30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Sinclair, Mr Baume, Mr Gillard, Mr Graham and Mr Hurf ord.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr James.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That lone fathers of Australia urgently need legislation passed to give assistance to fathers who have custody of and are sole supporters of their dependent children by.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrHaslem.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else 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 Les McMahon.
State Housing Organisations: Interest Rates on Loans
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of residents in the city area of Sydney-respectfully showeth that they are opposed to the Treasurer’s recommendation to increase the interest rate of loans to State Housing organizations. They assert that the proposed increase from 4 per cent to 10 per cent will drastically increase rents and cause hardship to public housing tenents.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will abandon the present proposal and maintain the existing interest rate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is it his intention to have the House of Representatives dissolved for the purpose of holding a general election later this year?
-What a fascinating and original question!
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry and refer to the extremely serious drought affecting farmers throughout most of South Australia. Can the Minister inform the House whether he has any estimates of the effect on crops and on the income of producers in that State? Can the Minister inform the House the amounts the South Australian Government has spent and committed? Can he also tell us what support the Commonwealth Government intends to offer?
-I am grateful to the honourable gentleman for the question because the Federal Government has always expressed an attitude of support, both directly and indirectly, for those who are affected by natural disasters. Because of the minimal contribution made by the States, so often the producers feel that the Commonwealth has played no part in assisting them. Indeed very significant sums of money, amounting to approximately $34m, have been spent bythe Federal Government over the last two years in helping the States relieve the financial plight of producers in various centres throughout Australia where natural disasters have affected them. So, on that basis, the States obviously have found it financially to their advantage to maintain a system whereby they accept within their budgets the first part of payments made in respect of natural disaster relief. The Commonwealth then picks up the tab over and above that minimal payment. We still have a system which means that in any instance a State may elect to turn towards a joint contribution on a dollar for dollar basis; but, as I understand the position, no State has sought that alternative.
I am told that at the moment about 85 per cent of South Australia is still very seriously affected by drought. Tragically, there seems little prospect of relief. It is estimated that the State wheat crop will return about 50 per cent of the State average yield. The barley yield may be a little higher, at about 75 per cent of the State average. However, about 20 per cent of holdings will have no income from crops, and a further 30 per cent will have very low incomes. The honourable gentleman asked me about the expenditures on various drought relief measures. I have been advised by my Department that carry-on loans approved amount to about $300,000; carry-on loans, including loans approved last year, amount to about $645,000; and freight rebates on livestock and fodder amount to about $50,000. So, about $1m has been provided in various loans under rural reconstruction to enable people to carry on.
As I understand that South Australia up to this stage has not expended $1.5m- its minimal contribution level from its own resources- it could apply a number of measures which perhaps it has not applied, including the slaughter of aged stock or drought affected stock, all of which can be compensated for under existing approved schemes in accordance with formulae between the Commonwealth and the States. In other words, the South Australian Government could pursue a number of measures which are in accordance with existing formulae, including the slaughter of aged stock or drought affected stock, for which there is a scheme of offset within the drought assistance measures. The Commonwealth stands prepared to assist the South Australian Government to provide help to those affected by the drought, in accordance with those existing procedures. The Commonwealth is most concerned at the plight of so many of those about whom the honourable gentleman’s question has been directed. We certainly are prepared to assist in relieving their financial plight. However, we see the basis of Commonwealth-State assistance as enabling the State to play its part and to administer the scheme. We certainly stand behind it in providing whatever additional assistance individual land holders in that State might require.
– I address a question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Why does the Government surrender so meekly to requests from the medical profession for an increase in its fees and fight so viciously against decent wage justice for people working in industries such as the electricity industry in Victoria?
-I am surprised that the honourable member has taken the attitude that he has taken in relation to the power workers dispute in Victoria in which about 2,000 men in the Latrobe Valley are holding an entire State to ransom.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. The question was in two parts. The first related to the Government’s surrendering to the request of the medical profession for a fee rise when doctors are already adequately paid -
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.
-Unlike the situation in respect of the power workers in the Latrobe Valley to whom the honourable gentleman referred, the medical fees have been settled by a proper process of negotiation and arbitration. A deputy president of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Mr Justice Ludeke, has held a long and painstaking inquiry into medical fees- I think my colleague the Minister for Health will confirm, this- to operate for next year. As a result of that long and careful investigation Mr Justice Ludeke has made certain recommendations. It will be interesting to see whether there is an equal willingness to accept the decisions of arbitration in the case of the power workers in Victoria.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it a fact that scientists and technical officers from the Minister’s Department and the Department of Science have been conducting experiments and taking air samples in many parts of Australia to determine the most suitable site for a base line monitoring station? Do those experiments suggest that Cape Grim in north-western Tasmania is the ideal location for such a station? If so, when will a permanent base line station be established at Cape Grim? Also, what is the estimated cost of the station and the associated facilities?
-Yes, it is true that members of my Department are examining a site for a base line station at Cape Grim in Tasmania. In fact, the establishment of a base line station in Australia has developed out of the recommendation made in 1972 by the United Nations Conference on Human Environment that ten base line stations be established throughout the world. I believe we confirmed that arrangement in 1972 through a speech made by Sir Laurence Mclntyre, the Australian Ambassador to the United Nations at that time.
Base line stations are used to measure the quality of air and traces of air that flow from areas free from any pollution whatsoever. So one of the problems with locating the station is that the site has to be very carefully selected and must be free from local interferences not just for a matter of a couple of years but as much as SO years and maybe 100 years. So, in order to meet those requirements, each site has to be selected very carefully. Investigations have been made of a site at Cape Grim in Tasmania. The site promises to be suitable, particularly on the results of some instrument tests that have been taken.
The decision as to where the station will be located is one that will be taken not only by my Department. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Department of Science and the Department of Environment in Tasmania will be involved also. However, I would think that Cape Grim will prove to be a favourable site subject to local development being kept away from the area. That is the one problem still to be resolved. I believe that the station when it is established will be worth between $500,000 and $lm. I know the honourable member’s concern about this area. I know that he has been pressing the point for some time to see when a decision will be taken. I think we are getting to a situation in which a decision will be made as soon as the feasibility studies are completed.
-I preface my question, which I direct to the Prime Minister, by saying that this Government has often said that monetary policy would be conducted in a way to ensure adequate funds to sustain a recovery in the private sector. Is the Prime Minister aware that in 1976-77 money supply as measured by M3 increased by lOVi per cent while money gross domestic product rose by more than IS per cent, and that the latest figures for the 12 months to August show an annual increase in the money supply of only *iV** per cent? In view of these facts, when will this
Government stop the credit squeeze which is now a major factor in preventing economic recovery?
– It has been the Government’s very plain intention, which has been fulfilled by monetary authorities, that funds should be available for proper, worthwhile and viable projects. If the honourable gentleman can give the names of any firms that have been refused finance for any expansion project or in the proper course of carrying on their business I can guarantee that matter will be examined forthwith. It is not the Government’s intention that worthwhile expansion projects should be harmed or held up by lack of finance. It is not the Government’s intention that the normal operations of business should be restricted by undue financial restraints from the banking sector. I give that invitation to the honourable gentleman. Also I think the honourable gentleman’s analysis is probably somewhat simplified because there are other concepts apart from the gross increase in the funds available. The velocity of circulation is obviously a material factor.
– Has the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs seen Press reports regarding a question asked in the New South Wales Parliament alleging that Customs authorities are hamstrung in their fight against drugs and suggesting that the Army, Navy and other military authorities might be used to support Customs activity? Will the Minister inform the House whether any initiative is proposed or necessary in this regard?
-The short answer to the last part of the question raised by the honourable member for Wentworth is no. I have seen the reports referred to by the honourable member. They concern a question asked of the Premier in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales by Mr Cleary, the member for Coogee. Mr Cleary asked the Premier whether he would support an approach to the Prime Minister to see whether the services of the armed forces could be used to assist in apprehending people who illegally import drugs into Australia. I am amazed that the Premier agreed to support this suggestion without first acquainting himself with the present position. The defence forces are already utilised extensively by my Department in its drug enforcement operations. The assistance provided, particularly to the Narcotics Bureau, is both of a routine surveillance nature and in direct support of specific seizures and apprehensions. Some time ago a special committee comprising senior
Defence and Customs personnel was established to ensure further that the co-operation was at a maximum level. The committee meets as necessary and has established special operational procedures and intelligence reporting criteria.
I think this is an opportune moment to remind the House that Australian Customs and particularly the Narcotics Bureau do not have to rely solely on their own facilities. The Narcotics Bureau is an expert organisation but it also has the full co-operation of all other appropriate government agencies, for example the Commonwealth Police and the Territory police. I am pleased to report that there is a high degree of excellent cooperation between the Narcotics Bureau and the State police. This is a very difficult area. I know that suggestions have been made that more people and more luggage ought to be searched at the international terminals. I am sure that most honourable members, if not all, will realise that this is impractical. It is a very difficult area in which to operate. The administration has to rely upon intelligence information to a large degree. Peope are importing heroin concealed within their bodies and within motor vehicles. The Bureau has to rely largely upon intelligence to apprehend these people. I emphasise to this House that the rate of apprehension and seizure by the Australian authorities compares more than favourably with that in comparable countries throughout the world.
-I ask the Prime Minister or the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations a question. Would they be prepared to consider establishing what would be a new or radical approach to unemployment? It would not be similar to the dole, the Regional Employment Development scheme or a training scheme. It would involve the provision of a subsidy or assistance so that craft work could be performed in innovative ways in the cities, or foodstuffs grown in the country which would replace such products as hops in Tasmania or meat in certain parts of Australia, so that individuals able and competent to do this work could be encouraged to do it. Will the Prime Minister or the Minister consider the provision of a fund and the appointment of a committee of people, who are sympathetic and understand what is involved, to allocate that fund.
-The Government and, I believe, all members of the Parliament share the concern that the honourable gentleman expressed through his question. That is one of the reasons the Treasurer made it perfectly plain in his Budget Speech that there would be no financial limit this year on the various training programs and employment assisting programs, a number of which are designed specifically to assist young people. This also applies to the community youth support schemes. If there are to be training schemes for individuals no opportunity will be denied to a person because of an arbitrary ceiling on funds. In addition, my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has been examining, in a good deal of detail, proposals and schemes that are operating in European countries to see whether there is anything that can be gained from their example to help alleviate the present position in Australia. That examination is still proceeding.
