myself. I will be co-ordinating the progress made in carrying out these initiatives. This national employment strategy for Aboriginals can only be a start to a long term approach to the problem of Aboriginal unemployment. It is intended to cater for the differing situations in which the problem arises. As a start, however, the national employment strategy will lay the foundation upon which the Government can build in the future.
-by leave-On 28 May last year the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) announced that a working party of officials from his department and the Departments of Social Security, Education and Employment and Industrial Relations would begin a full study of the problems associated with Aboriginal unemployment. His official Press statement described the problem in these terms:
An investigation by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has shown that at least 50 per cent of the Aboriginal workforce was unemployed. This figure compared with 4.4 per cent of the workforce as a whole.
The working party was directed to prepare its report by 3 1 July last year. It did so. The Government was so concerned about the problem that it has taken 10 months for it to implement any of the findings or recommendations of the working party. On 18 November last the Minister told me that a submission to the Government was being prepared by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. He said: ‘I expect the submission to go to the Government fairly shortly’. On 7 December he told me that he had before him a draft proposal with regard to the conversion of unemployment benefits within communities into work project payments. On 16 March this year he told me that the submission being prepared by the departments involved in that study had not been finalised, that it still had not been put to the Government. This was nearly 8 months after the report had been received by Ministers and 4 months after the particular Minister told me that the submission would be considered by Cabinet fairly shortly.
On 4 February this year it had become apparent that the proposal to convert unemployment benefits into work project payments had been torpedoed by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations even before it got to Cabinet. On that date I received a copy of a minute from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations to employment office managers in Queensland. It effectively took unemployment benefits away from unemployed Aborigines who were living on church missions and Government settlements and who were not prepared to leave their traditional homes to find employment. The statement was incorporated in Hansard on 2 1 April at page 1 1 10 in the course of an urgency debate which I had initiated. The best answer the Government could give was from the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) who stated:
It is understood from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, Melbourne, that the circular was prepared to be sent to employment office managers, but all action was subsequently suspended. Thus the circular was not distributed with the authority of the central office.
I ask honourable members to notice that this was a very guarded statement. In fact, already there had been on the notice paper from 30 March a question by me based on that statement and also on the matters which I have recited today. It is question No. 556 and it has been on the notice paper for 8 weeks. Since people reading Hansard might wish to see the question, I ask that it be incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The question read as follows- 556 Mr E. G. Whitlam: To ask the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations-
Work Projects (Hansard, 30 October 1975, page 2665).
-The Government’s inadequate and belated response to the problem of Aboriginal unemployment reflects the pattern of half-truths and evasion which now characterises the Fraser Government’s administration of Aboriginal assistance programs. The whole nation in now familiar with the deception of Aboriginals by the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) when, as Liberal Party spokesman on Aboriginal Affairs, he promised that there would be no cuts in the Aboriginal Affairs budget or programs. It took just 2 short months for that promise to be broken. On 4 February last year the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced that the budget of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs would be cut by $7m in the balance of that financial year, including reductions in expenditure on employment generating projects of $4.7m. The justification for these cuts in expenditure and for the $32.4m which was slashed from this year’s allocation for Aboriginal assistance programs, was the allegations of waste and extravagance promoted covertly and overtly by the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately for the Government and for the Prime Minister the Hay report failed to justify such mischievious allegations. After the Hay report had been leaked in its entirety to the Press, the Government could not withstand the mounting indignation of the Australian community, the Opposition and the Government’s own back bench. On 5 October last year the Minister tabled the Hay report, fully 4 months after the Government had received it, and announced that an additional $25m was to be appropriated for expenditure on Aboriginal welfare in this financial year. When compared with the Labor Government’s appropriations for the Department of $192m in the previous financial year, this financial year’s total allocation of $177m is still a reduction in funding of 18 per cent in real terms. The Hay report showed no instances of waste and extravagance in this area. Even this meagre allocation of funds may have yet again been reduced by this callous and secretive Government.
On 16 December last and on 1 February the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that Government expenditure was to be reduced by a further $300m in the balance of this financial year. The Treasurer refused to reveal what programs and services would be curtailed as a result of these decisions. But it was widely reported that the budget of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs had again been reduced. Stung by the public’s outrage at this breach of election promises to Aborigines, the Government resorted to a diversionary tactic. In answering to pre-arranged questions in the House, the Prime Minister twice took the cheap and nasty course of trying to blame the Australian Labor Party Government for an increase in the number of Aborigines unemployed. On 26 August in response to a question from the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) the Prime Minister quite gratuitously offered the following comments:
One of the greatest harms done by the policies of the pre?vious Administration was to increase Aboriginal unemployment very greatly . . . In November 1972 about 3700 were unemployed; in December 1973 there were 9900 Aborigines unemployed as a direct result of the policies of the Australian Labor Party.
Again, in reply to the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Moore) on 15 September the Prime Minister asserted:
The Labor Government was the great perpetrator of Aboriginal unemployment.
These charges were made by a Prime Minister who is now presiding over the highest levels of unemployment since the great Depression and over a Government which abolished seasonally adjusted unemployment statistics and denied unemployment benefits to school leavers. The Prime Minister, after his first answer on 26 August last year, tabled statistics which showed the number of unemployed Aborigines at the end of July last year as 9667. The Minister now states that at the end of February this year there were 12 218 Aborigines unemployed. The Parliamentary Library Statistics Group has prepared a table which shows that at the end of March there were 12 293 Aborigines unemployed. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard the figures prepared by the Parliamentary Library Statistics Group for the months subsequent to those for which the Prime Minister tabled statistics on 26 August last year.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Compiled at request by the Statistics Group of the Legislative Research Service from information obtained from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
-The number of Aborigines registered as unemployed stood at 82S5 at the end of October 1975 which was the last full month of my Government. The Prime Minister is either deluding himself or attempting to deceive his colleagues and the Australian public if he maintains that this represented a real increase in unemployment under my Government. The Australian Labor Party uncovered the real extent of Aboriginal unemployment which the Liberal Party had concealed. The simple fact is that Aboriginal unemployment was already higher than 10 000 when my Government took office in December 1972 because successive LiberalCountry Party governments had ignored the problem by effectively preventing many Aborigines from registering. My Government took 2 initiatives which disclosed the full extent of Aboriginal unemployment and it extended to Aborigines the same rights as enjoyed by all other members of the Australian community.
In 1973 the work test which determines eligibility for unemployment benefits was modified so that Aborigines on missions and reserves did not have to move to stations and towns in order to make themselves available for employment. In addition, the strength of the Aboriginal employment section of the then Department of Labor and Immigration was increased from 65 positions in December 1973 to 122 positions in September 1975. The majority of these new positions were for vocational officers appointed to visit outlying areas and to encourage registration. An increase in the number of Aborigines registered as unemployed- not the number of unemployed Aborigines- was thus inevitable. If the Labor Government was guilty of anything, it was that it defined a problem which the conservative coalition parties were content to ignore. If Labor had not come to power in 1972, it is possible that the number of Aborigines registered as unemployed would still be under 4000 while untold thousands of Aborigines would have continued to be denied assistance in gaining employment and income security.
Labor was not content simply to blame its predecessors for the problem that it had inherited. Innovative employment programs, including special works projects, specific grants to Aboriginal communities for enterprises, housing and town management, and the Regional Employment Development and National Employment and Training schemes were introduced to assist Aborigines to tackle the unemployment problem. Unfortunately for the thousands of unemployed Aborigines, the Minister’s statement will have little effect on the problem of Aboriginal unemployment. It provides little hope that the Government intends to reduce the growing number of Aborigines who have been thrown out of work by this Government ‘s economic policies. It fails to commit any additional expenditure to finance or support the community development employment projects or an expanded NEAT scheme. Presumably the Minister’s proposals will have to limp along within very restricted funding that is now available to the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Employment and Industrial Relations and the restrictive ceilings on employment in those departments.
If the Government had genuinely intended to tackle the problem of Aboriginal unemployment, there was scant need to commission another working party to examine the problem. In the last 2 years there have been no less than 3 major reports presented to the Parliament which have dealt totally or in part with the problem of Aboriginal unemployment and have set out detailed recommendations for government action. The first main report of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty commissioned detailed research into poverty amongst Aboriginal families in Brisbane, Adelaide and rural New South Wales. These reports recommended major amendments to the procedures governing the payment of unemployment benefits to Aborigines, the extension of the very successful vocational officer service, further development of Aboriginal employment schemes, and the implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. A Standing Committee of this House, the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, presented its report on Aboriginal employment on 30 October last. This all-party Committee recognised the need for significant government assistance and innovation in this field. Paragraphs 28 and 30 of its report state:
The Committee recognises that special initiatives are needed to create and restore employment and training opportunities for Aboriginals . . . The need for special initiatives in the field of Aboriginal employment stems from the high level of Aboriginal unemployment, lack of general education, formal and on-the-job training, work experience and discrimination against them.
The Committee went on to recommend that the special works project scheme be greatly expanded and that the Australian Government should make the necessary funds available.
In August last year a Senate Select Committee reported on the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and presented detailed comment and recommendations to alleviate the problem of Aboriginal unemployment. Page 213 of the Committee’s report states:
Employment, and lack of employment, are but one component of a cycle which ensures the perpetuation of poverty. If a person is to break out of the poverty situation into which he was born, he must be able to achieve economic security, which implies permanent employment . . .
The Senate Select Committee also presented S recommendations concerning Aboriginal employment, including a recommendation that the special works program be expanded. The overwhelming conclusion of all these commissions and committees was that immediate action by the Federal Government was necessary if the depressing cycle of Aboriginal poverty and unemployment was to be broken. I do say to the Minister, whose genuineness and endeavours in this field I recognise- we can all discern that he is inhibited by the reluctance of some of his colleagues and by his coalition partners- that he might have been generous enough to acknowledge the recommendations which have been made in this field by the Henderson inquiry, commissioned by the McMahon Government and augmented by mine, and by the committees of the 2 Houses.
The Minister’s statement confirms the impression that the Government is still interested only in maintaining a facade of activity and interest in the problem of Aboriginal employment. The Government has not and will not commit or expend funds that are required to implement the findings of those 3 major inquiries or, one would think, fully to implement the recommendations which have been accepted from the working party’s report of 31 July last. Instead of maintaining expenditure on labour intensive housing and enterprise activities, the Government slashed expenditure on those programs in January and August of last year. The allocation of an additional $2 5 m for those programs still does not restore funding to the nominal levels established by the Labor Government, still less to the real levels. Instead of extending the vocational officer service of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, the Government applied severe staff and travel restrictions which effectively denied many Aborigines income, support and assistance in obtaining employment. Instead of immediate government action to alleviate this pressing social problem, another unnecessary and inadequate report was commissioned.
The result of this Government’s duplicity and dishonesty is record levels of Aboriginal unemployment, which have risen every month during its term. The Fraser Government is not only presiding over record levels of general unemployment but also is responsible for the rate of Aboriginal unemployment which in official terms is running at 30 per cent of the Aboriginal work force and is unofficially estimated to be running in excess of 50 per cent of the potential work force. This is the cost of the Fraser Government ‘s misdirected priorities, its passion for slashing federal expenditure, and its deliberate and inhuman policy of creating and then hiding unemployment.
Corporate Crime-Aged Pensioners -Apple Industry-Migrant Education-Political Activities of the Australian Union of Students-Whaling-Small Businesses -Overseas Visit by the Prime Minister -Prices and Wages Freeze
That grievances be noted.
-In rising to speak in the grievance debate, I want to raise the issue of corporate crime and punishment, or rather lack of punishment. I should like to look at the problem of protecting the public and other traders against the actions of fraudulent directors and other officers of companies. The telling need for this protection was cogently exposed in an article by Graham Downie in the Canberra Times on 6 December 1976. He indicated that the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs had under consideration legislation which would provide for new offences and stricter penalties for dishonest or reckless com- pany directors. The article also mentioned that legislation of this type was introduced in Victoria some 10 years ago. As I see it, amendments to the Victorian Companies Act to deal with delinquent company officers were introduced by the Victorian Government as far back as 1966 by what was termed the defaulting officer provisions. Those provisions authorise judicial examination of officers or failed or failing companies. They also provide that it is an offence for an officer or former officer of a company, and that includes directors, to fail to disclose certain information relevant to the company’s affairs, to fail to deliver or to conceal or destroy books of a company, to remove, conceal or dispose of company property, to falsify the company’s books, to obtain credit by fraud or false representation, and to contract unpayable debts. It is remarkable that the legislation further provides that such offences are punishable by 2 years imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000. In addition, the court may order that the fraudulent company director be personally liable without limit where he has carried on business in order to defraud or has contracted debts knowing that they will not be paid. The legislation also provides that negligent officers can be declared personally liable for damage caused by their careless or imprudent control of the company.
I suggest that that sort of provision badly needs to be included in the forthcoming companies and securities industry legislation. It is a disgrace that such provisions should have been introduced more than a decade ago in Victoria while a similar protection is still not available to the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory under the respective companies ordinances. I suggest that not only this Government is vulnerable in regard to such negligence but so also was the Labor Government. The Canberra Times article to which I referred earlier said that the Government had under consideration proposals for defaulting officer provisions. But how long will the corporate crooks and fraudulent manipulators be able to get away with such fraudulent practices before the Government enacts this very basic form of protection for citizens?
The present penalties and deterrents to dishonest activities by the controllers of companies are simply blatantly insufficient. Mr Downie goes on to cite one example of a company director who was fined $600 when his company had lost $250,000 of shareholders’ funds within a period of 6 months. This situation, to put it mildly, is ludicrous. If the director had robbed a bank of that amount, he probably would have been sent to prison for 20 years. It seems to me that a drastic review of the penal provisions of company legislation is called for and is long overdue. The
Tories of this Parliament never have any compunction about introducing penal provisions to strangle the trade union movement. But there is a reluctance on the Government side to introduce corresponding penal provisions into legislation covering the operations of directors who fraudulently misappropriate shareholders’ funds.
The courts which adjudicate on these matters seem to have their priorities all wrong. Too often we hear of corporate crooks acquitted in the face of strong evidence on what appears to be a technicality. If they are convicted, they are let off with a fine while persons who have committed what are minor offences by comparison are sent to prison. I suggest that the prospect of a jail term is particularly repugnant to the white collar criminal who sees himself as respectable. There is a need for a complete overhaul of the penal provisions of the companies legislation to ensure that fraudulent directors do not escape with trifling fines but get their just desserts.
I was rather concerned and I think that everybody in the community ought to have been concerned with the collapse of Patrick Partners. Throughout this country over the last 3 or 4 months regrettably there has been a whole catalogue of collapsed companies. I suppose that it started off initially with the collapse of the Barton group of companies and the catalogue grew with the collapse of Patrick Partners and Gollins and Co. It is regrettable that we have only one copy of the Masterman report in the Parliamentary Library. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) and I have tried repeatedly to get a copy of that document. I have placed on notice today to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) what is, if you like, nothing more than a catalogue of the recommendations by Masterman on the need to cover the gap that has been exposed because of the failure of Patrick Partners. I suggest that all these recommendations are crucial and necessary to be incorporated in the uniform companies legislation when it is brought into the Parliament.
The other matter that I raised in March of this year with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs was the regrettable situation that faced creditors when a stockbroking firm went into liquidation. I am pleased to have received a letter from the Minister dated 14 May 1977 which I would like to read into the Hansard record. The letter reads as follows:
Dear Mr Jacobi,
On 24 March 1977 you raised with me in the House of Representatives the question of protecting creditors from the appointment of trustees in the bankruptcy of a stockbroking partnership who have ‘a rapport with and a sympathy towards the members of the partnership’.
The appointment of a trustee in a bankruptcy or in a proceeding under Part X of the Bankruptcy Act is a matter which the creditors themselves resolve upon. The person appointed as a trustee must be a person who has been registered under the Act as a person qualified to act as a trustee.
It frequently happens, more particularly in proceedings under Part X, that in small and uncomplicated matters it is the accountant who has been active in the financial affairs of the debtor who can more effectively wind up its affairs. For the sake of this type of proceeding it is considered that there should not be an outright ban excluding a debtor’s accountant or auditor, who also happens to be a registered trustee, from the right to be the trustee of the debtor’s estate in a proceeding under the Bankruptcy Act.
In the case of a bankruptcy, the Act provides for any creditor to lodge with the Court an objection to the appointment of a person as the trustee of an estate if his connection with or relation to the bankrupt, his estate or a particular creditor is likely to make it difficult for him to act with impartiality.
This provision does not at present apply to proceedings under Part X of the Act. However, consideration is being given as to whether or not the Act should be amended to extend the provision to Part X.
I sincerely trust that that necessary amendment will be forthcoming as quickly as possible.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, it is probably appropriate that I should say a few words about aged pensioners when there are so many of them here in Canberra at the moment to lobby and possibly to try to get better conditions. A Federal Government survey released on 14 April 1976 showed that 100 000 aged people are living in sub-standard houses, some of which are structurally inferior and infested with pests and vermin. It further disclosed that 24 200 people over 60 years of age are living in houses or flats which are beyond repair. The survey investigated living conditions of aged people in country and city areas and showed that the proportion of the aged living in unsatisfactory conditions was higher outside capital cities. The State with the highest percentage of aged people in unsatisfactory housing was Tasmania where 19 per cent of such people were involved. I am ashamed and so should the Government of Tasmania be ashamed that Hobart had the worst living conditions for the aged.
The survey showed that many homes suffered from major problems of sanitation and building construction failure. Such is the tragedy of inflation and such is the difficulty of aged people to keep their homes in a good state of repair. Old age is sometimes referred to as the tragedy of life. It is tragic when elderly people are battling to survive and to live a decent respectable life in their retirement. Politicians, including myself, during election campaigns give a fair bit of lip service and plenty of promises. But the elderly of Australia need action. Every day their plight grows alarmingly. Of course, I cannot classify everybody in Australia as being selfish. But there are many people who cannot wait to turn out their elderly parents from their homes. Many reasons are given including the influence of children, that the parents are hard to live with, etc. But I wonder how many stop to think of the sadness this selfishness can cause. Retirement for many is a misnomer because their post-working years can be the hardest of their lives. Many cross the retirement age line fit and healthy. But their health deteriorates because they are rejected.
Whilst I appreciate the work done by nursing homes and other institutions, it saddens me greatly when I visit nursing homes- we all do as politicians- and am told with tear in eye: ‘I wish I were home and I wish I could get my independence back’. We can learn a lot from the aged, particularly the elderly who are battling today in Australia. I am a firm believer that every endeavour should be made by politicians at every opportunity to overcome the problems. The needs and personal sense of identity and worth of each person is enhanced partly from the development and exercise of individual capacities and partly through the sense of belonging and sharing that comes from participating in the society of others. The elderly in our society need that attention and care.
I would like to speak briefly also about the apple industry. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will remember that there was a great controversy earlier in the year. We all thought that the apple industry of Tasmania would reach rock bottom. But to my pleasure the people of Tasmania have come forward with propositions. They have worked together in an endeavour to bring back the apple industry to the level we knew 10 years ago. As you would realise, Mr Deputy Speaker, since 1 972 we have seen a demise in the industry. It has been reduced by approximately 40 per cent. Many things have been blamed and many persons have been blamed, including the waterside workers of Tasmania. I received a little bulletin from Tasmania called The Huon News. It is just a little brief paper but it contains some extraordinary reading. On the front page is an article entitled ‘Getting the Apples Moving’. It reads:
Port Huon Waterside Workers have responded to the urgent crisis in the Export Industry with a sustained high loading rate and careful handling which makes this the best port in the Commonwealth for the export of apples. Their contribution to survival of the industry must be acknowledged with full appreciation of this fact.
That is most significant and important. I, for one, have said that the handling rates in the ports of Hobart and Port Huon were not satisfactory. The freight rates, of course, were too high and that was one of the reasons why the apple industry decreased so alarmingly. In the same newspaper was an editorial which I thought was perfectly written by somebody who had been involved in the industry for many years. The editorial is entitled ‘From Defeat Success! ‘ and it reads:
The importance of the Apple and Pear Industry to Tasmania has been of an order which has placed it in the first rank of consideration for most of the past century. This was “The Apple Isle’! It was so because Nature endowed it so generously with the right climate and the right soils and even the right harbours.
This pre-eminence will not lightly be thrown away by the people of Tasmania; nor, if justly understood, would centralised Federal Power destroy it. Yet there is a real danger that this could happen. If it did, it would be clear warning of an unhealthy trend which could eventually destroy the Federal System.
Already half the Industry has been knocked down and sold for almost nothing under the Tree-Pull Scheme. And half the population of the apple districts are seeking their bread amongst strangers. Before the huge inflationary developments of the 1 970 ‘s this industry was estimated to be worth $25 million a year to this State. In the last seven years rising costs and prices have doubled. So we deal with a potential $50 million a year- of which at least half has been lost. Lost? It has been thrown down the drain by ineptitude in high places!
In Tasmania, this year, a very good fight is being put up by the people- who are the Industry. An Apple and Pear Marketing Authority, has been set up; twelve years after the need for it was fully realised by the majority of growers- many now no longer growers because of just that lack!
At the very time when the former entrepreneurs said ‘nothing can be done for export’, the Interim Authority snatched success from the very jaws of defeat. Finance was arranged, ships were found and selling arrangements organised. By a miracle the Industry has functioned, problems of fruit size and quality have been overcome in a very difficult year; and loading of the crop, now within sight of end of season for the U.K. and Europe, has proceeded with a new momentum and smoothness, in respect of which the cooperation of the Waterside Workers, the Carriers and the Packers has enabled full advantage to be taken of Port Huon as the major centre of export.
This has been a most important factor. To old hands on the wharf, of whom the writer is one, the speed of handling, the care with which the fruit is handled, and the will to do the job, takes us back forty years to the time when most of the personnel of Port Huon Branch were apple growers and their sons. We knew then that we were the best team of any Australian port; and the men and boys, this year, have shown themselves just as good- which is saying something!
The point I make is that it can be done and, with a little initiative, soundness and conscientious work, the apple industry in Tasmania once again will be revived and Tasmania once again will be known with pride as the apple isle.
– I rise in this grievance debate to raise a matter that is certainly of some moment and of great importance to the ethnic communities in this country. It is ironic to hear the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) shedding crocodile tears for pensioners. It would be more fitting if he stood up in his caucus room and demanded that the Government do something more practical about improving the lot of pensioners.
My grievance concerns the Government’s failure to implement its promises with regard to migrant education and the admission by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) at question time yesterday that he had no interest or involvement in assisting migrants to gain a proficiency in the English language. Before the last election the coalition parties released an election manifesto entitled ‘Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Policy’ which stated that an understanding of the language, presumably English, was the most serious prob.em to face many migrants. However, the Government’s record in assisting migrants to learn English over the last 18 months has proved how hollow this promise was, as with so many of the Government’s promises. This document, which goes into about 4 pages of drivel, is about as empty as the policy to which I have made reference. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 2 1 May, revealed how far the Government’s commitment extends. The article read:
The Federal Government has rejected a State Government submission that money for teaching English to adult migrants in New South Wales be doubled to about $5.8m in this year’s Federal Budget.
The Federal Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, has indicated to the State Government that the allocation will be about $3.5m-only $700,000 more than the present sum . . .
They say it is under-staffed, badly housed, underequipped and unable to meet the needs of growing numbers of adult migrants . . .
These are people who wish to give effect to the call by the Liberal-National Country Party Government. But what words of wisdom, what pearls, do we hear from the Treasurer (Mr Lynch)? The same article said:
Federal Treasury rejected requests earlier this year to remedy a further problem: The allowance paid to adult migrants learning English fulltime is several dollars less than unemployment benefits.
It has now reached the stage where the living allowance is $11 less than the unemployment benefit. That is an absolute disgrace. The honourable member for Franklin, if he has the future and the wellbeing of people at heart, also ought to have a go at that in the caucus room.
The Government also has failed to implement the findings contained in the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties on the teaching of migrant languages in schools. This report was published in March 1 976, but the Government still has not committed any funds to ensure that migrants and their children are given the opportunity to gain proficiency not only in English but also in thenmother tongue. If this opportunity is not given we will have a second-class standard for migrant children- children whom we have encouraged to come to this country- because they will not be able to achieve to their maximum. As I have said before, they are trying to put their backsides on 2 stools at once and if nothing is done they are destined to carry out the meagre tasks in this society because they will not have been given the same opportunities to achieve as others have been given. A newspaper article has reported Mrs Daphne Merry of the Migrant Education Action Committee as saying: … a report on the teaching of migrant languages in schools compiled by Professor Michael Clyne of Monash University snowed there was a great need for language teachers at the primary level.
I was a member of the Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties, and the evidence is of such a nature that it must be accepted that this state of affairs exists. We have teachers who are trying to do their best and to carry out the task that they have been trained to do, but Mrs Daphne Merry has said that more than 1 500 Victorian teachers qualified to teach migrant languages are being forced to teach other subjects and the Committee has indicated clearly that this is the case. So, this great document was a facade in the deception of the community, in particular the migrants, prior to the last election.
Day by day we see the efforts that are made in respect of this and other matters of social welfare. In Appropriation Bill (No. 3), which was debated earlier this year, we saw that expenditure on part-time instruction under the adult migrant education program was to be cut by $74,000. Expenditure on the child migrant education program was to be cut by $983,400. Also, $419,000 was to be cut from the expenditure on the adult migrant education program. The spending on migrant education programs was reduced by 2 per cent in real terms in this year’s Budget. A saving of approximately $4,000 will be made in division 274/30 1 under the item of special investigations of the Schools Commission. One could go on and on and point to the inadequacies of the policies of the Government and its deception.
When I raised this matter yesterday in the House I asked a question along the lines I have outlined. What did we get from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? He said that the shadow spokesman had been here for 17 months and directed a question to me. It has nothing to do with me. He says it has nothing to do with him but it is spelt out chapter and verse in the document which was used to pull the wool over migrants’ eyes in the election campaign. How does he explain that? How will he explain to the migrant communities in this country that he treats their interests with scant respect? He can go to all the functions he likes, he can pat children on the head and do all the sorts of things which make him attractive to the infant, but what does he do here? He comes into the House and expands on the deception by failing to stand and be counted when these issues and decisions are taken. He supports them chapter and verse.
There is one other matter which I think is a crying shame when we consider social welfare requirements. Token advances were made to 2 bodies to be established for the purposes of dispensing social welfare to migrant people in this country. A meagre amount was given to a pilot proposition in Victoria. This project is failing miserably because it is not catering for the requirements of people in that State. What about the people in the outer lying areas? Do they have to travel to Melbourne to take advantage of the service? In Sydney it has not even opened. I should have thought that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney), who would have a number of migrants in his electorate, would be voicing his opinion about the dispensing of social services to the migrants in this country. How long do we keep up this facade? A group of people have been elected to a body. It is just tokenism. There is no real representation from the people who know something about the education issue. When we run into a problem the Government’s theory is that all we should do is set up a committee and then start to talk. The Government talks and talks. When it comes to the crunch, when it comes to standing and being counted on the promises which it has made to the migrants and ethnic groups in this country, nothing is forthcoming.
The facts to which I have referred are only the thin edge of the wedge. It is horrifying to me to anticipate what will happen in the next Budget. I challenge the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to tell the ethnic groups what he proposes to do. Will he do anything about the funds provided for adult education and English teaching? Will he fight in the party room? If not will he come into the House and support propositions that the Opposition will be raising to correct the situation created by the Government itself. I think that this issue is terribly important. In the interests of ethnic groups I hope that the facade does not continue and that the Minister will stand and be counted.
– I rise to speak about a subject of intense importance and interest to many people in Australia, in particular a large segment of the student population of some 250 000 people who are forced to pay some $700,000 annually towards the political activities of the Australian Union of Students. Having served as a representative on the Students Representative Council of the University of Sydney- in the days when it was affiliated with the NUAUS- I have had some experience of university politics. I firmly believe that it is the right of every student and every person living in this democratic society to be able to pursue beliefs and interests providing they do not affect the interests of others. The major problem in terms of the AUS is that in recent years it has become virtually the plaything of a small, dedicated and highly skilled group of extreme socialists, Trotskyists, Maoists, Communists, anarchists and every other possible combination and permutation one may care to mention. The result has been that the vast majority of university students, through the existing electoral system for the AUS, have not had a fair opportunity to have their point of view heard in the councils of that organisation.
It has been demonstrated that the 80 or so personnel actually employed as paid officers of the AUS have been able to apply their political ideologies on the councils of the AUS to the extent that delegates from the universities, Colleges of Advanced Education and higher schools of learning in Australia represented on the AUS have not had the opportunity to have a contrary point of view heard. Many of these difficulties were highlighted by the last budget of the AUS passed at its conference in January last year. In the time available to me I shall refer to some of the items for which funds were allocated. Any man or woman who cares to listen to or read this speech should consider carefully whether they believe that the views expressed by the AUS in fact represent, as they allege, the majority view of students in Australia which has not been tested. One factor is abundantly clear. The emphasis of the AUS, despite the fact that it is supposed to be orientated towards the welfare of Australian students, has in recent years become more clearly identified with the interests of people and groups who have no affinity whatsoever with Australian university students, their interests or the interests of this nation. In reply to a series of letters to the Australian, the AUS stated in the same paper on 2 1 September:
Broadly speaking the objectives of the Union are to promote the educational welfare and political objectives of students. The constitution of the AUS specifically defines these objectives.
That is absolutely correct. The letter emphasised the words ‘broadly speaking’. Within which the union has put an elephant throught the eye of a needle. In the budget for this financial year the AUS has declared its support for the creation of a socialist Australian society in terms of democratic institutions. It supports actions aimed at democratising the workplace, schools, tertiary institutions, community organisations and the organs of the State. It naturally opposes any move by State or Federal authorities to interfere with the present structure of student unions. I wonder why? Its support for democracy extends to everything except, of course, the AUS itself. For example the entire delegation from Sydney University was required at the last conference to follow the dictates of three out of five elected representatives.
I now refer to some of the items in the Australian budget for overseas organisations and interests. I note with a degree of sympathy on my part that, $3,500 was made available for the maintenance of the Fretilin office for Timor. Another interesting subject was Malaya News Service. I should have thought it was Malaysia. Nevertheless, the union calls it Malaya. This organisation was created for the establishment of a socialist Malaysia. The AUS supports the continued protection of the Malaya News Service as an effective weapon in radicalising Malaysia. In addition, student aid has been given for the building of a progressive movement in Malaysia. For that purpose $2,000 was allocated.
– Why do they not help the unemployment in Australia?
– I agree entirely especially unemployed students or graduates. I turn now to Thailand. Here we have the Thai Information Centre with an allocation of $2,500, and the emergency travel expenditure fund for the Thai activists fleeing from the Thai Government either to or within Australia with an allocation of $2,000. Of course there are problems in Thailand and these are the reasons why we need to be sympathetic to the difficulties of various people in that country. Nevertheless, I emphasise the point I made earlier: I wonder precisely what responsibility this should be for the AUS which is, ostensibly, in terms of its own charter, responsible for the activities and the welfare of Australian university students.
I now refer to a much more political question, namely that the AUS is campaigning this year to destroy the Association of South-East Asian Nations. In fact ASEAN is regarded by the AUS as an implicit tool of exploitation of the people of South-East Asia. For that purpose some $1,000 has been allocated. We go a little further still down the leftist road of politics. The AUS has a campaign to end the 5-power Defence Agreement. For that purpose $1,000 has been allocated. So it goes on. Funds have been allocated for the anti-apartheid campaign and of course every member of this Parliament should applaud that objective, if not the methods used. Of course we also have the situation in the Middle East. In recent years the AUS has demonstrated an abundantly clear one-sided political view on this question, no doubt supported by a gentleman called Mr Hartley who is a friend of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) who is sitting at the table at this moment representing the Opposition. Nevertheless, the executive members of the AUS and their organisation received assistance in achieving these objectives. They have been given substantial funds for telephones, and receive travelling allowances and have access to a substantial publicity machine; in fact, I would say that it is probably one of the best political publicity machines in Australia today. Through this machine the executive informs students of their own private political opinions on questions not related to student welfare. The student body is required to pay for all this through the requirement under State legislation and the bylaws of the universities that every student must pay fees of $2.50 towards the funding of AUS or be prevented from taking courses and sitting for examinations on the university campus. That speaks for itself.
Let us turn now to some other subjects. There is the question of homosexuality. Funds of more than $3,000 have been allocated for a homosexual research grant. The AUS policy demands that homosexuality be presented to students in schools as a valid life style. The AUS also affirms the right of homosexual teachers to express and promote their belief in schools. The AUS will conduct a campaign in this area this year. I wonder how many Australian university students in the Australian community would be prepared to allow their funds to be put to such purposes. Yet it goes on.
– How much?
-The grant was for $3,100. Then we go on to the question of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Student Union for which an amount of $22,000 has been allocated. A further $18,000 has been allocated by way of grant for a black resources centre. May I say at this point that in my opinion the AUS has made considerable progress in making Australians generally more aware of the problems of the Aboriginal people of Australia. But since the Aboriginal people are Australians, I fail to see why the AUS cannot look after their interests along with the interests of white Australian students rather than become involved in other matters. I fail to see the virtue of an additional organisation specifically for black students. I would have thought that that was quite contrary to the very purposes of the policy of the AUS in this field.
Again, in terms of education, we see that the AUS believes that entry to tertiary institutions should be based on the willingness of individuals to learn and not on academic preparedness. It also believes that under staff-student control the tertiary institution should be used as centres of anti-capitalist activity. The case is quite clear. The AUS has been taken over. It is now pressing its policies through education to insist that people follow the dictates of the AUS leadership. For example, the AUS also believes that teachers have a right to have sexual relationships with pupils. These are not my views; they are the views of the AUS leaders. These are the views
Cut forward and accepted at the last conference eld in Melbourne early this year. I seriously doubt that they would be the views of the vast majority of Australian students.
-Parliament is a place where usually we discuss matters as they affect people and the conditions under which people are living and which they enjoy. But of course in providing those conditions for people, society also has an effect on the flora and fauna in the world around us. I know that in the last couple of years, discussion of this sort of an aspect has become rather unpopular. One is probably going to be called a long-haired trendy intellectual or an eco-nut because one brings such a thing to the notice of Parliament. In my political career I have attracted many names and another one or two will not worry me.
One of the matters about which I wish to talk to the House this afternoon is the question of whaling- a matter which has been the subject of real international controversy. Most of the popular outcry has been focused on the activities of the International Whaling Commission which sets voluntary quotas on what whales may be taken and in what numbers. Many honourable members will have received a spate of books, stickers and arguments with regard to this matter. There has been a recent unsuccessful attempt to have a moratorium on the hunting of whales to enable further information to be obtained. Man knows very little about this animal which we have ravaged so much during the last century. One can see scientific experts on the one side praising what the International Whaling Commission does and saying that it is sufficient to ensure the continuance of the species while others will use the same evidence to say how poorly the Commission is doing. But one thing is agreed upon by both groups and that is, that there is no doubt that there has been a devastating effect on the whale population in the past century because of altered hunting methods and soon.
The world situation with regard to whales is that 1 1 species have been hunted- 10 baleen or whalebone whales which are filter-feeders, with baleen plates in place of teeth, and the sperm whale which is the largest toothed whale. Only 4 species of baleen whale- the fin, the sei, the Bryde’s and the minke- and the sperm whale are currently being taken. The members of the International Whaling Commission come from nearly all of the nations which have whaled at one time or another. As I said, their task is to try to regulate the industry and provide for the conservation, development and optimum utilisation of the whale resources. In fact seven of the 16 members of that body at the moment do not whale. Along with scientists and conservationists, they are exerting pressure on those nations which do whale, particularly in this respect the Soviet Union and Japan which currently take some 85 per cent of the world catch. Whaling is important to Japan because in 1972 baleen whalemeat made up 9 per cent of the meat protein intake of the Japanese people.
The quotas that the Commission sets are unenforceable. They are voluntary quotas and one knows that they are not enforced. Australia has taken the attitude that an agreement based on a species area concept will make any blanket moratorium redundant. The United States has taken the attitude of banning the importing of marine mammal products-and the whale is a marine mammal. Through these bans it is trying to exercise one control. There has also been research to find a substitute for sperm oil. One possibility is Jojoba which comes from a bean plant which grows wild in the arid regions of the United States. It is hoped that this will be on the market very shortly at a price cheaper than that for sperm oil.
