30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, Q.C) took the chair at 3.20 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr Speaker, I move:
That this House expresses its regret at the death on 12 September 1977 of Leslie Clement Haylen, a member of this House for the Division of Parkes from 1943 until 1963, places on record its appreciation of his long and meritorious service, and tenders its deep sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
Mr Speaker, Mr Leslie Haylen was a member of this House from 1943 to 1963. He represented the Sydney suburban electorate of Parkes for 20 years in a most memorable manner. During the First World War he served overseas with the Australian infantry forces until he was discharged in 1919. From the time he was elected to the Parliament in 1943 he served on numerous parliamentary committees, ranging from the Joint Committee on Social Security to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings. He also represented Australia overseas as a member of the Australian delegation to the 27th session of the International Labour Organisation in Paris in 1946, as Chairman of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Committee which toured Europe in 1945 and as leader of the parliamentary delegation to Japan in 1948. In addition, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) reminded us in another place earlier today, he visited China about 20 years ago.
Les Haylen was an author as well as a member of this House. He had published numerous works ranging from plays and short stories to novels and historical works. His term in parliament, first on the Government benches and later on the Opposition front bench, was characterised by his sincerity and by his vigor. He will be remembered by his former colleagues for his conscientious and devoted service to the ideals and interests of his party and of his country. I am sure that I speak for all of us when I say to his widow and his two sons that we offer them our sympathy in their loss.
- Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party I support the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and I thank him for moving the motion. For 20 years Les Haylen maintained a reputation as a highly articulate and authentically Australian member of the Australian Parliament. He came to the Parliament in the great Curtin victory of 1943. His Division of Parkes always remained a very difficult seat for the Australian Labor Party, one of those seats which were a litmus test of public opinion. It was a tribute to him that until 1963 he retained the seat even in those elections which went badly for our party. He had a healthy sense of irreverence combined with a deep love for the Australian people. If I may use a term which came easily to him, he loved the ordinary bloke and he always saw himself as one of the blokes.
He was the most effective debunker of humbug and the greatest deflator of pomposity in the House in his time. He spared nobody, not least, or even especially not, Sir Robert Menzies himself. He was one of the handful of private members who could fill the House for a speech. The list of his published plays and books indicates the range of matters which roused his interest, concern and passion- from the Eureka Stockade to the war in Vietnam. He was one of the most scintillating raconteurs that any of us has ever met. Les Haylen was one of the. first members of this Parliament to visit the People’s Republic of China. That was at a time when it was not popular or even prudent to do so. It is a remarkable change in public and political opinion that has enabled us today to receive under the auspices of Mr President and you, Mr Speaker, a delegation from the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. He was one of the first to oppose the war in Vietnam, years before conscription inflamed public passions on that issue. He was, above all, a genuine character. Only Australia could have produced him. This Parliament was a poorer place when he was defeated. His widow and his sons can be proud of him, as his party will always be.
– I join the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this condolence motion on the death of Les Haylen. I speak particularly on behalf of those members of my party who were here with Les Haylen. They will remember him as one of the memorable characters of this House. He was a very effective parliamentarian. He was a hard-working member of the Opposition who had a very quick wit. Anybody who had the audacity to interject on him would very quickly suffer the effects of the very sharp tongue that he had.
Les Haylen had a wide experience. He had a rural background. He was a very good soldier, a journalist and an author, and for 20 years he served as a member of this Parliament. I always think of him as one of the old school, of the Chifley and Curtin type, who was rugged but underneath all that was a very likeable, very polite and very gentlemanly person. Most of those who knew him will remember him that way. Many of his works as an author were translated into other languages. I recall that some of them were translated into German. On one occasion the late Arthur Calwell said that the reason we had so many German migrants in Australia was that they had read Les Haylen ‘s books and had gained an impression of Australia. I am glad to be able to make these remarks about a memorable character of this Parliament. I express sympathy to his widow and family.
– I join the party leaders in this House by placing on record my remarks about Leslie Haylen. He was an old warrior. He was one for whom we on this side of the House had great affection. It is ironic that Leslie Haylen died the day before the visit to this country of the Chinese delegation from the National People’s Congress. China had an enormous influence on his lue. He first visited China just prior to the liberation of China in 1949. He again visited China after an invitation was sent from the People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs to Dr Evatt in 1957 inviting a delegation of the Parliamentary Labor Party. Three people were chosen by the Australian Labor Party Caucus to visit China. They were Leslie Haylen, Percy Clarey and Charlie Griffiths. Leslie Haylen was elected leader of that delegation. On that occasion he met Chou En-lai and many of the other leaders of China. When he returned he wrote a book entitled China Journey: The Republic Revisited. When I was a young parliamentarian we discussed at great length the problems of the people of China and related them to the problems of the people in our own country.
Leslie Haylen had a very wide field of interest. He was interested in the arts and literature. He was not a man of malice. He was a man with a light-hearted attitude who was respected on both sides of the House. Following Leslie Haylen ‘s defeat in 1963 1 was able to keep in close contact with him, both on the telephone and by visiting his home. Also, he was a great letter writer. When he agreed with what one said he would write a complimentary letter. Of course, at the same time, if he did not agree he would also let one know about that I say to Sylvia, his wife, and to Wayne , his son, that I am saddened at his passing. Regrettably I have not been able to know his other son. I know how proud he was of
Wayne who gained a law degree and is now practising at the New South Wales Bar. I join with other honourable members in paying my respects to Leslie Haylen for the service he gave to the Parliament and to the nation.
May I take a moment or two to join with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in this motion. I sat in the Parliament with Leslie Haylen, together with some remaining colleagues such as the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon). Even though on occasions we were at the receiving end of his irreverence and his wit the honourable gentleman was one who did not take his partisan views outside this chamber. He was a magnificent companion. His wit was elegant; it was ready. There was no malice in his being at all. He once complained that I was in the wrong political party. I have heard that complaint come from my own side of politics. The honourable gentleman gave as much as he took. He did it in a magnificent parliamentary style. One of my regrets is that Parliament today has lost a number of characters. There is a disposition by many people outside to think that every person who comes into this place should be taken from the one mould. Well, Leslie Haylen was taken from one mould but they broke it after he was born.
I recall on one occasion twitting him in a speech that he was using phrases made up on the spur of a fortnight ago. He just laughed at me. I recall that in the same debate when Haylen was in full flight- when Haylen was in full flight that honourable gentleman was talking- during a moment’s pause one of my colleagues said to him: ‘The honourable gentleman should be in the circus’. Haylen, without batting an eyelid, turned to him and said: ‘And if I were, I assure the honourable gentleman that he would be fed at the right time’. It is a matter of regret to me that the honourable gentleman has passed from this world. To his wife and family I extend my very deep sympathy. This world has lost a warm, wonderful Australian character. Another world has gained one.
-My friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) and I are among the few members on this side who served with Leslie Haylen for the majority of his period here. What has not been mentioned is that his ancestry was very close to this area. His family came from the Bugendore-Queanbeyan district. At some odd stages he had a nostalgic idea of buying back the family property. I think that in the long run prices and circumstances beat him as he did not do that. Nevertheless, he had an interest in this area always. I suppose that one of the ironies of Hansard is that it does not record the nuances of debate. I sometimes wish it would insert in the report ‘Laughter’, or something else, in brackets. But it does not. Often when one reads Hansard coldly later it does not sound quite the same as it did on the occasion.
I am pleased that my friend from Queensland, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), has spoken. I think at one time he and Leslie Haylen claimed a distant ancestry. How close it was I do not know. Certainly it shows that blood sometimes divides in rather odd sorts of ways. Les Haylen was a very close friend of mine. I think some of his most entertaining moments were not in the House; they were as a raconteur at some intimate gatherings. I do not often take part in valedictories but I am pleased to do so on this occasion. I think it is rather sad that only a handful of people still remember individually a man who left here in 1963. Those of us who are lucky to be among that number treasure his memory. I am sure we extend to his wife and two sons our sincere sympathy in their bereavement.
-Like my friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) and my friend the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen), I served with Leslie Haylen. He was a member when I was first elected to this Parliament. I suppose the best term that one could apply to him is that he was a blithe spirit. He brought into this place some touch which I hope is not lacking but which I think may be. People such as himself, the late Edward Ward, the late Arthur Calwell, Reg Pollard and so on, but particularly Leslie Haylen, brought to debate in this place a touch which is perhaps hard to deliver at this time when we are in such a hurry to do things. He was a man who, both in prose and verse, was able to leave his mark on Australian literature. I expect that if someone wanted to study Leslie Haylen the place to look would be in Hansard, for sprinkled through that would be his philosophy, his wit and his attitude on everything that comes and goes.
I wish to make two points about the way in which he expressed himself and his capacity for using the English language to get the message across. He was a very humane man with an attitude to humanity, no matter from where people came. One night the House was debating the question of providing aid for people in need in overseas countries. I think it was Sir John McEwen who said that we had long range plans about aid. Leslie put the thing in a nutshell, as succinctly as it could have been said in our language, when he said: ‘It is no good having long range plans for short range bellies’. He had an attitude to the pomp in a place such as this and the anomalous nature of it in some ways. I remember that one night here some friends of his were excluded from the Speaker’s Gallery because they were not wearing ties. He made the point that his friends had turned up in one of the finest products of the Australian countrysiderolledneck pullovers. He said that no exception was taken to the ladies who were friends of the people in office and who turned up in the flayed skins of a poor mink. On the other hand, the Speaker chose to sit there, as he said, with the rear end of a sheep on his head. This was Leslie Haylen on the system. He could see the anomalies. He could see the issues as clearly as anybody.
I send this message to his family: We in this House who remember him and those of us who have taken an active and interested part in politics in the last 30 years will remember him, although it is 14 years since he retired from this place. He went to the First World War as a young man. I think he was only 78 years of age when he died. That means that he was probably only 16V4 years of age or thereabouts when he managed to get into France to serve in the same unit as his brothers, one of whom I think was killed almost in his presence. So I place on record my deep regret. I know I express the sentiments of all those who served with him here. Australia is the worse for his passing, but it was blessed by his presence on this continent.
-I am one of the few honourable members who served with Leslie Haylen for the period from 1949 until he retired from Parliament. I am pleased that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said what they did about him. I am pleased that the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) spoke in the way that he did of Les Haylen ‘s attributes. If Les Haylen could hear the valedictories of this Parliament he would be pleased that we reminded ourselves of some of his witty exploits and some of the examples of practical jokes for which he was quite famous.
I know that it is normal to say that so-and-so was a colourful character; it is done almost always when we talk about people. Leslie Haylen was indeed a colourful character. I cannot remember him ever coming into this chamber without wearing a red carnation. I think it is sad that others did not follow the example he set because many of them would have improved their appearance considerably had they done so.
I said that he was a practical joker. I should like to remind the House- and I know Leslie Haylen would like me to do so- of an example of his practical joking. One day the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- standing in the very place where he now sits, incidentallywas making one of his normal speeches against communism, unity tickets, the Russians and the Chinese, when Leslie Haylen said to me: Quickly, go into the bar and get a couple of white coats. Wardie will put one on and I will put on the other and we will stand alongside him and see how long he keeps going’. I rushed to the bar and gathered two white coats which belonged to the stewards. Eddie Ward could not get into his because it had narrow shoulders, but Leslie Haylen was able to scramble into his. In his white coat he walked up and stood alongside the honourable member for Mackellar. He quietly said to the honourable gentleman, as he was talking about communism: ‘Excuse me, but the green van is waiting’.
– What happened after that?
-The honourable gentleman was at once collected by, I think, the Sergeant-at-Arms, who was a little chap named Pettifer. This little man crept up on the honourable member and asked him to remove himself from the chamber. I think he was taken into the Speaker’s room for an address of some kind. That was Les Haylen ‘s idea of practical joking.
He had a very healthy disregard for the Country Party. I can recall the former honourable member for Mallee, Mr Turnbull, coming into the House, holding up a skeleton weed, and saying: ‘Here is a skeleton weed’. Les Haylen said: ‘Which is the skeleton weed?’ The honourable member for Mallee was concerned about its spread. On one occasion Les Haylen invited us to observe the bovine expressions of those in the Country Party corner. To give an example of their doleful approach to life he lamented: ‘The wheel of the waggon is broken; it ain’t goin’ to rain no more’. That was Leslie Haylen. He was a great character. He was one of the characters of the Parliament The honourable member for Mackellar is another. No doubt the Minister for Defence will be talked of in the same way in many years to come.
– You will get a mention yourself.
– I thank the honourable member for the promise. I do join - with other honourable members in expressing regret at the passing of Leslie Haylen. I convey my sympathy to his widow and his two sons. They at least will know that their husband and father was highly regarded by this Parliament, and by both sides of the Parliament.
-I am sure that Leslie Haylen, like Aristophanes, would like to be remembered for golden laughter beyond the grave, for he was a man of infinite jest. Well do I remember the incident related by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). I well remember addressing a normally rapt House, with it hanging on every word, when suddenly for no reason that I could discern it dissolved into laughter. I did not know what was happening behind me.
– You never do.
– I suspect that is true. I have always taken the precaution of sitting right at the back of the chamber. Even if one does not know what is happening behind, at least one knows what is happening in front. I sometimes feel that honourable members on the other side of the chamber do not always know that. I remember Leslie, amongst other things, for an expression which is now old but which I think was new in his mouth. He always referred to the ceremonies which he had to attend in his own electorate as being ‘fetes worse than death’. That is now an old phrase, but I think it was his, and it was new when he first used it There were many sides to his character which are not known by everyone. I remember, for example, the way in which he used to go camping down the Nattai Valley. He always loved to go into the bush for the weekends.
I join very sincerely in what I think would be the appropriate tribute. Accompanying the laughter, there is the sadness that we feel m his passing, and I would like to join with other honourable members in giving all our sympathy to his family.
-When I was first elected to the Parliament I was 27 years of age and Leslie Haylen was 46. He took me aside as a young man and said: ‘If you are going to specialise, do not do it too obviously or the Minister will feel you are after his job’. I think one of the tragedies of Leslie Haylen was that he was not a Minister, and I believe that he should have been a Minister in the Chifley Government. He would have liked to have been Minister for Repatriation, which in those days was a portfolio and a structure of law which was full of anomalies that used to make him very angry.
But I am quite sure that his real first love was the field of international affairs. He confided to me on a couple of occasions that really his spiritual home was France. When I was first elected to the Parliament he had just returned from some parliamentary delegation in France. France was just corning out of the trauma of the Second World War, and he spoke of the spirit of the French people who had been through a terribly hard time. Yet he appreciated in the French nature the gaiety which was certainly in his own. I found it to be almost unbelievable when I read in his obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald that he was 78 years of age. Even when he left the Parliament at the age of 64 he seemed to have an outlook which was perennially young and I believe he retained that really to the end, judging from whatever I heard from him and from when I met him when he came here. I join with other honourable members in expressing to his widow Sylvia and his two sons our sincere sympathy.
-I am glad that the House has not been tempted to talk about Leslie Haylen in any dour or miserable way today, because he was certainly not that kind of man. He would like us to have a laugh and probably a drink to celebrate the time he spent here in this Parliament. I had the good fortune to work in Leslie Haylen ‘s first election campaign and subsequent campaigns, and I hold as mementoes his letter of thanks and his early political pamphlets. He was certainly an animated and exciting man.
I am pleased that I have the opportunity of speaking after the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) today because Leslie Haylen, although never a gourmet, was one who certainly enjoyed a nice drop of red. I remember an occasion when he came into the chamber with his touch of French sophistication and his knowledge of the vintage and talked excitedly on a wine Bill. He was followed in the debate by the honourable member for Mackellar who I think said: ‘Mr Speaker, the House has been treated to a delightful variety of a dry old medium red’. Leslie Haylen was anything but that. He was a colourful radical. He was an Evatt supporter at the time of the split. There was no equivocation about where he stood in respect of the issues of the day. I suppose that, when we look back and realise that the split was about bringing troops back from Asia, banning bombs and recognising China, symbolically we could say today that the great luncheon for the Chinese delegation was Leslie Haylen ‘s vindication. He felt very strongly about the need to recognise one-quarter of the world’s population. He advocated that for the 20 years that he was a member of the Parliament.
He wrote many books and devoted one of them to his visit to China. It was called Chinese Journey. He had many other great writings to his credit, such as Blood on the Wattle, a Cavalcade of Labor History- a. play- and A for Artemis. Twenty Years Hard Labor was his last work. He had a great part to play as a back bencher in the period when Labor was in office. It is not generally known, for example, that it was Leslie Haylen who went to Papua New Guinea virtually to hand pick the first patrol officers and to establish the patrol officer service. He was chairman of the Immigration Advisory Committee. It is not generally known that he went overseas virtually to hand pick the ships which were to bring the first migrants to Australia under the great plan of Arthur Calwell when he initiated the immigration program.
Leslie Haylen was a great advocate of a national theatre. Today he would realise that many of his contentions have eventuated because of the enthusiasm he brought to bear. He was a very great poet. I have collected a number of his poems. I have some of my collection here in Parliament House today. Chifley’s Grave is one poem for which he will be remembered. I shall read a couple of verses from it:
The pomp of power and the talk of princes cease,
The angry word, the hatreds fall and die.
In austere beauty and in peace
He lies beneath the arched and opal sky.
Here was a man who loved the simple things;
The breath of wattle and the stir of wings,
The strong hand for a falling brother,
The gentle gospel: ‘Love ye one another’.
There was his poem Arthur about Arthur Calwell, a man he revered. I shall read just the first verse:
When a man dies and his friends weep,
That is life and death in their order,
But when a man dies and his enemies weep,
That is greatness crossing the border.
I know that he would have liked me to mention his dedication to bringing the Vietnam war to an early cessation. He wrote a Christmas card which was headed ‘It’s rainin’ on the Barcoo’. I shall not read it all by any means. The last verse says:
Yes, it’s rainin’ on the Barcoo,
And it ‘s rainin ‘ back o ‘ Bourke,
When will it rain on mankind,
The Christ cry ‘PEACE ON EARTH’.
These verses in themselves symbolise the great spirit that was Leslie Haylen- a man who stood for the great things but who stood for them in such a human way, in a way that ordinary men could understand. His wife, Sylvia, and his sons, Wayne and Ron, would be very touched to know today that in the Parliament those people who served with him and those who have come after him can learn from the example he gave in upholding the cause of mankind. I convey my sympathy to Sylvia and his sons.
-Les Haylen and I served in this House together for about 10 years. I was very fond of Les Haylen. When he was defeated I missed him very much. Now that he is no longer alive I miss him too. I feel very much for Sylvia, Wayne and Ron in the loss that I know they have suffered.
-This day of good food and fine wine, of mirth in the House and of the visit of the Chinese delegation is a day that Leslie Haylen would have enjoyed. The tragedy is that he is not here to enjoy it with us. I am not one of those who served with him in the House but I rise because Les Haylen had quite a profound effect on my life. The first political function of any description that I ever attended was a meeting- I cannot remember the date; I tried to look it up this morning- in the late 1950s when there was a resurgence of nazism and antisemitism in Germany which was repeated in this country in Melbourne with the desecration of some of the synagogues. I went to a public meetingit was the first time that I had been involved in anything political-at the Anzac Hall in Sydney. The only politician that I remember being there- there may have been others- was Les Haylen. I remember him for the superb speech that he made on that occasion. It was a brilliant and impassioned speech, a speech from the heart, denouncing nazism and anti-semitism. I was deeply moved by it and I was influenced greatly to join, at a later date, the Australian Labor Party.
I met Les Haylen that night and, although I did not see him as often as I would have liked to, I retained his friendship up until the last time I saw him, which was a year or so ago. I just want to add on behalf of the younger members here that I believe Les Haylen made a great contribution. Other honourable members have repeated many funny anecdotes for which he was famous in this place, but he was also famous, in my book anyhow, for the feelings that I believe are important to the Labor movement- hatred of authoritarianism, fascism and all the things that go with them. I join with the rest of the House in paying my respects to his wife and two children.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
-I thank the House.
The Acting Clerk- Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That 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 the meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was ari 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 to live 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 Sinclair, Mr Lionel Bowen, Dr Klugman, Mr MacKellar, Mr Morris, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Ruddock, Mr Stewart and Mr Uren.
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 humble 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 Sinclair, Mr Connolly, Mr Dobie, Mr Ellicott, Mr Hurford, Mr Jacobi and Mr McLeay.
To the Honourable the 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 Gillard, Mr MacKellar and Mr MacKenzie.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That we believe that Australia’s constitution is undemocratic and should be replaced by a democratic constitution. This new constitution should be drafted at a representative directly elected people’s convention following extensive public debate, and then put to a referendum of the people.
The petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Parliament, as a matter of urgency, will help to promote such public debate and will arrange for the holding of such a people’s convention and referendum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Clyde Cameron and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
In accord with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, the child deserves special legal protection before as well as after birth. This protection can only be guaranteed by specific legislation protecting the unborn child from the crime of abortion.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government takes action:
To legalise to give full legal protection to the unborn child and to forbid the performing of abortions in the Australian Capital Territory.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth-
That we believe that laxity in the control of broadcasting standards has given viewers-
Your petitioners humbly pray that your honourable House will take steps to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
We are calling for an independent moratorium on the mining of uranium because:
It is impossible and immoral to think of mining uranium only in Australian terms. Uranium mining contributes to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hunt.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully showeth:
That we believe that none of the safety problems associated with uranium and plutonium has been solved.
The mining and export of uranium will help to expand the nuclear power industry thus contributing to the health hazards of the world. Mining uranium will damage the environment and the health of the aboriginal people.
Our beliefs on this matter are shared by a majority of physicists and scientists including 75 per cent of all specialists in nuclear medicine.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will not allow the mining, selling and export of uranium ore.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrInnes.
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:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled, the Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth-
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDrKlugman.
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 Morris.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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, 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 Sinclair.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. Your petitioners believe that all people have the right to education, irrespective of class, age, sex, sexuality and ethnic background, and that it is the responsibility of Government to ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to protect that right
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
Henderson poverty line; and, further, that the TEAS be indexed quarterly to movements in the Consumer Price Index.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
Special United Nations Session on Disarmament
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the spread of conventional and nuclear weapons throughout the world is creating serious tensions and risks and is absorbing an increasing proportion of the world’s resources and energy;
That it is essential to seek alternative methods of national and international security; and to extend non-violent ways of solving disputes among nations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government and Parliament will
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Uren.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion that in the awarding of major contracts for the computerisation of the Australian telephone system, due weight should be given to the maximisation of Australian content and to the activity generated for Australian industry. Furthermore, the House believes that before the finalisation of such major contracts the Minister should make a statement in this House setting out the Australian content in the main competing tenders.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. The right honourable gentleman will remember that on Wednesday last, in response to a question without notice, he asserted that there would not be any additional assistance to rural industry in this financial year beyond the tax averaging provisions he announced yesterday. I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that these recently announced changes to the system of personal income tax, which were first introduced only 4 weeks ago, generally restore a benefit that primary producers enjoyed prior to the Budget? I ask the Treasurer how he can reconcile these changes with his statement on page 33 of Statement No. 2 of the 1977-78 Budget Papers which reads:
Apart from Budget proposals themselves, there will be no new fiscal measures during 1977-78.
