30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr Speaker, it is with deep regret that I inform the House of the death on 3 August 1977 of His Beatitude Archbishop Makarios III, President of the Republic of Cyprus. I move:
Mr Speaker, following the news of the death of President Makarios, the Governor-General and I sent messages of condolence to the Acting President of the Republic of Cyprus and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic. The Australian Government was represented at the President’s funeral by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and our High Commissioner to the Republic of Cyprus were also present.
The late President was the inspiration of the modern state of Cyprus and represented it in the world community with wisdom and distinction.
He was ordained deacon and priest in 1938. He graduated from the School of Theology of Athens University and he continued his theological studies at Boston University on a World Council of Churches scholarship. On his return to Cyprus in 1948 he was consecrated bishop and began intensive religious, social and national work in his see. At that time he began his vigorous campaign for nationhood for Cyprus. In 1950 he was elected as both archbishop and ethnarch national leader of the Greek people of Cyprus. It is a tribute to his qualities that he was elected as both the spiritual and the political leader of his country.
In 1952 he began his campaign at the United Nations General Assembly for international recognition of Cyprus. During the following years of the decade he fought courageously to achieve his goal, enduring even exile from his country. Following the London agreement in 1959 that Cyprus would become an independent republic, he returned to Cyprus and was elected its first President. President Makarios played a unique and distinguished role in his country’s national and international affairs. He visited many countries in his quest for a solution to the problems of Cyprus. He tirelessly represented his country at many international conferences as well as at the United Nations and at meetings of Commonwealth Heads of Government. His remarkable personal qualtities earned him an eminent place amongst world statesmen. His counsels will be particularly missed at Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings, in which he had actively participated for many years. I had the honour of meeting with him privately during the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London. At that time we discussed his forthcoming state visit to Australia in November this year. This visit would have been a fitting symbol of the development of long-standing and excellent relations between our two countries. I am sure that not only the Australian Government but all the Australian people were looking forward to that visit. I am sure that not only those Australians whose country of origin is Cyprus but all others will share my regret that it cannot now take place.
We therefore wish to record in the Parliament our deep sympathy to the people of Cyprus. They have lost a statesman of great eminence who had long personified his people’s quest for identity and independence. We also hope that the search for a peaceful and lasting solution to the problems in Cyprus, to which the late President had devoted so much of his life, will be pursued with determination despite his untimely death.
-Seventeen years ago today the Republic of Cyprus came into being. The Archbishop and Ethnarch of Cyprus became the founding President. He was the first head of an independent Cyprus since the Lusignan kingdom passed to Venice nearly five centuries ago.
By April 1975, when the Commonwealth Heads of Government met in Jamaica, the President had become their doyen. Thus it was that when we assembled on HMY Britannia, Makarios III sat at the right hand of Elizabeth II, whose British Government 20 years earlier had relegated him to the Seychelles. None who witnessed that tableau could fail to reflect on its personal and historical significance and symbolism. It said much about this remarkable man and much about the Commonwealth itself. Through strength of will and courage he attained and maintained his eminence in the Commonwealth and in the ranks of world statesmanship; and, not for the only time in the history of the Commonwealth, exile or imprisonment confirmed its victim’s claims to the leadership of an independent nation.
President Makarios supported the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth supported
Cyprus. I was happy to play some part in drafting the Commonwealth’s expression of support for the General Assembly and Security Council resolutions calling for the speedy withdrawal of all foreign armed forces, and in the Commonwealth’s establishment of a committee, which included Australia, to follow developments in Cyprus and to assist in every possible way towards the early implementation of the United Nations resolutions.
Six years ago in Nicosia the President told me of his interest in the tens of thousands of Cypriots who had settled in Australia and his appreciation of the work of the Australian police, then drawn from both Federal and State forces, who were part of the United Nations peace-keeping force. In Jamaica he expressed warm gratitude for the Australian Government’s response to the human disaster and material devastation caused by the Turkish invasion. He promptly responded to my invitation that he should visit Australia. In London last June I found that he was still greatly looking forward to the visit.
For 3000 years of recorded history Cyprus has been at the strategic and commercial crossroads of the Eastern Mediterranean. President Makarios represented the new political independence of Cyprus; but he also embodied its ancient spiritual independence, for when Michael Mouskos, son of a peasant, became Archbishop and thus Ethnarch in 1950, at the age of 37, he assumed the imperial prerogatives which were accorded the head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus when it was made autocephalous just 1 500 years ago. He was indeed the first Christian prelate to hold great political office under the English Crown since Cardinal Wolsey No reckoning of Archbishop Makarios ‘s career, and his hold on the loyalties of the people of his nation and his faith, can be complete without recognition of his dual role- head of his nation, head of his church. The depth of his people’s devotion had to be witnessed to be believed in the stricken capital and all along the long roads to his grave on the mountain top above the monastery where he was trained for his mission in life. There can be no doubt of the veneration and affection in which he has been long held and will continue to be held by hundreds of thousands of Greek speaking residents of Australia herself.
Among all his personal qualities he possessed physical and political courage of the highest order. There were at least a dozen attempts on his life. The most heinous was on 15 July 1974 when the Greek military government promoted the xpa£ix@icriiia against him. On 20 July, Turkey invaded. On 23 July the Greek dictatorship fell. We might wish, sic semper tyrannis. Greece herself is now rapidly recovering from the policies of the tyrants; the people of Cyprus however, Greek and Turkish alike, still suffer from them. The intervention of the colonels raised fears among Turks in both Cyprus and Turkey. It caused, but did not justify, the occupation which still continues.
It is a tragedy of the highest order that Cyprus should lose her chief at this time of continuing difficulty and danger. The ranks of world statesmanship are diminished by his early death; so are the ranks of the Commonwealth. But the greatest loss, seemingly irreparable, is the loss to the people of Cyprus of the man who founded and preserved their state and symbolised the church, the nation and the state of Cyprus throughout the world.
-I wish to speak on behalf of the many electors in the Melbourne area and elsewhere who were born in Cyprus. Because in 1952 I lived in Lapithos which is now under Turkish control in Cyprus and because of my association with the foundation of the early Committee of Conciliation headed by Mr Atlee, Compton McKenzie, Robert Boothby and others who were involved in the earliest days looking for a peace between Turkey, Great Britain and Greece, I feel it would be wrong if I did not today, having known and having worked with Archbishop Makarios, Francis Noel Baker and others, say a few words in this honourable House on this motion. There is absolutely no doubt about the complete and amazing bravery of Archbishop Makarios. At all times, his stand was firm, correct and even humble.
Last year I visited the Commonwealth Police unit in Cyprus. This unit is doing a wonderful job for our nation. These police officers wander around unarmed. They travel in landrovers. They wander between the two sides. They are most respected and understood in Cyrpus. The unit has brought a great deal of skill to the problem of the preservation of peace in Cyprus. I would not like to let this moment pass without saying to the nation that the Australian Commonwealth Police unit in Cyprus has rendered invaluable service to the cause of world peace. This fact has been recognised by every person who works in or is concerned with international affairs or the United Nations.
To his people, the passing of Archbishop Makarios is the most terrible tragedy as it has occurred at a time when one third of their island is at present occupied and is considered to be part of a Turkish province. Last year, for the first time, the government car carrying the Australian High Commissioner in Cyprus was not permitted to enter into the area where a conference between Greek and Turkish Cypriot people and their rulers was being held. That was a sad event. If Cyprus is to have any hope of peace or any hope of a future there must be communications between the Turkish Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots.
In all his dealings with Dr Denktash, Mr Orekx, and Dr Kutchuk, the former VicePresident of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios always maintained a firm and humble way in his negotiations. That Cyprus, the Middle East, the Commonwealth and the world have lost a statesman of this standing is a matter of the most important regret. On behalf of those who have been involved throughout their lives in negotiations with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots and with their governments, and also on behalf of all Cypriots living in Australia. I acknowledge, having lived in Cyprus, that Archbishop Makarios was one of the world’s greatest leaders. He was, at a difficult time, the most patient statesman. I am sorry that, before he was able to visit this country, his life on this earth ended. I only hope that there will arise in Cyprus a leader of equal competence, equal brilliance and equal good sense to hold together a community of church and state. For that reason I associate myself and all Cypriots whom I know in Australia, New York and elsewhere with the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition ( Mr E. G. Whitlam 1
-I rise to add my condolences on the passing of President Makarios, a great world figure. Cyprus, to many of us, is a far away country but we must remember that it has played a part in English history and, more importantly, it has given a strand to the Australian character. The contributions of Cypriots need no mention on an occasion such as this. They, like me, regret the passing of such a great man. The British had two contacts with Cyprus. In 1191 Richard the Lionheart conquered Cyprus for 80 days. The second British occupation began in 1878 and lasted for 80 years. The first contact put an end to an independent Cyprus; the second came to an end by an agreement which established an independent Cyprus. Credit for that goes to the man we mourn today. Whatever his detractors may say, the Archbishop proved himself a consummate politician. He presided over the full spectrum of political life, stretching from the extreme Right to the extreme Left.
He refused to repress any political orientation and, for a short time, he paid for his generosity. The main theme of his life was collaboration for the common good. The Christian faith moulded his character and gave him the character we so admired. He was a man of the people; a broadminded, modern man whose experience of life was varied. He always stressed that he was firstly an archbishop and secondly a head of state. That broadmindedness was founded on the cornerstone of what he described as his Christianity. He was born in 1913, the son of a part farmer, part shepherd in the Troodos Mountains. He grew up helping his father in the fields. But he grew up in the shadow of the Orthodox church because near his village he could see the clock tower of Kykko a famous monastery. His uncle was a priest. He helped his uncle prepare the mass and in painting the church. Finally, he became a monk. He was sent to complete his studies at the most famous school in Cyprus, namely, the Pansprian Gymnasium in Nicosia.
His Beatitude, the President, did not spare himself in the struggle to free the Cypriot people from the yoke of oppression. He was tireless in demanding that the United Nations’ decisions on Cyprus be implemented and that the principle contained in those decisions be made the basis of a negotiated settlement. He worked for a formula which would safeguard the independent sovereignty, territorial integrity and nonalignment of the Republic of Cyprus. It was my pleasure to be received by the late President on two occasions. His strength of character, sharpness of mind and dedication to the cause of a united Cyprus came through in a way which stamped him as a great patriot. I am sure that every Australian and particularly the members of this Parliament will join with me in expressing the view that the cause for which His Beatitude lived and for which he gave his life- a just and lasting peace for a united Cyprus based on the resolutions of the United Nations- will be achieved and will be a lasting tribute to his memory. I support the motion moved by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
– I inform the House of the deaths of the Hon. Hattil Spencer Foil, a former senator and Minister, Mr Edgar Wylie Prowse and Mr Theophilus Martin Nicholls, former senators, and Sir Archibald Grenfell Price. Mr Foil who died on 7 July 1977 represented the
State of Queensland from 1917 to 1947 and was a Minister of the Crown between 1 93 7 and 1 94 1 . Mr Prowse, who died on 2 June 1977, represented the State of Western Australia from 1962 to 1973. Mr Nicholls, who died on 22 July 1977, represented the State of South Australia from 1944 to 1968. Sir Archibald, who died on 20 July 1 977, was a member of this House for the Division of Boothby from 1941 to 1943. As a mark of respect to the memory of the deceased, I invite honourable members to rise in their places.
Honourable members having stood in their places-
– I thank the House.
– 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 in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Abel, Mr Adermann, Mr Baillieu, Mr Brown, Mr Kevin Cairns, Mr Dobie, Mr Falconer, Mr Giles, Mr Gillard, Mr Hayden, Mr Howard, Mr Peter Johnson, Mr Jull, Mr Killen, Dr Klugman, Mr Lucock, Mr Peacock, Mr Ruddock, Mr Simon, Mr Staley, Mr Wallis, Mr Wilson and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of certain members of the Australian Association for Better Hearing, and other citizens of
Australia, respectfully showeth that a financial burden is imposed on hearing impaired members of the public in that the special telephone equipment, which is essential for such hearing impaired citizens to make telephonic communication, is subject to installation costs and rental charges.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government give every consideration to waiving the installation costs and rental charges of the special telephone equipment required by hearing impaired members of the public
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Gilford, Mr Graham, Mr Howard, Mr
McLean and Mr Scholes.
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 O’Keefe, Mr Lucock, Mr Viner and Mr
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bourchier, Mr Falconer and Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of private nursing homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the private nursing homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else tolive on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
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 Hunt, Mr Les McMahon and Mr
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully show us:
That due to the new information on whale communication, behaviour and intelligence, and to the depleted state of most of the great whale stocks and the uncertainty associated with whale population estimates, that commercial whaling is no longer acceptable to the vast majority of Australians. It is urged that immediate steps be taken to end this activity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Brown and Mr Dobie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHolten.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of the electorate of Gippsland respectfully showeth:
That it is reported that the Federal Government is currently considering withdrawing its subsidy of $1 6.00 per day for all private hospital patients.
It is also considering withdrawing various nursing home subsidies for privately insured patients.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should ensure that the current subsidy of $16.00 per day for all private hospital patients and the current nursing home subsidies should remain in force in order that they continue to alleviate the hardship to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Nixon.
Refugees from South Africa
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
We, your petitioners humbly pray that the Government take immediate steps to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees from South Africa, in particular by providing funds for the supply of clothing, medical supplies, etc. scholarships and transport costs to enable student refugees to continue their education in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jacobi and Mr Wilson.
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 abortion has become a multi-million dollar business in Australia in spite of the fact that the Medical Practice Clarification Bill1973 was overwhelmingly defeated.
The multi-national giant, Population Services International, which operates in Sydney is now expanding its business to include Canberra.
In1976 alone, over 46 000 abortions were being paid for under the existing Medical Benefits Schedule which stipulates the benefit payable for Medical Services under both Medibank and the Private Health Insurance Funds.
Item No. 6469- ‘The evacuation of the contents of a gravid uterus by curettage and suction curettage’ now attracts a benefit of $65.00. In 1976 close to $5m were spent to destroy unborn children.
Under the ‘abortion item’ No. 6469 abortion-on-demand is now being paid for from public monies, i.e. contributions to the existing Health Funds.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government takes action
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrAldred.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision of the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of non-State tertiary institutions in the main, business colleges, is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government technical education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to an unnecessary worsening of the current employment situation for school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
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 a repeater station be installed on Mount Belcher or Marriot’s Lookout, Tyenna, Tasmania, to improve the reception of ABC television in the Derwent Valley district, Tasmania.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled:
We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That distress is being caused to social security recipients by the delay in adjusting pensions to the Consumer Prices Index months after prices of goods and services have risen, and that medications which were formerly pharmaceutical benefits must now be paid for.
Additionally, that State housing authorities’ waiting lists for low rental dwellings for pensioners grow ever longer, and the cost of funerals increase ever greater.
Your petitioners call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Adjust social security payments instantly and automatically when the quarterly Consumer Prices Index is announced.
Restore pharmaceutical benefits deleted from the free list.
Update the State Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act of 1974, eroded by inflation, to increase grants to overcome the backlog.
Update Funeral Benefit to 60 per cent of reasonable cost of funeral. (This benefit was 200 shillings, 20 dollars, when introduced in 1943. It was seven times the 1943 pension of 27 shillings a week).
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrDobie.
To the honourable 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 May1973, 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 Australian Capital Territory has a great impact on situations in the States.
Your petitioners humbly pray.
That the Federal Government will act immediately to prevent the establishment and/or operation of Population Services International 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. byMrHolten.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government Employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the
House of Representatives on December 8th, 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrInnes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will permit Mr Ignazio Salemi to remain in Australia as a resident.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
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 1975 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 Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the electorate of McMillan respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should ensure that the incidence of Estate Duty be phased out commencing in the financial year 1977-78 and be finally abolished within five years or such earlier date as reasonably possible.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Simon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government Employees strenuously oppose the Public Service Board’s decision to remove the provision for remote locality leave in Cairns.
The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the honourable member represent this matter with the Government and the Public Service Board so that their decision regarding Cairns be cancelled. Also that moves be made for leave provisions to be granted in line with neighbouring towns in your electorate i.e. Mareeba, Atherton, Mossman and Innisfail.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representative assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Australia respectfully showeth that:
In consideration of all information to this time of the hazards of large scale nuclear power generation; we request that the Australian Government declare a moratorium on the mining and export of Australian uranium in order to allow the citizens of Australia to give full consideration to the issue of development of nuclear energy, in line with the recommendations of the Fox Report for a national debate; and we request the urgent development of a national energy policy that seeks the conservation of energy and the development of alternative energy sources.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Antony Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Division of Sturt respectfully showeth: that they are greatly concerned about the fact that so many people, including such a large number of young people, are receiving Unemployment Benefits without any condition except that they are not able to find suitable employment.
Your Petitioners therefore pray that Parliament give consideration to the suggestion that, to enable individuals to maintain their self-respect and dignity as human beings, and for the good of the community at large, the provision of Unemployment Benefits carry the requirement that the recipient of such benefit be available to service to the community for a time equal to that which would produce a similar return at minimum wage rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
– I inform the House that Her Majesty the Queen has graciously approved the appointment of Sir Zelman Cowen, C.M.G. Q.C. as Governor-General to succeed Sir John Kerr. Sir Zelman will take up his appointment when Sir John relinquishes office in December.
– I inform the House that a new Department of the Special Trade Negotiator was created on 17 July 1977 and that the Honourable John Howard has been appointed Minister for Special Trade Negotiations. Mr Howard will continue as Minister assisting the Prime Minister. The Honourable Wal Fife has been appointed Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. The Minister for Special Trade Negotiations will be represented in the Senate by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, and the Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, Senator Durack, will continue to represent the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
I also inform the House that the AttorneyGeneral, Mr Ellicott, left Australia on 14 August to attend the Commonwealth Law Ministers’ Conference in Canada and to have discussions in Washington and London. He is expected to return on 4 September. During his absence the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Durack, will act as Attorney-General and the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, Mr Howard, will represent the Attorney-General in this House.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In the first question time in this Parliament I asked him whether the Government intends to proceed to implement the unanimous report of the Joint Committee on Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament, whose members were drawn from both sides of both Houses in the last Parliament and whose report had been presented to both Houses on 30 September 1975. In particular I asked whether he had requested his Ministers to make declarations of interest which that Committee recommended they should make. He may remember that he replied that all Ministers had been asked to make declarations to him and that the recommendations of the Committee were taken into account in formulating that requirement. I now ask him whether the Minister for Primary Industry informed him of the full nature of his financial interests and responsibilities which have now been discussed in the media and how long ago that Minister first informed him of the changes in shareholdings and directorships flowing from changed family responsibilities? May I also ask him again whether the Government intends to implement the recommendations in the report?
-The honourable gentleman has referred to a number of matters. So far as the parliamentary Committee’s report is concerned, the honourable gentleman will know also that some recommendations were contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Public Administration which in a related way covers the Public Service. At the moment an interdepartmental committee is looking at the
Royal Commission’s recommendations and at the parliamentary Committee’s recommendations to see to what extent they are compatible with each other so that the Government may be in a position to make a decision on the overall question of pecuniary interests in relation not only to parliamentarians but also to public servants. The honourable gentleman will be aware that it is not uncommon practice in a number of countries for public servants to be in a position of making statements concerning their pecuniary interests. It seemed to the Government that it would be sensible to proceed in parallel in the two areas- politicians and public servantsbecause obviously decisions relating to one would have significant implications on decisions relating to the other. In case the letter itself has not been tabled in the Parliament- my recollection is that it may have been- I am perfectly happy to table a copy of a letter that I wrote to all Ministers and to all later appointed Ministers to indicate the nature of the statement that is required of them. I will also table the covering letter to the Minister for Administrative Services who has the responsibility of seeing that ministerial staffs fulfil this same kind of commitment.
The Minister for Primary Industry has made declarations, as have other Ministers, and I have obviously, in view of the circumstances of the past day or two, spoken to the Minister concerning these particular matters. I am not aware of anything that has arisen in recent days which would indicate that any elements of the declarations made to me were inaccurate. The companies with which I am advised the Minister is involved are private companies. They involve two or three families at most.
– They are proprietary companies.
– They are proprietary companies. The Minister’s involvement with the Alan Walsh company was as executor to his father’s estate. I do not believe that matters relating to pecuniary interest should be pursued to such an extent that any member of this Parliament would be precluded from being an executor to his father’s estate and from carrying out the responsibilities that are thereby involved. I think that is a perfectly proper matter for any member of parliament or Minister to pursue. It needs to be noted also that to my knowledge this is the first government that has sought from Ministers a record of their pecuniary interests in a quite detailed manner and it is the first government -
-That is not so.
– And in relation to Ministers’ staffs?
– Yes, we did that.
-That might have happened rather late in the day. But let me say that my Administration has taken these matters very seriously from the outset and, I believe, with a proper sense of propriety. I am happy to table the letters, as I have indicated.
– The letters are tabled.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald of 1 1 August referring to the Prime Minister and in which a number of statements were made about the economy? Has the Prime Minister made any inquiries as to the accuracy of these statements? If so, can he tell the House whether there was any substance in them?
– As a plain political comment, I should have thought that if any commercial organisation had put in an advertisement of that kind or had sought to promote its products by way of an advertisement that was as inaccurate as that particular advertisement it could well be in trouble with the law. That advertisement omitted a number of factors, one or two of which are perhaps not directly related but which I think entitle this House to ask who the shadow Minister for economic affairs is. The honourable member for Adelaide seems to have been left in the shadows in recent times.