The Australian situation is that we have one whaling station at Cheynes Beach in Albany and sperm whales are taken there. Sperm oil is added to lubricants, for example, for automatic transmissions and machine tools, where it forms a bond with the metal. No economic substitute has been produced for this. Meal is prepared from the meat and is fed to pigs and poultry. It is not fed to humans. We take about 4 per cent of the whole world sperm whale catch, or 2 per cent of the total world catch.
One of the unfortunate things is that, even if we were to stop whaling, that would not provide a solution as our quota would be allocated to other countries. The Department of Primary Industry issues the licences under the Whaling Act. The whaling station I mentioned is important to the local economy of the area where it exists. It employs 100 people and other ancillary things flow from it. There are suggestions that the sperm whale is not threatened, but we cannot assert that this is so because of our lack of knowledge. There has been no appropriate inquiry into this matter by any independent authority and one must express concern. Having raised this matter briefly for the attention of honourable members I should like to suggest that it might be appropriate if this matter were transferred to the authority of the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development rather than have it remain with the Department of Primary Industry. Over the years agriculturalists have not shown themselves to be good environmentalists. I believe that we would be better served by the Department of the Environment, Housing and Community Development handling this matter. I believe that Department should not only watch what is happening locally but also should handle the matter at the international level. Through the Department Australia should take international action at least to ensure enforcement of quotas by applying the same sort of sanctions in many ways as the United States of America does. I think we should work more actively for a moratorium on whaling so that further research can be carried out. If we ban whaling in Australia we should give consideration to the economics of the area where our one whaling station is. Perhaps this is a minor matter in the great issues we have before us but I believe it is one to which we should pay some attention.
-The latest indicators show that Australia’s economic outlook continues to brighten under the Federal Government’s responsible economic policies. It is to be regretted that greater progress has not eventuated because of the action of the trade union movement in its recent decision not to participate in the voluntary wages-prices arrangement. Notwithstanding the unco-operative attitude of Mr R. J. Hawke and the trade union movement there is nevertheless an encouraging trend emerging that must give Australian business great hope for the next financial year. Several significant factors support this realistic optimism. There have been increases in private capital investment, increased returns for rural industries, a rise in manufacturing industry expenditure of 32.1 per cent up to December 1976, a substantial turn-round in mining industry expansion as well as reduction in the rate of inflation.
Despite these encouraging signs I submit that a lot remains to be done. In its efforts to contain inflation and to keep interest rates down the Australian Government in its Federal Budget in August next will have to maintain cuts in Government spending. Encouragement in the overall context therefore must be given to the private sector. Over the next few weeks when the Government is increasing the tempo of its preparations for the Budget one vital area of the national economy that will need careful Government attention is the depressed small business sector. The small business sector embodies the principles of freedom and enterprise and decentralisation of economic power. These principles are vital to the maintenance of the Australian way of life and of course are anathema to the Australian Labor Party.
Governments, both State and Federal, need to take a lot more interest in the plight of Australia’s 190 000 small businesses which employ in excess of 1 200 000 workers. Honourable members need to be reminded that 8 million Australians rely on small businesses for their existence. Small business employs a significant number of Australia’s total work force. Obviously the Australian Government’s interest must be increased not only because of the implications to the national economy of the ailing small business sector but also because there is a profound humanitarian side to the problems of small business. It is a pity that the Australian Union of Students does not think of that rather than supporting socialism outside Australia. Similar to thousands of their fellow Australians in depressed sectors of the rural industry- beef, dairying and fruit growing, for example- small business people are experiencing genuine and severe financial hardship, many through no fault of their own. In recent years thousands of once viable Australian small businesses have crashed. Thousands more are tottering now at the brink of bankruptcy.
– Sold down the drain by the Labor Party.
– As my colleague the honourable member for Dawson said, they have been sold down the drain by the Labor Party. One of Australia’s foremost authorities on small business, Professor Geoffrey Meredith, has released details of factors contributing to small business failures. The 3 key factors are: Firstly, lack of sufficient initial working capital; secondly, lack of business ability, acumen, training or experience resulting in such matters as under-quoting, mistakes in estimating, lack of supervision and failure to assess potential of business or to detect misrepresentation; and thirdly, economic conditions affecting industry including competition and price cutting, credit restrictions, falling prices, increases in charges and other overhead expenses, high cost of repairs and maintenance of equipment, and changes in the character of business location. There are other causes, of course.
Looking at all these causes it is apparent that the Government can play, and must play, a significant part in assisting this sector in its difficulties. It is absolutely essential that we maintain that spirit of free enterprise which is the basis of the small business undertaking. To put these failure causes properly into perspective it needs to be remembered that small businessmen bring some rare and unique qualities to the nation’s business scene. Unlike members of the Australian Labor Party they are not knockers; they are the salt of the earth. On their enterprising spirit, entrepreneurial skills and indivualism are frequently built remarkable business success stones. This indeed is the hallmark of small business in Australia. Some of these small businesses are unique and so vital to the nation’s prosperity that they would be irreplaceable.
One instance is Australia’s precision toolmaking industry. This employs some 400 to 500 of the nation’s finest, most highly qualified machine tooling experts. This industry is so depressed that as an industry it has perhaps only months to live. Unless there is some Government action to help stimulate this vital sector it will be lost for years to come to our national industrial scene. This is only one of thousands of similar examples. Many other equally vital sectors within Australia s business community are in deep trouble. To help this precision tool section and others consideration must come in the August Budget. It is well known that the Government somewhere and somehow has to prune $3,000m from Federal Government spending for the next year. But if no encouragement is given to small businesses in the next Budget their plight will worsen drastically by the time of the 1978 Budget.
One encouraging sign emerges. Small business is determined to help itself. Australia’s small businesses are getting organised at last. There have been meetings this month, including one in Melbourne this week, aimed at leading to formation of the largest and most powerful business association in Australia. This action of self-help by small businesses must be applauded and I hope that their infectious enthusiasm for survival through their own efforts becomes contagious to all its members. They are not parasites like some trade union leaders in Australia. Dozens of organisations representing thousands of small business people across Australia are beginning to appreciate the value of organising themselves into one substantial national body. They are to be congratulated and I hope that this organisation grows in strength and does not lose its momentum through becoming fractured into many different structures. More importantly they will be given every encouragement, including government encouragement. Already a steering committee has been formed. Its aim is to move towards the establishment of a council of small business organisations in Australia. This council ultimately will have a profound influence on Government economic considerations and its power to influence government for the greater good of Australia, and I hope it will be substantial.
The National Country Party already is deeply involved in assisting small business. As far back as 1972, soon after the present Deputy Prime Minister, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, became Federal Leader of the Country Party he instructed the Party’s national secretariat to prepare submissions on programs to aid small business. In 1974 the Honourable Ralph Hunt, Australia’s excellent present Minister for Health, was appointed the National Country Party’s spokesman on small business. Mr Hunt, under Mr Anthony’s direction, began an extensive program of conferences, conventions and seminars aimed at delving in depth into Australia’s small business problems, as a result of one of these seminars held at Cooma on 22 August 1975, the National Country Party produced a document summarising for the first time in national perspective the whole problem of small business.
The Australian Labor Party was not even interested in it. More recently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has indicated interest in it. I congratulate the Prime Minister on this interest.
The assistance by the Federal coalition Government has been acknowledged already by a spokesman for the Interim Council for Small Business Organisations of Australia, Mr Peter Ostinfeld. Mr Ostinfeld has stressed that small business men generally appreciate the assistance that the Prime Minister and the Government have provided to the small business sector so far. Quite rightly, Mr Ostinfeld has pointed out that the Government’s help so far is small consolation for the scores of businessmen weekly still going bankrupt. Clearly, much more remains to be done by the Federal Government. Just as clearly, this Government, which has gone so far in such a short space of time towards restoring Australia to economic prosperity, will be aware of its responsibilities. I believe that Federal Government Ministers already have conscientiously sat down with small business men to begin planning for the future.
In summary, it is abundantly clear that the stage is set for a national small business recovery. The problems of small business have been fully documented. I congratulate the small business organisation on what it has done with its positive moves. Its organisation is improving. The Federal Government clearly is sensitive to the situation. I enlist the assistance of all honourable members and urge them to play their part in making a contribution to a full scale national recovery in Australia’s small business sector.
– The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) has just made another of his incredible speeches.
– An excellent speech.
Mr KEITH JOHNSON I said ‘incredible’, and that word means something. He spent half of the time for which he was on his feet telling us how incompetent and how inept the small businesses in Australia are. He told us that he believes in a free enterprise system and then he asked the Government to step in and help the small businesses. One could not get anything more contradictory than that if one tried. While we have such an inept and incompetent Government in Australia, while the economy is in the mess into which the Government has brought it and while we have a Prime Minister who trips off overseas- not on an Australian airline, but on a foreign airline- when the country seems to me in one heck of a mess, when a national wage case decision has been made only 2 days previously, when the Parliament is still in session and when members of the Australian Labor Party are calling daily for some leadership from the Prime Minister and the Government to solve the economic problems of the country -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order -
-Yes, it is. Sit down.
– How long have you been in the chair?
-Come on; I have only 2 minutes left, Tom.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I cannot proceed while I have these garbled interruptions on my right.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order on the honourable member for Darling Downs. I have only 2 minutes left, and he knows it. He should be sat down.
-Order! The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat. The honourable member for Darling Downs is raising a point of order.
– Is it in order for a member of a political party whose leader went overseas by private charter at a cost of half a million dollars -
-Order! No point of order is involved.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I demand that action be taken against the honourable member for Darling Downs. This is happening too often and you allow it to happen too often -
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Burke.
-That is the sort of tactic that the honourable member for Darling Downs uses all the time. He knows that the time is limited. All he wants to do is to use up the time of the Opposition, to stifle it and to stop its members from speaking. That is the tactic used by honourable members opposite all the time. Well, I will not be stifled. I was talking about this Government being an inept government and about the Prime Minister deserting the ship and taking himself overseas when the country is in the mess into which he has brought it with his great fanfare of trumpets and his wage and price pause, as he calls it, which was in fact a wage freeze as it had nothing to do with prices.
When one looks at the front page of the Daily Telegraph, which is certainly not the most radical newspaper in Australia, of Wednesday, 25 May, what does one And? One finds that food and car prices are part of a price rise stampede. That is a logical consequence of the so-called wage-price pause. The Prime Minister was told of that before it started. It has been the experience of every similar country throughout the world, and we are going to experience it in Australia. The people of Australia will have to pay for the political chicanery of the Prime Minister, who has now deserted the ship and found it convenient to be overseas. Women such as my wife and the wives of other members of Parliament will be affected when they go to the supermarkets. I do not think my wife buys very many motor cars; so an increase in the price of motor cars will not worry her. But she does go to a supermarket weekly and it is going to be of concern to her that the prices there are starting to hike up, especially as wages, including the wages of members of Parliament, have been frozen. She has to meet her expenses from the meagre amount that is available to her, which is in line with the position of the wife of every other worker in this country.
-Are you giving me a hint, Mr Deputy Speaker?
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. As it is now 15 minutes to one o’clock, in accordance with standing order 106, the debate is interrupted and I put the question:
That grievances be noted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-As Chairman, I present the 164th report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The 164th report comprises 2 Treasury minutes relating to previous reports of the Committee. These reports were the 150th report, which dealt with items from the Auditor-General’s Report for 1972-73, and the 151st report, which related to the delays in the payment of accounts. The practice of presenting
Treasury minutes is the result of an arrangement made between the Committee and the Treasurer before the presentation of the Committee’s first report on 10 March 1953. The arrangement is that the Committee forwards a copy of each report to the Treasurer for consideration immediately that report is tabled. His reply, in the form of a Treasury minute, is then examined by the Committee and included in a later report to the Parliament. The 164th report is one of these later reports. Before preparing its minute, the Treasury consults the departments concerned and obtains their views on the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee. Essentially the Treasury minute system ensures that Committee recommendations are acted upon and informs members of the steps taken to meet thenproposals. Due to the reorganisation of the Department of the Treasury, this function is now carried out by the Department of Finance and these minutes will, in future, be known as Finance minutes.
In its 150th report, in relation to the purchase of 34 demountable home units for Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, the Committee had criticised the department concerned because clear arrangements for inspection on delivery had not been made. The Committee also recommended that the problems of inspection at remote localities should be fully considered before delivery to site clauses are written into similar contracts in the future. The Committee has been advised in the Treasury minute that the department now ensures that delivery and inspection clauses are written into contract documents to provide for delivery into the departmental store. Delivery to site by departmental transport is then arranged after consultation with the client branch of the department or other departments. The Committee had criticised the Darwin regional office of the then Department of Works regarding its unsatisfactory financial procedures and had also concluded that the rate of expenditure on capital works by that office had been deliberately accelerated towards the end of the financial year in an attempt to expend the appropriation. In addition, the Committee had reached the conclusion that sections of the Audit Act had been breached by the regional office and that certain Treasury Directions had not been followed. The Treasury minute states that the Department has advised that as a consequence of the Committee’s inquiry a number of corrective measures were introduced to ensure compliance with the Audit Act, Treasury Regulations and Directions and departmental procedures. The Treasury minute also gives details of the action taken in the Northern Territory region to obviate the possibility of any recurrence of accelerated expenditure payments.
The Committee. has made some observations in chapter 4 of the 164th report concerning the Treasury minute on the Committee’s 150th report. When examining the Treasury minute the Committee was not satisfied with the comments provided by the Department of Defence in response to the Committee’s conclusions in paragraphs 84 and 85 of the report relating to the purchase of trailer-mounted refrigerators and paragraph 123, which dealt with a cleaning contract. Regarding paragraph 84, the comment originally provided did not satisfactorily answer the Committee’s observation that too much emphasis had been placed by the Department in its submission and in evidence on the urgent operational requirement for Vietnam.
In relation to paragraph 85, the Committee had commented that it found it difficult to understand why, if there was an urgent operational requirement, it took the Department from May 1965 until May 1968 to obtain the equipment for Vietnam. The Committee believed that the original response from the Department was unsatisfactory in that it suggested reasons for the delay which were not mentioned during the inquiry. The later comment stated that the Department had over-estimated the ability of industry to provide a suitable product without a very detailed specification. This led, in turn, to the need to call tenders a second time. Thus, a period of about 18 months elapsed during which time the first tenders were called and evaluated and preparations made for calling tenders a second time. The remaining time until May 1968 was taken up with processing the second round of tenders and in the manufacture of the refrigerated trailers.
The comments originally provided in response to paragraph 123 were considered to be inadequate because no reference was made to the delays in finalising the question of the provision of safety gear for window cleaning in the Russell complex. The reasons for the Committee’s dissatisfaction were discussed with officers of the Department of the Treasury in accordance with the agreed Treasury minute arrangements. The Treasury subsequently sought additional information from the Department of Defence and redrafted comments were substituted for those previously provided for paragraphs 84, 85 and 123. The original and substituted comments are shown opposite the related Committee conclusions in this report.
The additional information provided in relation to paragraph 123 indicates that subsequent to June 1972, when the question of safety in window cleaning operations was lint raised with the contractor, the Department was in frequent communication with the appropriate authorities in an attempt to have the matter resolved. The Committee believes that the Department should have made this clear at the public hearing. The Committee has also noted that a contract was let in October 1976 for the cleaning of windows above the first floor. In the Committee’s view it had taken an inordinately long time to resolve this matter.
In the 151st report the Committee had criticised departments for unreasonable delays in the payment of accounts and had made recommendations designed to reduce those delays. The Treasury minute informs the Committee that Treasury circular 1976/15 was issued on 8 June 1976 which drew the attention of all departments to the Committee’s criticism. Particular paragraphs of the Committee’s report relating to the regular review of unpaid accounts, the implications for suppliers of delays in payment, the proper circulation of Treasury circulars, delay in payment due to shortage of funds, recoveries between departments, increases in working capital for trust accounts and the review of procedures and the need for increased supervision were all specially featured in the circular and brought to the attention of all officers concerned with the processing and payment of accounts. In addition, the circular directed attention to the Treasurer’s letter to Ministers dated 2 June 1976 on the same subject.
The Committee had also suggested that the Treasury should examine the desirability of having the provision in Treasury direction 6/22A, which allows amounts under query to be deducted from transport accounts before payment, extended to cover all types of accounts. The Treasury has advised that an appropriate amendment has been made to the direction.
The Committee has indicated in the 164th report that consideration is being given to the question of whether it should re-examine witnesses in those cases where it is obvious from the comment provided in Treasury minutes that incorrect or insufficient information was given to the Committee at an inquiry. The Committee has also expressed its concern at what appears to be inordinate delays in the supply of information by way of Treasury minutes and trusts that these delays will not occur again in the future. I commend the report to honourable members.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Act to provide for periodic reviews of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements under the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. That Act provided for the first time that the States should receive a specified share of Commonwealth income tax collections. That arrangement is of course a central element in the Government’s federalism policy which is aimed at restoring a proper distribution of powers and responsibilities between the 3 spheres of government- Commonwealth, State and local.
The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 provides for 33.6 per cent of net personal income tax collections to be shared between the States on a weighted per capita basis. A practical demonstration of the benefits to the States from Stage 1 of the Government’s federalism policy is, of course, their present financial position. New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are running substantial surpluses while deficits in Victoria and Tasmania are very much lower than at the same time last year. For example, the revenue budget of New South Wales for the first 9 months of 1976-77 showed a surplus of almost $11 lm. State revenue budgets showed an aggregate surplus of $2 16.3m over the latest available accounting period which is, in the case of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, up to the end of March, and for the other 3 States up to the end of April. It is relevant that these surpluses are being achieved in spite of the fact that no State government increased levels of taxation in 1976-77 and, indeed, the majority of them made some quite substantial reductions in particular taxes.
The considerable increase in funds available to the States under the income tax sharing arrangements is, of course, an important factor in the States’ favourable financial positions. As I have mentioned, the legislation provides for sharing of net personal income tax collections on the basis of per capita weights, or relativities; these are set out in section 4 of the Act They were derived from the 1975-76 financial assistance grants to each State divided by the estimates of the populations consistent with those used in deriving the grants.
The present Bill provides for the first time for the distribution between the States of the Commonwealth’s general revenue payments to them to be the subject of independent inquiry and report. At the Premiers’ Conferences in February, April and June 1976 which laid the foundations for implementing the federalism policy, it was decided that there would be a periodic review of relativities between all States; that advice in relation to this review would be sought from an independent review body; and that the first review would be made before the end of 1980-81.
Unresolved issues at the time the existing legislation was enacted were the questions of how the review body should be constituted and the guidelines under which it should operate. These matters were referred to Commonwealth and State officers for report and, on the basis of the officers’ report, were discussed again in some detail at the Premiers ‘ Conference in April. Some States had argued that the Grants Commission should not conduct the review. They argued, in particular, that the special grants now paid to claimant States after inquiry and recommendation by the Commission are, in effect, adjustments to interstate relativities, and that if the Grants Commission were also responsible for recommending on these relativities in the first place, a State seeking a special grant would in effect be appealing from Caesar to Caesar. We do .not accept that proposition. The Commonwealth Government adheres to the view that the Grants Commission is the appropriate body. The review of relativities would be a natural extension of the work now undertaken by the Commission.
The Commission has over a period of some 40 years developed a methodology for making the necessary interstate comparisons. It has, of course, the expertise and the standing to conduct the review- and this has not been challenged by any State. Another body would merely duplicate the work of the Commission and apart from anything else the Government will not support that kind of wasteful proposition. Moreover some of those arguing for an ‘appeals’ body ignore the fact that the Commission is not a judicial body but an advisory one and the Commonwealth Government has undertaken that the Commission’s advice on this matter will be discussed at a Premiers’ Conference before action is taken in relation to it. Accordingly, this Bill proposes that the Grants Commission shall be the body to inquire and report on the per capita relativities between States under Stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements.
The guidelines for the review, as set out in the Bill, are in broad general form as agreed at the April Premiers’ Conference. The Commonwealth Government perceived some advantages in more specific guidelines but in the spirit of federalism it has accepted the States’ view on this matter.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek the leave of the House to conclude on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) his second reading speech on the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The basic principle to be applied in the review is the equalisation principle in line with the approach developed and applied over the years by the Grants Commission in its inquiries and reports in relation to special grants to the States, that is each State will be enabled to provide, without imposing taxes and charges at levels appreciably higher than those of other States, government services at standards not appreciably below the standards of other States. I turn now to the major specific provisions of the Bill. Clause 3 of the Bill proposes the addition of several sub-sections to section 13 of the Act. Proposed sub-section 13(3) provides for the Minister to institute reviews from time to time.
There was in fact extensive discussion of the timing of the first review at the April Premiers Conference and general agreement that the review should commence shortly. It was recognised that the first review could take some time to complete. Accordingly, the Government would propose to issue an early reference under the new legislation once enacted. Sub-section 13(3) in conjunction with proposed sub-section 13 (6) defines the purpose of the review to be to determine whether any change is desirable in the figures set out in section 4 of the Act, that is the per capita relativities.
Sub-section 13(3) would also provide for the Grants Commission to be the review body and sets out the basic equalisation principle referred to earlier. Proposed sub-section 13 (4) elaborates on that general principle. Proposed subsection 13 (5) requires the Commission to examine the factors set out in section 4, that is the per capita relativities, and to inquire into and report whether any events have occurred since those factors were determined which in the opinion of the Commission affect the continued operation of those factors. Proposed sub-section 13(7) provides that the review should be confined to services normally funded through the States’ revenue budgets. This is in accordance with long established Grants Commission practice. The proposals embodied in this Bill represent the completion of the stage one machinery of the tax sharing arrangements. It is, therefore, an important and necessary step in the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hurford) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The object of this Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1972 so as to extend the statutory accounting provisions in respect of the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1977-78 season. When the floor price scheme was introduced in September 1974, it was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. This was reflected in the associated financing and accounting provisions made in legislation at the time, which were restricted to operations in that season.
The Wool Tax Acts were amended to impose a special 5 per cent levy on sales of wool by growers in 1974-75. The levy was intended to provide a reserve for meeting any losses that might arise out of the floor price arrangement. Secondly, the Wool Industry Act was amended to provide for the establishment of the market support fund as a repository for the proceeds of the 5 per cent levy and also to lay down special accounting provisions for the reserve price operations. The subsequent decisions to continue the floor price scheme in 1975-76 and 1976-77 required the extension of the amendments to include those seasons.
Consequent upon the Government’s decision to extend the scheme to include the 1977-78 season, it is now necessary similarly to extend the coverage of the accounting provisions in the Wool Industry Act as well as to continue the special 5 per cent levy on wool sales for another year. The first of these actions is the purpose of this Bill, and involves merely an alteration of a specified termination date so as to include in the existing arrangements wool purchased by the Australian Wool Corporation under the floor price scheme up to 30 June 1 978. The other legislative step required is amendment of the Wool Tax Acts to extend collection of the 5 per cent levy on wool sales during 1 977-78. The extension of the floor price scheme and the associated accounting arrangements, and the continuation of the 5 per cent levy on wool sales have the approval of the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
The Government’s decision to guarantee the continuation of the floor price scheme during 1977-78, at a level not below that set for the current year, has been welcomed not only in Australia but by the international wool industry as a means of providing security to woolgrowers and wool users in planning for wool production and wool usage and thus fostering greater stability in the industry. The floor price arrangements of course are only part of the Government’s policy of assisting the wool industry. Honourable members will be aware of the decision by the Government to authorise the Australian Wool Corporation to operate a limited scheme of direct purchases of wool from growers with the object of demonstrating new and improved methods of wool handling which provide much needed economies in the handling and distribution of wool. The scheme will operate initially on a trial basis in the 1 977-78 season.
The Government has also decided, in order to assist the strongest negotiating position on freight rates for Australian wool carried overseas, that authority will be provided for the Corporation to negotiate directly on overseas freight rates, subject to ratification by my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), and to set conditions for the carriage and handling of wool exported. The necessary legislation will be introduced during the Budget session. The Government will continue to contribute jointly with woolgrowers for wool research and promotion, and legislation will be brought down during the Budget session to provide for the Government’s contribution during 1977-78. I commend the Bill to Honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent 5 Wool Tax Amendment Bills being presented and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the Committee’s report stages and the third readings of all the Bills together, and consideration of the Bills in one Committee of the Whole.
WOOL TAX AMENDMENT BILLS (Nos 1 TO 5) 1977
Bills presented by Mr Sinclair, and together read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
These 5 Bills will amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos. 1 to 5) 1964 so as to continue in force for another year the special levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool which is collected in connection with the floor price scheme for wool. The levy was introduced at the inception of the scheme on 2 September 1974 to provide a fund for meeting any operating losses. Originally, both the scheme and the levy were to operate for one season only. Their operation was extended successively to the 1975-76 and 1976-77 seasons and the present statutory provisions for the payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1977.
As already announced, it is now proposed that the floor price scheme for wool be extended further to operate during the 1977-78 season and that the levy of 5 per cent be similarly continued. If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June. Revenue from this levy is credited to the Market Support Fund established by the Australian Wool Corporation. For administrative convenience the special levy of 5 per cent is collected in conjunction with the 3 per cent levy that represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of programs of wool research and promotion and the administration of the marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The present total levy of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the 5 Wool Tax Bills are similar in their text, which simply extends the operation of the special 5 per cent levy until 30 June 1978. The Acts which they amend are also similar but each covers a different wool marketing channel. The need for 5 separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. I commend the Bills.
Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill and the related Bills is to provide for new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry. As honourable members will be aware, the Australian dairy industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a number of years. This has been due to a combination of factors such as overproduction, increasing costs and depressed conditions in the international market for dairy products. It is one industry where the effects of the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community both directly in the loss of sales in the United Kingdom and Europe, and indirectly in price cutting on Third World markets, has been particularly severe.
In view of the state of the dairy industry, the Industries Assistance Commission was asked to report on the assistance which should be provided to the industry. In its report of October 1975 on the dairy industry, the IAC established broad guidelines for a marketing arrangement for the manufacturing sector of the dairy industry but it considered that the industry itself should be responsible for the development of a stable marketing arrangement. As the dairy industry was, however, unable to come forward with an agreed plan, the Government referred the matter back to the IAC and requested that it report specifically on what long term marketing arrangements should be introduced for the industry.
In its report of September 1976 the IAC recommended the implementation of a staged mandatory marketing scheme for the manufacturing sector of the industry with a view to achieving a stable and viable basis of operation for the Australian dairy industry. Stage I of the IAC scheme is essentially aimed at protecting the domestic market price structure by way of a compulsory levy-disbursement scheme. Stage II provides for a national market entitlement scheme. The objective of Stage II is to ensure that market signals are more effectively passed back to producers and processors in order to encourage production to be in line with current market conditions. Stage III is designed to expose producers and processors to actual market returns on nonentitlement production.
Following discussions with the industry and the States, through the Australian Agricultural Council, the Government has decided to introduce legislation for the implementation of Stage I as from 1 July 1977. The arrangements to be introduced have the support of the industry and the Agricultural Council. There are still some issues requiring clarification in connection with Stage II. These are in the course of being concluded in the context of discussions with State officials and representatives of the respective State ministries. I might add that in coming to conclusions even on Stage I there have been protracted and extensive discussions and it is as a result of those that the legislation is being introduced so late in the session. The Government is strongly of the view that the implementation of Stage II is essential for the necessary rationalisation of the dairy industry and consequently it is important that Stage II be implemented not later than 1 July 1978.
The Stage I arrangements provide for the imposition of a levy on prescribed products. The purpose of the levies is to protect the domestic price structure for prescribed products and through their disbursement to provide each manufacturer with an equalised return from their domestic and export sales of such products. The levy- disbursement arrangements under Stage I will replace the existing voluntary industry equalisation scheme. The initial product coverage will be butter, butteroil, skim milk powder, buttermilk powder, casein, cheese- both Cheddar and gouda- and wholemilk powder. There will be provisions for other products to be prescribed as necessary on the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. I shall be referring to the Advisory Committee and its constitution at a later stage. In the case of cheese, it was recommended by the Australian Agricultural Council that all varieties of cheese be exempt other than cheddar and gouda. The question of whether other varieties should be included will be a matter for consideration, in the first instance, by the Corporation after consultation with the Advisory Committee.
Provision has been made in the accompanying levy Bill for a levy to be imposed on the production of prescribed products. The rate of each product levy will be equal to the difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price. The levy will be payable by the manufacturer on the production of prescribed products which are sold for domestic consumption or which are used in the manufacture of other products. As the levy will, in the first instance, reduce the price received for all prescribed products down to the level of the assessed average export price, it will not be payable on production which has been exported. The purpose of this Bill is to provide the mechanism for the collection of the levy and for its disbursement.
The levy will be payable by the manufacturer up to two and a half months after the product is sold on the domestic market or after its use in the manufacture of other products. If dairy products remain unsold at the end of the production year, the levy will be payable within six and a half months from the end of that year or such longer period as may be prescribed. These provisions are designed to avoid any liquidity problems for manufacturers in the payment of the levy. Provision is also made in the Bill for a maturation period for cheese and for the levy to be calculated on the weight of the cheese at the end of the maturation period.
The Bill provides for the establishment of a Dairy Products Stabilization Trust Fund and for the payment into this Fund of the amounts collected as levy under the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Bill 1977. Separate accounts, or pools, will be maintained in the Fund for the various products and the levy proceeds collected for the products will be used essentially to make stabilisation payments on each product to supplement the initial payments received by manufacturers in respect of domestic and export sales, that is, the assessed average export price. Interim and final stabilisation payments will be made uniformly across all production within each pool. In addition, provision is made for the proceeds from all export sales to be pooled separately for each product. These arrangements will ensure that all manufacturers will receive an equalised return from domestic and export sales for each prescribed product. There will be no transfer of moneys between the various product pools under the Stage I arrangements.
To offset the time lag in the collection of the levy and to facilitate early payments by manufacturers to their suppliers, provision has been made in the Bill for the Australian Dairy Corporation to utilise Reserve Bank finance to make advances to manufacturers in respect of the stabilisation payments in anticipation of the levy collections. Similarly, provision has been made in the accompanying legislation, the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977, for the Corporation to make advances on all production of prescribed products at the level of the assessed average export price in anticipation of realisations from sales. The Australian Dairy Corporation is empowered under the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977, to borrow moneys from the Reserve Bank of Australia under Government guarantee for the purpose of making such advances. In addition to the stabilisation payments mentioned above, the levy proceeds may also be used to meet approved costs and allowances in respect to the production, storage, distribution and the sale of dairy products.
In view of the recommendations made by the IAC and the Australian Agricultural Council it will be necessary for a full review to be made by the Australian Dairy Corporation, in consultation with the Advisory Committee, of all the existing allowances payable under the industry’s voluntary equalisation arrangements. The Bill provides that all amounts received by manufacturers by way of stabilisation payments must be passed on to their suppliers of wholemilk and cream. The levy- disbursement arrangements will be administered by the Australian Dairy Corporation and provision has been made for the costs attributable to the administration of the scheme to be met from the stabilisation levy.
Provision has been made in the accompanying legislation, the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977, to establish the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee to assist the Corporation in carrying out its new functions. The principal function of the Advisory Committee will be to provide the necessary technical back-up to the Corporation in its administration of the levydisbursement arrangements. This Bill and the accompanying legislation provide for the Australian Dairy Corporation to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry, after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, on the main aspects of the new dairy industry marketing arrangements. These include the rates of levy, the interim rates of stablisation payments, the prescription of products and exemptions and the provision of marketing incentives and allowances.
The usual provisions have been made in this Bill for the investment of moneys by the Australian Dairy Corporation from the dairy products stabilisation trust fund. For the purpose of administering the collection of the levies and their disbursement the normal provisions have been made in the Bill. These include the power to call for returns, access to premises for purposes relevant to the operation of the legislation, the appointment of authorised persons by the Minister to carry out specific provisions of the legislation and penalties for infringement of the legislation. Provision is made in this Bill for the repeal of the legislation which was enacted in 1970 to give statutory support to the voluntary industry equalisation arrangements as administered by the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Limited. This legislation was never proclaimed and is superseded by the legislation now proposed.
For the benefit of honourable members I have distributed a statement which describes in more detail the operation of the stage I arrangements. As a supplement to the stage I arrangements the IAC recommended that provision should be made to continue the underwriting arrangements on a short-term basis to protect the dairy industry against sudden falls in export prices. The question of the need and the extent of any underwriting for the 1977-78 season was referred to by me in an answer I gave at question time this morning. Telex messages on this matter are now in the course of being forwarded to the Premiers of the respective States. As soon as I am reasonably certain that they have received those telexes, I will make available to honourable members details of the Government proposals. Essentially, the underwriting proposal is on the same basis as that which has been operating for the last 6 months of the current season. In other words, it will continue at the same rate for the next 12 months as has applied for the first 6 months of the calendar year 1 977.
– When do you anticipate being able to make a more detailed statement?
– As soon as I can be reasonably sure that the telexes have reached the Premiers. I had hoped they might have received them before now. But I have a note which tells me that all the lines have been tied up all the morning. So I hope that it will not be very long.
The IAC also recommended that provision should be made for a levy to be imposed on market milk. I shall also be introducing separate legislation for this purpose. This legislation would be implemented, however, only if there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. Its implementation would require a majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council. As I have already mentioned, the Australian dairy industry has been experiencing serious difficulties for a considerable time. The implementation of stage I is a first step only in an integrated plan to get the industry back on a stable and profitable basis. Stage II of the new marketing arrangements is a necessary pre-requisite if the industry is to be rationalised so that production can be brought in line with remunerative markets. The implementation of the staged marketing arrangements for the dairy industry will have adjustment implications for both the dairy farming and processing sectors. Of course, it is because of those implications that the underwriting proposals to which I have made mention are so significant. It is felt that this will ensure at a time of market adjustment that there will be a continuation of some reasonable level of returns to producers. Unfortunately, costs have risen and dairy farmers are still suffering as much from rising costs as any other sector of the community. But there is no doubt that the provision of underwriting will certainly help to insulate them against the climate of rising costs and most uncertain market returns abroad.
The Government had already introduced a new rural adjustment scheme which it considered would adequately cater for the farm adjustment needs of individual dairy farmers. Of course, within that scheme there are also provisions for carry-on loans which are also of assistance to farmers at a time of financial need. I might add that there is still a provision for unemployment benefits to be paid to persons in the dairy industry, as is the case for other rural producers who are, as of the change in basic requirements, entitled to receive unemployment benefits on the same basis as everybody else in the community. In fact, this means the relaxation of the previous fairly stringent provisions which applied. This assistance and household support provide a very worthwhile benefit to those dairy farmers who are finding the pressure of low returns and high costs extraordinarily difficult to bear.
The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has already made a preliminary examination of the structure of the processing sector of the industry. The BAE study, which has now been published, establishes that the processing sector has been adjusting to changes in the marketing and farming sectors of the industry. As the full impact of the changes for the processing sector cannot be assessed until stage II of the new marketing arrangements has been implemented, the Government has decided that the question of whether a reference should be made to theIAC, on assistance for the re-structuring of the new processing sector, should be considered after the new arrangements have been implemented. It is considered that the staged new marketing arrangements will provide the means to rationalise the dairy industry. If the industry is to be put on a sound basis, however, it will be essential for State governments and all sectors of the industry to co-operate fully and adopt a true national approach to all the issues involved in the implementation of the new arrangements. The Government looks towards the maintenance of a profitable dairy sector. We see these measures as a step towards that objective. We trust that through that co-operation to which I have referred that objective might be realised. For its part the Commonwealth Government is prepared to assist to the greatest extent possible. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for
Primary Industry) (2.42)- I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy on prescribed dairy products as an integral part of stage I of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry described in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977. The Bill provides for a separate levy to be imposed, as from 1 July 1977, on the production of butter, butteroil, skim milk powder, buttermilk powder, casein, cheese, wholemilk powder, and such other dairy products that may be prescribed. There is provision for products to be exempted by regulation and it is proposed that initially all varieties of cheese other than cheddar and gouda shall be exempted from the levy. While there is some industry concern that the exclusion of some fancy cheeses could put cheddar and gouda at a competitive disadvantage, the Government considers that this matter should be left to the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee.