Is it also a fact that the measures he announced last night will not assist the majority of beef producers and many other struggling primary producers because so many of them do not have a taxable income? Finally, in the light of press speculation last Friday about a rural miniBudget and the parlous state of the beef industry, is the Treasurer prepared to assert again that the Government will not provide any meaningful assistance to the beef industry and other depressed primary producers?
– The honourable gentleman and members of the Opposition Party have always shown a sense of hostility towards men and women on the land. The fact is that one only has to go back to the policies of high inflation and high labour costs during the period of the Labor Administration which imposed a crippling burden on people on the land. The honourable gentleman rests on an assertion and an inference which are in fact quite unfounded. The question that I was asked during the course of last week’s parliamentary sitting was whether there would be a mini-Budget. The honourable gentleman because of his past experience ought to know what in fact a mini-Budget means. What was announced last night is of very considerable advantage to the rural sector. It is utterly justified. It is deserved by people on the land.
– Why did you not do it in the Budget?
– I remind the honourable member for Banks and the interjector that if one looks at the Budget and the Budget Papers that I brought down this year or the Budget Papers for the previous year one finds that there is always an assumption built into Statement No. 2 that there will be no new fiscal initiatives during die course of the year. That is put down to enable die various figures to have a solid base.
Opposition members- Oh!
-Well, to have a base which can be the subject of interpretation.
– Very rubbery.
-The honourable member for Oxley who interjects of course had a Budget deficit which blew out to $4.5 billion. As honourable gentleman opposite are very much aware, of course decisions are made during the course of any year in the light of events as they occur. That was the case during the course of last year. The Budget deficit and the expenditure level that we put down was in fact reduced, as I recall, by around $200m. So far as the rural sector is concerned, a number of advantages were included in the Budget papers. During the course of this Government’s administration it has taken a series of decisions which have been of particular assistance to the rural sector. I instance such things as stock valuation and the investment allowance. Beyond those things, as the year unfolds other decisions will be taken in the light of particular events. I invite the honourable gentleman to curb his impatience about the problems of beef producers. Senior Ministers have indicated quite clearly that these matters are before the Government and decisions will be announced at the appropriate time.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Will Australia’s policies on uranium development and export be affected in any way by recent discussions and decisions at the British Trade Union Congress on nuclear energy recently reported in the Australian Press?
-Attention has been drawn to reports dated 10 September that the annual conference of the British Trade Union Congress advocated an expanded nuclear program. I further note that the Trade Union Congress, as that report indicated, backed a full scale demonstration of fast breeder reactors on grounds that there might be a shortage of uranium and that therefore countries dependent on nuclear energy for peaceful purposes would need to conserve what supplies of uranium were available to them. I think all honourable gentlemen would know that compared with the fight water reactor a fast breeder reactor makes more efficient use of uranium but, at the same time, takes the country so involved closer to the plutonium economy which is something which has been of concern to this Government.
I believe it is most significant that the Trade Union Congress has apparently come to these views. It also shows that in the United Kingdom responsible unions, having a considerable number of facts available to them, having a very large number of their members dependent upon energy from nuclear supplies, recognise that countries of Europe need uranium for the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It also shows that in order to conserve energy even now they are thinking of moves towards a fast breeder reactor. These two matters together emphasise why the ready availability of Australian uranium is important in order to slow down the move towards fast breeder reactors, if that is possible, and to slow down the move towards the plutonium economy, as well as to give Australia the strongest possible voice in the world forums against nuclear proliferation and in favour of proper waste disposal as modern scientific and technological knowledge now makes possible.
I hope very much that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the delegates there gathered will take into account what their brothers in Britain have decided and determined on these particular matters, bearing in mind the fact that in Britain jobs are dependent upon uranium. It is very easy for people to make policy about these particular matters when they know that irrespective of whatever policy they make their homes will be heated, the lights in their homes will still be lit and that there will be power for the factories in which they work. In Europe it is a different matter.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that many small businesses in rural and urban areas have suffered greatly from fluctuations in their incomes. Is it also a fact that the Industries Assistance Commission report, initiated by the Labor Government, which recommended the introduction of an income equalisation deposit scheme and the retention of tax averaging provisions for rural producers, also recommended that these proposals should be extended to all taxpayers, particularly the many who have greatly fluctuating incomes? Will the Treasurer and the Government consider implementing this IAC recommendation in the near future, particularly to protect small businesses from bankruptcy in the present recession?
– This Government has a very real concern for the problems of the small business community, unlike the Opposition in this House. The Opposition ought to remember that as a direct consequence of the investment allowance and the stock valuation provisions the effective rate of tax on many small businesses in the community was reduced by between 8 per cent and 10 per cent. The honourable gentleman ought to dwell on that. The averaging of incomes outside the rural sector certainly is a matter at which the Government will look, but I do not want to give the honourable gentleman any encouragement to believe that, having regard to the framework of the Budget, that would be a matter for early consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Why was it necessary to introduce revised tax averaging procedures for farmers?
– In one sentence, it was necessary because the changed scales that came from the Hayden tax reforms resulted in farmers paying in tax about $50m a year more than otherwise would have been the case. Let me give a number of examples of how that occurred. A wage earner on an average income of $5,000 would have been paying $499 a year in tax under the Hayden scales. A farmer whose incomes over five years were $5,000, $5,000, $2,000, $8,000 and $5,000- that is, with the same average income of $5,000- would have paid in each of those years $499, $499, nil, $1,204 and $499 in tax. It is perfectly plain, when those figures are averaged out, that the farmer was paying in tax over that period $200 more than the wage earner, even though his average income was the same. Obviously that is vastly unjust.
Let me give some other examples of detriment of farmers flowing from the Hayden scales. A farmer with a taxable income of $4,000 and an average income of $3,000 in 1974-75, on the old scales- that is, pre-Hayden- would have paid $293 in tax. Under the Hayden scales, tax payable immediately rose the following year to $353. A farmer with a taxable income of $8,000 and an average income of $6,000 would have had his tax lifted from $1,333 under the pre- Hayden scales to $1,540 under the Hayden scales. A farmer with a taxable income of $10,000 and an average income of $5,000 would have had his tax lifted from $1,360 to $1,880. So the great Hayden scales which were said to be full of benefits for so many people were, as we now understand and putting it in the gentlest of terms, somewhat misleading. There were an enormous number of detriment cases involved in them. I have given merely three or four instances of the way in which detriment occurred in a particularly onerous fashion to primary producers. That is why once the matter became clear the Government moved very swiftly to remedy it.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I preface it by referring to the Minister’s calling for fresh applications for a radio station licence for the western suburbs of Sydney at a time when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal is considering an application by radio station 2KA to upgrade its reception in that area. Does the Minister remember rejecting in March the recommendation of the former Australian Broadcasting Control Board for a licence to serve the same area, just five days before the High Court had scheduled the hearing of a challenge to the proceedings? Is his latest action another attempt to circumvent a hearing by the appropriate tribunal in the interests of Liberal supporters who did not find favour in the hearings?
-I again tell the honourable gentleman that the decision was taken at the time because we wanted to have a fresh look at the impact, in the technical sense, upon the requirements for broadcasting in that part of New South Wales. Again I say to the honourable gentleman that he is confused as to the facts. The present inquiry into stations in the Blue Mountains area is quite different, distinct and apart from my direction to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to call for applications for a broadcasting service in an area which is quite different from- although it impinges on- the subject of the present inquiry. I would have thought that all members of the Opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition, would wish to see an adequate broadcasting service provided in those growing areas of Sydney. That is the entire purpose of the inquiry. After all, there is a tremendously increased population in that area. New licences have not been issued for many years in Sydney. It is quite reasonable that the Tribunal will now listen to the applicants and will make a decision. I repeat that the present Tribunal hearing, with regard to the stations in the Blue Mountains, is quite separate and apart from the new applications which I have invited. The honourable member continues to have this quite unnecessary sort of sinister suspicion about providing a service which he ought to know is overdue and needed in that part of New South Wales.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Will he please inform the House when he will be able to announce details of the proposed assistance to the beef industry?
-Consultations are still continuing over these matters. Over a lengthy period the Government has had discussions with a wide variety of rural organisations such as the Australian National Cattlemen’s Council, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation, the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and the Australian Farmers Federation. Over a period all these organisations, in addition to the Australian Cattlemen’s Union, have given advice to the Government on these matters. Indeed, I believe that over a very long period all the organisations which I mentioned have taken a thoroughly responsible approach in the recommendations which have been put to the Government, recognising the stringent circumstances in which the Austraiian economy has been placed. With my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, further consultations are scheduled during the course of this week on one or two aspects of importance.
I hope that after that it will be possible to come to a conclusion in relation to these matters. We will be meeting the Austraiian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, or at least Sir Samuel Burston will be present, and one or two others. This meeting will take place during the course of this week. After that decisions can be made. I think it is recognised- I am grateful that the Opposition has recognised this-that the cattle industry requires some additional help at the present time, having gone through three to four years of very low prices and, at the same time, suffering increased costs. The difficulty for those growers who depend entirely on cattle for their livelihood is obviously a very grievous one. They are merely keeping their operations going until prices improve to a greater extent. Therefore, when measures are introduced I hope that all honourable gentlemen in the House, including members of the Opposition, will support those measures wholeheartedly.
-I ask the Minister for Transport a question. He told the House last April that the Government of Queensland had at last agreed to the proposition which I put to the Premier in December 1972 that the Australian
National Line should be permitted to establish and operate services within the State. I ask: What is holding up the enabling legislation which will greatly benefit the economy of Queensland ports and their hinterlands and, of course, the economics of the Line itself?
-The Leader of the Opposition, as is usual in these matters, is correct in terms of the timetable which he has laid down. The reason for the holding up of the program is simply that the projected legislation has been sent to Queensland for its consideration. We have not yet had a response from Queensland. I am advised that it is necessary for there to be a referral of power in this matter for the Australian National Line to operate intrastate on a daytoday basis and to provide regular services, as is requested and required by those who live in northern Queensland. Quite a number of honourable members of the National Country Party have made representations to me specifically on this matter.
It is true that the ANL is providing one service. That has been done by an exchange of correspondence. That is the carriage of minerals out of Weipa to Gladstone. I am not able to rely with any confidence on an exchange of letters standing up to any challenge by a road transport operator or anybody else. Therefore it is necessary for the Premier of Queensland to agree to a reference of power specifically in this matter. I make the point that if a reference of power should be granted it would be within the capacity of the Premier of Queensland to get agreement that the reference of power could be withdrawn if circumstances altered. I am hopeful that the Queensland Government will agree shortly to the proposed legislation and that it will be in the House before the Parliament rises for the summer vacation.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question which is supplementary to the answer given a few minutes ago by the Prime Minister. Has the Minister for Primary Industry kept abreast of the numerous propositions put forward by a number of producer organisations seeking aid for the beef industry in its economic crisis? If so, is the Minister in a position to indicate which organisations have forwarded fully documented and researched proposals for government consideration? Has the Minister received a consensus from all the recognised producer organisations, or is it a fact, as reported, that the Government is relying on one organisation?
– During the Budget deliberations the Government on 2 occasions had prolonged discussions with the Australian Farmers Federation, the Australian National Cattlemen’s Council, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation, the bodies that substantially represent the major producing sectors throughout Australia. Each of those bodies has made very significant, substantial and well documented representations to the Government. More recently a paper has been submitted to the Government by the Cattlemen’s Union. It has also had occasion to make representations personally to the Prime Minister and myself and, I understand, separately to the Treasurer. Independently altogether of those organisations, a large number of honourable members of the House, from both the Liberal and National Country parties, residing in country areas have increasingly expressed their concern at what they see as the rift in terms of trade of cattle producers. They have been worried that the expected up-turn in export markets has not taken place and that cash flows to cattlemen have moved to the position at which many cattlemen are receiving a significantly lower income certainly than those on average male earnings and, tragically, many are receiving even less than unemployment benefits.
It is in those circumstances that the Government has turned its mind to a package of representations. I think it is most unfortunate that at this time, when the industry is in such dire straits, there should appear to be such vocal divisions within the cattle industry. The problems within the community are quite severe. The Government recognises those problems and, in a responsible way, is endeavouring to ensure that the measures which are introduced will be available to the cattle producers themselves. It is very easy to advocate a package of proposals, the benefits of which may not flow to the cattlemen. In circumstances in which the long term future of the industry is assured, where the benefit to this nation, as well as large regions of Australia, will certainly flow from the restored life in that industry, it is obvious that the Government has a responsibility towards that sector.
Unfortunately one organisation seems quite intent on establishing an identity separate from every other body representing cattle producers. Our belief is that the interests of cattle producers, from whatever part of Australia, are one and that it is necessary for the Government to work in harmony with those organisations to ensure an effective solution to the problems. I hope that that organisation, in its vocal opposition apparently at the moment to actions by the Government, recognises the dire cost that has flowed from actions of some other sections of the community. I refer to the industrial troubles of which I have spoken with respect to stoppages at meatworks which, in regions in Queensland, have cost cattlemen up to $20 or $30 a head in terms of cattle sold.
There are a lot of problems in terms of ensuring a more effective marketing system. The introduction on an objective basis is something which this Government has supported for 2 years. It is because of the financial support given by this Government that so much has been done to ensure that this classification system can be introduced at the earliest possible time. I hope, in the making of representations to the community, that there is a recognition that many responsible organisations are working in the interests and on behalf of cattlemen and that members of parliament are certainly doing that. I hope that by working together, instead of in confrontation with each other, there might be a satisfactory solution to a very acute and immediate cash flow position for cattlemen.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. I refer him to the new tax averaging provisions for primary producers. Can a farmer with a 5-year average income of between $12,000 and $16,000 expect tax savings of no more than 10c for every dollar of income above the average? On the other hand, can a farmer with a 5 -year average income of between $16,000 and $20,000 expect tax savings in excess of 17c for every dollar of income above the average? Does the Treasurer agree that the new scheme is regressive and is weighted very strongly towards primary producers earning higher incomes?
-Unlike the changes in the Hayden Budget, this program is designed to overcome problems of detriment such as those which existed under the Hayden Budget but which were not resolved by that Budget. I remind the honourable gentleman of the points made by the Prime Minister already today. Let me make clear the provisions of this program. In the first place, if the limit of $16,000 of income is to be abolished- that is in accordance with the report of the Industries Assistance Commission -
-i gave you the figures. Give me an answer.
– I would have thought the honourable gentleman, if he had any concern for people on the land, would have welcomed that initiative. Taxable income will be taxed at average rates when taxable income is higher than average income. When average income is higher than taxable income the taxable income will be taxed at scale rates. So far as the calculations are concerned, in calculating the average rate, the zero rate, that is on the first $3,750 of taxable income, will be taken into account. Let me emphasise to the honourable gentleman that in the first instance, as I have mentioned, there are no cases of detriment. The provision relating to the first $3,750 of taxable income will be consistent with the provisions which apply to other tax payers. That income is tax free. The scheme is designed to meet the objectives and principles of tax averaging. That is to say, the primary producer has no greater tax liability than any other tax payer in receipt of the same average income. I believe this will be welcomed by people on the land. The honourable gentleman, if he had any concern about people on the land, would also join in welcoming that measure. The details of taxpayers and the particular scales can be provided. I will do so for the honourable gentleman.
-I have to inform the House that Mr Ulanfu, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of the People ‘s Republic of China, is within the precincts. With the concurrence of honourable members I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
Mr Ulanfu thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
-I desire to inform the House that Mr Ulanfu is the leader of a delegation from the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. Members of the delegation are at present in the Speaker’s gallery. On behalf of honourable members I extend to them a warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-From time to time the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has indicated that the migration program is administered to ensure that migrants do not add to the number of people unemployed or take jobs from qualified Australian residents. Can the Minister explain why the May 1977 Labour Force Survey has found unemployment amongst migrants arriving between January 1976 and May 1977 to be at a level of 15.4 per cent for males and 22.4 per cent for females? With reference to the administrative procedures purporting to prevent such a situation, can the Minister indicate how the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs ensures that a migrant recruited to help to fill a vacancy in, say, Perth will go to Perth rather than to Sydney or elsewhere; how the Department ensures that no Australian worker is available to fill the vacancy in question; and in what circumstances the Department would recommend retraining an unemployed Austraiian rather than go to the expensive and time consuming effort of recruiting a migrant overseas? Will the Government release the list of jobs classified as in short supply, which is supposed to guide the recruitment procedures of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs?
-Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. Enough of the question has been asked to make it answerable.
– I was amazed to read a statement by the Leader of the Opposition, issued in Canberra I believe on Sunday, in which he drew attention to unemployment among migrants. I remind the House and the people listening, particularly the migrants, that it was in the time of the Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister that unemployment among migrants nearly doubled; in fact, it rose by 90 per cent while the Labor Party was in power. That should never be forgotten by people who claim that this Government is not concerned about migrants and about providing opportunities for them.
In relation to the question asked by the honourable member for Melbourne, it should be remembered that this Government has displayed a most compassionate attitude towards people in very great need. The honourable member will recall that during the year in question over 12,000 people came to Australia in refugee or quasirefugee circumstances. These people were not selected on occupational grounds; so it could be expected that a number of them would add to the unemployment figures. Also, New Zealanders who have entered Australia without the need to be selected on occupational grounds have registered as unemployed, which would add to the unemployment figures in what are classified as the migrant categories.
In relation to the other matters raised by the honourable member, I have never said, and this Government has never said, that immigration should be seen as a substitute for training or retraining. That certainly is not the attitude of the Government. Immigration should be seen as working in conjunction with training and retraining. But the simple fact remains that, despite the unacceptably high rate of unemployment, there are some categories within which it is not possible to obtain from the Australian workforce sufficientpeople to fill the vacancies that are occurring. This Government, in addition to its family reunion and refugee policies, will continue to recruit overseas those people whose qualifications are both acceptable and needed in Australia.
– I called two questions successively from the Opposition side. I shall now call two questions from the Government side.
-Has the attention of the Minister for the Capital Territory been drawn to a statement I made on 18 August calling on the Government to explain the full ramifications of its proposals for moves towards constitutional development for the Australian Capital Territory and to ensure, following such explanation, that a suitable period will be dedicated to allow debate on those proposals by the community? Can the Minister indicate when he will announce the Government’s decision on the delegation of authority to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly?
– Like many other people in Canberra, I read reports of everything the honourable member says. The people of Canberra are well aware of the depth of the honourable member’s interest in Canberra. I am pleased to advise him that on Thursday of this week I shall be making an announcement about the delegation of authority to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. I can assure the honourable member that the community will be consulted most closely about this matter.
Mr Bonnett having addressed a question to the Minister for Defence-
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question is out of order. The Minister for Defence is not responsible for any statement made by the honourable member for Oxley.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and is supplementary to the question asked of him by the honourable member for Melbourne. I ask the Minister. In respect of unemployment among migrants, does he dispute the facts which were given on 23 August by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, in reply to a question asked by the honourable member for Hughes, that migrants who arrived between January 1976 and February 1977 amounted to 0.7 per cent of the work force but that migrants who arrived between those months represented 2.4 per cent of the unemployed?
– I neither confirm nor deny the figures put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I shall check them and give him an answer after Question Time.
– Can the Minister for Overseas Trade say whether commercial negotiations are still proceeding between the Queensland Sugar Board and the Japanese refiners in order to settle the dispute over the long term contract?
-This very difficult matter continues to be in a state of suspense. For two to three months now the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Ltd, acting as agents for the Queensland Sugar Board, has been having discussions with the Japanese refiners to try to obtain a satisfactory solution. The honourable member will be aware that in 1 974 an agreement was entered into between the Japanese refiners and the CSR for the supply of sugar on a long term contract basis over a 5-year period. At that time that contract was welcomed by the Japanese refiners and the Japanese Government as being very satisfactory. Now we have a situation in which the Japanese refiners have dishonoured that agreement. We have a huge amount of sugar in ships in Japan waiting to be unloaded but, because the Japanese have been refusing to accept it, it continues to stand there. This is causing enormous anxiety to the Australian sugar industry and to the Australian Government as some $60m-odd is held up there. That means a cash flow to the Australian producers is being held up.
The Japanese refiners have made a counterproposal which would mean a loss of some $3 15m on the initial contract in the remaining 3 years of that contract. They have suggested partial compensation for an extra 2 years, which would compensate to the extent of $71m. Moreover, the nature of the Japanese import and the support arrangements is not such that a reduced contract price would result in a lower price being paid by the consumers in Japan. However, the Queensland Government has completely rejected the proposal. I think we ought to recognise that Japan is coming under the spotlight of other Australians who want to trade with that country on a long term basis. Also, the rest of the world must start to wonder how valuable are long term contracts with Japan if this one is not to be honoured. It is a very serious matter. It is growing in intensity each day.
– What are you going to do about it?
-The honourable member apparently wants the Government to enter into a commercial arrangement, which is a matter between the sugar industry and the Japanese refiners. I think all of us hope that a solution can be found. The normal course of redress in this case, if there is a deadlock, is for the matter to go before the British courts where an arbitrator will make a judgment. But I hope an answer will be found before that situation is reached, and I hope that the Japanese interests and the Japanese Government, which must recognise the pressures now being applied, will come to an early decision.
-I present pursuant to statute a report of the Auditor-General accompanied by the Treasurer’s statement of receipts and expenditure for the year 1 976-77.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair)- by leave- agreed to:
-Pursuant to section 16 of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Act 1969 I present the report of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1975 and also the interim report of that Committee for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-Pursuant to sections 13 and 14 of the Schools Commission Act 1973 I present the Schools Commission report for 1978 together with a statement by the Minister for Education relating to this report.
-Mr Speaker, I would like to ask why annual reports which are presented pursuant to statute cannot be presented in both Houses on the same day. The report which the Minister representing the Minister for Education has just tabled was in fact tabled in the Senate, I think, five days ago. Why can we not have it presented here at the same time?
-I shall make inquiries from the Leader of the House to see whether that problem can be overcome.