– I shall look after myself. I am quite happy.
– I am very glad that the honourable gentleman can look after himself because he might be more acceptable than some others. What was said in that advertisement in relation to inflation was quite inaccurate. For example, inflation was running in the last half of 1975 at 16.8 per cent; in the last half of 1974 at 19.3 per cent, as a direct result of the Opposition’s policies when it was in government; and in the first half of this year, at 10.4 per cent. Even Mr Wran agrees that inflation is running at 10 per cent; there are public statements to that effect. That shows again how wrong the honourable member for Oxley was when he predicted, I think as late as 3 May, that inflation would be running at 15 per cent. In addition to that, profits have improved significantly by about 27 per cent during the past year, which would seem to indicate that the business situation is certainly improving. The profit share has increased. Private investment in plant and equipment has improved in real terms by something approaching 7 per cent. There was one true statement in the advertisement. I must pay credit to the authors of the advertisement for the correctness of the statement that if the Bill Hayden Budget had been followed up in 1976 Australia would not be in the state it is in today. It would certainly be far worse off. Inflation would be far worse and business in those circumstances would, indeed, be in a terrible state.
There is a long list of authoritative people in the Australian community at the present time who are clearly in general accord with the Government’s policies and with the results of those policies. Philip Shrapnel and Co. Pty Ltd in Economic Outlook in July this year said:
The Government is quite rightly heartened by the progress that is being made to contain inflationary pressures and there is every prospect that an even larger reduction in inflation will occur during 1977-78.
The Bank of New South Wales review in July 1977 said:
The prime aim of the Government’s economic strategy since it came to office 18 months ago has been the reduction of inflation. It can claim some success in moderating the rate of price increase.
The National Bank of Australasia Limited summary said:
There has been a progressive easing in inflationary pressures.
Hill Samuel Australia Limited said:
As the Treasurer has pointed out on numerous occasions the underlying rate of inflation appears to be trending downwards.
Syntec in August 1977 said:
Both the June quarter CPI figure and the strong July loan result could be taken as firm evidence that the Government’s anti-inflation policies are working.
I am certain that the people of Australia will treat advertisements of that kind for what they are worth and I hope that the people responsible for them will go on wasting their money in that way.
-I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to a report entitled Recovery With Inflation prepared by the United States Congress? Is he aware that this report showed that to take one percentage point off inflation over 3 years it would be necessary to add 1.2 percentage points to the unemployed? Applied to the Australian economy, would this mean that another 75 000 people would have to be thrown out of work to reduce inflation by one percentage point? Does this analysis show that the Government will only increase unemployment and deepen the recession if it continues with its misguided efforts to beat inflation the quick way by contracting the economy.
– I find the honourable gentleman on this occasion more than usually tedious. I hope that he will curb his impatience until I am in a position to deal with matters of this type in a more definitive form later this evening. I suggest that, if he is able to curb his impatience, he may be better edified at that stage. I have not seen the report of the United States Congress. But these simplistic analogies that the honourable gentleman draws are certainly rejected by me and the members of this Government. I say to the honourable gentleman in the lowest possible profile that, if he is concerned about inflation and unemployment, he must have a gigantic concern for the new three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine or ten point plan released by the honourable member for Oxley and the Leader of the Opposition recently to fix the problems which we inherited. I suggest to the honourable gentleman, who no doubt was not consulted at that time- and I underline the word ‘not’- that, if he looks at that package, he will see, as the Prime Minister, myself and other senior Ministers have made perfectly clear, that what the Australian Labor Party is now asserting is not a panacea, but is a recipe for more inflation, more unemployment, and the sort of recession which it caused in this country during the period it was in office.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I have no doubt that the Minister is aware of the vexed problem of the gaoling by the Vietnamese authorities of the Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon, Monsignor Francis Xavier Nguyen van Thuan
– It is a disgrace.
-Indeed it is. I trust that the Minister regards this case as one about which we should be maintaining a very serious concern. I ask the Minister whether any representations have been made to the Vietnamese authorities since July 1976? In view of this known case of a serious violation of human rights in that no charges have been laid against the Archbishop, I ask the Minister whether, having regard for Monsignor Thuan ‘s reported declining health, fresh and strong representations will be made to the Vietnamese authorities asking for his immediate release?
-The short answer is that I am maintaining a close concern in the matter. Representations have been made since the date mentioned by the honourable member in his question. It will be recalled that Monsignor Thuan has reportedly been held in detention by the Vietnamese authorities since 1975 without charges being brought against him. The Australian Government raised the matter in Hanoi in July 1976. Since that time we have continued to make inquiries about his welfare, not only in Hanoi but also with the Vatican. These inquiries suggested that he was in good health and receiving civilised treatment although recent newspaper reports have suggested that his state of health is now very poor. Australia’s embassy to the Holy See recently sought further information from the Vatican about the welfare of Monsignor Thuan. The Vatican was unable to add much to the recent Press reports that we have gathered other than that he was still alive and still in detention.
Last month my Department drew this matter to the attention of the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra. The Australian Government recognises that the detention of Vietnamese citizens in Vietnam would be considered by the Vietnamese to be essentially a domestic matter for their own Government. However, because of the depth of concern expressed by many Australians about Monsignor Thuan. a concern shared by the Government, I have written in my ministerial capacity to the Vietnamese Charge d ‘Affaires in Canberra about the welfare of persons under detention in Vietnam and of Monsignor Thuan in particular. That letter has been delivered to the Charge.
– Was the Treasurer or his Foreign Investment Review Board informed by Conzinc Riotinto Australia of its open share market activities to take over the Australian coal miner, Coal and Allied Industries Ltd? Does this action by a foreign-owned company contravene the provisions of the Foreign Takeovers Act? Did the covert market raid before notification by CRA give it an advantage over another competitor for Coal and Allied Industries, the Australian company, Peko-Wallsend? Can the Treasurer seriously regard the view of the Foreign Investment Review Board in this case when one of its members, Sir William Pettingell, is a director of Coal and Allied Industries? Do the Treasurer and the Government approve of the takeover? If not, will the Government insist upon the divestiture of the Coal and Allied Industries shares held by CRA or is the Foreign Investment Act a token piece of legislation to be flouted at the whim and caprice of any foreign corporation?
-The Foreign Investment Review Board and the whole of the foreign investment review legislation are certainly not to be treated by anyone in this House as a matter of tokenism. The legislation, the policy behind it and the detailed operation of the Foreign Investment Review Board are working very effectively, a fact to which the case histories dealt with by the Board and myself bear evidence. With regard to the case referred to by the honourable gentleman, I have said in this House earlier- I reaffirm it- that I do not believe it to be in the interests of the processes of the Foreign Investment Review Board or of the policy itself that matters concerning the various parties who may from time to time be before the Foreign Investment Review Board should be the subject of quick question and answer in this House because of the confidential nature of the proceedings in question. Should that confidentiality be breached I suggest to the honourable gentleman that it would cut right across the whole thrust of the Government’s policy in relation to foreign investment and would be a marked disadvantage to foreign investors seeking to process applications through the Board.
The matter to which the honourable gentleman referred is before the Board at present. Careful consideration is being given to the application for approval in terms of the Act. A number of matters require detailed scrutiny including some legal aspects. As and when I am in a position to advise the honourable gentleman I shall do so. I am sorry that he mentioned the name of Sir William Pettingell in relation to this application. It was the sort of slight by inference that the honourable gentleman ought not to be making in this House. Many of these cases go across my table on a weekly and monthly basis. According to my best recollection Sir William disqualified himself from the case because of the sorts of innuendoes that the honourable gentleman himself made. Frankly, they would have been better not proffered by him in this House.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Government examined new economic proposals designed to lift government spending by $800m and to lift the government deficit to $3.5 billion? If such proposals have been looked at, is the Treasurer able to comment on them before the introduction of the Budget tonight?
-There are not many matters on which I really welcome questions before the Budget is delivered, but I make an exception in the case of this question from the honourable member for Demson. The attention of myself and other Ministers certainly has been drawn to the document issued by the Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Oxley. Let there be no doubt whatever that should those proposals be implemented they would be highly inflationary. They would put the economy back into the situation it was in during the depression years of 1974 and 1975. Most certainly they would put upward pressure upon interest rates. After all, they are no different from the earlier proposals which the honourable member for Adelaide said would lead to the prolonging of inflation in this country. The House will be aware that, as the Prime Minister has mentioned, the honourable member for Adelaide was not involved, we understand, in the release of the new proposals even though he purports to hold the title of shadow Treasurer. It is not clear whether he stood out of the process because he was overseas or because he shared a very real sense of concern about the inflationary implications of those proposals.
The last time the honourable member for Oxley came forward with his $800m spending program he claimed that it would cost a net $200m. This time he claims that the net cost would be $500m. I can say that having an extra 50 000 people in work would generate savings in unemployment benefits of around $75m and a net addition to personal tax receipts of little more than $50m. I point out to the honourable member for Oxley that not only is his costing completely wrong once again but there would be no prospect of providing 50 000 jobs. That point should not be lost on the honourable gentleman, in particular, because after all he was the Minister who abolished the Regional Employment Development scheme. No doubt the additional $800m spending program of the honourable member for Oxley would be financed by implementing the suggestion made recently by the honourable member for Adelaide, that under a Labor government all people with incomes above $15,000 per annum would have to pay more income tax. I will close on this point: Perhaps the best way to summarise the new package put forward by the Labor Party is to refer, as I not infrequently do, to a recent editorial in the Australian Financial Review, which said quite simply and rather cogently, I thought at the time: ‘Mr Hayden blots his copybook’.
– My question, which also is addressed to the Treasurer, is supplementary to the question asked by the honourable member for Blaxland. I will deal with the other matter just referred to by the Treasurer at some other stage. If the Conzinc-Rio Tinto of Australia Ltd takeover of Coal and Allied Industries Ltd is now before the Foreign Investment Review Board as the Treasurer states, can he say whether the Board was properly notified prior to the purchase of shares? Is it not a fact that under section 26 of the Foreign Take-overs Act the Board is supposed to give approval prior to any shares being purchased by such a foreign company as CRA? Is that not a prima facie case of CRA being in breach of the Act if that approval was not first given? At what stage did Sir William Pettingell disqualify himself from this case as he must have known, as a director of Howard Smith Ltd in addition to being a director of Coal and Allied Industries Ltd- Howard Smith Ltd being a partner of CRA in this deal- of the intended purchase of shares?
– The sorts of innuendoes made by the honourable gentleman, which are quite consistent with the innuendoes made by his colleague the honourable member for Blaxland, are rejected by this Government. I thought I had made that perfectly clear. What those innuendoes do, and do in a very clear way, is give some indication of the sorts of policies that would be pursued by honourable gentlemen opposite if at some stage in the future, which is hard to predict, they were to resume occupancy of the government benches. As I have mentioned before, all the innuendoes behind what the honourable gentlemen have said in relation to Sir William Pettingell, as I recall the information provided to me, are utterly unfounded, but I will ascertain to what extent the further information sought by the honourable gentleman on that score can be made available to him. As to the balance of the question, I thought I had made it perfectly clear that these matters are before the Foreign Investment Review Board at the present time. As Treasurer I do not intend- through you, of course, Mr Speaker- to have a parliamentary debate or a question and answer exchange across the table with the honourable gentleman or any other honourable gentleman about a matter that is currently before the Board. I said to the honourable member for Blaxland that as and when I can provide further information to him I will certainly do so. In this case I will do the same for the honourable member for Adelaide.
200-MILE FISHERY ZONE
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and concerns the growing number of countries which have made unilateral declarations of 200-mile fishery zones. This matter is of particular concern to my electorate, which not only embraces large parts of the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria but also has a mainland and island coastline.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will ask his question and cease giving information about his electorate.
-Now that the Sixth Session of the Law of the Sea Conference has ended, is the Minister able to state the Government’s attitude to the proclamation of a 200-mile fishery zone? Does the Government intend to introduce legislation on this subject? If so, when will the legislation be introduced? Will the Government be informing other governments of its decision?
-I well understand the honourable member’s extensive interest in this matter. He will recall that prior to the Sixth Session of the Law of the Sea Conference the Government made it perfectly clear that it was hoping for a widely supported multilateral convention which included, among other things, the provision of a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The Sixth Session’s deliberations concluded in July of this year. In the light of the fact that a growing number of countries are making or in the process of making unilateral declarations of extended maritime jurisdiction, and bearing in mind the need to protect our own valuable fishing stocks from the increasing number of foreign vessels fishing in our area, the Government stated that it would re-examine the need for legislative action after the Sixth Session had concluded. Of course, that now has been done, with the Sixth Session finishing in July of this year, as I have indicated.
We have decided that legislation should be drafted to enable the proclamation of a 200 nautical mile Australian fishery zone. Such a move should be seen as the first stage in exercising, in accordance with international law, Australia’s 200-mile zone rights around Australia and the Territories. In regard to the further questions asked by the honourable member I say that legislation is therefore now being drafted. No decision has yet been made regarding the timing of its introduction or when it will come into force. Those and other details will, of course, need to be discussed with other countries and in particular, pursuant to the undertakings we gave to the member countries of the South Pacific Forum, with those countries at the Forum’s forthcoming meeting towards the end of this month.
-Is the Prime Minister aware that two travel agents- AUS Student Travel and the Four Seasons organisation- announced last week that they were in financial difficulties? Is he also aware of the Travel Agents Bill 1975 that was introduced in this House in March 1975 by the then Minister for Tourism and Recreation, the Honourable Frank Stewart, and passed by this House and then introduced in the Senate and on the Notice Paper of that House when the events of 11 November 1975 caught up with the Parliament? If this Bill had been proceeded with by this Government, would it not have protected all the people who may lose money or be inconvenienced by the collapse of these agencies or of others that it is suggested may collapse in the very near future? What does the Government propose to do to compensate or to assist those people who may lose their money? When can we expect legislation to protect travellers who in good faith pay money in advance for travel?
– The Minister in charge of these matters is preparing a submission for the Government which would explore the possibility of an approach involving Commonwealth and State co-operation. That submission has been some time in preparation. I hope it will be before the Government very shortly.
The Government is very much concerned about some aspects of the present situation. Only this morning I have been in discussion with the Victorian Government about these matters. AUS Travel, for example, is registered under Victorian legislation and an examination to see what went wrong would, of necessity, be conducted under Victorian law. At the same time both governments are exploring the possibility of a joint examination of these aspects. The Commonwealth has responsibilities for students throughout the whole of Australia. It is concerned to see that the arrangements that they might want to make in this area are appropriate and that student interests are properly safeguarded. Any examination that the Commonwealth would be involved in would be directed to that purpose. I hope it might be possible for a joint announcement to be made quite shortly by the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth Government, because these are serious matters.
– I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question. Has the attention of the Government been drawn to continuing reports that atrocities have occurred in Kampuchea, formerly Cambodia? Is the Government able to shed any further light on the extent of repression that has taken place since the change of government? Has he also seen reports of numerous border clashes with Thailand stating that numerous Thai villagers, including women and children, have been massacred? Does the Government have any information on these reports and what is the Government ‘s attitude?
-I would have to say that the information we possess is limited. Nevertheless, it is clear from a number of unconfirmed reports that have emerged that extensive repression, including executions, has taken place in Kampuchea since the Khmer Rouge came to power. In fact in recent testimony on human rights in Kampuchea the conclusion of a United States State Department official as to the estimate of the number of people who were thought to have perished in Kampuchea was that, while there was no way to confirm a precise figure, the number of deaths appeared to be in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.
Turning to recent incidents that have been verified by independent observers and covered by reputable news media, there is no question but that Kampuchea troops have killed villagers, including women and children, living in the border areas between Thailand and Kampuchea. We realise, of course, that these border areas are in dispute as are, according to recent reports, parts of the frontier between Kam. puchea and Vietnam. But the slaughter of villagers can only lend credibility to the horror stories that have come from inside Kampuchea. We condemn in the strongest possible terms such cruel and unnecessary actions wherever they may occur and appeal to the Government of Kampuchea to respect international human rights principles. No government could possibly condone such slaughter, pillage and destruction.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the media and stock exchange speculation which arose in the middle of last month from accounts of cables the Prime Minister received from Mr Justice Fox, which His Honour and later the Prime Minister himself described as appalling speculation, I ask whether he will promptly table those cables just as the 2 reports of the Fox Committee were promptly tabled. Can the Prime Minister say why the letter has not been tabled which the judge sent on 8 November last, the day before he called on the Prime Minister after he had sought an appointment with the Prime Minister, and after the speculation which arose in the media and on the stock exchange concerning the first report of the Fox Committee?
– I shall see what information I can give the honourable gentleman.
-Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of the dislocation being caused to many industries in Victoria as a result of industrial disputes and of the direct and indirect employment opportunities being lost as a result of these disputes? Can the Minister give the House any precise details as to the current level of these disputes?
– I have information in broad categories as to the disputes currently going on in Victoria, although I do not claim that the information is necessarily comprehensive or exact in all details. To the best of my knowledge currently in Victoria one dispute affects the shipping industry, 11 involve the building and construction industry, two involve engineering and metals, one the food, drink and tobacco industries and five are taking place in other industries. Again, I do not have comprehensive information as to the precise number of people involved in these strikes. I have no doubt that it is very significant. For example, one dispute involves 2200 members of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and another dispute affects 530 people involved in the construction of the Westgate Bridge. This sort of industrial action is being pursued by a small minority whose motto, apparently, is: ‘Might is right’. These people are heedless of the interests of their fellow unionists, those who are looking for work and of the community generally. They seem hell bent on destroying any system of orderly wage fixation in this country and of destroying prospects for creating new job opportunities.
-Is the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations aware of the recent collapse of two travel agencies and of the rumoured collapse of several more which will cause financial loss and inconvenience to many hundreds of Australian travel consumers? Can he explain why he failed to press for the reintroduction of the Travel Agents Bill 1975 which lapsed following the peculiar happenings, to say the least, of 1 1 November 1975 when that legislation was a consumer protective measure and when he was Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and also the Minister in this House representing Senator Cotton whose portfolio covered tourism and travel agents? Is he also aware that the adoption by the Parliament of uniform legislation for the registration and control of travel agents could have prevented the collapse of these agencies or, at least, ensured that the consumers using those agencies would not suffer financial loss? As a matter of urgency, will the Minister now press for the introduction of uniform legislation to register and control travel agents throughout Australia?
– The Prime Minister has already indicated that this matter has been under consideration by the Government in recent days. The honourable gentleman imputes to the legislation of the former Government effects which it may not necessarily have had. The question of effective travel agent legislation is under consideration by Senator Cotton at the present time.
-The industry and the State Government would have approved the earlier legislation.
-If the honourable gentleman will allow me to finish the answer I shall do so. The Prime Minister has already indicated that this matter is under consideration by the Government. As the honourable gentleman will know, the company in question was and remains registered under the laws of Victoria. This is therefore not a matter which is totally within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. As a result, any response at government level must of necessity involve activity by both the Commonwealth and Victorian governments.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I understand representations have been made to the Minister by the honourable member for Riverina about Telecom Australia becoming an outlet, through the Post Office, for the retail sale of stationery et cetera. If this suggestion is correct- in my opinion it would be contrary to all just business procedures- will the Minister take steps to see that this proposal is not implemented?
– There is no need for me to react to the honourable member’s question because I have already taken steps to see that both commissions discharge their responsibilities in the manner for which they were set up. One of the responsibilities is not to be a retailer of stationery. Some so-called market surveys have been carried out. It has been traditional in the Post Office, of course, to sell some equipment or goods which are involved with the business of postage of articles. Some consideration was given to extending this activity. Some weeks ago I reminded the Commission that I thought that that went beyond its charter. The Commission found it agreeable to accept my comments. I am certain that retailers and business people generally will not and ought not to have the problem of competition from these commissions.
-Can the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development assure the House that Federal funds have not been improperly used to finance Victorian Housing Commission land deals, including those being examined by the Victorian Government’s board of inquiry?
– I think it would be improper for me to comment. Of course it would be possible for funds made available under the 1973-74 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to be used. I have no idea whether those funds were used, but they can be used for the purchase of land. The Victorian Government has announced a public inquiry. I believe that all the evidence taken will be public. I have no wish to comment any further until we hear the results of that inquiry.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning Poms and cricket. Did the Minister when he made his speech concerning primary industry say that all shop stewards and union officials who came from the United Kingdom had the disease or did he become muddled between corns and Poms? I think we ought to know exactly whether he said a few or all.
-I am indebted to the honourable gentleman not only for his question but also for the support he gave me when I made my remarks. I thought that at the beginning of his question he might have been referring to a letter which I noted in the Australian the other day which stated that there were those in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia who after watching the start of the fourth test on television- perhaps this applies even more to the conclusionbelieved that the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party of Australia was wide of the mark in his attack on British immigrant shop stewards. The letter concluded:
I think his target should have been the Pommie umpires.
Whether that is so, it is certainly correct, as the honourable gentleman has suggested, that my remarks from the beginning were directed at a range of factors which I see as prejudicing good industrial relations in Australia. Obviously, within the Australian trade union movement there are a number of acknowledged communists and a number of radical left wing union activists who have contributed significantly to non-industrial action which prejudices the recovery of the Australian economy. In addition, there have been identified in a number of areas and in a number of industries others of different categories. In one group there were a few of those who are British shop stewards and a few of those who are British trade union leaders. Obviously, not all British trade union leaders are in the category to which I referred. Unfortunately, those few have significantly prejudiced economic recovery in a number of industries, and it was to them and against them that my remarks were directed.
– Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware that upwards of 15 000, perhaps even 20 000, applications for citizenship are in hand and are being processed very slowly in Melbourne, holding up the right to citizenship, and therefore the right of the people involved to get on the electoral roll? Is this delay a deliberate attempt by the Government to reduce the number of voters in Labor electorates, where most of the applicants reside, and so to make Labor electorates larger than they should be in the forthcoming distribution of House of Representatives seats and to create in effect an administrative gerrymander?
-I am aware that there are a number of applications for citizenship, not only in Victoria but in all States of Australia, and that has been the case for a very long time. The delay is less at the moment than it was during the honourable member’s time in government. I should like to lay this furphy to rest. There is no campaign to delay the processing of applications. This Government regards Australian citizenship very highly indeed. We regard the granting of Australian citizenship as a most serious matter. I think it is cause for some concern that various political parties, but particularly the Labor Party, have reduced the concept almost to a market one. Tables are being set up in the markets in Melbourne where people can get their application forms. Application for Australian citizenship should be such that a person has the opportunity to think clearly about his application. He should be encouraged to apply if he really wishes to take Australian citizenship. Citizenship should not be given away as a matter of no consequence. To finalise the answer, I make it quite clear that there is no overt delay in the processing of applications. We try to make such processing as quick as possible.
-I address a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and I express my pleasure at seeing my New South Wales colleague on the front bench. Has the Minister given consideration to requesting the Prices Justification Tribunal to disregard cost increases due to wage rises granted outside the arbitration system? If so, is any action proposed?
– I call the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to answer his first question as a Minister.
-I am delighted to tell the honourable member for Macarthur and the House that this matter has received the active consideration of the Government. Indeed, it is not overstating the position to indicate that the Government has been extremely concerned about the sweetheart agreements entered into by some companies at a cost to the community in two ways: Firstly, the direct cost suffered by consumers; and, secondly, the effect of sweetheart agreements on inflation, which affects everybody in the community. This Government inherited from its predecessor a very high rate of inflation- something like 16 per cent- and tremendous progress has been made in getting the inflation rate down. The Prime Minister this afternoon referred to the inflation rate being in the vicinity of 10 per cent. The point I want to make very clear is that the Government will not stand by and see its wages policy affected in this way without taking some positive action.
I am able to tell the honourable member for Macarthur and the House that I propose to write to the Chairman of the Prices Justification Tribunal requesting that in its consideration of company prices the Tribunal disregard cost increases due to wage increases or wage related benefits which are granted outside the regular conciliation and arbitration machinery and which are inconsistent with the accepted standards of that machinery. I also take the opportunity to make it clear that those companies which grant increases outside the guidelines to which I have referred will be referred to the Prices Justification Tribunal for inquiry into their price structure. The Government is insistent in this matter. It regards the sweetheart agreements to which I have referred as being a direct attack on its wages policy and on its continuing efforts to bring this country’s inflation rate down to an acceptable level.
– I wish to inform the House that during the period of the adjournment certain changes have occurred in the staff organisation of the House of Representatives. The following changes of officers attending in the chamber have been made: Mr I. C. Cochran, formerly Senior Parliamentary Officer, Bills and Papers Office, has been transferred to the office of Serjeant-at-Arms; Mr J. E. G. Bellchambers will act as Deputy Serjeant-at-Arms.
-Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947, I present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the resolutions of the 100th meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council held in Launceston, Tasmania, in February 1977.
Pursuant to section 11 of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974, 1 present a supplementary agreement in relation to the provision of financial assistance to New South Wales for land acquisition for nature conservation purposes-Violet Hill, 1976-77.
Report and Ministerial Statement Mr KILLEN (Moreton-Minister for Defence)For the information of honourable members, I present the conclusions of the Board of Inquiry into the fire at the Naval Air Station, Nowra, New South Wales, on 4 December 1 976. I seek leave to make a brief statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable members will recall that on 4 December 1976 a fire at the Naval Air Station, Nowra, burnt down a hangar and destroyed or damaged 10 Grumman S2E Tracker aircraft and associated equipment. The Board of Inquiry was convened by the Flag Officer Commanding East Australia Area under the authority of the Naval Defence Act and was directed to examine the security arrangements and fire prevention measures which existed before the fire, how the fire was fought and action taken to minimise loss after the fire started, and to make recommendations to prevent a recurrence. They were advised that their report should state whether the fire and subsequent damage and destruction were attributable to acts or omissions on the part of any person or persons.
The Board’s inquiry was conducted concurrently with an extensive investigation undertaken by the New South Wales Police Force, assisted by Naval Police and the Commonwealth Police Force. The police investigations continued altogether for over 12 weeks. Approximately 2000 people were interviewed. The Board of Inquiry enjoyed exceptionally close co-operation and integration of effort with the police. The Board of Inquiry was assisted by a specialist in fire services and security from the Royal Australian Air Force and by experts drawn from a broad spectrum of specialised agencies of Commonwealth, State and local governments. I take this opportunity to record the appreciation of the Government for the valuable assistance provided by all authorities and persons to the Board of Inquiry. The Board of Inquiry established that the fire in H hangar was caused by deliberate action. Aviation gasoline was drained to the hangar floor from the tanks of at least two aircraft, the sprinkler system shut-off valve was closed and the gasoline was lit. The person solely responsible for these actions was Able Seaman Graham John Trent.
The conclusions I have tabled are taken verbatim from the Board of Inquiry report, except for names of individuals which have been removed in accordance with the practice that documents tabled in the House should not contain the names of individuals who are the subject of criticism.
The major conclusions of the Board of Inquiry were that the material aspects of security of aircraft within the hangar and of the hangar itself were less than adequate; various procedures relating to security of aircraft and hangars at the Naval Air Station were unsatisfactory; certain persons did not carry out their security duties in accordance with orders; various proposals to enhance the security of the Naval Air Station had not been put into effect; the standards of construction of H hangar were below those considered appropriate today for the safe stowage of aircraft; and the response to the alarm was good, the fire could not have been extinguished sooner or more closely confined, the actions taken to fight the fire were sound and many men showed great courage and determination in fighting the fire and removing aircraft to safety.
As honourable members will see from the paper I have tabled, the Board also drew conclusions on other matters of lesser importance dealing with inadequacies or deficiencies in the administration of security and fire protection at the Station. In April this year Able Seaman Trent was tried by court-martial on 13 charges of wilfully damaging a hangar and wilfully destroying or damaging a number of aircraft. The courtmartial found that Trent did the acts charged but was insane at the time when the acts were done so as not to be responsible according to law for his actions. The court-martial ordered that Trent be kept in custody until the pleasure of the Governor-General is known. Ten officers have been dealt with for their failure to ensure adequate security of the Air Station and its valuable assets and for not exercising proper supervision of duty security personnel on the night of the fire. The officers have been censured or admonished, including two severely censured at the highest level.
Short of trial and conviction by court-martial a censure is the most severe action that may be taken against an officer in peacetime. Consideration was given to the trial by court-martial of some of the officers concerned for negligence. Before an officer can be convicted by courtmartial in relation to negligence, it must be established beyond reasonable doubt that his conduct amounts to neglect in the manner charged. If so, it must further be established that the neglect is blameworthy or culpable in the circumstances. After receiving legal advice it was decided not to proceed by court-martial. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that a number of officers had fallen short of the standards expected of them to such a degree that censure or admonition was warranted. In addition, charges were laid against 10 sailors in summary proceedings. The offences alleged involved breaches of discipline committed whilst on duty. One sailor was found not guilty. In the other nine cases convictions resulted and fines were imposed.
Immediate steps were taken to improve the security protection of naval aircraft and the base complex. The following specific actions have been taken:
Some $43,000 has been expended or committed on works to improve security since the fire. In addition, items have been included in the works program for this financial year to provide for improved security to a number of areas in the Station, principally to extend the facilities for the introduction of two new fire tenders, to improve the perimeter road, to provide a flammable stowage for one hangar, and to improve security and fire protection in a number of other buildings. These items are being progressed as rapidly as practicable. Consideration is being given to a number of further measures including provision of additional security fencing, illumination and security alarms for other sensitive areas, illumination of the aircraft hardstanding adjacent to the hangars, and renewal of lighting in some hangars using flame-proof fitments. Action is proceeding for the early installation of intruder alarm systems to the appropriate hangars at the Air Station. A full periodic inspection of the Naval Air Station has recently been completed. Considerable improvement in the Station’s security awareness has been reported.
There can be no doubt that the fire at the Naval Air Station, Nowra, was a severe blow to our defence capabilities at the time. The Government was able quickly to replace the aircraft. I wish to acknowledge that this action would not have been possible without the prompt and most generous assistance of the United States Government and the United States Navy. In all, the estimated value of the hangar, aircraft and equipment lost amounted to nearly $9m. The cost to replace the aircraft and equipment, which has already been announced, is estimated at nearly $7m. It is pertinent to remind honourable members that the Naval Air Station at Nowra is an extensive and complex facility. Its primary functions are to provide a base for the operational squadrons for HMAS Melbourne when disembarked, for training squadrons and for Fleet requirements; to provide organisational and intermediate level maintenance and support for naval aircraft; and to provide operational training for air crew and to provide ground training for maintenance personnel. In addition to normal naval operational and training flying, the Naval Air Station meets demands for search and rescue and aid to the civil community. The Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Station is also responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Jervis Bay airfield and the missile range. In all he commands nearly 2000 people and at the time of the fire there were 61 aircraft at his Station. The Naval Air Station and the Jervis Bay target services group have consistently maintained high standards in meeting their flying, maintenance and training commitments.
It could be argued that fault lay in the system where physical improvements to security that had been requested were not provided. I do not share this view entirely as it was within local authority to make alternative arrangements pending the introduction of improvements. In any case, it will always remain extremely difficult to prevent the irrational action of a person from within one’s own organisation. These points do not excuse the unsatisfactory state of security which existed at the Naval Air Station at the time of the fire and I do not condone or underestimate the faults and inadequacies that this inquiry has exposed. In the face of the fire itself, the performance of that Station’s personnel stands very much to their credit. To enter the hangar and to approach the heat of the fiercely burning fire demanded great courage, a courage shown by many that night. A number of young and inexperienced sailors fought the fire to the point of collapse and after revival continued to volunteer for further duty. Others, well aware of the dangers of the operation, hazarded their lives to remove aircraft from the hangar even to the point of re-entering the burning building after being ordered to leave as the roof might further collapse. Personally, I commend them and believe that honourable members would join me in this. As a result of their actions 16 personnel are being considered for appropriate awards.
The most significant lesson from this unfortunate affair is that the security of valuable defence assets rests primarily in the hands of the users. Commanding officers must guard their assets as thoroughly as they have been trained to use them. But it is the personal and continual watchfulness of every officer and man that is our foremost defence for the security of our assets. The Chiefs of the three Services share my views in this regard whole-heartedly, and immediately following the fire they took steps to improve security awareness and training on the part of all members of the defence force. While the conclusions indicated that there was much that could be done to improve security by way of modern protection devices, firefighting equipment and provision of security personnel, all these must be weighed against competing demands for limited defence resources of money and manpower. It is a delicate matter of judgment to determine just what proportion of our resources should be devoted to what might be regarded as an insurance premium.
The fire at the Naval Air Station, Nowra, has caused me deep concern. I say that with all bluntness. That such valuable equipment should have been destroyed in such a manner is deplorable. That security procedures were not properly observed, and in some respects were inadequate, cannot be excused. They will not be excused. As the Minister responsible I acknowledge to the Parliament the clear and ultimate responsibility I hold in this most unhappy sequence of events. The Nowra fire experience has not been dealt with in isolation. Misfortune can be a harsh tutor. The report of the Board has been closely studied. Where appropriate, the lessons of the Nowra fire will be sternly followed.
-by leave-I join with the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) in commending publicly the courage of those members of the armed Services who displayed great courage and dedication on the night of the fire at the Nowra air base. It is clear from what the Minister has said and from reports in the media that many men extended themselves beyond what would normally be regarded as a reasonable level of endurance and exposed themselves to considerable danger in this display of courage. Those men deserve commendation. I am pleased that the Minister has seen fit to note publicly for the record that appropriate action will be taken to acknowledge properly that display of courage.
For all that, the report is a most distressing and disturbing document. It is the report of a $9m outrage. It is a farrago of grave errors, breathtaking blunders, crass inefficiency and sheer incompetence. It is the record of massive neglect of duty on the part of numerous members of the armed Services. The most significant part of the document that the Minister has presented to the Parliament and of his statement is that the inferences, especially from the document, make it clear that only the edges of that major scandal have been touched upon. Ten sailors have been charged in summary proceedings and nine have been convicted and fined. Ten officers were censured or admonished but apparently not charged. That is remarkable. The captain runs his ship aground and gets a rap over the knuckles; the gunner’s mate and his offsider are hauled before the drumhead court and are convicted.
There is another aspect of the Minister’s presentation to the Parliament which leaves me more than a little curious, that is, his display of tenderness about the disclosure of names. He suggests that this is consistent with the practice of the House. As far as I am able to establish through checking with most eminent authorities in this House, it is not a practice established by precedent but rather something that has been done by a Minister on some occasions. As far is I can establish, no consistent pattern of practice is followed in such matters in the terms in which the Minister suggests. I understand that on occasions on which the practice pursued by the Minister on this occasion has been adopted it has been usual to indicate why the practice has been adopted. Usually there are powerfully important reasons, associated with the public interest, to justify the non-disclosure of names in such a situation.
Let us remember, this is a $9m outrage- a public scandal for which the community has to pay. I shall outline some of the evidence of the scandalous circumstances associated with this incident. A far less serious offence in a civil court would result in full disclosure in the media. In the circumstances at the very least the Parliament of the nation, as the responsible authority husbanding the taxpayers’ cash and administering the responsible public offices of government, has a right to know exactly who was charged and with what, who was admonished or censured, or whatever the action was. This is, as far as I can establish, a most unusual procedure for the Minister to have adopted on this occasion. It displays a tenderness for the personal feelings of some people, which is in marked contrast to the total absence of tenderness for other groups in the community who are berated, assaulted and attacked by Government spokesmen from time to time for much less serious matters.
I say that there are scandalous circumstances associated with this matter. The Minister glossed over the scandalous circumstances rather superficially. In his statement he said, among other things:
The major conclusions of the Board of Inquiry were that various procedures relating to security of aircraft and hangars at the Naval Air Station were unsatisfactory . . .
Let us look at the unsatisfactory nature of some of these matters to which he referred. At page 3 of the report of conclusions- it is no more detailed than that; it is a bare skeleton from the Board of Inquiry- paragraph 393 (a) states:
The aircraft in the hangar could not be securely locked as they were not fitted with approved security locks;
This is a most peculiar set of circumstances. Surely our armed Services are not reduced to using sticking plaster to lock the doors of expensive and highly secret equipment. Paragraph 393 (b) states:
The hangar could not be securely locked as some door locking pins could not be engaged, others could be manipulated-
What a delicate word to use, but I shall come back to that - from outside the hangar, and the locks on the doors were not of an approved security type;
As I understand newspaper reports, the manipulation he referred to consisted of using a broom handle to toss the lock open. This is a most curious set of security arrangements for one of the key defence establishments in this country. The whole thing could be blown open with a broom handle. Such is the complex nature of the security.
The Minister is a man who makes a profession so often of being a stern patriot in defence of the security of this country. He will not have a word of criticism levelled against the defence Services, more especially against the Department of Defence. He is quick to take defence in their defence. Yet here is more than ample justification for the most stern criticism to be levelled against the Department of Defence, against a section of the defence forces and against the political administration, however far back it goes and whatever area of the Navy it covers. Paragraph 393 (c) states: the offices and stores within the hanger were not secure as they were not fitted with approved security locks, nor were their keys returned on a secure keyboard;
Apparently we are now going to run our armed Services on some sort of honour system. This is in spite of an acknowledgment in this report that there have been earlier thefts of property from the Nowra base. Paragraph 393 (e) states: the hangar should have been protected by security alarms. Although installation had been proposed in December 1973 and the need agreed, it had not been effected by the time of the fire;
Who is responsible? We do not know. Somewhere along the pipeline of decision making there has been a breakdown. Perhaps someone in some senior position who is fonder of the more impressive displays that go with new capital equipment has decided that many of the things implicit in this particular section- I shall refer explicitly to those in a few seconds- become much lower priorities when compared with the need for grand displays. As I said, this is a most unhappy set of circumstances.
On page 4 of the conclusions of the Board of Inquiry paragraph 394 (a) states: the aircraft were not locked in the hangar with full time guards to control access as they were required to be;
Apparently we are training our armed Services for a part-time war. Paragraph 394 (b) states: although the hangars were classified areas by virtue of the equipment they contained they were not so designated and this was a factor contributing to their inadequate protection;
Someone simply forgot to put the armaments on the aircraft, to put the shells on the ship, and sent the aircraft to war. What nonsense! How does such an unsatisfactory set of circumstances ever develop in one of the key defence establishments of the armed services of this country?
Paragraph 394 further states: the arrangements for control of access to the hangar were unsatisfactory in that the lists of those who could draw and return keys was incomplete and not correctly authorised, and there were no procedures in force to determine that these personnel drawing and returning keys were authorised to do so.
Presumably the tea lady knew more about the functioning of the Nowra base than did the people supposed to be in charge of the administration and operation of security arrangements there. Paragraph 394 also states:
That is sheer neglect and laziness not just on the part of the people who neglected to perform those duties but also on the part of the people in senior positions at that base who were supposed to ensure that those duties were carried out. It seems to me that, as a simple principle, the Defence Services would apply some unexpected random checking procedure so that from time to time unexpected checks could be made of the standard of security at armed services bases throughout this country. One shudders with great sense of fear that perhaps what has been exposed here is merely a symptom of a general problem that has been allowed to develop through a deterioration of standards one way or another in the armed services. I turn to page 5 of the report where, under ‘Conclusions’, paragraph 396 states:
That the various proposals to enhance the security of the Air Station were not put into effect, we attribute to a combination of several causes.
Paragraph 396c then indicates that one of the causes was a lack of clarity as to who was responsible for action. So it seems that we are going to have plenty of admirals in the Navy and not enough sailors. It is almost a Gilbert and Sullivan farce. This is an incredible situation and the Minister seemed to brush it aside rather superficially today dealing in no way at all with the details of this $9m outrage which has occurred in Australia.
– I did nothing of the sort.
– Even in this brief and slender document there is clear evidence of neglect and dereliction of duty. The Minister is the person responsible for this section of the Department of Defence. How did this situation arise? Why have we not been provided with the substantial evidence from the investigation indicating how this grave deterioration in standards has occurred in the defence forces of the country? The Minister has converted the Navy into the laughing stock of the country and the Navy does not deserve that sort of treatment.
This document discloses a record of laxity and bungling. Paragraph 396e reveals that ‘in several instances, oversight or procrastination by those responsible for action’ was one of the causes of the problems identified by the inquiry. Why have we not had some hard firm tough exposition from the Minister about this matter? Why has there not been the sort of toughness which he likes to display in the words he uses from time to time in the House when dealing with largely irrelevant matters? Why have we not had some tough exposition from him on this oversight and procrastination by those responsible? But in a situation where there is an absence of clarity as to who is responsible for action and when such a damning indictment is tabled in the Parliament with such a short and superficial comment being made by the Minister about it, how can we have any confidence in the defence Services? Referring to the principal deficiencies at the time of the fire, paragraph 399 states:
Paragraph 405e, which refers to the conduct of fire fighting operations, contains the conclusion: that there are drawbacks in the use of dissimilar couplings on hydrants and on vehicles.
The document discloses a litany of disastrous administration from the top down to the bottom, of neglect and of indifference. We are used to hearing from this Minister dissertations about the powerful readiness, alertness and defence preparedness of the defence forces of Australia. I am embarrassed to confess, however, that this report converts the Navy into a laughing stock before the Australian public and the Minister wants to brush it aside with such a superficial statement.
– That is a contemptible thing to say.
– This represents one of the most scandalous set of circumstances that has been presented to this country. It reveals an absence of security and shows that people are able to jig open with a broom handle the door of the main hangar containing these aircraft comprising a large section of the Fleet Air Arm preparedness. In spite of the acknowledged fact that there have been thefts of gasoline at the base it was still possible to open the door with a broom handle. The Navy was brought to its knees with the jiggle of a broomstick.
The hard fact is that, if procedures had been sound and had been properly followed, this event would not have happened. There has been neglect in the failure to install fire protection equipment and where it has been installed it has been inadequately set up. On that score alone it seems to me that there should be a follow up inquiry to find out who is responsible for that and what sort of decisions took priority over decisions about fire protection at the base and to determine whether this sort of thing occurs in other Australian defence establishments.