The levy will be payable by the proprietor of the factory at which the prescribed dairy product is produced. The rate of product levy will be based on the difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price for each prescribed product. As I explained in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the levy will not be payable on production which has been exported. In calculating the assessed average export price for each prescribed product it will be necessary to have regard to the anticipated level of production for each product, the anticipated distribution of the production of each product between the Australian market and overseas markets and the anticipated level of prices on overseas markets.
As the principal purpose of the levy is to protect the domestic price structure, the operation of stage I of the new marketing arrangements is dependent on there being the flexibility to prescribe a levy which reflects the true difference between the domestic market price and the assessed average export price. The rate of levy, however, for particular products could fluctuate widely from season to season because of the unpredictability of prices received for dairy products in overseas markets.
Because of the extreme variability of the factors involved in determining a rate of levy at a level high enough to protect the domestic market price for each product, it is not practicable to make provision for a maximum rate of levy for each prescribed product in the legislation. The Bill therefore provides for the operative rate of levy for each prescribed product to be made by regulation after taking into account any recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Dairy Corporation after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. The procedures for the collection of the levy and its disbursement are contained in the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977. 1 commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Dairy Produce Act 1924 to provide for the establishment of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee and to make changes in the powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation as part of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry.
As I explained in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the Australian Dairy Corporation will have the responsibility for the administration of the levydisbursement arrangements to operate from 1 July 1977. The Government believes that to perform its new marketing arrangements effectively the Australian Dairy Corporation needs to have available to it the best technical advice from the industry.
The Bill provides for the establishment of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee with a composition of 1 1 members, namely, an independent chairman; 3 members to represent butter, skim milk powder, and casein manufacturers; 2 members to represent cheese manufacturers; one member to represent manufacturers of other processed milk products; and 4 members to represent dairy farmers including a representative from the market milk sector. The Government decided to reduce the number of manufacturer representatives on the Advisory Committee from nine to six, as previously announced. This was done following consideration of representations made on the need to have a more balanced representation between the producers and the manufacturing sector of the industry. All members of the Committee will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry for a period of 3 years and members to represent dairy farmers and manufacturers will be selected from panels of names submitted by the appropriate industry bodies.
Meetings of the Advisory Committee will be held by arrangement between the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Corporation and the Chairman of the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee. A basic function of the Committee will be to provide the necessary technical back-up to the Corporation in making its decisions in relation to the administration of the levy-disbursement arrangements. The Committee will also be available to assist the Corporation in the performance of its other functions and serve as an important communication link with the main industry organisations. It is not envisaged, however, that the Advisory Committee will act as a policy forming body for the industry. Provision has been made in the accompanying legislation for the Australian Dairy Corporation to make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee on the main aspects of the new marketing arrangements. These were outlined in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
A fundamental part of the stage I arrangements is that the realisations from the export of prescribed products are pooled and provision has therefore been made in this Bill for the powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation to be extended for this purpose. As I have already mentioned in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977, the Australian Dairy Corporation would be empowered to borrow moneys from the Reserve Bank, under government guarantee, to make advances to manufacturers on prescribed dairy products sold on the domestic and export markets in anticipation of levy collections and sale realisations. The purpose of this measure is to facilitate payments by manufacturers to their suppliers of whole milk and cream.
The appropriate provisions have been incorporated in this Bill to extend the borrowing powers of the Australian Dairy Corporation to enable it to make advances on all dairy products placed under its control. At present the borrowing powers of the Corporation are limited to making advances on product that is purchased by the Corporation. The Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalisation Committee Ltd will remain in existence until it has finalised the outstanding product pools covered by the voluntary equalisation arrangements up to 30 June 1977. By arrangement with the Equalisation Committee, the Australian Dairy Corporation will use, where appropriate, the facilities of the Committee for a phasing-in period to ensure that the new arrangements are implemented with the minimum disturbance to the industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill and the related Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill is to provide broad assistance to the States in sustaining the present orderly marketing arrangements for market milk in Australia. The measures proposed are designed to support stage I, and ultimately stage II, of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry which I outlined in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
As honourable members will be aware, there is a relationship between the market milk sector and the manufacturing milk sector of the dairy industry. Any instability which may arise in the market milk sector could have implications for the new arrangements for the manufacturing sector. For many years the market milk sector has been stable. The indications are, however, that it can no longer be assumed that the existing State marketing arrangements for market milk will not be affected by pressure from sources outside the State or by pressure for reform from non-quota holders within a State. The danger is that dairy farmers in one State who are unable to sell their milk as market milk in their own State could divert supplies to another State and seek to undercut market milk prices in that State.
In its report of 9 September 1976 on dairy industry marketing arrangements, the Industries Assistance Commission drew attention to the potential that exists for instability in the market milk sector. The LAC recommended that in order to maintain stability in the market milk sector some regulatory mechanism, with Commonwealth legislative backing, should be introduced. It suggested that a levy on the production of market milk should be imposed at the point of processing but that the levy should be implemented only if the collapse of orderly marketing in the States was imminent.
Because of the potential that exists for instability in the market milk sector, most States considered, when the LAC report was discussed by the Australian Agricultural Council at its meeting in February 1977, that it was necessary for legislation for a levy on market milk to be introduced concurrently with the legislation for the stage I marketing arrangements for the manufacturing sector. With a view to sustaining the orderly marketing arrangements for both the market and manufacturing milk sectors in Australia, the Government has decided to introduce this legislation in spite of some views that have been expressed by the Victorian Government. We believe that it is necessary to make provisions for a levy to be imposed on market milk as part of the new marketing arrangements for the dairy industry.
At a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 18 May 1977 all States other than Victoria agreed upon the procedures to be followed for the triggering of the legislation in the event that there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. It was agreed that a special committee should be established by the Agricultural Council to keep under review all aspects associated with the marketing of market milk in Australia. In the event of a State advising the Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council that the marketing of market milk in a State was being disrupted it would be the function of the committee to investigate the complaint and within 28 days to furnish a detailed report to the Council.
It was agreed that it would be the responsibility of the Council to make a determination on the report and that the triggering of the market milk levy legislation would require a majority decision of the Council.
Provision has been made in the accompanying Bill, the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977, for the imposition of a levy on fresh milk products for human consumption, including standardised milk and milk which has been subject to any process such as pasteurisation, homogenisation, heat treatment or any other treatment. The levy would be imposed to protect the domestic price structure for milk for human consumption to ensure that a minimum price for such milk is maintained within the States. The legislation, however, has been drafted in a manner which allows for flexibility to deal with a particular problem arising from the marketing of a specific product or products. For example a levy on ultra heat treated, UHT, milk would be imposed only if it were shown that the product was being marketed in a way which could disrupt the orderly marketing arrangements for market milk. The purpose of this Bill is to provide the mechanism for the collection of the levy imposed under the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977 and for its distribution. The Bill makes provision for the Commonwealth Government to make arrangements with State milk authorities to collect levy on behalf of the Commonwealth and for the money collected to be paid to the Commonwealth.
The Bill also provides for the creation of a dairy industry trust account and for payment into this account of amounts equal to the amounts collected under the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977. Provision is made in the Bill for payments out of the trust account to be made to the States and for such payments to be applied by the States for the assistance to the dairy industry. The States would then be able to use this money for the protection of the orderly marketing of market milk. The amounts to be paid to the States would be authorised by the Minister for Primary Industry after taking into account any recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council. At the special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 18 May 1977 all States other than Victoria agreed that the payments to the States should be related basically to the levy collections on the quantity of milk sold within each State and that where arrangements existed between State authorities for the supply of milk between States the levy collected on such milk should be returned to the supplying State. Any other moneys should be retained in the trust account for the benefit of the industry generally they should be used then only in accordance with the recommendation of the Australian Agricultural Council.
The legislation is based on the same general concepts as the Federal hen levy legislation which appeared in the Poultry Industry Assistance Act 1965. The hen levy legislation provides for levy disbursements to the States by way of State grants subject to the condition that the amounts will be applied by the States for the assistance of the poultry industry. For the purpose of administering the collection of the levies and their disbursement the normal provisions have been made in the Bill. These include the power to call for returns, access to premises for purposes relevant to the operation of the legislation, the appointment of authorised persons by the Minister to carry out specific provisions of the legislation and penalties for infringement of the legislation. There is provision in the Bill for an annual report on the operation of the Act to be submitted to the Parliament by the Minister for Primary Industry. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to impose a levy upon certain fresh milk products produced in Australia as part of the arrangements to which I have just referred in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977. This Bill provides for a levy to be imposed on fresh milk products for human consumption, including standardised milk and milk which has been subject to any process such as pasteurisation, homogenisation, heat treatment or any other treatment. There is provision for other products to be prescribed, such as fresh cream. Classes of fresh milk products may be exempted by regulation. The levy will be payable by the proprietor of the plant or factory at which the prescribed fresh milk products are produced.
The Bill provides for a maximum rate of levy of 15 cents per litre for fresh milk products. The maximum rate has been fixed at a sufficiently high level to ensure that the market milk price structure within States could be fully protected. The Bill provides that the levy would apply from a date to be prescribed for each type of fresh milk product and the operative rate of levy for each product would be prescribed after recommendation to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Agricultural Council. Similarly, the prescription or exemption of products would be made by Regulation after taking into account any recommendation made to the Minister by the Council. As I mentioned in my second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977, the legislation would be implemented only on a majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council in the event that there appeared an imminent threat to the market milk price structure in the States. I also commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977 now before the House proposes amendments to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. The Bill, which contains 14 schedules, brings before honourable members for their consideration tariff changes made since the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976 was debated and passed by this House in December last year. All the changes were incorporated in Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 23 to 26 1976 and Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 1 to 10 1977 which I have introduced into the Parliament at different times since then. In the main, the amendments give effect to decisions by the Government in respect of the following reports of the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority:
ADP Equipment and Parts; Agricultural Tractors; Animal Foods, etc.; Brassieres; Calcium Carbide; Certain Man-Made Fibres, Yarns and Fabrics- Interim Report; Copper Foil and Primary Shapes Produced by Rolling, etc.; Cosmetics and Toilet Preparations; Electric Motors, etc.; High Alloy Steels- Interim Report; Leather and Leather Substitute Products; Multilateral Trade Negotiations- General Rates of Duty- First Report; Review Inquiry No. 12- Clothing- Interim Report; Sheets and Plates of Iron or Steel- Import Restrictions; Sheets, Curtains, etc.- Textiles Authority Report; Soaps and Detergents, etc.; Bench or Pedestal Drilling Machines, Not Power Fed.
Honourable members will recall that when the Tariff Proposals were introduced into the House I circulated a comprehensive summary in respect of each of the proposals which set out the nature of the change in duty rates and the origin of each change. I have had prepared a consolidation of those summaries and copies may be obtained from the Bills and Papers Office. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill provides for the validation until 3 1 December 1977 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos 11 to 14 introduced into the Parliament during the current sitting and not covered by Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977. Under section 226 of the Customs Act the collection of duties in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals is protected against legal challenge for six months or until the close of the session of Parliament, whichever first occurs.
The introduction and passage of this Validation Bill is a necessary machinery measure to take over from section 226 pending the introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill in the Budget sitting which will formally enact the tariff changes contained in the proposals.
The tariff changes validated by this Bill relate to the following reports by the Industries Assistance Commission: Tyres; olive industry; and monochrome television receivers and certain electronic components. Full details of the changes were supplied to honourable members at the time the relevant Tariff Proposals were introduced. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose, of the Bill now before the House is to give effect to the Government’s decision, made on the basis of the Industries Assistance Commission ‘s report of 30 October 1 976, to continue for a further 5 years from 1 July 1977 the payment of bounty on the production of phosphate fertilisers for use in Australia. In accordance with recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission, the bounty scheme is being extended to apply to production of crushed or calcined phosphate rock and phosphatic substances for use as supplements to stock foods.
The rate of bounty payable at present is: On single superphosphate, that is, superphosphate having a phosphorous pentoxide content of 20 per cent plus or minus one-half per cent, $1 1.8 1 per tonne; and on other superphosphate and ammonium phosphate, $59.05 per tonne of phosphorous pentoxide content. In the Bill that I have just introduced the rate of bounty is, in accordance with present trade usage, expressed by reference to available phosphorous content rather than by reference to phosphorous pentoxide content as in the present Act.
In accordance with the Industries Assistance Commission’s report, and for reasons of administrative convenience, the Bill proposes that bounty on the production of single superphosphate be paid at the rate of $12 per tonne and that, on the production of phosphatic substances having a phosphorus content either greater, or less than, the phosphorus content of single superphosphate, bounty be at the rate of $138 per tonne of available phosphorus content. The prescribing of the latter rate will result in bounty in every case, and irrespective of the phosphorus content of the product concerned, being in strict relativity to the bounty on single superphosphate. Although the Bill proposes a significant change in the manner of calculating bounty, I would like to make it clear that, except for minor and sensible rounding off, the change does not represent any variation from the rates of bounty payable under the present Act.
In connection with the definition of ‘available phosphorus content’ in paragraph (a) of Clause 3 of the Bill, provision is made for the prescribing by regulation of the method of determining such content. It is proposed that the method to be prescribed will be that of the Association of Official Analytical Chemists for available phosphorus which is an internationally accepted method. The effect of clauses 8, 9 and 10 of the Bill is to continue the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions which affect a person’s rights or entitlements under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on valves.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on certain paper and papa board tariff quotas.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable members will recall that in December 1976, Parliament passed the Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill which abolished the Australian Housing Corporation and established the Defence Service Homes Corporation as the corporate entity to administer the Defence Service Homes Act. The changes made in 1976 provided for the affairs of the Corporation to be conducted and controlled by the Secretary to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This Bill repeals the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act, establishes the Corporation under the Defence Service Homes Act and effects amendments to the Defence Service Homes Act to provide for changes to the staffing and financial arrangements relating to the defence service homes scheme.
The Bill provides that all staff of the Corporation will be employed under the Public Service Act. The provisions which empowered the Corporation to engage its own officers are being repealed. Arrangements are therefore being made to appoint or engage, under the Public Service Act, all Corporation staff who were appointed or engaged under the Defence Service Homes Corporation Act.
The existing legislative provisions in connection with determination of the Corporation’s capital and interest payable on that capital, will be retained, but the present financial arrangements under which the Corporation’s income and expenditure are handled through its own bank account, will be discontinued. A trust account under the Audit Act, to be known as the Defence Service Homes Trust Account, will be established. Payments will be made into the trust account from the following sources: Moneys appropriated as advances to the Corporation for the purpose of expenditure under the Defence Service Homes Scheme; and receipts by way of rent and loan repayments from tenants and mortgagors. The moneys which are presently held by the Defence Service Homes Corporation are to be credited to the new Trust Account to be used for capital purposes. The Bill makes provision for this transfer to take place as from 1 July 1977, a date which will be suitable for ease of accounting and the presentation of financial statements. The Bill also contains transitional provisions which will allow unfinished transactions at that date to be finalised.
Under the proposed new arrangements payments under the Defence Service Homes Act will be made from the Trust Account and the Corporation ‘s administrative expenses will be funded in the usual way through the departmental appropriation. The Defence Service Homes Insurance Trust Account, which has operated since 1919, will continue to be maintained separately.
At present, there are 4 special appropriations paid under the Defence Service Homes Act. The Government has reviewed these special appropriation provisions and, consistent with the view that it has expressed before in the Parliament, clauses 9 and 1 1 of the Bill reduce the number of special appropriations to two. These are now set out in the proposed section 39C and they relate to payments made from the excess credits of purchasers and borrowers and to payments of surplus proceeds resulting from the sale of properties by the Defence Service Homes Corporation as mortgagee-in-possession. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is to permit the raising of loan moneys amounting to $3m for war service land settlement in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. It has been the Government’s custom to introduce a fresh Bill each year to seek parliamentary approval of these funds. It is anticipated that the borrowing authority provided by the existing loan, under the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Act will be exhausted by the conclusion of this financial year and accordingly it is necessary to allocate a further $3m. As honourable members are aware, the Commonwealth is responsible for the provision of the whole of the capital moneys required by this scheme in the 3 States I have mentioned. The money will be appropriated in the annual Budget in the ordinary way and the year’s appropriation will represent the sum of the requirements of the 3 States concerned for these purposes.
At present South Australia requires about half of the year’s appropriation, Western Australia about one third and Tasmania the balance. Most of the money is needed to make advances to settlers to provide adequate working capital to cover the current working expenses of their properties, the purchase of stock and capital funds for replacement of plant. A very small sum estimated to be perhaps $10,000 may be required to meet costs, classified broadly as development, relating to fees expected to be incurred in finalising some surveys and, as far as South Australia is concerned, some funds for a drainage study at Loxton in South Australia.
I want to raise briefly in this debate one specific aspect of war service land, but before doing so I should like to make one general comment. Any reasonable person would have to say that this present Government and its predecessors have made generous amounts available to give ex-servicemen every reasonable opportunity to settle on land. I should like to quote briefly on that aspect from a speech made by Senator Wriedt in the other place in June 1975 when he was speaking on similar legislation passed during that year. Senator Wriedt was then the Minister for Agriculture in the previous Government. He stated:
As I have said in the past, when I was appointed to this portfolio 2 1/2 years ago and was required to acquaint myself with the background to this scheme, I could come to only one conclusion. It was that our predecessors, the liberal-Country Party Government, over the years had been generous to war service land settlers.
This was an appropriate comment. This Governmentand, to give it its credit the previous Labor Government- was generous to ex-servicemen who were settled under this scheme:
The great majority of war service land settlers have been successful. Many have been highly successful in carrying out their endeavours under this scheme in settling on properties. But it is also true that some have had a great struggle indeed to make a go of it. Some in this group have failed because of lack of expertise, knowledge of farming techniques and business acumen. Of course as with every group in commercial life a small number of these people have failed because of the lack of effort and a lack of application on their part. I do not wish to be unfair to these people. I stress that a small group of people is involved but there are some who have failed because of lack of effort. It has been their own fault. Some, again it is a small group of people, have genuine grievances and they can be said to have failed financially under the scheme as a result of those genuine, real grievances that they have.
I want to speak briefly today on one of those grievances which has been aired before. There have been many debates on this subject in years gone by but I feel this aspect should be reiterated and should not be forgotten; that is, the matter of valuations- rental valuations and the valuation of the option to purchase price on these properties. Some of the war service properties have been, and remain, for the settlers concerned a financial liability because of the unorthodox way in which the rents and capital values of properties were originally assessed. I think some fair criticism could be directed to those officers who originally assessed the valuations many years ago: They firstly determined what they considered to be the ‘profit’ a farm was capable of making. I emphasise the word ‘capable’- it was not necessarily the profit it was actually making. After deducting a so-called ‘living allowance’ for the farmer concerned and for his family and deducting something for regular commitments on advances which he had received the officers then took the balance and called this the rent. This rental figure was then capitalised at 2V4 per cent. That means that the rental figure was multiplied by 40. To take an example, if the rent was assessed on the basis I have mentioned at a figure of $500 that figure was multiplied by 40. For the purposes of the scheme the capital figure arrived at was $20,000.
To give credit, some changes were made following the handing down of the so called Payne report. As well as that, not so long ago a right of appeal was introduced on option prices following the Fenton report. That was an excellent report prepared under the able guidance of Mr Charles Fenton, MLC, in Tasmania. But despite these changes unfortunately a close relationship has remained between the option to purchase price and the rental based capital value. Any reasonable, responsible valuer with any knowledge of valuation would see the dangers in this artificial and unorthodox method of establishing these values. I ask: Why could not ordinary, recognised valuation principles have been applied in those days? For example, why could not normal government valuation be accepted, which of course has to be taken from time to time for rate and land tax purposes and other purposes? If one compares the State government valuation and the valuation under the scheme one sees that in many cases the valuation under the scheme far exceeds the State valuation. I know of examples- I shall not go into details now- of cases where the State valuations have been exceeded by $10,000, $12,000 and up to $15,000 by the value of the property under this scheme. This is not always the case but it is not uncommon for valuations to exceed the ordinary State valuation by that sort of amount.
As a result of these excessive valuations some settlers unfortunately have little equity in their properties should they wish to sell them. Many are now reaching retirement age, in their late 50s and 60s. Many are keen to sell their properties if they can. But their hopes and aspirations have not been fulfilled because if they sell their properties now they would be left with very little capital indeed. I think in many ways that could be said to be unfair to those who have worked so hard, who have sweated and toiled on their properties expecting they would build up some sort of capital equity in time. Now they find that they have been living on a fairly miserable income over a long time and if they want to get off their properties they will have nothing left in their hands to maintain themselves and their families in their retirement. That is a matter on which the Minister concerned must keep an eye. It still concerns many people, some of them in my electorate in the Togari area of Tasmania and also some on King Island. There are still some war service settlers remaining on King Island. Of course that Island has its special problems at the moment which I mentioned in the House earlier today.
I think there is another point which also should be considered at this stage. I think it would be a wise move by the Government to consider whether it should wind up the total scheme. This could be done only by transferring the full legal title in fee simple to the settlers for a reasonable sum, giving credit for the very hard work and the sweat and toil, as I have said, that they have put into these properties for such a long time. If that were done I think the community as a whole would benefit. There would be economic advantages, a saving in administrative costs for the Government and, as well, I think the settlers would benefit if they were able to get full title to their properties at a fair price. It would have to be a fair and reasonable price. This sort of change could not take place unless the interests of the settlers were taken care of. Of course the costs of administering this sort of scheme are high, especially when we have split responsibility, a dual responsibility involving both the State governments and the Federal Government. This adds to the costs. It is a burden on the taxpayers and it is ultimately a burden also on the settlers. I think these potential changes should be looked at. There is a lot to be said for them. In general, I support this measure. It indicates the real concern shown by this Government for ex-servicemen.
-The Australian Labor Party supports this legislation. Briefly, this Bill is only a minor one. The moneys involved- $3m-may seem at first insignificant in the context of the total Budget outlay, but they mean a great deal to a significant number of people in the 3 States involved. The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the raising of $3m for war service land settlement in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The Government expects the borrowing authority provided by the existing Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Act to be exhausted by June of this year and therefore is seeking to raise $3m, as provided for in this legislation.
The bulk of the money it is seeking authority to raise is required to make advances to settlers to provide adequate working capital to cover current working expenses, the purchase of stock and capital funds for the replacement of plant. Under the war service land settlement scheme settlers were not required to provide their own capital resources and consequently their ability to withstand the effects of adverse resource conditions or market pressures is greatly reduced. They do not have the capital reserves to dip into. These farmers may well be viable but suffering from certain problems caused by factors beyond their control. The $3m involved in this Bill will go a long way towards alleviating these temporary problems and maintaining the viability of the farming enterprise. It is for that reason that the Opposition has much pleasure in supporting the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Eric Robinson) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of this Bill is to provide Western Australia with an additional $3.2m by amending the National Roads Act and the Roads Grants Act. The Bill also seeks to amend those 2 Acts and the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and the Transport (Planning and Research) Act so that where the State increases expenditure on road works in the form of payroll tax that expenditure will be eligible for funding under each of the Acts. The Bill provides for additional financial assistance for roads in Western Australia of $3.2m, bringing the total for Western Australia for the year 1976-77 to $58.8m-that being the same amount as it received in 1975-76, which in real terms represents a reduction of 14 per cent. The Bill will bring the total allocation to the States-the nation as a whole-for 1976-77 to $436.7m.
The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) referred in his second reading speech to consultation with the State Government; yet the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, has become one of the most consistent critics of the Fraser Government’s federalism policy and its road funding program for the States. In a letter leaked to the Press in January of this year the Premier warned the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of the danger of confrontation between the Federal and State governments. He said that the policy of the Fraser Government was ‘dictated by the views of the centralists’ and that it was acting contrary to Liberal principles. Sir Charles’s criticism is even more significant when it is considered that he was once a champion of the cause of Fraser federalism. It is clear from Sir Charles’s call earlier this year for the Fraser Government to increase its spending ‘by a modest amount’ to stimulate the economy that he now realises that the new federalism policy is a fraud. What he failed to grasp at the outset was that while the new federalism policy meant that the Federal Government would hand over more responsibilities to the State governments it also meant that the State governments would receive less financial assistance.
The new federalism policy is the Fraser Government’s means of abrogating its responsibilities for providing community services and forcing the States into introducing State income taxes. The road allocation announcement of 25 February by the Minister for Transport, who I notice is again not present during a debate involving his portfolio, brought this message home well and truly to Sir Charles Court and all other Western Australians. The Premier, in another leaked letter to the Prime Minister, described the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting in February as a serious blow to Federal-State relations and the credibility of the Prime Minister’s federalism policy. Sir Charles said:
There appears to be a complete misunderstanding in Canberra of the road situation in Western Australia or I have to assume there is a deliberate attempt at either ministerial or departmental level to reduce our program to unrealistic proportions.
The February proposals will mean that Western Australia will receive an increase of only $1.9m on the $58.3m that it received in 1976-77, to $60.2m in 1977-78-an increase of only 3.2 per cent. That represents in real terms a dramatic fall, considering that there has been an inflation rate of 14 per cent.
The total road funds to all States will increase by only 8.8 per cent. The proposals of the Fraser Government have slashed the grant to Western Australia for urban arterial roads by more than 45 per cent. I welcome the Minister for Transport to the chamber. The $475 m for road grants in 1977-78 announced by the Minister was some 68 per cent of the $704.5m recommended by the Bureau of Roads for expenditure in 1977-78. Sir Charles Court was reported in the West Australian of 28 February as saying:
An increase of only $1.9m in funds for 1977-78 would severely retard Western Australia’s road progress. Many major projects of vital importance to the State’s economy and development would have to be deferred or slowed down. This would lead to a significant increase in unemployment, which would have a serious economic effect.
The Western Australian Minister for Local Government, Mr Rushton, foreshadowed an increase in rates by some local authorities as a result of the cut-back in funds. The lack of Federal finance for roads will result in many local authorities simply having to reduce their road programs. In March of this year the Minister for Transport made it perfectly clear how the Fraser federalism policy would work when he told Sir Charles that if he wanted more money for the Kwinana Freeway he could go out and raise it himself. Sir Charles Court, a former staunch advocate of the Fraser federalism policy, responded by saying:
It is time that Mr Nixon and some of the Western Australian Federal members of Parliament realised that Western Australia has urgent road needs and will continue to fight for more road funds and fight hard.
– We ought to come down and job you.
– The Western Australian Minister for Transport, Mr Wordsworth, was equally disappointed with the Minister’s refusal to allocate more funds. It is interesting to note that there was not one Western Australian member of Parliament in the chamber when this debate commenced and at last two have shown up.
– They did not miss much.
-It was enough to flush both of them out. The Western Australian Minister said that the development projects in the State depended on good roads and other means of transport. He went on to say:
If the Australian economy is to recover these projects will have to get off the ground, backed up by positive road building programs, particularly in the north.
The Bill before the House seeks to pacify the Western Australian Government. It withdraws a decision made by the Fraser Government to refuse to classify payroll tax paid by State road authorities as road expenditure. If the Fraser Government had decided to go ahead with this measure, the States would have had to raise more finance to meet the matching money requirements imposed as a condition of its road grants. The former Western Australian Minister for Transport, Mr O’Connor, forecast that a 100 per cent increase in the State’s vehicle licence fees would be required if Western Australia had to meet the matching grant money scheme. But the concessions go only so far in releasing the Australian Government of its responsibility of allocating road funds to the States. It must now be abundantly clear that the Fraser Government’s cut-back in funds will mean the emasculation of many of the State’s road building projects. The Pilbara and the Kimberleys would be especially hard hit by the Government’s stringent control of funds. The inadequacy of Federal funds aggravated the attempts by State authorities to build safe roads and reduce accidents and fatalities. The amount also reveals the Fraser Government’s intentions. It wants to return to the inadequacies and deficiences of the Commonwealth Roads Aid Act and reduce Federal funding of road programs.
The Government’s legislation to remove the independence of the Bureau of Roads was further evidence of its designs to downgrade the priority of road planning and road funding in the national accounts. Fraser federalism will destroy the integration and co-ordination of transport expenditure, or integration that would embrace efficient use of public moneys in road planning and road construction. The Australian Labor Government’s roads legislation recognised the need for Australian governments to become more involved on a co-operative and consultative basis in the provision of finance to the States for road development as contrasted with the ‘take it or leave it’ approach of the present Minister for Transport. The legislation represented a major step forward from the Liberal-National Country Parties’ Commonwealth Roads Act under which Federal governments were able to abdicate all responsibility for national road planning. With road maintenance and construction authorities as major employers, the Government, through a cut back in road funds, can continue its policy of deliberately expanding unemployment and lowering community living standards. The Government’s reduction in road grants is just the beginning of its massive attack on expenditure on other government commitments that will culminate in the August Budget.
I turn now to clause 12 of the Bill. This is concerned with payroll tax. Clause 12 seeks to amend the National Roads Act 1974, the Roads Grants Act 1974, the Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974 and the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969 retrospectively by providing that where a State or State authority incurs expenditure in the form of payroll tax in connection with road works, such expenditure shall be eligible expenditure by the State for the purposes of those Acts. The need for this amendment arose from a decision by the Government to withdraw its earlier advice to the States that it would not recognise payroll tax paid by the State road authorities as expenditure on roads.
It appears that some uncertainty had arisen in the Government’s view that payroll tax payments were eligible State expenditure for the purposes of road legislation. After receiving legal advice on the matter, the Commonwealth informed the States that, in terms of existing roads legislation, payment of State payroll tax which had been levied since 1971 was not eligible State expenditure for the purposes of the legislation. Strong objection to this decision was taken by the State Premiers and Transport Ministers. It was pointed out that when payroll tax was first introduced in 1941 it was a federal tax and as such every road authority had to pay this tax to the Commonwealth. It was then accepted by the Commonwealth as expenditure qualifying for matching purposes and nothing had occurred since then to change that principle.
The Minister will be aware that the subject of payroll tax had been canvassed extensively at recent meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council. He will be aware also that at those meetings the State Ministers, in putting a case for the inclusion of payroll tax expenditure, requested that operating and overloading policing costs should similarly be treated as bona fide payments by the States for matching requirements. It seems, however, that a decision on these payments has not been made by the Government. As a result of the State representations the Government subsequently reversed its earlier decision and clause 12 of the Bill ensures that past and future payments of payroll tax by road authorities were and shall be classified as eligible expenditure by the States for the purposes of road funding legislation. It means that there will be no change in the States’ practice of including payroll tax.
The $3.2m appropriated to Western Australia by this Bill is apportioned as follows: $1.2m to construction of national highways; $0.1 9m to construction and maintenance of export and major commercial roads; $0.4 lm to construction of rural arterial roads and development roads; $ 1.23m to construction and maintenance of rural and local roads; and $0.17m to construction of urban local roads. As I said earlier, this brings the total allocation to Western Australia for the current year to $58.8m. I have already mentioned that the total road funds to be made available to Western Australia in 1977-78 will be $60.2m and the difficulties this will create for road construction authorities in Western Australia.
The Minister, in Opposition, was most critical of the relations that his predecessor, the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones), had with the States. However, with the Labor Government the States had ample notice of funds they would receive and accordingly were able to plan their road programs. For over 12 months now the Western Australian Government has without success sought clarification on how future road programs would be funded. All the Minister has given is an undertaking that $60.2m will be made available in 1977-78. What his Government refuses to recognise is that long lead times are involved in road planning, construction and funding. It is essential, therefore, that Western Australia has as early notice as possible of future road funding. It requires information on how much money will be available, from what sources and under what conditions. Here the Minister has failed completely.
Several Australian Transport Advisory Council meetings have been held to discuss future road funding but all have broken up in disarray because of the dictatorial attitudes of the present Minister. The Minister’s announcement of 25 February that $60.2m for Western Australia for next year was released in Canberra unbeknown to the meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council that was taking place in Hobart at the very same time. It is a contemptuous way in which to treat sovereign States, especially Western Australia, and it is an irresponsible way to conduct the affairs of this nation. It is another example of the same intimidatory and inflammatory tactics of the Minister who recently put all domestic airlines on the ground for a week.
This leads me to note what earlier had been the extreme paucity of speakers from Western Australia in this debate. The Bill is important for Western Australia. The amount of money involved in the legislation has commanded a great deal of attention at several levels of government in Western Australia- from local government, from the Premier and from his Ministers. I noticed last night, when the Bill was originally listed to be debated, that there was not even a speaker listed to speak from Western Australia. I notice from today’s new speaking list that one member from Western Australia is listed to speak. This highlights the open hostility that has arisen between the Premier of Western Australia and the Fraser Government over its coercive federalism policy and its inadequate funding for Western Australian road programs.
At this stage it is appropriate to recall the warning of Sir Charles Court since some more Western Australian members have come into the chamber. He said:
It is time that Mr Nixon and some of the Western Australian Federal members of Parliament realised that Western Australia has urgent road needs and will continue to fight for more road funds and fight hard.
– Where is Kim Beazley? I thought he was the honourable member for Fremantle.
– The Minister did not bother to enter the debate until I drew his attention to the fact that the debate was on. Nor was one member from Western Australia was present.
– I did not know you did that. I was in Cabinet.
– I am sorry for the Minister but he should have been here. As I said, not one member from Western Australia was listed to speak yesterday. Today one member out of nine is listed to speak. I notice that now a few more members from Western Australia have come into the chamber. They are getting a little upset. We saw further evidence of the dispute between Western Australia and this Government last Saturday when, as a result of the efforts of Sir Charles Court, the Prime Minister was denied his most desperate need- an extra 6 months before the next Senate election must be held.
The Minister has refused to give any indication to Western Australia of how its road funds will fare under this Government’s policy of enforced federalism. This policy of enforced federalism will be the rock upon which this Government will perish as did its New South Wales counterpart last year. The Opposition welcomes the additional $3.2m which is to be appropriated to Western Australia for road funding in the current year. It does not oppose the Bill.
-I would make a couple of comments to just pick up the remarks the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) made in relation to the Premier of
Western Australia and the referendums. It would seem that it could be said that we were winning the referendums in Western Australia until the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) appeared on the scene.
This Bill seeks to provide $3.2m of extra Commonwealth finance for roads in Western Australia for 1976-77. It also provides that State expenditure on payroll tax be eligible funding under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and the Transport (Planning and Research) Act. It brings the level of assistance provided to Western Australia in 1976-77 up to that provided in 1975-76. Previously, under the principal Act, there was a shortage. It also has had the effect of reducing the matching grants for 1977-78 from $42. 1 m to $39.8m, and a decision has been made not to proceed with an increase of $2.1 m for the current year. The provisions of the Bill also extend to all States. The Bill will have a retrospective effect with regard to the payroll tax provisions to September 1971. The payroll tax provision affects the 4 nominated Bills and clarifies and ratifies the existing situation concerning the eligibility of State payroll tax expenditure to be included as State expenditure for the purposes of these Acts. In Western Australia it was stated that the acceptance of payroll tax for inclusion in matching funds until 30 June 1977 is a decided advantage. The generosity of the Commonwealth Government in providing these extra funds is certainly appreciated by Western Australia, particularly by the rural local government authorities in that State. These funds have been in excess of the recommendations of the Bureau of Roads.
There has been a marked increase in the amount of Commonwealth funds available for roads in rural areas. I shall cite a couple of examples. The Shire of Boulder in 1975-76 received total funds of $398,284. In 1976-77 it had available for its roads $421,444. In those 2 figures there was a Commonwealth grant. In 1975- 76 the amount was $206,314 and in 1976- 77 it totalled $277,941. That is a fairly dramatic increase. I shall cite another couple of examples to illustrate that this is the general trend. For instance, in the Shire of Carnarvon, out of $279,931 available for roads in 1975-76 the Commonwealth proportion was around $133,445. In 1976-77 out of a total expenditure of $245,005 the Commonwealth contribution was $208,605, which is a fairly massive proportion; it is somewhere in the vicinity of 75 per cent of the total amount. For the shire of Mingenew, out of a total expenditure of $118,881 there was a Commonwealth grant of $32,577, and in 1976-77, out of a total expenditure of $126,181 there was a Commonwealth grant of $49,939.