-I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. When a Minister makes a statement is there any reason why honourable members should not ask questions on the statement that has been made?
-There is no provision in the Standing Orders for such a procedure.
– Pursuant to section 122 of the Repatriation Act 1920 I present the annual report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-Pursuant to the provisions of the Parliament Act I present a proposal for the erection of an electrical substation at the rear of the Parliament House.
-I present a report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House relating to the proposed construction of an electrical substation at the rear of the provisional Parliament House.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 1 ) Amendment Bill 1977. Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 2) Amendment Bill 1977.
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Amendment Bill 1977.
International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill 1977.
Air Navigation Amendment Bill 1 977.
Wool Industry Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977.
– I have received advice from the Right Honourable the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Aldred to be a member of the Standing Committee on Expenditure to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Garland, now Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
– I have received advice from the Right Honourable the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Martyr to be a member of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Garland, now Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
-I have received advice from the Right Honourable the Prime Minister that he has nominated Mr Simon to be a member of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Mr Garland, now Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs.
-I have received letters from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107,I have selected one matter, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Blaxland, namely:
Government confusion and inconsistency on taxation policy.
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 chosen this matter of public importance today because of the absolute confusion and inconsistency on the part of the Government in relation to income tax matters. In recent times the averaging provisions for rural producers have been a cause of great confusion, and this has been more especially so in very recent times in regard to the resource tax on the extractive industries. The point is that while the Government trails its coat and dithers on these matters, there is no resolution in industry. It is left confused and uncertain and, of course, that is not conducive to investment. We have had the spectacle already of the Uranium Producers Forum communicating with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) today, and saying that there will be no development of Australia ‘s uranium resources unless all semblances of the tax are lifted. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) mentioned in the Budget the concept of a secondary tax on the mining and petroleum industries. The Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) mentioned in the Parliament the need for a tax but he said that such a tax would be imposed only on the oil and uranium industries and on no others.
So there is in the extractive industries at the moment absolute confusion as to what the Government intends to do. It is beyond me that the Government cannot understand that it just cannot announce these kinds of measures, dangle the threat of a tax in front of the eyes of industry and go away believing that industry will carry on in the face of these imposts. Of course, everything grinds to a halt until these things are resolved. The point is that they should have been resolved a long time ago. Mention should not have been made of them. The Government should have made a decision whether or not to impose a tax. To add insult to injury and to add more confusion to the picture, the Queensland Premier related in the Queensland Parliament last week a conversation he had with the Prime Minister. I might just recount it. In answer to a question he said:
I am not in a position to announce anything for Canberra or my Canberra colleagues-whether it be the Prime Minister or Mr Anthony. I spoke last night on the phone to the Prime Minister when he rang me and one of the things I mentioned to him was my concern at the fact that an attempt may be made to impose this tax. I have an understanding, if I may put it that way, from the Prime Minister, that there is no intention to impose a resource tax in any way.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Burns, interjected: ‘Not at all?’ The Premier replied: ‘Not at all ‘. So who is telling the lies? Who in fact speaks on behalf of the Government in this matter? The Prime Minister apparently says that a tax will not be imposed; the Leader of the National Country Party says that a tax will be imposed only on oil and uranium; the Treasurer is not sure, as usual, what tax applies at present or what the level should be. No rates are fixed; no tax is designed. There is this constant chopping and changing; constant indecision and inconsistency. No wonder there has been no increase in the rate of investment in these massive industries.
So what we have in the face of obvious Government procrastination and weakness is an industry gearing up for a massive propaganda exercise to try to crush the concept of a secondary profits-related tax. We on this side of the House, of course, support the concept of a secondary profits-related tax. At the latest National Conference of the Australian Labor Party held in Perth this year, amongst other things we said:
Labor will establish a clear and equitable taxation regime to ensure a proper increment to the national wealth and provide the mining industry and Australian Government with a consistent base for long term planning in the industry.
Specifically, Labor will investigate the concept of a secondary profits-related tax on the rnining and petroleum industries to deal with extraordinary profit situations. It is envisaged that such a tax would, amongst other things, operate in place of the Coal Export Duty Levy.
In other words, it is to be a tax on excess profits. My party is committed firmly to it. However, we said that we would investigate the concept. We did not say that we would impose the tax forthwith. We realise that a tax on the mining industry should be imposed on the totality of the mining industry- not just on uranium and oil, but across the whole range of mineral production in this country. Such a tax will need careful consideration and design so that it can be imposed and its objectives achieved. This is why the Labor Party believes that there should be a further increment to the national wealth in the form of such a tax.
This tax would provide certainty for the industries themselves. For the high fliers and those companies which have extraordinary profit levels the tax would be a positive and sure way of giving an increment to the national wealth without the imposition of indiscriminate excises which on occasions have been imposed as revenue raisers in the heat of Budget discussions. These excises affect investments. They do not discriminate with regard to profitability. They are regressive in nature. It is far better to have consistency in the company tax base and a predictable secondary taxing structure. Government supporters say: ‘Why discriminate against mining? Why discriminate against that area of Australian enterprise which is efficient?’ The point simply is that for many years the Parliament has discriminated in favour of mining. The report of the Industries Assistance Commission on mining taxation, which was introduced a year ago, indicates that in the six years to 1973-74 the mining industry paid $400m in income tax. However, that was because of the special concessions. If the same companies had been operating on the basis on which manufacturing companies and other companies in Australia operate the tax would have been $ 1,000m. There was a $600m saving by the mining industry on that occasion. There needs to be a taxing system to secure an adequate return to the Australian people.
The other reason why there should be a tax on mining as distinct from other industries is that other industries are not given a national asset. Mining companies are given a national asset to mine and exploit to their advantage. The asset is the property of the people of the Commonwealth. The lease gives companies the right to work the asset. Because the Government or the nation gives companies an asset to mine there should be an increment to the national wealth if those companies are successful. A resource tax, a secondary profits-related tax, can apply only if profits are made.
Somebody said that a secondary profits tax should not be imposed on the North West Shelf project. The North West Shelf producers are saying that their investment will produce a fairly modest rate of return, given the present pricing structure and the costs of infrastructure for that project. That may be the case; but, if that rate of return improves, if market prices change as was the case with the Esso-BHP investment in Bass Strait and the North West Shelf project is very profitable in the future, the producers ought to be apprised now of the fact that they will come within the ambit of such a tax. I said so in my statement on the North West Shelf project in reply to the Minister for National Resources last week. The Government should say so. It is a perfectly proper thing to do.
I am not the only person who holds that view; nor are members of my party. Mr L. T. Froggart, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Shell group of companies in Australia, urged such a system a year ago. He said:
Governments are worried about the possibility of ‘windfall profits’ and have full powers to control the level of profitability by means of taxation.
One has only to look at Britain’s Petroleum Revenue tax, which incidentally was introduced after full consultation with industry, to see how flexible such measures can be and how they can reconcile the legitimate interests of the oil company, the Government and the consumer.
This gentleman apparently believes that there is a case for such a tax to guarantee certainty of investment for long term, high risk, high value investments. It there is to be such a system of taxation it would be much better if the rates were agreed.
A couple of weeks ago the Government made an administrative decision at Cabinet level to increase the price paid to producers of crude oil in Australia. In the case of Bass Strait producers that meant an increase of $ 109m in profit. For the other oil companies in Australia the increase was about $41m. In total, the increase in profit amounted to about $150m. The IAC made it clear in its recommendation for an increase in the price of oil that there should be a secondary taxing structure. It said:
Hovever, the emergence of very large additional profits from crude oil production will require the Government to consider the adequacy of existing royalty arrangements, which were negotiated before the recent rapid increase in the world price of oil.
But the Government gave away the increases without any secondary taxing structure at all. Obviously there needs to be a tax designed to accommodate this situation. There needs to be a tax designed to accommodate the situation in the future with uranium if the Government has its wilful way and those developments go ahead.
Such a tax should apply also to those companies which are successful in the coking coal area. It should apply also to iron ore miners if they happen to be successful. At the moment the Government is attempting to dodge any tax on the coal industry, particularly on the Utah company in Queensland. The Government did a very silly thing when it came into office. It was silly in the public interest; it was not silly in the Government’s interest because, obviously, it had outstanding commitments to this company to reduce the coal export duty levy.
– Name them.
– The honourable member should go back into his hole. I refer to the Utah situation in 1975 -
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member. I was asking him to be kind enough to tell the House the various things that Utah had done for the Government.
-Order! All interjections are out of order. There is no substance in the point of order.
-It is interesting to look at Utah’s financial report. In 1975 the company made $ 100.9m when the coal export duty levy was only $10.8m. In 1976, despite an increase in the coal export duty levy from $ 10.8m to $75.9m, the company still increased its profit from $ 1 00m to $ 1 36.9m; in other words, a rise of 35.6 per cent in its net after tax profit although it had paid out an extra $65m in tax under the coal export duty levy. Therefore, nobody could say that the imposition of such a tax was an inhibitor to its growing profitability or viability. Obviously, this company in particular can afford to pay, and pay well.
Yet the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister are trying to dodge any commitment to a secondary tax on the coal industry. Obviously, there should be a clear secondary taxing structure designed to include all the extractive industries which are high profit takers and are able to contribute something back to the Australian Government. I believe that the Prime Minister told the Treasury today that he wants the proposals finished within three weeks. If that is the case I do not know what kind of a hotchpotch we will get. The incremental rate of tax should be assessed on profitability. The tax then would discriminate with respect to profitability and capacity to pay. We hope that it is not a 2c in the dollar or 3c in the dollar job but something that gives the people a real increment for the rnining of national assets.
With regard to tax averaging for farmers, it was only because the Opposition raised this matter in the Parliament and exploited the fact that there were deficiencies in the Government’s proposals that the Government now has seen fit to reconsider its proposals as they affect tax averaging for farmers. We on this side of the House submit that tax averaging provisions should apply to more people than just farmers. They should apply to storekeepers and other people who have sinusoidal fluctuations of income, who are taxed heavily in one year and not taxed the next year, who because they lose the averaging provisions are taxed and penalised relative to farmers. We believe that consideration should be given to this matter.
As well the provisions which will now become available will mean that farmers on incomes below $16,000 will receive very little from the tax, and beef producers who are experiencing negative income and who are not paying any tax will get nothing from it. As usual the wealthy areas of the grazing and farming industries will get the best out of it, just as Utah Development Company has got the best out of the lifting of the coal export levy. As usual, the Government is looking after wealthy people. So clearly there is confusion in this Government as to the equity and justice of taxation measures and also confusion about when things will be applied and how they will apply. The Parliament has a right to know that national resources particularly will secure an incremental income for the national purse and that there will be a proper tax designed and applied to these industries.
Adequate notice should be given to these industries of the kind of tax, and adequate discussion should take place in the Parliament about the tax, instead of the Government practising sleight of hand and imposing a tax which applies only to the oil industry in Bass Strait and some potential industry in uranium. These are clear reasons why there should be a tax, uniform in its application to the mining industries which discriminates particularly against miners with respect to moneys which they can pay to the national purse. It should be levied on all elements of the extractive industries and the test should be the capacity to pay and not the whim or caprice of the Government or the Treasurer.
-This motion was moved by a party which in government imposed an intolerable tax burden on the Australian community, a burden that has been lifted by the reforms which have been brought down by the present Government. The charges of inconsistency and confusion made by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who I might observe in passing is not the shadow Treasurer, are nothing more than a smokescreen to cover up the enormous taxation benefits which this Government has provided. In this debate today I want to cover a wider scene. The honourable member seeks to quarantine the debate to two references to the question of taxationa resources tax and tax averaging. I will deal with these in the course of the debate but I ask the House, in looking at the substance of this debate, first of all to have consideration for what has been the tax record in office of our opponents.
No doubt the honourable member for Blaxland is involved in this debate only because Labor’s two economic spokesmen cannot speak on any matter involving taxation without sharply contradicting one another. I want to look at our opponents’ tax record and I remind the House of what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) said in his 1972 policy speech:
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into high tax brackets.
His Government increased income tax receipts by 89 per cent in its first two Budgets and refused to index personal income tax in spite of the fact that the inquiry which that Government established specifically recommended the indexation of personal and corporate income tax. In Labor’s first Budget- the 1973-74 Budget- a series of totally regressive changes was made to the tax system and the Australian public was hit very hard indeed by increases in indirect taxes. I remind the House that in that Budget Labor amongst other things imposed taxes on age pensions; abolished the income tax age allowance; increased the tax on life insurance companies; removed a variety of concessions previously available to the petroleum and mining industries, as the honourable member for Blaxland might well recall; discontinued the investment allowance for manufacturing and primary industries; and increased customs and excise duties on tobacco, spirits, motor spirit, diesel and aviation fuel. The net full year effect of Labor’s first Budget was to raise an additional $600m. The Leader of the Opposition said in his 1974 policy speech:
I see no reason why taxes, direct or indirect, need to be increased in order to pay for any of our continuing commitments.
Yet in the 1974-75 Budget there were substantial increases in an extensive range of taxes, including an iniquitous surcharge on unearned income. In that Budget there were increases in duty on tobacco and spirits and further increases in taxation for the life insurance and mining industries. I emphasise that again for the benefit of the honourable member for Blaxland.
I turn now to the last Labor Budget- the Budget for 1975-76. That Budget imposed a massive increase of some $602m in indirect taxes and levies. I specifically exclude the coal export levy from that figure. That Budget increased duties on beer, spirits, cigarettes and tobacco. I also remind the House that in 1975-76 the biggest increase ever was made in postal charges and rates. Labor’s last Budget included, of course, the so-called Hayden changes to the personal income tax system. Those changes were a hoax.
Thousands of pensioners and low-income earners were made taxable for the first time. The so-called general concessional rebate gave the highly misleading impression that taxpayers were receiving a benefit that did not in reality exist. The full year cost of the changes was only $205m. The new tax system introduced by the present Government has a full year cost of more than six times the cost of the Hayden changes. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table that sets out quite explicitly the serious detriment cases that resulted from the Hayden scheme.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that many taxpayers on low incomes ranging between $4,000 and $8,000 per annum were forced to pay up to an additional 26 per cent in tax under the Hayden system. Looked at from beginning to end, the Labor Party’s record of tax changes in government is nothing short of appalling. Our political opponents have done no better in Opposition. They would abolish the investment allowance, with all that that would mean to the great mineral industries of this country, and also some of the other concessions that we have provided deliberately to the business sector. The shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford)- one never knows whether or not he speaks for the Opposition- has made it clear that all those on incomes of $15,000 per annum and above, the top 10 per cent of taxpayers, would have to pay more tax under a Labor g overnment. The Sydney Morning Herald of 29 J une, referring to the shadow Treasurer, reported:
He said the top 10 per cent of income earners should share more of the tax burden.
I quote from the Australian of the same date:
Announcing the Party’s draft economic policy platform yesterday, the Opposition spokesman on the Treasury, Mr Hurford, foreshadowed heavier taxes for the very wealthy, particularly the top 10 per cent of income earners.
But what the honourable member for Adelaide obviously does not understand is that the top 10 per cent of income earners, as I mentioned earlier, include all those with incomes starting at $15,000 per annum. But the shadow Treasurer went further. I quote from his Press release headed ‘Taxation and Full Employment’ in which he said:
Therefore we intend to examine our public program priorities carefully and to pursue vigorously the collection of additional revenue by other means.
I refer again to newspaper reports of the shadow Treasurer’s Press conference. The Sydney Morning Herald reported him as follows:
I quote from the Australian of 1 9 June:
It would be necessary for Labor to increase indirect taxes once in government to help finance the social programs.
What the shadow Treasurer proposed, only a few months ago, was a barrage of new taxation measures. What the honourable member for Blaxland now proposes is a broadly based resources tax which would go right across the whole of the mineral area.
The Opposition has not only, on the record, made it clear that the Australian public would be subject to savage increases in both direct and indirect taxes and also in business taxation under a Labor government; at the same time it has abandoned any commitment to personal tax indexation. If I may say so, this shoddy piece of backsliding came to light only recently.
– That is completely untrue.
– The honourable member for Blaxland says that it is untrue. Let me quote what the honourable member for Oxley said at his Press conference on 18 August:
As to whether we would apply some system of indexation in taxation, we have made no commitment on that at this stage. We do not intend to.
Obviously what this debate reflects is yet a further example of inconsistency between members of the Opposition in relation to matters concerning taxation. What supreme irony it was for the Opposition to criticise the present Government’s decision to half index income tax for one year and at the same time to refuse to say whether or not a Labor government would provide any form of indexation. Our reforms are of enormous significance. No government in Australian history has ever cut taxes by anything like the amount that we have done. The Labor Party’s record is shabby, deceptive and completely without merit. Our political opponents imposed a massive tax burden on the Australian public to pay for their extravagant spending programs. We have, in a decisive and unprecedented way, lifted that burden.
I welcome the fact that the honourable member for Blaxland has brought this debate forward. I take the opportunity to look at the new standard rate taxation system which has been introduced because the benefits of that system are very substantial. The take-home pay of all wage and salary earners will rise from 1 February 1978 when the reformed scale will be fully reflected in the pay-as-you-earn instalment deductions. The biggest proportional gainers are those on lower incomes at the bottom of the tax scale. In addition, the incomes of about 225,000 taxpayers, including many pensioners with small private incomes, will be made non-taxable. Thus the new system is a significant social reform that improves the position of lower income groups in the Australian community
The first $3,750 of everyone’s income will be tax free. Some 90 per cent of taxpayers- all those with incomes up to $16,000 a year- will pay tax at no more than the standard marginal rate of 32 per cent. This will, of course, add very significantly to incentive. Thus, a worker earning $10,000 per annum could earn up to an additional $6,000 per annum without any increase in his marginal rate of tax. This makes it much more worthwhile to work overtime or to become qualified for a more skilled job. Almost all full time workers will have lower marginal tax rates than at present. There will be a large reductionfrom 45 per cent to 32 per cent- in the marginal tax rate applying to taxpayers with incomes between $12,532 and $16,000.
The honourable member for Blaxland mentioned the question of tax averaging for primary producers. This is a very significant reform. It is designed to maintain the effective nature of the tax averaging scheme. As I mentioned in the House today, taxable income will be taxed at average rates when taxable income is higher than average income. When average income is higher than taxable income the taxable income will be taxed at scale rates. In calculating the average rate, the zero rate of the first $3,750 of taxable income will be taken into account. The $16,000 income limit for application of averaging is to be abolished in accordance with the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission.
I make two further points. Farmers who have earlier withdrawn from averaging will have the right to return to the averaging system in the current year, and in 1978-79 primary producers will be taxed under the new arrangements irrespective of whether or not they have withdrawn from averaging previously. The full year cost will be of the order of $ 100m. Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table that gives examples of the way in which the new tax averaging system will work as well as three other tables which show the benefits of the new tax saving, the cost of our tax reforms and the increase in receipts this year compared with last year.
-Is leave granted?
– Material such as this is normally shown to the Opposition. So far none of the charges I have raised have even been dealt with by the Treasurer. Therefore we are declining to give leave.
-Leave is refused.
– Members of the Opposition obviously cannot face the facts. It is notable that in today’s Melbourne Herald, Mr Eric Risstrom, the Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association, has called the farmers’ tax ‘a reviver’ for what it will do for incentive and equity for men and women on the land.
Public statements by Ministers have made clear that the Government has under consideration the question of applying a resource tax to profits from oil and uranium mining. Discussions have been held with companies in order to advance consideration of the question. We have not, like the Opposition, sought to put down a detailed tax without giving industry a full opportunity for consultation and co-operation in devising what might be a most appropriate form of taxation.
The basic purpose of a resources tax is to ensure that the community receives a proper return where its highly valuable mineral resources are used in the course of rnining operations. One thing I would say is that any such tax would apply only to profits over and above ordinary levels of profitability including appropriate allowance for risks in the industry concerned. For that reason, what the Government proposes by way of discussion with the companies in relation to oil and uranium mining is that the tax will not be an obstacle to development and to general exploration. Unlike what happened under the former Administration, when exploration and development virtually came to an absolute standstill, a number of major projects are moving at present and the country can have confidence that recovery is taking place in the mineral sector. The Government decisively rejects the matter of public importance before the Chair.
-Order! The Minister’s time has expired. j
– I support the matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating). The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), despite his verbiage, cannot evade the very simple fact that tax receipts are up 17 per cent this year. However, we have heard hardly a word about a resource tax or a secondary tax. Let us look at the rake-off, the rip-off, or the plunder, by the major oil companies, by this sell-out Government, as a result of their proposed petrol increase. Additional returns to producers for 1977-78 would be slightly more than $150m. This figure does not take into account company tax. So it is not a windfall profit but a windfall return. The net return after 47W per cent company tax is about $81m. I now turn to uranium. Using a price of $30 per lb U.0., the Ranger Commission estimated a gross profit before tax and royalties of $ 15,864m, This return was based on the capital expenditure, believe it or not, of $ 1 .5 billion.
I will not traverse the same ground as that covered by the honourable member for Blaxland. I will not add to what was in fact an excellent speech. But, of course, there must be a resource tax and it must be structured to apply to situations where the rake-off of people’s assets reaches mammoth proportions. Let me make four quick observations. As far as Shell, BP, Esso and BHP are concerned, investment in coal projects is much more profitable than investment in oil exploration in Australia, whether oil is priced at the world parity price or not. The profits from any oil price may be invested in oil exploration but not in Australia. The scramble by major oil companies for coal over recent years clearly underwrites the corporate policy in Australian investments. I warn the people just how crucial is the need for a national government to retain control over non-renewable resources, particularly energy resources, and how crucial it is to ensure that those resources are exploited in the interests of our people and that the mammoth economic returns are ploughed back for the benefit of our people.
A resource tax must be structured. It must be structured now. Why has coal in fact become an integral part of what has become the energy industry? The reason goes beyond the ending of cheap oil with the oil price hike in 1973 by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and the consequent revaluing of coal, gas and uranium in a world that is now energy conscious. For a number of years the world ‘s major oil companies had been diversifying their interests into other energy sources. In the 1950s international oil companies began expansion in the petrochemical industry. By 1962 the oil corporations controlled more than one-third of the petrochemical industry in the United States of America and the proportion is far higher in this country. Oil companies realised that the greatest advantage was to be gained from becoming monopolistic suppliers of raw materials. Our control of raw materials was a bar to new entry into an industry and in such industries monopolistic profits can be obtained. If other sources of energy were to gain a competitive advantage over oil, monopolistic control over oil would not be enough to maintain the enormous profits of the oil majors. Economics suggest that the companies retain a monopolistic position if they gain control over all energy sources. There is an awareness that oil supplies will fall behind demand and this has hastened the oil companies into alternative sources. We overlook this simple fact; and this is what the scramble is all about today.