I remind honourable members that this is not the first fire to occur at the Nowra air base. In the course of questioning in this Parliament over some years the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) established that in 1967 there was a fire, on Christmas Eve, at the Nowra air base and the Commonwealth Fire Board, which is supposed to have reported to it all fires, received a report of a fire to a hut involving damage to the value of $8,000. Persistent questioning by the Leader of the Opposition established that there was also the destruction of a trailer containing expensive equipment to the value of $ 1.6m. That was not brought to the notice of the Commonwealth Fire Board. It was not acknowledged in this House when the Leader of the Opposition first started questioning on this matter in the late 1 960s. It seems that there may well be a long history of laxity on the part of the naval authorities, whoever they may have been from time to time, at Nowra in first of all not fully acknowledging their responsibilities by making full disclosure of matters such as this and ensuring that the administration of the air base and of the equipment thereon and of the property which is part of the base was attended to properly.
What I do find terribly distressing is paragraph 405e which states: that there are drawbacks in the use of dissimilar couplings on hydrants and on vehicles.
Fourteen years ago in Townsville there was a fire at a sugar terminal and the local fire brigade was unable to quell the fire and called for assistance on other authorities, such as the Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Defence, including the Royal Australian Air Force Base at
Townsville. It was discovered that none of the various fire fighting authorities called upon had common coupling equipment. As a result of that the present Leader of the Opposition proposed then that a common standard ought to be adopted. In government he applied as much pressure as he could to have that objective achieved. This would seem a trivial matter in a situation where there was no fire and no one was expecting one, but we do not anticipate fires. They just happen and they can be quite damaging and extemely expensive holocausts. Fourteen years later the common coupling standard has still not been established. More significantly, within one military establishment there were dissimilar couplings on hydrants and vehicles. Clearly, that must have acted as a serious impediment in the fighting of a fire.
There is one other aspect I wish to take up before I conclude. It is apparent to me from the report of the Board of Inquiry that it clearly inferred that there are other authorities who bear considerable responsibility in this matter who remained indifferent to submissions about the need for adequate fire-fighting equipment and who established higher priorities than giving adequate attention to the needs of the security of the Nowra naval base. Let us not be under any misapprehension as to the lack of security at the Nowra naval base. A day or two after the fire a reporter from the Australian newspaper was able to enter the base by glibly presenting himself to the guard at the gate. I seem to recollect that he had a meal, played snooker or indulged in some casual pastime without being challenged in any serious way. I found then and I find even more now that the Minister’s comments of that time were totally unconvincing. This document confirms the slackness we have seen.
Who are the people responsible for the decisions which have allowed these gaps and defects to have arisen in the arrangements at the Nowra naval base? Are they the top brass in the Navy who wanted more and better presentable capital equipment and were prepared to make that their priority at the expense of adequate firefighting and security equipment at the Nowra base? Are the men at the top of the Public Service who have been passing advice to the political administrator at fault? Is it some political administrator? I believe these things need to be sorted out. I repeat that we have a $9m scandal before us. Ten sailors and officers alone should not be receiving the kick in the pants for what has happened. Who are the culprits? We deserve to know. What about the position of the Minister and the head of his Department or, perhaps, both? Is the situation serious enough to represent itself as serious neglect on the part of one or both? The whole thing is bristling with challenging questions which have not been attended to. The sort of patriotism that the Minister likes to throw about so easily on issues of defence is not a sufficient substitute for the information we require now.
– Why do you not accuse me of lighting the fire? It is the only thing you have not done.
-Neglect can be as significant a contributory factor as any other. You are the Minister and you acknowledge in your report-
– That is a contemptible slur. You were the Treasurer. Am I to blame you? What an absurdity!
– Was it false gallantry when the Minister stated:
As the Minister responsible I acknowledge to the Parliament the clear and ultimate responsibility I hold in this most unhappy sequence of events.
I have taken up your offer. I have reminded you of what you said. I pointed out very properly that you were correct then. Now, when I take you up we find how empty and shallow are the principles of parliamentary responsibility that you enunciate. You are certainly dedicated to them as long as no one seeks to nail your responsibility upon them.
– Order! The honourable gentleman will address his remarks through the Chair and not directly across the table.
– We intend to give much more detailed consideration to this matter. We are concerned about standards in the Department of Defence as well as in the defence services. We are not fobbed off with some sort of fustian response to the National Times, picking semantically on one minor issue, to attack a female journalist who wrote a most telling series of articles about the Department and the Minister. We want to know more. Miss Summers has set in motion a most important public demand for inquiry. We intend to take that up. As a start we believe that a joint select committee of inquiry should be appointed to inquire into and report upon:
That goes nowhere near as far as all the other matters to which I referred. Clearly, we want to give consideration to the other matters. But we are gravely concerned that what has been exposed in this instance may be more general than we realise. This country cannot afford another $9m scandal. The taxpayers do not want to see their money frittered away in that manner. The security of this country cannot stand that sort of savage blow against its preparedness. As there is no other facility available for me within the procedures of the House other than giving notice at a later date I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Oxley from moving:
That a joint select committee of inquiry be appointed to inquire into and report upon:
Security arrangements for all defence establishments in Australia;
Fire prevention measures applicable at all such establishments including the suitability of buildings to minimise fire damage;
The standard of, and any need for improvement in, training of personnel for the prevention and fighting of fires;
The need for common procedures and equipment between the Services and between the Services and civilian authorities for fire prevention and fire fighting;
Other relevant matters.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. I address myself to the last paragraph of the motion, ‘Other relevant matters’. What worries me is that an insane person was in the Navy and had a grudge against it without the Navy being aware of it, or being aware of it and not taking appropriate action. This worries me all the more as I have on a number of occasions made representations on behalf of servicemen, including Navy personnel, who, to put it at its lowest, appear to be psychologically unsuited for the Services and yet cannot get a discharge. I realise that a definitive diagnosis of psychosis is not easy and that there may be servicemen who would try to take advantage of a softer policy to obtain an early discharge. I put it to the Minister: Is it really worthwhile for the Services to keep such persons if there is any doubt?
I have not yet had a chance to read the report of the Board of Inquiry. As far as I know, the Board of Inquiry did not deal with this particular aspect. I assume it met before the trial. It was only at the trial that the question of insanity was raised. I urge the Minister that when the matter is discussed by the committee we are proposing the question of the suitability of Service personnel in general be considered. If Service personnel feel strongly against and obviously seem to have a grudge against the Service some attempt should be made to discharge them at the earliest possible opportunity.
That the motion (Mr Hayden’s ) be agreed to.
The House divided. (MrSpeaker-Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– For the information of honourable members I present the following reports of the Industries Assistance Commission:
Measuring, Checking, Precision Instruments and Apparatus, etc;
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or requests:
Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill1977.
Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Bill1977.
Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill1977.
Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill1977.
Live-stock Export Charge Bill1977.
Live-stock Export Charge Collection Bill 1977.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill 1977.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1977.
Meat Research Amendment Bill 1977.
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2) 1 977.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill 1977.
Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill 1977.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Bill1977.
States Grams (Roads Interim Assistance) Bill1977.
Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill1977.
Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Bill1977.
Trade Practices Amendment Bill1977.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Income Tax (Companies and Superannuation Funds) Amendment Bill1977.
Australian National Railways Amendment Bill1977.
Housing Loans Insurance AmendmentBill1977.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill1977.
Roads Acts AmendmentBill 1977.
Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill 1977.
Wool Industry AmendmentBill1977.
Wool Tax Amendment Bills (Nos.1 to 5)1977.
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1977-78.
Supply Bill (No.2) 1977-78.
Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Bill 1977.
Dairy Produce Amendment Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Assistance Bill 1977.
Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977.
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill1977.
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill1 977.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill1 977.
Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Bill1977.
States Grants (Advanced Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977.
States Grants (Schools Assistance) Amendment Bill1977.
States Grants (Technical and Further Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977.
States Grants (Universities Assistance) Amendment Bill 1977.
Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill1977.
National Labour Consultative Council Bill1977.
Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill1 977.
Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill1977.
Live-stock Export Charge Bill1977.
Live-stock Export Charge Collection Bill1 977.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Amendment Bill1 977.
Live-stock Slaughter Levy Collection Amendment Bill 1977.
Meat Research Amendment Bill1977.
Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977.
Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 2 )1977.
Health Insurance Amendment Bill1977.
Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Bill 1977.
States Grants (Roads Interim Assistance) Bill 1977.
Defence Service Homes Amendment Bill 1977.
Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission Bill1977.
Trade Practices Amendment Bill1977.
Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) Bill 1977.
Constitution Alteration ( Retirement of Judges) Bill1 977.
Constitution Alteration (Referendums) Bill 1977.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave of the House to move motions relating to Sessional Orders for the routine of business of the House, the power to add a protest or dissent to a select committee report, the counting of members in a quorum, the Speaker’s discretion relating to the adjournment of the House when a quorum is not present, and the ringing of division bells in successive divisions. If I may, I would like to give a brief explanation of my request for leave. On 10 March the House agreed to seven Sessional Orders relating to the proceedings of the House. Of the Sessional Orders, those relating to the hours of meeting and the adjournment of sittings and time limits for the adjournment debate have effect, unless otherwise ordered, for the remainder of the session. Those relating to the routine of business, the power to add a protest or dissent to a select committee report, the counting of members in a quorum and the Speaker’s discretion as to adjourning the House, and the time forringing division bells on successive divisions operated for the remainder of the autumn period of sittings and ceased to have effect when the House rose for the winter adjournment. There would appear to be no reason against the reinstatement of those Sessional Orders which lapsed when the House last rose. The House will thus have an opportunity to evaluate further the operation of those Sessional Orders. I believe that it is preferable to act in this manner than for a motion now to be introduced for their adoption in the Standing Orders as there are a number of other matters in abeyance which I trust will be resolved and which similarly may be introduced in the form of Sessional Orders and in that way be tried within the Parliament before they are finally adopted in the Standing Orders themselves. For that reason I seek leave to move a number of related motions.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That, unless otherwise ordered, on those alternate sitting Thursdays when Grievance Debate is the first Order of the Day, Government Business, under Standing Order 106 or when General Business has precedence on the Notice Paper under Standing Order 104, so much of Standing Order 101 (routine of business) be suspended as would prevent Grievance Debate or General Business, as the case may be following 5. Ministerial statements, by leave, and preceding 6. Matter of public importance.
-I wish to make the comment that I believe that the practice of trying out new procedures by introducing them in the form of Sessional Orders before the Standing Orders are amended is a good practice.
-The Opposition does not object to the motions as circulated. We agreed to the matters contained in them during the previous session. I would point out, however, that I think that there is a limit to how long Sessional Orders can be used as a substitute for Standing Orders. I think that the practice of using this method commenced when Mr Daly was Leader of the House. I see advantages in it but I do not see it as being a substitute for considering the actual Standing Orders and the changes to those Standing Orders which should be made on a permanent basis. Under these circumstances the House can agree to Sessional Orders and they can be subsequently allowed to lapse by a government without any consideration being given to them by the House- merely by the effluxion of time.
Another matter that I wish to raise with the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) at this stage is the question of the consideration of the report of the Committee on Committees and the broader recommendations of the Standing Orders Committee, which should be brought before this House during this session at least. Subject to the Parliament still continuing at that time, I hope that prior to the autumn session the Leader of the House will bring forward the necessary amendments to the Standing Orders to bring about the alterations which are acceptable to the House and which should be made. The Opposition does not object to these Sessional Orders being introduced at this time but considers that the trial period should not be too protracted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Mr Speaker, perhaps I could incorporate the balance of the motions in one motion.
– The Leader of the House will have to seek leave to move the remaining four motions in the form of one motion.
-I seek leave to move the balance of the motions relating to the Sessional Orders in the form of one motion.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
( 1 ) That, unless otherwise ordered, if it appears that a quorum of members is not present following:
That the provisions of this resolution have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
In response to the remarks of the Manager of Opposition Business in the House I say that I am quite sure that it will not be the sittings of the House that will preclude any debate later in this session on matters that relate to the Standing Orders. There was also in his remarks a comment regarding the report of the Committee on Committees. The principal difficulty has been the consideration of a paper which you have prepared, Mr Speaker, which back benchers severally have prepared and which the Committee on Committees has prepared as to determining the best manner by which legislation might be considered in this House other than that which is now provided for in the Standing Orders. I hope that that will proceed to the point where some trial Sessional Orders will be introduced with the agreement of honourable members and from that position we will then -
-As I was saying, from members on both sides of the House. I hope that we will then be in the position where we can at one time introduce all the amendments to the Standing Orders. The reason that these proposals are being moved as Sessional Orders at the moment is because it is thought to be preferable that there be only one new printing of the Standing Orders. I hope that the others can be adopted during the course of this session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The attitude of the Fraser Government as exemplified by the statements of the Minister for Primary Industry regarding British migrants.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Opposition has raised this matter for discussion today because it believes that this Parliament should consider at the earliest opportunity the appalling display of xenophobia exhibited by a senior Minister over the past week and a half. In a series of speeches, television and radio appearances and newspaper articles the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has vented his prejudice against British migrants who engage in trade union affairs by blaming them for the dire economic straits into which this country is steadily sinking. In making these sinister accusations he has been undeterred by the complete lack of evidence to support his charges and apparently is in no way bothered by the thought that he may be fanning the flames of racial discord and intolerance, which could have devastating implications for a multi-racial society such as Australia is today. However, the Minister has not simply identified the problem as he sees it. He has, in his typically constructive and thoughtful way, proposed solutions to it. He strongly implied that Australian citizens of British origin who get themselves mixed up in strikes should be deported. He said:
Their interests are not Australian, their origins are not Australian, and one wonders whether action should not be taken against them.
The clear implication there is that he thought deportation should be applied. One of his more Neanderthal back benchers has since suggested that such deportations should be to the Soviet Union. On further consideration the Minister has recently proposed another solution, that migrants not be allowed to stand for trade union office until they have lived in this country for a number of years.
The Opposition is disgusted and alarmed that a senior Minister should be allowed to parade his fascist fantasies with the apparent approval of the Government he represents. Furthermore, his claim that he has had amazing support from his parliamentary colleagues for what he has been saying elevates this matter beyond the rankings of an individual Minister to the collective view of the Government parties. That is an extremely serious development in this country, but not altogether surprising. Indeed, it can be seen as the logical development of a campaign of scapegoating that his Government has been pursuing with increasing vigour as the economy collapses around it. As unemployment escalates to increasingly record levels, as inflation continues at double figure rates, as economic growth ceases, as farm income declines alarmingly, as our international reserves run down and as the value of the dollar is greatly depreciated, this Government is becoming increasingly desperate and in its desperation is increasingly anxious to pin the blame for its abysmal failures on the trade union movement.
Minister after Minister is reported in the Press as blaming the unions for the plight of the nation. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in particular fulminates periodically about the need for more legislation to control them. In conducting this vigorous and energetic campaign of buck passing the Government has been entirely undeterred by the fact that the official evidence of strike activity was showing, and continues to show, a very substantial decline in the level of strike action. The first statement by a Government spokesman in recognition of this fact came from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) when he was not in Australia but in Japan. In addressing the JapanAustralia Society in June he was unable to resist the temptation to boast about the extent to which his Government had reduced industrial disputation in this country. He said that, if the rare event of the Medibank national stoppage was excluded, the time lost due to industrial stoppages in 1976 was the lowest since 1968 and that in the March quarter of this year the time lost was the lowest in a March quarter for 5 years and the number of employees involved was the lowest in 10 years, all of which, of course, is true. He was also unable to resist assuring the Japanese audience that the amount of time lost in industrial disputes in Australia was generally less than that due to industrial accidents. That also was true but had not been said by any Minister in Australia up until that time. But it was being said at that time in Japan, not here.
As all this seemed to be running rather counter to the Government’s developing union bash campaign we on this side of the House were interested to see which view would predominatewould the Government ignore these figures except when placating foreigners whom it wanted to invest here and pursue its union denigration campaign or would it change course, stop blaming the unions and emphasise its record in reducing industrial disputation? But the Government has had no trouble in coping with this quandary. It simply incorporated the decline in industrial stoppages into its extremely short list of achievements but continued full bore with its union bashing campaign.
Thus the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has twice in the last 2 weeks managed to accuse the unions of wrecking the chances of economic recovery and in the course of the same speech to boast about the substantial diminution in the level of industrial disputation. This absolutely blatant attempt to score both ways on the industrial relations issue vividly exposes the paucity of this Government ‘s response to the abysmal economic mess it has created. Unable to abandon the ideologically appealing approach to blaming the unions it simply continues that line whilst also emphasising a totally contrary argument. Admittedly it is only the Prime Minister who has perfected this technique. Other Ministers are either totally disregarding the decline in industrial disputation, as is the case with the Minister for Primary Industry, and bashing unions with increasing vigour or, in the case of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, a heavy emphasis is being placed on the figures to show what a good job he is doing.
The spate of attacks on British migrants by the Minister for Primary Industry last week cannot, therefore, be viewed in isolation. They must be seen as a crass extension of the general union bash campaign to a particular section of the trade union movement. But why has the Minister sought to extend the Government’s campaign in this way and to do it with such unbridled vigour? In our view it is not simply a matter of him being an enthusiastic supporter of the Government’s anti-union campaign.
There is another factor involved, and that is his own gross failure as a Minister in the eyes of the people he supposedly represents- the rural community. The fact is that the farming community is increasingly impatient with his Government’s failure to improve its lot, and well it may be. The Bureau of Agricultural Economics has forecast that in 1977-78 real farm income will decline by 14 per cent from its already low level. Whole sections of rural industry are being increasingly vocal in regard to their dissatisfaction with this Government’s performance. Just over a week ago at the time the Minister for Primary Industry launched his attack on British migrants Mr Barry Cassell, the Federal Director of the National Country Party, announced he was leaving that job to become National Director of the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia, an organisation that has been trenchantly critical of the Government. The statements Mr Cassell made on leaving the National Country Party showed that he was far from satisfied with its performance in government. An article in the Melbourne Age of 8 August 1977 stated:
The retiring Federal director of the National Country Party, Mr Barry Cassell, yesterday attacked the party for ‘ forgetting its basic ideology ‘.
Mr Cassell said the NCP had given too much attention to the mining industry at the expense of beef producers. ‘Australia’s cattlemen have had a gutful ‘, he said. ‘The party has forgotten its basic ideology and needs to be reminded of the plight of the cattle industry’.
The fact that the ex-Federal Director of the National Country Party is disenchanted with the Government regarding its rural policy and regards it as being too concerned with the mining industry at the expense of its traditional supporters gives some idea of the extent of dissatisfaction that exists in the rural community with the Government and in particular with the Minister who is responsible for policy in that areathe Minister for Primary Industry, the man who has been so vocal lately.
It is surely no coincidence that that Minister’s sudden insight into the cause of our economic problems and his frenzied attempts to spread the message over the last week or so occurred concurrently with the revelation of major dissatisfaction with his performance within his own Party. Nor did his rantings about the British disease cut any ice with those who understand rural problems and are concerned to see policy initiatives undertaken to solve them. I quote from an article which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 1 5 August. It stated:
The Federal Government should stop bashing the unions and the British, a leader of the beef industry said yesterday.
The National director of the Cattlemen’s Union, Mr Barry Cassell -
The man who just over a week ago was the Federal Director of the National Country Party- . . . Said the negative approach should be replaced by positive policy initiatives.
Mr Cassell resigned as director of the National Party a week ago to take up the cattlemen ‘s post.
His criticism of the Government is a direct reference to the political storm created last week by the National Country Party Deputy Leader, Mr Sinclair.
So there we have the ex-Federal Director of the National Country Party just over a week ago publicly saying that this campaign of denigration of the trade union movement and the British should stop. Mr Cassell ‘s comments demonstrate the patheticness of the Minister’s campaign against British migrants. His comments were clearly motivated by the desire to be seen to be doing something to help the farmers. But, as Mr Cassell said, it is totally negative and totally lacking in positive policy measures to assist the rural industries.
But it is not just a matter of buck passing and negativism. These comments may well have a decidedly harmful effect on community relations in this country. My colleague the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) will elaborate on this point. But I make the point now that we on this side of the House are greatly concerned that for narrow political purposes a Minister is prepared to make comments that promote racism in this country. The cheapest political response to any problem is to blame some section of the community. But when that section is narrowed to a racial group and totally unsubstantiated sweeping allegations are made in regard to them, one is playing with fire, particularly in a multi-racial society such as ours. Such simplistic notions can be attractive to people who are desperate to find solutions to our problems and eager to believe that those problems are all due to some group. If that becomes a widespread belief then the basis for racialism, discrimination and perhaps worse is established. Furthermore, by calling for deportation or discriminatory treatment for British migrants because of their participation in trade union affairs, the Minister not only offends the British born but all the nonBritish migrants who are made to realise that they are still regarded as different from Australian-born citizens by some people in power and therefore liable to be denounced or discriminated against. I remind the House that there are three million migrants in Australia and one million children of migrants. That is a large section of our community. All of them must have been deeply disturbed by the events of last week. For some it would have been an uncomfortable reminder of what unscrupulous politicians in Europe were saying 40 years ago.
The Minister’s statement also demonstrates colossal ignorance of industrial relations. He assumes, as do all his colleagues judging from their public statements, that strikes occur because evil-minded union officials or shop stewards are trying to disrupt industry simply for political purposes. The Minister and his colleagues never stop to think-if they do they never acknowledgethat two sides are involved in industrial relations and that a high level of strikes indicates bad industrial relations but says nothing about the cause. As we have been talking about the British disease, so described by the Minister for Primary Industry, I refer to an article which appeared in a German magazine Der Spiegel on 1 August. The article assessed the view of German managers of German companies operating in Britain of the situation in England. It states:
German managers representing their firms in England have a quite different picture of the ‘English Disease’. They put major blame on their English manager colleagues. In the opinion of the German managers, if the English worker is correctly approached he is willing to work.