So honourable members can see that there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of Federal funds made available for rural roads in local government areas. This has also been reflected in the allocation for rural roads, particularly arterial roads and national highways in rural areas throughout Western Australia. There is no doubt that the Commonwealth has played its part in providing a massive direct infusion of money for roads in Western Australia. This is generally the picture. I have carried out research into almost every local authority in my area- I think there are 36 local authorities- and the picture is the same. There has been a substantial increase in the amount of Commonwealth money available. To say otherwise is nonsense. There have also been massive increases in the amounts of funds available to local governments through local government assistance grants. The local authorities can spend this money on roads if they so choose. It is given to them free of strings. I have a further list of specific grants to local authorities in those areas, if anyone is interested.
At the same time there has been a decrease in the amount of funds available for urban arterial roads in Western Australia from $22.59m to $ 13.7m. Admittedly, this has placed great strain on the Government of Western Australia and it has had an overall effect on the available funds. Personally, I do not disagree with the action of cutting government expenditure on the freeway systems and of spending more money on rural roads and roads in isolated areas. For many years, before I became a member of this House, I advocated such a course of action. I suggested that more money should be spent on roads in areas in which a great part of the wealth of this nation is generated. These are areas where there are many miles of roads and few hardworking people producing our export wealth. I ask honourable members to remember that I say this in the context of the Government’s present constraints on spending, with the present total financial thrust towards getting the economy under control with responsible government spending.
I believe, as a whole, that this has been a very generous Commonwealth approach to the road problem in Western Australia. This assistance should also be seen in the context that the Commonwealth Government has previously been funding the freeway system in Western Australia to the extent of approximately 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the cost. We believe that if any State government places such a high priority on its freeway system, we should ask that State government to be prepared to pay at least half the cost in order to back its judgment. I am strongly in favour of increasing the amount of funds available for roads-as honourable members might well have heard- in rural and isolated areas. These funds will go part of the way towards maintaining real growth in road funds in rural areas as well as for the State and local governments in Western Australia. It is significant that
State and local government authorities in Western Australia contribute less when compared with their counterparts in other areas of the Commonwealth. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which illustrates this point
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. I think that in the present stringent financial times this increase in funds for Western Australia of $3.2m is welcome. This brings back into focus the fact that Western Australia under the previous allocation was short by something like $3.2m. We undertook to make up for the difference between what was allocated in 1975-76 so that less would not be allocated in 1976-77. Having said that the Government has been generous, I must urge that we urgently look at the formula for deciding the distribution of road funds throughout Australia. I believe that the largest State with approximately 8.5 per cent of the population, with great lengths of road and with very difficult terrain is being penalised, to some extent, in the amount of funds made available to it. If the State Government and local governments are prepared to meet, with the Commonwealth, the obligation of building better roads in Western Australia, I believe we ought to look at other factors which at present are not taken into consideration by the Bureau of Roads in arriving at a more equitable share of the total road funds.
To me it is ridiculous to go on distributing these road funds, principally on the basis of population. Whether it be population or density of vehicles, it really comes back to the density of population. We ought to take into consideration the enormous road distances involved in Western Australia and the difficult and tremendously expansive terrain through which a lot of these roads must be built. Because of the mountainous terrain and the huge river systems which have to be crossed in some parts of the State, where a single bridge may cost from $3m to $ 14m and where some roads require 30 or 40 bridges, some special criteria must be arrived at. Over those same roads travel the huge machines and the huge volume of commodities that generate great part of the wealth of this nation through export income. At the present time, the people in those areas and the industries concerned are being penalised by high and ever-rising costs caused by lack of funds.
I believe that the evaluation techniques of the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads do not give sufficient recognition to the special roads needs of the State of Western Australia. A great deal more emphasis could be placed on the export income earning capacity of the industries in these difficult areas. Whilst the total thrust of the Commonwealth’s provision of funds is placing emphasis in the right area at the present time and is providing more funds for rural and local roads, particularly in isolated areas, I believe that that could well be accentuated. At present the Commonwealth Government recognises the deficiency to some extent and is in fact providing funds to Western Australia in a greater percentage proportion of the total allocation than has been recommended by the Bureau of Roads. That is indeed heartening, and I would ask the Minister to look again at these factors in the future and give some special consideration to roads not only in Western Australia but also throughout other parts of Australia which have special needs and special income earning propensities and special application for the people of an area. When we talk about the Pilbara and Kimberley areas of Western Australia, we are talking about some very difficult road building country, and it is imperative that their needs not be based on the same criteria as those used for roads in the southern part of Western Australia, for instance, or in the eastern States. It is significant that some of the matching provisions do penalise Western Australia, and it is heartening to note that the Commonwealth has alleviated some of the need for Western Australia to match completely the Commonwealth contribution in order to comply with the formula previously laid down.
– An understanding Minister.
-A very understanding Minister, and a very understanding Government, a Federal Government that in my opinion has been particularly generous in this financial year of 1976-77. That is well recognised by the people of Western Australia, even though they have expressed some concern about the availability of funds in the future. It is heartening to me that we have such a sympathetic Minister in the Transport portfolio.
– He is becoming more sympathetic.
-He is becoming very sympathetic. The basic question is that the Federal Government has been very generous in the past, I have no doubt that it will be generous and sympathetic in the future, and I would ask that the Government look very seriously at the formula for allocating road funds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill, and the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill, as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of the 4 Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the 4 measures? I will allow that course to be followed.
– This is a cognate debate and encompasses the 4 tiers of education, namely, universities, colleges of advanced education, technical colleges and schools. As the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speeches on each of the Bills, provision is made for a supplementation of cost reimbursement to the States for moneys that they are required to expend to maintain their existing programs. Under the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill, an additional amount is to be paid on the basis of cost levels for the December quarter of 1976 for operating expenses and for building expenditure. The additional amounts for 1976 total $7.3m, of which $5.3m is for operating expenditure and $2m for building projects. Likewise, in relation to the amount provided to the States by way of advanced education assistance, the Minister stated:
The supplementary grants being provided for the 1976 program comprise $2,834,000 for recurrent expenditure and 1,489,380 for capital expenditure.
In the case of the 1977 program, the amounts of cost SUPplementation being provided for in the Bill comprise 7,661,000 for recurrent expenditure and $3,627,700 for capital expenditure and are based on indices to take account of increases in costs up to December 1 976.
The same proposal is to be found in respect of technical and further education assistance. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
This Bill completes the cost supplementation process for the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974. The additional amount provided is $0.686m … An additional $2. 762m is being provided for the 1977 program. Further amendments to the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Act 1976 will be necessary as information becomes available on movements . . .
Finally, but not the least important, is the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister stated:
The amended schedules will finalise the adjustment of 1976 grants in respect of cost increases to December 1976 and adjust grants for 1977 to December 1976 prices.
That is the tenor of the 4 pieces of legislation, to which the Opposition has no objection. However, we do wish again to place on record the facts that were evidenced by the Government itself in respect of its own commissions, and I need refer to only two of them. The Universities Commission dealt with the fundamental problem that the Government has created for the first time in education, namely, that irrespective of the needs in the 4 tiers the Government would set the guidelines as to how much money was available. So immediately needs are compressed and problems are created for people in the education field, whether they are teachers or pupils. That is one of the problems being faced by the universities. The Commission has said that the guidelines clearly indicate that there will be problems for the universities, particularly the new universities which are coming on stream. The Commission has said:
Unless there is a change in the policy expressed in the guidelines, all universities will be in a no-growth position before the end of the present decade. Lack of growth brings with it two kinds of problems; the first relates to increases m costs (other than those resulting from increases in salary scales and prices) which cannot be avoided and the second to the difficulty of maintaining flexibility in the face of virtually static budgets.
That is an indictment of the Treasurer’s philosophy. The present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) at the table cannot be blamed personally. He probably does his best. But, of course, Treasury dominates the scene.
The Technical and Further Education Commission stated in its report:
A triennial program based on the growth rates … of 5 per cent for 1978 and 1979 proposed in the present guidelines -
I emphasise again that that is Treasury dictation- would fail to take account of the increased enrolments-
The report goes on to state:
In order to ensure that TAFE accommodation takes account of probable enrolment increases during the triennium, 34 000 additional student places will have to be provided. Under the guidelines formula the capital provision program would fall short of this by more than 6000 student places. An additional 6S00 student places will have to be provided if the level applying in 1974 is to be recovered by 1979.
Honourable members can see immediately the deterioration in the position. That Commission was bold and courageous enough to suggest that optional programs were available. The Commission made that very clear. It then set out these programs. The first conforms to the present guidelines. The second would make it possible for technical accommodation to meet expected increases and the third- I emphasise this, Mr Deputy Speaker- would enable the standard of capital provision in 1979 to be no poorer than in 1974.
Whilst the Opposition welcomes what the Bills are saying, it cannot possibly say they go towards meeting needs in education which was the philosophy of the Labor Government. Needs were its concept. That government ascertained and met the needs. Our philosophy was not to bow down to Treasury dictates which state that a certain amount of money is to go to a certain area and no more. Some cost supplementation may be permitted. That is what these Bills do. But irrespective of the needs, this Government is stating that education bodies will have to make do with what they are being given in the Budget.
Particularly in the capital programs we see a marked deficiency in all the areas of education. I have just mentioned two of them. All honourable members have schools in our electorates. They know the dreadful malaise that is now affecting them and the poor condition of many of those schools. It has been evident for many years. The position cannot be rectified by suddenly reducing capital expenditure. At this time when we have high unemployment and a great need to use construction resources, it would be very efficient of our economic managers to look at the point of utilising unemployed personnel, equipment and resources in meeting the needs of school children. We say and have said repeatedly that a child never gets a second chance. If the need is there for a child now and it is not met, that child cannot fill in the gap later on. This is the problem.
We have been lobbied in the Parliament about the problems of schools. I emphasise that. In recent weeks we were all asked again to go out and have a look at some of the schools in our electorates. I need not mention the names of the schools in my electorate. But the problems are acute. The children are plentiful. What are we to do? Are we to assume that things will be all right because the children will be able to make up the need? They cannot particularly when there is massive unemployment and when we find that the parental income may not be as good as it was in the past. This dreadful malaise of not being able to meet the needs of children is an indictment of the national Government. Yesterday we talked about crime statistics and all the problems we need to solve in society. We can talk of the enormous costs in other areas. But let us come to the fundamental first base: A good education for children- an opportunity to get technical advancement, advanced college education or university advancement is the best investment any government can make. Accordingly, whilst the Opposition does not oppose these Bills, I mention again the fundamental difference between the philosophies of the present Government and those of the Australian Labor Party. Whilst the former Labor Government suffered some indictment on the basis that it could not do everything possible during 1976 because of budgetary restraints, nevertheless, we limited the restraints to that year. We said that we would look at the position again immediately after that.
The big problem for State governments in administering capital programs is that they cannot receive a guarantee of continuation of the payments for programs they have on the drawing board. They do not know whether those programs that they have in hand now will be financed. Are they to spend a great deal of money- in many cases over $lm or more- in drawing up plans and designs when there is no guarantee that the capital funds will be provided? We hear talk about co-operative federalism in this present day and age. I have a very strong suspicion that in the future co-operative federalism will mean that there will be a certain proportion of income tax assigned to the States by way of reimbursement but that there will not be necessarily a guaranteed maintenance of the other moneys which are paid by way of special and recurrent grants.
When I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in recent days whether he would give a guarantee that the $5 billion paid to the States in that way would be maintained in the same ratio, he said, ‘No.’ He would not do it. If the national Government proposes to cut expenditure as it certainly can do, in the areas that I have mentioned the only alternative is for the
State governments to come into the tax levy field which is what I think they will be forced to do. That carries with it all the problems of not being able to get sufficient resources from their own people to maintain educational standards alone, saving aside the health, transport and other areas.
I have had a recent conversation with the New South Wales authorities. They are concerned, as they are always concerned, to meet the needs of their people in New South Wales. That remark would apply to any of the other States also. They mentioned to me particularly the area of migrant education. If any honourable members have attended public meetings at which emphasis is placed on the problems associated with migrant education, they will know that there has been a reduction in the facilities available to teach migrants. This is a most dreadful thing because it again places an additional penalty on the migrant. He is badgered enough now. In the main, he has become factory fodder. In addition, the normal assistance we would expect to be made available to him to be assimilated into the community by way of educational standards and assisted in learning the English- these are now being denied to him. There has been this cry: ‘Why is it we cannot get funds to provide teachers to assist our children and our adults?’ I am able to say that in New South Wales the responsible State Minister is very concerned that in these Bills the funds provided will not meet the needs of migrant education in New South Wales.
I refer again to the overriding factor which I mentioned previously which was the inability to plan because there is no guarantee of continuity of funds. Also there is no guarantee of cost supplementation all the time. That is important as well. Whilst it has been recognised now, will this recognition be continued? The States want a guarantee from the Minister that not only will the funds be maintained, restricted as they are, but also that the cost supplementation also will be maintained. There should not be any difficulty in the Minister’s being able to give an answer on these problems.
The Opposition emphasises again, particularly in the fields of the schools and technical education what a dreadful indictment of Australia as a nation it is to think that we cannot provide sufficient of our gross domestic product to meet the needs of people who have talents and who are entitled to have the advantage of an education. I need say no more than again refer to what was stated by the Commissions that were set up to advise the Government on what the needs were. We see in the technical education field the great emphasis on the fact that if we could only educate our people in many more skills they would be able to find job opportunities. The Government has adopted a very short sighted economic policy. It is not satisfaction for it just to say that it has balanced the budget. That should not be the term we come down to without bothering to look at the human misery and needs that have been created, particularly in the field of education. There is no second chance in that field. It is like saying that the patient has been cured but unfortunately he died. Such a policy has no value at all. The point I want to make is this: Education should be a top priority for any national government. We should all recognise that 20 years ago an honourable member who mentioned education in this Parliament was deemed to be out of order. It was not deemed to be a Commonwealth responsibility. It is the most important and most massive responsibility we can undertake. The Labor Government undertook that task. It received no thanks at the ballot box for doing it, but its principles were right and they should not be denied now simply because there are deemed to be other priorities. If we run the educational program strictly in terms of the volume of money available for education, we will not meet the needs. Whilst the Opposition does not oppose these measures, because they are cost supplementary and therefore of some advantage, we emphasise that in the forthcoming Budget discussions the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, should persuade his Treasury colleague to guarantee that education gets the appropriation of money that it needs. Then all the tiers of education mentioned in these Bills will not have to suffer the pain and anguish of not knowing whether they can meet the problems of our young Australians, or not so young Australians when it comes to adult or migrant education.
It is important that we place this on record at every opportunity: Whilst the Government is applauding itself for making an increased provision, the fact is, and it cannot be denied, that there has been a reduction. This is the important point. Whilst it can be said that the Government still adheres to the theory of having commissions to advise it- that was a Labor initiative and we applaud the Government for retaining the commissionsthey are of little value if they are bound hand and foot by having to work within Treasury guidelines. Let us have educational guidelines as to the best way to educate our children and promote their talents. Until we get back to that situation the Opposition will always make the point that the educational policies of the
Government are not in the best interests of Australia.
-Many times we have heard from the Opposition, education institutions, teachers and academic staff organisations dire predictions about what will happen to education funding and expenditure. I recall that not so long ago Senator Wriedt in the Senate predicted that the whole concept of cost supplementation would shortly be abandoned by the Government, but here we are now examining 4 Bills which are in fact cost supplementation Bills for the 4 main areas of education. Let us look at these Bills very briefly. They are normal machinery Bills which provide for supplementary grants for increasing costs and for general agreements with various education commissions and bodies within the States. The Bills cover 4 areas- advanced education, schools, technical and further education and universities. In regard to advanced education there are 2 amendments to the 2 main Acts to provide, in accordance with policy, supplementary grants totalling $ 1 5.6m. This is to cover increases which have occurred in the 1976 and 1977 programs. The supplementary grants for the 1976 program comprise $2.8m for recurrent expenditure supplementation and $ 1.49m for capital expenditure supplementation.
Opportunity has been taken to revise schedules and also to include a number of intraprogram transfers of funds, which within the advanced education sector were a difficulty with which many colleges had to live. The difficulty occurred when there was a provision of total funding divided between capital expenditure and recurrent expenditure and it was not possible to make a transfer between those 2 areas of expenditure although one might have had a good opportunity to finance a capital need from recurrent expenditure or vice versa. During the regime of the previous Government this was extremely difficult, if not well nigh impossible. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has stated that he will consider such transfer. I applaud that because it will lead to a much better utilisation of funds and resources.
One of the other 3 Bills with which we are dealing in this cognate debate refers to assistance to schools, both government and nongovernment. The funds appropriated represents an increase of $3.3.m over the allocation under the existing Acts covering the 1 976 program. The adjustments of grants for the 1977 program for cost increases will involve an additional appropriation of $ 10.9m. The technical and further education area will receive cost supplementation to the December 1976 price levels so that the real value of grants approved by the Government in the light of now known variations in costs will be maintained- The additional amount in respect of the States Grants (Technical and Further Education) Act 1974 is $700,000. An additional $2.7m is being provided in the 1977 program and further supplementary grants and amendments have been foreshadowed by the Minister as necessary information becomes available on the movement of costs in 1977. The last Bill refers to universities. Again cost supplementation will apply in respect of both 1976 and 1977. This cost supplementation will ensure that real values of grants are maintained. The additional amounts to be paid to the States, again on the basis of December quarter 1976 costs, for operating expenses and building expenses in 1976 is $7.3m, of which $5.3m is for operating expenditure and $2m for building projects.
I must agree in part with the comment made by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) that there is not much heart to be had from those figures for capital supplementation; but I point out that in many areas, one of which I have just mentioned- the university area- there has been a very rapid expansion of building projects and capital programs. In my opinion it is an area which can afford to have some restraint imposed on its capital programs; but not likewise, however, the technical and further education area. This Government has committed itself very clearly to the expansion and stimulation of the technical and further education area. Of course, there have been many criticisms- most of them unfounded- of this Government’s intention with regard to education. Time and time again we have heard dire predictions which have not come to fruition. The Government has maintained the real level of contributions to all sectors of education and in the technical and further education sector has provided for a very significant increase in spite of the present economic circumstances in which we still find ourselves after taking office in 1 975.
There has been speculation and criticism that there has been a retreat by the Commonwealth Government. This was raised only recently in the other chamber. In fact, the only reduction in education spending by a Federal government over the last few years was by the Whitlam Government towards the end of its period of office. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith did say rather apologetically: ‘We were rather sorry; we could not give everything asked for in 1976’. Let us see what did happen in the 1975 Budget, following a period of excessive expansion in most areas of education. I had some first-hand experience of this. It became rather embarrassing to have to spend the funds that were being foisted on some sectors of education for projects that were not always viable or justifiable.
– Such as the Orange High School being called underprivileged.
– It could not be called underprivileged with its representation in the Federal Parliament. There were great difficulties in spending this money which in many cases was thrown around. I had direct experience of making applications for grants for particular institutionsI was on the council of one institutionand being told that the applications were not of sufficient magnitude and that the State or Commonwealth body knew better what our needs were. We were told that we had been too conservative. We were told that we should have doubled the amount sought in one instance. The previous Government, whilst it was rather lavish with its education spending, nevertheless needs to be commended to some extent. It took some real and significant initiatives but it got into such a lot of trouble. Towards the end of this period of very rapid expansion in education we saw in the last Budget of the Labor Party in August 1975 a massive and unique cutback in the 4 education commissions totalling $ 105m.
Not only did the Government do that, but also, as far as I know without the consent of the Minister responsible, the Prime Minister of the time determined that he would amalgamate two of the advisory commissions in the tertiary education sector. I recall that the then Minister for Education expressed some considerable public surprise that the Prime Minister had decided off his own bat that he would interfere with the commissions and amalgamate two of them. Not only did we see a record cutback in education totalling $ 105m but we also saw the sorry record of other reductions. Funds for the universities commissions were reduced by $21m. Funds for colleges of advanced education were reduced by $32m. For technical and further education, the pet baby of the Labor Party, funds were reduced y $9m which was a significant proportion of the total amount. For schools, funds were reduced by a total of $43 m. Incredibly, the Government confirmed a decision to cut back school building capital by $85m in that Budget.
That is the record of the Labor Party. That is the record which is being held up as an example to us by the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen). The retreat by the Labor Party in August 1975 is unparalleled by any federal government in history. Further, it threw aside the whole concept of triennial funding in one fell swoop. That was the only way in which any real progress, proper administration and management of tertiary education could be effected. The Labor Party threw the whole system into absolute chaos. This Government has restored that principle on a better basis still. The rolling triennial program gives a much better opportunity for forward planning and annual updating of the forward 3-year programs. Other harsh measures by the previous Government included the freeze on student allowances even though those allowances were set at the June 1974 cost of living index. Now, some of the Labor Party’s spokesmen refer to those periods and say what a marvellous record the Labor Government had, how reliable it was and how well aware it was of the needs of education. This Government has very responsibly assessed its commitments to education. It has given a positive statement of commitment. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said:
We certainly do not envisage any immediate changes to the present arrangements. Neither is there any attempt by the Commonwealth to retreat from its present position in which education is regarded as an area of substantial commitment, nor to reduce its overall financial contribution.
Some concern was expressed by the previous speaker, the honourable member for KingsfordSmith, that the States might have to take over some of the funding responsibility that presently is provided by the Commonwealth. I do not see that as any major national disaster. In most areas of education the States had the original responsibility. States like New South Wales are crying poor but, at the same time, their economic and budgetary situations appear to be very healthy indeed. They are not prepared to admit that they have received a bonanza in the contributions they have received from the Commonwealth under the tax sharing formula. I am not worried that the States might have to chip in a bit more than they did before. I think it is highly desirable that they do.
Furthermore, when he introduced the programs in the Senate on 4 November last year the Minister for Education said that unlike the cuts and reductions in the past by the Whitlam Government this Government was able to make the claim that the universities would be able to maintain their full intake of students and, in fact, increase the total student population by 2 per cent. He also said that there was provision for an increase of approximately 10 per cent in student intakes in colleges of advanced education in 1977 compared with 1976 and that there would be a 5 per cent increase in teacher education courses in 1977. That may be unnecessary but time alone will prove that. I think the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) raised an important point that too many teachers are being trained. I think we have to relate the supply and demand situation for teacher education courses to our likely projections for population. If we are to continue to train a large number of teachers I hope that they will be trained as effective teachers and that the population in general will be able to raise its poor level of literacy and numeracy so well highlighted by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) in his report on specific learning difficulties.
I shall conclude by referring to the 3 areas in the education sector which we have been considering. These are universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of tertiary institutions in Australia. I think that to a large extent this has been out of kilter with our needs and requirements. It became very fashionable at one stage, particularly in the 1973-74 period, for many cities and centres to decide that what they needed to stir things along was a college of advanced education. Most of these people have little idea of what colleges of advanced education were established for and why the principle of advanced education was initiated. I believe that this is one of the problems that has developed in the tertiary education sector. There was an explosion of colleges of advanced education. Most of them were set up originally to serve industry and the community in a much more pragmatic way than the universities.
Unfortunately, many institutions were established without adequate homework. It was found that there was not the student demand for some of the more trendy courses being instituted. It was found that there would not necessarily be even 10 per cent of jobs available for the environmental scientists and others who were trained. There were also difficulties in some centres where there are two or three institutions. Some locations in this country have universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education colleges. As a result, there has been a certain amount of concern expressed for the need for rationalisation of funding and course. We find that there are competing requirements within one area or one town or one city where, for the sake of parochial empire building, the principal of a college of advanced education requires a magnificent new library and the vice-chancellor of a university or the dean of a faculty also requires the same type of facility.
In all sincerity, we cannot justify some of the duplication of resources that has occurred in buildings particularly between those 2 levels of tertiary education.
I should like to go a little further on that point. I believe that there is a very real need in this country to break down the artificial barriers between technical education, further education and so-called tertiary education. I believe it is important that we should try to develop a concept of post-secondary education across-the-board whereby we can provide real transferability between levels of education for students -
– You have been talking sense in the last few minutes.
-Thank you very much indeed. I feel much better now. But I believe that we need to examine in some detail the concept of community colleges whereby we can have a real and beneficial rationalisation between what was called the tertiary education sector and what was called the technical education sector. Concommitant with that would have to be a handing over of the very jealously guarded powers of the States concerning their technical education systems so that we can have some local control and some real autonomy and independence, financially, philosophically and academically, of the technical and further education sector. The technical and further education sector, in my view, will never fulfil its role until it gains some degree of autonomy from the strangleholds of the State systems. So I support these 4 supplementary assistance Bills. I am pleased that the Opposition sees fit to do likewise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Before making my remarks I should like to comment that while there was much in the early part of the speech of the honourable member for Clare (Mr MacKenzie) with which I disagreed, I compliment him on his remarks during the closing stages of his speech when he discussed the rationalisation of much of the very expensive and complicated equipment that can be duplicated in some of the post-secondary institutions and our need, responsibly, at both Federal and State level to look at this matter. I also support his plea for the breakdown of the dividing lines between those sections of post-secondary education. I think that that area has a good deal of common cause.
To turn to the matter under discussion, as has been indicated by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) this supplementation principle which these 4 Bills carry out was an initiative taken by the Labor Governmentand I think quite an appropriate one. We are glad that the present Government is carrying on with this principle. I think that having indicated that, we do not necessarily need to analyse just what is happening with that supplementation. What I am concerned about is the difference in attitude to education between the previous Labor Government and the present Federal Government. The Labor Government took the initiative in regard to the major commissionsthe Schools Commission and so on- and asked them to report on the basis of needs of the community. When they had delineated those needs- those needs were very substantial indeed because of previous neglect- the Government decided as a political decision, just how much finance could be brought forward to satisfy those needs. It was a politically responsible act to allow the Commissions to spell out the needs and then say how far the Government was prepared to go in trying to satisfy those needs. This contrasts rather markedly with the actions of the present Government. The present Government gives the Commissions guidelines within which to report on what should be done for the various aspects of education, what programs there should be and so on. This inhibits in many ways the ability of the Commissions to report on the real needs.
I shall refer only briefly to the Technical and Further Education Commission report where, under the guidelines that have been put forward, the Commission has very courageously registered its protest at this sort of attitude being taken, instead of it being allowed to report on the needs and letting the Government take the responsibility for saying what it would responsibly see as the expenditure to satisfy those needs. One can respect an attitude, if needs are reported and a political decision is made as to the amount that will be made available deliberately to satisfy a certain area of those needs.
My colleague has mentioned already the confusion that is being caused by the new federalism. The honourable member who preceded me in this debate, the honourable member for Calare, said that he thought that the States should put in more money and so on. The attitude taken by this Government under the new federalism is that it gives adequate finance to the States to carry out the various processes that the
States should carry out. In my own State of Victoria I see State Liberal and Country Party members of Parliament trying to get themselves in sweet with local parents and teachers by saying that of course the Federal Government should supply more money and that there should be a special grant. In other words, at the Federal level one can use the excuse that the States will not accept responsibility and that the Commonwealth Government gives them enough money. The colleagues of honourable members opposite are seeking election and re-election at the State level on the grounds that they will try for special grants from the Commonwealth Government. What arrant hypocrisy! It is an unsympathetic attitude to the needs of people. We are told that the Government has a commitment to education. The situation is such, as has been shown by the Commission reports, that what is needed is not only commitment, but also the ability to expand the involvement and satisfy the needs.
Previous debates on education during this session have allowed some discussion of technical and further education. I wish now to turn my remarks to perhaps a rather more parochial attitude to education in the primary and secondary fields and to express to the House the sorts of concerns that parent and teachers are expressing publicly so that their fears can be analysed and either proved or allayed. Honourable members will recall that in April there were meetings throughout Australia in regard to education. The expression of opinion, which I suppose is rather regimented in that it is prepared before the meeting, was unanimously supported. The expression of opinion went something along these lines:
This mass rally of parent and teacher delegates elected from across Victoria calls on the Federal Government to provide sufficient funds to achieve minimum standards in schools and TAFE institutions by the end of the decade as advocated by the Schools and TAFE Commissions in their reports of June 1975.
Of course one knows that the Federal Government has put the screen of State governments in between. It goes on:
This will require the Federal Government to:
. stop irresponsible talk of Budget cuts in education.
reject any suggestion of the simple maintenance of existing standards which, in many areas, are demonstrably poor.
It will be to those standards that I shall address my remarks shortly and give some examples. The resolution continues:
For Victoria that involves an additional $15m for recurrent expenditure, $2 7m for capital works and $6m for special purposes- a total of $48min 1974 prices.
The Labor Government in its last year of office was forced to suspend triennial funding for the good reason of having a look at how it could go ahead. We are told that this policy has been substituted by a much better system of the rolling triennium. People concerned with education find the so-called rolling triennium a difficult animal indeed to understand. A rolling triennium has no meaning. It gives no real ability for proper planning ahead to allow for time lags to make up the deficiencies in need. It is a strange animal indeed. I urge that the ordinary triennial planning be returned. The last item in the resolution concerns leaving untampered the independence of the Schools and TAFE commissions. We know that the TAFE Commission is to disappear into the Tertiary Education Commission. I was pleased that the people gathered together at this meeting recognised also that there was some State responsibility in this matter, but that State Governments were not necessarily the best to satisfy the needs that were revealed. The resolution states:
Finally, this rally calls on the Victorian Premier and Minister of Education to make known publicly the educational needs and funding requirements of this State, and energetically to place constant pressure on the Federal Government to provide in full those funds recommended by the Schools and TAFE Commissions.
Perhaps in that last sentence the rally showed the inability that many Liberal State politicians show to recognise what the new federalism is about. What sort of leeways are we trying to make up in many of these areas? If we look at the high schools in Victoria we learn that less than half of them have a Commonwealth library or even one in the course of construction. This means that students in these high schools in Victoria have library facilities below Commonwealth standards. Honourable members will recall that with the previous Commonwealth involvement in education almost every student attending Victorian private schools enjoyed such facilities provided by Commonwealth funds. If one looks at the various regions of Victoria one finds that in Gippsland only four of the 2 1 high schools have a Commonwealth library whilst every non-government secondary school has this facility. What happens if there is not a Commonwealth library in a school? The alternative is that the library will be in a classroom or classrooms, which is unsatisfactory in terms of the floor or shelf space available. There is no provision for individual study areas or audio visual facilities. In such circumstances there is no area for proper staff work and so on. So we see in that library area of high schools alone that the need is so great that one cannot have a commitment just to continue the present level of funding, that we must look at expansion.
The same might be said about science blocks. Despite the science block program that originated in the early 1960s, 30 State high schools in Victoria are still without the facility of a science block. In many countries overseas about the first item that is built in a school complex is the gymnasium-assembly hall area. Yet here in Australia we find- I am using Victoria again in the parochial sense- two-thirds of Victorian high schools do not have a gymnasium, nor do they have an assembly hall, a very basic area for the operation of a secondary education institution.
– Did you say two-thirds?
-Two-thirds of Victorian high schools. I inform the honourable member for Holt, who was a distinguished teacher at Brighton Grammar School, that this information is supplied by the Victorian High School Principals Association. I think he would accept the authority of those figures. One of the other problems because of the schemes that have existed in the past is that many of the schools carry burdensome loans and interest repayments. One knows what happens in this situation. Plenty of government services suffer from the same thing. But when working parents in working class areas are involved the problem becomes so much more difficult. I turn to staff accommodation in the schools. When one looks at the staff rooms of many high schools, with desks placed back to back, and looks also at the areas for preparation, one cannot believe that the staff can function adequately in that area. That is the general picture. I could go on to highlight a number of other areas in the government school system in Victoria where there are deficiencies- lack of rooms for specialist subjects, facilities for the students and funds for school maintenance work and minor capital works. There are just so many deficiencies. I think this fortifies what I said before, that our commissions must be able to identify the needs and to highlight those needs. Then a political decision has to be made as to how much of those needs are to be satisfied. At least that is a more honest way of allowing people to judge how the system is operated.
In referring to just a couple of specific instances to show what can occur, I refer to Bell Primary School in my electorate, a school which until the Commission programs was seen by many parents as undesirable. It had a source of pupils from a population with a high degree of poverty. I am trying to find the right words to express the situation without downgrading the excellent residents of that sort of area- persons who are underprivileged because of lack of understanding through migrant origin, lack of opportunity, lack of economic means, single parent families, latch-key children, people fromousing commission areas and so on. Special facilities are needed in those schools. This particular school took part in the disadvantaged program, the innovations program and the inservice education program of the Schools Commission. The innovations program is now finished.
The comment from the school with regard to participation in these programs is that they had a tremendous effect in terms of children, staff and parents and that if any of the programs were stopped that would have a tremendous effect also. This is from a school that still suffers from a lack of at least 3 migrant teachers and a teaching aide, a school where a large minority of pupils do not receive either adequate medical or dental attention, and where there is need for maintenance of the school buildings themselves. The comment is made that cyclic maintenance is long overdue; that there is no record of it having been done in the last 10 years; and that the school was expecting cyclic maintenance to be done in 1969-70, but because of the structure of the State cyclic maintenance program it is not even listed. There are many factors about that school that I could exemplify. If one talks to the people at the school one finds that they refer to the great advance that has been made by those 3 programs put forward by the Schools Commission in just the last few years, but they have grave fears that unless the needs can be continually identified the school will lapse back into the old condition. Inherent in this matter is the criticism of the new federalism and the inability of the State governments to react in meeting the needs of schools and the failure of the Federal Government to understand the barriers it is putting up.
I intended to deal with another of the local schools- a high school- where much the same sort of comment can apply, but I will not. At the moment there is in the community a grave concern about the future financing of education and a grave concern that the new federalism lets Federal government off the hook and in turn is used by State governments to get off the hook. The new federalism sets guidelines for commissions which inhibit them in their attitude to needs, and governments, at both the State level and the Federal level, do not have the guts to make what are political decisions but try to bide behind this smokescreen.
-The 4 Bills presently before the House- the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977, the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977, the States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977 and the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977- all provide extra Commonwealth Government funds to the States for expenditure on all spheres of primary, secondary and tertiary education. This extra money covers cost increases that have occurred in the programs for 1976 and 1977 since those programs were adopted. Hence the Bills will maintain the real value of the grants approved by the Commonwealth Government. They will ensure that the grants will achieve the specific goals intendedthat is, the completion of specific programs to benefit students rather than just to fulfil a money commitment.
This legislation is a practical demonstration of the high priority that the Fraser Government and the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, give to education. It ensures that the real increases in education spending that were promised in the 1976-77 Budget will be achieved. It is a major achievement of the Fraser Government that in a time of restraint in government spending, which has been necessary to solve the economic problems that it inherited the Fraser Government has still ensured real increases in spending on education.
However, despite the Government’s very commendable approach to education, there are still certain problem areas. I hasten to add that these problem areas were not created by this Government. It is to those problem areas- to two of them in particular- that I wish to address some remarks this afternoon.
The first area of concern is the problems that currently are being faced by independent schools. Independent schools are an essential part of our education system. They give parents the right to choose, for whatever reasonwhether it be religious, the pursuit of academic excellence, rural isolation or some other reasonan alternative school to those provided in the government system.
The previous Labor Government in its thrust towards socialist equality sought to destroy the independent schools. It failed to recognise that those schools are not the repository of the ultraprivileged and it ignored the fact that many people of moderate means work hard and long hours- perhaps at second jobs- to exercise their right to choose to send their children to independent schools for one of the reasons I mentioned a moment ago. The attack of the Labor Government on independent schools, directly through for example its arbitrary category system and indirectly through its overall economic mismanagement, created a situation which the Australian Labor Party supposedly resents. The Labor Party’s policies meant in fact that only the relatively wealthy and privileged could afford to send their children to independent schools. Perhaps that was a cunning way of destroying them- not because they are the preserve of the privileged but because the opportunity for choice and difference that they provide is anathema to socialists.
As a result of that, the independent schools face a crisis situation. Many independent schools are falling further behind government schools as regards the resources available. The 1977-79 triennium report of the Schools Commission particularly emphasises this aspect. This is particularly evident in low resource independent schools.