The result is that the major oil companies have now become energy corporations and are attempting to monopolise control over all sources of energy. Australia’s massive coal reserves are at present a target for these corporations. This is not necessarily a conspiracy but collusion certainly exists. It is not a necessary element of a strategy which leads towards monopoly control over all energy sources. Gaining such control provides a number of major benefits. Those major benefits are, firstly, that these companies can make monopolistic profits by driving up prices. Secondly, coal is a likely source of oil or gas in the future and would give the companies even greater marketing flexibility. Thirdly, it would tend to guarantee the stability of the companies as coal and uranium would be used more than oil in the fastest growing yet most stable market- electric utilities.
The major oil companies have rapidly cornered large quantities of non-oil reserves, both in the United States of America and in this country. There are moves already in the United States to curb the growing power of this corporation and this Government will have to face up to the issue very shortly. The increased profits coming from coal production have only served to increase the rush of foreign oil corporations into coal in this country. The Government’s petrol price decision has effectively placed millions of dollars in the hands of oil companies to finance monopolisation of Australia’s coal reserves.
Foreign ownership of Australia’s coal affects both the rate of extraction and the export price of coal. Foreign companies usually have other overseas projects and are anxious to generate big cash inflows from existing investments so as to finance the next project. Their interests are best served by exploiting the earliest, the easiest and the richest energy resource that is possible, I suggest with no regard, or very Utile regard, for the future coal demand or the adverse effects on the local energy market as a whole.
The case of Utah illustrates the hazards to Australia of foreign ownership of a key energy source. In 1976 Utah sent to the United States $90.8m, and in the previous year the amount was $63m. This year it will return $130m to General Electric. The latest figures suggest that Utah is paying out more than 90 per cent of its net profits in dividends. This is by far the highest pay out in this nation’s history. The massive profit boost to United States shareholders in Utah was assisted by this Government’s devaluation in 1976. In spite of its large profits Utah’s basic philosophy is to undercut competition in coal sales. One has to think only of the exercise that the Premier of New South Wales was forced into because of this singular fact. It is not surprising that local companies resent Utah’s approach which amounts to contempt of Australia’s interests. Let us have these few simple facts on the record. The situation will deteriorate further if the foreign ownership bids by CRA and Shell which are now frozen are ultimately allowed to proceed. That will leave only 3 local export ventures which will not have significant levels other than overseas ownership. The Japanese steel mills -
– What does it pay in income tax?
-Perhaps the honourable member for Holt will take note of this statement. Australia’s largest coal customers have also voiced their concern at the fact that the ownership of Australia’s coal reserves is largely passing to aggressive multinationals which regard coal as a diversification area rather than one intrinsically connected with their operations. That is the view of the Japanese firms. This view has also been expressed with good effect over the last fortnight by the Japanese Government.
The only benefit which Australia stands to derive as compensation for the millions of dollars lost to general revenue in the forgone coal duty is the quarter of a million dollars hand-out by Utah to the Australian Opera Company, and I suppose we can expect a repeat performance this year after the further cut in coal excise.
I conclude by making one constructive aphorism that I made in 1973. It is still apposite today. There are some startling lessons to be learnedin Australia. We are one of the few highly industrialised nearly self-sufficient countries. If we follow countries we have endeavoured to copy in the past, such as Great Britain and the United
States, in mindlessly plundering our raw materials, or worse, allowing others to do it for us, we deserve to sink to the wretched position in which those other countries now find themselves. A majority of highly industrialised countries have little more than their technology to trade and the raw materials that are needed is all we know. Technology no longer recognises national boundaries and normally goes to the highest bidder. We have a sacred duty to see that the patrimony is not taken from us by handing over exploitation to others. Once natural gas, iron ore and bauxite are gone to fuel the economies of others, does anyone think that our erstwhile friends will give us a second thought? I doubt it. There must be no confusion, no inconsistency, in safeguarding and ensuring that any return on the exploitation of the people’ s assets of this country is maximised to the full. I support my colleague, the honourable member for Blaxland.
– It really is the supreme irony to hear the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) put forward the proposition that the Government has created confusion and inconsistency on taxation policy because, as he said, in essence the Government has not said that it is going to apply a resources tax to all mining industries. I remind the House that that was the foundation of the honourable member’s speech. He said, and he said it with some pride, that the Labor Party would apply a resources tax to all extractive industries. The honourable member was saying that the Government was inconsistent because it was not applying its announced resources tax to all mining industries. I remind the honourable gentleman of what the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said in his Budget Speech about the Government’s decision on crude oil policy:
The Government believes that not all the additional profits resulting from these decisions-
He was referring to the decisions to progressively increase the price of domestic crude oil to world import parity- 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 recendy 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.
That is what was announced by the Treasurer and that is what is happening. How, then, can the honourable member for Blaxland accuse the Government of spreading confusion or inconsistency? Discussions with the oil industry have commenced aimed at doing what the Treasury said- to examine whether the existing oil levy should be replaced by a resources tax. I would have thought that in terms neither of logic nor of public policy could the decision of the Government, announced by the Treasurer, be attacked as leading to confusion or inconsistency. During the years- it has been years- that the public debate has gone on about the need to increase the price of Australian crude oil there also have been discussions, not only with the present Government but also with the former Labor Administration, about the possibility of something in the nature of a resource tax if the increased price eventuated. I was interested to hear the honourable gentleman refer to the United Kingdom petroleum revenue tax. This Government, the oil industry and the oil producers know about that tax. We all have studied it and, of course, we have studied it against the Australian scene to see whether the scheme devised for the North Sea oil production is a suitable scheme for Australia.
The other point, which is plain enough too, is that any resource tax in the oil industry must be a profit-related tax. We are not interested in imposing upon the industry an additional tax which might cripple the production of the crude oil that is so necessary for Australia at present or cripple the prospect of increased production from fields presently uneconomic. We recognise, as the previous Labor Administration refused to acknowledge, that by the early 1980s production of Australian crude oil will begin to diminish and that when that occurs we must supplement our own supplies from overseas and pay the higher prices which are charged for overseas crude. The way in which the Opposition speaks makes it quite clear that it has not learnt that taxation can be used not only as a weapon to derive revenue for the Government but also as an incentive to cause people to work harder and produce more for the economic benefit of the country. That is something that needs to be remembered when we contrast the Budgets of Labor’s several Treasurers with what this Government has done under our Treasurer.
I shall run very quickly through the incentives that have been provided by this Government- a private enterprise government- through reforms of the tax system. We have introduced personal tax indexation- an incentive to individuals to earn more, knowing that more of what they earn will not be taken away from them simply by inflation. We introduced it. It was before the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) when he was Treasurer, but he flatly refused to introduce it. Why did he refuse to introduce it? It was because it would cost the Commonwealth revenue. We were prepared to forgo the revenue because we realised that in doing so we would provide an incentive to individuals. Personal tax indexation has been supplemented by the magnificent tax reforms introduced in this year’s Budget. There is the standard tax rate system by which individuals- blue collar workers and white collar workers alike- now will be provided with an incentive to work overtime, knowing that their overtime earnings will not be taxed at a higher rate. People will be provided with an incentive to accept promotions, whereas previously they were prepared to knock them back because to accept promotion under the Labor Government meant higher tax and it simply was not worth it.
The investment allowance which we introduced as soon as we came into office in 1975 is a positive incentive to industry to invest. What was the record of the Labor Government? Already today we have heard the Treasurer quote from the Press conference on 18 August this year at which the hallowed member for Oxley and the shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who has now come into the House, said that they would remove investment allowances because they are an extravagance. We believe that they are a positive incentive for business. We also have introduced company tax indexation through the trading stock valuation adjustment as an incentive to industry. This is something which the Labor Administration refused to introduce because it amounted to a cost to revenue. We are prepared to acknowledge the incentive. We also have moved in relation to taxation of income from mining and petroleum. Memories are not so short that the mining industry will not recall the terrible blow that was dealt to the mining and petroleum industries through the withdrawal by the Labor Administration of tax advantages under the income tax system which that Administration inherited from the former Libejal-National Country Party Government. We have reintroduced a substantial part of those advantages for the very purpose of providing the mining and petroleum industries with an incentive to get out, to explore and to produce.
Distribution requirements for private companies under Division 7 of the Income Tax Assessment Act have been eased so as to provide much needed assistance to small and medium sized firms, again at a cost to revenue but in order to provide incentive. We have eased estate duty provisions so as to ease the burden of estate duty on families. Income equalisation deposits have been given to farmers to provide them with an opportunity to protect themselves against the effects of fluctuating income on their tax liabilities. Now we have the revised income averaging provisions for primary producers which were announced by the Treasurer last night. I remind the House that all these measures have been introduced at a substantial cost to revenue. It probably runs into, in round figures, $4,000m to $4,500m over the preceding financial year and this financial year, without taking into account the continuing benefits which will flow to individuals and corporations. So, rather than there being any inconsistency or confusion, we can say that the policy commitment we made in the 1975 election campaign to restore incentive to individuals and corporations, to reform the taxation system and to place more money in the pockets of individuals has been honoured -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The Minister’s time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.
Debate resumed from 25 August, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is not opposing the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill. I would have loved to have participated in the previous debate on the subject of taxation generally and to have followed particularly the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in order to take up some of the things he said, but I must confine myself to taxation as it affects local government. This Bill results from the implementation of the Government’s so-called new federalism policy. In its own way it is significant because it points to the many problems which Government has caused by denying local government bodies direct access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Australian Labor Party put on record last year its opposition to the Government’s new federalism policy, including the plans for local government. During that debate we stated that there would be enormous problems in the allocation of funds for local government in particular, and that is seen now to be so. However, we are not opposing this amendment to the original Bill, because it is only a minor amendment. This does not mean that our opposition to the concepts involved has diminished in any way over the year since we last debated this subject.
We are accepting this amendment simply and solely because it results from a special report by the Commonwealth Grants Commission on financial assistance for local government. We believe that the Commonwealth Grants Commission is the best body to make decisions about funds for local government and therefore we are prepared to accept its findings in this case, where those findings apply only to the breakdown between the various States of the amount being made available by the Australian Government through the States for local government. Given the obstacles which the Government has placed in the way of the Commission distributing funds in the best possible manner, we consider that the special report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission makes, to use an old phrase, the best of a bad job. However, the special report does raise a number of queries about the distribution of local government general purpose grants through State grants commissions and the problems inherent in the role of the Commonwealth Grants Commission in the way in which it now is expected to play that role. Perhaps I should remind those involved in this debate, and anybody else interested in this subject, that previously whereas the Australian Labor Party Government made available an enlarged Commonwealth Grants Commission to apply itself to this very important subject of getting equity in the allocation of funds to local government, since the so-called new federalism policy has blighted this country- a concept of the Fraser Government which is now foundering- each State has been obliged to set up separate local government grants commissions to do a job which should be done on a national basis.
In introducing this Bill the Minister assisting the Treasurer explained that the Bill implemented the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerning the distribution between the States and local governments of the tax sharing entitlements provided under the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. The Minister did not mention that the Government asked the Commission to perform a task for which no guidelines and little methodology are available. In fact, a reading of the Commission’s report will leave one with the impression that the Commission thought it had been given an impossible task in an impossibly short time. The reference to the Commonwealth Grants Commission arose because the Premier of Tasmania felt that his State was disadvantaged by the distribution of funds as enshrined in the 1976 Act.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) gave an undertaking to the Premier that he would have the Commonwealth Grants Commission re-examine the proportionate distribution between the States of the funds entitlement for local government. Frankly, when one examines the problems the Commission has in following the Prime Minister’s instruction and when one looks at the time at which this reference was made, one must be cynical and convey the suspicion which has arisen in my mind, namely, that the Prime Minister’s original commitment to make this change had something to do with the Tasmanian State election which was taking place at the time.
The Grants Commission found it impossible to obtain sufficient new data on which to base an updated review of the 1976 distribution. Consequently, all it was able to do was to suggest changes which were confined to what it described as fine tuning the existing percentages. When we have a look at the changes which have been made we see that they are of an incredible proportion. I note that although Tasmania was the State mainly aggrieved, and correctly so, its proportional increase was only 0.3396 per cent. It is incredible that these calculations go to four percentage places of decimals. At the same time, of course, as a South Australian I must be parochial and be glad to note that South Australia received some increase out of this change. But its increase was 0.0832 per cent. Victoria was another beneficiary in the changes by 0.1668 per cent. Sad to relate, the other three States lost similar amounts. It does seem that an enormous amount of effort had to be put into such fine tuning.
In its report the Commonwealth Grants Commission makes it very obvious that it is unhappy at having to allocate funds for local government on a State by State basis. When the Commission dealt directly with local government as it did during the period of the Labor Government it had a set of well-established guidelines by which it was able to operate properly. Criteria for equalisation between councils were established on an Australia-wide basis. Under the Government’s federalism policy- this new federalism of the Fraser Government- no such arrangement is possible. The Commonwealth Grants Commission somehow has to determine the distribution of funds between the States and the State grants commissions then divide those funds on some criteria which they have established between the various local government areas in their own States. There is no tie-up between the activities of the two commissions, that is, the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the local government Grants Commission in each of the States.
I remember at this time last year, in discussing this Bill when it passed through the Parliament, making the point very strongly that at least the Government ought to give the Commonwealth Grants Commission the task of being an auditor of what was being done in the various States. After all, they are Commonwealth funds raised by the Australian Government which we are considering. The least that we might expect is that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be allowed to get so involved as to learn the details of what is going on in the various States. This would leave the Commission in a so much better position in order to determine the task which the Government has hurriedly given of establishing what the proportionate breakdown between the various States should be. The immense problem facing the Commonwealth Grants Commission is spelt out in paragraph 15 of its special report which states:
The Commission can see no necessary relationship between the relative fiscal status of State governments and local government authorities in the respective States. The general taxation resources of State governments for revenueraising purposes differ very significantly from the narrow property tax base available to local government.
The crux of the problem is that there are both rich and poor local government bodies within any State boundary. There is little relationship between a local government council and its State’s ability to raise revenue. When the Commonwealth Grants Commission dealt directly with local government no such problems arose. In attempting to fulfil its role in the Government’s federalism policy the Commonwealth Grants Commission is faced with something- I repeat the word- of a methodological nightmare. I really believe that the Commonwealth Grants Commission special report where that word comes up so often is something which every honourable member in the house who is interested in the breakdown of funds between the three tiers of government in the States should read. I repeat again that it is a methodological nightmare. This means that the Commonwealth Grants Commission must have access to an on-going supply of statistical information about local government. However, as paragraph 37 of the Commission’s special report states:
The Government’s federalism policy does not envisage the Commonwealth Grants Commission seeking this information direct from local government authorities.
At the moment stop-gap arrangements have been agreed in principle between the State authorities and the Commonwealth Grants Commission whereby the State authorities will supply the Grants Commission with required information. Mention has been made of the introduction of a permanent and comprehensive system for the collection of local government data. However, no details of the form this system will take or of when it will be introduced have been mentioned. I urge the Government- I ask the Minister in his reply to give some indication of his attitude to this urging- to have another look at this report and at the difficulties which have been raised by the Grants Commission about this matter. I ask the Government to give us some indication of whether another reference will be made to the Grants Commission in order to have some of these longer-term problems seen to.
In speaking on this topic last year I said that the Australian Labor Party believed that local government had a vital role to play in partnership with State and Federal governments in the provision of services to the Australian people. That is what we are all about. Labor recognised that in many fields local government was the most effective administrative unit. That is why we introduced direct grants to local government during our period in government. These were a recognition of the very real responsibility that people expect local authorities to assume. Despite all its legislative action the Fraser Government has to accept that its prime impact on local government has been to reduce the services which local government can offer. The Government’s treatment of local government is another interesting example of the contradiction which emerges in its attitude towards public spending.
Since coming to power the Liberal and National Country parties have made an absolute virtue out of cutting public spending. It now appears certain that when they leave office they will be unable to claim any credit for lowering the rate of inflation or for lowering the tragic level of unemployment Their only claim to fame will be that despite their counter-productive effects, despite the fact that they are not curing inflation and despite the fact that they are certainly increasing the level of unemployment, they have been able to fulfil their promise to cut public spending, as if that was a virtue in itself.
However it seems that while the Government is prepared to take the dubious credit for cutting public spending overall it displays little enthusiasm for claiming responsibility for specific cuts. It appears to have escaped the attention of Ministers that cutting the whole also means cutting at least some of the constituent parts. Any experienced observer hearing the Minister’s second reading speech on this Bill would no doubt get the impression that local government was doing very well under this Administration. That is far from the truth. Much is made out of this year ‘s 1 8 per cent increase in the level of general purpose assistance to local government. It is not the only method by which funds go to local government. No mention is made of the fact that total payments to local government have increased only by 6 per cent in money terms. When an inflation rate of 12 per cent is taken into account there is a 5 per cent to 6 per cent reduction in real terms of the resources going to local government so it can fulfil its purpose. This is because of the enormous decrease in the special purpose grants for which many local government authorities were so grateful during Labor’s term in government.
Surely if cutting public spending is such a virtue the Government should be proud to announce that in two years it has been able to cut the level of funds going to local government by almost SO per cent in real terms. No. The Minister’s speech continues, I believe, to mislead. I call it a charade. He has played out this charade, as have many of his colleagues, and has mesmerised us into believing that there has been some growth in funds for focal government when that is far from the case. The real import of the meaning of the Government’s policies is hidden behind a carefully selected selection of figures. However, despite the reluctance of the Government to recognise its negative achievement, those who are responsible for providing local government services will be in no doubt about what this Government has done to decrease the standards of service being provided by local government. Many dedicated people in local government throughout this country are giving their time free of charge in so many cases.
The last Labor Budget provided a total of $275m in funds for local government, including road grants. If the value of these funds had been merely kept constant in real terms the total allocation for this financial year should have been in the vicinity of $345 m. That is what it should have been if we were to keep up with the allocation of those resources in real terms. The actual allocation is not $34Sm but is estimated to be approximately $204m or roughly two-thirds of what it should be to keep local government in a steady or no-growth situation. I am not talking about even a growth in real terms; I am talking about merely keeping it in a no-growth situation. I am talking about keeping up with the sort of allocation that had been made in the past in real terms. The $204m is all that has been allocated this year, as against $345m which should have been made available. If this Government increased funds to local government by more than $100m today total funds going to local government would be no greater in real terms than they were for the last year of the Labor Government- the 1975-76 year.
Some idea of the Government’s priorities can be gauged by examining where it has made the greatest cuts. In 1974-75 local government received $43m for employment creation under the Regional Employment Development scheme. In 1975-76 the amount was $93m. For this financial year there is no allocation- not one dollar for this employment-creation scheme. Despite the fact that unemployment is at a record high level and is at least 30 per cent above the level of two years ago when the Labor Government left power, the Government has refused to take any initiatives which would stimulate employment in our community. There were problems, we admit, with the administration of the old RED scheme, but these resulted mainly from the fact that the scheme was brought into action very hurriedly.
The fact remains that the Regional Employment Development scheme employed up to 30,000 people at one time. This Government has had plenty of time to examine alternative employment-generating measures and to overcome the administrative problems of the RED scheme, but it has done nothing. It seems to prefer to do nothing for the unemployed and instead to give tax concessions to better-off people, as we have seen in the Budget. We all would be better off if there were far more stimulatory expenditure than we have to date, particularly stimulatory expenditure of this sort, through local government, to get our economy moving. I repeat: We all would be far better off, whatever our income levels, if this were the policy pursued rather than the giving of tax concessions which are of greater value to those who are better off than to those who are worse off.
Take the position in South Australia, which is your home State Mr Deputy Speaker, as well as mine. I am glad to see you in the chair. In our State the Labor Government has different priorities, as you know. I do not know whether you approve of them. At least I know you are aware of them. The State Government has set up a local initiative program which is about to be expanded. It will put 1 ,500 people in work at any one time. The program is done through allocations based on local government, which is why it is so pertinent to the matter which we are debating. The South Australian scheme, which heavily involves local government authorities, concentrates on activities which as well as being worth while, are ones in which labour-intensive operations are suitable. It appears that the South Australian scheme could operate at a level, if the funds were available, at which 2,000 people could be employed at any one time without administrative problems getting out of hand or the quality of the projects deteriorating.
A scheme of this type in South Australia employing 2,000 people is equivalent to a nation-wide scheme employing 22,000 people. Admittedly this is only a small proportion of those out of work but it is a start. The local initiative program is one particularly relevant to discussions about local government. Those local government areas in which pockets of unemployment run in excess of 10 per cent of the work force would find such a scheme of great community benefit. Based on South Australian figures, the net cost to revenue of a local initiative scheme employing 22,000 people would be in the vicinity of $ 1 50m.
It says something for the priorities of the two sides of Australian politics when we realise that the present Federal Government has cut back completely on local employment schemes while the Opposition has spelt out one in its proposals to get Australia working again. At a State government level things are no different. I refer to the program which I have just outlined. The South Australian Labor Government has a successful local employment program while the Victorian Liberal Government has just refused a recommendation that an employment subsidy scheme be introduced. The Liberal Party Opposition in South Australia at this time is threatening to cut out the job-creation program of the Dunstan Government at a time when that program is so badly needed. This is part of its program for the State election.
There are many examples of drastic cuts in funds to local government by the present Government. Cuts in the national sewerage program and in the efficient and innovative Australian Assistance Plan come readily to mind. It is in the context of what can be done so readily through local government that we view this Bill. We are not opposing the Bill. It merely alters to four decimal places the present allocations. We are taking the opportunity to point out our general opposition to the Fraser Government’s new federalism program. We do not believe that funds for local government ought to be cut. There is certainly no certainty of uniform standards of service being given throughout the country to local government. There has been a wasteful proliferation of State local government grants commissions. All in all, we are not very enthusiastic about the total scheme. We support the Bill for the minor amendments it makes.
Notice of motion
The Acting Clerk- Notice has been received for the next day of sitting from the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) relating to the approval of work by the Public Works Committee for the construction of an animal quarantine station at Wallgrove, New South Wales.
Notice of motion
The Acting Clerk- Notice has been received for the next day of sitting from the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) relating to the construction of an electrical sub-station at the rear of Parliament House, Canberra.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The House is debating the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the existing legislation so that in future it will accord with the recommendations contained in the latest report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerning the distribution between the States of the local government tax sharing entitlements which are provided for under the principal Act.