I stress those comments. The German managers stressed that in their opinion it is their English manager colleagues who are to blame for the industrial relations problems in that country. The article goes on to make the point that the German manager in Britain sees poor management, inadequate investment and insensitive industrial relations as the cause of the so-called British disease; not the British workers or their unions. So for God’s sake let us realise that there are two sides to industrial relations. I think the Government’s campaign of denigrating unions because of strikes totally misses the point. Of course, the Government is not interested in discussing the point that there are two sides and that if one simply union bashes this may have extraordinary negative reactions and adverse effects on the community. This point has been picked up by Rydge’s magazine which recently reported a study of industrial relations in the Pilbara region by a woman who turned out to be the daughterinlaw of the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court. This woman, Mrs Court, found that the major reason for bad industrial relations in the Pilbara was not that there were evilminded trade union officials operating there but that management was largely the cause. Rydge’s magazine went on in that article to state:
Union bashing may be all very well for election purposes but its real danger is that it thoroughly confuses the reality of industrial relations in this country and contributes to disharmony and lost production.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is unfortunate that the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) in pursuing his epithets and cliches and in trying in some way to answer a cause which he knows is lost, has really not identified and accepted the consequences and the implications of the narrow application of the statement which I made in five sentences at page 5 of a fairly complex speech relating to some of the problems of primary industry. The speech was made in a small country town; in a very rich agricultural region it is true. It was made following the presentation of a publication by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics concerning June trends. In that article the Bureau estimated that the real income per farm was expected to fall by as much as 14 per cent during the next 12-month period. From that I went to analyse some of the factors which were contributing to low incomes for farmers. Among those factors- it was not the only one- I identified a spread of industrial disputes. At the conclusion of my remarks I shall table this document which sets out industrial disputes as they affected primary industry from 1 July 1976 to 30 June 1977. It is an appalling list of incidents where, not as a result of industrial disputes but, in many instances, peculiarly politically based attacks, there has been a disruption of income which should be flowing back to primary producers.
As if that were not enough, only today I have had a report that in the rice industry there is a dispute between the Federated Storemen and Packers Union and the Federated Millers and Mill Employees Association, as a result of which it seems that 1 100 tons of bagged rice destined for Papua New Guinea and a cargo of 20 000 tons due to be loaded at Portland will not be loaded. It seems that the bans will cause significant unemployment in Echuca and Deniliquin. It is not only the rice growers who will suffer but also the very men whom honourable members on the other side purport to represent-the very men whom trade union leaders are supposed to represent. They are the ones who are suffering. That, of course, was the meat in my message. Let me state again what I said. There are a number of factors which prejudice the recovery of the Australian economy. As far as the rural sector is concerned, there are a number of consequences of industrial disputes, among other factors, which are prejudicing the level of income for those who are at the moment unfortunately amongst the lowest in expectation generally in average weekly earnings.
It is in those circumstances that nobody wants to deny that there are factors which we need to do something to correct. I have not peculiarly identified one sector. I shall come back to the British disease in a moment. What I have done is say that there are communist Australian trade union leaders. I have referred to radical left wing trade union leaders. Many of them are supported and fostered by members of the Australian Labor Party in this House and elsewhere in Australia. These people are intent not just on pursuing industrial action but on pursuing political action which, for example, has led to a complete embargo on the shipment of wheat to Chile. I am told that today Chile is one of the principal markets of East Germany. So apparently communists on the other side of the world are able to take advantage of the market but not the Australian wheat growers. The end product is not that Australian labour in any way receives a benefit, but that the individuals who are being led by the nose find that they have fewer job opportunities. That is really the background behind the statement I made.
It also needs to be said that there are a number of factors within the trade union movement about which we need to be concerned. Of course it is not peculiar that I have referred to the British disease. That is not something original. It has been referred to by many august authorities around Australia and around the world. I point out to those on the other side of the chamber who pretend that I am saying something racist and pursuing a vendetta against all British migrants, that that is arrant nonsense. In fact, many British migrants left Britain to come here to escape the same shop stewards who they find, to their regret, have followed them here. In fact, most British migrants have contributed enormously to the wellbeing of this country. They have been the lifeblood of this country. The honourable member for Gellibrand suggests that I have said ‘Deport them ‘. I did not say that. He read that into a speech. I did not say that. At no stage have I said that they should be deported. What I have said is that there are a few things that can be done within the trade union movement.
-What? Deport them?
-I will be happy to answer that question. I hope that one thing which will happen is that more Australian trade unionists will start participating in trade union affairs. I hope that they will participate not just in registering a vote but in seeking an appointment within the hierarchy of the trade union movement.
– What about shareholders?
-Even though the honourable member who is now interjecting does not agree, he realises that the fractionalising of the Australian trade union movement which has taken place as a result of the intervention of British shop stewards, has been rejected by many of those who are significant Australian trade union leaders. Let me quote from The British Disease by Professor G. C. Allen, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of London. Amongst other things, he stated:
Trade unions and management should abandon thenpresent obsolete institutional arrangements and learn from countries where industrial relations are harmonious.
He was referring to Britain, and he said a good deal more; but the problem is not peculiar to Britain. I could refer to a good many more authorities. It is interesting, for example, to refer to Mr Fred Nicol, the Federal President of the Storemen and Packers Union. In an article in the Sun on 3 September 1976 he blasted some
English migrant workers as being disruptive and antagonistic towards the union. He said:
They have their own peculiar independent attitudes and don’t try to slot in with the rest of the workforce . . .
They insist on telling us all about England, how good it is there and how to run industrial affairs.
They have become some of the biggest disrupters we have ever encountered.
So, this is not something that has been said peculiarly by me. Indeed, many British migrants nave written to me, communicated with me, and said that they too are concerned. It is true that the British disease does not exist only in the trade union movement, but it is important that we register its effect in the trade union movement. One letter I received from a gentleman in Victoria stated:
I work in an industry, which, in Victoria, employs approximately 5000 people, and at least 90 per cent of all shop delegates are of British origin. Only a handful are Australian or Maltese.
In our industry ‘pommie’ shop stewards have been and still are the biggest thorn in the backside of management. They are the most militant, most uncompromising, and most meddlesome pack of people we have ever known.
The extent of our problem has been so bad that at one stage we had a complete embargo on the hiring of anyone of British origin.
I am endeavouring to point out to the honourable member for Gellibrand that these remarks are not racist in origin; they are not union bashing, much as he likes to use that phrase. Rather, they are intended to identify some of the problems within the Australian community which need to be corrected if we are again to establish Australia as the sort of country it was pre- 1972, before he and his friends and colleagues made a mess of it. If the honourable member thinks that the remarks I made are without support, I suggest that he look at a poll that was conducted by Channel 7, Melbourne, last Thursday and Friday, when 26 32 1 people voted in support of my remarks and 1 1 305 voted against them.
Even within the hierarchy of the trade union movement there are people who very strongly support the remarks I made. It is important that we realise that the remarks were made in a narrow but very pertinent context. In ‘An Overview of the Problems of Migrants Workers’- a paper delivered by Dr June M. Hearn in an industrial relations program at the University of Melbourne in July 1976- she mentioned the Ford workers strike in Victoria in 1973 as a graphic illustration of union leaders being completely out of touch with their rank and file, who were mainly southern European. She referred to union shop stewards: . . . being forced to admit publicly their ignorance of migrant workers’ needs that went far beyond claims for increased wages.
She also said:
Similarly, in the same industry in South Australia in the early 1970s, migrant (predominantly British) workers were involved in repeated unofficial stoppages and alleged acts of industrial sabotage. The pommie shop-steward stirrer’ stereotype - these are not my words; these are Dr Hearn’s words- has been grossly exaggerated but, in some industries, particularly the metal trades, the incidence of Britishers as job delegates is quite marked, especially in regions of heavy migrant concentration, for example, the La Trobe Valley in Victoria. Many British migrant unionists, unencumbered by a language barrier, familiar with similar trade union institutions and practices in Britain and often schooled in a union system that relies heavily on strong shop-committee organisation, have been responsible for a substantial militant input into the Australian trade union scene.
Dr Stephen Haseler, a British Labour member of parliament and the author of the book The Death of British Democracy, in his seventh Sir Robert Menzies Lecture in Perth said:
Britain’s decline as a nation coincided, maybe not without reason, with the rise of the socialist generation.
There we have the link with the philosophers of the Left, and there are many others. Let me quote Mr Paul Johnson, British socialist and editor of the New Statesman magazine, who visited Australia last year. He said that the main cause of Britain’s current economic ills was the union monopoly. He said that unionists were so entrenched in key industries that they could raise wages to the level where viability of industry was threatened and in some cases destroyed. Mr Johnson said the same structures and practices of trade unions existed in Australia and there was no reason why we should be immune to the developments that have afflicted England.
Tragically, so many remarks of this kind have been made that it is important for people to realise that these practices are pernicious. They do affect industrial harmony and they do affect economic recovery. Mr Paul Johnson said in the New Statesman:
The tragic truth is that British socialism has had a devastating case to make out against postwar union leadership. Men ought to be judged by their record, and their record is contemptible, smug and self-assured, oblivious of any criticism. They have encouraged British industrial workers in habits and attitudes, in rules and procedures, in illusions and fantasies, which have turned the British working class into the coolies of the Western world and Britain into a stinking bankrupt industrial slum.
I hope, as we all do, that the British economy will recover, but those who see the harmful effects of some elements of the economy equally need to be listened to. The Chairman of the Fabian movement has said:
The direct total social gain from industrial action was not merely negligible, it might well have been negative. Neither in this country nor anywhere else - he was speaking of Britain- have trade unions been able to increase the share of wages and total national income. The increase in money wages has been frustrated by rising money prices. These rob the wage earner or his wife of the expected gain. Frustration and anger are the result. The indirect loss due to the resultant worsening of the balance of payments and the enforced slow-down of expansion was on the contrary immense. The crocodile tears shed by some about the fate of the low paid workers, the unemployed, the sick and the old is surely disingenuous. It is trade union action which through wage induced price movements has created the basic problem.
Tragically, there is a British disease. The British disease does not affect everybody. The British disease, as I have spoken of it, affects a few. It affects a few employees and a few in management. It is one of those elements which unfortunately have contributed to the rundown of the British economy. I hope that the British economy is on the mend and that the optimistic forecasts of the British High Commission will be realised. But my concern is not with Britain; it is with Australia. My concern is with the effect that industrial lawlessness has had on the incomes of the Australian community, on the maintenance of industrial harmony and on re-employment in this country. The former Labor Treasurer, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), shortly after his appointment as Treasurer remarked that one man’s pay increase can well be another man’s job, and how pertinent that is.
The whole reason for the campaign that I have been conducting is not to damn any one individual but to talk about those factors which have prejudiced economic recovery and are delaying re-employment in this country. If Australia is to recover we need to generate new employment opportunities. We need to minimise industrial lawlessness. We need to ensure that both management and trade union members coordinate and co-operate to regenerate this country so that those who are at the end of the line, such as the farmers I represent, are not totally disadvantaged. There is no doubt that the few words I spoke in five sentences at Tanunda nearly a fortnight ago have echoed around every town, village and community in Australia. They have won enormous support, and they have won support because they identified a basic problem. It is only the few; but, if we can correct the problems that those few have generated, I believe that our whole economy will be regenerated in a way which will contribute towards the realisation of what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) will put forward in his Budget Speech tonight.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– I rise to support the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). It is obvious that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is unrepentant about the deliberate, outrageous, vile, detestable attack he made on workers in this country, in particular migrant workers. The Minister has claimed that the speech was made to a small group of people in a country town, but in fact copies of the speech were put into the Press boxes in the Press Gallery in Parliament House and therefore it was meant to get the publicity it did. Further, the Minister quoted a statement by Dr Hearn as supporting his stand. In the Melbourne . Sun on 1 1 August an article appeared under the headline ‘Sinclair gets a blast. Produce facts- expert’. The Minister has not produced any facts today. His claims have been biased and unsubstantiated. Dr Hearn is quoted as saying, amongst other things:
All Australians would do themselves a lot more credit if they examined the causes of conflict rather than blame British migrants.
She is further quoted as saying:
Australia can ill-afford to fan the flames of racial tension.
That is what Dr Hearn thinks about the Minister’s remarks. I will have a few words to say about all these people the Minister has won to his side in a few moments. This is the action of a desperate individual whose long history of vicious union bashing is well known. The depths of degradation to which he and his colleagues will sink in order to take the heat off the Government for its abysmal failure to add up as a government are hard to imagine. Having weakened the economy- deliberately wrecked it- and deliberately created record unemployment levels, they are now callously and deliberately imposing the burden of their inadequacies on the backs of workers- in particular, migrant workers in this country. This phoney attempt to shift the blame from the Government is being exposed day after day by people in the community who are demanding that the Government get on with the job. The outburst by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party has brought to the light of day the evil and vicious intent underlying the Government’s tactics in this matter. He talks in terms of having the support of individuals in country organisations. But my friend, the honourable member for Gellibrand, referred to Mr Cassell who was, until a few days ago, an official of the National Country Party. He made certain remarks in the newspaper Stock and Land. I wonder how much support the Government and in particular the Minister is getting from the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia which Mr Cassell now heads. He said:
The union has been militant, favouring direct action. … Mr Cassell has said that his union represents ‘desperate men’ who regard militancy as the best weapon to force government action.
He said: ‘If things are not going well and we do not get a reasonable response to our pleas, we will be forced to be far more aggressive.
That could mean withholding stock from the market and other forms of direct action*.
I wonder what category Mr Cassell would come into? If he happened to be a British migrant, would he be sought out for special attention? I wonder whether he would be deported.
To ensure that Mr Cassell ‘s statement is regarded as taking the Minister to task about his union bashing, let me quote from a Press release- it is not a comment- signed by Barry Cassell and dated Sunday, 14 August 1977. He talks about Tuesday night’s Budget as an opportunity for the Federal Government to reduce the burden on country Australia. He said that to do this, 3 key elements are necessary, including redistribution away from country people of some of the unfair costs of controlling inflation. The third point he makes is that there should be positive policy initiatives to replace negative British and union bashing. What Mr Cassell thinks about the actions and the ravings of the Minister is well defined in his statement. The Minister’s tactics are a desperate attempt to hoodwink the Australian people; to take the minds of people off the further attack that undoubtedly will be made on the living standards of Australian workers in the Budget to be delivered this evening by the prince of posers, the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). The tactics are doomed to failure, however, because the people of this country have had enough of this Government’s incompetence and dishonesty. Mr Sinclair has not proved his allegations that the British disease, whatever that is, has been imported into Australia, nor has he said who imported it. On the contrary, the figures show the real position. Let me state the position in respect to the working days lost and show how the position deteriorated in 1977. The number of working days lost in 1976 due to industrial action represented 70 per cent of the total figure. In 1975 it was 45 per cent and in 1974 it was 40 per cent. It is interesting to note that this represents less than 1 hour, 57 minutes and 12 seconds, to be precise, for each member of the work force. More working days are lost in Australia due to the common cold. Mr Sinclair has not proved his argument because he cannot prove, any more than the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) or any of his Ministers can, that there has been an inordinate amount of industrial unrest in Australia. The Prime Minister cannot prove it because the facts tell a different story, as I have indicated. But it suited Mr Sinclair to pick out some phrases that he found temporarily appealing and to voice it about the countryside. It is an old technique of taking a lie or a half truth and repeating it ad nauseam in the hope that some people might find it convenient to believe it. Mr Sinclair has certainly managed to flush out the fascists in our society.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! Is the honourable member quoting from material? If not, he should refer to the honourable member as the Minister for Primary Industry.
– It is the old technique of taking a lie or a half truth and repeating it. This has been done by the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. He thought that the deportation of a few British unionists would solve the problem. But this was not enough for some of his followers. He gathered around him all these elements in the community. One of these followers was interviewed on the television program This Day Tonight last week. She thought that deportation was not good enough. This wealthy Sydney dowager, Lady Braddon, thought that the penalty should be something more final. She did not want to say what she meant by that, but plainly she was implying something along the lines of shooting being too good for them. That is the sort of situation that is created by the irresponsible statements of the Minister.
Migrant workers, in particular British migrant workers, are being sought out for special treatment. They will have the threat of deportation hanging over their heads like the sword of Damocles. This is what is happening. It is designed to create tame cat unions so that they are easy prey for the people who support this Government. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who will follow me in the debate must dissociate himself from the remarks of the Minister for Primary Industry. On the issue of deportation, he has to guarantee migrants in this country that the threat of deportation will not be used as a weapon against individuals. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs shakes his head. He has an obligation to do as I suggest.
– Do not get excited.
-It is not a matter of getting excited. The patronising way in which the Minister answered a question I asked him this afternoon about citizenship is indicative of his attitude. For instance, I nope that the deportation sections of the Immigration Act are not implemented in accordance with the wishes of the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party. I hope that the Minister will not exercise his discretion in the way he did when dealing with the representations of an Italian worker, Mr Salemi who is still under threat of deportation, notwithstanding that three High Court judges indicated that there had been a denial of natural justice and that the other three High Court judges were of the opinion that Mr Salemi had been treated unfairly and that the concept of natural justice did not apply in the administration of the Minister’s decision under the Immigration Act. The Minister must stand up and be counted. He has to say that justice will apply. In the case of Mr Salemi. I wonder whether the Minister can guarantee a reference under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act which has been passed but which still has not been proclaimed? I believe it has not been proclaimed because Ministers like the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs want to write into the legislation sections which would not preclude the operation of section 14, of the migration section. I also want a guarantee that this will not happen. The Minister must also stand up and assure migrant workers in this country that this legislation will not be used as a bludgeon to batter them into submission and make them pawns in the game of chess played by the employer organisations represented by honourable members on the government benches.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have just been treated to a typical performance by the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes).
– It was not much good.
– As the honourable member for Bowman says, it was not much good. He characterised his speech by the use of emotional and high-flown phrases. Let me remind the House of a few of them. He claimed there had been an attack on migrant workers- there has been no such thing; union bashing- there has been no such thing; evil and vicious intent- there has been no such thing; and ravings. The only ravings I heard this afternoon came from the Opposition members when they talked about what the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) meant by his statement in a speech he made recently in South Australia.
I want to deal with one thing right at the start. Both the speakers for the Opposition have reiterated the untruth that the Minister for Primary Industry talked about the deportation of migrants who have taken part in union activities. The Minister clearly refuted that statement, but that did not deter the honourable member for Melbourne one iota. He spent half his speech talking about the deportation that he claimed the Minister for Primary Industry had talked about. The fact of the matter is that the Minister for Primary Industry never talked about deportation. I should like to make one thing perfectly clear to the Opposition, to listeners to the broadcast of these proceedings, to migrants in this country and to the House: The Migration Act 1958 confers power for the deportation of persons who have not become Australian citizens in certain defined circumstances. In summary, those powers can be invoked only when a person granted permanent entry, not having become a constituent member of the Australian community, has been convicted for crime, or subject to the right of appeal to a commissioner, on grounds of unsatisfactory conduct generally. There is no intention to change that situation. Obviously, all this talk about the deportation of people taking part in union activities is a figment of the imagination of the Opposition. It is deliberately trying to frighten migrants by this talk of deportation. I have just read out the Migration Act 1 958 and how it is administered.
– It is your responsibility. It is your discretion. Do not hide behind the Act. Give us your guarantee.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Melbourne has made his speech. I suggest that he should cease interjecting.
– I think the Minister is telling the House untruths.
-Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will not be in the House to listen.
– The Minister who spoke before him said that he was going to deport them.
-I want that withdrawn immediately, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have not told the House any untruth. I have read out the provisions of the Migration Act and how it is being applied. It is absolute nonsense for the speakers for the Opposition to try to frighten people who have come to make their homes in this country by putting up these shibboleths that this Government is thinking of deporting people for taking part -
-Well, deny it.
-I am denying it right now. I should like to move to the subject of migration because that is my area of responsibility. I think it is appropriate that I should talk about the matter of public importance as it affects migrants, particularly British migrants. It is a simple matter of fact that people from the United Kingdom and Eire have formed the backbone of the immigration program for many years. More than one and a half million British migrants have come to Australia since 1947 and have made a magnificent contribution to the development of Australia. That has been acknowledged by this Government and by the Minister for Primary Industry. As with many migrants, British migrants have played a big part in Australia’s postwar progress and in our economic, social, political and cultural development. As the largest migrant group, it is not surprising that British migrants have risen in prominence m many areas of Australian activity- in the professions, industry and commerce, politics, the academic world, the arts, sport, employer organisations, trade unions and the Public Service.
We have a policy, which has been pursued by successive governments, of saying that when people come to make their homes in Australia they should bring to Australia the good things of their country of origin and leave behind the negative aspects. This has been brought up by the Minister for Primary Industry in a number of statements over the past few weeks. It must be obvious to everybody that with an influx of over three million people since the end of the Second World War some of the migrants from various countries- not one particular country- will not fit into the Australian scene as well as the majority. The vast majority of migrants from all countries have adapted to the distinctive Australian industrial relations and the political and cultural scenes and have helped in their evolution. I should like to pay tribute to the migrants from over one hundred different source countries throughout the world for the contribution they have made, are making and will continue to make. Their impact on the work force has been considerable and critical to the success of many industries.