The Government shares very much the honourable gentleman’s concern that people who want to work ought to be able to get jobs. Whatever this Government can do to alleviate immediate and short term hardship, it certainly will do. The programs that are working for young people through the various National Employment and Training schemes already have assisted over 100,000 people. That is quite a substantial number. Obviously many more will be helped throughout the course of this year. The Minister is devoting his attention to these matters on a continuous basis and the schemes will be improved as and when they can be improved.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the Minister’s statement of 22 September concerning aid to the beef industry. In that statement the Minister spoke of the need to improve the immediate cash flow to beef producers. He said:
The scheme will apply from tomorrow, 23 September 1977. It will take some weeks to finalise administrative arrangements for the lodgement of claims.
When can the beef producers actually claim for assistance and when can the Minister provide further details concerning the scheme?
– There were a number of components in the beef package I announced on 22 September which will mean an immediate improvement in cash flow to cattle producers. The matter to which the honourable gentleman has turned his attention is the per head contribution following certain disease control mechanisms. The difficulty of course is establishing that the person concerned is significantly involved in the beef cattle industry. Quite often administration is hard. The person concerned may live in a remote and isolated area. The Government is endeavouring to ensure that people are not unduly disadvantaged in establishing that these procedures have been undertaken.
I hope that the legislation will be announced within the next couple of weeks so that the details will be definitively set out. In the meantime, individuals who pursue any of these operations should not do so just on the basis of seeking eligibility for the levy. However, if they are undertaking any of those procedures which are to be listed in the legislation, that is the spaying of heifers up to two years of age, tuberculosis and brucellosis testing, brucellosis vaccination, drenching for worm and fluke control, or dipping for treatment of external parasites such as cattle tick, they should make a statutory declaration before a responsible person showing the extent to which they have been involved in those operations and indicate the number of cattle concerned. When the legislation is finally determined and is in the Parliament they will be able to establish the fact that those procedures have been undertaken in accordance with the normal program.
Discussions have already been held with the State authorities on that part of the package relating to the assessment of rural reconstruction assistance. I hope that it will be possible to make a statement fairly shortly on bom carry-on loans and household support which will specify some modifications to ensure that any person who is seriously disadvantaged because of the level of his income will be able to secure assistance from the rural reconstruction authorities in those two areas. That assistance, which would be available immediately, would help the cash flow position of growers. As soon as a full statement is available I will ensure that it is distributed to interested honourable members so that they can make it widely known in their electorates and so that people who are in a disastrous financial position and for whom this measure was introduced will know specifically how they can receive the benefit within the scheme.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I preface it by quoting from Mr Justice Ludeke ‘s report of the inquiry on medical fees which was tabled yesterday. On page 13 of the report Mr Justice Ludeke refers to the fact that to come to a conclusion on medical fees it was necessary that they should be examined by reference to changes in the medical benefits scheme which have an effect on the income of medical practitioners outside the area of adjustment of fees, where there has been a change which leads to an increase in incomes and where there has been no proportionate change in work loads. He says:
The Department also drew attention to the effects of Medibank upon incomes, and referred to features such as direct billings, changes in methods of remuneration for services rendered to patients in Standard (previously Public) wards of public hospitals and the introduction of complete medical cover for pensioners . . .
Mr Justice Ludeke then goes on
-This is the question.
-Order! I suggest that the honourble member for Prospect come to his question.
-This is it. I am sure that even the Minister for Health would not have memorised this report, so it would not have been possible for him to comment on it, with all due respect. Mr Justice Ludeke goes on to say:
In the event, the Department acknowledged that it did not have available any substantive information which would permit an assessment to be made for these matters . . .
I ask the Minister whether he agrees that the Department ‘s failure to provide the substantive information is deplorable, to put it at its lowest, when an amount of $67m is involved.
-I think that even Mr Justice Ludeke appreciated the great difficulty that would confront the Department in trying to achieve the profile that the honourable member for Prospect was seeking in relation to the changed arrangements in universal health insurance in this country since the introduction of Medibank. The Department for some time has been seeking to obtain from the computerised system the information that would help an inquiry to assess the new levels of incomes of the medical profession as a whole. I do not anticipate that that information will be available in any meaningful way until some time next year, notwithstanding the fact that the resources of Medibank and the resources of my Department have been employed to their utmost in trying to achieve the statistics that would be valuable in arriving at a total profile of doctors’ incomes in Australia. Honourable members will recall that Dr Scotton was hopeful that the Medibank system would have statistics available to enable objective assessments to be made. There are, of course, tens of thousands of doctors in this country, and to try to take out individual incomes raises very serious questions of privacy. Notwithstanding that, the Government is using the resources it has available to try to obtain the necessary information to assist in future inquiries.
I think the House ought to know that Mr Justice Ludeke ‘s determination has resulted in an increase in doctors ‘ incomes of 3.8 per cent for the year 1978. By any standards that is a very reasonable income increase, particularly when compared with what happened when the Labor Government was in office. For instance, in 1974-75 we saw an increase in doctors’ fees of 31.9 per cent and in 1975-76 an increase of 20.5 per cent, making a total increase of 52.4 per cent.
Since this Government came to office there have been much more moderate increases in doctors’ fees. Last year the Government negotiated an increase of 7.5 per cent across the board. This year Mr Justice Ludeke determined an average increase of 7.3 per cent, which excludes any increase for pathology fees. If no increases occur in pathology fees for 1978, the actual increase will be 6.7 per cent. This takes into account the increase in practice costs and the increase in incomes thought to be desirable within the plateau indexation concept. Notwithstanding the honourable member’s concern about the fact that the information was not available from the computers, the increase in doctors’ incomes for the whole of 1978 will be 3.8 per cent. If we could keep increases in incomes in Australia to that sort of level we would wipe out inflation overnight.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement suggesting that two companies have been advised to withdraw funds from Australia? Is the Prime Minister in a position to comment on the accuracy of this statement?
-Yesterday a serious statement was made which indicated that a number of companies had advised companies operating in Australia to withdraw funds. It indicated that Credit Suisse, the Deutsche Bank and the Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank had from time to time been active in raising loans overseas for Australia. It was a serious allegation because it claimed that the Euro-Pacific Finance Corporation Ltd, a partly owned subsidiary of two of the three banks that have just been mentioned, had been advising, among others, the Nestles Co. (Aus.) Ltd to withdraw funds from Australia in view of the situation relating to the currency.
This morning the Chairman and Managing Director of the Nestles company rang my office and indicated that the statements were completely untrue and that the Euro-Pacific Finance Corporation had not been in touch with the Nestles company. The Managing Director said that he had never heard of the Euro-Pacific Finance Corporation until he looked it up in a trade directory this morning and that his company has never received advice from that Corporation. He confirmed in a telephone call to the Euro-Pacific Finance Corporation that there had been no contact between the company and the Corporation. He said that the Nestles company had not sent money out of Australia other than for normal purchases of materials and that in fact in July that company had brought funds into Australia. This matter was originally raised in a question asked by Senator Wriedt in another place. This again indicates the completely mischievous and false way in which the Opposition has been behaving in relation to these particular matters.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Minister. He will remember that on the 20th of last month he described as an interesting suggestion my question as to whether the Government had considered publishing the names of companies and persons who had been transferring funds out of Australia in an unaccountable fashion and publishing the amounts so transferred. I pointed out that the Canadian Government had instituted that practice. I now ask the Prime Minister: Has he followed up this interesting suggestion which the Canadians have found to be a practicable one?
-The honourable member’s suggestion does remain an interesting one but whether Canada has found it of general use and help might be open to doubt because at certain times for legitimate business reasons companies require to transfer funds out of and into this country. These reasons could be unrelated to any speculation of the kind that the honourable member for Oxley so mischievously and in an obviously subversive fashion has been seeking to promote throughout Australia. Therefore the publication of the names of companies acting in that way could very well at certain times bring companies under criticism when they deserve none. That may well be the objective of the honourable gentleman but I hope that it would not be.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether he attended last Saturday’s Victorian Football league grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground? Does he agree with me that in the last two weeks the Collingwood and North Melbourne teams have provided some of the most exciting top grade contests in the history of Australian Rules football? Is the Prime Minister aware that North Melbourne’s zoned territory for recruiting players takes in a good deal of the La Trobe federal electorate? In view of this link and as a result of the contribution by the North Melbourne Football Club to sport and entertainment, can I have an assurance that when next I make an approach for funds to improve certain sporting grounds and faculties in the La Trobe electorate I will get a sympathetic hearing?
– Along with about 100,000 other people I did attend that match. It was a wonderful spectacle and a credit to the teams involved. In spite of the somewhat friendly rivalry which sometimes occurs between my State and New South Wales, those who regard themselves as being in the senior State must concede certain advantages to Australian Rules. About 40,000 people, or 50,000 at the most, watched two football games in Sydney while on each occasion in Melbourne, that is, at the tied match and the subsequent match, about 100,000 people watched the game. If to determine the popularity of the games we compare the numbers which for two weeks in a row watched the matches, clearly Victorians have voted in a very solid way for their own national sport.
Opposition members interjecting-
– It is interesting to see honourable members opposite stirred about something other than politics for a change. I doubt that there is any other game in the world which for two weeks in a row with the same two teams competing could attract 100,000 people or better on each occasion. Also I am told that the overwhelming majority of those watching the Sydney matches have their wirelesses tuned in to Victorian matches. I noted what the honourable gentleman said in relation to sporting facilities in his electorate and he can be sure of a sympathetic response always.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Prime Minister. Does the last sentence of his reply to the honourable member for
La Trobe mean that the Government proposes to change the policy under which, as the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Depvelopment told me yesterday in a prepared answer, ‘no new grants were made under the program of capital assistance for leisure facilities m 1976-77 and no new grants will be made for projects under this program in 1 977-78 ‘?
– It is delightful to find the honourable gentleman suddenly becoming serious. The sporting policy of the Government has been very ably announced by my colleague.
-Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs seen recent reports critical of the Government’s community development employment project scheme which has been introduced for Aboriginals? Are these criticisms justified? Can the Minister provide me with up to date information concerning the successful implementation of the scheme?
– One might say that the question of the honourable member for Parramatta is appropriate considering the symbol of his football team.