The Commonwealth Government has introduced several new initiatives in relation to independent schools, for which it should be commended, following this report of the Schools Commission. It has increased the per capita recurrent grants to $137 for Level 1 schools, whereas previously they were $113. These increased amounts graduate through the various levels to a maximum of $385 at Level 6, compared with the sum of $355 previously. The Government also has initiated a new scheme to help disadvantaged country children. Further assistance for independent schools has been initiated through the introduction of a loans guarantee scheme and advance approvals for school building projects so that those schools can go ahead with bridging finance. These provisions have been introduced in accordance with the Government’s policy of encouraging the right of parents to choose between alternatives in schooling for their children and with the concept of a basic grant for all pupils, whether they attend government or non-government schools. But, despite this extra assistance, the indication is that there will not be an overall maintenance of the average resource level, and a continuing reduction in resources caused by the loss of contributory services.
Some schools have difficulty, in an inflationary situation, in taking effective action to increase fees to compensate them for the cost increases resulting from inflation. Those schools which are able to increase fees become progressively less available to members of the community as an option for the education of their children.
In addition to those problems, boarding schools are particularly affected by the rural slump and the resultant decline in average farm incomes. Many more farmers can no longer afford to send their children to boarding schools. Often those schools are the only source of adequate education for country children. So they are a particularly disadvantaged group at the moment.
It is perhaps worth noting that in 1973 the average father of an independent school child had a gross income of $12,000 a year. Such families averaged 2.3 school age children. After tax rebates, parents spent $913 a year to educate each child. By 1975 the average income of such fathers had risen to $16,000 a year. They still maintained an average of 2.3 school age children. But after tax they were required to spend $2,087 a year to educate each child at an independent school. So, whilst their income had gone up by approximately one-third-of course, allowing for taxation, the real increase would have been less than that- the cost of educating their children had more than doubled.
The solutions to these problems of independent schools are, of course, quite complex. The overall problem is an economic one. It is therefore essential that the Government continue to give first priority to overcoming inflation. That, in turn, will have the effect of stabilising the cost of operating independent schools and, hopefully, thereby will enable the stabilising of fees and the cost of the other forms of assistance that are necessary. This should enable parents to continue to support these schools by sending their children to them.
However, following economic recovery, the proposed tax reforms of this Government must include relief for those who are paying to send their children to independent schools. The Government also must continue to provide direct assistance without impinging upon the independence of such schools. A possible initiative to which I believe the Government should give very close consideration in this area is the introduction of a voucher system for the funding of education. Of course, vouchers can be applied to both the government education system and the independent schools system as a means of providing finance.
I repeat that independent schools play a very important part in their role of educating our children. I believe that the government must continue to give very close attention to their problems.
The second area of concern to which I wish to direct my remarks this afternoon is the operation of the Australian Union of Students. This union purports to represent students at all tertiary institutions. Indeed, all students are forced to be members. Students automatically pay a compulsory levy of $2.50 to the Australian Union of Students. State government legislation enforces this compulsory unionism by preventing any students refusing to pay this levy from sitting for examinations or receiving degrees or diplomas. Despite this, evidence shows that AUS is not really representative of the great bulk of Australian tertiary students. Consequently, increasing concern is being generated among students and the general public. It is a very great tragedy that this is the case.
A national student body could be of great value. AUS has the potential to be a constructive force in tertiary student affairs. It has already benefited many students through travel schemes and medical benefit arrangements. However, beyond that it has ignored its proper role of a student union which is to promote all aspects of students’ well-being. For instance, last year it totally failed to represent students effectively in respect of their problems concerning the tertiary education assistance scheme. It failed to produce a worthwhile submission to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) on this matter. I understand that the Education Officer of AUS refused to meet the Minister to discuss the problems of the tertiary education assistance scheme because she did not want to be involved in what she termed ‘bourgeois parliamentary politics ‘.
Of course, therein lies the core of the problem.
The capacity of AUS effectively to present student views to governments and educational authorities in Australia is undermined by its being controlled by extreme left-wing elements who are more concerned with pursuing their own political goal of socialist revolution for Australia than serving the real needs of students. The real problem is that the AUS executive is dominated by Trotskyists, Maoists and other extremists, all of whom can be accurately grouped under the label of ‘ communist ‘.
– They are all living on government money, too.
-That is very true. Thus they threaten the way of life that the great bulk of Australians, including the great bulk of students, wish to enjoy. Accurate surveys show that nearly all students support either the Liberal or Labor Parties and that their political views aligned closely with one or the other of those Parties. Hence the AUS is not reflecting the views of student members in the extremist activities it pursues.
Socialist extremists have been able to achieve this control of the executive for 2 reasons. First, the great bulk of students are committed to high academic achievement which will enable them to make long term contributions both to Australia’s and their own welfare. Therefore, of course, they do not have the time to engage actively in student politics.
Secondly, AUS office-holders are elected by delegates at the annual AUS conference in January each year. These delegates do not represent the broad spectrum of students. On many campuses they are not even directly chosen by students. Some delegates at the conference vote as a bloc and prevent expression of alternative moderate views, even if some moderates have been successful in achieving election as delegates. Clearly changes are necessary to ensure the AUS conference and its office-bearers more accurately reflect the views of the bulk of students.
A group has recently been active directing its activities towards achieving this goal. Thus far it has been unsuccessful because the left wingers have been manipulating the system. A recent referendum to ensure that all office-holders were elected by a direct vote of all students resulted in IS 000 students voting in favour of this proposal and only 5000 against it. But because 20 campuses did not vote on the issue the proposal was lost because non-voting campuses were regarded under the rules which apply for referendums as favouring the continuation of the existing system. Those students who have been active in attempting to achieve reform deserve commendation and support from all of us who are aware of the important role that tertiary education institutions play in our community, in the future development of our community and in our democracy.
People like Michael Danby, Tony Abbott, John Herzog and Gordon Laverick have demonstrated great courage in their fight against the extreme left-wing on behalf of the bulk of students. They have been subject to violent intimidation at AUS conferences. Recently Michael Danby spent several days in hospital following an attack on him by extremist activists in a Melbourne city street. Mr Danby could hardly be regarded as a right-winger. In fact he is an active member of the Australian Labor Party. Of course such an event reinforces claims about the extreme nature of those who are controlling AUS.
Students, both Liberal and Labor, as well as other moderates see the very great need for reform. The use of violence shows that AUS cannot be just written off as being run by a group of children who are in the process of growing up. This argument is reinforced by the fact that as a result of the $2.50 fee which is levied on each student and paid to AUS, the AUS executive controls an annual budget approaching $700,000.
The executive ‘s pre-occupation with itself, and the promotion of its extreme political views and its lack of concern for the welfare of average students is clearly demonstrated in a breakup of this budget. Over half of the budget is spent on salaries, travel expenses and so on of executive members. It seems that even student politicians indulge in empire building. An amount of $80,000 is spent for media purposes, including the production of the organisation’s own newspaper which is nothing more than a communist propaganda sheet. In addition, $75,000 is spent on so-called social action. So the largesse goes on and on. Against this expenditure only $1,000 was applied to the solution of a problem such as the tertiary education assistance scheme, an issue, of course, which affected the welfare of most students.
Clearly major changes are needed in the leadership of the Australian Union of Students to ensure that the compulsory levy which is extracted from students to finance its operations is spent in the interests of the great bulk of students and not in the interests of a small extremist leadership junta.
This need is recognised by all people who hold moderate democratic views, both Labor and Liberal.
I have already mentioned the role which Labor activist Michael Danby has played against the left wing. AUS has also been condemned by Mr M. O ‘Brien, the President of the University of Adelaide Labor Club when he said that that
AUS was no longer representative of students. Hence it is not just a Liberal or right-wing plot to discredit a left-wing organisation.
In that context I was particularly horrified to see a report last Friday that Peter Duncan, the South Australian Attorney-General had said that the public concern being expressed about AUS was part of a conservative plot to destroy AUS because of the threat it posed to Australia’s free enterprise system. He admitted no evidence to back up this view but he believed that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation were also part of this plot.
Peter Duncan has been the pride of the Dunstan Government in South Australia as Australia’s youngest Attorney-General. He has even been tipped as Dunstan ‘s heir-apparent. Therefore his statement must be accepted as the view of the South Australian Government on AUS. It demonstrates the extent to which extremists have penetrated the South Australian government despite Premier Dunstan ‘s cosmetic public pose of moderation. Duncan supports these extremists in contrast to the views of his own party members such as Danby and O’Brien who have first-hand experience of extremist student political activity.
So I guess there is very little hope that the South Australian Government will initiate any reforms in South Australia to ensure that AUS becomes more democratic and more representative of the great bulk of students. Therefore I believe it is even more imperative that normally apathetic students arouse themselves actively to support that small group which has already initiated moves for reform in this area. I hope that other State governments will pursue this end, even though the South Australian Government may not do so. I strongly urge the Commonwealth Government and the Minister for Education to use their influence to bring about necessary changes in the structure of the Australian Union of Students and in the way that university union fees and student fees operate to ensure that a more responsible and moderate leadership comes to power in the AUS. Then it can prove to be a really effective representative body of students. It can effectively represent students in the genuine needs which they have and not be purely an extremist political organisation concerned with promoting extremist political views in the community to the detriment of the overall community and, of course, to the detriment of students who depend on that body for their welfare.
-The Australian Union of Students is a federal body and it is extremely doubtful whether any State legislation compels any students to contribute to it. I think the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) has confused 2 matters. I shall take as an example the University of Western Australia. The university requires the membership of the students of the Guild of Undergraduates. The Guild of Undergraduates has received loans from the university. At one stage, perhaps, it may have owed the university $lm, and interest of $70,000 a year was paid on this amount for student buildings. So universities habitually require all students, compulsorily, to be members of the student body within the university. Whether that student body is affiliated with the Australian Union of Students is an entirely separate question.
The Guild of Undergraduates of the university or the student representative council of any given university does not have to be affiliated with the Australian Union of Students. No State law requires the student representative council of any university to be affiliated with the Australian Union of Students. If the student union by its own decision is affiliated with the federal body- an affiliation fee is paid- I think that is quite a separate issue from compulsory membership with the student union of any given university. Membership of the Guild of Undergraduates of the University of Western Australia only involves membership of the Australian Union of Students if the Guild of Undergraduates affiliates with the Australian Union of Students. If the Guild chooses to withdraw, then all the points the honourable gentleman is making fall down. State legislation does not force any university student body to affiliate with the federal body.
However, that is not the most serious point in the honourable gentleman’s speech. He made a statement about an attack on non-government schools by the Australian Labor Party Government. Joseph Stalin once said that education was a weapon whose nature depended upon whom you intended to attack with the weapon. He is not the only materialist who thought of education as a weapon. A great many people think of education as a weapon of their children’s advantage over everybody else. While that may be an adequate view for a parent, it is not an adequate view for the Commonwealth and for the States. The adequate view for the Commonwealth or the States is that education is the instrument of every child’s dignity, not the weapon of some children’s advantage. The most absurd part of the speech of the honourable member for Kingston was his statement that the Labor Government had attacked the nongovernment schools.
In the last biennium of the McMahon Government expenditure on all schools by the Commonwealth was $1 12m but in the Karmel biennium expenditure on all schools by the Commonwealth was $794m. Even allowing for inflation, that represents a vast increase in expenditure. The expenditure on non-government schools by the McMahon Government in its last biennium increased from $71m to the vicinity of $240m. In addition, there was the first ever expenditure by the Commonwealth on non-government teachers colleges which, in fact, in some cases got the status of colleges of advanced education. The Commonwealth undertook unprecedented responsibility for their financing. An increase in expenditure on non-government schools from $71m to $240 m would only be an attack in the mind of somebody standing on his head. That, I think, was the posture of the honourable member for Kingston in this debate.
When the Karmel report was originally brought in it had inbuilt into it an allowance of 6 per cent for inflation. The inflation rate exceeded the 6 per cent for which Karmel had allowed. It is important to note that in the estimates given now for the rolling triennia there is no inbuilt allowance for inflation and so cost supplementation has to meet that situation entirely. Cost supplementation was introduced by the Whitlam Government in 1974 for each of the commissions to maintain the value of Commonwealth grants. It was possible, for instance, for information to be given about how supplementation affected each sector. As the honourable gentleman has been very typical in his speech the only schools which concerned him were non-government schools. He did not even speak of the special grants for the poorer non-government schoolsthe Catholic schools- so one can assume that he was speaking for the schools which had higher resource levels.
In all these fields, however, not only were there unprecedently high grants but also they were affected by supplementation. For instance, if we look back at the Catholic systemic recurrent expenditure we see there was a supplementation of 18.7 per cent to allow for inflation. For nongovernment schools recurrent expenditure in 1974 there was a supplement of 10.2 per cent and then, in 1975, there was a supplement of 21 per cent. For the special education courses there was a supplement of 15.4 per cent and for the related teacher replacement for the special education courses there was a supplement of 16.5 per cent. So these supplementations maintained the purchasing power of the commission recommendations in every sector. The supplementation in the rolling triennia is a shorter term supplementation than the supplementation over 3 years. To allow for inflation and also for new programs, if I remember offhand, the extra expenditure on universities was about $3 16m over the period of the triennium.
Because of the nature of the very expensive recommendations involving unprecedently large increases in expenditure as envisaged particularly by the Commission on Advanced Education and by the Technical and Further Education Commission, the Whitlam Government was unable to accept the sharpness of these increases. It asked for a suspension of the triennium for a year- a holding year- and then the resumption of the triennium. This was attacked by the parties who now sit on the Government side. However, their rolling triennium is not the restoration of what is understood by the triennium as we knew it in the past. I am not surprised at that, because in that respect Treasury disliked 2 things very much. It disliked the concept of triennial funding altogether and it disliked what it regarded as the privilege for education in the cost supplementation or the indexation of grants being made. Treasury was not happy about either of those things. It takes the view that if cost supplementation is provided inflation is inbuilt, whereas if cost supplementation is not provided and the institutions have to carry the can for inflation there would probably be a tendency for the inflation rate to diminish. That viewpoint was not accepted by the Labor Government and the concept of supplementation was introduced. The legislation for the 4 commissions which is before us at the present time is simply that supplementation concept brought up to date. The Opposition supports the idea that Schools Commission recommendations should be supplemented in this way.
The honourable member for Kingston had some comments to make about the nongovernment schools. It would be better if he were to speak about the real grievance of the nongovernment schools, which is quite different from the points that he made. If the honourable gentlemen were to look at the Karmel report he would see that Karmel took the resource levels of the average State school as his norm and gave that an indexed figure of 100. All nongovernment schools were then assessed against that scale. Some Catholic schools had a resource index of less than 66 per cent of the government school. Some non-government schools had a resource index of 230 per cent of the government school. It was Karmel s aim to bring every school up to 140 per cent of the index over a decade. As far as the Catholic schools are concerned, their advance is not as rapid as that of the State schools.
There is a curious paradox in State administration, if we compare 2 commissions. The States have not been as active in advancing technical and further education as they might have been but, as far as the government schools are concerned, the rate at which they are advancing from purely State expenditure is beyond what Karmel envisaged. In some cases their resource advance may be even 4 per cent a year. The Catholic schools in particular, out of their own expenditure efforts, are not having anything like a 4 per cent increase. So while the general concepts of the Karmel system may be continued and increased grants made to the poorer nongovernment schools to bring them up to the State school level, and then after a decade to 140 per cent of the State school level, the State school level is in fact sliding away from them because of the very special efforts that the States themselves have been putting into their own schools out of their own resources. I would hesitate to say that falling behind is a characteristic of every nongovernment school, but it tends to be a characteristic of the Catholic schools which, generally speaking, are the poorer schools in resource levels amongst the non-government schools.
I do not want to make the suggestion that the poorer schools in resource level necessarily are the poorer schools in education. There are factors of devotion that are very important. In some areas where orders are strongly represented, and they tend now to be in remoter areas of the Northern Territory and in places like the Kimberleys, staff are committed to live there for years and years. It may be to serve Aboriginal communities. Some of them get to know the Aboriginal languages and the families. There are services which they can perform which State school teachers going to the Kimberleys for, say, a year or two and then being promoted out of the area and never really becoming familiar with the problems do not perform to an equal extent.
Nevertheless, Karmel worked out very clearly a strategy for improving education in the nongovernment sector. It would not be true to say that sector is the most articulate. It would be fair to say, I think, that the parents who send their children to non-government schools of higher resource levels are more articulate than anybody else in the education area in the Commonwealth, with the notable exception of the parents of children in Canberra schools. I remember that when I was waited upon by a deputation of parents from Canberra secondary schools in particular, who seemed to be half the staff of the Australian National University, with a vast battery of educational experts, I felt like a piece of chewed string after spending an hour or two discussing their very articulate demands for their children. It does not surprise me that the resources devoted to education in the Australian Capital Territory per capita are 30 per cent or 40 per cent higher than the Australian average. I am bound to say that as Minister for Education I never experienced any Treasury resistance to high expenditure on education in the Australian Capital Territory because that is where the children of the Treasury officials are educated. I do not know whether that is an unduly cynical viewpoint, but it was a fact that I encountered very little criticism of expenditure in this area.
It has to be recognised as one of the facts of life in education, and I say this to the honourable member for Kingston, that the more underprivileged a section of the community the less articulate they are about the needs of their children. One of the first decisions we made in education was that there should be a bilingual program in Aboriginal education. No demand for this came from Aboriginal parents. Many of them jumped at the opportunity of having education in their own languages in their schools when the proposition was put to them and I understand that it has now grown to a point where there is education in 22 Aboriginal languages around the Northern Territory. However, there was no articulate demand for it from Aboriginal parents, although they needed it. The Labor Government extended the Aboriginal secondary grants which the Gorton Government had introduced. The grants applied to Aboriginal children of IS years of age and over to enable them to stay at school, and we extended the scheme to all Aboriginal children in secondary education. There had not been a demand from Aboriginal parents for such a scheme but it met a very great need. Those parents were quite inarticulate.
The States had never had a concept of disadvantaged schools, including inner city slum schools. No such concept existed and no demand came from the parents. I am not deriding the State Ministers in this respect. Quite rightly, they did not want the lists of what were regarded as disadvantaged schools to be made public because they said that many of the children and many of the parents who sent their children to what are classified as disadvantaged schools were very proud of those schools and it would be a stigma for them to be publicly classified as disadvantaged. Nevertheless, the children in those schools were disadvantaged and the fact that the Ministers could point to the pride that the parents had in the schools did indicate that there was not a demand for such a classification. There was some demand in the field of handicapped education, but in many of the States handicapped education had been a matter of private charity. We negotiated with the Country Party about what would be classified as A schools, and there were forty of them among the 9600 schools in Australia. I think it is fair to say that those 40 schools could make more noise than the other 9600 put together. On the whole, the children attending those schools had very articulate parents. I do not deride them for this. They had a very clear and direct conception of where their children were going. Honourable members should remember that the grammar school is much more relevant to the future of people who intend to enter the professions than other schools are to the future of people who will enter other sorts of occupations. That is the reason for the great professional interest. The Opposition supports this cost supplementation. It was introduced in our period in office. It is absolutely essential. I hope the day will come when the problem of inflation will be solved to the extent that the supplementation will be unnecessary. Until that day, cost supplementation defends education from the erosion of appropriations made for it.
– It is always a pleasure to hear the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Beazley), who has just resumed his seat, speak in the House on the subject of education. He brings a real contribution to the debate and offers worthwhile comments at every stage. However, I must disagree with him to some extent in the remarks he made about the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman). He is a young member of the House who I find to be active and concerned. He is a young member of the House who shows his capacity and his contribution in debate. I trust that the honourable member for Fremantle will forgive somebody who has not had the length of service or held the offices that he has held for putting forward in the way that he did a fine argument and some very relevant facts. I felt it was a little ungenerous of the honourable member for Fremantle to detract from what the honourable member for Kingston said in the way that he did.
The House is debating a number of Bills, three of which increase the supplementation to tertiary education in Australia. The States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill amends the States Grants (Universities) Act 1967 and the States Grants (Universities Assistance) Act 1976 to adjust the approved programs of grants paid to State universities for the years 1976 and 1977 respectively. The Bill maintains the real value of the grants approved by the Government in the light of known variations in costs since adjustments were made in the Budget sitting of the Parliament last year. I remind the House that despite many of the comments made by honourable members opposite, it has been the Government’s firm commitment to increase the expenditure on education. Despite many adversities in other areas, the Government has reversed the attitude and the previous commitment by the former Labor Government in the education field.
I remind the House that in 1977 we reversed the Australian Labor Party policy of cut and freeze in education. We reversed it to give a 2 per cent growth in real terms to universities, a 5 per cent increase in real terms to colleges of advanced education, a 7.5 per cent increase in real terms to technical and further education and a 2 per cent increase in real terms to schools. An effort has been made by some honourable members opposite and by some individuals in the community to mislead the people as to what the Federal Government has done. I think that is very unfortunate because it arouses a false expectation based on a fallacious argument. The Government has made a commitment to improve the area of education and is following through that commitment in a very active and constructive way.
It is of particular interest to me that an increasing emphasis has been placed on technical education. I was the Chairman of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties when that Committee was in operation. In discussions I had I became very much aware of some of the fine work being done in the technical education field. Some of the problems of technical and further education were brought to notice by the Chairman of the Technical and Further Education Commission at a conference held in Canberra recently. I think that people working in technical education see some of the deficiencies of the education system more than people working at other levels of the tertiary education field. The simple life tasks and skills that are sought to be learned by people attending school must be carried forward into their further education programs if they are to be effective in those programs. Indeed you, Mr Speaker, drew to the attention of the House the shortcomings of some areas of education. Much work has taken place since then. It is these life skills, a capacity to communicate and a capacity to undertake further education that has been the concern of the chairman of the Technical and Further Education Commission.
It has caused much difficulty at the college here in Canberra to find that before entrants to trade courses could successfully undertake their courses, 40 per cent of them needed remedial education in mathematics. It was also found by the Canberra Technical College that 20 per cent of secretarial entrants needed remedial courses in English. It is a most unfortunate state of affairs that in order to earn a living students must further learn skills that it is assumed are acquired in the primary and secondary schools. An ability to perform the simple life tasks and a capacity to earn a living when completing trade courses or courses of skill at technical colleges must be the prime objective of those institutions. I trust that the Government, over the period of its next term of office- over the next 5 years- will give great attention to the importance of technical and further education and the role which can be played by technical colleges and colleges of further education to provide life skills and, in fact, to provide people with a basic background of competency that must be vocationally based. That is the purpose of the institutions. It should be the objective of the whole system.
I think that one thing that should be examined by the Government in this area is an assessment of the material used by people in everyday life in order to earn their living or to otherwise exist in society. I refer to things like bank accounts, hire purchase agreements and all those little measures that a family man or an individual must be able to complete successfully to have a satisfying existence in our complicated modern community. I refer not only to bank accounts but also to insurance, the capacity to take part in pleasure, and the capacity to earn a living by being able to drive a motor car. All these things require some level of literacy and numeracy skill that should be provided within the education system. Many of the forms and documents that an individual is required to fill out in our society are far too complicated. I am told that a person needs a reading age of 17 years to be able to comprehend a hire purchase document. A reading age of 20 plus is needed to comprehend a life insurance policy, whatever that may mean. These are relative terms and I do not think they can be really measured in a way that is satisfactory. What is implied is that a very high level of skill and comprehension must be available to a person entering into these agreements.
The National Roads and Motorists’ Association of New South Wales has issued what it calls a ‘down to earth insurance policy’ that can be understood by the layman. Much work could be done in simplifying these day to day requirements that face members of the public. However, that does not detract from the important emphasis that must be placed by the education system on the skills off numeracy and literacy. The colleges of advanced education which are receiving additional funds under the States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill are responsible for teacher education. Dr Elkins who was an adviser to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties conducted a survey of colleges of advanced education throughout Australia. His work indicated that the range of time spent by those colleges teaching teachers the art of reading in an effective way so that they could communicate that art to students varied between 2 hours and 78 hours of compulsory course work. This is a minimal amount and should be investigated by those colleges. I know that many of them are starting to throw emphasis on training their teachers in a way that will be most effective. However, the International Reading Association sets a minimum time of something like 150 hours for teachers to acquire these skills.
I know that it would suit the House to terminate this debate shortly. It is a wide and interesting topic. The funds that are being allocated to tertiary institutions-technical and further education institutions and universities- should be applied in such a way that those institutions look at what they are accomplishing and at the requirements of the community rather than drift so far from those basic requirements that the institutions are no longer effective.
– I rise to deal -
Motion (by Mr Donald Cameron) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– That is the end of tonight, my boy.
– Don’t get nasty. I am just doing what has to be done. The arrangement was to conclude the debate at a quarter to six. I was told that at a quarter to six the debate had to come to a conclusion.
-Then you ought to talk to someone. That means that you have had your speakers and we have not had ours. It also means that you will not get the Bills through until 9 o’clock. I guarantee that these Bills will not be passed in the next hour and a half.
-Order! I have heard the motion moved by the honourable member for Griffith that the question be now put. The question is that the question be now put. Those of that opinion say ‘Aye’; to the contrary say ‘No’. I think the Ayes have it.
-The Noes have it. A division is required.
– The House will divide. Ring the bells.
The bells being rung -
-Order! The division will take 10 minutes. Is that the period for which the honourable gentleman intended to speak and, if he did speak, would there then be no division?
– The honourable member has moved that the question be now put. That is it.
-Is there then to be no division?
– There will be a division on every clause of the Bill in Committee and the Opposition will use every device it can find.
– With respect to your sense of justice, Mr Speaker I was told that this question had to be put at a quarter to six and I have moved the motion accordingly.
The bells continuing to be rung -
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the House to call the division off and to let the debate continue until 6 p.m. on the understanding that the legislation will be through by then.
-Does the honourable member for Griffith seek leave to withdraw the motion?
– In view of the pressure brought to bear, yes.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. The motion is withdrawn and the division is cancelled.
– I wish to deal with a specific matter relating to the Deakin University- a university which has been established by statute on an interim basis as from 3 1 March this year and which will commence full operations in 1978. Because of the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the University and the timing of that establishment, it has been established by the incorporation -
-Order! The House is in a very unruly condition. I ask honourable members to cease their conversations; otherwise I will have to take action either on my right or my left, on whichever side the most noise comes from.
-The University is in a difficult situation in that it has been established by the incorporation of a State teachers college and a college of advanced education, and has taken over the partly completed site of the college of advanced education, the former buildings of the college of advanced education and the former buildings of the State college which most likely were reaching the end of their useful life.
During the last triennium as a college of advanced education the Deakin University did not receive funds. Funds for building purposes in that triennium were frozen and in some cases allocated to other institutions. So the University commences from behind scratch in the allocation of funds. The guidelines for the 1977-79 triennium indicate that universities are to maintain their intake of students in the years 1977 to 1979 at the 1976 level. The University will be starting in 1978 although it has just taken over the students of the Gordon Institute and the State college in terms of the management of existing courses. This means that there can be no increase in funding and no serious allocation of funds for new buildings is available in this triennium.
The Universities Commission in its report makes this point:
One consequence of holding intakes constant will be that the smaller, newer universities will have to operate at levels of enrolments which will be a good deal lower than those for which they were planned and which will be relatively uneconomic and prevent a desirable diversification of the universities ‘ academic work. This applies to the University of Wollongong, Deakin University, James Cook University of North Queensland, Griffith Universtiy and Murdoch University.
My specific concern is the Deakin University. I have here a letter which was written recently by the Chairman of the Interim Council to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), setting out some of the problems confronting the University. Because of the time factor, I seek leave to have that letter incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Office of the Vice Chancellor 20 May 1977
Senator the Honourable J. L. Carrick, Minister for Education Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600 Dear Senator Carrick:
The Interim Council of Deakin University views with deep concern the possibility that the restrictions on education spending may mean a cancelling of next year’s building program. It has resolved unanimously that I should make representations to you in the strongest possible terms about the seriousness of a further delay in Deakin ‘s building program. Accordingly, I am writing to seek a meeting with you at which I can more fully explain the circumstances to you.
I would be glad if you could find the time to visit Geelong to see the situation for yourself. If, however, you cannot manage this, the Vice-Chancellor and I will come to see you in Canberra. I will ring your secretary in a few days’ time to arrange place, date and time.
The building due to go up next year is already long overdue. During the period m which the creation of a fourth university in Victoria was being debated, uncertainty about the future deprived Geelong of new building. Capital funds of $2m which had been approved for the State College of Victoria at Geelong for the 1973-75 triennium were frozen; part was transferred to other constitutents of the State College of Victoria, and part was transferred to Deakin. In May 1975 the Universities Commission recommended a building program totalling o over $ 1 1 m for Deakin University, but this was cancelled later in the year. Even the $720 000 which had been transferred from the 1973-75 building program of the State College of Victoria at Geelong were withdrawn.
In 1976 the Universities Commission was not able to provide funds for a building start in 1977 but recommended $ 1.6m for building in 1978. In addition, the Commission recommended $6m ‘beyond the guidelines’ to be made available in the period 1978-80 to furnish Deakin Univesity with an adequate initial complement of buildings. In reply to representations about the $6m, you promised to give sympathetic consideration to the recommendation in considering funds for 1978.
At present, the activities of Deakin University are scattered over no less than five sites in and near Geelong. The main campus is at Waurn Ponds, 8 km south of the centre of Geelong. The School of Education is in the sub-standard buildings of the former teachers college in North Geelong and is itself split between two sites. Engineering is in the city centre, snaring a complex of buildings with the Gordon Technical College, which needs the space as soon as it can be vacated by our engineers. The Art and Design section of the School of Humanities is in leased space in a disused textile mill.
We urgently need more buildings. Not only is the accommodation now available inadequate for our present requirements, but our needs will increase greatly during the next three years to cope with the establishment of an off campus program and an increase in enrolments.
If Deakin were to lose even the $1.6m already allocated for building in 1978, there would be unfavourable repercussions not only in the university but in the whole of the Geelong region. I recognise, of course, that the restrictions on education spending which may put our building program in jeopardy are not of your choosing. I feel, however, that Deakin has such a compelling case Tor building funds that I would like to be able to put it to you in person.
Yours sincerely, P.N.THWAITES Chairman, Interim Council.
-Earlier this week the ViceChancellor of the University, in a published article which some honourable members will have seen, indicated that the Deakin University has asked the Commonwealth for an additional $17m for buildings and for the lifting of the ceiling on student numbers. The University says that it will cost $13m to transfer about 1000 full-time students from 4 different sites in Geelong to Waurn Ponds. That is $13,000 for each student. The sites are up to 10 miles apart and with the integration into one university it is reasonable that the university should be given a chance to operate efficiently and economically. That can be done only if they are excluded from the guidelines which are set out basically for the established universities.
There is one other problem which has to be confronted. The former buildings of the Gordon Institute of Technology have been handed over to the Gordon Technical College which is being prevented from occupying space it needs to operate because sections of the Deakin University which was formerly the Gordon Institute of Technology must remain in that building. There is no area to which they can be transferred. The squeeze is operating at 2 ends of the scale. The Gordon Technical College has taken over the non-degree, non-diploma sections of what was the Gordon Institute of Technology. The problem is one of real urgency which should be examined as a special case. In any set of circumstances where guidelines are laid down there are always exceptions. To freeze the funds of those universities, especially the Deakin University, which are establishing part way through the triennium in the manner in which they have been frozen is to get them off to an extremely bad start from which it may take many years to recover. This may well have adverse effects on the opportunity level of students.
Courses are being conducted on multiple campuses, some of the buildings being totally unsuited. At least one of the buildings being utilised is a former textile mill which has now been taken over for university activities. It is some 5 or 6 miles from where other lectures will be conducted. I draw the attention of the House to this matter. The Universities Commission in its report of July 1976 points specifically to the problems which are to be confronted in this area. I think it is also necessary that the Government examine this problem. This university is not asking for something that is not necessary. If it does not obtain adequate buildings the students will be disadvantaged. It operates at an uneconomic level. The output of skilled students at levels which a university is expected to provide must surely be jeopardised. I ask that this matter be reconsidered. It is a serious problem for the Deakin University. It is a problem which I hope is of concern to the Victorian Government and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from5 May, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Administrator recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
-Before I leave the Chair I want to make the briefest reference to the death yesterday of an old friend of mine and I am sure of many members of the Press Gallery, Allan Barnes. I think he was an outstandingly fine journalist. Earlier in the month the death occurred of yet another old stager, Don Whitington, whom I have known throughout the entire period that I have been a member of this House. I permit myself the indulgence of mentioning the sadness I feel at those deaths.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Consideration resumed from 25 May. ( Quorum formed.)
Clause 25 (Re-committal).
– I seek leave to have clause 25 of the Bill as amended reconsidered forthwith.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I thank the Committee. By amendment last night a new sub-section (6) was added to proposed new section 50. The new subsection reads:
I now move the amendment to clause 25 of the Bill as amended which reads:
Omit sub-section (6) of proposed section SO.
The purpose of this amendment is to delete one of the amendments which was added to clause 25 last night. That amendment related to a situation whereby the Government sought to exclude from the operation of the clause transactions involving related companies. On further consideration, the Government believes that that edition could potentially open up a means whereby the thrust and the intent of clause 50 could be avoided. Therefore the Government has moved that that amendment be deleted. The Government recognises that there are some circumstances where a limited exemption of the type envisaged by that amendment should perhaps be inserted. It will be the Government’s intention to examine carefully during the next few months the operation of the new clause 50 of the Bill. In the event of it proving necessary and desirable for an appropriate change to that provision to be inserted, the Government will do so. For example, I indicate to the Committee that a company which had carried on business through divisions rather than through subsidiaries, for various reconstruction reasons, might wish to form a subsidiary company to carry on the business in a market in which it holds a monopoly position, and on one construction of the clause the issue of shares by the subsidiary company to the holding company could be caught. Clearly, in that type of situation where no change in the actual ownership and control in the market is occurring, it is not appropriate that the clause apply. Nevertheless, the amendment that was moved last night, on reflection and in the view of the Government, is too wide. It does open up opportunities for abuse. I might indicate to the Committee that I did discuss the Government’s intentions in regard to this question with the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam). I fully explained the reasons why the Government intended to move this amendment.
– As the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) says, he did discuss this proposed deletion with members of the Opposition. Of course what it does is point up the very complexity of this legislation. It is on the record now that the Opposition has the strongest objection to the way in which section 50 of the Trade Practices Act is being recast. It is not our intention here to again canvass those arguments. Suffice it to say that the very kind of technical amendment with which the Government has had so much difficulty, which it brought to the attention of the Committee just yesterday, and which now involves the Government in having to seek leave to have the whole clause recommitted so that the amendment might be deleted, points up exactly the kinds of complex considerations which arise in this legislation and about which the Opposition feels there has been altogether too much haste and ill-considered thought on the part of the Government. Naturally enough, the Opposition will not be dividing on this amendment; we did that last night. However, we say that section 50, as recast, is still thoroughly objectionable and the deletion of this proposed sub-section of new section 50 will not solve the problem. Section 50 is still thoroughly objectionable. Again, as I said, we said all that last night. All we are doing now in reconsidering this clause is again seeing just how hastily this matter is being considered by the Committee, by the House and by the Parliament.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Section 5 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
Mr HOWARD (Bennelong-Minister for
Business and Consumer Affairs) (8.8)- I move:
In paragraph (b)(b), omit ‘, arrangement or understanding’.
The purpose of this amendment is to correct a technical error in referring to arrangements or understandings when the provision applies only to contracts. It is indeed the correction of only a technical error.