It was said earlier today by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) that this was not a significant Bill because it made only minor variations in the entitlements as between the States. I do not agree with him. I think it is a very important Bill because it demonstrates quite clearly how the Government’s federalism policy is working. The Bill is significant, not because of its length or because of the extent of the change to the present arrangements; it is significant because a change is being made. The Government’s federalism policy recognises that we live in a dynamic society, a society that is constantly changing. Included in those changes are the changing relationships between the spheres of government- the changing responsibilities and the changing challenges that face different levels of government. Differing disabilities arise from time to time. Other spheres of government gain from advantages of the discovery, for example, of new wealth and resources.
The fact that a State, in relation to its local governments’ entitlement to a share of a proportion of income tax, felt that a review would give it a greater share and that the Commonwealth was willing to place the matter before the Grants Commission for consideration indicates that the Commonwealth is flexible in its attitude. I hope that from time to time when any State feels that due to changing circumstances a reassessment is necessary it will feel free to come before the Commonwealth Grants Commission and have the circumstances of its local government entitlement reassessed. I thought it rather odd at the time that in the very week m which the Grants Commission brought down its report indicating a willingness to make a variation to its previous recommendations some of the States were saying that the Grants Commission was not a sufficiently objective body to determine the relativities of the distribution of income tax between the States.
I was pleased to read in the second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner) that a suggestion I made when the legislation which is now the principal Act was being debated in this chamber that the legislation should contain a requirement that the Grants Commission should distribute money between the States on equalisation principles is now being examined by the States. It is noteworthy that, as stated in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the two larger States advocated a distribution of the share of income tax on a per capita basis. The other States and the Commonwealth Treasury urged upon the Commission that it should distribute the money on an equalisation basis. I believe the decision taken by the Grants Commission to distribute the funds on an equalisation basis is the correct approach. However, I do believe also that it is important that local government within the States be guaranteed that that will be the basis of distribution in the future.
All those who appeared before the Grants Commission urged that, before any major review was undertaken, much more time should be given to an examination of all the relevant facts. U nless the Grants Commission is given an indication of the Commonwealth Government’s desire with regard to the application of equalisation principles, this whole question of the basis of distribution might well be raised again. It is important that the Grants Commission should be given such an indication because, unless it is made clear that the share of income tax that is to be passed on to local government is to be distributed on an equalisation basis as between the States, some States might suffer a double disadvantage in that if equalisation principles are not applied to this money they might not be applied in the determination of State relativities. Alternatively, it is possible that unless some directions are given double compensation will be given because equalisation principles could be applied in the distribution of funds for local government while the same principles could be applied in respect of distributing money to the States and in the process the needs of the local government bodies of a particular State could be again brought into account.
What the Commonwealth Government surely is seeking to achieve is an equitable distribution of the resources available to three spheres of government. That needs to be done in a manner which each sphere understands and under a system that avoids argument which could result in the duplication of assistance or, equally, that could result in no assistance being given where help is deserved. Therefore, I am very pleased to know that this matter is under active consideration. I hope that, given appropriate thought, all State governments and the Commonwealth Government will reach a solution which is equitable as between the States and equitable so far as local government is concerned. It is my view that local government can best be served by local government money being distributed on an equalisation basis so that local government in a particular State that needs special support is not necessarily dependent upon the State government for that additional support but can rely upon that support coming through the recommendations of the well reputed Commonwealth Grants Commission.
In recent weeks announcements have been made concerning the distribution within each of the States. The House will recall that the arrangements contained within the legislation before it provide for a distribution of at least 30 per cent of the funds on a per capita basis and the balance on an equalisation basis. I think it will be interesting when all the reports of the local government grants commissions within the States are tabled. They will need critical and careful analysis to see whether objective principles have been applied and to see that the funds have not been distributed on an ad hoc basis. It is terribly important that each local government body within a particular State should be fairly treated.
I might mention a concern I have that the requirement that a minimum of 30 per cent of the funds be distributed on a per capita basis leaves it open to a State to distribute too great a proportion on that basis and to have inadequate funds available to distribute on an equalisation basis. Equally, I am concerned that the provision which enables a State to distribute these per capita funds upon the basis of the size of the local government body, its population density or its area, enables a State government to distort the allocation so that we do not achieve the objective set out in the principal Act, namely, that each local government body within a State should be able to achieve a standard that is not appreciably below the standards of other local government bodies within that State, given that each local government body makes an adequate effort to keep its standards to that level.
Therefore I urge the Minister and the Government to examine carefully the reports of the six local government grants commissions. That examination should not be seen as Commonwealth intrusion because it relates to the interrelationship between three spheres of government. What this Government is trying to achieve is a better fiscal balance between those three spheres of government so that their resourcestheir tax base- are adequate to enable each sphere of government to fulfil effectively the responsibility that falls upon it.
I was interested to note that the Minister in his second reading speech made reference to the distribution of 1 . 52 per cent of income tax. I remind the house that when introducing the principal Act the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said:
I want to emphasise, however, that the Government regards the figure of 1.52 per cent as a minimum percentage. It is subject to review.
The Minister, in introducing the Bill which is before the house, said:
The Government considered the matter of the 1.52 per centage share when framing the Budget but decided that it could not see its way to increasing it in the present economic circumstances.
I think all honourable members would appreciate the difficulty of the present economic circumstances. However, I am pleased that the Government recognises its earlier commitment to review the quantum or the percentage share of income tax that is to go to local government. It is to be noted, however, that even in these difficult economic times the amount available to local government this year is $ 165.3m compared with $ 140m last year- an 18 per cent increase in the allocation to local government. My experience is that local government recognises the efforts being made by this Government to increase the resources available to it to enable it to carry out more effectively its functions.
The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) who spoke before me in the debate was somewhat critical of the Commonwealth Government’s proposal under which we had set up in each of the States a local government grants commission to distribute the resources available to local government within each of the States. I wonder whether he and his colleagues are proposing that those commissions be abandoned and that the total responsibility be handed over to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The honourable member did not make that point clear. I wonder whether, in the light of the experience so far and in view of the changed arrangements for the distribution of the funds going to the States, that is what the honourable member is proposing. You will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, that the States were concerned about the suitability of the Commonwealth Grants Commission as the body to determine those relativities between the States.
At the July Premiers Conference it was agreed between the States and the Commonwealth that a commission should be set up which comprised three members of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, two members nominated by the States, one member nominated by the two more populous States and one member nominated by the four less populous States. That again is an illustration of the Commonwealth’s flexible approach to trying to find a sensible solution to resolve the problems to be found in the relationships between the spheres of government. I wonder, in view of what the honourable member for Adelaide said, whether, instead of concentrating the determination of relativities of the distribution of moneys between the local government bodies within a State, the appropriate way to resolve the matter would be if the Commonwealth Grants Commission were to have on each local government grants commission in each of the States a commissioner so that there was information available to the Commonwealth Grants Commission in order that it could more effectively allocate the local government share of income tax as between the States. Perhaps the honourable member for Adelaide might like to make inquiries of his State Labor colleagues to see whether they would agree to that sort of proposal.
I do not believe that the cost of running these local government grants commissions within the States should be seen as an obstacle. If it were to become an obstacle I believe, in the interests of establishing a smooth arrangement for the reallocation of resources as between the three spheres of government, the Commonwealth should give consideration to funding those grants commissions in a manner similar to that by which it provides the funds for the operation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In that way then there could be a more sensitive appraisal of the needs of local government as between the States and the local government bodies within each State.
This piece of legislation is very significant because it confirms the Government’s acceptance and recognition of local government as a sphere of government. In our policy statement on federalism the Government said: the Liberal and National Country Parties wholly support the concept of federalism in which there are three areas of government- Federal, State and local . . .
In our policy on local government we said:
The policies are designed to provide major reforms in the finances and functions of local government and a new copartnership for it with the Federal and State spheres.
By our policy we have demonstrated our intent; by our actions we have fulfilled that intent. We have done so by recognising local government in that we have given it a share in income tax. We have also given it representation on the important and significant Advisory Council for InterGovernment Relations. But there is a challenge before the community at large and before local government in particular. What is needed is an indication from local government of its true aspirations. I believe that local government has an aspiration to be an independent, autonomous sphere of government in a three sphere federal system. But if we are to achieve that goal it is necessary that local government clearly enunciate that aspiration. There are very important issues to be considered.
In a report that was prepared recently by the Joint Study into Local Government Functions in Australia and New Zealand some interesting conclusions were reached. Firstly, the report stated that local government throughout
Australia has never wholly performed the role of local community self-government? Secondly, the Joint Study stated: . . those changes need to be related to broad philosophic principles on the role of governmental and intergovernmental relations.
It is important that local government indicate its desire to fulfil the role of community self government and not to be merely an administrative arm of State government. The same report also stated:
Local government sees itself as a decentralised agent of State governments.
The question I ask is this: Does local government want to remain a decentralised agent of State government or, for that matter, of any other government? In a true federal system it is not only administrative responsibility which is shared between the three arms of government; it is legislative power- the power to legislate. That power needs to be shared in a manner whereby it cannot be withdrawn. The power that is now in the hands of the States cannot be withdrawn by the Commonwealth. The power that the States conferred on the Commonwealth cannot be withdrawn by the States. The power that is conferred on local government, in my view, should be conferred in a manner whereby it cannot be withdrawn. There is, therefore, a need for local government to proclaim clearly its aspiration to be an independent, autonomous sphere of government in a federal system that has three cooperating spheres of government. This legislation is a step that will aid in the achievement of that goal if local government rises to the challenge.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This Bill is a measure of the Government’s total failure to provide an adequate share of resources for local government in Australia. My later remarks will show just how badly local government is faring at the hands of Fraser’s new federalism. First, I shall set out briefly the approach of the Australian Labor Party to local government, as outlined in the policies adopted at the National Conference in Perth. The main theme of our policy is the protection of the needs of the people who are served by local government. Eighty-five per cent of all Australians live in urban communities. The other 1 5 per cent live in rural communities of one sort or another. All these people depend directly on what local government provides for the wide range of services which determine the quality of their day-to-day lives. Their links with State and Federal governments are much less tangible. Australians depend on local government for their water and sewerage services, roads, urban public transport, and recreation and cultural facilities. Within Australian communities differences in the quality of these essential services show up very starkly.
The standard of services provided by local government varies enormously from one local government body to another. Some shires and councils have built up sufficient revenues from a high rating base and are able to provide services of a very high order. Other councils lack the effective rating base and cannot provide proper services, or at best they provide services which are limited in scope.
The Western Sectors of Sydney and Melbourne are prime examples of local government bodies which lack the resources to deliver services to all their people on a basis of equity. Surely it is the basic aim of the Commonwealth to provide assistance to local government which gives all Australians the same level of basic services no matter where they may reside.
I shall talk briefly on the policies of the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. In broad terms we tried to do three things in relation to local government.
Firstly, we tried to give assistance to local government on the basis of equity. We felt that Commonwealth assistance should go to those councils and shires which were mostin need. We rejected the concept that Commonwealth assistance should be divided equally among all local government bodies. This approach was adopted by the Grants Commission with untied grants and interest free loans which the Labor Government provided to local government for the first time in its history.
Our second aim was to inject human values into the conduct of government at the grass roots level which comes in contact with a wide section of the Australian community. The whole thrust of the work of the old Department of Urban and Regional Development was directed to this aim. Our people- I am talking about our public servantsgot out of Canberra and worked closely with State and local government representatives and community organisations and the people themselves at the grass roots level. They got to understand what it was all about. They got out into the field of urban and regional development where they always should have been. The only way to solve the problems of local government is for representatives of the Australian Government to become involved with people’s problems and to understand them. Many honourable members opposite came into contact with the public servants who represented the Department of Urban and Regional Development as they came into contact with local government. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) was an alderman. He should understand clearly what the Department of Urban and Regional Development did. It made a new order for local government. It was properly recognised for the first time. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) was well aware of the role that the Department of Urban and Regional Development played in working with the Hunter Valley regional organisation. We in Canberra did not tell people in that organisation what they wanted. They told us what they wanted, because it was a grass roots organisation. This is what needs to be done.
What is the situation under the present Government? These public servants now stick to their seats in Canberra. They do not interrelate with their State and local government colleagues. The Labor Government’s policy was based on showing our faith in people and involving ourselves directly in their basic wants. The policy effort was based on co-operation between the three levels of government, with a fourth tier made up of community groups. Setting up this structure of policy making and delivery of services and facilities to urban and regional communities was one of the great achievements of the Labor Government. This basis of trust and co-operation between the three levels of government and between government and people has been destroyed by the Fraser Government. I say that advisedly. We cannot solve the problems of local government or urban and regional problems unless we get the three levels of government working together. Each level cannot live in a separate box on its own. They have to be interrelated. They have to understand the human problems involved.
The Fraser Government has washed its hands of the basic community programs built up by the Labor Government. It has destroyed the Grants Commission. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) talked a great deal about the Grants Commission. He has a genuine respect for the Grants Commission. But the Fraser Government, of which he is a supporter, destroyed the real concept of the Grants Commission, its relationship with local government, the expertise built up during the period of Labor
Government and its understanding of the problem. The Labor Government did not build up the Grants Commission from Federal bureaucrats in Canberra. We drew people from many sectorsuniversities, local government, the private sector and the State and Federal government sector, the wonderful body of skilled people built up in the Grants Commission has been gradually eroded. Now, it is just a skeleton of what it was formerly under the Labor Government. The Fraser Government also destroyed completely the area improvement program which was designed to provide basic services and facilities to local government bodies throughout Australia. We started slowly. We started with the area improvement program which was a regional council program. In the western suburbs of Sydney we amalgamated- when I say ‘we’ I mean in co-operation with the States -
– You made a slip there, Tom.
– It is not a matter of making a slip. If the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs checked with any of his counterparts in the States and local government he would find that we did it together. The Department of Urban and Regional Development worked in a spirit of cooperation with State and local governments. I said when I was Minister for Urban and Regional Development, and I say it now in Opposition, that the only way the federal system will work is with a real spirit of co-operation between the Australian Government, State governments and local government, working together with community groups. We set up these regions in co-operation with the States. In most cases they were set up within State boundaries. We started off this Area Improvement Program by concentrating on the two most deprived regions in this country- the western region of Sydney and the western region of Melbourne. The program was so successful that it spread to 13 other regions. As the honourable member for Paterson knows, the Hunter Valley regional authority proved to be a very successful body. It gave strength to the program. We in the Whitlam Labor Government gave encouragement to that body which had been struggling for years.
This program has been completely destroyed by the present Government. Labor’s program was based on local government bodies and community groups deciding what services and facilities they needed. Even though it was a direct grant under section 96 of the Constitution, the people themselves were able to tell us what they needed and then we set about providing what they wanted. These programs would then be funded by the Commonwealth through the area improvement program and with the authority of the State government. In every case the projects provided for each area were decided on by the people who lived within that area. Again I stress to the Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Viner) that they told us what they wanted. It might have been a recreation hall, a park, a tree planting program, more drainage or the beautification of a harsh urban landscape. In every case the program was determined by what the people wanted. It grew from them.
Let me give an example. Last Sunday I attended the opening of an urban park in the western region of Sydney in an area between Auburn and Granville. In the past half century Duck Creek has been polluted by industry. One of the wealthiest companies in this country- the Shell company- admitted a few years ago that each day from its oil refinery it emitted 35 tons of sulphur dioxide, 2 tons of alumina, and 50 gallons of crude oil filtered into Duck Creek. These wealthy industrial companies in the area polluted Duck Creek to such an extent that it caused a stench for the people in the surrounding area. A similar situation occurred in the Parramatta River. Under Labor’s program we provided an urban plan in co-operation with the councils surrounding the Parramatta River. As Duck Creek runs into the Parramatta River which in turn runs into Sydney Harbour the interrelationship of the environment had to be understood. We were able to work together with these regional councils of Sydney for a better plan. Apart from our study of that waterway we were able to start to beautify the area. Under the area improvement program we were able to start to create the 25-acre park which was opened on Sunday by the New South Wales Governor. In that area there is now a beautiful ornamental Japanese garden. Rain forest is being introduced. Tree planting of all descriptions is being carried out and picnic grounds and recreational areas are being provided for the people who live in that deprived area.
Something like $850,000 was contributed to this project through the area improvement program and the Regional Employment Development scheme. But when the Fraser Government came to office those funds were cut off completely. To complete the project the Auburn Council then made its own contribution. But even now that the park has been created it will be an enormous economic burden for the Auburn Council. We need to assist that Council.
The Council alone should not have to be responsible for the park as it is for the region. The Australian Government should be participating in the cost of running and administering that park.
The area improvement program strengthened the regions. Surely the honourable member for Paterson would testify to that. The regions where the program was applied are now littered with scores of unfinished programs. In some cases local government bodies have set a fine example by finishing those projects, and I gave the example of Duck Creek in the western suburbs of Sydney and the efforts of the Auburn Council. That this has been done is a tribute to the value of the projects and to the calibre of local government bodies who have battled on despite a lack of federal assistance. It is a grim reflection on the Fraser Government’s new federalism which has denied much needed services and facilities to hundreds of thousands of Australians.
The third point I wanted to make about Labor’s programs before new federalism swept them away is the regional basis we built for them. It was our belief that services could best be delivered at the local level through a system of regionalism. Because individual councils and shires lacked resources it made sense for them to join together on a regional basis and approach State and Federal governments on that basis. Regionalism made much progress under the Labor Government and we gave it strong support and encouragement. We wanted to develop this concept of regionalism because we are anticentralist and we always have been in matters of urban and regional development. No matter how much honourable members opposite may scoff, the record of the Department of Urban and Regional Development and the ministry which I administered was basically anti-centralist, and everybody knows that. Now this basis of regional trust and co-operation has been destroyed by a government which has scrapped regional programs and removed regionalism from the considerations of the Grants Commission. For all these reasons we reject the philosophy which underlies the Fraser Government ‘s new federalism and we reject the philosophy which underlies this Bill.
Turning to the provisions of the Bill, I reject the claim by the Minister Assisting the Treasurer that this Bill is of singular benefit to local government in this country. The Government has tried to create the illusion that local government is getting a better deal. Even on the basis used by the Minister it is clear that local government is not getting a better deal. In fact it is much worse off than it was under a Labor Government. This emerges quite clearly from a few simple comparisons. In 1975-76, the year of the last Labor Budget, the payments from the Commonwealth to local government were equivalent to about 3 per cent of net personal income tax collections in that year. This calculation includes general purpose assistance, direct payments and other payments through the States. It does not include payments for roads because the figures were not available. In the 1977-78 Budget payments to local government will account for only 1.6 per cent of estimated personal income tax collections after making allowance for Medibank. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out in graphic terms how Commonwealth payments for local government authorities have fallen over the past 2 years. This table was taken from table 98 in Budget Paper No. 7.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The total funds available for local government will increase by about 5½ per cent in this financial year. With an inflation rate for the year of 1 1 per cent to 12 per cent, this means a real decline of 6 per cent to 7 per cent in funds to local government this year. This is a dismal tribute to the impact of Fraser ‘s new federalism. Vastly increased responsibilities have been handed back to local government as the Commonwealth has opted out of programs such as the area improvement program, as I stressed earlier, and other services. At the same time funds available to local government have shrunk in a drastic fashion. The Minister claims that the arrangement has given local government the status of a genuine partner in the federal system. This assertion is not supported by the facts. Local government is now more a junior partner than it ever was before. As well, payments to local government will be affected adversely by the new personal tax scales introduced in the Budget. The overall rate of growth in personal income tax collections will be less than if the old scales had been retained. I make this assertion on the basis that both schemes would be half indexed. Through the States local government now gets 1.52 per cent of personal income tax of the previous year. Under this new tax scale local government is not getting the deal it was promised under Fraser ‘s new federalism.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In listening to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) I sometimes wonder whether we are talking about the same local government system and indeed whether we are talking about the same Commonwealth of Australia. It is a favourite tack of the Opposition, particularly of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, always to incorporate funds which were made available for a temporary scheme introduced by the previous Government, namely the Regional Employment Development scheme. The Opposition when it was in power recognised it as a temporary scheme. In fact the RED scheme ceased during the time of the previous government. Yet members of the Opposition keep trotting out these figures to indicate that the Government has cut back expenditure in the local government area.
The honourable member for Reid also suggested that he rejects the philosophy underlying the Bill. I am not surprised that he does reject that. The fact is that the legislation provides for a very successful program of funding to local government by way of untied grants. Such a program has not been undertaken previously. This is a scheme whereby local government is now assured of a guaranteed percentage of income tax collections. The scheme is working very successfully. The honourable member should take the trouble to go around and test the market, as it were, by speaking to local government authorities. Certainly in my experience local government is extremely happy with the funds that are coming from this Government under the federalism scheme.
I turn to the Bill. Through this Bill the Government is again demonstrating its commitment to join local government into the general fabric of a federal government system in Australia. A great deal of work is being done through the Australian Constitutional Convention and through the Advisory Council for Intergovernmental Relations to place local government into the federal framework. It is not a concept being improved by the Commonwealth Government. Local government seeks to play a contributing role in one of the three areas of government in Australia. The Australian Council of Local Government Associations in its submission to the Australian Constitutional Convention in 1976 stated:
Local government sees its role for the future as a full and effective working partner in a system of government consisting of three levels. The local government proposals, therefore, seek to secure the constitutional recognition of local government; status to enable local government to work with the other two partners in government; and the creation of a sound financial structure to enable the fulfilment of local government’s responsibilities.
I would submit that local government will play a greater role as a partner in government only if it receives adequate finance which will enable it to expand its area of responsibility. One of the conclusions reached by the joint study into local government finance in Australia and New Zealand, which was referred to by the honourable member for Sturt, concluded:
Local government has a greater functional role in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand but has a somewhat lesser place in a functional sense in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. In these latter States local government has remained for the most part tied to its traditional property based functions and some State agency services.
It is also clear that many municipalities are entering the field of personal services. This is evidenced by a growing number of personnel on municipal staffs concerned with community development and planning, recreation, youth, elderly citizens and areas that are other than the historic property service area.
The joint study referred to further concluded that on the basis of international comparisons the total load of taxation in Australia is far from the highest while, further, growth in personal incomes has been running ahead of prices. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that rates are the only tax which local government has, the tax is highly sensitive in the manner in which it is set, and as a single tax it lacks the flexibility which other governments have with a range of taxes. That report was completed in 1 976.