-As one of the 108,000 people who watched the first grand final between North Melbourne and Collingwood I can agree completely with what the Prime Minister said about the greatness of the national sport, that is, Australian Rules football. I say that notwithstanding that I am a hockey player and would like some opportunity to applaud the virtues of hockey as perhaps the greatest amateur sport played in Australia. Coming directly to the question asked by the honourable gentleman, I am glad of the opportunity to correct the errors- I should perhaps say the malicious errors- put forth by the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the other place about the community development employment project scheme. The criticisms are completely unfounded.
It was suggested by the honourable senator that the scheme contravened certain anti-slavery conventions of the United Nations and other international provisions, such as those of the International Labour Organisation. The advice I have, after consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department, is that those conventions are in no way contravened. I point out to the House, and for the benefit of the shadow Minister, that Aboriginals want to work. They have welcomed with great enthusiasm the CDEP schemes which are a voluntary system for the employment of Aboriginals. The schemes are operating on a pilot basis in a number of communities such as Ernabella and Fregon in South Australia, Bamyili in the Northern Territory and Wiluna in Western Australia. Projects for other places are being discussed with Aboriginal communities.
I was at Ernabella only a couple of months ago and the CDEP scheme was working to great advantage to fulfil the Government’s objectives of self-management and self-sufficiency for these communities. Strange as it might seem to the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, these schemes have been welcomed because Aboriginals do not want to live off the dole. They want to work. For the benefit of the House and also for the benefit of the shadow Minister, I shall read a telegram which I have received from the Bamyili Council which is a wholly Aboriginal body. The telegram states:
Bamyili Town Council most disturbed by criticism of CDEP in southern newspapers. Everyone is too keen to criticise Aboriginals when they try to manage their own affairs. We believe in CDEP and whole community supports. We seek your continued support for CDEP as it is the only way we can work the way Aboriginals want to.
I assure the people of Bamyili and other Aboriginal communities that I and the Government will give them full support in the implementation of this scheme.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, by drawing attention to a question I placed on notice on 14 September. I asked him whether he discussed with the Minister for Health- I emphasise the word ‘discussed’- the irregularities in quarantine procedures in Western Australia and the issue of a letter of clearance to an infested ship in New South Wales, the Vishna Kalyan. The Minister in his answer has indicated that the responsibility rests with the Minister for Health and that I should direct my inquiries to him. I ask the Minister whether in fact he has discussed these matters with the Minister for Health and pointed out the important consequences for primary industry, especially the livestock sector, of any breakdown in quarantine procedures. Does his answer to me mean that in fact he has not discussed with the Minister these very serious breakdowns in quarantine procedures? Does it mean that the Department of Primary Industry is not concerned or that the Minister is not concerned with the consequences of any breakdown in quarantine procedures? Does the answer also mean that the Minister does not consider it to be necessary to raise with the responsible Minister a matter which is of such important consequence to his portfolio?
-I can understand the honourable gentleman’s attitude because there are within the Labor Party quite apparent major divisions between individuals and between factions. That sort of divisiveness does not exist in the Government, thank goodness. As a result, there is a capacity for communication between Ministers, between parties and between departmental officers. That ensures that the difficulty which the honourable gentleman envisages does not arise. Quarantine is a matter of major concern for the Department of Primary Industry. The fact that the administration of quarantine procedures is within the ambit of my colleague the Minister for Health in no way lessens my concern, or that of my Department, with the standards of quarantine. Whether they be applied to vessels and the necessity for them to be fumigated and to be maintained at the maximum possible standard of cleanliness for the export of grain, or whether they be applied in any other area, is incidental. Our concern is that those standards should be maintained at the highest possible level. There is close and continued contact between my Department and the Department administered by the Minister for Health on all matters affecting quarantine. With respect to the matter of administration, however, it obviously is not necessary for two departments to exercise the same responsibility.
The particular matter raised by the honourable gentleman was referred to my colleague’s Department. The administration of it is within his control. If the honourable gentleman wants a supplementary answer, he might well find that he can obtain the details, which I understand he requested, from my colleague who administers this matter. I can assure him that both the Department of Health and the health ministry and both the Department of Primary Industry and the primary industry ministry have a continuing concern to ensure that, in relation to the export of grain, meat or any other products, but particularly those meant for human consumption, the highest possible quarantine standards are set and maintained. I can assure him also that coordination of policy is maintained between our two departments.
– Did you discuss the matter?
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether a request for intervention by the Commonwealth in the Seamen’s Union dispute with the Utah company has been received from the Queensland Government? Can the Prime Minister indicate to the House what powers the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government have to take action to overcome the bans imposed by the Seamen’s Union against Utah ships and to ensure that the jobs of thousands of Queensland workers are maintained?
-Since May of this year the Seamen’s Union has refused to provide services at Hay Point for vessels operated by Utah in the coal export trade to Europe. The Seamen ‘s Union has been claiming that Utah vessels should be manned with Australian crews. According to the analysis available to us, if the Seamen’s Union’s claims were met in full it could well jeopardise exports of coal from Australia to Europe; it could well jeopardise future contracts. Obviously that would have consequences not only for Utah but also for other companies, and it would have consequences for the development of coal fields not only in Queensland but also in New South Wales. It is now well known that, as a result of the bans that have been imposed by the Seamen’s Union, the development of the $250m Norwich Park coking coal project in central Queensland has been deferred. That has cost Queenslanders 2,000 jobs and has put at risk the jobs of 1,500 other Queenslanders. Because of the delay in the commencement of the project, the Queensland and Federal governments have lost about $5m in export levies, rail freights, royalties and taxes. Clearly the loss to the State of Queensland as a whole would be very much greater than that. I believe that that result is typical of the action of some small and extremist groups which seek the maximum disruption of the Australian economy.
There have been discussions between myself and the Premier of Queensland in relation to this matter. Because the Premier believed that his powers under the Transport Act would not be valid for various reasons, he sought circumstances in which the Queensland Government could intervene quite directly and have the right to appear in various Conciliation and Arbitration Act proceedings in a way that is not now available to the State. It is my understanding that he wished to seek deregistration provisions against the Seamen’s Union in this matter. Of course, action is available to employers under the provisions of the Act. When the Director of the
Industrial Relations Bureau is in his office fully- I think he has taken up office in the last day or two- provisions will be available to him. I have had legal advice from the AttorneyGeneral that the powers available to the Queensland Government are in no way impaired by any Acts of the Commonwealth or by High Court decisions concerning the Seas and Submerged Lands Act. In fact, the powers available to the Government and Parliament of Queensland to declare a state of emergency in the whole State or any part of it under the Transport Act are available fully to the Premier and the Queensland Government.
Power to act is available to the Queensland Government in a diverse number of ways under its own Acts. The Transport Act gives the Queensland Government very great powers indeed. It may be that the Premier believes that the powers under that Act are too great to use in relation to the Utah dispute. If that were so, I believe that an amendment to that Act would give the Queensland Government a greater range of options and that the Queensland Government would have the capacity to do something about that. If the Queensland Government is unwilling to use the very great powers that are undoubtedly available to it, the Commonwealth will certainly examine its legislation to see what can and should be done in relation to a most serious and damaging dispute.
-Will the Prime Minister confirm that Cabinet has approved the spending of $ 100,000 on advertising in Australia s ethnic newspapers before December this year? Why is the Government showing such sudden interest in the welfare of the ethnic communities after two years of consistent and distressing cutbacks by his Government in migrant programs? Is this an effort to soften up critics in the ethnic Press in preparation for a premature election, which the Federal President of his party revealed in a letter to the Australian Financial Review today the honourable gentleman has been discussing with the federal executive of his Party? How does he justify the use of taxpayers ‘ money for party political purposes?
-There is an ongoing obligation on the Government to make sure that the services available to migrant communities are known and understood by them. There are ongoing programs managed by the various departments. Concern has been expressed in some migrant circles that the services and facilities provided by this Government are not adequately known by migrant communities. For example, I was discussing certain matters with one migrant community in Melbourne a few days ago. Its members seemed not fully aware of the very wide range of services available under the Commonwealth Employment Service or of the various training and retraining schemes managed by my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations.
When there is unemployment in migrant areas as there is in other areas, it would seem only reasonable that measures ought to be taken to make quite certain that the facilities and resources are known and understood. Young migrant people who would be eligible for various training programs should have the possibilities brought to their notice and should not be denied access to these programs because of a lack of understanding of their purpose and intent. It is the Government’s intention to make sure that the wide range of services and facilities that it provides is known and understood, and on a continuing basis. So, these matters are in fact being reviewed. But the honourable gentleman need not be disturbed. There is nothing new. It is merely an improvement on what has been continuing for quite some time.
One of the matters that have made this revised approach necessary is the continuing falsehoods used by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of his Party who have suggested that programs of this Government on behalf of migrants had been reduced, curtailed and cut. In fact a very wide number of initiatives have been taken by my Government which are significantly improving the services available to migrant communities. There have been initiatives in the contracting out of services provided by government to resource centres in Sydney and Melbourne. Those experiments are working in an imaginative, thoughtful and useful way. We mean to make quite certain that migrant communities understand what this Government does and what it provides and that the distortions of the Opposition will not be successful.
-Has the Minister for Health noted the political criticism of the Federal Government by Labor parliamentarians at the official opening of the federally financed Campbelltown public hospital last weekend? Could the Minister tell the House how much money the States, particularly New South Wales, have available for new hospital construction this year compared with previous years? Could the Minister ensure that at future official openings of federally financed public hospitals in Labor governed States a member of the Government will be guaranteed the right of reply to improper and untrue propaganda speeches such as those made in my electorate last weekend by the honourable member for Werriwa, the New South Wales Premier, the New South Wales Minister for Health and the State member for Campbelltown? Could the Minister also answer allegations that there has been widespread abuse of the benefits paid to private nursing home proprietors to care for bed-fast patients?
-I am indebted to the honourable member for Macarthur for drawing this criticism to my attention. I am surprised that the Premier of New South Wales and the New South Wales Minister for Health would indulge themselves in such a blast against the Federal Government and the Federal Minister because we have been so generous and co-operative with them in trying to assist them to extend their health services in New South Wales. Last year all State governments received $ 108m towards their hospitals development program.
-And this year $50m.