– I oppose the clause with which we are now dealing. The clause of course takes us back to the exemption provisions of proposed new section 45D. The exemption contained in proposed new section 45D states:
A person shall not be taken to contravene, or to be involved in a contravention of, sub-section ( 1 ) by engaging in conduct where the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to-
Those are the only exemptions. One would imagine that they are the only kinds of issues that can lead to genuine industrial grievances. Whoever drew up this legislation obviously did not know much, or really anything at all, about industrial relations. They seem to have behaved as though there has never been an industrial stoppage over a demarcation dispute, employment of non-unionists or the employment of people who have failed to observe a majority decision of the policy making bodies of their unions, people who in industrial circles are called scabs. The fact is that a great many of our stoppages are due to demarcation disputes- far too many. But we ought to understand that some demarcation disputes are ones that we ought to support. Let us take some examples. Suppose we had an employer who was seeking to man a port with members of the Australian Workers Union. In fact there are ports around the Australian coastline where stevedoring work is carried out by the AWU. In many cases the wages paid to members of the AWU who do stevedoring work are nowhere near as high as the wages which would apply if the same work were carried out by another union.
When I was Secretary of the AWU Jim Healy and Roch, the gentlemen to whom the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) presented the Illawarra Star Cup way back in the good old days, came to see me to point out that AWU members handling cargo and shipments of various kinds at Whyalla ought to have been covered by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia because the workers could get some quite extraordinarily higher amount than the AWU could get for those men under the AWU award. I said to Jim Healy: ‘You can have these men for one year and I want you to give me an undertaking now that if you have not got them the full waterside workers rates within one year you will hand them back to me and not hand them over to Ernie Thornton’, who had political ties with Jim Healy. Jim Healy was the sort of person with whom one could make that sort of deal and know that it would be honoured. One year to the very day Healy and Roch walked into my office. I had no idea why they wanted to see me until Healy said: ‘We have come to hand the men back to you. We have failed. If we could have had them for only another 6 weeks we could have succeeded’. I let them have the men for another 6 weeks and Mr Justice Piper gave the workers the waterside workers rates of pay. They have had them ever since. If I had been typical of so many union secretaries who place union membership above union benefits I would have held onto those workers at Whyalla but as it was I handed them over to the other union. If I had hung on to them the waterside workers would have had a lot of support from those people in trying to get into the wharf, as a result of which there would have been a demarcation dispute.
The same thing happened at Leigh Creek when Wells and Idries Williams of the Miners Federation tried to capture Leigh Creek. I held on to it, but only by being able to get the correct rates of pay. There are demarcation disputes between the Storemen and Packers Union and the shop assistants’ union, with the storemen having on their side the fact that their award provides for a much higher rate than does the shop assistants award. There are demarcation disputes between the Builders Labourers Federation and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union over who shall control dogmen, with the builders labourers being able to get a quite substantial amount more under their award than the metal trades workers can get under theirs. On the face of it a demarcation dispute is about union membership, but in reality it is a question of getting decent rates of pay. That is the kind of demarcation dispute that one cannot criticise. I believe that a person who has scabbed upon a decision taken by a properly constituted pOliCy making organ of his union has no right to be treated as a clean skin. The person who has carried out the obligations of his union leadership has every right to refuse to work with such a person and he has every right to refuse to work with a freeloader or a ticket dodger, as some unions would call them.
It is not possible to have any industrial dispute at all without inflicting considerable damage on someone. One does not win until the damage one inflicts upon people becomes so great that they cannot bear it any longer. It is only then that one wins. This is why unions say that they should have the right to have secondary boycotts. What is the use of the printers at the Sydney Morning Herald going on strike if the Murdoch Press is going to print the Herald’s newspaper for it? The Murdoch Press would have the capacity to go on printing aU the Fairfax publications from the Mirror printery forever without having any difficulties in respect of either labour or machinery. Obviously therefore the proper thing for the employees of the Murdoch Press is to put a boycott on any attempt by the Fairfax Press to print newspapers in the Murdoch establishment.
This would be an act that would be within the ambit of the penal provisions in this legislation. What union m Australia does the Government believe could afford to pay the $250,000 penalty, if the maximum penalty were applied? There is no union that could do that by way of cash unless it sold up its properties. There would not be many unions which could stand more than five or six fines of $250,000, even if they sold up their properties. What then? Does the Government think the unions would be prepared to sell up all their properties and allow the Government to have all their assets? Of course not. At that stage we would be reaching a state of civil war because organised labour would have to resort to direct action and to violence in order to survive. All of us will fight when we reach a point when we can go no further into a corner. A kangaroo will not fight until the dogs drive it into a corner of the fence or until it can go no further. Then, and only then, will it stand up and fight. And stand up and fight the trade union movement will be forced to do if the provisions of this legislation are applied. If the Government does not intend to apply the provisions, why have them there? I warn the Government that if it attempts to apply them and to enforce them it will bring this country to the brink of civil war and when that comes -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It was unfortunate that last evening the Government decided that the debate should be gagged on the clause directly related to section 45D. It would not be unusual for anybody following or observing parliamentary proceedings to find that we on this side of the chamber have a lot to say about the roping in of the activities of trade unions into the Trade Practices Act. This provision was not initially envisaged to be part of that Act. Obviously it will not be complied with. As I said in the second reading debate the night before last, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which the Government seems to have ignored, has decided that should anybody be caught in the net of section 45D and m the interpretation of the clause that is now under discussion, they will meet with the full support of the Australian trade union movement.
The Government does not seem to understand what that means or to have considered how many circumstances could arise that would bring about such an enormous national confrontation. The Government ought to cast its mind back to the actions that were taken against the Secretary of the Victorian Tramways Union, Clarrie 0’Shea. The events of that time are very vivid in my memory. The then government no doubt felt at that time that because Clarrie 0*Shea was a professed member of one of the communist parties of that time the public would feel no sympathy for him and the trade unions would not gather around him. Quite the opposite was the case, to the amazement of both the government of the day- the government in 1969- and many of us in the Labor movement.
It was not just the so-called left wing unions or militant unions which decided to take action in support of Clarrie O’Shea and against the decision of the present Governor-General to gaol him. Action was taken by 95 per cent of all the unions that existed in Australia. They decided that the action would be as unanimous and as spontaneous as possible in the Australian context so as to bring about a settlement whereby the unions would show that they would not comply with laws as harsh and as unreasonable as the laws that are now envisaged in relation to the Trade Practices Act. There are plenty of examples throughout the Western world of governments deciding that this just cannot be done- and it should not be done, because of what it means.
We are now talking about how people may offend against the various sections of the Trade Practices Act. In that context one immediately thinks of sharp business deals that might go on in the country and of people getting together and deciding to maintain an artificial price for their goods or services. But here we are talking about someone who gets up at 7 o’clock or 8 o’clock in the morning and goes off to his job down the mines, on the wharves, driving a bus, serving in a bank or insurance company, or whatever it may be. All we have heard from the Government- it has come from its back bench members- is about one or two isolated instances of industrial disputes that the Government does not like. Yet all of a sudden we find that a trade union could be subjected to a fine of up to $250,000.
As I said in the second reading debate, the Government said that it had reached a compromise by removing the provision for the imposition of a penalty of up to $50,000 on an individual. I think that it is a good example of the thinking of the Liberal Party of Australia that it should consider fining working people $50,000. How would a working man find that sort of money? One would have to be floating on cloud 9 to think that that sort of law could be applied. The Government has removed that fine, but a fine of up to $250,000 can be imposed in relation to some of the hard-fought-for traditions of trade unions.
– Should we take it off the companies as well?
-Members of this Parliament, expecially the young pups on the other side of the chamber such as the honourable member for Barker, should, while they are members of this Parliament, which will not be for much longer in his case, listen to honourable members on this side of the chamber, especially the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron), whose advice and experience surpass that of anybody else sitting in this Parliament, particularly when he says that a union that participates in what may be appropriately called a sympathy strike is not then going to allow itself to be fined $250,000. Quite honestly it is just not on.
The unions will not comply with such a law. When one union is taken to the test the Government will have a major confrontation with the whole trade union movement. For the benefit of honourable members opposite I say that it ought to be understood that Australia is one of the most highly unionised countries in the world. A lot of that has to do with some of the obsessions of employers late in the nineteenth century and early in this century. A lot of the emergence of the trade union movement has to do with the attitude of employers in this country over the last 100 years.
As I have said, in writing laws such as this the Government is living on cloud 9. The Government has tried to interpret in the clause under discussion what may be removed and what may be the exceptions- remunerations, conditions of work and so on- but, because one person works on the wharves, another works as a printer for John Fairfax and Sons and yet another sorts mail at the Redfern Mail Exchange, does the Government think that it could ever cut the link that joins those people together? A sympathy strike is not a new sort of strike. The Government calls it a secondary boycott. In industrial relations terms it is a sympathy strike and it is not new. It emerged as a result of some of the smaller and perhaps industrially weaker unions calling upon the people outside to give them some sort of assistance that would allow them to lift their wages and working conditions to a proper, respectable and acceptable standard.
Honourable members opposite ought to read the Jackson Committee’s report about some of the deplorable conditions under which people work in this country. Of course action will continue to be taken by trade unions. Is the Government going to sit there and say: ‘This has to be outlawed. We cannot have these sorts of actions being taken to assist the smaller unions or to assist people to improve their working conditions. This is going to stop them ‘? Of course it is not going to stop them. All this law is going to do is to impose even harder problems on business and the industrial development of this country. Obviously it just will not work.
A few weeks ago we had the case of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) telling some of his supporters- the beef producers of the country- not to send their beef cattle to the markets. That was his view. He thought that they would be better off if they earned out that instruction. There was not one word of criticism from the Government. That is not dissimilar to what happens amongst working people. Does the Government believe that by this law it can cast a net to catch the total of almost 6 million wage and salary earners in Australia? We are witnessing the emergence of the white collar organisations.
– No, just the law breakers.
– Just take notice of what I am saying. We are witnessing the emergence of the white collar organisations. We are no longer talking about just the wharfies, the seamen and the miners. A new circumstance applies in the industrial relations field in Australia. If the Government believes that by this law it can throw out a net to catch all of those people, to frighten them and to put them back into their burrows, it has another think coming.
– No, just the law breakers.
-My little friend-little in mindthe honourable member for Parramatta, who was brought up on the bottle by his father, looked after and pushed into the Parliament, now refers to the law breakers. The honourable member for Parramatta, who possibly has never had to go to work in his life, suggests that people who go to work and who decide at a union meeting to take some action in support of workers in another factory or at another site are law breakers. That is where we divide. We do not believe that people who go to work are law breakers. We do not believe that people who go to work are criminals. We do not believe that it is to the advantage of this country that the Government should adopt that sort of attitude. It shows how naive and stupid the Government is in trying to push this law, because obviously it is not going to work and it ought to be rejected out of hand.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)
Order! The honourable members time has expired.
-Because this clause relates to proposed section 4SD of the Trade Practices Act and because of the speech just made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), I feel bound to say a few words. Lots of things have been said in this debate. A lot was said by the honourable member. But there are a few things on the other side of the coin that must be realised. The honourable member for Port Adelaide and the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) spoke much of the confrontation situation that this legislation is going to bring about between the unions and the Government or, as I would rather say, the people of Australia. It seems to me that whenever one enters into debates in this Parliament and outside it on this subject there always has to be overlaying sympathy with the understanding of the union cause.
It is said by the honourable member for Port Adelaide that the working conditions of some people within our country today are abhorrent and bad and that secondary strikes and sympathy strikes are needed to alleviate that position. I invite the honourable member to look at other sections of the community. I invite him to look at the rural section of our community. I invite him to look at how the beef producers, some of the dairy farmers and people involved in the horticultural industries have survived during the last few years. I invite him to look at the actions of the trade union movement throughout Australia over the last few years- actions by which it has sought more than equality with the wealth producing sectors of this nation, particularly the rural sector. I invite him to understand what it meant to primary producers when meat workers decided to picket the Bunbury wharf as they did the other day to stop the shipment of live sheep from this country. I ask him to try to understand that farmers in that area for the first time are getting a legitimate price for their product. For the past 4 years they have been having an extremely difficult time. For the first time in 4 years there is a shortage of sheep on world markets and a reasonable price is being paid for export sheep. But the shipment of their sheep was stopped.
I have a great deal of sympathy for people in the meat industry who have lost their jobs in Western Australia and throughout Australia.
This is seasonal work which is subject to drought and fluctuating markets. There are 300 people out of work in this industry in Western Australia. It is interesting to note the uproar that has gone on in respect of the intention of General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd to make 600 workers redundant. The work force in that organisation is far greater in size than the work force in the Western Australian meat industry. But meat workers at Bunbury have, without the backing of their union, the ability to stop the loading of live sheep onto ships. This action has led to tremendous expense. Sheep have to be taken from the wharves, and fed and so on. Why do these workers have the right to take away the dollar that another man was expecting to earn? I do not care what the size of the fine is in respect of this legislation. I do not care whether it is a $250,000 fine or a $50 fine. That is not the point. I believe that the trade union movement and the Australian Labor Party have forced this Government into the position it is in today. Why cannot we have a responsible situation that does not force governments into introducing this type of legislation? Why cannot we just for once pull together and think a little more about Australia?
– This is an obnoxious provision for all the reasons that have already been stated. I would like to address a few remarks to the speech made by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) who has just spoken. Let us place on record the fact that the honourable member admitted that workers might have had a grievance as a result of some difficulties relating to the waterfront. Is this not what the concept of industrial relations is all about? Proposed new section 45D can prevent people from exercising their normal rights as trade unionists. What chance have they got if, for example, people running a business decide to close it down? There is no redress for the employee if the manager of a business is inefficient and the business goes broke. If General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd sacked 1000 men, there would be no redress for those employees. Their labour is expendable. These are fundamental issues when we talk about industrial relations. But people can make decisions which affect employment.
There are provisions relating to conciliation and arbitration. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will acknowledge that the specific provision we are now considering was introduced in rather unusual circumstances as far back as February of last year. It arose basically from the fact that tanker drivers for oil companies were not prepared to deliver discount petrol. One can object to that practice if one likes. But the tanker drivers in performing their duties were in fact sustaining a fair profit for the oil company for which they were delivering petrol. No harm was done to the company concerned. It was getting the maximum return for the petrol which the tanker drivers were prepared to deliver. The problem concerned the discount position. If we look at the issue we can see that the labour was not getting any benefit from this arrangement. Employees were maintaining their jobs and the fuel that they were supplying was still being sold at the maximum price. They were not prepared to deliver it to service stations that intended to sell it at the discount price. So these matters involve industrial relations. The legislation that we are now considering -
– Tell us about Solo.
-I do not know whether the Government Whip is listed to speak in this debate. However, I ask him not to take up my time by interjecting. Proposed new section 45d is deliberately aimed at the trade union movement. We can see any number of reasons why it is so aimed. For example it is not even put on the same par as is another part of the legislation in respect of the word ‘purpose’. In proposed section 45D the word ‘purpose’ is related to a purpose which might have the effect of causing damage. It does not have to cause damage; it just might have the effect of causing damage. But we do not see the same text applied to proposed section 46. In respect of exemptions as to where one can get out of proposed section 45d and penalties in proposed sub-section (3) one has to establish there was a dominant purpose. I think those words are offensive in the sense that they ought to be deleted. Why must there be a dominant purpose to obtain exemption?
Again- there has been some slight improvement in this situation- it is important that where actions are taken in respect of the remuneration conditions of employment of other people employed they also be put in as being part of the exemption. The Minister has done that now by way of amendment. So the Minister should have made this amendment because all sorts of issues will arise in the industrial field as to what are the rights of other people in the same union movement. Therefore that is one word of praise for the subsequent amendments. The point I am making is this: The question of dominant purpose still has to be established. Again I see no reason why these words should be in the legislation because they create an unfair burden on the whole issue. Proposed section 45 D (5) puts enormous vicarious responsibility on the unions. For example, if 2 transport workers decide that they will not service a company which once sacked them their union would be liable unless it can show that all reasonable steps were taken by the union to prevent its members from taking that action. The onus is on the union which will be subject to very heavy penalties unless it can satisfy that onus. How in the name of fortune does the Government expect to get good industrial relations in this country with legislation of this sort? We should bear in mind that the Government’s main legislation is the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- conciliation having the emphasis, not confrontation. It is an interesting concept that under trade practices legislation, founded on the issue that the Government now has some constitutional power to deal with corporations and therefore that unions become part and parcel of the corporation power, the Government has decided to bring in this confrontation legislation. It is a complete negation of the conciliation and arbitration power. The Minister admits that he is not real confident about his corporation power when it comes to dealing with companies under the national securities legislation. But he does not seem to have much doubt now because he thinks he can deal with unions under the same power. The Government has a very flexible mind.
At one stage we could have all the laxity in the world with the corporations and their dealings. When it comes to national securities legislation the Government says: ‘We would rather the States did that. We would rather have consultation’. But when it comes to the unions which, in the main, are deemed not to be corporations and which have no interest except in their labour, they will be penalised under the same power. These are matters which the Opposition wants to raise. We have a close affiliation with the labour force in this country. The Government will not get any marks for this legislation in which it suggests penalties of this type. All the worker can ever get out of his action is an improvement or betterment in his conditions. In considering wages and conciliation today there seems to be uniformity when we talk about indexation, hours of work or overtime payments. The worker has very little room to move. But I ask: What chance have the workers in Whyalla or in any steel mill got in the future if the plant is closed down because of inefficiency of the management or because it is using old plant and equipment? The workers are thrown on the scrap heap. No penalty is imposed on the people employing the workers. No sanctions are applied. It is for these reasons that we say this is obnoxious legislation.
The legislation could have been better drafted where it deals with what trade practice is all about- fair competition, no monopolisation and a guarantee that the small businessman gets a fair deal. I suggest that the Government should not come in with a side door attack on the trade union movement. It should not wield a big stick and say, that if the workers dare stop they will suffer all these penalties. If that ever happens the Government will cause massive economic dislocation in this country. It will not be able to control the situation. It will be back immediately relying on that world ‘conciliation’ under the conciliation and arbitration power. Mr Deputy Chairman, it is not easy even in the Parliament to control 125 honourable members. You will admit that. How difficult is it for any trade union to say that it can control all its members. That shows the extent to which this section is so ridiculously drafted. The onus will be on the union to prove that it had no responsibility for certain actions. These remarks apply to section 45 (5). It is very important that we should realise what is happening here. This is legislation which no responsible government should dare introduce as a method of assisting the economic betterment of this country.
– We find that the clause we are debating at the moment is the exemption clause and not clause 45B proper. But understanding the interests of honourable members in this clause one takes no exception. I shall say 3 things in response to the contribution of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen). I say to the honourable gentleman that the nexus with the corporations power in section 45D is the effect upon or the damage done to the corporation. On the advice available to the Government as to the extent of the corporations power, it is in that respect, in the view of the Government, that the clause is a proper exercise of the corporations power. The debate on this clause which occurred last night and during the second reading debate reveals strong differences of opinion. I think honourable members on the Government side have put the Government’s view.
I say to the Committee again that the penalties which are involved under section 45D are no greater than the penalties which attach to the activities of companies under that section and under other sections of the Act. I point out again to the Committee that there arerino pecuniary penalties on individuals under section 45D. Only in a limited number of circumstances can civil action be taken against individuals under section 45D. I again remind the Committee that the Government has made a number of amendments to section 45D as a result of the representations which it has received. It now believes that this clause is balanced. It does not believe, if we are dealing with competition legislation, that any section of the community whose actions have the purpose of substantially affecting competition should be immune from the implications of that action. It is for that reason that the Government has extended the scope of the Act to the commercial operations of the Crown. It is for that reason that it believes that section 45D is appropriate.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 27 to 48- by leave- taken together.
– Opposition members have been waiting for the opportunity to say something nice about the Government and about some of this legislation. I think it is fair to say, in relation to the clauses we are now considering dealing with consumer protection, that many of these clauses considerably improve the existing Trade Practices Act. This is particularly so in relation to the expansion of Part V which deals with the description of the sort of behaviour which is now prohibited. The Committee will note the extra specificity with which the behaviour is described. In many people’s minds there are some things with which the Opposition would not often be seen to be associated. For instance, in clauses 44 and 45 which amend sections 76 and 79 of the Act there is some softening of penalties. Section 76 refers to pecuniary penalties being imposed on persons involved in contravention of proposed new section 45D. Clearly, the Opposition supports that proposition.
The amendment to section 79 removes the penalty of imprisonment for consumer protection. I think it ought to be said that the Opposition supports that proposal. Quite often the Australian Labor Party is presented as being a basher of business. Nothing could be further from the truth. On this occasion let us say that we frankly concede that it is more appropriate to have a pecuniary provision. For this land of contravention we do not believe the threat of imprisonment adds very much to the likelihood of the Act being effective and being implemented.
However, there are other provisions here which are not quite so unexceptionable. I think the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) will anticipate at least one of the provisions about which I believe all members of the Opposition have some doubts. That is the amendment to section 80 which relates to injunctions being granted. There is now a limitation on persons who seek injunctions in relation to mergers. That restricts this action to the Commission and to the Minister. We on the Opposition side would perhaps prefer that the wider provision which presently obtains should continue. In fact, other interested parties might also have been able to institute such proceedings particularly in relation to matters which have public interest, such as mergers, dissenting shareholders and perhaps competitive bidders.
Some of the other provisions of these clauses with which we are dealing are very worthwhile. They are the best recommendations of the Swanson Committee. They are the ones which I believe were a shock to the Government, or at least to certain members of the Government. When the Government commissioned the Committee it believed that the terms of reference given to it meant that the Committee would come back with unfavourable recommendations in relation to the workings of the Act. In fact the Committee came back and not only recommended strengthening of the consumer protection provisions in relation to what would constitute a contravention, but in relation to the remedies available went a good way towards making them much more effective than they had been. I am referring here particularly to the provisions involved in clause 47, which will now give courts power to order affirmative disclosure and corrective advertising.
When the Government responded to this recommendation in the December legislative proposal and introduced this amendment, there was no monetary limit on the amount of corrective advertising or affirmative disclosure that a court could order. The Government has now decided that rather than have an open ended commitment for a company which contravenes, it should limit the amount to $50,000. Again, the Opposition does not propose to oppose that limitation, but we would have preferred it had the amount of any affirmative disclosure or corrective advertising been left to the discretion of the court. After all, there are not many areas of law where courts are bound by these kinds of limitations. But on this occasion let us give it a go and see how it works. It is certainly an improvement on the existing Act.
The Opposition is delighted to give its support to a great many of the provisions involved, especially those in clauses 27 to 42 of the legislation. As I have said, we do not believe that the removal of the imprisonment penalty is inappropriate in relation to Part V offences and we welcome the Government’s response to the Swanson Committee recommendations in relation to affirmative disclosure and corrective advertising orders by courts. So far as limitation in dollar terms goes, we would hope that the Government will keep that under consideration and, if it is seen that the amount is not sufficient to counteract practices which are prohibited by the Act, give consideration to amending the Act to insert a more appropriate amount or to removing the limitation so that it can be left in the discretion of the Court.
– I welcome the recognition by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) that the Government is strengthening the consumer protection provisions of the Act. There are people in this House and in the community who say that there is a lot of divisiveness between the parties, but I think that this debate in part puts the lie to that and I personally welcome it. I should also say that these provisions prove that the Government is injecting the matter of public interest into this legislation. It is a shame that the honourable member for Grayndler does not agree that we are injecting public interest into section 45D, under which secondary boycotts which are an abuse of union power and which affect business will also be subject to the provisions of the Act.
– I want to confine myself to section 73 of the Act, which applies at present, as I understand it, where a corporation or owner enters into a contract for the supply of goods to a consumer by way of lease, hire or hire purchase, and the antecedent negotiations regarding the contract were conducted with the consumer by or on behalf of another body corporate, most being related to the owner. If, however, that other corporation supplied the goods or caused them to be supplied to the owner and the consumer suffers loss or damage due to a breach of one or more of the implied conditions, the owner or finance company is not under any liability to the consumer by reason of the breaches of the implied conditions.
I want to rely heavily on an excellent article in the Australian Business Law Review by Harold Luntz. He pointed out that a consumer may enter into a hire purchase contract in respect of a new motor vehicle and in the majority of cases the hire purchase contract is not made with the car dealer but with the finance company when the dealer sells the car. In this case, assuming that all the requirements of the section are met, the finance company is not liable to damages for a breach of an implied condition but the dealer is liable. That is, the consumer may recover the amount of his loss or damage by action in a court against the dealer. It is arguable I suppose, that although the consumer may not recover damages from the owner he may still, if that right has not been lost, terminate the contract for breach of condition and incidentally recover payments already made. It is clear from that case that the dealer should be liable because the consumer negotiates with him and relies on his reputation. It is not too clear why the owner or the finance company should not also be sued for damages.
In a case where the car dealer becomes insolvent, I ask the Minister what would be the position of the consumer? Action against the dealer would be useless, and yet the consumer has no right of action against the finance company under Division 2 of the Act. That is utterly ludicrous. To resolve this inequity, the Swanson Committee of Inquiry into the Trade Practices Act, which was set up by this Government, recommended in line with the recommendations of the Molomby Committee that the consumer be able to proceed against the financier, provided that he has already proceeded against the supplier, and that the consumer be entitled to recover any judgment from the financier to the extent that he has not recovered from the supplier. As I understand it, no mention was made in the Minister’s statement of whether that proposal had been adopted.
Luntz went on to point out that it appeared anomalous that finance companies should bear primary responsibility for defects in goods which they do not offer for sale, handle, see or even examine. Hence finance companies have felt justified in including in their hire purchase or leasing contracts with consumers, clauses exempting themselves from all liability for defects in goods. Lord Diplock had this to say on that aspect:
The answer to this in part is that the finance houses cannot eat their cake and have it too. If they elect to carry on in business entering into contracts of chattel hiring instead of attending to the area of money-lending and contracts of that nature, secured by chattel mortgages, then their legal rights will be judged by the terms of the agreements they enter into and by the contract law applicable to contracts of that form.
It should be noted that it is very often the retailer dealer who introduces the buying public to a finance house and not to a bank, where incidentally one finds that the personal loan rates are distinctly cheaper. Furthermore, as indicated by Professor Rogerson’s report and in the Molomby report, finance houses pay commission to dealers for the consumers introduced. Finance companies provide dealers with stocks of standard type forms through which a direct link can be established with the finance company- hence the term ‘link’ or connection to supplier. Thus it will be seen that although the sale and financing aspects of hire purchase or leasing may be separable, the relationship between dealer and financier may cause a transaction such as a motor vehicle purchase to take the form of a joint venture. Therefore the question again arises of the linked supplier as defined in the Molomby report.
Another question which arises is the extent of liability by a finance company linked to a dealer selling defective goods. This problem was overcome to some extent in South Australia by the Consumer Transactions Act, which was passed in that State in 1972. The Government has not as yet given consumers the ability to redress finance companies over defects in goods let to the consumer on hire purchase or lease. Section 73 as it stands expects the consumer, as I understand it, to continue paying the finance company for defective goods while at the same time he may be instituting legal action against a dealer. Furthermore, if the dealer is not a corporation and the transaction was not an interstate one, and I should like the Minister’s response to this, the imposition of liability on the dealer would be completely negated and clearly ultra vires the power of this Parliament.
Whilst it appears that finance companies have accepted with some reservations responsibility to the consumer under hire purchase contract for breach of the implied conditions that they will be able to pass property to him, it is difficult to see why finance companies should have adopted this inconsistent attitude as they are hardly in a better position to investigate title than to discover defects in goods and accept the financiers liability and the liability of the financial institution for misrepresentation about the goods made by a dealer. I think it is astonishing that the Minister has not introduced the appropriate changes to the Trade Practices Act to place responsibility on the shoulders of his Party’s financial backersthat is the financiers- and to block these iniquitous loopholes. That is what they are.
I should point out that these provisions have been part of the United Kingdom Hire Purchase Act since 1965 and the Misrepresentations Act in the United Kingdom since 1 967. That is, finance companies in England have borne this responsibility for many years in contrast to what has happened in this country. Unless the Government is prepared to reconsider its attitude on this provision the Minister appears to be more interested, I would think, in protecting the profits of Finance Corporation of Australia Ltd and Commercial and General Acceptance Ltd than in the rights of the Australian public. I wanted to put a question to him -
– That is unfair.
-I do not think it is. I wanted to put a question to the Minister the other day. I am rather fearful of doing that lately. But let me put this to him: Will the Minister reconsider his attitude on the need to amend section 73 of the Trade Practices Act in order to ensure that consumers can proceed against credit providers for liability under that Act in respect of defective goods supplied on credit where the supplier of the goods is insolvent or for some other reason is unable to satisfy that liability and there is a business link between the supplier of the goods and the credit provider?
In the few minutes left to me, let me say this to the Minister: I personally think that one of the basic reasons for the whole of this legislation is the very structure in society of commerce, trade and business with monopoly collusive practices. We need restrictive trade practices legislation like the U.S. Robinson-Patman Act, and like what is suggested in the Molomby report, the Swanson report and Professor Rogerson’s report. Why is this? It is because there is an insidious, almost inevitable growth in monopoly, mainly, I suppose, because of the extension of the economies of scale in society. We cannot avoid that. But this legislation, in my view, is clearly predicated to protect bigness and not predicated on the 2 cardinal principles that this legislation ought to reflect. That is consumer protection and competition.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I wish to reply briefly to the point made by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) in relation to the merger provisions and the right of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and the Trade Practices Commission to obtain an order under, I think, section 80A of the Trade Practices Act. I think that was the section to which the honourable member referred. He said that he was against this because it weakened the provisions. I would merely point out that it is still possible under the legislation for any person to obtain either damages or divestiture. I would have thought these were fairly inhibiting factors that someone would take into account before he contemplated a breach of the section or to take an action that may be a potential breach of the section.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) talked about the inevitable growth of monopolies. May I say in answer to mm that I welcome the provisions of proposed section 45D because they are restraining the inevitable growth of monopoly- of the abuse by irresponsible unionists of the union power which is also monopoly power.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, the remarks that I will address to the Committee come within the umbrella provisions of section 44 of the Trade Practices Act which deals with penalties relating to Part IV of the Act. Part IV of the Act deals with restrictive trade practices which in my view seem to have disappeared in the new connotations. The term ‘restrictive trade practice’ in my view was defined adequately in clause 25 of the Act before it was amended. Mr Deputy Chairman, you will see there that it was said clearly that if a person undertook a restrictive trade practice that person was liable to the penalty. However, the legislation contained this exemption provision. The test was whether there was only a slight effect on competition between the parties which was virtually of an insignificant nature. That was a test on competition.
Now in the new section 45, the words ‘restrictive trade practice’ virtually fly out the window. They are not mentioned at all. We come to a provision called ‘an exclusionary provision’. It refers to the purpose of substantially lessening competition. That is altogether a different test. It is a market test. The Minister accepts that. What I am saying is this: It seems that Swanson felt that this was the only way the position could be solved-by deleting the provision. That surprises me no end. I would have thought that if we were dealing with restrictive trade practices as such, this would go to the very kernel of the legislation. There are a number of” weaknesses with which we have never been able to deal. For example, a person cannot compel a wholesaler to supply im with goods. All sorts of restrictions apply in that sense if a person cannot get supply. In other words, favouritism may be given to someone else. We have debated this matter before. It involves a weakness in the existing legislation.
After reading the Swanson report it seems that the justification for this action seems to be that what is called a ‘restrictive trade practice’ became too difficult to understand or interpret. Anybody in the world of commerce clearly knows, particularly when he is dealing with competitors, whether he has been restricted. The small businessman has no difficulty working out whether he has been restricted in trade. This is because the question becomes one of a test of competition and not a market test. But the excuse given by Swanson was given on the basis that his attention had been drawn to a High Court judgment in what was known as the ‘Quadramain case ‘. In that case, the Court said that there was a common law concept of restraint of trade. There always has been a common law concept of restraint of trade. But under the existing Act we have a statutory concept of restraint of trade which was defined in the fashion that I have mentioned. That is, trade would be restrained if competition was in any way affected unless it was of an insignificant nature. But the Swanson report goes on to say that because of that High Court decision and the way in which the Court interpreted the case, and because it was a common law interpretation- therefore, I draw the distinction as to whether it was really appropriate to marry it to this Act which contained its own interpretation- there was a restraint of trade only where a covenanter cuts down an existing freedom to trade. That is, there had to be an existing position. There was not a restraint of trade where the covenanter gains by a covenant some new right to trade, albeit in a restricted form. The report states that the Committee noted with concern what the decision was in the Quadramain case. The High Court seems to have taken an unduly legalistic approach to the interpretation of this economic legislation. The High Court was interpreting a common law position in the Quadramain case. The Committee stated:
While it would not be wise to attempt to draw from the Quadramain decision too many general conclusions we feel that the position has the potentiality of undesirable technical distinctions.
Therefore, the final result is that we virtually do away with the prohibition because of that position. I want to put this to the Minister: It would not be very difficult to put into the Act a provision to the effect that any existing contract or future contract which contains restraint of trade provisions will be caught within the ambit of the penalty. We would immediately solve the problem of the Quadramain case and the statement that it was limited only to the existing common law interpretation. By statute, the Parliament would be saying it has legislated that any contract which contains restraint of trade provisions will come within the ambit of the penalty now or in the future. Therefore, we would not have the problems of the common law restriction as outlined by the High Court. The Government could get away from it altogether. But it seems to be rather incredible that because we were agreeing with Swanson and saying that it was an unduly legalistic approach, therefore we do away with the whole concept of restrictive trade and apply a different test altogether. We apply a market test as opposed to a competition test. Therefore, I cannot see why we could not go back to the definition of a restrictive trade practice in the original provisions. I think that Swanson and his committee were wrong. It would have been far better for them to have recommended that we could deal adequately with restrictive trade practices, whether existing or in the future, and for us to have legislated to that effect, if that was the weakness. That is what I was anxious to say earlier. I thank the Minister for his tolerance.
– I wish to respond to a number of contributions relating to these clauses. I welcome the support which the Opposition has given to the Government amendments that are under consideration at present. In respect of the merger issue raised by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam), it is true, as he says, that the Government has made a decision to limit the power to apply for an injunction to restrain a merger to the Minister or the Trade Practices Commission. It is a proposition which can be criticised, but it is one of those ‘on balance’ decisions which from time to time have to be made in regard to legislation such as this. The Government has taken the view, on evidence available to it, that the availability of the injunction proceedings has been abused in a number of cases by companies which are rival bidders and are interested merely in frustrating the proposed merger in order that the company may stand in the place of the acquirer whose attempts to take over the target company are being frustrated by the injunction proceedings. Essentially for that reason the Government has decided to confine the power to apply for an injunction to the Minister and the Trade Practices Commission.
The Government was not surprised at the recommendations of the Swanson Committee on consumer protection. I believe that the existence of strong and effective consumer protection legislation at both State and Federal level is now something which is supported on both sides of politics and acknowledged by business. One of the very significant findings of the Swanson Committee was that almost universally the Australian business community accepts the need for effective consumer protection legislation. No serious argument was advanced to the Committee that there should be a repeal or substantial weakening of the consumer protection provisions. The Government’s amendments to the consumer protection provisions have, in the main, struck a balance between perhaps relaxing some of the areas where too much strictness existed and making much needed extensions to the operation of the legislation, particularly in respect of land transactions.
The honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) who demonstrates- I say this sincerelya real interest in the operation of consumer protection legislation both in his own State and throughout the Commonwealth, particularly so far as it relates to hire purchase and insurance legislation, has questioned me again in relation to this aspect. The direct and precise answer to his query about whether we have adopted the recommendations of the Swanson Committee in regard to clause 73 is no, we have not. As I said in my speech in December, that matter is still under consideration by the Government. The reason why it is still under consideration is that the Government is very hopeful that the uniform consumer credit legislation to which the Government, as well as, hopefully, all other governments throughout Australia and the finance industry, are committed, will become a reality in the not too distant future. My colleague the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and I are both very interested in the speediest possible resolution of the outstanding differences and believe that this type of provision more properly belongs to that type of legislative framework. As the honourable gentlemen will know, finance companies will bear a number of the responsibilities of which he spoke under the proposals in the uniform hire purchases Act. So, there is movement in that area, although the answer to his question is no, it has not been picked up in his Bill.