The latest detailed occupational figures I have come from the 1 97 1 census. At that time the total number of persons employed was 5.24 million, of which 541,000, or 10.3 per cent, were born in the United Kingdom and Eire. The emphasis on the role of the overseas born in industry tends to obscure the fact that the overseas born in general and the United Kingdom born in particular have enriched our level of skills in all occupations. For example, at the time of the 1971 census over 10 per cent of the United Kingdom and Eire born males in the work force were in professional, technical and related occupations, compared with 8.7 per cent of the Australian born male work force. At that time 2.5 per cent of the United Kingdom and Eire born males were engaged as skilled metal and electrical tradesmen, compared with 1.7 per cent of Australian born males. This trend is evident also in other skilled areas. At that time 2.4 per cent of the United Kingdom and Ireland born males were engaged in carpentry and woodwork, compared with 1.7 per cent of Australian born males; 2.1 per cent of United Kingdom and Ireland born males were engaged as bricklayers, compared with 1.1 per cent of Australian born males; and 1.3 per cent of United Kingdom and Ireland born males were engaged as trademen and painters, compared with 0.6 per cent of Australian born males. These statistics overwhelmingly confirm the significant role that British migrants have played in the Australian work force. It is a continuing role which this Government and, I am sure, the people of Australia recognise and appreciate.
A more recent survey of the work force which was carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in November 1974 examined the educational status of the civilian labour force. Of all the United Kingdom and Ireland born males 43.7 per cent had post-school qualifications, that is, a degree, diploma, trade certificate, et cetera, compared with 28.8 per cent of all overseas born, 32.6 per cent of the Australian born males and 34.4 per cent of the total male work force. It is absolutely hypocritical for this Opposition to say in this House that it supports migrants. It is a fact that under its administration the numbers of British migrants coming to this country were overwhelmingly reduced. One of the first actions I took as the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was to go to the United Kingdom in May last year, which was the first visit by a Minister of the Fraser Government to the United Kingdom, to reassure them that Australia did not- I emphasise these words- have an antipathy towards the British migrants but that in fact we welcomed them. I repeat that it is hypocritical of the honourable member for Melbourne, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and members of the Opposition generally to claim here, with their hearts on their sleeves, that they are defending the British migrants. That is absolute nonsense. By their actions they shall be known. Their actions were significantly against British migrants coming to Australia during the time of their administration.
Obviously an attempt is being made to paint the Fraser Government as anti-migrant. It is not anti-migrant; in fact, it is pro-migrant. This can be demonstrated quite easily and conclusively. It was the Labor Government which disbanded the Department of Immigration and incorporated it in die Department of Labour and Immigration. It was the Fraser Liberal-National Country Party Government which set up the new Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. We have increased the number of migrants coming to Australia. During the Labor Administration the lowest number of migrants since 1947 came to Australia. What a record to be proud of that is. Yet here we hear the Opposition pretending to be concerned about migrants. It is anti-migrant; it has always been anti-migrant.
A number of additional measures have been brought in by this Government. The family reunion conditions have been broadened. Additional to occupational categories entrepreneurs and smaller entrepreneurs have been brought in. We have had special Indo-Chinese refugees projects, special arrangements for the migration of Lebanese, amnesty for illegal migrants, the abolition of re-entry visas, the establishment of an ethnic affairs branch, the establishment of the national accreditation authority for interpreters and translators, migrant resource centres, the establishment of the Australian Population and Immigration Council, the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council and the establishment of a permanent broadcasting authority which provides a special broadcasting service to cater for the rights of ethnic radio. There is the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council, and I could go on.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
– May I table the paper referred to by the Minister for Primary Industry?
-Yes. A Minister may table a paper at any time. The discussion is now concluded. May I comment that it is a pity that the parties were not able to persuade Geoff Boycott to become an Australian citizen.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposals Nos 16 to 23 (1977)
The Customs tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. These proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. These changes arise from the Government ‘s decisions on recommendations by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on:
Children’s Knitted Tracksuits, Playsuits, Rompersuits and like Garments- Tariff Quotas;
Certain Paper and Paperboard; and by the Temporary Assistance Authority in its reports on:
Also included in these proposals are changes of an administrative nature following recent decisions of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the High Court of Australia. In view of the numerous reports involved, I do not propose to detail the contents of each of the proposals. I have had prepared a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in the duty rates and the origin of each of the alterations contained in the proposals. This summary is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– I move:
Excise TariffProposals (No. 1) 1977.
The excise tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to a proposed alteration to the Excise
Tariff 1921. These proposals formally place before Parliament, as required by law, a tariff change introduced by a Gazette notice on 30 June 1977 and which, with effect from 1 July 1977, increased from 4.3c to 10c per tonne, the excise duty on coal, not being the property of a State or brown coal produced by open cut methods. The excise duty is applied to the Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave Trust Fund set up under the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1 949 administered by my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). A summary setting out reasons for the increase has been circulated to honourable members. I commend the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
– 1 ask for leave of the House to move a motion to discharge certain tariff proposals which were moved earlier in the year and which constitute part of Order of the Day No. 15. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff Amendment Bill 1977 which has now been assented to.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That Customs TariffProposals Nos 6 to 10 (1977) constituting part of Order of the Day No. 15, Government Business, be discharged.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 May, on motion by Mr Peacock:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill 1977 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering those two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The first of the two Bills before the House provides for our contribution to the fifth replenishment for the International Development Association and the other provides for the Australian Government’s contribution to the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. As the purposes of the Bills and the funding were outlined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in his second reading speeches, I do not propose to go over the purposes of the two funds or to extol the virtues at least of the International Development Association’s programs or to speculate very far about the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
I have noted in reading, from overseas sources, related to this matter that there seems to be a fairly strong suspicion that the International Fund for Agricultural Development was established as a concession to pressure from developing countries especially for the initiation of a common fund as part of a new international economic order. It is suggested by leaders of some developing countries, perhaps displaying a similar bent of mind and a cynicism which is no doubt the product of so many frustrations and disappointed hopes at the hands of promises scarcely fulfilled by developed countries, that the concession was originally initiated by Dr Kissinger to buy off pressure from the spokesmen for the developing countries. In any event, it does seem that there is a considerable degree of scepticism among many of the developing countries over just how helpful the International Fund for Agricultural Development is to be in terms of the massive problems which confront developing countries today.
There has been a great deal of disillusionment in the world about aid for developing countries and what is going to be achieved. I must confess to some disenchantment myself. I remember when I came into this Parliament some 16 years ago that there was then so much hope as to what could be achieved if only the rich countries would make the appropriate sacrifices to allow redistribution of command over resources to benefit the developing countries. All sorts of optimistic speculations were put forward about what could be achieved and how the poor countries could be released from their imprisonment within poverty. It was common then to talk about the one per cent decade of development. At the end of that period, one per cent of the gross national product of the developed countries was to be contributed to the developing countries for their needs. Some 16 years later the most we can achieve according to the official statistics on development aid from developed countries is an average of 0.36 per cent of one per cent of the gross national products of those developed countries. Of course, there is quite a range of contributions from various countries providing aid but it is disappointing to note that two particularly strong economies, Japan and the United States of America, are contributing respectively 0.24 per cent and 0.27 per cent of gross national product in the form of official development assistance to developing countries.
– They have now undertaken to do more.
-The Minister interjects that they have now undertaken to contribute more but they could contribute a lot more and still not be impressive when their contributions are compared with what is contributed by other countries. By and large our own record, although still short of what we desire to achieve, is not bad compared with many other countries and is a long way ahead of those much larger and considerably wealthier countries in terms of the size of their economies. The elusive one per cent contribution for the development of the underdeveloped countries is as elusive now as it ever was, if not even more elusive. The poorest countries are staying that way while the wealthiest are getting much wealthier.
Between 1965 and 1975 the immense disparity in per capita income between the poorest nations and the developed nations worsened. Theoorest nations, that is countries with less than 200 per capita have 43 per cent of the world’s population. The developed nations have 25 per cent. In 1965 the poorest nations had a per capita income of only 3 per cent of the $4,200 per capita income of the developed nations. By 1975 the per capita income of the poorest nations had fallen to 2.7 per cent of the per capita income of the developed nations of $5,500. The gap is widening. The increase in income for the poorest nations in that period was 15 percent against the increase for the wealthiest nations of 3 1 per cent. This is another means of dramatically illustrating the way in which resources in the world are being redistributed and allocated to the benefit of the wealthiest countries. The poorest stay poor while the wealthiest get much wealthier.
Projections for 1985 show that the increase in incomes for the poorest countries will be about 20 per cent to approximately $180 per capita.
For the wealthiest developed nations the increase will be 47 per cent to $8,100. In other words, by 1985 the poorest countries will have a per capita income only 2.2 per cent of the per capita income of the developed countries. One can see that it is a losing race for the developing countries. The gulf is widening to their disadvantage in terms of the level of resources they are able to command from those additional resources being made available in the world each year. What it means is that at the most the annual increase in the per capita income for the poorest countries will be between $ 1 and $2. It all sums up to a most depressing picture.
There has been much talk, not a little posturing, a great deal of moralising and, frankly, very little achievement in terms of settling for the goals and solid results which have been set for the future and spoken about so much. The poorest countries are still bedevilled with the most depressing social and economic conditions. Compared with the developed countries the infant mortality rate is 8 times higher. The life expectancy rate is one-third less than for the developed countries. The adult literacy rate is 60 per cent less. The nutritional level for one person in two is below the acceptable standards of developed countries. Millions of infants have less protein than is required to allow the optimum development of the brain.
It is this sort of aid to poor countries which the Premier of Queensland, steeped in ignorance and indelibly dyed in bigotry rails against. He does it in the most poorly informed way. He is demanding that the sort of aid Australia provides for developing countries should be made available within the country. I am disappointed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has firmly rebuked him, perhaps with some subtlety, but nonetheless he has firmly rejected the sorts of comments he is making which I suspect are gaining some public currency at least in Queensland. What the Premier of Queensland has to realise is the extent to which aid programs are funded from our overseas reserves. They have no impact on the domestic economy. Therefore, it is irrelevant for him to talk in the terms in which he has been talking. We are not denying people within this country resources which would otherwise be available.
To the extent that aid programs take the form of various goods fabricated in this country, to cut back on those programs would mean simply that people currently in employment producing them would become unemployed. If it is the Premier’s argument that the moneys should be spent domestically all it means is that there would be a transfer of resources from one industry in which people are employed fabricating various goods for aid programs to another industry. All he is doing is transferring unemployment within the community. He is making no contribution towards the common welfare of the community. In fact, at a time of slack economic activity like the present a most powerful argument can be mobilised in support of the fabrication of more goods in this country as part of an aid program. In that way apart from the humanitarian commitment in this support of aid more opportunity would be provided domestically.
It is incontestable that programs like those before us are helpful but they are limited in their help. I have already indicated that for all the years in which we have been talking about the breakthrough in our determination to lift the poor countries out of poverty, as members of the wealthy club of countries in the world we do not seem to have achieved much. In fact, it would seem on analysis of what has been achieved that what we have been doing has, in effect, been very much like ploughing the sea. As I mentioned, we have achieved a situation in which development assistance aid from the developed countries is still only 0.36 per cent of gross national products. The most advanced countries in the Western part of the world, the United States and Japan, have consistently deplorably poor records. One would have thought that out of enlightened self-interest they would have much to gain from a more generous commitment to aid. Those 2 countries have deplorably poor records of commitment in development aid programs. It is clear the more one analyses the available material that the rich countries are determined to stay that way.
I happen to think that the countries within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries which were responsible for the substantial increase in the price of oil were responding to a set of perfectly understandable circumstances. There was an opportunity for them to seek to redistribute in their favour some of the resources of the world from the wealthier countries. I know the argument that the less developed countries have suffered as a result of this action. I shall come back to that later. It is not as black and white as the critics of the action of the OPEC countries would like to make out. I am sceptical about the genuineness of the claims of the people who make this assertion. By and large they do not have a powerful record of assistance to poor non-oil-producing underdeveloped countries in the past. It seems more that they are using a convenient symbol to protest their concern at the treatment which has affected them as rich countries. In any case, the rich countries were to suffer some sort of redistribution of resources to the OPEC countries as a result of that action. It is clear that the rich countries have taken a number of measures which have over a relatively short time effectively reduced the real benefits of that redistributional exercise by the OPEC countries. I harbour the strong suspicion that one of the reasons America is prepared to bear with a substantial balance of payments deficit is to make some effort to inflate its way out of real cost of its oil bill.
The problem with the development of the underdeveloped countries as I see it is that providing aid of this sort is merely a little superficial dressing aimed to cover over some deeply seated problems in the world economic order. It means relatively little- the fact that relatively little has been achieved by programs so far is evidence of that- in terms of the nature and depth of the problem. I should be much more impressed if I could see determined action by the developed countries to accept more of the manufactured finished products of the developing countries. I find something repugnant about the symbiotic relationship that so many of the rich countries like to postulate as the proper relationship between themselves and poor countries whereby they accept the primary products and raw materials of the poor countries and the poor countries accept their finished products.
It is clear that the greatest advantages lie with those countries which are industrially advanced and continuing to develop, the countries with the technological knowhow and the industrial resources behind them. That is where the greatest proportion of value added in the economic order is derived. At the level of primary production and the production of raw materials the worth of value added in the production system is much lower. Until the developed countries are prepared to accept more of the finished manufactured products of developing countries, I am afraid we will continue to hold the poor countries as hostages to poverty. The current problems which this country is facing as a result of our trade relationship with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations- we sell twice as much to them as we buy from them- are evidence of the sort of prickly political problems that will confront us in the future. In the longer term we could easily find that because of the tough and uncouth attitudes expressed by Australian Government spokesmen we will become increasingly irrelevant to the needs of those near neighbours as they develop more industrially.
The problem with this Government is that, as one interprets its behaviour towards ASEAN countries, it is a disciple of the economic principle of unequal development- a euphemism for keeping all we have and trying to force a few sales on to those who are less well off. It is a remarkable principle of economic development for the needy that this country postulates quite firmly and quite inflexibly that aid by trade will go from the less developed to the developed- for instance, from the ASEAN countries to Australia. I do not underrate in any way at all the very great political problems in this country at the present time in attending to this issue, or the very difficult economic considerations which have to be weighed up; but that is no justification for the rather crude way in which our representative at the recent ASEAN discussions put down the representatives of those countries like an Australian Bjelke-Petersen with an imported nasally Oxford accent. He spoke well even if he thinks poorly.
There is not so much a need for a proliferation of gimmickry and new organisations; so I have some reservations about the development of a new one, the International Fund for Agricultural Development. As I read the Bill, it seems that what is proposed there can be well done by established agencies. In fact, the Fund will be calling on the services of established agencies. In other words, we need more, and more effective, aid through existing agencies. We need a freeing of the trade barriers which hold down the level of economic growth and the standard of living which can be provided in the developing countries. The wealthy countries collectively should commit themselves to providing grant assistance and much less assistance by way of loans. We have a good record in that respect at least. The developed countries should accept a moratorium on the debts of the underdeveloped countries incurred in previous loan commitments. We ought to play as influential role as we can, in the appropriate international agencies, to that end. We have to recognise that the paradigm of Western capital intensive development is not the best for the poorest countries. I acknowledge in this respect the important influence of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Papua New Guinea in encouraging the Papuans and New Guineans and the Australian Government, which was the colonial administrator of the then Territory, to change the emphasis from an almost exclusive preoccupation with capital intensive development to one which tended to develop towards equal emphasis for labour intensive activity within the economy aimed at mobilising more traditional forms of economic activity.
The evidence from the developing countries, especially of Africa, is clearly that, whilst on paper one country can look extremely impressive in terms of the economic growth rate it is achieving and the per capita income that is achieved in this way, when an analysis is made, in some rigorous depth, of how that income is distributed the country is found to be quite poorly off. It is poorly off in the sense that some elites, some working class and middle class elites, are established, who are able to earmark for their own benefit the largest proportion of the benefits coming from that development, whilst on the other hand there is a very large dispossessed group of people who are coming from traditional village life into the cities and the large urban centres and are unable to obtain employment, and they become alienated and present all sorts of social problems and stresses for that sort of area.
As against that, one can look at another country. I confess freely that I have been enormously impressed with the achievements of Tanzania in this respect. On paper it has not had spectacular economic growth rates and certainly it does not have terribly impressive per capita levels of income, but in terms of mobilising all the people into the work force and providing an opportunity for them-providing a place under the sun, as it were, for all the people- it has been enormously successful. Perhaps it displays some rather disciplinarian, if not authoritarian, methods which are unacceptable to us, but I remember Mr Nyerere pointing out clearly to this country, at a luncheon in this building, that the principles for social and economic development in a country that is relatively poorly endowed with economic resources, as Tanzania is, are quite different from those of wealthy countries such as this one. Australia, for instance, can afford the massive blunder of an F 1 1 1 aircraft on the part of a government, involving some millions of dollars- in fact, hundreds of millions of dollars- and can absorb that sort of problem without significant economic disruption and dislocation. A poor country cannot afford that expensive margin of error.
The wealthy countries have to dedicate themselves to stable prices for commodities and, again, to a better revenue deal for the developing countries. The two things do not necessarily go together. The common fund is the sort of concept I have in mind, with all the problems it has- and it certainly bristles with problems-in terms of a stable price system for the commondities of the developing countries. I am highly suspicious of the newfound interest of the Americans. I am concerned that perhaps the Americans are considering that there are clear benefits for America in terms of stable prices for some of the mineral resources that she would wish to import. That is fair enough as long as the commitment does not stop there; as long as it goes further and is a genuinely altruistic commitment for the common good of mankind and is designed to establish a common fund program for other commodities. I repeat that I acknowledge freely the enormous problems with which this concept bristles, but the fact that a concept or a proposition bristles with problems is not sufficient justification for being caught flat-footed as the Australian Government was recently in international discussions on this subject, leaving the clear impression that we were not terribly interested in the concept at all.
I mentioned the need for a better revenue deal for the developing countries. Only 10 per cent of the total value added for their products, as they go through the various processes to end up as finished products in some sort of manufactured or processed form on world markets, goes to the poor countries. That happens because the marketing and the processing of these products is in the hands of the wealthy countries. Again I acknowledge the problems of overcoming this situation. I am not so much concerned about the conspiracy interpretation of the transnational!, as they now seem to be called, but rather the enormous problems of developing the technology, the marketing skills, the techniques, the outlets and so on which are necessary to overcome die sort of problem I have identified. The fact that there are such problems is not sufficient justification for not trying to do something. The developing countries ought to be encouraged to move in this direction through support from established international agencies. The fact that such a small proportion of total value added goes to the poor countries means that their opportunity for capital accumulation is extremely limited, and that in turn means that their opportunity for industrial development and economic growth is seriously constrained.
A further point that we have to consider is ways in which developing countries can be facilitated to reinvest the profits which are generated in their countries. It is a matter of the most notorious comment that some large, wealthy international organisations are responsible for intensive capital investment in certain development projects in some developing countries that provide limited employment opportunities but quite massive profit returns and that a very large proportion of those profits is drained out of the country to the benefit of the parent company or the international concern. There has to be a determined bid, as a matter of commonsense morality, to allow a substantial proportion of the profits generated in such countries to be reinvested by those countries in their own economic growth and development.
I shall have to condense some final points that I want to make on these matters because time is running out. Why I find a sense of urgency about these things is obvious. I mentioned a few minutes ago that, as much as wealthy countries like to vaunt what has been done in terms of aid in recent decades, the evidence is that the gap in terms of living standards between the wealthy advanced countries and the poor countries is in fact widening. I admit that the income per capita is improving in the poor countries, but it is improving most moderately and extremely unimpressively compared with the rate of increase in the living standards of the developed countries.
I noted quite recently a United Nations report that pointed out that the foreign direct investment in 43 developing countries in 1970 was $ 1 ,6 1 0m and that in the same year the outflow of income as repayment on accumulated past investment was $5,340m. Those are the sorts of disabilities under which the developing countries are staggering. The terms of trade move so often to punish the developing countries. In 1960, according to a report I read recently, a selection of developing countries indicated that they could import 6 tractors for the return from 25 tons of exported rubber. In 1965 they could import only 3w tractors for the return from 25 tons of exported rubber. So the terms of trade do tend to move against these countries. There are periods . when they move in their favour, but it seems that the long term trend certainly is not in their favour and certainly bears poor contrast with what happens to the developing countries.
Let us look at the sort of debt burden that is crippling them. In 1967 it was $50.7 billion for 86 developing countries. In 1975 it was $150 billion. The debt servicing in 1975 on that debt burden was $11.5 billion. The official development assistance aid from the developed countries was only $9.4 billion. So with an allowance for all the aid provided for them they were still more than $2 billion in deficit. That is an example of the ever expanding problem of financing their way in their striving to achieve a better standard of living, to achieve economic development and to try to close the gap between the developed countries and themselves. It is a striving that continues to fail and it will continue to fail while the wealthy countries of the world are so determined not only to hang on to what they have but also to redistribute as much as they can from the increase in the level of resources provided in the world each year to their own benefit.