We in the Government have helped to expand local government financial resources by giving untied grants derived from a share in Commonwealth income tax collections. Currently local government receives 1.52 per cent of these receipts and will shortly begin a campaign to have that percentage increased to 2 per cent. At this stage I wish to record a question which arose in my mind, namely, whether local government is in fact taxing as high as it ought to through its property rating resource? I hasten to add that I am well aware of the difficulties which rural municipalities in particular have experienced over the past three or four years. It is clear that many municipalities used the untied grants from the Federal Government in 1976-77 to prop up their rating structure, thus removing the necessity to increase rates at a time when many rural areas were suffering as a result of drought or the general depression. Notwithstanding that situation, however, the fact remains that local government taxing is comparatively low. I would like to draw to the attention of the House to the position in America and Canada. A paper prepared by Mr Wilfred Prest, which was reprinted for private circulation from the Australian Economic Papers, entitled ‘Intergovernmental Fiscal Relations: Some Implications for Australia of Recent Developments in the United States of America and Canada’ stated:
Perhaps the most striking feature of the American revenue sharing’ grants is the ‘pass through’ requirement that two-thirds of the assistance must be reallocated by the States to their counties and municipalities . . . excluding intergovernmental transfers, utilities . . . and insurance funds, the expenditures of federal, State and local authorities in 1971-72 were related to one another in the ratio of 47:20.33. For Canada the corresponding relationship was 39:29.32. On either basis the provinces are relatively more important than the American States. These ratios of course indicate a much more important role for local government than exists in Australia where the relationship is roughly 47:46.7.
I hasten to add that local authorities in the United States and Canada have responsibility, of course, for functions such as police and justice, health and welfare, housing and urban renewal and in some cases, education which Australia does not have. The quote continues:
The financing of this extensive range of activities throws a heavy burden on local property taxation. In 197 1-72 revenue from all local property taxation averaged nearly $50 per $1,000 of personal income in the United States of Amenca and Canada as compared with only SI 5 in Australia, which makes complaints about the high level of local rates in Australia seem somewhat exaggerated.
In Victoria an inquiry is currently considering the whole question of rural rate structure. For some years the Local Government Act in that State empowered local government authorities to strike a differential rate between urban and rural communities. Experience has shown, however, that many municipalities refused to use the provisions in the Act to bring rating equity between ratepayers. It is to be hoped that the inquiry and its recommendations will highlight these inequities and that the Government will seek ways and means to correct the imbalance which many ratepayers and their representative organisations believe exist in rural Victoria.
In fundamental terms our federalism policy recognises the role which local government can and should play in government. There are, however, questions which must be considered by local government and in many instances answers found before the third partner is in a position to exercise its greater governmental responsibility. One example is the quality of administration. We should ask the question: Is the quality of administration of a sufficiently high standard to deal with the volume and complexity of additional powers and responsibility? Are the elected representatives generally capable of undertaking an increased role in the personal services of local government? Will local government authorities divest themselves of the ‘old boy ‘ network which in some instances ensures the election on a rotation basis by ward or riding of the position of shire president or mayor? No longer can we have a criterion which is based not on quality but on long service to local government. Will the council seek the best man or woman for the job of chairman of that council? Will the administration have access to a local government public service with expertise in all spheres of government? Will local government facilities be made available to the community to ensure maximum use of expensive buildings and recreation areas, or will those facilities be jealously controlled by and confined within the local government structure? I would refer to the Horton report on public libraries in Australia. Local government authorities proposed to that inquiry that school community libraries ought to be established for the use of the community at large rather than for one sector to the exclusion of another sector.
In some instances it will be necessary for some local government authorities to rethink their role in government. The contribution by local authorities as a partner in government must be of a high standard. Ratepayers and citizens will demand, hopefully, quality and civic leadership in areas of responsibility which can generally be described as community development. There are many recent examples where local government has indicated its willingness to take up the challenge from the Federal Government. I refer firstly to the Municipal Association of Victoria and its approach to the first Bailey report from the Commonwealth Task Force on co-ordination in Health and Welfare. A meeting convened by the Municipal Association of Victoria to discuss the Bailey report was attended by over 300 councillors and administrators. A detailed submission prepared by the Association has been filed with the Government. I respectfully agree with the Municipal Association m its conclusion that the implications of the Bailey report recommendations are wide-ranging and of substantial significance to the delivery of health and welfare in this country. The Municipal Association of Victoria said this in its submission:
The responsibilities of local government have become much broader than the traditional provision of works and services financed by rates. Local Government is now involved with planning for welfare of the whole community. An increasing range of grants from Commonwealth and State sources nas expanded the role of local government in social welfare. Despite this increased involvement mechanisms for consultation and joint planning between the spheres of Government do not provide for adequate input from local government.
The Association then made recommendations relating to the position between Commonwealth, State, local government and non-government bodies. It said:
The Commonwealth Government should ensure that-
It works from the general policy position on local government encompassed in its Federalism and social welfare policies.
It ensures that local government is entrusted with greater powers and responsibilities and identifies those areas involving a local role.
It establishes guarantees for devolution beyond the State to a local level.
It establishes arrangements for allocation of funds beyond the State level.
More significantly, it made this point which should be examined in relation to road funding:
That reference to the States grants commissions was not alluded to, perhaps deliberately, by the honourable member for Reid in his criticism of this Government’s role in relation to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Municipal Association of Victoria concluded that submission by saying:
Local government can co-operate with Commonwealth and State Governments. It can establish viable consultative arrangements on a local government area basis. It can be represented in consultation at a regional level. Through its umbrella’ organisations it can participate in consultation at a State and Commonwealth level.
I would hope that at the Commonwealth level we do not forget the willingness expressed in that instance by the Municipal Association of Victoria. It epitomises the attitude of many responsible associations representing local government throughout Australia.
The second example to which I refer briefly in demonstrating the willingness of local government to be involved in assisting the Commonwealth Government, and indeed the people of Australia, is in the area of unemployment. The Austraiian Council of Local Government Associations, acting on behalf of all local government authorities in Australia, submitted to the Government its willingness to take up programs which would provide employment through local government. This is of particular significance to rural Australia where job opportunities are not as wide or as numerous as they are in more closely populated urban areas. I trust that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) will give urgent consideration to that submission and acknowledge the contribution which local government m Australia has demonstrated in this matter. I conclude by repeating that I am not surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the philosophy which this Government has undertaken in relation to local government. Local government now has a Commonwealth Government that it can trust. It is a Commonwealth Government which is supplying funds on a regular basis through the tax sharing arrangements.
-The stated purpose of the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill is to amend the principal Act which was passed in 1976 in order to implement recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerning the distribution between States of the local government tax sharing entitlements provided under the Act. The main provision is covered by clause 3 of this Bill which replaces the existing table in section 5 (2) of the Act with a proposed new section setting out the revised percentage distribution of the base figure of 1 .52 per cent of net personal income tax collections in the previous year. That is the amount to be allocated for local government purposes. These funds are to be paid to the States for passing on to local government.
Before proceeding with my remarks in this debate, I want to say to the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) who preceded me that his disparagement of the Deputy Leader of the Op- position (Mr Uren) and the contribution made y him in his former capacity as Minister for Urban and Regional Development was unjustified. There has been no greater champion in this Parliament for many years of the cause of local government than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid. For that matter members of the Opposition can hold high their heads because the Opposition also has championed the cause of local government as I will go on to show during the course of my remarks.
In the Labor Government’s Budget for 1975-76 it provided $230m for local government. Expenditure of that size had never been contemplated in the 23 years that preceded the election of a Labor government. No matter on which side of the Parliament honourable members may sit they would all readily concede that the innovation of that Labor Government and its enthusiasm for support for local government captured the imagination of people in local government throughout Australia. That was a bonanza period for local government. New initiatives were undertaken from one end of the country to the other. That amount of $230m which the Labor Government provided in its Budget for 1975-76 represented 2.2 per cent of the estimated yield of personal income tax. The Bill before us relates to the Government’s intention to re-arrange the distribution of 1.52 per cent of the revenue derived from income tax.
I have some official figures from the Budget papers. They are contained in ‘Commonwealth Government Payments To or For Local Government’. This paper sets out the various categories of payments for the years 1974-75 through to 1977-78. Honourable members can see these figures for themselves. Areas of expenditure accounted for in this table cover general purpose assistance, direct payments and other payments made through the States.
We hear about the new federalism but I believe that a thimble and pea trick is being perpetrated on the Australian people at present. We have heard in this place many times the old saying that figures can he and liars can figure. That saying certainly is borne out in respect of the matter before us. The official figures, with the qualification that the figures exclude Medibank contributions, show that the share of personal income tax paid to or for local government in 1974-75 was 2.34 per cent, while in 1975-76 it was 2.98 per cent, in 1976-77 it was 1.76 per cent and in 1977-78 it will be 1.61 per cent. These are the official figures, and one does not have to be an expert to construe them as showing that there has been a deterioration in the position of local government and a decline in Federal support for local government in terms of its percentage of personal income tax. That is a very worrying situation for local government.
Undoubtedly, local government is the neglected area of government in Australia. It is the Cinderella of the system. It is time to redress this anomalous situation not by mere tokenism or the gimmickry of federalism but by equipping local government with adequate financial resources to enable it properly to discharge its obligations. A lot of political capital is made out of the plight of local government from time to time and I know that many significant local government areas in New South Wales are taking the view that the introduction of this legislation at this time represents mere political opportunism. We all know that the New South Wales local government elections will take place next Saturday. The Minister admitted in his second reading speech that the guidelines have not yet been prescribed. He admitted that further legislation will be needed in the near future to tidy up this whole business; but it was so important to introduce this legislation before the local government elections take place in New South Wales next Saturday. The results of those elections probably will be construed by political commentators as a straw in the political wind, and if anything can be done by this Government to influence’ the situation the Government certainly will seek to do it.
The extent to which support should be given by the Federal Government to local government has been the subject of a referendum. All honourable members will recall the referendum conducted in May 1974. The purpose of the referendum was to seek authority for the Australian Government to make grants direct to local government. I believe that if that referendum had been carried local government would have been in a far more advantageous position than it is today. The grants that it was intended to make were of various kinds. There would have been repayable grants and non-repayable grants, tied grants in some cases, when mutually agreed upon, and untied grants in other cases. In most instances the shire and municipal councils around Australia, having had a taste of Federal support during the three years of the Labor Administration, were anxious to see that referendum carried. Regrettably, the No case campaigners misrepresented the situation by contending that a Yes vote would weaken local government by making it subordinate to the Federal Government and to Canberra. The old cliches were wheeled out about how the bureaucracy was going to take over, about the remoteness of Canberra being damaging to local government, and about how the Grants Commission would be all powerful. However, under the new arrangements there will be not just the Commonwealth Grants Commission that generally has regard for the needs of the States and determines relative needs all over Australia but also a grants commission acting in each State. So, if we were able to disparage the role of the bureaucracy before we will be able to do it seven times more strongly under the new concept.
Let me mention a little more about the referendum. The Yes case was succinct enough. It was to the effect that local government had been starved of funds. That contention has been made, interestingly enough, by both parties over decades. I remember that when I came to this Parliament 22 years ago the New South Wales Government was receiving a report from Sir Bertram Stevens, a former Premier who had been commissioned by the then State Government to establish the extent to which comparable Federal governments around the world were giving support to local government. So, as far back as that we established that there existed a case of deprivation; that Australia was treating local government worse than most other comparable countries. The Yes case campaigners contended that local councils were unable to provide sewerage, roads, community health services, child care facilities and facilities for sport and recreation without huge rate increases. They also contended that the Federal Government should be able to provide funds without recourse to the middle man, the States, although it was acknowledged that the States had some constitutional prerogative in this area. It was a reasonable proposition.
Then the No case people went to work. As I have indicated, they claimed that bureaucracy would be putting its fingers into every one of Australia’s council chambers and would be enmeshing local government in a tangle of red tape and the like. The main contention of the No case campaigners was: ‘Councils do need more money. The Liberal and Country parties, on return to government, will provide it’. That is the end of the quotation, but it is not the end of the matter. The figures which I have already indicated and others which I will provide show that that undertaking has not been fulfilled. So, here is yet another broken promise that reaches right down to the level of the people, because local government is the arm of government closest to the people. We can talk as much as we like about the defence needs of the country and about how we need new customs officers and all the fancy things in which we as the Federal Parliament get involved, but people do not believe that the country is being run effectively when they cannot get funds for priority needs such as kerbing and guttering, sewerage and drainage and when women are pushing prams through dustbowls in summer and quagmires in winter. So, the promise that was made in the referendum campaign has been broken and less funds are going from the Federal exchequer to local government than used to be the case.
The referendum result was unfortunate. Most of the States, certainly all Liberal States, opposed it; but, despite that, in Victoria 47.3 per cent of the people voted Yes and 44.4 per cent voted No. The Yes case won there. In Queensland 43.6 per cent voted Yes and 41 per cent voted No. In South Australia 45.5 per cent voted Yes and 39.7 per cent voted No. In Western Australia 40.6 per cent voted Yes and the Noes amounted to 37.4 per cent. In Tasmania there was another victory for the Yes voters, with 40 per cent voting Yes, as against 37.8 per cent voting No. In other words, a majority of valid votes were cast in favour of the Yes case in each State; but, regrettably, there was not the clear majority that was required throughout Australia. On that technicality, even though the people overwhelmingly expressed their wish, local government has been allowed to languish and the spirit and the will of the people as expressed in that referendum have not been faithfully carried on. We are talking about a great instrumentality which spends something like $ 1,200m per annum on public services. More than half this amount comes from rates and penalties.
Of course, the rating system is very much as it was back at the turn of the century when it was designed simply to provide service roads to, in most instances, substantial properties. But now the whole ball game has changed. What we have done is to equip local government with a great range of powers but not, unfortunately, with the wherewithal to legislate effectively about those powers. That is the situation. There is a new range of responsibilities which local government now exercises. A local government could run a bus service if it wanted to. In any event, it helps to finance pre-schools and senior citizen centres. It finances town planning operations and libraries, health care provisions and social services, kerbing and guttering, parks and all the rest of it as well as pre-natal care and pre-school care. You name it and local government can do something about it if it is given the funds.
The regrettable factor is that we have this inequitable rating system. Two people can live beside one another in the same kind of house but their incomes can be vastly different. If the valuations are the same they each have to contribute the same amount of money to provide all these services. That simply means that there is an abandonment of the capacity to pay principle in relation to local government. In respect of federal needs we pay according to our capacity to pay. There are varying tax scales. The rich pay more in the dollar than the poor. The same situation applies in relation to State services.
– This Government is trying to reverse that.
-This Government has always denied funds for local government. This is the point I am making. There is a need to bring greater amounts from the proceeds of uniform taxation to help finance this increasing range of services. The extent to which a government fails to do that simply makes inroads into the income of low income people because they have to pay the same as wealthy people for local government purposes.
– That is iniquitous.
-It is iniquitous. I shall cite some figures very quickly because my time has almost gone. This is what is involved in payments to local government authorities by the Federal Government: In 1975-76 an amount of $272.9m was made available and in 1976-77 an amount of $ 190.4m was made available. That is a drop of 30.2 per cent. This year’s Budget provides a total of $201.2m, or an increase of 5.7 per cent. The net effect, of course, is that in the period that Labor brought down its last Budget when compared with the last Liberal-National Country Party Budget there has been a very real decline in the amount provided in monetary terms and certainly in real terms, from $272.9m in 1975-76 to $20 1.2m in 1977-78. But not only that; programs which have been abandoned by the Liberal-National Country parties and which assisted local government include the Australian Assistance Plan on which $286m was expended in 1975-76; employment grants for that year which amounted to $14.8m, and there have been no funds since; growth centres have been virtually abandoned as the figure has come down from $3.6m to $2.6m; the area improvement program expenditure has fallen from $ 14,996m to $498m. Of course the sewerage program has come down from $25. lm in 1975-76 and has been totally abandoned.
-(Mr Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My great interest in the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill is because of my association with local government over a 33-year period. So I am very well acquainted with the problems of this third tier of government. I was interested to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), select my electorate of Paterson to give an example of funds which were made available to local government during the reign of the former Australian Labor Party Government when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I believe that he had a general interest in local government and made funds available to the area which, of course, are still being made available. In certain circumstances, more funds than ever have been made available by the present Liberal-National Country Party Government.
The purpose of this Bill is to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission concerning the distribution between States and local government tax sharing entitlements provided under the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. The present Government in its 20 months in office has introduced three measures of great significance to local government. These are worth mentioning and I bring them forward in this debate. Firstly, there is the provision of a local government revenue supplement based on a fixed percentage- currently 1.52 per cent- of personal income tax. Secondly, there is the establishment of the Advisory Council for InterGovernmental Relations in which local government finds itself in full partnership with the Commonwealth Government and with the States. Thirdly, there is the introduction of fiscal federalism under which the States receive a fixed percentage of personal income tax. This year local government will receive a total of $ 165.3m. This is more than twice the sum of $79.9m made available by the Australian Labor Party Government for 1975-76. So this Government is making more funds available than did the previous
Administration. It is an 18 per cent increase on last year’s allocation.
After allowing for inflation which is now running at the rate of 10.2 per cent, this money will provide significant real money growth to local shires and municipalities. The States, under revenue sharing, will receive a total of $4,336m this year. This is 1 7 per cent more than last year. It will enable the States to increase their initiatives and meet their financial responsibilities towards local government in their States. The measure of the success of our federalism policies is demonstrated by the fact that last year all States managed to balance their budgets after making substantial tax cuts. Clearly very considerable flexibility of decision making has been restored to the States. Originally local government was entirely the responsibility of the various States. Of course we know that with increased costs and increased burdens expected and placed on local government, they have had to have recourse to other funds.
This is a very important piece of legislation as far as Australian local government is concerned. It will help to overcome some of the serious budgeting problems which confront shire and municipal councils and their clerks who are the chief administrative officers. Local government is the third tier of government in this country. Over the past two decades it has been faced with providing modem, up-to-date facilities with an outmoded method of financing. As the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) said, the main income derived by councils is from the levying of rates on the unimproved capital value of land under their administration. Modern local government is required to finance and provide parks, sporting ovals, sewerage systems, roads, swimming pools, kerbing and guttering, kindergartens, modern health centres, baby health centres, libraries, aerodromes and many other facilities. Now it has entered the field of and taken the responsibility for running in many instances local government meatworks, electricity supply and the supply of gas. In other spheres local government has taken over the responsibility of providing essential services for their localities.
These responsibilities provided by local government have lightened to a large degree the burden of State and Federal governments. It seems only fair that a share of the general taxation revenue should be allocated to the third tier. Members of the National Country Party have advocated this for many years. This legislation is a breakthrough in finance and in the provision of funds to assist in overcoming the huge burden placed on ratepayers throughout the country. My concern, as one who has had such a long experience in this field, is that sufficient funds are not being made available. The funds, whilst being of assistance, are not nearly sufficient to offset the high costs being experienced by ratepayers. Nevertheless, it is a good start. Let us hope that greater assistance will be forthcoming in future.
Local government is the real leader in providing decentralisation of industry and commerce. Where there is live and active leadership in this field there is more activity and progress than in any other form of government. Co-operation between the three tiers of government is essential for local government development. This legislation goes a long way, in a practical manner, towards providing and stimulating this cooperation. I mentioned the decentralisation of industry. Most State governments assist local government in the decentralisation of industry. The New South Wales Government, if it approves of an industry being supported and implemented by a local government authority, will provide 60 per cent of the funds for that industry, provided the local government body contributes 30 per cent and the industry or the firm concerned contributes 10 per cent. I know local government has taken advantage of these funds and is making great progress in decentralising industry throughout our shires and municipalities.
The Bill provides that in 1977-78 and in each subsequent year the amount of general purpose assistance provided to local government authorities will be 1.52 per cent of the previous year’s net personal income tax collections. It is interesting to see the allocation to the various States this year. The break-up is as follows:
So the States have received an increase in tax allocation far greater than the rate of inflation of 10.2 per cent. It will be interesting to see how these funds are split up among the local governing bodies in particular electorates. I, for one, will be extremely interested to see how local government fares in the seat of Paterson.
The Bill continues the arrangements which have been instituted by this Government and which have been of great benefit to local government in Australia. In the 1976-77 financial year local government received $140m, which reflected an increase of 75 per cent above the level of general purpose assistance provided to it by the Commonwealth Government in 1975-76. The level of assistance will increase still further, to $165.3m, in this year, as I said earlier.
Budgeting by local government authorities will be considerably assisted by this Bill, as administrative officers of councils will know very early in their financial year the level of assistance to be received. This is extremely important. If funds are made available after the shire or municipal clerks have drawn up their budgets, they find great difficulty in apportioning the funds so allocated. So it is of great assistance to local government when funds are made available prior to local government authorities introducing their budgets. The amount can be included in the budget and can possibly give the ratepayers some alleviation in the matter of rates. The funds will not have any strings attached to them and can be allocated in accordance with council’s own priorities. The provisions and arrangements under the Bill make local government a real partner in the Australian federal system.
The honourable member for Hughes mentioned the Australian Assistance Plan. Most States, having received additional funds from the Commonwealth under the general tax sharing scheme, have agreed to take on and be responsible for financing the Australian Assistance Plan. I know this is happening in Victoria. I have no doubt that other States will take up this matter.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to give full support to the implementation of this Bill which will be of great benefit to local government. I congratulate this Government for increasing the funds available to the third tier. That shows the Government has full recognition of the problems which face local government. I know that loan funds have been readily available to local government during the past decade, but we should realise that these loan funds must be repaid. When they are repaid with interest, another burden is added to the ratepayers for the progress which is being provided by local government. So loan funds have not been the problems facing local government; availability of a share of the taxation revenue has. I have no doubt that as the years pass further grants will be made under this legislation by the Federal Government to the States for allocation to local government authorities. Full support is given to the legislation.
-We have been listening at some length to people debating-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-We have been debating for some time-
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 September, on motion by Mr Lynch:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I rise to support this the second Budget of the Fraser Government. It is the only road to sustainable long term recovery from our economic problems. The Budget continues in a consistent way the economic strategy which the Fraser Government has been pursuing since it came into office at the end of 1975. It is an economic strategy which is now showing success. We should all be reminded of the problems which the Government’s policy is overcoming. Those problems stem from the incompetence demonstrated in the field of economic management by the Whitlam Labor Government from 1972 to 1975. We on this side of the House all know that to be the case and, of course, everyone in the community knows it. Even some honourable members opposite are aware of the folly of Labor’s spending policies during those years.
The magnitude of Labor’s folly was brought home to me again when I recently studied the Budget Papers. Spiralling inflation which caused unemployment is, of course, the major factor in our economic problems. Rapid increases in government spending to ridiculously excessive levels are the root cause of this inflationary problem. For many years prior to the advent of the
Labor Government in 1972 annual increases in government spending averaged about 10 per cent. In marked contrast, when Labor came to power we saw an increase in its first Budget in 1973-74 of 20 percent.