The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) correctly said that the market test now applies in respect of the competition test and the Act by and large does have the uniform test of a substantial adverse effect on competition, which the Government believes is a more desirable test than that which exists under the present Act. I point out to the honourable gentlemen that the market test replaces not the competition test but rather the parties test which exists under the present legislation. Under the present legislation the effect on competition, in the main, is measured in terms of its impact on the parties, whereas when this Bill becomes law it will be measured by its impact on the market. The Government believes that this will achieve a situation where substance rather than form is more directly addressed. If we are talking about competition we ought to be talking about the effect of behaviour in a market place, because it is only in a market place that we can have competition. To measure competitive effect as between parties and not in a market can lead, the Government believes, to some unreal results because what may on the surface appear to be uncompetitive between parties may in reality in a market be not uncompetitive. That is one of the reasons why the Government has inserted the aggregation provisions in the legislation.
As the honourable gentlemen will know, something which may or may not be anticompetitive as between 2 parties may, when looked at in relation to agreements and arrangements that one of those 2 parties has with other persons in the same market, create an anticompetitive position and a different result may ensue. Although it obviously must remain a matter of argument and debate- I note that the honourable gentleman thinks that the Swanson recommendation is wrong; naturally he is entitled to his view- the Government believes fairly strongly that a market test measuring conduct in terms of whether it has a substantial adverse effect on competition in a market is a more effective and more realistic method of measuring anti-competitive effects and one which addresses itself more directly to substance than to form. If we are concerned about the impact of conduct, a situation which addresses itself more directly to substance than to form is a more appropriate one.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 49 (Defences).
– The Opposition will oppose clause 49. Clause 49 amends section 85 of the Trade Practices Act. That section provides a defence to prosecutions under Part V, which contains the consumer protection provisions. What the amendment proposes is to ease considerably the case that a defendant has to make to defend successfully a consumer protection prosecution under Part V. The explanatory memorandum circulated by the Minister describes the way in which section 85 is amended. Section 85 at present provides that reasonable conduct may be a defence to a consumer protection prosecution, and that section will be restructured to provide separate defences of reasonable mistake, reasonable reliance on information supplied by another person, and default of another person which could not reasonably have been prevented.
This provision was suggested by the Swanson Committee. That is indisputable. But I think that honourable members ought to look at the case the Swanson Committee put for such a proposition. The Swanson Committee’s consideration of defences to consumer protection prosecutions occupies no more than 3 paragraphs or 2 pages in a report of 260 pages. Yet it makes mere assertions that the existing defence operates in a unduly harsh fashion and considers that a major change is desirable. The Opposition agrees with the Swanson Committee that the change is a major one. Just as the Opposition, in a large and generous fashion, has conceded that the Government has responded well to many of the suggestions of the Swanson Committee in expanding the provisions of part V to cover objectionable behaviour in the market place, now we say that all that good work, all the filling of holes in relation to consumer protection, will have been destroyed if this defence is allowed to be weakened.
I think honourable members would do well to look at the existing defence. It was found to be quite adequate by the Trade Practices Commission when it commented on the Swanson Committee recommendations. Before I draw the attention of honourable members to the wording I shall get this point straight. The Government, in introducing clause 49 amending section 85, is responding to a Swanson Committee recommendation. The Trade Practices Commission therefore had the opportunity to comment on this recommendation in a direct way- a way in which it has not had the opportunity to comment on many of the provisions which the Government has put before the House in this legislation. The Commission thought the recommendation inappropriate. It thought that it would considerably weaken the consumer protection provisions and render them somewhat illusory.
If honourable members direct their attention to existing section 85 they will see why. It is a defence under that section if a contravention is due to a mistake, to reliance on information supplied by another person, as a result of an act or default of another person, or due to an accident or some other cause beyond the control of the defendant. Section 85 as it presently stands says that a defendant must establish:
That he took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence to avoid contravention.
Two elements are involved; reasonable precautions and due diligence. The proposition that the Government has put before the Committee tonight provides that the element of due diligence should be removed in relation to mistakes arising from reliance on information supplied by other persons and merely applicable to the acts or defaults of other persons or accidents. There has been a considerable weakening and softening of this defence. I am sure the Minister will concede that. I should like him to address himself more directly than he did in his second reading speech- he did not do so at all in the explanatory memorandum- to the reservations that the Trade Practices Commission expressed about this proposition. At paragraphs 24, 25 and 26 of its comments on the Swanson Committee recommendations the Commission said:
The Committee accepts . . . that section 53, the detailed contravention section, imposes strict liability and appears to indicate that that is appropriate. The consequence is that intention is not an element of an offence of contravening the section, and companies must therefore take care that unintended offences are not committed.
The amendment proposed by the Committee -
I interpolate that that is the amendment now being put to the Committee by the Government- would in some cases lift from the company the obligation to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence to avoid the contravention.
The Commission goes on to say- I stress this point:
It is difficult to see why it is harsh for companies to bear this obligation if it is necessary in order to protect the consumer. The Committee regards section 53, the main contravention section, as dealing with conduct which has demonstrably led to abuses and involves a real potential for harm.
The Commission concludes:
If there should be an occasional case in which the section does operate unduly harshly, then the Minister could withhold his consent to prosecution, without the general disciplinary effect of the law being changed.
The final paragraph, paragraph 26 of the comments of the Trade Practices Commission on the Swanson Committee recommendations, sums up the reservation one needs to have, if there is one in relation to any consumer protection prosecutions. The defence now proposed is much too easy. It is too easy for a recklessly negligent business firm to get away with behaviour which it could not get away with at the moment. At present, not only does it have to exercise reasonable precaution but it also has to show due diligence to avoid a contravention.
Part V is addressed to very specific circumstances. That is worth repeating. Part V is not like Part IV. Part IV speaks in general terms. Part V speaks specifically. In all those circumstances, having regard to the way the Government has commendably reacted to the Swanson Committee recommendations to fill holes and improve gaps in the legislation, all that work will be undone if we now weaken the defence and make a defence easier to establish. To do that will be to reduce effectively consumer protection in Australia. For that reason, the Opposition must oppose clause 49 and urge the Government to reconsider this provision.
-In my view the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) is wrong in his comments on section 85 of the Act and the amending clause in relation to these defences. They are still strong provisions. When one is talking of onuses of proof and defences against the Act one must have some degree of certainty. The honourable member for Grayndler knows as well as anyone that the basic principle of criminal law is that a matter has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. That is not the provision in this section. He also spoke of negligence which, as he well knows, is a civil law, the breach of which is a duty of care that somebody owes to another. We have a whole range of possibilities between strict liability where there is no defence for an action on the one hand- I think this is unfair, we must be speaking of fairness and equity- and proof of negligence on the other. These matters have to be taken into account. I was also interested in his reference to the Trade Practices Commission. I make no attack on or complaint about the Trade Practices Commission. I was pleased to see one of its eminent officers following the debate in this chamber yesterday. But when the Trade Practices Commission comments on a defence in an Act such as this, it is fair for me to say that it has some sort of vested interest in the matter. One of the duties it is charged with under the Act is its enforcement. In my view, the comments of the honourable member for Grayndler on that matter have to be seen in that light.
-This is a sensible amendment. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) does not fully comprehend these facts: Firstly, due diligence is totally irrelevant to a defence of accident. By definition an accident will happen whether one takes due diligence or not. Secondly, it is quite proper to accept the due diligence in the case of acts or defaults of another person. Otherwise the Trade Practices Commission would have an intolerable task. If one is to be responsible in some way for the acts of another person or if one is required to discharge an onus of proof to show that one has exercised due diligence in regard to the acts or defaults of another person, one enters into such a complex set of investigations into the minds and motives of persons that the task of the Commission becomes totally impracticable. Therefore, in order to allow the Commission to do its job without confusion, in order to allow business to be able to participate without undue restriction and in order to allow the removal of words in the former Act which only confuse the situation without in fact affecting the position as it really exists in any particular case, this amendment is a sensible one.
I do not think that the suggestion that the Minister’s consent provision should be brought into operation is sound, because to the greatest extent possible the Minister ought to be able to avoid having to come into this arena because one would like to think that only in special circumstances would it be necessary for him to make decisions. The law should normally take its course. I believe that that fall-back position is not well-founded in principle.
– Very briefly, and without canvassing the existence of the Minister’s power to consent to consumer protection prosecutions, I would not want to let the contribution of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) go unanswered. He takes me to task for a lack of understanding of the concept of due diligence. He says that an accident can never occur as a result of a lack of due diligence. If he looks at the provision which the Government proposes to insert into the legislation- proposed new paragraph (c) of sub-section (1) of section 85- he will see that it reads:
I am afraid that at least the Government must be under the same misapprehension. I do not need to stress the point again because I know that the Minister will have grasped it. At the moment, in each case the defendant must be able to show that he took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence. Now the defence is being broken up. So, in relation to a mistake, he has only to show that it was reasonable; in relation to reliance on information supplied by another person, he has only to show that it was reasonable; but in relation to the other matters, I concede that both existing elements remain. My objection is, as the Minister will quickly understand, that ‘due diligence’ ought also to be applicable to the mistake and reliance on information supplied by other persons.
– I agree with part of the analysis of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) in regard to this change. There is no doubt that the defence now to be provided will be a more liberal defence. I do not accept and nor does the Government accept that the defence has been made unreasonably liberal. I believe that in some circumstances the present defence under the Act can cast an unfair burden on people who are the subject of prosecutions. Let it not be forgotten, as has been said in another context, that the penalties under this Act are substantial. Let it not be forgotten that particularly when it comes to areas such as misleading advertising, questions of due diligence and reliance on information provided by other persons are very relevant considerations. If indeed companies are to be exposed to the quite substantial penalties of this Act, the basis of any defence to actions against companies should be quite explicit.
The honourable member for Grayndler, in criticising this amendment, said that we should not have a situation where companies which had been negligent should be able to escape liability. I put it to him that what we are talking about here is liability for criminal prosecution. I think he would accept that as a fairly elementary proposition of law, a test of whether negligent conduct should attract criminal liability and criminal proceedings is a fairly difficult proposition to sustain. It is true that the clause has been restructured. It is a more liberal defence, but the Government believes it has been done in a very well balanced sense. I put it to the Committee and particularly to the honourable member for Grayndler in response to his criticism, that if it is reasonable to rely on the information of another person, with which existing paragraph (b) deals, why should companies have to take further actions of precautions, etc., upon pain of possibly losing that defence? What I am putting to the Committee is that it is reasonable. I say again that this is particularly relevant when we are talking about misleading advertising, where everybody knows that the sequence of events is that the client gives instructions to the agency and certain material is prepared on that basis. The agency then gives certain instructions to the media. So there are really 3 stages in the sequence. Of course it is that period when the factual information is translated into the creative work. It is one of those fields where if we erect or allow to exist too many Damocles’ swords, a lot of the creativity involved in this area can be eliminated.
I believe that the area of misleading advertising should be covered, and covered effectively, by this legislation. I believe that the existence of this legislation has had an impact on the advertising industry. I believe that it has had an impact on standards of advertising. I should say that I believe that generally speaking, advertising standards in Australia are extremely high. But I think that the present provision of the Bill that places the double burden so far as dependants are concerned is a little too onerous and that the new structure, contrary to what the honourable member for Grayndler feels, will not make it impossible or indeed substantially more difficult to successfully bring consumer protection prosecutions.
I have to emphasise again that we are dealing with criminal prosecution. We are dealing with potentially very heavy penalties. We are dealing with circumstances where inevitably the activities of those who are the subject of prosecution will receive publicity in the courts because there is a great interest so far as the media in this country is concerned in the spectacle of companies receiving large fines for misleading advertisements, even in circumstances where those misleading advertisements have not caused any apparent damage to any consumer. So we are not dealing with light penalties or light matters. I think that the restructured defence creates a fair balance. The Government has considered this matter very carefully and it rejects the criticism of the Opposition.
That the clause be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause SO agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
– I seek leave to move on behalf of the Government 9 amendments.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drummond) -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The amendments relate to clauses 52, 58, 61, 67, and 69, which read in part:
“(4) Sub-section (2) does not prevent the granting of an authorization under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to a provision of a contract, arrangement or understanding, or of a proposed contract, arrangement or understanding, being a provision-
in relation to the price for goods or services to be collectively acquired, whether directly or indirectly, by the parties to the contract, arrangement or understanding, or by the proposed parties to the proposed contract, arrangement or understanding, from-
if, before the date of commencement of this section, the corporation gave, as mentioned in paragraph 45 ( 8 ) ( b ) of the Principal Act, a notice, in relation to the contract, to the Trade Practices Commission established under the Principal Act, the giving of the notice shall be deemed to have been an application by the corporation for the grant of an authorization to give effect to any provisions of the contract to or in relation to which sub-section 88 ( 1 ) of the Principal Act as amended by this Act applies.
if, before the date of commencement of this section, the corporation gave, as mentioned in paragraph 45 ( 8) (b) of the Principal Act, a notice, in relation to the contract, to the Trade Practices Commission established under the Principal Act, the giving of the notice shall be deemed to have been an application by the corporation for a grant of an authorization to enforce the terms of the covenant.
Sections 92 and 93 of the Principal Act are repealed and the following section is substituted: - “93. (1) Subject to sub-section (2), a corporation that engages, or proposes to engage, in conduct of a kind referred to in sub-section 47(2), (3), (4) or (5) or paragraph 47 (8) (a) or (b) or (9) (a), (b) or (c) (other than conduct referred to in sub-section 47(13) ) may give to the Commission notice, as prescribed, setting our particulars of the conduct or proposed conduct. “(2) A corporation is not entitled to give a notice under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to conduct or proposed conduct if-
the corporation has made an application for an authorization to engage in that conduct, being an application in respect of which the Commission, or the Trade Practices Commission established under the Trade Practices Act 1974 as in force immediately before the commencement of the Trade Practices Amendment Act 1977, has-
Section 157 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections ( 1 ) and (2) and substituting the following subsections: ‘(1) Where-
Section 159 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section ( 1 ) the words ‘(including a person appearing before the Commission under section 155)’.
In proposed section 93 (2) (a), omit proposed subparagraph (i), substitute the following sub-paragraph: ‘(i) made a determination dismissing the application, not being a determination made in circumstances where the corporation gave a notice in relation to that conduct under sub-section 92 ( 1 ) or 93 ( 1 ) of the Trade Practices Act 1974 as in force immediately before the commencement of the Trade Practices Amendment Act 1977 and-
In clause 67, in proposed section 157(1), after “person” (third occuring), insert “and upon payment of the prescribed fee (if any)”. ( 36 ) Omit clause 69, substitute the following clause: “69. Section 159 of the Principal Act is amended-
I shall deal with the amendments successively. In the main they make technical and consequential changes, in particular consequential changes, which relate to the transition provisions of the legislation. Amendment No. 28 corrects a technical error in that it omits a reference to services which clearly, within the context of clause 52, which it amends, ought not to have been included in the first place. It was irrelevant to the context of that clause. Amendment No. 29 is designed to prevent the transitional provisions of the legislation-as honourable members will understand, transitional provisions are necessary in legislation of this nature- reviving matters which have already been disposed of by the Trade Practices Commission. Amendment No. 30 is a transitional provision relating to additional covenants and has the same effect as amendment No. 25, which the House will recall was a technical amendment to ensure consistency of treatment in terms of provisions rather than contracts throughout the legislation.
Amendment No. 31 is to the same effect as amendment No. 25 and amendment No. 26. Amendment No. 32 is consequential upon the deletion of section 47 sub-section (13) which was achieved previously by amendment No. 17. Amendment No. 33, which deals with clause 58 of the Bill, is designed to allow persons who in the past have received a clearance in relation to conduct now prohibited by section 47 to seek the benefit of notification. Honourable gentlemen will understand that such a provision is necessary, having regard to the removal of the clearance procedures.
Amendment No. 34 prevents persons who have been compelled to produce documents under section 155 from claiming confidentiality under that section and thereby negating the purpose of section 155. I think honourable gentlemen opposite will realise that section 155 is an important method by which the Commission gathers information, particularly in relation to consumer protection matters, and it would be unfortunate if any claim of confidentiality could be made and so frustrate the operation of that provision. Amendment No. 35 will allow a fee to be charged for the preparation of documents furnished to applicants or other persons by the Commission. Honourable gentlemen opposite ought not to assume that any fees are going to be charged. Naturally the Government’s position is reserved on that, but the passage of this amendment will give the necessary authority. Amendment No. 36 removes an inconsistency between section 1 59 and proposed section 161.
Those constitute the remainder of the specific provisions standing in the name of the Government. I have moved them collectively. These provisions deal in part with the new authorisation procedures of the Act. The changes to the authorisation procedures of the Act are, of course, very important changes. They do bring into the legislation a more appropriate balance between the public benefit and the anticompetitive effect. I think they remove the unfair burdens that exist under the present legislation insofar as onus is concerned, and I think that they more accurately reflect the type of balance that ought to exist between the public benefit and the consequences of anti-competitive conduct.
-The consideration of the remainder of the Bill- from clause 52 onwards- gives one an opportunity to restate the Opposition’s case in relation to this Bill. We are now coming to the conclusion of what has been a rather lengthy debate, taking up possibly 13 or 14 hours, which is quite unique in debates on legislation. The consideration of this subject has been in the form of a debate on 2 Bills that have been before this chamber over the last 6 months, a report by an outside committee and debate on a further group of amendments circulated yesterday. Let me say, in respect of the opposition that we have been expressing to the alteration of the Trade Practices Act that has been taking place, that it will be our endeavour when next in government again to strengthen those areas that we believe have been weakened by this Bill. Secondly, I think that the debate on this Bill points up the enormous gap that exists in parliamentary proceedings in that there would be very few people- I do not want to overstate or understate the position- who would have a clear understanding of the laws as they will be when this Bill is finally passed by this Parliament.
The Opposition took very strong objection yesterday to the manner in which the Government treated the Opposition in bringing in 12 pages of amendments. It is not a question of suspicion of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) or the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs; it is a question of proper consultation between the Government and the Opposition, of keeping to the forms of this chamber and of the Government having a cut-off time so that proper consideration can be given by the Opposition to the alteration of the laws that is taking place in relation to a Bill such as this. That was not done. The fact that we took exception yesterday was perhaps pointed up today in that, in a discussion earlier in the evening, when the Minister had seen the wisdom of our criticism he took us into his confidence about a further amendment and sought our leave to remove what the Government considers to be an ill-judged amendment, which was a part of the 12 pages of amendments produced yesterday, so that the Government could have time to redraft it.
Perhaps the missing link in this whole discussion, since legislation was first brought before us in December in the form of the first Bill, is that the Trade Practices Commission itself was not invited to make further comment. I know that there was great criticism about what it said when the Swanson Committee’s report was first tabled in this chamber. There were people opposite and many people outside who said that that was not the role of the Trade Practices Commission. Nevertheless, the Commission has been quick to point out that it does not see itself as being merely an advisory body.
Some changes are taking place in the relationship not merely because of the role of the Minister but, as we see it, as a result of the weakening of the powers or authorisation of the Trade Practices Commission. That obviously is going to mean a great restructuring and rethinking on the part of the Commission, which is something to which we were opposed- and we were opposed to it for a number of reasons. In general terms we were opposed to it because the Commission had been pointing out, as had the Government in 1974 when the Act came into being, that trade practices had to have time for this great self-enforcement process to come into operation. Massive changes have now taken place. The Opposition is not opposed to all of them. There have been instances in the case of the High Court and in the case of consumer protection areas where, taken separately, the Opposition would have been quick to support the Government in relation to what has occurred. But, when we have before us a Bill that contains so much to which we object, then obviously we are opposed to it, as I said on behalf of the Opposition at the commencement of the debate 2 days ago.
We are not happy about a whole number of matters. That is the situation on this side of the chamber. It has been interesting for me to note- I expect that each member of the Parliament has received them, too- the letter I received in my office today from the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia and the newsletter from the Australian Industries Development Association in which those organisations have pointed out what they consider to be the unclear passages in the amendments to the Act and the objectionable recommendations inherent in the amendments to the Act. So, it is not just a question of drawing a clear political line on where one stands in relation to trade practices. A number of people are bewildered by what is happening in this respect.
As I said earlier, it points up the weakness of the Parliament and the way in which it treats very complex legislation that the Bill has gone through in this manner. I think that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who was so quick to act, in part, on the recommendations of the Committee on Committees in setting up the Expenditure Committee, should look very quickly at perhaps prescribing some of the key areas of legislation that ought to be dealt with by legislative committees before that legislation goes to the Committee of the Whole. In that way perhaps members of Parliament could gain a better understanding of the laws they are making. No doubt in the weeks ahead each and every one of us, especially those of us who have been associated with the drafting of the Bill or the debate on it, will be asked many questions that none of us individually or collectively will be able to answer and we will be sending them off to the lawyers throughout Australia, hoping that they can give some sort of reasonable interpretation of the law as it now stands. It is an extremely important law.
As the Australian Council of Trade Unions said, the changes that have taken place concerning the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal do in certain respects expose the double standards adopted by this Government in relation to both sides of the business world- the employers and the employees. Nevertheless we will continue, at the completion of the discussion on this Bill, to vote against it because not only do we object to specific items of change but also we object as strongly as possible to the inclusion of the provision which now attempts, by the interpretation which has been given to it in the House, to cover secondary boycotts and the role of trade unions. A great deal of argument from this side of the chamber has suggested that it will not be merely secondary boycotts that are covered but that perhaps a far wider interpretation will be given to it. We cannot stand by and watch a law, which we would describe as being a bad law- which we know will not be complied with, go through without our raising objections.
For that reason we place on record that when people are scratching their heads and wondering what is really involved in this new trade practices legislation the cause of their questions and their objections is the responsibility of the Government. We have pointed out time and time again that the process by which this legislation will become law has been subject to our continued objection.
– I support everything that the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has said about this piece of legislation. Let me flesh out for the Committee the particular objections the Opposition has to the clauses presently under consideration. They are clauses of central importance to the restructuring of trade practices law which is being undertaken here.
At the moment the Trade Practices Commission proceeds about its administrative adjudications in 2 ways. It issues what are called clearances and it issues what are called authorisations. It is now proposed that no longer should the commission issue clearances. Clearances are a relatively speedy procedure whereby the Commission determines that behaviour which is the subject of an application is not anti-competitive and therefore is not to be considered under the authorisation proceedings. The Government proposes to do away with clearances. I believe that that amendment is not welcomed uniformly by business. Ethical business enjoys the opportunity to be able to go to the Commission in relation to proposed business practices and put the practices to the Commission to see whether they will be considered anti-competitive, particularly before agreements are concluded with companies. At the moment that process will no longer be available. In particular it will no longer be available in relation to mergers.
Honourable members will recall that in December when the Government brought in its first proposals in relation to these amendments, when it proposed a threshold test for mergers and not its new revised test, the Government saved clearances for mergers- the better to give business a degree of certainty in the way in which it goes about its corporate planning. This was because business when it goes into a merger has to set up the finance. It may have to borrow money; it may have to pay a commitment fee on that money being set aside for the acquisition. And yet in some instances under the present procedures it will have no idea whether the merger will be able to proceed. Under the clearance procedures, which are now available and which the Government formerly proposed ought still to be available, it would be a relatively speedy way within 30 days of determining whether the merger offended the anti-competitive aspect of law. Now that is to be removed. The opposition believes that this is a retrograde step.
Let me say too in fairness to the Government that it can claim fairly here that it is responding to a recommendation of the Swanson Committee, but it was a recommendation that in no way went unchallenged. The Trade Practices Commission itself, which I think everyone would agree is fairly coy in seeking to enter into the political arena, had this to say about that recommendation:
To the extent that the Commission is moved out of the clearance area, the role of developing and applying competition principles in Australian industrial and commercial situations may pass to the courts which may result in legalism.
I think if we look at a number of the provisions we have considered in the past couple of days we will see that many have been necessitated because of this very legalistic approach that the courts apply to competition laws. The Commission, or a body of that sort, is a much more appropriate body to consider them.
Clearances having been removed, how does the Government propose now to deal with a consideration of the behaviour that was formerly the subject of such applications? The answer is that the Government has shifted the same behaviour now to be considered with authorisation. An authorisation hearing by the Commission was and is at the moment of a completely different nature to that of a clearance. When we come to an authorisation the Commission must consider many factors other than whether the behaviour is merely anti-competitive. It has to consider also whether there might be a substantial benefit to the public not otherwise available. I stress every element of that description- ‘a substantial benefit not otherwise available ‘.
The Government now proposes that the Commission ought to consider in respect of authorisations both the anti-competitive effect and the question of public benefit. The Government has significantly too, when we look at the clauses we are dealing with concering matters to be considered by the Commission, weakened the test in relation to authorisations. It has removed the suggestion that there must be substantial public benefit. It simply now has to be a benefit which outweighs any anti-competitive elements of the conduct. The Trade Practices Commission thought that this kind of amendment was not to be encouraged. In fact it said that the deletion of the requirement that the benefit must not otherwise be available had very serious consequences. The Commission pointed out in its comments on the Swanson Committee’s recommendations that the Shell service station decision turned on the question of solo trading which was by and large an efficient way of doing business. The Commission said:
It was true that exclusive dealings secured solo trading, but it was likely, and subsequent events proved, that solo trading would continue in most cases for good commercial reasons . . .
The Commission concluded: . . . Without the not otherwise available requirement, it would have been necessary to consider authorising an unnecessary restriction on competition.
That is what is important. It is an unnecessary restriction on competition. Not only has the Government by these amendments weakened the anti-competitive behaviour which is proscribed by the Act by allowing or directing the Commission to have regard to benefits that might in any case be available; it also has immediately authorised behaviour that presently is prohibited. This relates, of course, particularly to exclusive dealing and the fact that the Government has by these amendments translated from the general prohibition in section 45 to section 47, which deals specifically and now exhaustively with exclusive dealing, all practices of that sort. It is provided now that a company merely by notifying the Commission of this behaviour will automatically and until the Commission otherwise determines be able to pursue that conduct.
At the moment under the existing Act the Commission can simply determine that the behaviour is anti-competitive and therefore no statutory interim clearance is available. That can be done relatively quickly because there are only a couple of matters that need to be considered. But now the Commission must have regard to the question of whether in fact there is a benefit and whether that benefit outweighs the anticompetitive effects of the conduct. That clearly takes a great deal more time.
If we look at the annual reports of the Commission we will see that by far the greatest number of applications it considers are in this category. They are in the category of exclusive dealing, and they have been particularly in relation to statutory interim clearances, relatively quickly disposed of up until now. That procedure will not now be available. So the whole effect of these amendments is to permit conduct which is presently prohibited. In relation to some conduct where corporations can get a statutory interim clearance for the time being, that conduct will now be permitted for a very much longer time. In many cases it will be permitted for all time. When we look at these conditions it is important to see how authorisations are to be considered. Until now authorisations could be considered by a public hearing. We mentioned this earlier when we were dealing with the amendment which repealed the procedures which are observed in a public hearing.
The Minister said that he did not think that public hearings were a good thing because companies could be, as it were, defamed in the proceedings. But, in any event, the practices which companies pursue can be mentioned quite specifically m the determinations of a commission. Now there is not the opportunity for interveners to come forward and publicly challenge companies about their business practives
Very briefly, the other practice which we believe is reprehensible is the suggestion that there ought to be compulsory conferences before a decision is given in authorisation applications. We believe that this will inhibit the Commission in its dealings with the parties and will stop the parties from being free in their discussions.
– Time is up.
– I am glad it is up because the honourable member may have heard something -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I found the last comments of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) extremely curious. On the one hand he attacked the Government for abolishing clearances in the terms in which he spoke. He said that this would mean an excessive legalism. What he is saying is that every law of the land and every court of the land to which people can apply for justice are, in fact, excessive legalism. He is saying that in every case we should have an administrative tribunal and we should abandon the law. I thought that one of the basic precepts of a democracy was that people were equal before the law, whether they be individuals, companies or whatever. Here the honourable member for Grayndler has said that it is a shame that clearances have been abolished.
I think that for him to be consistent he would have wanted to abolish clearances because they have injection of equity or fairness about them. They are merely an arrangement between the party concerned and the Trade Practices Commission. In essence, that is what they are. No public interest is injected at this stage. There is an agreement between a potential prosecutor and a potential defender. That may be very well and good between them but this Government is interested in the public and in protecting it. That is why we introduced section 45D which protects the public from secondary boycotts and the abuse of union power by irresponsible trade unionists. That is a consistent theme in our legislation. It is a consistent theme in the strengthening of the consumer protection provisions with which, I admit, the honourable member for Grayndler has agreed. But for him to say that legalism is not certain is to insult the judicial process because all are equal before the law.
To hear the honourable member speak one would think that people are denied the right to go to law under this provision. That is not so. In abolishing the clearance provision we have said that deals between the Commission and a potential defendant can be challenged in the court only in the public interest. What is wrong with that? I think that the courts of the land are the place where these issues should be decided. That is what this Act and these amendments do. I am not attacking the Commission, but in its comments on the legislation the Commission essentially sees the legislation through rose coloured glasses. There is nothing wrong with that, but to ask the Commission what it thinks about changes to the Act is like asking the hangman for a comment on how to improve the trapdoor of the gallows. There is nothing wrong with consulting the Trade Practices Commission about its views. It has a proper role to play. But I think that when one has the Commission’s comments in front of one, one has to look at those comments and say: ‘The Commission had made that decision because of that. That decision is right. Perhaps that one has too much emphasis the wrong way. Perhaps the Commission has been seeing that too much in the role of prosecutor’.
We are trying to put this legislation in the public interest. That is how it should be judged. We are trying to represent the public interest in terms of equity and fairness. I think that that is the key to the question. That is certainly the key to proposed new section 45D which has been welcomed by the public of Australia. For the first time the legislation will deal with the abuse of monopoly power in a secondary boycott situation which affects business, wipes out business and adds cost to the Australian economy. It can break and wipe out individuals and companies, subject to the law of the land. I know that the legislation is welcomed in that regard. I was interested to hear the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) speak about credit laws and the growth of monopoly power. Monopoly power can exist on behalf of corporations as it exists on behalf of unions. They all enjoy monopoly power and they all have to be subject to the public interest. That is what this Government is interested in. It wants to protect the public, the man in the street, the consumer. Anybody who says that that is not so is not talking the truth. I support the Government’s amendments. I congratulate the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) on his approach. In conclusion, I say that he withdrew one amendment this evening in connection with the merger section -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! I think the honourable member is getting a little bit outside the substance of the matter which we are debating.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I am grateful for your direction in this matter. I conclude by congratulating the Minister for bringing this legislation before the Committee.
-With respect, I think that the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) is confused. Of course, a body other than a court remains at the centre of this matter. There is no dispute about that. Authorisation proceedings are still of great importance. The Opposition, for the whole time, has been talking about the inadequate way in which the Commission will not be able to pursue that duty. The suggestion that in some way we are seeking to oust the jurisdiction of the courts or stop people’s access to the courts is simply not correct. I was glad that the honourable member for Higgins introduced the subject of proposed new section 45D. I think, in relation to Part VII of the Act which deals with authorisation and now what are called notifications- we have no more clearances-that the ultimate absurdity of this legislation is exposed.
In relation to section 45D- industrial union bashing- we see that we can, in fact, apply for an authorisation for a secondary boycott by a union. I would like to know on what possible basis the Commission will ever determine that there is a public benefit in behaviour which goes to the restriction or the hindering of the supply of goods which damages a corporation and which has no effect on competition whatsoever. If we look at section 45 D we see that there are 2 elements. One element goes simply to the damage to a corporation and the other goes to the lessening of competition. I concede, as I conceded earlier in the debate, that in regard to the second element . there is a purist view that that has a place in competition law. The first element clearly has not. What do we do when we get an application for authorisation of section 45D conduct? It is difficult enough as it is to specify with any precision the factors which might properly be taken into account in determining whether particular industrial action is of the requisite benefit to the public.
The criteria the Commission has evolved in the interpretation of the legislation involves reference to such factors as whether the practice will result in higher or lower prices, increases or decreases in the availability of goods, changes in the structure and long term efficiency of the industry in question, incentives for innovation, waste in the allocation of natural resources and so on. The question is usually reduced to whether the presumption in favour of competition ought to be waived in a particular case. The difficulty in applying any such criteria in the present contextthat is a secondary boycott by a union- is, as other honourable members on this side have observed this evening, that a great deal of industrial action has nothing to do with trade practices; that is, it has no implications for free competition or fair trade. Yet it is caught by this legislation. Perhaps the Trade Practices Commission will find it possible to employ some of the public interest criteria which have evolved in various contexts under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but it is by no means obvious that these principles are applicable here.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Might I point out to the honourable member that I was probably in error in allowing the honourable member for Higgins to go as far as he did before I eventually pulled him up. There should not be a second reading debate at this stage, nor should section 45D or clause 23 be the full substance of a speech at this stage of the Committee debate. I appeal to the honourable member to direct his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– I share your concern, Mr Deputy Chairman. You were perfectly right to pull up the honourable member for Higgins because he was not addressing himself to the authorisation procedures.I am addressing myself to the authorisation procedures. If one looks at proposed section 90, sub-section (8), it will be observed that it deals with authorisation of section 45D behaviour. Of course it is absurd, and I share your concern that we should be debating in relation to a trade practices Bill behaviour which has nothing whatsoever to do with competition law. I should like the Minister to tell the Committee what possible grounds he can conceive of ever being justified as a public benefit in relation to that kind of behaviour. Of course he cannot because those sorts of provisions were never meant to apply to that kind of activity. The public hearings nave gone and the authorisation test has been weakened Reprehensible behaviour and exclusive dealing conduct now have carte-blanche and the work of the Commission is so much more difficult. In these provisions the Government has effectively gutted the legislation, and for that reason the Opposition will oppose every one of these clauses. Notwithstanding that there may be a few clauses which are consequently related to other provisions to which we have no objection, the vast majority of the clauses affecting Part VII are thoroughly objectionable and the Opposition will oppose them.
Amendments agreed to.
Remainder of Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Motion (by Mr Howard)- by leave- put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977,I propose the question:
That the House do nowadjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)-by leave- agreed to:
That standing order 103- the 11 o’clock rule- be suspended for this sitting.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move: 2002 REPRESENTATIVES 26 May 1977 Australian Meat and Live-stock Bill
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to proposals for reconstituting the Australian Meat Board as an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation which by virtue of its composition, powers and financial arrangements will be adequately equipped to oversee and promote Australian meat and livestock exports. The classes of meat and livestock covered by the legislation are beef and veal, mutton and lamb, goat and buffalo meat, live cattle, buffaloes, sheep, lambs and goats. Pig meats and exports of live pigs have not been included as the main pig producer organisations have advised that they do not wish to be covered by the arrangements at this time, although they may reconsider their decision at some future date.
With the concurrence of the meat and livestock industries, statutory control over the export marketing of meat has existed in Australia for many years. An Australian Meat Board was first established by the Meat Export Control Act 1935, and with the exception of the period from 1943 to 1946 during World War II when the Board went into recess, the Meat Board has continued ever since although various changes in its composition and powers have been made from time to time. The Board has been reconstituted on 2 occasions, in 1946 and in 1964, and some further changes were made in 1 969.
The changes which have occurred in the Australian livestock and meat industries in the period since enactment of the Meat Industry Act 1964 have been quite dramatic. Output of the industry has expanded greatly, the proportion of beef and sheep meat which is exported has increased from one-third to close to one-half of total production, and the increased dependence on exports has made the industry susceptible to even small changes in overseas demand. An appreciation of the extent and nature of developments affecting Australian livestock producers is essential to a full understanding of the changes to composition, functions and powers of the Australian Meat Board which are provided for in the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977. The national cattle herd has increased from 19 million head in 1964 to just over 33 million in 1976. During the same period the number of beef cattle on Australian properties increased by 1 10 per cent from about 14 million to 30 million head. With the growth in beef cattle numbers has come a significant change in the geographic distribution of the cattle population. In 1964 about 57 per cent of the national herd was located in northern Australia, compared with about 45 per cent in recent years. The number of holdings carrying fifty or more beef cattle has more than doubled during the past 10 years, while a significant decrease has occurred in the number of holdings carrying 500 or more sheep over the same period. Sheep numbers in Australia showed a decline of some 10 per cent from 1964 to 1976.