-And this year $50m, because the States are $62 lm better off. State governments are better off than they have ever been as a result of our federalism policy. While they are balancing their Budgets with credits, we are still labouring under great difficulty trying to bring the Commonwealth Budget into some sort of balance after three years of extravagance and ^responsibility by the Whitlam Labor Government. In a short period of three years, the Labor Government introduced many rather good schemes. But that Government was very extravagant, and in some instances very irresponsible. As a consequence, the Labor Government increased its tax take by over 90 per cent in its three years in office, thereby taking money out of the pockets of the Australian people, also robbing the States and giving local government a pretty raw deal. We have attempted to try to reverse this situation.
I think it ill befits Labor politicians to try to make out on such a platform that this Government is giving the States a raw deal. In 1976-77, the New South Wales State Government spent $5 1.6m on its hospital program. Of this amount, the Commonwealth contributed $36m but it did not get one iota of thanks for that. In 1978 New South Wales is to spend $76.3m. The Commonwealth will be contributing $15m towards that project, meeting 50 per cent of the net operational costs of hospitals and increasing grants to the States by $62 lm or 17 per cent. I am rather surprised that Mr Wran, the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party should have launched such an unfair and unnecessary attack upon a Government which has done so much.
– I table the report of the independent inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. I should like to thank publicly those who undertook this inquiry. They spent a great deal of time on it. This is a very worthwhile report. The Government is examining it. I hope we will be able to announce a decision in relation to it shortly.
-I am in a dilemma, Mr Acting Speaker. I am not sure whether it is I or the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) who has been misrepresented. On page 1697 of today’s Hansard Question No. 1427 on the national animal health laboratory at Geelong is shown as having been asked by Mr Les Johnson. It was in fact asked by me. Question No. 1506 on equal pay for Service men and women appearing on page 1700 again is credited as having been asked by Mr Les Johnson. It was asked by me. I trust that Hansard will now correct its records.
-I wish to make a personal explanation, Mr Acting Speaker.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes. A small article in this morning’s Daily Telegraph reports me as saying that I had called for an immediate task force to investigate the unemployment problems in the western suburbs of Sydney. I did not make this statement. I said that what people do not want is another expert committee. What they want are jobs. If the Premier of New South Wales would encourage industry into the western suburbs as he is doing into the Campbelltown area, those problems would be overcome. Bowater-Scott Australia Ltd, the Ford Company and many other companies have been asked to go into the Campbelltown area where -
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell -
-He is debating the issue.
– This is his maiden speech.
-Order! I say to the Leader of the Opposition that if we added together some of the interjections during question time this morning we would have a lot more than maidens in this place. I suggest that the honourable member for Mitchell does not respond to the interjections. He is now debating the matter. I suggest that he sticks to his personal explanation.
– I am giving details of the statement I made on this matter. I said that what the people needed were jobs because it is not clear -
-I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. In a personal explanation an honourable member is entitled to explain where he has been misrepresented. In that explanation he is entitled only to quote directly what he said. He is not entitled to expand it into a debate or an explanation of what he said.
-I suggest that the honourable member for Mitchell explains the actual statement that he made and does not debate that statement. I think the honourable member for Mitchell was commenting on the statement he had made.
– I did say that one of the faults of our political opponents when in office was that when they could not find an answer they would appoint a task force or an expert committee. I have suggested that the Premier of New South Wales adopt a responsible attitude and supply job opportunities in those areas where jobs are needed instead of adopting an attitude of noncooperation with the residents in the western suburbs of Sydney, particularly the young people. I think -
-Order! The honourable member for Mitchell has now given the explanation as to where he was misrepresented in the newspaper report.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The social and economic consequences of prolonged and increasing unemployment.
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 raises this matter because it is acutely concerned at the effect on this country of continued and increasing unemployment and the apparent disinterest of the Government in taking any effective action to reverse this disastrous situation. The result of this appalling governmental indifference to lengthening dole queues is that this nation is experiencing rapidly escalating social problems born of the despair and alienation of the unemployed, and severe economic loss through the enforced idleness of hundreds of thousands of people. These social and economic consequences need to be recognised by this Parliament because they expose the sheer inhumanity, shortsightedness and wastefulness of Government policies which are irrefutably based on the continuance and even the extension of unemployment.
Despite the Government’s token attempts to appear concerned about unemployment the reality is that it is only toying with the issue. It has done far less than most other comparable countries have done in this regard. For such inaction and indifference this Government stands condemned. The social and economic consequences of such policies are so massive and so appalling that it cannot be allowed to continue the destructive course it has charted for the last 134 years. I remind the House of what has happened over the last 1% years. Unemployment has increased substantially. At the moment there are 334,000 registered unemployed. That is 86,000 more than in August 1975, two years ago when the then Opposition was suggesting that the then Government could not run the country and should be forced out of office. The Bureau of Statistics figures for unemployment show that there are 318,000 unemployed now which is 74,000 more than in August 1975.
At the end of July 1977 the total number of wage and salary earners employed in Australiathese are the latest figures-was 26,500 less than in July 1975, two years previously. This is in a situation where the normal increase in the work force is approximately 2 per cent, about 120,000 persons per year. Despite that, over the two-year period there has been a reduction in the number of employed persons by 26,500. Private industry was going to nave the lights turned on. All sorts of beaut things were going to happen. The fact is that there are 58,600 fewer wage and salary earners in private industry than there were two years ago. Youth unemployment rates today are appallingly high. Two years ago the unemployment rate for teenagers was 12.0 per cent. For boys it was 10.6 per cent and for girls it was 12.0 per cent. Today, two years later, the teenage unemployment rate is 16.7 per cent. For boys it is 14.6 per cent and for girls it is 19.1 per cent. In other words, virtually one in five of every teenage girl who has left school and is looking for a job cannot get one. Aboriginal unemployment is 36 per cent according to a leaked Cabinet document published recently.
The unemployment situation is appalling and much worse than it was two years ago when the Labor Government was still in office. The future trends are that the situation will get much worse. There is no possibility of any reduction in unemployment in 1977-78, the current financial year, without a drastic change in government policy. This is shown firstly by the Budget which anticipates no reduction. Statement 2 of the Budget says that the likelihood is for little or no change between June 1977 and June 1978. Frankly, I think that is a highly optimistic forecast. So too does the Reserve Bank, which said in a leaked document published recently showing forecasts of economic prospects for the current financial year, that estimates for unemployment would rise from 5.3 per cent at the end of the last financial year to 6.1 per cent at the end of this calendar year and 6.0 per cent by mid 1978. In other words, the Reserve Bank says that unemployment will be much higher in 1977-78 than it was in 1976-77.
The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations also is highly pessimistic about any improvement. In the recently published document ‘Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation’, dated July 1977 the Department said that, while it can be expected that the economy will improve during 1978, any corresponding upturn in labour demand by employers is likely to be slower to eventuate. So, we have all these Government sources saying that there will be no reduction in unemployment; that in fact there will be a substantial increase in unemployment on top of what we have had already in the last year and three-quarters under the Fraser Government.
This has enormous economic and social consequences. The economic consequences stem from the massive loss of production plus the need to divert vast resources to the relief of the unemployed. Let us look at the production loss. The average number of unemployed in 1976-77, according to the Commonwealth Employment Service figure, was 302,000 people. Assuming 225 working days- that is, 52 weeks less seven weeks; four of them for annual leave, one for sick leave and two for public holidays- a total of 68 million working days was lost through unemp- ployment in 1976-77. The total amount of wages >st because of unemployment in 1976-77, using the same wages figure as is used to calculate wages lost by industrial disputes in 1976-77, was a massive $2, 157m. Similar figures, although they are slightly less, come from using the figures from the Bureau of Statistics.
These are fantastic losses. The wage loss of $2, 157m represents 2.6 per cent of gross domestic product in 1976-77. In fact, the loss would be even greater than those figures show because if these people were working instead of being unemployed the amount of production we would get would be more than just the amount of wages paid. There would be additional value added. So, there is a very much more substantial loss than appears on the surface. The House also should note that these losses dwarf the losses incurred by society through industrial disputes. Industrial disputes in 1976-77 resulted in the loss of 3.1 million working days. Compare that with 68 million working days lost as a result of unemployment in 1976-77. Total wages lost through industrial disputes were $100,71 last financial year. Compare that with the $2, 157m lost through unemployment. In other words, the wage loss through unemployment was 2 1 times higher than the wage loss through industrial disputes.
Looking at the increase in unemployment in the period that this Government has been in office- the figure of 86,000 to which I referred before- annualised the number of working days lost through that increase in unemployment is 19,350,000, compared with the 3. 1 million working days lost through industrial disputes in 1976-77. The wage loss calculated from this annualised increase in unemployment under the Fraser Government is $6 14m. Compare that with the $ 100m lost through industrial disputes. This shows the enormity of the loss of production and the loss of income caused by this enormous increase in unemployment. In addition to the wage loss and the other value added loss we have the fact that unemployment involves a vast cost in unemployment benefits. This year it will cost us more than three-quarters of a billion dollars for unemployment benefits. The estimate is $780m and the cost could well be higher than the estimate, as it was last year. The severe social consequences of unemployment, to which I will refer in a moment, involve extensive economic costs in addition to the economic costs I have mentioned already. So, in total the economic consequences of unemployment in this country are nothing short of massive. They dwarf the losses through industrial disputes.
I turn now to consider the social consequences. There is increasing evidence, both here and overseas, of the frightful social consequences of high and prolonged unemployment. The available evidence indicates that unemployment is directly related to increasing rates of general crime, suicide, mental illness, heart disease, drug addiction, domestic violence and other social disorders. In the time available I can indicate only briefly the nature of this evidence, but if any honourable member wants to obtain more details I can supply them to him. In regard to crime, a senior criminologist in the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Research Division, Dr Mukherjee, was quoted recently as having said:
Numerous overseas studies have shown unemployment and crime rates are related.
The evidence in Australia is more scarce, but a report by a South Australian working group on youth unemployment last year showed that juvenile offences were much higher amongst the young unemployed than amongst those at school or in employment.
In relation to suicide, there is a lot of evidence of increased suicide rates in Australia being related to unemployment, particularly amongst young people. A report by the Mental Health Authority of Victoria, published in February this year, showed that attempted suicide had reached almost epidemic proportions in two Victorian centres surveyed. They were Ballarat and Dandenong. In Ballarat one in every 40 of the unemployed men and women attempted suicide during each of the two years of the survey, whilst in Dandenong the proportion was one in 80. Dr Abie Kessel, the then acting deputy chief medical officer of the Victorian Health Authority, who worked on the survey, said:
Suicide among the unemployed was one of the most striking features of the survey.