I do not believe that our record in recent discussions has left the developing countries of the world with any sense of enthusiasm that they can any longer rely on Australia as a friendly, sympathetic and understanding nation where the aspirations of the developing countries are concerned. Our attitude to the common fund and the new international economic order was one of total unenlightenment. I sincerely trust that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who in so many other ways displays a quite encouraging liberal enlightenment in these sorts of things and a great sense of moral and humanitarian responsibility, will assert himself in relation to this issue and demand that the proper role of Australia is one of sympathetic understanding, of support and of a constructive approach to the problems which I have acknowledged several times already are there in trying to develop a common fund and underwrite a new international economic order. But unless something like that is done and a complete recasting of our approach to development and the needs of developing countries is accepted, I am afraid that we are going to continue to languish in the situation where what we do is very much, as I have said, trying to dam a water flow with a fork. It is ineffective and quite inadequate for the task ahead.
-I say only that despite the tone of personal disappointment and disillusion in the approach of the Opposition spokesman on this subject, I gather that the Opposition supports the Bills.
-Order! Does the honourable member wish to seek the adjournment of this debate?
– Yes, I am going to do that, but I want to say that these Bills should command the enthusiastic support of this House and all Australians.
-Order! The honourable member should either seek the adjournment of the debate or make his speech. If the honourable member does not seek the adjournment of the debate it will mean that this Bill will retain its position on the Notice Paper and the Budget will not be able to be presented at 8 o’clock.
– I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation for proposed expenditure announced.
Bill presented by Mr Lynch, and read a first time.
– I move:
In doing so, I present the Budget for1977-78.
At the outset tonight I re-affirm the Government’s basic objectives.
Our first goal is to maintain the underlying trend to lower inflation.
Our second goal, which is dependent upon the achievement of the first, is to promote moderate and non-inflationary growthin order to create jobs and reduce unemployment.
This Budget will move Australia further towards achieving those goals and, in so doing, it will build on the foundations laid by last year’s Budget.
Over the next twelve months the depths of Labor’s recession, and all of the community hardship that went with it, will be put further behind us.
This Budget is designed to give a lead to the community by addressing itself directly and realistically to our remaining problems.
One way in which it does so, in a decisive and unprecedented manner, is by lifting the yoke of taxation that has sapped the spirit and initiative of the community over recent years.
Unlike our predecessors we believe that taxes have taken too much from the community and that people now want greater charge of their own affairs.
The new tax system which I shall announce in this Budget has been made possible because of the efficiency and economy that we have brought to management of Government expenditures.
The way is now open to get Australia on the move.
This Budget charts a course towards lower taxation, towards conservation of the nation’s great energy resources and towards care for those most in need within the community.
It maintains the thrust towards economic stability without sacrificing any of the major social reforms of our first Budget such as thefamily allowance system.
Australia’s destiny is a shared responsibility, not something that lies in the hands of governments alone.
Responsibility also lies with business leaders: it is the private sector that employs most of our workers, makes most of the investment decisions and develops the technologies that can underpin increasing living standards.
Union leadership bears an equal responsibility: it is the trade union leaders who have to consider the unemployment consequences of their demands for higher pay for those presently in jobs.
All sections of the community must work together to harness our abundant natural and human resources, if we are to restore vigour and purpose to our national development.
This Budget sets the nation first; it recognises that there must be a fair sharing of the burdens and responsibilities, and a fair sharing of the rewards.
I turn now to the record of achievement last year.
The Government’s first Budget was a key element in putting the overall economic strategy in place and, therefore, in the improved economic performance of1976-77.
We budgeted for outlays to grow in1976-77 at half the rate of1975-76, and for a Budget deficit nearly one billion dollars lower despite the costs of full personal tax indexation from 1 July 1976 and significant business tax incentives.
An increase of 10-12 per cent in the broadly defined volume of money,M3, was then foreseen as appropriate over1976-77.
A year later, the Government takes some satisfaction from the record.
Budget outlays, projected to rise by11.3 per cent, were held to only10.4 per cent, and for the second successive year outlays were contained within the original Budget estimate.
The deficit, originally put at$2,608m, emerged because of some shortfall in receipts as $2,740m, but nevertheless very much in line with the original estimate.
M3 increased by 10.6 per cent- well within the range projected.
The anti-inflationary role of external policy was, in the event, less than had been hoped.
The burden of Labor’s policy failures on the export and import-competing sectors made devaluation inevitable.
But, because of determined action by the Government, overall policy was not blown off course and the basic strategy was maintained.
Naturally, the economy is still adjusting to devaluation.
Indeed, understanding of that adjustment process is essential to any appraisal of where the economy now is and where it is heading.
The wages area also failed to contribute as much to recovery as it should have done.
This outcome, beyond the Government’s control, had serious consequences for the speed of recovery and the creation of new jobs.
The economy has still not fully attained the pre-conditions for sustained growth.
Solid progress has been made, but furthering it still hinges crucially on the prospects for inflation and income shares.
On that, I said last yean ‘Provided there is significantly less than full flow-on of price increases to wages, an improvement of several percentage points in price performance, and a possibly somewhat greater deceleration in money wages, can be had in 1 976-77 as a whole. ‘
Prices, and to some extent incomes, did largely develop in that way.
Excluding health and medical services- prices of which have been sharply influenced by changes in health insurance arrangements having nothing to do with inflation as such- the Consumer Price Index rose by 10.2 per cent over the course of 1976-77 compared with 15.4 per cent in 1975-76.
More broadly-based price indicators rose in 1976-77 by some 4 to 6 percentage points less than in 1975-76.
Productivity increased by 3.6 per cent in 1976-77; the profit share rose to 14.4 per cent from 13.5 per cent in 1975-76.
Company profits increased by 23.5 per cent.
Although the pattern within-year was not as foreseen, activity for the year as a whole was much as foreshadowed.
Real gross non-farm product rose for the year as a whole, with growth concentrated in the private sector.
Consumers spent more, and saved less, out of disposable incomes.
Business investment, although patchy, strengthened in total; plant and equipment spending, in particular, rose by 6 per cent in real terms.
Dwelling investment rose strongly for the year as a whole despite some slackness- now being taken up- in the later months.
Exports were also significantly higher for the year as a whole.
As presently recorded, economic growth was concentrated in the first half of the financial year.
Among the reasons for that pattern, which are fully discussed in Statement No. 2 attached, was the effect of devaluation- actual and anticipated -on the timing of expenditures.
The key point now is that the factors depressing demand and production early in 1977 were temporary ones.
The forward momentum of private activity is now beginning to re-assert itself.
Inflation over the year as a whole fell much as expected a year ago.
Wages costs also grew less fast in 1976-77 than in 1975-76, but the slow-down was less than had been hoped.
That is closely linked with the major disappointment of 1976-77- the continuation of high unemployment.
This is a matter of grave concern to the Government.
Unemployment is a human problem- it is not just a question of statistics.
It is precisely because of the social and family tragedies that go with unemployment that we have pressed, to the fullest extent, for wage and salary restraint in hearings of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The grave imbalance between real wages and productivity resulting from the 1974 wage explosion still remains Australia’s major economic problem.
That problem can only be solved by winding down real wages relative to productivity; while it persists, it makes all talk of quickly reducing unemployment merely hollow rhetoric.
Statement No. 2 presents some material on the extent of this imbalance.
In the most recent National Wage Case hearing the Commonwealth has presented related evidence.
The Commission must be prepared to face, with a greater degree of reality, the employment consequences of its decisions.
The basic point is this; if unemployment in Australia is to be tackled effectively, the real wage distortion in our economy will have to be corrected.
High labour costs have been deterring employers from taking on new workers.
All too often, the sums favour the alternativesreplacing men by machines or switching to foreign suppliers.
Partly for the former reason there was an appreciable lift in measured productivity in 1976-77.
A 3.5 per cent increase in product saw only a slight employment increase; and, with a growing labour force, unemployment therefore increased.
There can be no doubt that, had the wage determination processes permitted real wages to decline in 1976-77, recovery would have been stronger and unemployment less.
Instead, so far from having declined, as has been repeatedly asserted by our political opponents, real wages were actually higher at June 1977 than a year earlier.
Those fortunate enough still to have jobs had their real incomes improved, but at the cost of throwing others out of work.
Those trade union leaders and others clamouring for ‘full indexation’ might reflect on that result of their actions.
So might our arbitral tribunals.
This Budget is dominated by two fundamentals.
First, despite the achievements to date, we still have some way to go in restoring the preconditions for lasting economic growth. 1977-78 must see a further advance.
Secondly, our policy strategy established last year and since maintained has been the right one.
That strategy must be held in place.
Our Budget decisions will give effect to the objective, stated last January, of further reducing the deficit.
This will permit an expansion in a broadly defined money supply to take place in 1977-78 at a rate a notch or so lower than in the previous year.
Our Budget decisions will also give effect to our other budgetary objective stated last January- to keep Budget outlays in 1977-78 to within zero real growth.
We have been mindful, however, of the shortterm dislocations that might have followed any appreciable reduction of real outlays at this time.
It is a measure of the painstaking preparation undertaken this year that we have been able to shape the Budget firmly within the parameters of our economic strategy, while accommodating the cost of both last year’s and this year’s major tax reductions.
Fiscal and monetary policies must be fully supported by the other arms of policy.
Wage restraint is crucial.
Externally, Australia’s now clearly strengthening trade account provides an encouraging basis for the current role of external policy.
There is a mutual dependence between the domestic and external arms of policy which should be explicitly noted.
In shaping its fiscal and monetary stance for 1977-78 the Government has had this well in mind. Fiscal and monetary laxness such as the benches opposite have urged upon us would undermine our international competitiveness
This Budget rejects that pitfall.
It will thereby contribute to a more positive outlook for the major development projects now under way and in the offing and their associated investment inflows.
In short, it will help to ensure that the favourable effects of last year’s devaluation, now increasingly appearing, will be preserved and not just frittered away.
Against that background let me say something about the role of the private sector in our economy.
It is now up to the private sector to respond to the brighter outlook which is in prospect.
As we have emphasized, a re-vitalized private sector is essential to increased productivity and more jobs
Governments can only do so much; this Government has consistently pursued the course of making way for expansion of the private sector.
It is now up to the private sector to play its part in furthering the progress we have made towards establishing, and building upon, the preconditions for economic recovery.
I turn now to outlays.
In 1977-7S total expenditures are estimated at $26,656m, an increase of 10.5 per cent or virtually the same increase as in 1976-77.
I mention some of the larger provisions in the Budget; details of these and other provisions are set out in Statement No. 3 and other accompanying Budget documents and in Ministerial statements.
Outlays for social security and welfare purposes are estimated to total about $7,250m in 1977-78, an increase of about 13 per cent on last year.
These outlays now account for 27 cents in every $1 spent from the Budget, or 56 cents in every $ 1 raised in personal income tax.
Social service pensions and benefits are adjusted six-monthly in line with movements in the Consumer Prime Index.
Accordingly, the standard or single rate of social service pensions and benefits will be increased by $2.20 to $49.30 a week from the first payday in November.
The combined married rate will rise by $3.70 to $82.20 per week.
There will be a further increase from the first payday in May 1978 in line with the movement in the Consumer Price Index in the second half of 1977.
These increases are estimated to cost $ 1 82m in 1977-78 and $490m in a full year.
Repatriation disability and service pensions also will be increased in November 1977 and May 1978 in line with increases in the Consumer Prime Index.
These increases are estimated to cost $25. 3m in 1977-78 and $6 1.5m in a full year.
The Government has decided to discontinue the Sustenance Allowance and replace it by a Loss of Earnings Allowance, and to modify existing arrangements concerning pensions related to pulmonary tuberculosis.
Special assistance for handicapped people in 1977-78 is estimated at $93m, an increase of 33 per cent on last year.
This is one of the fastest growing programs in the Budget; it demonstrates that, the need for expenditure restraint notwithstanding, this Government is concerned to assist the underprivileged members of our community.
At present an allowance of $15 a week is payable for a severely handicapped child.
We are extending eligibility for similar grants of up to $15 a week to parents or guardians on low incomes who are experiencing financial hardship in caring for a substantially handicapped child.
An amount of $50m is provided for expenditure on aged persons’ homes and hostels in 1977-78, $7.6m more than last year.
This year we are providing $73m for children’s services, an increase of $6m on last year.
The estimates include $787m for unemployment and sickness benefit payments this year.
It is the Government’s aim to see that these funds go to the genuinely unemployed.
It has become evident that the present arrangement of paying two weeks’ unemployment benefit in advance is resulting in persons who have secured employment being paid unemployment benefits as well, producing a very substantial overpayment in aggregate.
After considering the recommendations in the Myers Report, the Government has decided that in future unemployment benefits will be paid fortnightly in arrears.
As already announced, an overall review of the operations of the Department of Social Security is being carried out with a view to implementing improvements in the Department’s present systems and procedures.
The Department’s programs now involve expenditures of the order of $6 billion annually and significant savings are expected to result from the review in 1977-78.
Although Aboriginals have access to normal Commonwealth financed services and benefits the Government strongly supports special programs of assistance for Aboriginals.
In the Budget we are providing $110m for expenditure on non-administrative activities of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Overall expenditure on programs of direct assistance to Aboriginals in 1977-78 is estimated to be about $176m, compared with $161m in
The Budget provides for Commonwealth expenditure of $2,37 lm on education in 1977- 78, $21 lm or 10 per cent more than last year.
Late last year substantial general increases were announced in student allowances and benefits; these increases were effective from the beginning of 1977.
Some living and boarding allowances will be further increased from the beginning of 1978.
At $2,8 14m, expenditure on health care in 1977-78 will again pre-empt a large slice of Budget outlays.
Payments of Medibank benefits in 1977-78 are estimated at $ 1 ,494m.
The estimate of $942m in payments to the States under the hospital cost-sharing agreements during 1977-78 reflects an expectation of firm cost containment in public hospitals.
Under the Community Health Program the Commonwealth is providing substantial financial assistance for some 700 community health projects.
In 1976-77 $7Om was provided under this Program; this year, based on the Commonwealth contributing SO per cent of capital costs and 75 per cent of recurrent costs, expenditure is estimated to exceed $79m.
The Commonwealth will be suggesting to the States that, within this increased allocation, a higher priority be given to the funding of women’s refuges.
As recently announced, new nursing home arrangements will take effect from 1 October.
Rates of benefit payable by the Commonwealth and the Hospital Funds will be set at higher rates in each State from that date.
The effect will be that the benefits, when combined with the statutory patient contribution, will cover fees payable in respect of 70 per cent of patients in non-government National Health
Act nursing homes compared with 30 per cent at present.
The Government is determined to improve Australia ‘s defence capability.
Total outlays for defence activities in 1977-78 are estimated at $2, 343m, and imply an increase of about 1 per cent in real terms.
In a Budget in which total outlays are estimated to decrease slightly in real terms, this increase is evidence of the continuing high priority which this Government attaches to defence.
In particular, further progress is to be made towards achieving the important objectives for capital equipment and facilities outlined in the Defence White Paper presented to Parliament by the Minister for Defence last year.
Expenditure on Australia’s overseas aid programs is estimated to increase by 12 per cent, from $38Om in 1976-77 to $426m in 1977-78.
In 1977-78 $390m will be made available to the States for welfare housing, $15m more than last year.
I shall refer later to the associated question of finance for private housing.
Some $22m will be provided for the Defence Service Homes Scheme; repayments of earlier loans and proceeds from property sales are estimated at $72.6m, making a total of about $94.6m available for the Scheme in 1977-78.
In 1977-78 an application fee of $75 for an initial Defence Service Home loan will be introduced; an application fee of $50 will be charged for an additional loan.
Last year, I announced our decision in principle to undertake a housing allowance voucher experiment.
Field activity to implement the experiment is expected to get under way at the first siteMelbourne late in 1977-78.
About $ 1 m is provided for this purpose.
The Budget provides $15m for decentralisation purposes, including growth centres, in 1977-78, comprising $5m for Albury-Wodonga, $3m for the Bathurst-Orange and Macarthur growth centres, and approximately $6m for a new program of support for general decentralisation initiatives.
The Australian Telecommunications Commission’s capital program, although larger than in 1976-77, will be funded mainly from the Commission’s own internal resources and from local borrowings; drawings from the Budget are estimated at $65m in 1977-78 compared with $2 15m in 1976-77.
It is expected that the Commissions will be able to hold basic postage and telephone charges in 1977-78, for the second year running.
Nor is the Government proposing, as is sometimes suggested, to re-introduce broadcasting and TV receiver licences.
Some more minor licence fees are, however, to be increased: radiocommunications licences will be increased, for some classes of users, from $20 a year to $25 a year, effective from 1 October 1977, and the fees payable by some licensees of commercial radio and television stations are also to be increased.
As already announced, $475m will be provided to the States for road works in 1977-78.
Other large expenditures in the transport area include: $55m to meet expected operating losses of the Australian National Railways Commission; a further $33m towards financing the Commission’s capital program, including continued construction of the standard gauge railway between Tarcoola and Alice Springs; $5 lm in assistance to the States for urban public transport projects, including $5m for new projects- the first since 1974; $8m for land transport planning and research; and $23m for Tasmanian Freight Equalization.
Light dues levied on shipping to recover the cost of providing coastal navigation aids are to be increased from 35 cents per net registered ton per quarter to 41 cents from 1 October 1977.
The Government has decided not to increase the level of air navigation charges this year.
In recognition of the depressed outlook for the farm sector the Budget continues to provide for a wide range of rural industry support activities.
Details are set out in Statements attached to the Budget Speech.
Here I mention some of the larger provisions: $53m to facilitate rural industries’ adjustment to changing circumstances; $3 1 .4m for wool research and promotion; $ 15.1m for the continuation of the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign; $40m for continuation of the superphosphate subsidy; and $I2m for continuation of the nitrogenous fertilizer subsidy at its present level, the proposed review of that level from 1 January 1978 being postponed.
We have now approved in principle the establishment of a national rural bank, preferably taking the form of a refinance institution.
We see the new bank complementing existing credit facilities and we intend to hold discussions in the near future with major lending institutions concerning appropriate structural and funding arrangements.
We shall press forward with these dicussions without delay.
The Government is concerned to assist all exporters, particularly through further reductions in the rate of inflation, thereby improving the international competitiveness of Australian goods and services.
As well, direct assistance of $30m- an increase of $5.9m- is included in the Budget for export market development grants to encourage firms to seek and develop overseas markets.
The whole question of financial incentives to exporters has been referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for examination; meanwhile the Government is not proceeding with the legislation foreshadowed in 1976 to reduce benefits and payments under the Scheme.
The Budget provides $14m for payments of industrial research and development grants in 1977-78.
To finance increased coal research the Government will levy 5 cents a tonne on coal produced in Australia in the next three years; the levy will have effect from midnight tonight and is estimated to provide $3.4m this year.
The Government acknowledges the seriousness of the present unemployment, especially among young people.
As well as the personal pressures on those unable to find work, there is also a tragic waste of the nation’s resources.
For these reasons the Government attaches special importance to its labour market training programs.
In addition to the general training assistance available the Government is making increased
E revision this year for programs aimed at enancing employment prospects for young people.
These include the recently introduced Community Youth Support Scheme, the Education Program for Unemployed Youth and the Special Youth Employment Training Program, all of which are now proving their worth.
The Government is broadening this assistance by extending the Special Youth Employment Training Program to young people under 25 years, to take effect immediately.
All told, the Budget provides $ 102.7m for employment training programs this year, an increase of 33 per cent over last year.
Even that very large increase will be surpassed if it is necessary to do so: we will not allow the budgetary situation to inhibit our training programs or our capacity to offer training to people who meet the necessary labour market criteria.
We intend also to approach the States to seek an early Commonwealth-State conference on the need to upgrade work skills in the community and to consider the adequacy and utilization of existing resources for training.
The Government has decided not to set a specific immigration program for 1977-78 but to determine in-take on the basis of numbers of eligible applicants.
Assisted passages will be available for some 16 000 people, about the same number as in 1976-77.
An amount of $137.3m is to be appropriated for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1977-78.
As already announced, the Government has decided to establish an independent authority to provide ethnic broadcasting services and, at a later date, possibly other specialized services.
The proposed appropriation for the provision of the ethnic broadcasting service in 1977-78 is $1.9m.
Spending on Australia Council programs is estimated at $24.4m in 1977-78, an increase of 10 per cent over spending on comparable programs last year.
Following a review of Commonwealth involvement in sport, we are providing $lm in 1977-78 for expenditure on national sports development and assistance; we are also establishing a Sports Advisory Council.
An amount of $ 19.6m is included in the Budget to maintain legal aid services in 1977-78 at their present levels; an additional $3.8m is being provided for Aboriginal Legal Aid Services.
Despite the need this year for overall budgetary restraint, the Commonwealth has maintained its policy of relative generosity to State and local governments.
In line with the offer made by the Prime Minister at the Premiers ‘ Conference in July, provision has been made for the States to receive $4336. lm under the tax sharing arrangements in respect of 1977-78.
I note that this is over $90m more than the estimate of what the States would have been entitled to under the tax sharing legislation.
The generosity of that increase should certainly enable the State governments to frame constructive Budgets which avoid putting up their indirect taxes and charges.
As part of this offer State tax sharing entitlements in future years are to be determined as a proportion of the preceding year’s personal income tax collections, excluding special surcharges or rebates.
The precise percentage to be applied in later years has still to be settled but with this change much firmer estimates of tax sharing entitlements for the year ahead will be known when Commonwealth and States’ Budgets are being prepared.
The Commonwealth’s offer represents a net increase of $621 m, or 16.8 per cent, in States’ tax sharing payments in 1977-78.