– How much?
-Twenty per cent. More disastrously, in 1974-75 expenditure was increased by 45.9 per cent, that is, from $12,229m in 1973-74 to $17,839m in 1974-75. No economy, even one as strong as the Australian economy was as a result of 23 years of sound LiberalCountry Party Government economic management, could withstand such an incompetent assault. Even the 1975-76 Hayden Budget, which thankfully for Australia was Labor’s last, further increased government spending by 22.5 per cent, although statements of utter duplicity termed that Budget a budget of restraint. So in three disastrous years of Labor administration government spending more than doubled from $ 1 0, 1 90m in the last year of Liberal government in 1972 to $2 1,860m. That increase bore no relationship to the nation’s productivity or to its total wealth. Over three years government spending, as a proportion of gross domestic product, rose from less than 25 per cent to nearly 3 1 per cent. The result of that was that the private sector was starved of resources and recession set in. Meanwhile Labor dipped further and further into the people ‘s pockets through taxation.
During the six years prior to the Labor Government gaining power the annual increase in taxation receipts ranged from 6.4 per cent to 14.9 per cent, averaging about 10 per cent. Successive annual increases in taxation receipts under Labor amounted to 26 per cent, 28 per cent and 20 per cent. Of course, the great bulk of those receipts were gained through the avenue of personal income tax derived from the average income earner. But even that massive increase in tax receipts was not enough to finance Labor’s profligacy.
In the last five years of the previous Liberal Government the annual deficit- that is, the excess of government spending over its income from taxation- averaged $280m. Under Labor this boomed to put us in debt to the tune of $2,500m by 1974-75. In 1975-76 the deficit would have been $5,000m but for the advent half way through that financial year of the Fraser Government which restored some sanity to government spending. It held the deficit to $3,500m. That profligate spending and taxation rip-off, combined with the massive deficit, was disastrous for Australia. It showed a complete absence of priorities on the part of Labor and complete managerial incompetence. Inflation boomed to 19.4 per cent in the second half of 1974. Recession and unemployment were inevitable as a consequence as private enterprise was squeezed beyond its limits. Of course, the political consequence for Labor was its thrashing in the 1975 election.
People should remember those three disastrous years because Labor certainly did not learn one thing from them. The Whitlam-Hayford- or is it the Whitlam-Hurden- policy pronouncements -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member for Kingston will refer to the Leader of the Opposition by his correct title.
– The policy pronouncements of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the shadow Treasurer (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), showed that they would do it all again. They have even admitted that themselves. Labor remains a party of high taxes and high government spending, to the detriment of productivity and economic growth. Of course, that is inevitable for a party which is committed to socialism. The Australian people learned the hard way during those three years, and they could not survive another dose of Labor.
So, remembering and considering the situation inherited by the Fraser Government, the present Government has made remarkable progress in restoring economic stability. Restraint in government spending and efficiency in utilisation of government resources reduced the deficit, projected to be $5,000m, to $3,500m by June 1976 and then to $2,700m by June of this year. This Budget will see further success in reducing the deficit which is predicted to be down to $2 , 200m by June 1978. One reason for this is that the Government has restored annual expenditure increases to something around the long run norm of 10 per cent. A reduction in the deficit is essential not only in overcoming inflation but also in enabling a reduction in interest rates. That is also so very important to economic recovery.
Inflation is the major problem to be overcome, and the Government’s policies are proving to be successful in that area. Excluding hospital and medical services, inflation has now been reduced to an annual rate of about 10 per cent. That represents a significant improvement over the situation during the Labor era. Further success must be achieved on that front if the unemployment problem is to be overcome. Continual wage increases, which cause increased costs of production for industry, are preventing a great expansion of job opportunities. However, despite that, there has also been some improvement on that front. More people are now in employment than was the case towards the end of the Labor regime. Inflation prevents expansion of job opportunities and is socially damaging. Hence the Government must not use inflationary stimuli to create employment.
A range of economic statistics show that the Government is slowly but surely pulling us out of the mess created by Labor. The evidence shows that that improvement will continue. Last week in Adelaide Mr J. B. Donovan, who is chief economist for the management consultant firm W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd predicted that inflation would be down to 6.5 per cent by the end of 1978 as a result of the Government’s economic policies.
– I hope you do not take any notice of him.
-He is an expert. According to Mr Donovan, the increase in the consumer price index in September will be the final hiccup. A lower rate of inflation will be decisive in setting spending patterns. Rising inflation has restricted consumer spending on goods and services other than food, clothing and shelter. The reverse is expected to apply when inflation is falling. Business will spend more on new buildings, plant and vehicles over the next six quarters, specifically because of falling inflation and interest rates, easier credit, increasing consumer demand for local goods, a fall in excess capacity in industry, a revival of overseas investment and a number of expansion projects. Real non-farm gross domestic product is predicted by Mr Donovan to be growing at 6.4 per cent a year by the end of 1978. Australia’s balance of payments will improve next year. Unemployment also will improve markedly by the end of 1 978.
Apart from the overall contribution to economic recovery through its reduction of the deficit, the Budget provides specific significant steps forward in economic reform which will benefit the residents of the Kingston electorate as well as all other Australians. In benefiting individuals this Budget also will aid economic recovery in the aggregate. The tax restructuring announced in the Budget is a major advance. The need for tax reform was a major issue in the community right across the range of incomes and income earners, whether businessmen, employees, pensioners or superannuants. They all saw the need for reductions in taxation. This issue was brought to the attention of the Government by me both in representations and in public statements, particularly the effect that the high rate of tax was having on overtime and single income families.
The reform the Government introduced of a flat tax rate of 32 per cent on incomes between $3,750 and $16,000 was better than I had thought possible, given the current budgetary situation. This follows the introduction of tax indexation last year. Those earning incomes less than $3,750 and, in fact, everyone’s first $3,750 of income will be totally exempt from tax. Hence 90 per cent of Australian taxpayers will pay a maximum tax rate of 24 per cent. The bulk of them, in fact, will pay a lesser rate as a result of the flat rate of tax of 32 per cent up to $16,000 and the exemption of the first $3,750. The incentive to work harder has been restored. Incentive to earn extra income has been restored because the increasing marginal tax rate now has been abolished on incomes up to $16,000. This is the income group most in need of the extra dollar of income. Social equity has been retained in the reformed tax structure by the exemption that applies to incomes up to $3,750 and the 14 per cent surcharge on incomes between $16,000 and $32,000 and the 28 per cent surcharge on incomes over $32,000. Through this major tax reform, under which everyone will be better off, the Fraser Government has demonstrated its commitment to getting government out of people ‘s pockets and restoring incentive.
In the Budget the Government also has demonstrated its concern for the unemployed, particularly unemployed youth. The expansion of the Special Youth Employment Training Program along with the National Employment and Training scheme, apprenticeship training subsidies and the Community Youth Support scheme particularly show this. An important aspect of these programs is that they are directed towards establishing young people m permanent jobs and careers. This is in marked contrast to the job relief schemes of the South Australian Dunstan Labor Government which I heard the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) mention in an earlier debate. These are temporary palliatives which do not provide long term job prospects. For long term job stability, government programs must be directed towards establishing jobs in the private sector which provides 75 per cent of jobs.
– Where are your programs?
– I mentioned them a moment ago. Government relief schemes a la
Dunstan do not achieve this. The Fraser Government ‘s far-sighted approach contrasts with the short term expediency of the Dunstan State Government.
The far-sighted approach of the Budget is also evident in its approach to crude oil prices. The rise in the price of crude oil towards world parity directs attention to the long term energy situation. The relatively cheap price of Australian crude oil by world standards has resulted in distortions in the use of this scarce and valuable resource. Australia’s oil reserves will be depleted by the early 1 980s. The Government and the Opposition have agreed that world parity prices should apply to oil from fields discovered after September 1975. Now all our oil prices will be closer to world parity. Both individual and corporate users will have to put a truer value on the oil products they use. Our reserves of oil have been extended through this policy because more fields have been made economic through the price increase. It is essential for people to adjust their lifestyle to the economic realities of a change in the cost of oil. It is wrong for consumers to be shielded from these economic realities. We all must re-evaluate our activities to ensure a more realistic use of scarce energy resources. No doubt other equally painful decisions will confront us in the future.
The Budget therefore provides the basis for further progress on the economic recovery front, as well as major reforms. The Government is to be commended for this. Nevertheless, there is always more which can be done. With further success on the economic front as a result of this Budget, I urge the Government to direct attention to three specific areas as soon as possible. The first of these is the indexation of family allowances. Some other social welfare benefits are indexed. As family allowances replace the previous tax deductions for children, in the interests of equity they should be indexed against inflation as other tax rebate items have been.
The second issue of high priority is the provision of an allowance for supporting fathers. I thank honourable members who are indicating their support on that issue. The family is crucial for nurturing children and providing a stable psychological environment for their development. This is even more important if by reason of death or marital breakdown there is only one parent to care for children, whether it be the father or the mother. They should be able to devote full attention to that task. The need for a supporting father’s benefit on this basis has been evident for some time and has been voiced by a number of my colleages in the Liberal Party. I look forward to the Government fulfilling this need at the earliest opportunity.
A third issue of importance is the need to press on with additional minor tax reforms now that the major reform has been initiated. In particular, I refer to the restoration of the old tax deductions system whereby items of eligible expenditure such as education, life insurance and health were deducted from taxable income for the purpose of assessing tax. This year’s tax reform has made the Hayden rebate system- a disguised tax rip-off- irrelevant. The next step must be the restoration of allowable deductions and significant increases in the maximum allowable deductions in respect of eligible items.
There are other long term areas to which the Budget also gives consideration. Overall, I believe that the Budget makes a further major contribution to overcoming the economic mess which was created by the Labor Government, which I mentioned in the early part of my remarks. By maintaining restraint on government expenditure it continues the attack on inflation which is absolutely essential to economic recovery. The total overhaul of the tax structure provides equity and incentive by ensuring that everyone pays less tax. The Budget keeps Australia on the right track and will provide subsequent opportunity for the Government to deal with the remaining issues which I mentioned a moment ago. I support the Budget as a document of sound economic management and I urge its speedy passage.
-As each day passes, this Budget is being seen throughout this country for what it is. It is a fraud; it is a sham; it is inequitable; it is unjust; and it is totally deceptive. It is sometimes said that in the execution of the law it fawns upon the rich and spurns the poor. One can with some accuracy apply that dictum to this year’s tory budget. It certainly heaps rewards upon the rich and heaps burdens upon the poor. It is a Budget for the rich and not for the poor. Traditionally tories have always applied two simple cardinal economic criteria to economic crises. It is axiomatic when they are in government in these circumstances that the first one is a high unemployment rate and the second one is recessive economic policies or excessive cuts, particularly in the public sector.
Since 1975 the people have witnessed and have constantly been forced to expect the quality of life to improve commensurate with burgeoning profits. Profits are up and correspondinglywhy should it be odd- unemployment is up. The people demand that their increased standard of living will be reflected in those areas which are a physical testimony to their improved quality of life. They expect better education, hospitals, roads, highways, water, sewerage and medical facilities. These are the things, particularly in the poorer class areas, that compensate in some form in the quality of life. At long last people now know and have been made brutally aware of this Government’s economic philosophies and their downstream effects. Without responsible injections of federal funds people cannot possibly expect to maintain those facilities which determine the level of a continued high standard of living. I remember last year attending a convention in the United States of America at Lexington, Kentucky, called the Council of State Governments. It was federally funded. I think that they flew people from all over the country to attend it. They were going to tell us the problems they had with the Federal and State systems and the apportionment of federal finance. It did not take very long to figure out that unless the Federal Government puts funds into the States the quality of life, particularly for the underprivileged and the poor, becomes almost depressed.
This Government is fully conscious- its policies are deliberate and it is totally unashamedthat its cuts are selective and discriminatory. When cuts are made in education, health services, hospitals and medical facilities who suffers the most and where do they suffer? It is the poor, the underprivileged, the aged and the sick who suffer most. Honourable members opposite know well that most of those people whom the cuts are affecting live in Labor held electorates. This Government’s cuts are callous and, as I said, they are deliberately calculated to fawn upon the rich and to spurn the poor. It is a rich man’s Budget. It is a Budget for big corporations. It does nothing for the poor. It does absolutely nothing for the small businessman. In these last two areas the Budget is a disaster. John Maynard Keynes pronounced a true economic dictum when he said that capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men work for the nastiest of motives but for all that will somehow work for the benefit of all. Anyone who reflects upon the Budget will realise how true that is.
Let us apply that dictum to education. As I recall vividly, in the run-up to the 1975 election honourable members opposite said that they would maintain the standard of education and expenditure that we fixed from 1972 to 1975. Let us have a look at the Government’s disastrous record. The Government’s education budget, presented in the papers as a 10 per cent increase, is in fact a 4 per cent cut disguised by a transfer of funds from the poor to the rich. The Opposition always accepted the criterion to allocate funds according to need. At school level this meant increased allocations to the neediest schools regardless of sect. The Opposition never interfered with the need based funding arrangements except to set a responsible upper limit on funds and to strike a balance between capital and recurrent expenditure. The tory Government has extended this interference to the ridiculous extreme of specifying amounts of $2m here and cuts of $4m elsewhere. Broad principle has been dispensed with in favour of particular directions to a Schools Commission which could once boast independence and needs based allocation. At least the Opposition set about its changes after receiving Commission reports. It never ordered the Commission to make changes before reporting to the Parliament.
What about the independence of the Schools Commission? We have already seen how its independence has been reduced to an administrative wing of the conservatives by guidelines, thinly disguised directions to assist the richest schools in the land. We know too and people ought to be aware that the nominated representatives of teachers were not included on the tertiary commissions. Will the Liberal-National Country Party Government now set about destroying the independence of the Schools Commission by hand-picking the teacher and parent representatives on that Commission? It is a strange coincidence that under the idea of staggered 3-year terms both the part time parent and teacher commissions received one-year appointments. Honourable members should reflect upon that. What arrangements has the Government made to have their replacements made in consultation with the Australian Council of State School Organisations and the Australian Teachers Federation? So far as I know, it has made none and it probably will not make any, such is its cynical attitude to independence and need.
Let us return to the Budget. We know that part of it is based on salary increases of 10.5 per cent. With partial indexation in operation, this means that a total inflation figure of 14 per cent to 17 per cent is expected. A 10 per cent increase is then less than that needed to keep up with inflation. That is not a freeze; it is a cut. This cut is exacerbated by the loss of full cost supplementation, which will hit the capital works program extremely severely. The Government seems hell bent on destroying the building industry. The loss to South Australia caused by the loss of cost supplementation in the capital works area reduces funds by $1.4m nationally. That is what the Government has done.
– South Australian Liberal members opposite know this and the Minister knows it. They know very well that school enrolments are increasing, for instance, in the Adelaide hills suburban fringe zone. This is because there is a growth in the student populations in fringe areas and a decline in the inner areas. It is most unfortunate that it is not possible to transport brick buildings to Birdwood or Mount Barker some 25 miles from Adelaide. It is more unfortunate too for the students. The honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) ought to know of another side effect of the cut in capital. The Kingscote Area School in his electorate has for years been trying to get some upgrading carried out. Each year has seen a deferral. Meanwhile dry rot continues to attack the aged wooden shell of the building, and parents continue to express concern. This is just one example of the 4,000 unsatisfactory classrooms which the South Australian Education Department estimates that it has.
Surely it is time the Federal Government accepted its responsibilities and began to provide funds to allow upgrading. The incidental boost to the building industry would be a welcome change in hard times, but it is not welcome, apparently, for this Federal Government. All that the uneconomic philosophies are going to apply is further cuts. Let us take another area- recurrent funds. The honourable member for Kingston is seen in the South Australian media as a man concerned for the youth of Australia. What rot, when he sits on the back benches supporting a government that has presented guidelines which propose to transfer $ 13.8m from government to non-government schools.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with that at all. I concede that, provided it is done on a needs basis. In fact, given that the promise of a 2 per cent real growth was honoured- and that, is what the Government has committed itself to- the Schools Commission proposed to allocate an additional $5m to non-government schools in 1978. But the promise of a 2 per cent growth was not honoured. A cut of 4 per cent was made and presented as a fictitious figure. Just look at nongovernment schools. The great majority of nongovernment schools have fewer resources and probably worse pupil-teacher ratios than average government primary and secondary schools.
– Where is this?
– Non-government schools. I trust that the honourable member has been listening to the debate. Non-government schools are grouped by the Commission into six categories of resource, use and need. We set that Commission up; the Government has not, at least, dismantled it. Schools in categories or levels one and two have far more resources than non-government schools in categories three to six and more resources than normal government schools. Yet category one and two nongovernment schools are to be the principal beneficiaries of the Government’s new funding policy for non-government schools. Have a look at pages 36 and 37 of the Schools Commission report for 1978. Government supporters ought to read these reports.
Government school students face an unemployment rate of one in every six when they leave school. More than that, if they come from the country or are a migrant or of Aboriginal extraction or regrettably are born female they face a higher unemployment rate. The Chairman of David Jones is reported in a Diners’ Club advertisement as advising young people with high aspirations to ‘choose your parents carefully*. Research supports that conclusion. But most Australian students have not chosen their parents and must make the best of what they ave. They have now a government which ignores their needs and directs a previously independent Schools Commission to do likewise.
Dr Tonkin, the Leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia, has gone to the polls- and Liberal Party supporters are great with cliches- saying that he will ‘increase work experience programs in schools’. What with? It takes real money to get country students to city work sites where some of them may find employment. It takes money to educate teachers in work experience. Funds for this purpose have been cut in the guidelines on service and development. Again, Dr Tonkin is about as serious as his counterpart the shadow Minister, Mr Allison, who recently went to air and said that he will ‘put walls back in classrooms’. This. is another nice clean cliche. About one third of students and teachers alike would do better in walled classrooms. However, Mr Allison has obviously overlooked the fact that these walls cost money and the Federal Government is cutting funds. It is a pity Mr Allison never thought it through. By contrast, the Minister in South Australia, Dr Hopgood, has the record for the most economical use of capital funds in new schools in this country. He gives the lie to the Federal Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, who blandly states in his guidelines that it is hoped that savings can be made in the capital works area. I suppose this means no walls at all.
The Federal Government is certainly doing its best to enhance the unemployment prospects of young Australians. The cuts in pre-school funds show this. The report on Poverty and Education in Australia by Dr Ron Fitzgerald of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty indicates that it is at this level that education funding can first assist students who did not choose their parents carefully. But there are again cuts in this area. Mind you, the Federal Minister will maintain that the States have the funds to compensate for the cuts. That is what is euphemistically called the new federalism. The trouble is that State Ministers do not agree with that dictum. Someone is lying, and on numbers alone the State Ministers are agreed about the source of this untruth. Let the Federal Government fund schools realistically and honour its responsibility first recognised in the Sputnik era.
-Do not forget that $105m was cut by Mr Whitlam ‘s Government.
-The present Government parties said many things in 1975. But they have now completely lost any credibility they had in 1975. Teachers, parents, students, employers and unionists are united in their call to improve literacy, numeracy and job prospects for the young. The Government should allocate the funds which on a needs basis are required to improve the literacy skills of 4 per cent of young Australians who ‘cannot read or write effectively enough to get through life’. Four per cent is the lowest for 20 years but those students still need additional assistance to get a fair go. The Government should allocate the funds needed to introduce teachers and students to work experience programs, in an attempt to increase their employability. A whole generation of students depends on such programs if the report of the Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development entitled ‘Review of Australian Education Policy’ dated November 1976 is correct. In short, there is something for the poor as well as the rich. The Government should make a per capita allocation for all, not just the lucky few. That is the Government’s philosophy; it has always been its dictum. Better still, the Government should let an independent Schools Commission allocate its meagre funds on a needs basis without political interference from this Government. I conclude where I started by saying that his Budget is a complete and utter disaster.
Mr CHAPMAN (Kingston)-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented.
– I do. At one stage the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) directed some remarks to the Kingscote area school and suggested that I should be well acquainted with that school because it was in my electorate.
– That is right. I said that.
– There is no point of order in that.
-Both of the honourable members will resume their seats. I have given the call to the honourable member for Kingston.
– There is no point of order in that.
-I shall judge that, not the honourable member for Hawker. I would like to hear where the honourable member for Kingston feels that he has been misrepresented. If the honourable member for Hawker keeps quiet I may be able to hear the explanation.
-Thank you. Mr Deputy Speaker. Notwithstanding the protestations of the honourable member for Hawker I claim to have been grossly and grievously misrepresented because the plain fact is that the Kingscote area school is not within the electorate of Kingston; it is on Kangaroo Island in the electorate of Barker and is well represented by the honourable member for Barker ( Mr Porter).
-I rise to order. The honourable member stood up and claimed to have been misrepresented. He is telling the House- and he is debating the question-that a school is not in a particlular area. Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like you to tell me where this honourable member has been personally misrepresented.
-I rule that if the honourable member for Hawker said that a certain school was within the electorate of the honourable member for Kingston and it was not, obviously the honourable member for Hawker has misrepresented the situation. Therefore I am prepared to hear what the honourable member for Kingston has to say.
-The honourable member for Hawker has misrepresented me in suggesting that I should be closely acquainted with the Kingscote area school. I have to admit that I am not closely acquainted with it. However, certainly the honourable member for Barker is closely acquainted with that school and its problems and gives it very adequate representation.
-I rise to speak in this Budget debate to express generally my attitude towards various aspects of that document. I welcome the proposed change in tax rates which is readily identifiable both m the reduction in the number of steps in the scale and in tax payable in those steps. I have said in the past that indexation of personal tax, since it has automatic application, denies the Government the opportunity of making other necessary and worthwhile adjustments in the tax scales. However, in this Budget the Government has managed to break through the indexation fix and to bring in worthwhile changes although it must be noted that these changes will be delayed until 1 February 1978. Irrespective of how the Opposition will attempt to denounce and oppose this initiative, I believe that the taxpayers of Australia will welcome and recognise this change as a major rejuvenation of our taxing system. I hope that it will be a stepping stone to further relief.