Not surprisingly, the report also found that suicide rates were highest amongst young people who, of course, have the highest unemployment rate. Dr Paul Wilson, a reader in sociology at Queensland University, said recently that the suicide rate amongst young unemployed between the ages of IS and 24 years had risen by about 25 per cent in the past year.
The director of the Link-Up welfare group in Melbourne, Mr John Dickinson, said recently that his group’s telephone service for desperate people was averaging a suicide call every 30 hours. Such calls are up more than 30 per cent on last year. He also said that, whereas the age group involved used to be mid-30s to mid-40s, it is now mostly late teens to mid-20s. Again that is the highest unemployment group. One Melbourne hospital, the Alfred Hospital, reportedly is handling serious suicide attempts at the rate of four a day. Most of the people involved are in their teens and twenties and three-quarters of them are female. Daily rates for the other major Melbourne hospitals are as follows: Royal Melbourne, two serious suicide attempts a day; Saint Vincent’s, two; Prince Henry, two; Western General, three; and Preston and Northcote, three. Mr Dickinson, of Link-Up, who talks regularly to these sorts of people, was quoted recently as having said:
I think unemployment is a big contributor.
The Melbourne Age of 6 June this year contained an article about mental illness. The article quoted the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations as confirming a link between mental illness and unemployment. It said:
Unemployment is a cause of many people being admitted to Victorian mental hospitals, according to officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations.
It then quoted the officer in charge of the Department ‘s handicapped persons section as having said:
In fact there is evidence emerging that the number of people entering psychiatric hospitals with problems directly related to unemployment is increasing significantly.
Furthermore, a study published in the United States in 1973 entitled ‘Mental Illness and the Economy’ showed that over the past 100 years whenever the economy has turned down, thereby increasing unemployment, the rate of admission to mental hospitals has risen in a more or less exact ratio.
Referring now to heart disease, Professor Noel Drane and Mr Rex Bunn of the School of Economics at the Macquarie University recently published a study which demonstrates that unemployment has played a major role in deaths from heart disease in Australia. It shows that over the last 50 years the rate of heart disease mortality has risen after increases in unemployment and has fallen with improvements in the job market. According to Mr Keith Windschuttle, the social historian at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, similar studies in the United States of America have produced much the same results.
Turning now to drug addiction, although there are no studies that establish a clear link between drug addiction and unemployment, there are many indicators of such a connection. One such indicator is the evidence given to the Senate’s
Health and Welfare Committee this year by the director of the New South Wales Health Commission’s central drug and alcohol advisory service, in which he stated that substantial groups of heroin addicts had been detected recently in three parts of Sydney- areas with high youth unemployment levels. They were Blacktown, Liverpool and Bankstown. An increasing number of addicts were also being detected in other areas of substantial unemployment.
In regard to domestic violence, a survey conducted last year by the Royal Commission into Human Relationships of 1 1 1 women who went to the Elsie Women’s Refuge in Sydney showed a definite link between unemployment and wife bashing. The survey showed that 44 per cent of the husbands who assaulted their wives had no regular work. These and other indicators of social disorder indicate the enormous problems being created by unemployment in this and other countries. It becomes almost criminal for a government to adopt policies which do not attempt to reduce unemployment. There is no doubt that there are massive social costs of unemployment. These costs are borne principally by the unemployed and their dependants, and they also involve important consequences for the whole of society through increased social disorder and the financial cost of attempting to control and treat that disorder. Even if one has no compassion for the unemployed surely one should be concerned for society as a whole.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) had shown one ounce of concern for the social and economic consequences of unemployment, which he has been talking about for the last 15 minutes, and if he had suggested one means by which some of these problems could be rectified we would have supported the matter of public importance with enthusiasm. Indeed it looked to me when I read the daily program that this was to be something of a bipartisan suggestion to deal with some of these great social problems. But it seems that all we are faced with is yet another debate about the causes of unemployment- who caused it, Liberal, Labor or whatever? What a turgid, dull experience this is going to be once again. If we are going to have an argument about unemployment and about the causes of unemployment then let us have it.
I put it to the House that it is abundantly clear that the increases in unemployment started to set in in this country in the three years of the Australian Labor Party’s rule. I promise not to bore the House with statistics, as the honourable member for Gellibrand did, but there is one simple statistic which should put an end to the whole of this argument. I ask the honourable member for Gellibrand and other honourable members supporting him to deny it if it is not true. When we left office at the end of 1972 the economy of this country was in a very healthy state. There were 136,000 people unemployed. When the Labor Party left office there were 328,000 people unemployed in this country. Unemployment had more than doubled as a result of the economic policies that that party adopted when it was in power. When one looks at a basis statistic such as that, one sees what a completely meretricious matter of public importance this one is. Unemployment started its upward movement during those three years and it is very clear that the wholesale damage done to the economy during those three years has been a major contributing factor to the continuous unemployment we have had.
I put it to honourable members that the economic policies that were adopted during that time were almost calculated policies which certainly resulted in substantial unemployment during that period. We have only to look at some of the policies. We could talk of them for hours but let us just look at one or two. There was the 25 per cent tariff cut which was brought in with, I would think, an almost complete indifference to its consequences for the individuals concerned. It was from that time until the present that our industries such as the clothing, textiles, plastic and rubber industries and many others started their decline. It was from the time of the 25 per cent tariff cut that the rot started to set in. Quite apart from the economic damage caused by that decision and quite apart from the wholesale assault on those industries, what concerns me far more than all of them is the indifference that was shown on that occasion to the individual men and women in those industries. What was the attitude of the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) who was the responsible Minister at that stage? His attitude and the Government’s attitude were that these people could be bought off, that all that had to be done was to establish yet another government scheme, to give it a fancy name such as Structural Adjustment Assistance, to pour in millions of dollars if they could be found and to buy off those exemployees. What a callous, indifferent and heartless attitude that was towards the ordinary men and women working in those industries whom the Labor Party continually pretends that it represents.
That is just one of the economic decisions made by the Labor Party at that time which led to the substantial increases in unemployment during Labor’s term of office. I hasten to add, in case the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) says this when he speaks, that unemployment was not solely the result of the Labor Government. It must take a major share of blame for it, but it is not solely Labor’s responsibility. Certainly other forces are at work in the society which also lead to unemployment, and it is wise that we should recognise them. The first of them is the wage structure which exists in this country. I put it as a simple basic proposition that, because of -the wage structure existing in this country, many industries have priced themselves out of world markets. As they have priced themselves out of world markets, the employees have priced themselves out of jobs. It is all very well for the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, under the system that we have now, to fix wages and salaries which it says are going to apply in the market place. It is a completely different situation when employers in the market place have to make a decision whether they can employ people at the wage and salary rates which are fixed by the Arbitration Commission. Until we grapple with the problem Australia will continue to be faced with unemployment and will continue to price itself out of world markets, and the economy will not revive.
Our Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard) is beating his way around Europe and trying to find new markets for some of our manufactured goods and our primary products. No doubt this will be a successful enterprise. But the fact remains that while the major cost increases in our manufactured goods- wage and salary increases-remain and continue, the Minister is engaged upon a herculean task and he will not meet with unqualified success. I want to put forward the suggestion- I hope that it is a helpful suggestion and something that the Opposition may like to consider- that we should be looking at the structure of the Arbitration Commission. Quite apart from the fact that there are State wage tribunals, it is the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that sets the pace. Its function is to solve industrial disputes which come before it, and most of those disputes concern applications for wage increases.
I suggest that we should be looking at a restructuring of the Arbitration Commission to widen its functions. We cannot continue the present situation where all that exists is a fixation of wages and salaries and then it is left to the market place to employ or, as is often the case, not to employ individuals subject to those wages and salaries, for the simple reason that employers cannot afford to employ people at those wages and salaries which are fixed by the Commission. I would like to see a situation whereby on the Commission as it is constituted there are individuals who are aware of the market consequences of decisions made by the Arbitration Commission. That is the first thing. There should be individuals on the Commission who because of their experience are able to contribute something to this very vexed decision as to whether employers will be able to employ and as to whether industries will be able to survive at the wage and salary rates fixed by the Arbitration Commission.
We have done something like this with the Industries Assistance Commission, so it is not a novel idea. I would like to see it applied in the Arbitration Commission also so that we do not have this absurd division between the Arbitration Commission, on the one hand, on some remote cloud, fixing what it thinks is appropriate as wage and salary levels and, on the other hand, the real world of industry and commerce which has to translate those decisions into practice and which has to face the real decision of whether industry and commerce can afford to employ people at the wages and salaries which are fixed by the Commission. Therefore I hope that we can look at the question of restructuring the Arbitration Commission.
There is another area which concerns me very much and it is something for which again I say the Opposition is not primarily responsible. Indeed the Opposition may have no responsibility for it at all except that that party has been in government and was unable then to solve the problem that I am about to mention. It is this: I venture to suggest that there is something wrong with our education system when so many people leave the system and are, to put it bluntly, unemployable. There are people who even after several years of secondary education are barely literate. They have no conception of how to apply for jobs. They have almost no initiative and almost no conception of how to go about applying for a job and how to present themselve to a prospective employer.
One of the notable improvements which the present Government has made to this is the introduction of the Community Youth Support scheme. It at least makes an effort to get young people into a position where they have something to offer the employers. They know how to apply for a job and how to present themselves for a job. That is a step in the right direction but it is nowhere near a solution to the whole problem.
What is wrong with our education system when year after year we produce people who are virtually unemployable or who, if they do obtain jobs, obtain jobs in fields which are quite unsatisfying to them? I see that the Commonwealth has an inquiry investigating this matter. I think Mr Justice Williams is responsible for this investigation. It is extraordinary that we should be investigating this matter at such a late stage. Why has no previous government embarked upon such an exercise when it is so obvious that the education system we have is not one which produces individuals who are able to find satisfying, fruitful and productive work in the economy?