Exports of meat from Australia have shown considerable growth. The total volume of frozen and chilled beef, veal, mutton and lamb shipped from Australia exceeded 760 000 tonnesshipped weight- in 1972-73, more than double the quantity exported in 1963-64. Exports since this peak volume have been at a lower level as a result of difficult international trading conditions. However, meat shipments in 1975-76 were in excess of 720 000 tonnes. The value of meat exports from Australia has also increased significantly, the 1972-73 figure being 270 per cent higher than that for 1963-64.
There has been a change in the pattern of Australian exports associated with the increase in volume. In 1963-64 over 90 per cent of total exports of beef and veal, the major meat export items, were shipped to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The United States continues as our single most important beef market, taking slightly more than half of beef exports in 1976. But the quantities now being exported to the United Kingdom are relatively small. Markets which have grown in relative importance are Canada, Japan, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Australia’s expanding meat export trade has since 1970 made this country the biggest single meat exporter in the world, ahead of New Zealand, Argentina, Denmark and the Netherlands. This expansion has occurred during a time in which the nature of international trade in meat has been changing. There is a growing tendency in the world meat trade to break away from the traditional exclusive trader to trader operations, and for governments or government agencies to take a much more active role in the market. This is often the case with Eastern European and Middle Eastern markets, and it is a feature of Australia’s trade in beef with Japan.
Coinciding with the development there has been increasing overseas government involvement in the affairs of the meat and livestock industries. Although been is produced in a very large number of countries only a relatively small proportion of world output is traded internationally, the beef import requirements of the major importing countries being of a residual nature and being increasingly controlled by various import restrictions. Examples are the actions over the past few years of the governments of the United States of America, Japan, Canada and the European Economic Community. I draw attention to my remarks earlier today. In this industry as in the dairy industry, the common agricultural policy of the European Economic Community has had a disastrous effect. These characteristics impart to international trade in beef a potential instability, in that small changes in supply or demand can have very large ramifications for the prosperity of beef exporting countries such as Australia.
Rapid rises in shipping freight rates have been a source of concern, especially during the past two or three years. The cost of services to the east coast of North America increased by 35 per cent during 1974-75, freights to Japan rose 29 per cent and to the United Kingdom and Continent by over 15 per cent during that year. The industry has also seen considerable increases in the costs of processing and retailing of meat and livestock products, the significant rise in wage rates during the period being a notable feature. It is also true that gains in productivity on the killing floor and in meatworks generally have been absorbed entirely in improving working conditions for meatworks employees. Neither mechanisation, nor the benefit of the enormous sums spent in upgrading Australian abattoirs, has meant any improvement in prices payable to livestock producers. Indeed the reverse in the case.
It is against this background that I now turn to a consideration of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation Bill 1977. The composition, functions, powers and financial arrangements provided for the Corporation in this Bill are a reflection of a protracted debate with industry organisations and interested individuals which has extended for almost a year. A proposal was circulated to provide a basis for discussion with organisations representative of the Australian meat and livestock industries and in early November 1976 wide ranging consultations were held with more than 50 representatives of major industry organisations, unions and consumers. Whilst all representatives agreed there should be immediate change, there was a wide diversity of views on what the changes should be. Lack of agreement was most evident in regard to the structure for a new Corporation, membership selection procedures, and provisions for consultation between the Corporation, producers and exporters. All industry representatives were invited to make further submissions and to give additional thought to the areas where consensus had not been reached. In this event, significant points of disagreement remained, primarily in respect of the membership of the Corporation.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough that these divergent viewpoints about structure of the Corporation should not be permitted to overshadow the primary purpose of the Bill which is to streamline the functions, powers and financial arrangements of the Australian Meat Board with a view to increasing administrative efficiency and flexibility of operation for the Corporation. The Australian Meat Board has always possessed a broad range of powers to enable it to control Australian meat exports and to promote meat in both the export and domestic markets. The bulk of these powers have been retained for the Corporation but some changes have been provided for in the Bill. There has been very little reaction to these proposals from industry, the implication being that there is widespread agreement with these changes.
The range of commodities for which the Australian Meat Board has had responsibility has been extended to include goatmeat and exports of livestock. For the most part, exporting livestock is just another way of exporting meat, although the one is not necessarily a substitute for the other. Each has implication for the other in respect of production, processing, transport, marketing, market development and promotion. The Corporation is to have wide powers in these areas in respect of meat and it is a logical development for the Corporation to be able to exercise similar powers over livestock exports. Notwithstanding this, some producer groups have sought to have livestock exports excluded from the Corporation’s control. As honourable members will know the Australasian Meat
Industry Employees Union has a policy of restriction on livestock exports, a policy which this Government does not recognise. It seems that the producer groups to which I refer believe that the Corporation would enter into arrangements separately with the union on a national basis quite apart from the regional arrangements now negotiated by local exporter and producer groups.
The Corporation’s responsibility over livestock exports will in no way preclude the continuation of somewhat different conditions applying as between States or regions, nor the present basis of concluding them. Indeed, there are very good reasons for such differences. An example of differential treatment is the exemption from meat export diversification arrangements which the Meat Board has provided to the Kimberleys and the Top End of the Northern Territory because of shipping disabilities. Another example with respect to livestock is the Government’s present acceptance of recommendations from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture before live sheep export permits are granted in that State.
Provision has been made in the Bill for extending the functions of the Corporation, in respect of meat and livestock, by regulation. This provision would enable the Corporation’s functions to be altered to take account of specific circumstances in existence at a future time. For example, it would enable the Corporation to implement and administer a system of classification of meat should this be the wish of industry and the responsible Minister.
Whereas the Australian Meat Board regulated meat exports through an administrative arrangement involving Regulations and conditions on export licences, provision is made in the Bill for the Corporation to issue directions in writing directly to licensed exporters of meat and /or livestock. Matters for which the Corporation would be able to issue directions to exporters would include classes and grades of meat and /or livestock, destinations, quantities to be exported, and terms and conditions of sales.
Provision has been made for the Minister to give directions to the Corporation in respect of its exercise of these powers. Although this provision confers broad powers on the Minister it is not aimed at curbing the Corporation’s ability to act. Rather, it is to guard against the possibility of the Corporation unwittingly taking action which might be in conflict with other laws or Australia ‘s international obligations. By consulting with Government, the Corporation can be helped to find ways of achieving its aims without having them negated by such conflicts. There is a provision in the legislation that any directions given by the Minister to the Corporation must be notified in the Gazette and published in the Corporation’s annual report. Without broad control powers it would not have been possible for the Australian Meat Board to have fulfilled Australia’s obligations to regulate meat exports to the United States of America under the voluntary restraint and quota arrangements which have existed at various times since 1968. In this respect the Bill provides specifically for the Corporation to devise and operate export control schemes, such as the previous diversification scheme administered by the Australian Meat Board.
Some people are concerned that schemes may be implemented which could be prejudicial to their commercial operations. To ensure that the interests of individual licensed exporters of meat are adequately provided for in any export control scheme devised by the Corporation, the legislation requires the Corporation to advise licensees of its proposals. Objections or suggestions are to be considered by the Corporation with a view to amendment of proposed schemes. As a further safeguard the Minister is required to approve any decision of the Corporation to amend, or not amend, proposed schemes in all cases where representations have been received from individual licensees. Quality control powers have been provided which the Corporation could use as needed to protect Australia ‘s international trading image. These powers would include rights of entry and inspection for consistency of product or animal against contract specifications, rights to take samples for purposes of analysis, and recommending a method by which disputes relating to product standards arising between overseas buyers and Australian suppliers could be settled.
The Government remains convinced that the traditional free enterprise system of producing and marketing meat and livestock provides the most efficient basis for operation of the industry. For this reason, the Bill has been framed with the intention that the Corporation would use its control powers only when it considered such action to be necessary to further the interests of Australian livestock producers and Australian industries concerned with the preparation of meat for export or the export of meat or livestock. The Corporation may refuse to issue a licence to an applicant and it may cancel or suspend the licence of an exporter who fails to comply with a direction of the Corporation. Provision has been made for a person affected by a decision of the
Corporation to withhold, cancel or suspend a licence, to be able to seek a review of the decision by appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Under the arrangements for the Australian Meat Board, appeals against such decisions were considered by the Minister.
The legislation provides that in addition to the power of the Corporation to issue directions with respect to the carriage and handling of meat or livestock, the Corporation may determine conditions relating to contracts for shipment of meat or livestock. Conditions concerning maximum shipping freight rates and approved carriers are examples. Pending the outcome of a review of Australia’s overseas cargo shipping legislation which has been implemented by the Government, provision has been made for exercise of the shipping contract powers to be subject to the approval of the Minister.
The current requirement for the Australian Meat Board to consider a report by a committee of Board members and Australian Meat Exporters’ Federal Council representatives before trading has been dispensed with in the Bill. It is intended that the Corporation would be able to purchase meat or livestock and export or sell for export meat or livestock which it owns. However, in line with the Government’s commitment to the free enterprise system, the Corporation will be able to exercise these powers only if such trading is in accordance with commercial practice and consistent with a trading policy adopted by the Corporation and made known to the Minister. To accommodate special sales of meat or livestock which would be to the overall advantage of the Australian industry, the Minister can authorise the Corporation to trade otherwise than in accordance with commercial practice. The Legislation also makes provision for the Corporation to provide services or facilities for use in connection with the export of meat or livestock. This provision is seen as increasing the scope for the Corporation to develop new markets in places where the lack of infrastructure or facilities associated with trade in meat or livestock limits the development of those markets. Such undertakings could invlove significant expenditure of funds outside Australia. For this reason the Corporation is required to seek the approval off the Minister before exercise of this power.
Consistent with the emphasis in the Bill on increased flexibility of operation, provision has been made for the Corporation to borrow from any reputable source subject to the terms of the borrowing being endorsed by the Treasurer. The borrowing provisions of the Meat Industry Act 1964 are considerably more restrictive and have proved to be a limiting factor in the performance by the Meat Board of its functions. The legislation proposes a restructuring of the membership of the Australian Meat Board to provide for a more compact and workable arrangement with emphasis on achieving a Corporation with members of high calibre covering both the diverse interests of industry and the business skills needed for efficient and effective operation. The structure provided for in the Bill is an independent Chairman, a Commonwealth Government representative, 4 members representing Aus.tralian livestock producers, one meat exporter representative and 2 members specially qualified by way of experience in commerce, finance, economics, marketing, promotion, science or industrial matters. The provision for specially qualified members is in line with the procedure followed in respect of the three other statutory marketing authorities which ahve been reconstituted in recent years, namely, the Australian Wool Corporation, the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation and the Australian Dairy Corporation.
Some producer groups have expressed a great deal of concern that producers will not nave majority membership and thus will not be able to control the actions of the Corporation. Producer representatives will remain the single largest group on the Corporation and, provided that producers ensure that their representatives are equal to the task, the producer members as a group should have a determining influence on the Corporation’s policies. Moreover, through the producer consultative group, to which I shall refer shortly, the producers will maintain a continuing close relationship with the Corporation. Meat exporters also have pressed for additional representation. An increase in their number would lead to increased pressure for more producer members to maintain the kind of membership balance which most producers consider necessary. The end result would be an unwieldy, more costly and less efficient organisation.
The Government recognises that it is vital for the Corporation to have available to it the expert knowledge and advice which can be given only by exporters who are involved in the marketplace day by day. Provision is made in the legislation for this advice to be made available through consultative procedures. It is considered that these procedures, together with the exporter member, will provide adequately for the Corporation to be informed and for exporter interests to be safeguarded. Some producers claim that the Meat Board has been dominated by exporters and that there should be no exporter representation on the Corporation. This is an argument which I have difficulty in accepting since producer representatives are a majority on the Australian Meat Board, producers accounting for six of the present 10 members. The composition of the Corporation is to be similar to a number off other major, existing and widely supported commodity marketing authorities. For instance, it is almost identical to that of the Wool Corporation with which producers generally seem well satisfied.
A producer consultative group to consist of persons elected to represent the interests of livestock producers in each State and the Northern Territory is to be created. An exporter and abattoir consultative group will be established also to be representative of meatworks, meat and livestock exporting, meat packing and meat processing interests in Australia. The composition of both groups and the electoral procedures for the producer consultative group members will be decided shortly in consultation with industry representatives. While initially it is intended that these be prescribed, subsequent amendment to the Act is possible to ensure maintenance of the composition and electoral procedures of the consultative groups. Communication between the Corporation and the meat and livestock industries is regarded as being of considerable importance. Largely for this reason the Bill makes provision for the consultative groups to advise on matters of importance to the meat and livestock industries, to ensure maximum possible understanding by the Corporation of trade and market conditions and to disseminate information on Corporation decisions and policies to persons whose interests are represented by the groups.
The Government sees the consultative arrangements as an integral part of its plan for an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation. It believes that they will supplement the industry representation provided for on the Corporation. Provision is made in the Bill for the consultative groups to submit to the Minister panels of names from which industry representatives would be appointed. It is envisaged that the usual practice of the Minister would be to appoint the preferred nominee or nominees of the respective groups. For producers, however, it will obviously be necessary to maintain a reasonable geographic and industry spread. While the Minister will be responsible for appointing the independent chairman and the two specially qualified members, the legislation requires the Minister to consult with the producer consultative group and the exporter and abattoir consultative group before making these appointments. It is intended that any individual or organisation will be able to suggest potential appointees.
As with appointments to the Australian Meat Board, members of the Corporation will be appointed for terms of 3 years. However, the initial appointments will be staggered to ensure a nucleus of experienced members at all times. This will be achieved by making two of the initial livestock producer appointments and one of the specially qualified member appointments for a term of 2 years and all other appointments for a term of 3 years. In addition to the consultative groups, provision is made in the Bill for establishment or an Australian meat industry conference with which the Corporation will consult at least annually. The conference will be representative of all parties with an interest in matters for which the Corporation is responsible. It could well include representatives of livestock producers, exporters, meatworks, meat packers, meat processors, livestock agents, meat unions, transport unions and others associated as well as consumers. It is envisaged that the conference will provide a forum in which organisations representing the diverse interests of the meat and livestock industries will be able to debate issues of concern to them.
Provisions which are essential prerequisites to the establishment of the Corporation are to come into operation on the day on which the Act receives the royal assent. The remaining provisions which repeal the Meat Industry Act 1964 and establish the Corporation as an operative body, will come into operation after the Corporation members are appointed. The Government believes that this Bill will provide the Australian meat industry with the most effective means of furthering its interests in the long term. Hopefully, it will facilitate a return to reasonable prosperity for those many presently financially disadvantaged cattlemen. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for a charge to be imposed on all livestock exports from
Australia. Licensed exporters of livestock will be responsible for payment of the charge. The export charge comprises a number of separate components and moneys collected will be allocated for administrative and operating costs of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation, funding the Australian Meat Research Committee and, in respect of cattle and buffaloes, financing the national cattle disease eradication scheme. Over the years, a levy on livestock slaughtered in Australia for human consumption has been collected for these purposes but no charge has been made for equivalent classes of stock which have been exported live. This resulted in an anomalous situation whereby producers of livestock for export were beneficiaries of livestock industry research and the cattle disease eradication campaign, yet made no contribution towards the cost of these programs. The charge imposed by this Bill will correct this inequity. The Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977 makes a provision for exports of livestock to be a responsibility of the Corporation and it is therefore reasonable that part of the charge should meet Corporation operating costs.
The charge on exports of livestock is to be identical to that imposed by the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964 in respect of animals slaughtered at Australian meatworks for human consumption, except for the component of the levy which is collected for meat processing research and is therefore inapplicable in respect of live animal exports. The legislation makes provision for a charge to be prescribed for all exports of live cattle, sheep, lambs, buffaloes and goats, subject to maximum amounts of charge which are included in the Bill. Initially there will be no charge prescribed in respect of exports of buffaloes and goats. Cattle exports will attract a charge of $1.55 per head, comprising 30c for Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation administration, 25c for the Australian Meat Research Committee and $1.00 for disease eradication. Sheep and lambs exported live will be charged 4.75c per head, comprising 3c towards the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation and 1.75c for the Australian Meat Research Committee. These operative rates, excluding the cattle disease eradication component, will not be varied without first taking into account any recommendations made to the Minister by the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation, after it has consulted with the Producer Consultative Group and the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group provided for in the
Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977.
Occasions could arise when the responsible Minister is of the opinion that collection of the livestock export charge is unwarranted in respect of certain classes of stock. A case in point could be exports of livestock for foreign aid purposes. For this reason the legislation provides for the Minister to waive the charge, subject to a written declaration and notification in the Gazette. The Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977 provides for the export charge to come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation. It is anticipated that the charge will take effect from the date on which the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation commences to operate or shortly thereafter. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill, which is complementary to the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977, is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the export charge imposed by the Livestock Export Charge Bill 1977. The Bill provides for the Act to come into operation on the same day as the Live-stock Export Charge Act. It provides for the charge to be paid within 28 days after the end of the month in which the livestock is exported. Provision has been made for regulations which will enable remissions or refunds of the charge in certain circumstances. The remaining provisions of the Bill are related to the administrative procedures necessary to collect the charge. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964. The amendments are either consequent upon the repeal of the Meat Industry Act 1964 and its replacement by an Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Act, or relate to revised arrangements for financing the Corporation, meat research and disease eradication. Some minor administratively desirable amendments have also been made. One consequential amendment involves substitution of ‘Corporation* for ‘Board’ in the Act. In addition the Producer Consultative Group and the Exporter and Abattoir Consultative Group provided for in the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill 1977 substitute for the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council for the purpose of recommending to the Corporation rates of levy payable under the Act. The Groups will not recommend the rates for the cattle disease eradication program, which will be set by the Minister.
Other changes involve provision for all, instead of only some, rates of levy to be prescribed with the maximum for each rate stated in the Act. Additionally, provision has been made for specific reference to a levy on buffaloes and goats consistent with the Corporation’s responsibilities. Initially no rate will be prescribed for goats. There is also provision for the lc processing levy, which was to cease on 30 June 1977, to be continued for an indefinite period in accordance with the wishes of organisations representing meat processors. Continuation of the processing levy is necessary to maintain funding of the industry section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Meat Research Laboratory. The section investigates and advises on the problems of the processing sector of the meat industry. Its work is aimed at increasing the efficiency of meatworks operations and improving the quality of the product. Honourable members will appreciate the value of this work, not only in containing off-farm costs and maintaining overseas markets for meat, but also in the interests of the Australian consumer. It is anticipated that the Act will commence at the same time as or shortly after the Corporation becomes operational. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Collection Act 1964. The amendments are chiefly intended to simplify administrative procedures associated with the operation of that Act. The major amendment is the repeal of sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the Act which provide for slaughterers of livestock to pass the levy back to vendors, provided that the livestock are slaughtered within 30 days from the date of purchase.
There have been many allegations of abuse of this provision. Because of this and the fact that the ‘pass back’ has no effect on the collection of the levy, the Government has decided to delete the provision. The levy will continue to be payable by the owner of the livestock at the time when slaughter takes place. Depending upon the method of marketing the livestock this could be a livestock producer. The actual incidence of the levy is likely to vary over time depending upon supply and demand conditions. In times of oversupply of livestock the levy is likely to be reflected in prices paid to livestock producers. In the reverse situation the levy will tend to be absorbed further along the marketing chain.
The necessity for returns under the Act to be submitted only to the Secretary of the Department of Primary Industry is removed by providing for returns to be furnished to such persons as are prescribed for this purpose. Apart from clause 6, the Bill will commence on the day it receives the royal assent. Clause 6 provides for the payment into the National Cattle Disease Eradication Trust Account of part of the levy payable by buffaloes under the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1977, and will commence at the same time as, or shortly after the new Corporation is established. A further amendment provides for the Minister to delegate his authority to remit penalties of up to $ 100. 1 commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill present ed by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Meat Research Act 1960. The amendments are consequent upon reconstitution of the Australian Meat Board, amendments to the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964 and provisions of the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977.
The amendments provide for substitution of ‘Corporation’ for ‘Board’ in the Act, payment to the Australian Meat Research Committee of the new levies provided for in the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1977, and the charges provided for in the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977. There is also provision for the making of recommendations by the Australian Meat Research Committee to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation for purposes of setting amounts payable to the Committee under the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Act 1964, the Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1 977 and the Live-stock Export Charge Bill 1977. It is anticipated that the Act will commence at the same time as or shortly after the Corporation becomes operational. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
SUPPLY BILL (No. 1) 1977-78 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 24 May, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Leader of the House)- 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 should like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and Supply Bill (No. 2) 1977-78 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will of course be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. Mr Deputy Speaker, I suggest therefore that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Labor Opposition proposes to move an amendment to the motion that Supply Bill (No. 1 ) be read a second time.
The Fraser Government has now been in power for 18 months. According to the rules it lived by in Opposition, it should be ready now to face the people at an election. The conservative Parties thought that the Labor Government’s performance should be subject to electoral scrutiny every 18 months. Surely they should not object to their own performance being so judged. In May 1974 Labor was forced to an election because the conservative Parties judged its economic performance to be inadequate. This was half way through the normal parliamentary term. In December 1975, 18 months later, Labor was again forced to an election- again half way through a normal parliamentary term. The Liberal and National Country Parties justified this again on the grounds that Labor had failed in economic management and that a change of government was necessary to prevent a fall into deeper recession.
We are now half way through another normal parliamentary term and trends in the economy are worse now than 18 months ago. The present Government’s policies have clearly been inadequate. Unlike Labor our opponents have not had to contend with a deepening world recession. Unlike Labor they have not had to contend with import prices rising at annual rates in excess of 20 per cent. But still the economy has deteriorated. Inflation and unemployment are both worse now than when Labor’s policies were influencing the economy. All sections of the community have urged the Government to change the direction of its economic policies. Yet the Government remains inflexible. Its rigidity, its doctrinaire obsession with cutting back government spending, threatens to plunge the economy deeper into recession.
If the Government is so sure it has the right policies then let it put them to the test. Let it face an election on them. The Australian Labor Party is convinced that the electorate has recognised that the present Government does not have the answer to our economic ills and that when Labor was in power forces beyond the control of domestic policy instruments were responsible for many of our economic problems. We are confident that the Government has destroyed the myth of its prowess as an economic manager. Its ineptitude has been plain for all to see. If given the chance the people would reject this Government’s economic policies. One has only to examine the latest poll published in the Bulletin this week to come to this conclusion. This is an appropriate time to compare the state of the economy now with the position when Labor’s 1975-76 Budget policies were still influencing it. In the December quarter of 1975 gross non-farm product rose by 0.2 per cent. In the March quarter of 1976, when the Hayden Budget was still a dominant influence, non-farm product rose by 2 per cent. In the December quarter of 1976 when the conservatives’ Budget had begun to bite, gross non-farm product fell by 1 .3 per cent.
The unemployment figure in January 1976 was 345 000 or 5.6 per cent of the work force. In January 1977 it was 10 000 higher at 355 000 or 5.83 per cent of the work force. The labour market has continued to deteriorate in the last 3 months. In February unemployment was 43 000 higher than 12 months earlier. In March it was 53 000 above the level of the previous March and by April it had reached 55 000 above that of April 1976. This displays a clear worsening trend, in contrast to the improvement in the job outlook evident under the policies of the last Labor Budget. Even the deliberate use of increasing unemployment as a weapon against inflation has not met with marked success. In the year to March 1977 consumer prices rose by 13.6 per cent; in the previous 12 months they rose by 13.4 per cent. This Government has been eminently successful in prolonging high levels of unemployment when comparable countries have seen unemployment falling. In these circumstances it would have been reasonable to expect continued recession to have a downward influence on prices. But so far any effect of this kind has been offset by incompetent decision making in other areas. Changes in health insurance arrangements for example added 3.2 per cent to consumer prices in 1 976. Devaluation will add at least 4 per cent in 1977. The Government’s handling of the economy has been so inept and inconsistent that the unemployed do not even have the dubious consolation that their suffering has been part of an effective plan to get inflation down.
In summary we see that after 18 months of Liberal-National Country Party Government the economy, in terms of trends in growth, in levels of unemployment, and in movements in consumer prices, is in worse shape than after Labor’s second 18-month term. Couple this with the substantial erosion of living standards which has occurred in recent times and surely, according to the conservatives own rationale, this
Government should be forced to an election. But it will not be because the Senate, for all the posturing of some, is not a States’ House or a community House but nothing more nor less than a party political House. The Bills we are at present debating highlight the central contributing factor this Government has made to worsening the unemployment position in Australia. The Supply Bills appropriate funds- in other words make funds available- for the carrying on of the functions of Government until after the Budget Appropriations are passed. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) cautioned us not to draw any conclusions from them regarding Budget outlays. But the tenor of his second reading speeches has left few of us without the impression that the Government will rigidly adhere to ill-conceived notions of further reducing government spending. Actually both of the Minister’s speeches on the Supply Bills were in many ways fine examples of fascinating misrepresentation- a vice paraded as a virtue.
We were told that the total appropriations in both Supply Bills had virtually not been increased on last year’s amounts despite substantial price increases in that period. This can only herald a further onslaught on public expenditure and consequently further rises in unemployment. I fail to see the virtue in this course of action. But this is typical of this Government. I can imagine the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) entering the next election campaign and telling the electors: ‘My Government has been unable to solve the problem of inflation, we have caused unemployment to rise substantially but you must vote for us because we have cut public expenditure and we have cut the deficit’. This Government cannot distinguish between its instruments of economic policy and its goals of policy. The economy will lie in its present morass at the bottom of the trough until the Government makes positive use of the public sector.
This is an appropriate time to illustrate the error of the Government’s approach by examining just what is this deficit the Government is always trying to cut. Let us assume we are in a period of normal economic activity and the Government Budget is balanced. Suppose from this position the economy moves into a slump, that is, unemployment rises and output falls. This slump would mean, for example, that taxation receipts would fall and unemployment benefit payments would rise. This would mean that the previously balanced Budget would then be in deficit without the Government having increased its expenditure levels. If the government then reacted to the deficit by cutting its expenditure, it would lower the overall demand for goods and services in the economy, putting more people out of work and widening, not reducing, its deficit.
This in simple terms is what the Australian Budget deficit reflects. It reflects the decrease in tax receipts and the increase in welfare payments arising out of a recession. With a return to higher levels of employment the deficit would be eliminated. Countries like the United States of America, Japan and West Germany used this approach to wind back large budget deficits. Wrongly we are not doing so in Australia. In December 1975 even the present Prime Minister recognised the logic of such an approach. His election campaign speech contained an assurance that the deficit would be reduced by achieving high levels of economic growth. However, since that time good sense has been subsumed beneath a doctrinaire bent for destruction of the public sector.
The concept of a full employment Budget deficit is used by economists to estimate how much of a particular Budget deficit is a result of lost revenue and increased expenditure due to recession and how much is due to governments increasing their real share of an economy’s resources. In the edition of the Australian Economic Review for the first quarter of 1 976, Barton, Derody and Sheehan published estimates of the full employment Budget position for the Australian economy. That firm concluded that for the financial year just about to end, an actual Budget deficit of $3,200m would be equivalent to a Budget surplus of about $705m. The actual budget deficit for the year 1976-77 will be somewhat less than $3,200m. Therefore it will probably be equivalent to a full employment surplus of something of the order of $ 1 billion. Looked at in this light, the Budget deficit is seen for what it is- a product of recession, not an indication of the government sector taking more and more resources from the private sector.
It is interesting to note that the present Government and the Treasury refuse to enter into any sort of debate on the subject of the full employment Budget position. Questions from members of the Opposition on this topic have been paid scant regard. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth), who also is drawing attention to this point. I repeat that questions from him and us have been paid scant regard. I suppose that this is little more than one would expect. In the United States full employment Budget positions are prepared as a matter of course.
The Government’s preoccupation with cutting public expenditure stems partly from its incorrect assessment of the role that public expenditure played during the years of the Labor Government. It was easy for the then Opposition to blame public expenditure increases for many of the economic problems of that time. It fitted in so well with its ideology. Its assessment, of course, was quite wrong. Far from causing our economic recession, the levels of public expenditure used by the Labor Government when the world recession overtook us prevented our problems from being much worse than otherwise they would have been.
I have pointed out many times in this House that Australia’s overall economic performance during, for example, 1 975 was better than that of many comparable overseas countries. It would not be out of place to say so once again tonight. During 1975 the non-farm gross domestic product in Australia rose by 0.4 per cent. At the same time in 7 major Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries it fell by an average of 1.3 per cent. That comparison puts the performance of the Australian economy into proper perspective. It was not good, but without the actions taken by the Labor Government it would have been much worse.
When the present Government came to power it said that it would reduce the size of the public sector to make way for the private sector. This approach neglects the interaction between the public and private sectors and, as I demonstrated earlier, was totally unnecessary as the public sector was in no way crowding out the private sector. What did happen when the public sector demand began to fall in real terms was that the total demand fell and the private sector found less reason to expand production.
Assuming an implicit deflator for government expenditure of approximately 16 per cent for the 1976-77 financial year, the real level of Budget outlays for this financial year is over 4 per cent lower than for the previous 12 months. That is an astounding figure. At a time when Australia is close to the trough of the longest recession since the war the Government is reducing demand even further by cutting back on public sector outlays. All the major OECD countries continue to use expanding real government outlays to facilitate economic recovery in their countries. Just recently France announced major new employment creating schemes. We all know that the United States is using these policies. Japan and West Germany are in the same category.
It is interesting to note that this time last year the Treasurer was keen on telling us that all OECD countries were following the same policy line as his Government. He no longer does that. This is probably as close as we will get to an admission that it was not true 12 months ago, just as it is not true now. OECD countries did cut back the rate of growth of public outlays as they came out of the recession, but they never cut back their real levels of public outlays to get out of the recession as we are doing now or seeking to do.
The greatest impact that government spending cuts have had in raising unemployment has been through cuts in capital works. The real growth of fixed capital expenditure by government was slashed by 8.4 per cent in the 4 quarters to the end of 1976. That directly depressed the building and construction industry and forced unemployment to rise. Even one of” the arch proponents of the Government’s line on the economy, Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd, found the Budget cuts in capital expenditure to be ‘major errors of economic management’. Of course, cutting back capital works has long term as well as short term adverse effects. It delays badly needed improvements in the nation’s infrastructure. That indirectly reduces the efficiency of the private sector.
It appears that the Government has not learned from its previous errors. In his second reading speech on the Supply Bill (No. 2) the Treasurer expressed great satisfaction with the fact that the capital works and services allocation was some 9 per cent below that in the corresponding Bill last year. If the reduction in the appropriation means a further reduction in capital works in the next 5 months it will be catastrophic for the economy. How the Treasurer can make a virtue out of that is beyond my comprehension and the comprehension of my colleagues on this side of the Parliament. Fears are already being expressed in the building and construction industry that capital works will be cut further in the Budget. These Bills must surely heighten those fears.
It is interesting to note that despite the Government’s denigration of the role of public sector spending, government consumption expenditure is at the moment preventing the economy from going even deeper into recession. The December quarter national accounts reveal that in the last quarter of 1976 government consumption expenditure rose by 5.8 per cent. This was almost 4 times the rise in private consumption expenditure and much higher than in any quarter during Labor’s second term of office.
The important point is that without this high level of government consumption the fall of 1.7 per cent in gross domestic product would have been much worse. The danger sign for the future is that the high figure was due only to a fortuitous bunching of government payments and given the Government’s stated intentions will not be repeated. With one of the major growth areas in the December quarter removed the outlook for future performance is not bright.
The Government still preaches that further government spending cuts are required if inflation is to be reduced. Yet the Government’s actions in cutting expenditure have been clearly unsuccessful in reducing inflation. The Treasurer delights in referring to a fall in the underlying inflation rate. What he does is remove all the policy errors made by his Government- the Medibank charges and the effects of devaluationand then he argues that if his Government had not made those mistakes inflation would now be lower. With that proposition one can agree. If those errors had not happened inflation would be lower. But one cannot ignore the errors. One cannot ignore the increased hospital charges. One cannot ignore devaluation. So all this talk of underlying rates of inflation reducing is sheer bunkum. What I would add is that spending cuts have had no influence on the inflation rate. All they have done is cause unemployment to rise.
But what of the future? Clearly the Government must abandon its policy of using high levels of unemployment to reduce inflation. Such a policy is morally indefensible and has been spectacularly unsuccessful. At the recent economic summit the participants rejected unemployment as a weapon against inflation. This Government must do likewise. The Government must change the stance of its economic policies. All sections of the community have urged change upon them. The outlook for recovery is dull. The prospect of a consumer revival retreats as each month without adequate government action passes. The prospect of an early increase in consumer spending declined further with the Arbitration Commission’s decision to discount devaluation effects from the consumer price index for wage fixation purposes. If it continues with this policy real wages will decline by about 4 per cent more than they would have during 1977. The Arbitration Commission has been placed in an invidious position. It has been forced by the Government to take the responsibility for bringing about the income redistribution the Government intended through its devaluation decision. The wage and salary earners of Australia should be aware that it is the Government that is directly responsible for the fall in real wages they will experience if they are not recompensed for devaluation price rises. I said at the time of the Government’s decision to devalue that all Australians apart from mining companies had a right to be angry at devaluation. Now ordinary Australians will feel its effects as their living standards are further eroded. The Government’s broken promise over tax indexation is another measure which will militate against an early increase in consumer spending and hence an early fall in unemployment.
I mentioned earlier that the Government has been urged to change the course of its economic policies by all sections of the community. Labor and Liberal Premiers and even National Country Party Premier Bjelke-Petersen have all urged a change in approach. The Bank of New South Wales, once the stoutest defender of the Government line, has suggested the deficit be increased. The President of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation has called for tax cuts and a selective increase in government expenditure. The Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at Melbourne University has put forward a plan which not only calls for a much larger deficit but also explains how this can be achieved while the rate of inflation is significantly reduced. The support for an approach such as has been proposed by the Labor Opposition increases in strength. Yet the Government is intransigent. It confuses rigidity and inflexibility with firmness. It is so preoccupied with reducing public spending that it has forgotten how much suffering this recession is causing Australians. The social and economic costs of continuing high unemployment threaten to cause permanent damage to the community and the economy. It is for this reason that I have the understandable duty to move, on behalf of the Labor Opposition, the following amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House, noting the failure of the Government’s economic strategy, condemns its rigid resistance to feasible and constructive alternatives such as cutting indirect taxes and initiating selective stimulatory spending ‘.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following details relate to the major inquiries, task forces and reviews that have been set up by the Government. The list excludes interdepartmental committees, purely internal departmental reviews. Commonwealth-State working parties of officials, and inquiries, advisory committees etc. established in the past and reconstituted by the present Government.
am asked the Minister for Environment. Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
On what date did he receive the letter from Mr Justice Fox concerning the interpretation that has been placed on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry’s first report (Senate Hansard. 3D November 1976. page 2217 and I December 1976. page 2307: and House of Representatives 2 December 1976. page 3 117).
– The answer to the honourable Member’s question is as follows:
The letter referred to by Senator Carrick in the Senate on 30 November 1976 and I December 1976 was sent to me by Mr Justice Fox on 8 November 1976.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 10 March 1977:
How many persons have been placed with private employers under the Youth Employment Training Scheme, in each Commonwealth Employment Service district in Victoria, to the end of October 1976. in each of the following categories: (a) local government, (b) retail, (c) manufacturing, (d) professional, (e) agriculture and (f) service industries.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information sought cannot be made available in the format requested without putting considerable resources into the analysis required. However. I can give the honourable member details of the number of young people in training under the Special Youth Employment Training Program in each CES district in Victoria as at 29.4.77. Detailed figures are set out in the attached table. The total number of young people in training under the program in Victoria at 29.4.77 was I 06S.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1 977:
Did he state on 9 March 1977 (Hansard, page 17) that he had refused a lease for extensions to the Canberra Mosque because of the residential nature of the district.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1-5) The statement referred to relates to my decision in the case of an application for a particular lease of land at the rear of the Canberra Mosque on which the Islamic Society wished to erect a cultural and educational centre. The alternatives have been continuously under review to find a generally acceptable solution.
I have recently discussed with a representative of the Islamic Society the possibility of land being made available adjacent to the Mosque but fronting Empire Circuit. It seems very likely at this juncture that this will provide a mutually satisfactory solution to the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 27 April 1 977:
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 27 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 3 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770526_reps_30_hor105/>.