The Opposition has pointed out that the wealthy and the rich will benefit from this change. This presumes, on the part of the Opposition, that the base of the previous tax scale was in itself fair and equitable. This was not the position. It has become unfashionable for the fact to be recognised that the middle income and higher income earners are bearing the greatest proportion of tax in each dollar earned, which goes towards our welfare program and towards the total federal revenue. The new base recognises that pensioners and low income earners should pay no tax. In fact some 225,000 Australian taxpayers could be exempt now from the payment of personal income tax. Surely, as we recognise the equity for low income earners not to pay tax, we should also look for equity at the other end of the scale. We should not be prejudiced and accept a base initially laid in 1975 by a Labor Treasurer, a Treasurer who was part of a socialist government. This is a base that no one should tolerate. The Hayden Budget was one that took massively from primary producers and from the producing end of the economy. The response to the call to be more productive will come more readily from those middle and high income bracket taxpayers who will, and should, benefit most. It is rubbish for the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) to say that this is divisive, that it separates the classes. The honourable member is still as ignorant of the facts now as he was between 1972 and 1975.
Our economic recovery as a nation depends on the positive response of middle and high income earners so we should not be apologetic about where the benefits are given. At the same time as a benefit is given to the lower income taxpayers, taxpayers on the other end of the scale should also be encouraged. It is rather hypocritical for the Opposition to criticise the tax indexation reduction rate for being set at one-half of the consumer price index increase as at 30 June 1978. I say it is hypocritical because the Labor Party denied the benefits of tax indexation, or in fact indexation of any kind, except for wage indexation which has a built in inflationary mechanism all its own.
I would like to comment on the averaging provision changes which were announced earlier this week. The retrograde steps taken by the Hayden Budget which stripped some $45m from the rural industries have now been corrected. A degree of equity has been achieved over many years by the ability to adjust the fluctuating incomes of producers, particularly before the Hayden Budget. This point has again been recognised and the principle has been extended by the removal of the ceiling of $16,000 thus allowing full averaging of incomes over all steps of the tax scale. I might add that there has been no change in that ceiling for the last 10 years. The option to return to the average will again allow all producers to participate and not be disadvantaged on a decreasing income as they were in the past. Not only have these alterations allowed the pendulum to swing again in favour of the farmer; they also will provide encouragement for people to earn in a sector where self reliance is absolutely necessary if this nation is to survive, that is, in the rural sector.
This Budget already has received its share of praise, criticism and comment from various sectors of the community. One sector from which comment has come has been the rural sector. I can agree with the views expressed by the rural sector if I correctly read the bold print in the Budget document. Unfortunately the small print also denies a glimmer of hope for some of the depressed industries. The rural people of Australia were confidently looking to the Federal Government for relief and assistance for many of their ailing industries. They were not looking for handouts, the method adopted in the social welfare area. They were not seeking to abuse the unemployment benefit as some people have done. They were not seeking anything along the lines of the massive commitment of over $400m on foreign aid. They were not seeking anything like the commitment on our national health program where abuses are still evident. What they were seeking was justifiable relief and assistance in order that people could stay on their farms until Australia’s rural industries had re-established their markets and had become more viable. They want life to be made more tolerable in the outback. They want television transmission, telephones, reasonable fuel costs, carry on funds for worthwhile programs in the beef industry, to mention lust a few
These things were not obvious pluses particularly for the beef industry, and were not mentioned in the Budget. It was bad enough that these taxpayers- the real productive worth of Australia- should have had their benefits adulterated by the Hayden Budget. That adulteration was worth some $45m in averaging alone. In addition, it was the rural industries which suffered most from Labor’s policies and Labor’s neglect of this productive sector.
I hope that this Government will recognise that urgent help is needed in the beef industry just for it to survive. For some people today is already too late; for others, six months will see the end of their endurance and their capacity to work even without the recognition that has been their lot for the last several years. I hope that proposals for assistance put to the Government will be accepted. I hope that the Government will hear and act upon suggestions made by honourable members for correction of certain anomalies. I pay particular tribute to my colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige), for his magnificent efforts in spearheading support for the beef industry.
Rural industries in which no stabilisation schemes apply have been the hardest hit by inflation in the 1970s. They have had no markets where prices can be adjusted to absorb overheads. Overheads have increased beyond those experienced in the cities, and again there has been no ability to pass them on. There has been protection for other industries which increase the costs of primary producers. The Industries Assistance Commission has been seen as giving them some hope but they urgently request that it be allowed to research and to present the true facts on the extent of protection provided to other industries but denied to them. We must recognise that Australia’s greatest asset lies in its soil. Let us keep this asset alive and productive. Let us not bury the pioneering spirit.
While speaking about the Budget and on the subject of tax I earnestly recommend to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) that any proposals to clamp down on tax avoidance be spelt out clearly and quickly in order to let the public know just where it stands. While I cannot accept deliberate attempts by taxpayers to avoid their lawful responsibilities, I can accept retrospective legislation less and the unnecessary procedures involved which keep taxpayers in suspense and unable to properly plan their affairs through legitimate machinery purely because they are uncertain of the Government’s intentions. I suggest that any plans in this regard be quickly communicated and implemented. Of necessity there is a limitation placed on the Treasurer if the Budget is to achieve its objective of reducing inflation. The needs of the people of this nation will always be in advance of the Government’s ability to meet them. Consequently it is the Treasurer’s further burden to select those who in his opinion have the greatest need. As a further consequence, many worthy needs will go unfulfilled at this time. I suggest that in that list of unfulfilled needs the Government should keep these things in mind as having top priority: Relief to beneficiaries, following the loss of a near relative, by the abolition of death duties; the needs of people outside the capital and provincial cities who live in uncongenial climates and who face inflated living costs and who are the real decentralisers; these people should be given realistic encouragement by means of an expanded zone allowance; the needs of taxpayers who suffer many anomalies such as paying tax on rent from a residence where the rent paid in a situation of job transfer is not tax deductible; the needs of taxpayers who are selfemployed and who receive no encouragement to superannuate or to insure themselves as employed persons can do; and the need for mothers to have their family allowance indexed to equate payment with the dependency tax deduction forgone by the parent. Equity in all these circumstances demands assistance through further tax changes. There is another matter about which I wish to speak in the last few seconds that I have tonight. I hope to mention it again on the resumption of the Budget debate. It is a matter to which major attention has been paid in the Budget. It concerns the policy enunciated in regard to energy.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977 I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This afternoon honourable members rightly spoke at length in praise of a great man who served this Parliament, the late Leslie Haylen, for his outstanding work inside and outside the Parliament. Tonight I would like to speak about another person who was buried today in Sydney, Mrs Elizabeth Healy, a great worker for the Australian Labor Party. She was 99 years of age and would have been 100 in June 1978. She was a member of the Labor Party for approximately 75 years and was known as Ma in the suburbs of Pyrmont and Ultimo. She was Treasurer of the Sydney Federal Electorate Council. She held all positions in the Council and was a delegate to State and Federal councils. She had lived in Pyrmont for 80 years and she died in the house in which she had lived for so long. She had six children. She lost her husband in 1937; yet she carried on her life for another 40 years, helped by her children. She lived with her daughter Allie for approximately 25 years.
– A grand old lady.
– That is right, and the honourable member for Chifley knew her. She could be classed as the unsung hero of the little people. She helped many members of the Federal and State parliaments and of local councils. Some of the members she helped to elect to Parliament were Dan Minogue, a former member of the House of Representatives for West Sydney; Jim Cope, the former Speaker and member for Watson and Sydney; the late Eddie Ward, the former member for East Sydney; John Beasley, the former member for West Sydney; and Senator John Armstrong from New South Wales. She told me a few months ago that she fell out with one person, Billy Hughes, because they differed in their views on conscription. She was almost put in gaol over it; but when she said to the policeman who grabbed her ‘I know your father’, he replied ‘Will you leave quietly?’ and she was not put in gaol.
She helped many State members of the Party such as Pat Hills, the former Lord Mayor and now the State member for Phillip; Albert Sloss, the member for King; former Lord Mayor Harry Jensen; former Lord Mayor John Armstrong; and former Lord Mayor Ernie O’Dea. It is difficult to believe that this great woman, who was 99 years of age, did such great things in the area in which she lived. There was a park named after her, the Elizabeth Healy Reserve, opposite the Dunkirk Hotel which belonged to the Armstrongs. They used to call John Armstrong ‘the golden barman’ because he always had a few dollars and he went pretty well in the Labor Party. Her name was made during the time from the early 1900s through the Depression to the Second World War. She used to go around helping the little people, mostly the families and the children in the area. When I talk to people about Ma Healy they tell me that if she had food or clothing she would share it and that they miss today the little gestures of pure socialism. She not only spoke about those things but also did them.
– She practised it.
– She practised it well too. I must thank the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) tonight. Since I became a member of this House I have tried to get domiciliary nursing care for Mrs Healy. I was pleased this year that the Minister agreed, after checking with the health authorities, that, because Mrs Healy was 98 years of age and her daughter was helping her, and because the nursing sister was visiting only once a week and could not visit twice because Mrs Healy was so well even at 98 years of age, she should receive $2 a day for domiciliary nursing care. She received this small benefit until she passed away last Saturday. I am pleased to say that Mrs Healy did not have to go to a nursing home but was looked after by her daughter. She was a great woman. Last Friday night she had a bet on the trots and afterwards said to her daughter: ‘How did it go?’ Her daughter replied Not too well; it lost’. Mrs Healy then asked: ‘Do you think it was a goer?’ She was a great woman and a great member of the Labor Party. She, like many other women throughout Australia, because of her unselfish work must have a place in heaven where we know she will rest in peace.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
During the last few days it has been interesting to note the changed attitude of the Press towards rural matters. There has been much wider and more sympathetic coverage, particularly by some newspapers, of the problems of rural Australia. For the last 5 years the media have concentrated on the noise and clamour of the cities, where most Australians live. As this is where their market is, I suppose that is understandable. Recently it seems that economic writers have become more aware of and concerned with the critical importance of Australia’s balance of payments. They are acknowledging that it is the great exporting industries based on the farms and the mines which can solve the balance of payments problem. In these circumstances there is a growing realisation that there are major problems in rural Australia and this is being reflected in media comment. Rural Australia is not another country; it is a vitally important part of the nation. Unless it prospers, the cities will wither and die. Although a very small percentage of Australians work outside the towns and cities, they provide most of Australia’s exports. The great metropolitan cities, the provincial cities and the country towns all depend for their existence on the hard work and prosperity of rural Australia and its small and very hard working and very efficient work force.
Earlier this year I said that 75 per cent of the area of Australia was represented by only seven members in this House. Between us we represent a very large proportion of the wealth of the nation, the wealth which comes from the farms and the mines. Of course, there are other members who represent rural Australia; but there are just not enough of us, and for the last 5 years our voice has not been heard. It is not that the representatives of rural Australia have not been speaking. They have been speaking, loudly and clearly; but what they have been saying has been neglected by a city market oriented Press. Now there are indications of a new and dramatic awareness by the media. I have always thought that the sign of a great newspaper was that it could foresee and report trends and ideas perhaps in advance of public opinion. In the last few days a few newspapers have shown signs of greatness in their detailed reporting of and editorials on the problems of rural Australia. They have given understanding and sympathetic treatment to the major announcements of changes in policy affecting rural Australia which have been made in the last week by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other senior Ministers. These have been a great advance in Government thinking. Much of the credit for these announcements must go to the months of hard work by the Ministers concerned and by the back benchers who represent rural areas. They have been assisted in their efforts by the responsible rural organisations.
However, there is one rural organisation which in my view has been irresponsible in its public statements, and that is the Cattlemen’s Union of Australia. I agree with many of the aims of the Cattlemen’s Union, but I disapprove very strongly of its methods. It has stooped to personal attacks and denigrations, particularly of honourable members representing rural areas in Queensland. One of its main targets has been my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Capricornia (Mr Carige).
-No one has worked harder.
-No one has worked harder for the cattle industry than the honourable member for Capricornia, as the honourable member for Wimmera said. In my electorate the executives of the Cattlemen’s Union are my friends. I rang the Secretary tonight and told ner what I was going to do.
– What did she say?
-She said: ‘Good on you; go ahead’. In my area the executives of the Cattlemen’s Union have been responsible and moderate. It is a greaty pity that their colleagues in Canberra and in other areas of Australia have not shared their responsible views.
– They get worse the further south they go.
-They do, unfortunately. Some executives of the Cattlemen’s Union have resorted to threat and have attempted to blackmail members of Parliament by attacking them personally as not doing their jobs and by threatening to join Australia s latest and most formless political party, the Australian Democrats, in an attempt to take away our seats.
The Cattlemen’s Union is claiming credit for recent announcements made by the Government. It claims that the visit of its executives to the Prime Minister last Thursday was responsible for recent Government initiatives. This is just not true. After discussions in the Government’s joint party room on Wednesday of last week the Prime Minster made a public statement in the House foreshadowing the announcements which are now appearing. This was before members of the Cattlemen’s Union had seen the Prime Minister. The most significant point made by the Prime Minister was the first public recognition by the Government that it is the exporters, the primary producers and the miners who bear most of the costs of protection for manufacturing industry. The Prime Minister foreshadowed a policy of redressing the balance by compensating rural industries for the heavy costs caused by the high level of protection for Australian manufacturing industries. I hope that my city colleagues will see any assistance which is given to rural Australia in that light and will join the growing numbers -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I ask that the Minister for Posts and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) table all documents relating to the matter of radio licences for the outer western suburbs of Sydney. This request was made by Senator Douglas McClelland in another place in a question on notice, No. 323. The Minister refused the request because he has something to hide. I also ask that there be a full public inquiry into this matter because this scandal cannot be swept under the carpet indefinitely. Let us have a look at a little of the history of this matter. First of all the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal inquired into which company should receive a licence for a radio station for the outer western and north-western suburbs of Sydney. The result was that the Tribunal recommended to the Minister that the licence be awarded to Prospect Broadcasters Pty Ltd.
Before the licence was awarded Metro- Western Broadcasters Ltd, one of the other applicants, took out an injunction in the High Court to restrain the Minister from awarding the licence. The principal of Metro- Western Broadcasters Ltd is Harold Cottee, a federal councillor of the Liberal Party of Australia, president of the Mitchell Federal Electorate Conference of the Liberal Party, a member of the Castle Hill branch of the Liberal Party and, furthermore, he was chairman of the Liberal Party of Australia Selection Committee when Max Ruddock, who was the State member for the Hills electorate, died. On15 March that injunction was due to come before the High Court to be heard. It is obvious that the Minister received legal advice that Cottee ‘s injunction would not stand the test of the court so, on 10 March, the Minister rejected the decision of the Broadcasting Tribunal. In other words, he circumvented the High Court.
After that we find that radio station 2KA, Katoomba, asked for permission to alter the strength of the station and to move its aerial so that it could then beam across the outer western suburbs of Sydney. That matter went to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal last week. Who was the person who sat taking notes throughout the whole proceedings? It was none other than
Mr Cottee. After the hearing the Tribunal reserved its decision. Yet we find that last Saturday in an advertisement in the Australian the Minister called for fresh applications for a radio station for the outer western suburbs of Sydney. In other words, not only did the Minister seek to circumvent a decision of the High Court of Australia but also he sought to circumvent a decision of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
– It sounds like a Watergate.
– It does indeed. It should also be known that the week before last the president of the Parramatta Chamber of Commerce, Mr Rock Davis- I understand he is also connected with the Liberal Party- came to see the Minister. I ask honourable members to keep in mind that the week before last the Minister told Mr Davis that he, the Minister, would be calling applications for another licence. Mr Davis was able to go back to Parramatta before any advertisement had been lodged in the Press and tell people in Parramatta- of course, this came to my ears- that the fact was that an application for a licence was to be called. When we see this situation is it any wonder that I say once again that there must be a full and open inquiry into this matter. The Minister must table all the related documents. He must realise that he can no longer evade the issue. He was asked to come in here tonight. He is not here because he wants to evade answering. He must be made to realise he can no longer keep on sweeping this scandal under the carpet.
– My comments will be more temperate than those of the previous speaker, the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage). I assure him that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) holds no fear of anything which the previous speaker may have said. On 18 August I made a speech during the adjournment debate.
– No one else can sound like the honourable member for Griffith. I thought he had spoken before. He sounds like a chemical interaction. He is chemically charged again, fermenting on the back benches.
-At least I am not rotting in limbo. That interruption was most uncalled for but that is the tendency of the honourable member for Oxley who aspires to be leader- irrational, erratic and unpredictable- of his party. But I put that aside. As I was about to say, on 18 August I spoke in the House about how the Commonwealth Government was not caring for the graves of deceased Prime Ministers. I speak tonight for the sake of the record and so that I might have the opportunity to thank the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, for the manner in which he has responded to my detailed request for attention to be given to the neglected graves.
The Minister has agreed that the Government will, subject to the availability of funds and the agreement of the families, accept full responsibility for the maintenance of the graves and, where appropriate and necessary, erect suitable plaques. A reference to Hansard of 18 August will show that a number of these graves are virtually unmarked. I am pleased to relate that this situation will be rectified. The Minister has further assured me that because of the worn away wording on the gravestone of our first Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, that stone will be re-engraved. He further informed me that the plaques which will be erected will bear the nation’s coat of arms and mention that the remains are those of a former Prime Minister. The plaque will bear the dates that that person served as Prime Minister, et cetera. The Minister has assured me that a cairn and plaque will be erected eventually at Portsea explaining the significance of the plaque recording Harold Holt’s tragic death. The present plaque is visible only at low tide.
– Good Lord!
-As the Whip has said, good Lord. The Minister has also assured me that in the case of Stanley Melbourne Bruce, whose ashes were spread across Lake Burley Griffin in 1967, a cairn will be erected beside Lake Burley Griffin with a plaque recording the fact that that Prime Minister s remains were placed in the lake as his final wish.
Andrew Fisher, a great Labor man and a Prime Minister from Queensland, and Sir George Reid are the only two Prime Ministers out of the 15 deceased who are buried overseas. The Minister has agreed that their relatives will be contacted and, if they are in agreement and if there are no problems in the United Kingdom in relation to reburial in Australia, their remains will be brought home to the land that they once led. I conclude where I commenced, and that is by thanking the Minister for having been responsive and for having displayed sensitivity to a very delicate subject. I believe that the decision will be to the ultimate satisfaction of the nation.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise a matter for a constituent of mine who has approached me and expressed some concern. The concern arises as a result of an experience this constituent had with Voca Communications Pty Ltd which supplies Voca answering machines. I contacted the instrumentality, Telecom Australia, on behalf of the constituent but obtained no satisfaction. The complaint very simply is this: The constituent purchased a second-hand telephone answering machine. If I recall the circumstances accurately, the cost was of the order of $300. To have the machine’s installation authorised it was necessary for the constituent, at the direction of Telecom Australia, to have a form completed by the firm which supplied the machine- Voca Communications Pty Ltd. The cost of having this check carried out was $27.50. My constituent assures me that the machine was in first rate operating condition; it was a reasonably new machine. There could be no justification for such an expensive charge for what was no more than a cursory check of the instrument.
The constituent subsequently noted in one of the daily newspapers an advertisement that a telephone answering machine, the product of another firm, was for sale. The constituent contacted the advertiser, a telephone number having been listed in the advertisement. The advertiser advised my constituent that following the appearance of the advertisement the firm supplying this brand of machine, which I am told is a Plessey, contacted the advertiser and told him that the machine would have to be sold to it or no form would be supplied clearing the machine for installation and operation, as required by Telecom Australia.
It seems to me that an undesirable traffic is developing in relation to the installation of second-hand telephone answering machines. It would seem to me, on the face of it, that firms associated with the sale of these machines are able to make a handy, profitable income by making what seems to me a fairly expensive charge for checking machines which, on the basis of what I have been told, are mainly in first rate working order. I do not know and cannot understand why it is necessary for this son of detailed check to be made. I would have thought that Telecom Australia would have been capable of establishing whether a machine was in working order. In any event, I should not have thought that the machine would have caused any problems for the general telephone service. Accordingly I would have thought that the purchasers of such second-hand machines would find that if the machines did not work satisfactorily it would be necessary to have appropriate maintenance work carried out.
So in some desperation and with some sense of frustration I am raising this matter in the Parliament on behalf of the constituent who contacted me and no doubt on behalf of quite a number of other people who have had a similar experience. I have consciously understated some of the feelings that I have on this matter but I will certainly take the opportunity of raising the matter again and in much tougher language unless it is clarified and an easier and more reasonable arrangement is provided for the people.
– Why did you not check it out.
– I know that the honourable member for Griffith is always a reliable lap dog for business interests in the community and rarely defends the interests of people like my constituents who have been grievously disadvantaged by this sort of experience. He displays that tonight.
– I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Oxley to make accusations although he admits he has not had a chance to check out those accusations?
– Everyone in his own party says that -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member for Oxley knows perfectly well that it would be better if he had not used that remark.
– I rise tonight in this debate to reply in part to some comments made by the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) in relation to the proposals for a radio station for the western suburbs of Sydney. I wish first of all to say how much I welcome the decision of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to call for fresh applications for a radio licence that will be available to serve the western suburbs of Sydney. I welcome the decision particularly after the statements that have been made by the honourable member for Chifley and by others who have doubted the sincerity of this Government in pursuing the interests of the people generally in the western suburbs who need this specialised service that will be offered to the district as a result of the decision and as a result of the inquiries that will undoubtedly be undertaken.
– I raise a point of order. The tenor of the honourable member’s speech is such that it is obvious he too is involved in this scandal.
-There is no point of order and the honourable member knows there is no point of order.
-I deplore the invective of the honourable member opposite because, quite frankly, I believe he is doing what he has done tonight with a very sinister motive in mind and it is to take away the obvious benefit that will derive to the western suburbs from this decision and to confuse the matter in the minds of the people by creating a smokescreen of allegation and innuendo. That is what he seeks to do. He comes into this place and makes these extravagant claims and extravagant statements solely for the purpose of distracting attention from the very virtue of this decision that will do so much to further the interests of people in the western suburbs of Sydney. He uses the privilege that he has as a member of this House to make untruthful allegations about people.
– Such as!
-For instance the statement that I know first hand is incorrect, that Mr Cottee was the gentleman who chaired the preselection committee of the Liberal Party to choose a successor to my late father. That allegation is factually incorrect. The chairman of the preselection committees of the Liberal Party happens to be, in every case, the President of the Liberal Party in New South Wales or his nominee, and that happened to be the case in the preselection committee to select Fred Caterson, MLA. The fact is that the honourable member made an allegationwhich he could have checked- which was factually incorrect. If one were to go through all the other tissues of information that the honourable member purported to give here tonight I imagine one would find that they are equally factually incorrect. If the honourable member looks at each of the parties involved in previous applications he will find people on both sides of politics were involved.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned till 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19770913_reps_30_hor106/>.