The honourable member for Gellibrand said in support of the subject of this matter of public importance that the Government is doing nothing about the economic and social consequences. I have already mentioned the Community Youth Support scheme, which is a very substantial improvement along the lines of rectifying unemployment and of improving the opportunities available to the unemployed to find employment. If the honourable member would like to read that part of the Budget Speech which is set out on page SO of Hansard he will see more details of what the Government is doing with respect to retraining schemes. He will obtain also from other sources details of the education program for unemployed youth. If he looks elsewhere he will see details of the Special Youth Employment Training program.
He should know also about the Commonwealth Rebate Apprenticeship Full-time Training scheme and about the improvements which the Government has made to the National Employment and Training scheme. No doubt when that scheme was first thought up it was a very desirable initiative, but at that stage when I was not in this House but was an ordinary member of the community it seemed to me that a large number of people at public expense were learning macrame work, attending pottery classes and social welfare courses and a few other things which no doubt in an ideal society might be desirable things for them to pursue. Indeed, as a result of the NEAT scheme as it operated then there is one thing that we can be sure about, that is, that this country will never be short of social workers.
I suggest that what the present Government has done is an improvement. What it has done has been to provide on the job training in the real world of commerce and industry for individuals who qualify under the NEAT scheme. Not only is it a better system because it provides on the job training, but it is a scheme which now provides coverage to many many thousands more people than previously were eligible to be covered. That is an improvement. I think it represents a very serious and genuine attempt by the Government to take up some of the slack in unemployment.
Apart from all that we come back to the basic point, which is that the rate of unemployment will start to go down when the economy starts to improve and continues the momentum which has already been achieved since the present Government embarked on its economic policies. When the economy has improved there will be no problem so far as unemployment is concerned. When we revitalise the private sector, which still after all the assaults to which it has been subjected employs three out of four people in Australia, then there will be more employment opportunities for the people.
We will improve the economy of this country by continuing with the economic policies of the present Government and not by adopting the over-idealistic proposals to spend more government money which still come from the Labor Party. That is the standard tedious suggestion that comes forward. Nothing constructive other than that comes forward from the Labor Party; indeed, I very much regret to say that nothing constructive has come out of this discussion on this matter of public importance which has been raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand.
-The speech by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) was unique at least for one thing: It is the first time that I have heard any member from the Government side of the chamber admit that the unemployment which occurred when the Labor Party was in office was not totally the fault of the Labor Government. I commend him for that, if for nothing else. In many senses he made a good speech, although I disagree with him. It makes one wonder how a person of his ability is still on the back bench when so many lightweights are now on the front bench.
I disagreed with him when he talked about the causes of unemployment. The topic of this discussion is ‘The social and economic consequences of prolonged and increasing unemployment’. I want to take up with the honourable member the difference between the situation which existed during the period from 1972 and 1975 and the situation which exists now. During the period from 1972 to 1975, whilst unemployment did increase under the Labor Government it also increased quite dramatically all over the world. Let me cite a few figures: In France during that period unemployment rose from 394,000 to 1 ,0 1 5,000. It almost trebled and it has been static ever since. In West Germany it rose from 274,000 to 1,074,000; in Belgium it rose from 92,000 to 218,000; in the United Kingdom it rose from 611,000 to 1,274,000, and so on. Since then, however the level of unemployment has continued to rise in Australia whereas in the United States it has dropped by 1.6 per cent, in West Germany it has dropped by 0.4 per cent, and in the United Kingdom it has dropped by only 0.5 per cent. That is the difference between what has happened in Australia and what has happened in the rest of the world.
Let me remind honourable members of the statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when he was making his policy speech on 27 November 1975. He said:
Only under a Liberal-National Country Party Government will there be jobs for all who want them.
The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) said:
There will be a sustained drive to put Australians back to work and to create employment for thousands of school leavers who face the dole lines under the Whitlam policies.
What a change there has been since those halcyon days of 1975 when the Government was swept into power! All these commitments and all the reasons for dismissing the Labor Government from office have gone by the board as unemployment has continued to rise. Let us consider a few figures. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that at the end of August 355,000 people-5.7 per cent of the work force- were unemployed. That means that 60,700 more people were unemployed than at the same time last year. Of the young people between the ages of 15 and 19 years 1 18,200 are unemployed, representing 37.2 per cent of the total unemployed. This figure represents 16.7 per cent of this age group, of which 37,000 are still looking for their first job.
The Commonwealth Employment Service figures show that 333,978 people are unemployed, or 5.4 per cent of the work force. Whichever way we look at it, that figure is high and it is higher than it was before. Honourable members should remember that young people under the age of 21 years make up only 12 per cent of the work force yet they constitute 36.2 per cent of total unemployed. A further 90,000 young people will be looking for work at the end of the current school year.
Obviously the policies of the present Government are doing nothing to cure the problem of unemployment. In fact, they are compounding it. The Government could and should adopt measures to alleviate the employment problem. Instead it is diverting attention from this overriding problem by feeding speculation about an early election. If the experts are right, if the Reserve Bank and the economists are right, if Professor Warren Hogan, the Liberal Party’s economic adviser, is right, we can expect the unemployment level to reach between 400,000 and 450,000, or 7 per cent of the work force, this financial year. So much for the present Government’s pre-election promise to reduce unemployment to 1.5 per cent.
This Government has reached a new high in its attempt to deceive the Australian people. Having totally failed to fulfil the promise it made to cure inflation and despite all the lies now being told about how the Government has reduced inflation, the latest consumer price index increase of 13.4 per cent is only 0.2 per cent below the increase at the end of 1975 when the Government came to office. Having the dubious honour of seeing unemployment rise to the highest level since the Depression the Government is now proceeding to change the method of measuring both of these indicators. If it cannot win by doing anything, it changes the rules by which we measure unemployment and inflation. We now have no seasonally adjusted figures. Because they would be embarrassing to the Government they have been abolished. We have a new thing by which to measure inflation called an implicit price deflator. It sounds almost pornographic. Nobody had heard of it a few weeks ago and suddenly it is a new measure because it makes inflation look good. Now the Government is attempting to abolish the Commonwealth Employment Service statistics and instead use the Bureau of Statistics because they will make unemployment figures look more favourable. If there is to be an election, the figures will be delayed until after the election so that they will not embarrass the Government.
The honourable member for Diamond Valley said that we had done nothing about looking at causes. I made the suggestion to the Prime Minister in the opening week of this session that we set up a select committee of the Parliament to look at job creation schemes and at the problems of youth unemployment, the committee to report back to the Parliament quickly. He said that it was an interesting idea but nothing has come of it. We have made an offer, I will not say in a bipartisan way but in a united way, to help solve the real human problems that occur with unemployment. My colleague the honourable member ibr Gellibrand (Mr Willis) made some reference to various mental health authorities in Victoria and I would like to refer to those details again because they are worth repeating. A study conducted by the Victorian Mental Health Authority in Ballarat and Dandenong in 1975 found that the rate of attempted suicide among the employed was very high in both areas. In Ballarat it was more than 12 times the average rate among unemployed and in Dandenong seven dmes the average rate for the area as a whole. The findings of this study are similar to those of other studies conducted in Australia and overseas which have concluded that unemployment can lead to severe mental and physical illness and can be a major cause of death. As unemployment increases, so do the rates of mental illness, suicide, heart disease, death from ulcers and infectious diseases and infant, maternal and foetal deaths according to a social historian at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, Mr Keith Windschuttle. Also unemployment has been found to be the cause of or a significant factor in many cases of marital breakdown, domestic violence and emotional disturbances in the young.
We must recognise that unemployment is our worst social problem. The young and the inexperienced have been particularly badly affected by the current labour market situation. Unemployment amongst the young is unacceptably high and is likely to stay that way unless the Government takes positive action to alleviate the situation. The transition from school to regular employment is an especially critical time. So many of us are so far away from our school days that we have forgotten what a scary time it can be between 17 and 18 years of age faced with the prospect of going out into the world, having to start a new job, a new life, a new career away from the security of family and parents, having to perform in a quite different way from the way we performed at school. We have forgotten what a traumatic experience that is for young people. But how much worse must it be if they find, when uncertain of themselves as adults, that they cannot get a job. If they cannot get a job for a few weeks that is not such a problem but when it comes to months or years is it any wonder that they lose confidence in themselves and possibly turn to taking drugs as a form of relief or to a complete escape by way of suicide? It is no wonder that they are in a serious situation. Some of us are so far removed from that period that we have forgotten what it can be like. There has been no move by the Government to introduce local employment schemes. I have not time to go through them but there have been many suggestions made from this side of the House and it was quite unfair of the honourable member for Diamond Valley to say that they had all been just a matter of spending money. Obviously some money will be involved but, with the help of the former Minister for Labour, the best Minister for Labour we have ever had, the Opposition has put forward some very good suggestions to the Government.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is interesting to notice the way in which this debate has developed. The only concern of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) was to look at the statistics for the 1% years that this Government has been in office. Then after a very thoughtful speech by the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) in which he made some pertinent but honest comments about the nature of unemployment and expressed the concern that honourable members on this side of the House genuinely feel, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) attempted to come to grips with the problem by at least acknowledging the role played by the Australian Labor Party in office when unemployment in Australia grew from 136,000 to 328,000 by the time it left office. He came up with the same excuse that was offered by honourable members opposite when the Labor Party was in office. Today I took the opportunity to read the record of some of the debates that have taken place already on this subject and I thought that we may have heard today from one of the Labor Party’s front bench spokesmen, such as the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), who gave the same sort of statistics as did the honourable member for Robertson in a debate in this House on 5 March 1975.
– It was almost the same speech.
-It was almost the same speech. In it the honourable member for Burke endeavoured to defend the rate at which unemployment rose under Labor by referring to certain statistics. What he tried to say was what the honourable member for Robertson said, that is, that under Labor unemployment rose but it was a phenomenon that was very much the same throughout the world and therefore we could not blame Labor. The fact is that the honourable member for Robertson today attempted to use that same argument by saying: ‘Do not blame us for what happened before. It really was something that was beyond our control’. A comparison of the unemployment statistics for the countries which the honourable member for Burke chose to refer to in 1 975 with the current statistics for those countries shows that the phenomenon is still very much the same.
– You would not be game to say that to his face.
-I will. If the honourable member for Robertson was so concerned about this question as to be bipartisan in the approach he would want to take, he also would realise that if we wanted to rest on our laurels we could offer the same excuse today. What of the figures for Canada? The honourable member for Burke referred to Canada and said that its level of unemployment had reached 6.7 per cent; yet today it is 7.7 per cent.