With Loan Council programs and the special grant to Queensland recommended by the Grants Commission, total general purpose payments to the States are estimated to increase by $685. lm, or 14.0 percent, in 1977-78.
Local government authorities’ share of personal income tax collections will be $165.3m in 1 977-78, 1 8. 1 per cent more than last year.
Total general purpose and specific purpose payments by the Commonwealth to States and local authorities this year will amount to about $10 billion net.
The Commonwealth is continuing to exercise firm restraint in general government expenditures.
Since 30 June 1975 the number of public servants in employment areas covered by staff ceilings has fallen by about 12 500.
The staff ceilings now set for 30 June 1978 imply a further reduction of over 3000- or about 1 percent-during 1977-78.
A total of $375m is provided in the Budget for expenditure on new and existing civil works projects in 1977-78- leaving aside Darwin, where the rebuilding program is nearing completion, expenditure is estimated to increase by $ 14m.
The Darwin Reconstruction Commission is to be wound up on 3 1 December and the Department of Construction will take over responsibility for outstanding works.
The National Capital Development Commission will have a cash allocation of about $197m for civil works expenditures in Canberra this year, $6m less than last year.
With the move towards self-government in the Northern Territory, a global allocation of $50m has been included in the Budget for expenditure on those functions transferred on 1 January 1977 to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
Provision is made in the Budget estimates for increased revenue from Northern Territory charges; the details are to be determined in consultation with the incoming Legislative Assembly.
Provision is also made in the estimates for increases in rates and charges in the Australian Capital Territory.
In each of the past two years we have succeeded in keeping actual outlays below the original Budget estimates.
We aim to repeat that performance again in 1977-78.
In so doing we shall again demonstrate that we meant what we said about restoring fiscal responsibility and restraining the previous runaway growth in government spending.
I come now to receipts.
Our revenue measures embody two principal considerations.
First, we see an over-riding need to reduce the burden of income tax so as to restore incentive for personal effort.
Secondly, we have focused upon the pressing need to conserve and develop our crude oil and other energy resources.
Again, as in 1976-77, there are no proposals in this Budget to increase duties on beer, or on spirits, or on cigarettes and tobacco.
As I said at the outset, this Government is unremitting in its determination to rein back the growth in the public sector for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its fundamental belief that Australians should be able to determine to a greater extent how they spend thenincomes.
The more successful governments are in the exercise of economy in their expenditures, the more scope they have for reducing the burden of taxation on their citizens.
Our success since taking office in reducing the rate of growth in expenditure by the Government has made it possible for us to reduce the excessive level of personal taxation.
Our first step towards reform of the personal income tax system was to introduce last year full automatic indexation to prevent effective rates of personal income tax from increasing purely because of inflation.
We thus accomplished, in our first year of office, a reform that was initially set down for introduction over a three year period.
As a result of tax indexation the Government has forgone revenues in 1977-78 of about $965m on top of the $990m forgone last year.
But the inescapable fact is that, irrespective of the positive benefits of tax indexation, present rates of personal income tax are too high.
The present tax scale is not only inequitable, it is having devastating effects on incentive and on the will to work.
Given our conviction that decisive measures are required, we now intend to give effect to our own tax philosophy and, once and for all, to repudiate the high tax policies pursued by our political opponents.
Accordingly, we are introducing a much improved and simplified tax system that will provide very substantial benefits to taxpayers at all income levels.
The new measures represent the most revolutionary change yet made to Australia’s system of income tax.
The essence of the new system lies in the establishment of one tax rate as the basic rate of taxation for the vast majority of taxpayers.
The essential points of the new tax system are:
The so-called ‘general concessional rebate’which gave the misleading impression that taxpayers were receiving a benefit which did not in reality exist- will have no further relevance in the new system.
The tax threshold will be raised to $3,751 (from the rebate equivalent of $3,154) and no individual with an income below that level will pay tax.
Dependant rebates are, however, being retained, so that the effective tax threshold for a taxpayer with a dependent spouse will be $5,485.
A standard flat rate of tax of 32 per cent will be established on all taxable incomes over $3,750; this rate becomes the basic tax rate of the system.
A surcharge of 14 per cent will be imposed on that part of taxable income between $16,000 and $32,000.
A surcharge of 28 per cent will be imposed on that part of taxable income above $32,000.
Instead of the present seven-step scale this will establish a three-step scale incorporating effective marginal rates of 32, 46 and 60 per cent.
Let me briefly summarise some of the main benefits of this new and vastly simplified tax system.
The most important benefit is that there are tax reductions at all levels of taxable income.
Furthermore, the biggest proportional gainers are those on lower incomes at the bottom of the tax scale.
In fact, the incomes of about 225 000 taxpayers, including many pensioners with small private incomes, will be made non-taxable.
Some 90 per cent of taxpayers will pay tax at no more than the standard marginal rate of 32 percent.
As a result, the new system goes a long way to restoring the monetary incentive for individuals to work and to work harder, to take on added responsibility, to work overtime, and so on.
I now give some examples of how this system will affect selected income groups: a taxpayer on a taxable income of $4,000 per annum or $77 per week with no dependent spouse will have his tax liability reduced by $2.86 per week, nearly two-thirds of his present tax liability; a taxpayer on $ 10,000 per annum or $ 1 92 per week, about average earnings, will save $2.83 per week, and his marginal rate of tax will be reduced from 35c to 32c in the dollar; a taxpayer on $ 15,000 per annum or $288 per week will save $ 1 0.46 per week and his marginal rate will drop sharply from 45c to 32c in the dollar.
These reductions will be in addition to those already effected from 1 July last through the tax indexation mechanism.
The new system will apply from 1 February 1978 for both pay-as-you-earn and, notionally, for assessment purposes.
As from 1 February next, therefore, the total savings in tax from the new scale and the tax indexation mechanism combined will amount, in the three examples I have just quoted, to $4.46 per week, $5.38 per week and $15.38 per week, respectively.
These examples- which could of course be multiplied- indicate the substantial benefits flowing to all taxpayers from our program of tax reform and tax reduction to date.
I now briefly touch on some further aspects of the new system.
The general rebate of $676 previously allowable to all taxpayers regardless of their expenditures on concessional items would have meant in 1977-78, effectively, a rebate of 40 per cent for any such expenditures over $ 1,690.
With a 32 per cent standard rate being introduced, it has been decided that eligible expenditure above the ceiling will attract a rebate at that rate; the resultant revenue saving will be applied to reduce the ceiling from $1,690 to $1,590, thus making such rebates available to more taxpayers.
Several consequential amendments in respect of such matters as trust income and the threshold of the health insurance levy will be necessary; details are given in Statement No. 4 attached.
PA YE deductions from salaries and wages will be reduced as from 1 February 1978, based on the new scale.
The rate scale and other features applicable for the final assessment of tax liabilities on 1977-78 incomes will in practice be a composite, equivalent to seven-twelfths of the present system and five-twelfths of the new one.
Again, details are spelled out in Statement No. 4.
As basic provisional tax for 1977-78 is assessed on 1976-77 income, 1976-77 rates of tax will be applied in calculation thereof.
The substantial benefits of the new scales will add, from early 1978, to the benefits flowing from the latest round of indexation on 1 July 1977.
These new benefits will begin flowing to taxpayers five months before the next indexation adjustment.
Full automatic indexation to prevent effective rates of personal income tax from increasing purely because of inflation will be maintained in respect of the new system in future years.
However, transitional arrangements will apply with respect to the indexation adjustment due on 1 July 1978.
Dependant rebates which will have operated unchanged throughout the year, will be indexed at that time by the full factor given by the annual indexation rules.
The new rate scale, which will have been operating only during the second half of the financial year, will be indexed at that time by half the factor given by the annual indexation rules.
The cost of the measure on this basis is estimated at $406m in 1977-78 and $973m in 1978-79.
Incentives for the Arts
Continuing its active support for the arts and as a way of eliciting greater co-operation from the private sector, the Government will liberalise the conditions under which income tax deductions are allowable for gifts of works of art and comparable property to public art galleries, museums and libraries.
Details are contained in Statement No. 4.
The cost to revenue is estimated to approach $lm in 1977-78 and $2.5m in a full year.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a clear need this year to finance the essential personal tax reform I have just announced.
That has meant, for one thing, the most rigid control of the Commonwealth’s own expenditures.
Beyond that, however, we have also had to look elsewhere for increased sources of revenue.
Since coming to office the Government has eased the burden of tax on business income in several ways, notably by the investment allowance and the trading stock valuation adjustment.
These measures will produce a very substantial saving in the tax payable by corporate business in 1977-78, of the order of $600m at current tax rates.
As I said early on in my speech tonight there is a need for fair snaring of the burdens.
Against the background of the very substantial concessions given to companies last year, and of the recent and prospective increases in corporate profitability, it has been decided to increase the rates of company tax to apply in respect of 1976- 77 income.
The increase will be 31*4 per cent bringing the general rate to 46 per cent.
The same 3 1/2 per cent increase in rate will also apply to 1977-78 income of superannuation funds which do not observe the 30/20 rule, bringing their rate to 46 per cent.
This rate increase is estimated to yield $203m in 1977-78 and $224m in a full year.
Even so, company tax in total is estimated to increase by only $174m, or 6 per cent, in 1977- 78, compared with $302m, or 12 per cent, in 1976-77.
The Government attaches particular importance to the fundamental role of small business in our free enterprise system.
Because of the benefits this year flowing from last year’s alterations to Division 7 tax, introduction of an investment allowance and a trading stock valuation adjustment, the effective rate of tax for the majority of small firms has been reduced by between 8 and 10 percentage points.
This year’s changes to personal income tax will be of particular benefit to the owneroperators of small companies and unincorporated enterprises, whose incomes are more subject to fluctuations than those of the majority of taxpayers.
There are of course many matters which affect small businesses but which are within the province of State governments- pay-roll tax, workers ‘ compensation and the like.
As I have said, the small business sector will be greatly assisted by the Budget- the Commonwealth hopes that State governments will have similar regard to the special needs of this sector.
Most film royalties paid from Australia are at present taxed, on an arbitrary basis, as if the foreign recipient’s profit rate were 10 per cent.
The Government considers that this produces an unreasonably low effective rate of tax.
Accordingly, the rate of tax to apply in respect of film royalties paid out of Australia after tonight will be 10 per cent of the gross royalties, which represents our standard tax treaty rate.
In April 1977 the Industries Assistance Commission submitted a report on the production of gold.
The Government has considered the report but has decided, because of continuing difficulties faced by the industry, to maintain the present basis of taxation and not to eliminate the concessions involved at this time. I pay particular credit to the local member of the area. That, of course, is the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter).
The Government is well aware of the activities in recent years of tax planners who, increasingly, are promoting tax avoidance schemes and arrangements throughout the business and professional community.
We propose to crack down hard on such practices.
Many of the arrangements that taxpayers are being induced to enter into are highly artificial and contrived, but they are causing substantial amounts of revenue to be either lost altogether or deferred for considerable periods of time.
The Government takes a serious view of these developments and proposes, in these Budget sittings, to bring forward amendments to combat these abuses of the provisions of the taxation laws.
The Government will make a further reduction this year in the coal export levy.
The higher rate of duty will be reduced by $ 1.00 to $3.50 per tonne and the lower rate by 50 cents to $ 1.00 per tonne.
Should State governments seek to take advantage of this to increase their own royalties the Government will have to review its position.
I re-affirm the Government’s intention to remove the remaining duty next year in accordance with its previous undertaking.
– We have news for you, my friend; I can tell you that.
The present reduction, which will apply immediately, will cost an estimated $24m in 1 977-78 and $27m in a full year.
The world price of crude oil has risen dramatically in recent years but only very minor adjustments have been made to the price of crude from Australian wells.
Australian crude is now very substantially underpriced
Without significant new discoveries in the next few years, indigenous crude oil would fall from meeting about 70 per cent of total Australian demand to about 30 per cent by 1985.
We cannot afford a pricing policy that flies in the face of all energy conservation principles by condoning excessive consumption of our scarce presently known supplies of crude.
We are moving to produce appropriate energy pricing structure.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has the whole question of national energy policy under urgent study and is reporting progressively to the Government on it.
We also need a pricing policy that encourages new exploration and ensures full economic recovery of known deposits.
In partial recognition of these truths, the previous Government announced, and we nave maintained, a policy applying import parity prices to oil discovered after 14 September 1975.
But the previous Government did nothing to conserve the usage from existing fields, to increase the extent of recovery from them, or to develop new fields based on discoveries already made.
An estimated 400 million barrels of oil could be recovered in Australia at import parity prices that would not be recovered at existing prices.
This would add about 20 per cent, or about two years’ present requirements, to the reserves which would be economically recoverable at present prices.
Following a Government reference in May 1976, the Industries Assistance Commission has made recommendations directed to an orderly transition towards import parity prices for all local oil
The Government endorses this objective and has adopted an approach based essentially on the Commission’s recommendations.
An annually increasing proportion, or six million barrels per annum, whichever is the greater, of crude oil from each field or new development within fields discovered before 14 September 1975, will be sold at import parity prices, with the remainder sold at the present fixed prices for each field.
For the first year, commencing tonight, the proportion of oil per field to be sold at import parity prices will be 1 0 per cent of production.
In the three subsequent years, the corresponding proportions will be 20, 35 and 50 per cent.
Beyond this, it is the Government’s intention to move to full import parity as soon as possible thereafter; accordingly it will, prior to the end of the period, review the matter.
The Government believes that not all the additional profits resulting from these decisions should remain with the producers, and that the community should obtain a return from the exploitation of these resources which adequately reflects their value.
The fact that the recently increased value of crude oil stems essentially from action by a cartel of foreign oil producers makes the community interest in that enhanced value all the more obvious.
In view of this, the Government has decided to increase the production levy on crude oil from $2 to $3 per barrel.
The Government is, meanwhile, examining whether the levy should be replaced by a resources tax.
The levy will not apply to condensate marketed separately from a crude oil stream; such condensate may now be sold at commercially negotiated prices.
Nor will the levy apply to liquefied petroleum gas from fields not yet in production.
This will assist the marketing of LPG and condensate from fields already discovered but not yet developed in the North West Shelf and the Cooper Basin.
Condensate sold comingled in a crude oil stream will continue to be treated as crude oil for pricing and levy purposes.
The levy on liquefied petroleum gas from currently producing fields will remain at $2 per barrel.
Duty on Petroleum Products
In association with its review of energy pricing and conservation policies, the Government has also reviewed the duty on petroleum products and has decided to increase it by one-quarter cent per litre.
These decisions taken together will result in additional revenues totalling $180m this financial year, and $2 12m in a full year. The pricing and duty decisions combined are estimated to result in an ultimate increase in retail petrol prices of about Vh cents per litre, or about 1 1 cents per gallon, in 1 977-78; because of the lags involved, these final price effects are likely to come through rather gradually.
Petrol will remain appreciably cheaper in Australia than in most other comparable countries.
The Government regrets the need for any action that adds to consumer prices.
However, it also realises that the steadily diminishing proportion of our crude oil needs which will be supplied from domestic wells means that increased petrol prices are inevitable in any case; the sooner they are effected, die sooner will excessive use be curtailed, presently uneconomic fields be developed and exploration for new fields stepped up.
A further statement on the new oil pricing and levy arrangements will be made by the Minister for National Resources.
Total outlays in 1977-78 are estimated to increase by 10.5 per cent to $26,656m.
Total receipts are estimated to increase by 14.3 per cent to $24,439m.
The overall deficit is therefore estimated at $2,217m, a reduction of $523m in 1976-77.
After allowance for overseas transactions, the domestic deficit is estimated at $ 1,347m in 1977-78, almost $650m less than in 1976-77.
The outcome I have just announced is consistent with our fiscal stance since taking office.
In 1 977-78 fiscal policy will again reinforce the other arms of policy.
In particular, the further reduction in the Budget deficit will lighten the burden on monetary policy.
We are thus a step closer to our objectives of sustainably lowering interest rates and beginning to ease the restrictions on bank lending during the course of 1977-78.
As that can be responsibly achieved, there will be obvious benefits for the economy.
I can mention tonight one step in that direction.
The Government has been concerned, in reviewing the overall housing scene, to ensure that availability of finance is not a barrier to steady and sustainable growth in home building activity, including additions and renovations.
If borrowers are credit worthy, we would not want them to be denied housing finance because of official restraints.
Accordingly, the Government has advised the Reserve Bank that it wants to see banks and other financial institutions encouraged to increase their lending for private home building, particularly in those States and areas where the capacity of the building industry is underutilised.
It is of course being left to individual lenders to determine their levels of lending, taking into account their particular balance sheet positions and their assessments of the housing situation in their areas of operations.
Despite the many hazards in such projections, the present outlook indicates future growth in the broadly defined measure of the volume of money, M3, in the range of 8- 10 per cent over the course of 1977-78.
That range may change as circumstances unfold.
It may also be necessary, as in 1976-77, to adjust policy in response to changing circumstances.
With those qualifications, I indicate the Government’s present expectation that it will be appropriate for monetary growth in 1977-78 to be somewhat less than in 1976-77.
This would maintain the Government’s policy of providing adequate funds for sustainable recovery in private sector activity and employment, while continuing to bear down steadily on inflation and inflationary expectations.
The Government believes that these broad monetary expectations will provide the community with a continuing degree of certainty as to the outlook.
Overall, these fiscal and monetary policy settings provide ground for cautious optimism about the unfolding of economic conditions through 1977-78.
Again, however, I stress that restoring the Australian economy from its previously shattered state is no simple task.
The course of inflation during the first half of 1977-78 will be influenced by several transitory factors.
These will include the continuing lagged effects of last year ‘s devaluation, some ‘ catch-up ‘ effects from the recent prices ‘pause’ and the direct and indirect effects of the pricing-cum-duty decisions on petroleum products which I have just announced.
But, more importantly, the basic thrust of policy is such as to further reduce the underlying rate of inflation.
Fundamentally, of course, inflation- and unemployment- in 1977-78 will be heavily influenced by the extent of wage indexation applying.
If we assume, for example, that future National Wage Case decisions embody a broadly similar degree of partial indexation as in 1976-77, by mid- 1978 a wide range of price indicators would be registering quarterly rates of increase of the order of 2-2Vi per cent.
Unless the degree of wage indexation is reduced, it will mean wage rate increases of around 10 per cent for 1977-78 as a whole.
Such an outcome would contribute little to reducing real wage/productivity distortion.
If the Commission does make a contribution to this problem by lower awards, the outlook for jobs- and unemployment- will be strengthened.
We shall, of course, continue to urge the bench to do so- stressing in that regard the relevance of the tax relief we are providing.
As noted earlier, the underlying forward momentum of demand and activity has begun to reassert itself in recent months.
That process will gather pace over the course in 1977-78.
Product growth will induce some short-term gains in measured productivity and some further improvement in profitability and profit levels.
Growth of final domestic demand will again be concentrated in the private sector, with the cuts in personal income tax and some further decline in the personal saving ratio underpinning moderate growth in consumption while the business fixed investment growth already in train strengthens and broadens.
As the trade account continues to switch around, it will contribute significantly to the growth of domestic product over the course of the year.
It will also contribute to an improving balance of payments position, although the usual seasonal influences will work in the other direction for the next few months.
With policy bearing down on inflation and business investment picking up, strengthening private capital inflows and the recently announced resumption of long-term official borrowing overseas should reinforce the capital account also as the year progresses.
Gross non-farm product should increase by over 4 per cent between the June quarters of 1977 and 1978.
This compares with a corresponding increase of 1 per cent between the June quarter 1976 and the June quarter 1977.
Due to the within-year patterns- particularly the strong first half and weak second half of 1 976-77- growth of that order in non-farm product over the course of 1977-78 would entail growth for 1977-78 as a whole of about 2 per cent.
Although seasonal conditions are largely unpredictable, at this stage they seem unlikely to support more than a marginal increase in the volume of farm production; if so, real farm incomes would be likely to fall somewhat.
Such an overall picture for activity would be consistent with strengthening, though still modest, employment growth during the course of 1977-78.
This should broadly take up the growth in the work-force but perhaps not much more than that.
Such an outcome would reflect, of course, the continuing serious real wage distortion and the characteristics of the wage determination process.
Our policies will continue to erode that distortion and open the way to increased job opportunities and lower unemployment.
That desirable outcome would be attainable more quickly were there to be greater moderation on the part of those demanding wage increases and on the part of those awarding them.
This Budget has been carefully designed.
It will be maintaining maximum pressure on inflation in the first half of the financial year.
In the second half of the financial year, as the results of these policies bear their fruits, the Budget will add a stimulus to activity through the large increase in disposable incomes flowing from tax reductions associated with changes to the personal income tax system.
The Government therefore, looks to a further slowdown in inflation in the second half of 1977-78, accompanied by a continuing pick-up in activity.
In short, this Budget assures further solid progress towards the Government’s economic and social objectives.
The new reform of the personal income tax is of particular benefit, both economic and social.
Economically, the Budget builds upon the foundations of the past eighteen months. 1976-77 was not an easy year, and 1977-78- in the very nature of the problems we confront- will not see any dramatic breakthrough to rapid economic recovery.
But the Budget provides solid grounds for looking to further gains in reducing the underlying rate of inflation and inflationary expectations in the year ahead.
That will, in turn, be reflected in rising levels of activity and growing job opportunities extending through into 1 978-79 and beyond.
I commend the Budget to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr E. G. Whitlam) adjourned.