-Try the United States.
-I would like to take a different approach from that taken by the honourable member for Robertson. Instead of saying ‘and so on’ and leaving out the United States of America I inform the House that in the United States there has been a marginal improvement and unemployment has dropped by 1.8 per cent. Unemployment in Australia nas gone up at much the same rate as it has in Canada, from 4.1 per cent to 5.1 per cent, while in Italy it has gone up from 4. 1 per cent to 6.8 per cent. If we wanted to selectively go through these statistics and look for excuses we could find them, but the fact is that in this House and in the debates that ought to be going on in the community we should be looking at the causes of unemployment rather than making the pious statements of the sort we hear often when honourable members express with righteous indignation their concern at the level of unemployment. I know it is hard for the people who are unemployed and I share the concern of families because their kids cannot get a job. Each one of us on this side of the House is concerned about the problem and the nature of the programs we have developed while in office expresses our concern about the problem. I propose to go through them. If we look at the programs which the Australian Labor Party developed when in officethe ones which were said to deal with unemployment-we suddenly realise some remarkable facts. As I understand the situation there were three programs. First of all, there was the National Employment and Training scheme.
That scheme was developed and announced long before the levels of unemployment under the Labor Government started to rise significantly. Did the Labor Party have in mind, when it developed the NEAT scheme, that it would have to cope with large levels of unemployment? Is that the reason why the scheme was brought in before the numbers started to rise?
-No. I did not think the honourable member would suggest that it was. Let us look at the structural adjustment scheme. It also was developed before the significant levels of unemployment started to occur. The only scheme the Labor Party developed in order to relieve unemployment was the Regional Employment Development scheme. Its job was to provide work of a totally unskilled nature and to give people something to do in order to keep them out of the figures or statistics which are kept. The purpose of that scheme was to reduce the numbers of unemployed in Australia by giving the unemployed some work in electorates such as that of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young). The work was largely digging ditches, painting fences and cutting grass.
If honourable members think that those schemes were meant to deal with the problem, then I suggest that the approach which the present Government is taking is much more constructive. We are developing programs to look at the cause and to deal with the cause. That is what we have to look at. We have spent money on upgrading the Commonwealth Employment Service, particularly by the introduction of the important communications networks which are so essential so that jobs which are available in one area can be made available for the unemployed from another area. We have expanded the NEAT scheme along the lines elaborated by the honourable member for Diamond Valley. We have made that scheme more relevant to job finding rather than having an elaborate tertiary education assistance scheme which simply paid larger benefits to those people who were in the know. That is largely what happened.
We have developed the Special Youth Employment Training Program under which 7,500 young persons were benefiting as at the end of June 1977. We have the education program for unemployed youth under which some 550 people whose educational skills were not adequate in the education system will have those skills brought up to a level that will help them find jobs. We have increased assistance for apprenticeship training, particularly with the development of the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme on which greater emphasis is being placed. We have the relocation assistance scheme which is an important development and an innovation and which will help people find jobs in those areas in which they are available and for which their skills and training will fit them. We have the very special program, the community youth support scheme.
– Not one job.
-It is an important scheme because it is dealing with the very social problems about which the honourable member was talking today as involving young people. That was the nature of his speech. That is the only matter he raised. The community youth support scheme provides a mechanism in electorates such as mine in which we have three schemes under way. I have participated in developing them. They involve young people.
– There are three in my electorate.
-There are three in the electorate of the honourable member for Diamond Valley. Young people are given an opportunity to equip themselves in a better way to find jobs which are available. We have the Community Development Employment Projects scheme for Aboriginals. It is important. We have the Williams inquiry into education and training.
I believe that the problem of unemployment is real. I believe that the policies which I have enunciated shortly and which I would be happy to spell out in greater detail are genuine attempts to deal with the problem. They are far more sincere attempts than those which were made by the previous Government to deal with the causes and problems of unemployment.
I deal with one other important area which is always overlooked. One honourable member in the House will recognise these words when I recall them, because they were said by a senior Opposition spokesman when in government. He made reference to one man’s pay rise costing another man his job. That statement is as relevant today as it was then. When we look at what is going on, particularly in Victoria, in relation to efforts by the trade union movement, with which honourable members opposite are so closely aligned, to break the indexation guidelines and to destroy the wage-fixing system in this country, we realise that honourable members opposite have no interest in unemployment. They would be seeking to bring about a constructive settlement of those disputes which would not involve the breaching of the indexation guidelines if they were concerned about unemployment. Quite frankly, I predict that unemployment will increase greatly, as it has already as a result of strikes, if the indexation guidelines are broken as a result of the activities of the unions in Victoria.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report: Re-development of airways facilities, Adelaide Airport, South Australia.
The proposal is for the construction of buildings to house improved operating facilities at Adelaide Airport to overcome present deficiencies in aviation safety services and to enable safety to be maintained with traffic growth. The proposal comprises: An operations building to accommodate area approach control, flight service centre, the necessary control equipment and training facilities; a services building containing a transformer for the provision of primary power, essential power generation and air conditioning plant; an air traffic control tower accommodating an elevated control cabin, support control equipment and essential power and air conditioning plant; and associated site works, car parks, roads and engineering services, sewerage and drainage and security fencing to the operations building and services building area.
All buildings will be steel framed and clad externally with asbestos cement sheeting. With the exception of the services building which will be naturally ventilated, they will have thermally insulated external walls and ceilings and be air conditioned. Operations areas will be sound attenuated against aircraft noise. All buildings will have fire detection systems installed and fire extinguishers will be provided. The estimated cost of the proposal at August 1977 prices is $2.25m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented in the Parliament yesterday. I seek to have a statement made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr
Hodgman) withdrawn. Yesterday afternoon at the conclusion of my speech the honourable member for Denison, who had moved down to the table on the Government side- presumably to interject more effectively as I spoke- called across the table: ‘You are a traitor’. I responded, in somewhat elegant fashion: ‘I will sock you in the bloody ear if you call me a traitor again’. The honourable member responded by saying: ‘You have a go’. Then you, Mr Deputy Speaker, said Order! ‘; and then you called the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). I presumed, wrongly as the record shows, that you had called me to order. That was the way I understood the situation. I therefore made some points, again with some delicacy, which I regret now and for which I apologise to you. However, I think that the statement made by the honourable member for Denison is offensive in the extreme and quite unparliamentary. I ask that that statement be withdrawn.
-I appreciate the way in which the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has approached this problem. I shall refer to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) in just one moment. Before I do so I point out, because I think it is important, that when the confrontation occurred across the table I was in the Chair. Although I heard conversation going on, I did not pick up any part at all of the statements which were made. Honourable members have my absolute assurance on that point. I suppose that that points to the difficulty the Chair has when a fanamount of conversation is going on, particularly when, as in this case, Hansard picks up the remarks. I would have thought it very much to the betterment of the parliamentary institution if both honourable members were to agree that the two statements be removed from the official Hansard record, other than the daily Hansard. It is not for the Chair to rule in that way at this stage, but that is what I would wish to be done. Having heard the explanation given by the honourable member for Oxley, but having in mind that I did not hear that remark made yesterday afternoon by the honourable member for Denison, I require the honourable member for Denison to withdraw that remark.
– Before responding, I simply -
-I think it might be better if the honourable member were to withdraw his remark at the outset because it is strictly an unparliamentary remark. Honourable members must not impugn other honourable members in this House, regardless of their views or anything else, by making personal references of that nature.
– I agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I wish to submit to you with respect that, by reference to a passage in May’s Parliamentary Practice, that comment in context may not in fact have been unparliamentary. I wish to read a brief passage which appears on page 445 of the nineteenth edition of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice.
-The honourable member for Denison can take a point of order and make reference to May in doing so if he so wishes. In the meantime I point out to him that the Chair is quite firm and quite definite that no member of parliament can make references in the terms that he did to any other member of parliament.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order on that ruling in a spirit of goodwill. I simply refer to page 445 of the nineteenth edition of May’s Parliamentary Practice. One finds set out on that page an appendix of unparliamentary expressions. Included among those unparliamentary espressions is the word traitor’. Also to be found are references to House of Commons debates in 1911 and a further debate in 1948. I have not had time to check the Hansard record, but May gives a qualification, which is a very important qualification, and which reads:
It must however be emphasised not only that the list is not exhaustive -
I do not take that point but I do take the next point- but also that the permissibility of some of them would depend upon the sense and temper in which they were used:
I repeat the words: ‘the permissibility of some of them would depend upon the sense and temper in which they were used’. The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) and I have been engaged this week in an economic debate. I want to say from the outset that the word I used was used in that context. On Tuesday of this week I had moved a censure motion against the honourable member for Oxley for making statements which, in the terms of the motion, were economically subversive. That motion was carried by this House. Notwithstanding the carriage of that motion, the honourable member for Oxley has continued to make public statements which have exacerbated the situation which he created and for which the House censured him. So I make this first and fundamental point: I have made it clear to the honourable member for Oxley that I do not suggest he is a traitor at large but I do suggest that in the strict context of that economic debate he has been an economic traitor to Australia. That is the sense in which I used the term.
I now turn to the word ‘temper’. My remark was not shouted from one side of the House to the other when the proceedings of the House of Representatives were being broadcast. I had walked down to the table to speak to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) who was to be the next speaker in the debate then in progress. I spoke briefly to the Minister. The honourable member for Oxley sat down upon concluding his speech- Hansard is not strictly correct in mis- Hansard records me as saying: ‘You are a traitor’. The word that I used and the word that I noted at that time was: Traitor’. I said that directly to him as he sat down. Hansard shows that Mr Hayden then said:
I will sock you in the bloody ear if you call me a traitor again.
I do not know whether I did not hear the honourable member- the honourable member said that he regretted saying those words- but I still do not know whether he indicated that he would withdraw them. If he did so indicate, I did not hear him do so. I am being called upon to withdraw something. I simply draw attention to the fact -
– Why do you not withdraw?
– The honourable member for Port Adelaide persistently tries to stifle me in this Parliament; he persistently fails and he will continue to fail. The words that I noted down immediately after the incident occurred were these:
– If you say that again I will punch you in the bloody ear.
To that I then responded:
Have a go.
I meant it. The comment was made in the sense that the honourable member for Oxley has been an economic traitor. It was said directly to him. It was not even heard by you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was a direct comment to him. I went to the Hansard office last night. I make no criticism of Hansard. The honourable member for Oxley knows that I went to the Hansard office because he arrived there a few minutes after I did to ask whether in fact the exchange would appear in Hansard.
– Did he sock you in the nose?
– No. I was informed that the exchange would not appear in Hansard, so I took no further action. This morning I was told by Hansard: ‘We are sorry; you were misinformed. It is in Hansard’. I said: That is all right’. I make no complaint about that at all. I made the remark in the context of the honourable member being an economic traitor. In view of the reference in May I do not believe that my statement was unparliamentary because it was made in the context of the honourable member being an economic traitor. There was very little difference between that remark and what I said unchallenged in the House in the debate on the motion which I moved on Tuesday and which in fact was passed by the House censuring the honourable member for Oxley. Therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask you to rule on my point of order in which I have submitted that the remark was not unparliamentary in the context in which I have explained to the House it was used. I said that the honourable member for Oxley was an economic traitor, and I submit that that is not unparliamentary. I submit therefore that I cannot be called .upon to withdraw it. Whether I would withdraw it is an entirely separate question. However, I submit to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I should not be called upon to withdraw something which I genuinely believe, which the majority of the members of this House genuinely believe, and the majority of Australians genuinely believe also.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order. The point of order has been argued at length. It is therefore incumbent upon you, I think, to hear argument on that point of order. Firstly, it has been acknowledged that the statement was made. Secondly, I suggest that the interjection made by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) was not an unusual one from him; he makes it quite regularly during the speeches of honourable members.
– He has a foul mouth.
– That is uncalled for.
– It may be uncalled for, but it is true.
– Honourable members on both sides of the House are not helping the honourable member for Corio, nor are they helping the Chair, to take a point of order in the proper manner when occasion occurs. The honourable member for Corio is speaking to a point of order raised by the honourable member for Denison. I call the honourable member for Corio.
– The matter of withdrawal is one of courtesy to the House. The honourable member for Denison draws a parallel between making such a comment in a general debate and making it during a debate on a motion of censure. Quite a different set of circumstances is applicable when a motion of censure is being debated in the House. As you will well realise, Mr Deputy Speaker, descriptions and terms which would not be allowed during a general debate are allowed during a debate on a censure motion because of the very nature of that motion. An exchange across the table in which words of that sort are used is unparliamentary according to the practice and procedures adopted in this House, and it is that practice and those procedures to which we must resort in determining these matters. The passage in May deals with situations which are not covered by precedents or normal procedures followed in this House. I do not think that this is a matter which the House should spend time debating. I suggest that the interests of the House would be well served if both honourable members withdrew their remarks and the matter were closed forthwith.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order. Clearly when the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) spoke to the point of order he took the opportunity to canvass the issue. He says that May refers to the permissibility of the use of certain words depending on the sense and temper in which those words were used. I submit to you that he used that word last night in an ill tempered and indeed intemperate manner and that the sense in which the word was used was such as to personalise a situation in such a way that the honourable member would expect, if he had any reasonable degree of nous, that I would respond and that accordingly it would be most likely that it would be commented upon in the newspapers. I want to put two points to you in regard to this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker. The first is that the honourable member showed little diligence or energy in working in some depth -
-The honourable gentleman should not debate this point of order.
– The point has been made. The sense and temper with which this word has been used are relevant. They show neither diligence nor industry in working in depth to present a speech. He shows a remarkable facility for making somewhat sensationalised comments of a personal nature.
-I think this is outside the point of order.
– The next point I make is that if you accept what he is putting to you, that there is such a thing as an economic traitor, which is more acceptable than other sorts of traitors, then you will have to categorise all of these offensive and unparliamentary terms. We will have defence traitors who will not be commercial traitors or political traitors but who may be part-time traitors. There is no end to this sort of thing. The final point I make relates to the point raised by the honourable member for Corio as to proper conduct in this House. If the honourable member for Denison is allowed to get away with this conducthe has been getting away with this sort of conduct for some time- I am quite capable of reciprocating with a great deal of energy, in a personalised way, which would not be particularly pleasant for him. Frankly, I would not be bothered doing it, but I am quite capable of doing it. So are other members.
-The honourable member is not helping his own case. He should not debate the point.
– The point is very important. Other members of this House are also capable of reciprocating. In other words, we would have a chaotic situation. Therefore, you have no choice but to require from the honourable member the proper standards of conduct which are imposed on other members of this House. Whether he is prepared to withdraw or whether you are prepared to force him to withdraw, I certainly withdraw the comments I made last night. They were made under extreme provocation as a result of a rather nasty, personalised interjection.
-I wonder whether the honourable member would let me get on with the business. I think this problem might solve itself quite well. The Chair takes the view that the honourable member for Denison was outside the area in which we were involved last night, despite the well-reasoned case he put in which he quoted May. The Chair did not hear the remark. It is in Hansard. Therefore, at this stage it is officially recorded. I would require the honourable member to withdraw the remark he made last night.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, in deference to you I withdraw the word ‘traitor’. I indicate that the honourable member for Oxley is an economic traitor.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask that the honourable member withdraw that remark. His withdrawal is unacceptable.
-The Chair will not accept that withdrawal. That is unparliamentary language for one member to use of another. It is in Hansard and should be withdrawn.
– I have withdrawn the word which appeared in Hansard.
-I suggest that the honourable member resume his seat.
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw the remarks that he substituted which will appear in Hansard now.
-I take the view that I have asked the honourable member for Denison to withdraw in unqualified fashion, and I think he has. I am very pleased that the honourable member for Oxley nas also withdrawn. The only thing that I think needs to be said is that I think the two remarks should be deleted from Hansard.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Denison substituted another remark during this debate, and he has not withdrawn it.
– I take the same point of order. He has substituted ‘economic traitor’ for ‘traitor’, and he has not withdrawn it. He should withdraw all comment or we will seek to discuss the matter further. I think that is unnecessary. One must seek to have these unparliamentary comments withdrawn. They would not stand up outside. I would certainly not hesitate to take appropriate action outside if it were said. If I did not take appropriate action here and seek proper safeguard from the Chair, I would not have much standing outside if I protested when somebody used that term outside.
– I point out that the honourable member for Denison, when speaking to his motion of censure of the honourable member for Oxley, on Tuesday used the words ‘economic traitor’ repeatedly. At that time those references were not challenged by the honourable member for Oxley or any other member of the Opposition. If they were acceptable during the debate on the censure motion on Tuesday, I can see no reason they should not be acceptable in another reference by the honourable member for Denison at a later stage.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am concerned that this term was used. Apparently it was heard only by the honourable member for Oxley.
– Are you making a point of order?
– Yes, and I am trying to bring some sanity into this place. I understand the feeling of the honourable member for Oxley because of allegations in similar terms made against me in this place, and used by a newspaper. I fought for 6’A years in the courts of this land to clear my name. Then this House supported me. The then Prime Minister, John Gorton -
-I am not clear about the honourable member’s point of order.
– The point I am trying to make is that the use of the word ‘traitor’ against any member of this House refers to the allegiance of that member and what he owes to his country and his fellow men. As far as I am concerned, if the honourable member for Denison has any decency at all he will say quite clearly that he withdraws unreservedly any such allegation. It is a terrible thing to make such an allegation against any member of this House anywhere at any time. It is about time he stood up in a decent way -
-I think this is going beyond the point of order.
– It is the spirit in which the withdrawal is made. We want to see the spirit in which the honourable member withdraws it. Only if it is withdrawn in the correct way will we accept it. If it is not, we will move a motion against you, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I think I should say two things. First of all, the issue when I was in the chair last night has been satisfactorily resolved, from my point of view. The second point is that if any member objects to an utterance of another member. Speaker Snedden has repeatedly said that he will ask for a withdrawal of the remark. All I can do under those circumstances to solve the situation is to ask the honourable member for Denison whether he will withdraw the phrase ‘economic traitor’.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, out of respect to you, the Chair and the House I unreservedly withdraw. I repeat that: I unreservedly withdraw. I simply note that at no stage in this discussion did I make any attack on any other honourable member. I regret that some honourable members have taken the opportunity to attack me. I unreservedly withdraw, and I say -
-I suggest that the honourable member resume his seat, and that will solve the situation. I invite any point of order at this stage before I request Hansard to delete the remarks that were made last night. If there is no complaint, it would be my intention to ask the Acting Speaker to carry out that wish.
- Mr Deputy Speaker the only point I wish to make is that after the 20- minute discussion in the House- allegation and counter-allegation- is there any purpose in changing the record? It is firmly entrenched in the record by virtue of the present debate in this chamber.
– I do not want it changed. The record is a record of reference and it ought to be left there.
-I accept the two points of view. I will not press it.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for the imposition of a levy on the production of certain oilseeds in Australia. The moneys raised by the levy will be used to finance a research scheme for the Australian oilseeds industry. Provisions for the research scheme are contained in the related Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Bill 1977. The commencement date of the Act will be fixed by proclamation. It is expected that this will be 1 November 1977, a date chosen to coincide with the seasonal pattern of production.
Initially, the levy will be applied to the production of sunflowerseed, soybeans, safflowerseed, rapeseed and linseed. However, there is provision for other oilseeds to be brought into the scheme at a later date by regulation. The legislation provides for an initial levy of $1 per tonne with provision for the rate to be varied up to a maximum of $2 per tonne. Any subsequent alterations to the operative rate of levy will be prescribed by regulation. The Bill provides that any action to prescribe additional oilseeds for the purpose of the levy and any change in the operative rate of levy shall take into consideration any relevant recommendation of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation which incorporates within its organisational structure an oilseeds committee representing growers in the oilseed producing States.
The legislation provides that the grower is liable to pay the levy. Levy is payable where the grower delivers the oilseeds to another person or processes the oilseeds. For convenience the levy is collected from the crusher or other person to whom the grower delivers the oilseeds. However, it is uneconomic to collect small amounts of levy as the administrative costs associated with their collection are not very different from those involved in collecting larger amounts. Accordingly, provision is made to exempt from the levy a crusher or other person to whom less than 15 tonnes of oilseeds is delivered in any levy year. Similarly, a grower who himself processes less than 15 tonnes of oilseeds in a levy year is exempt. It is expected that given normal seasonal conditions the levy will raise around $200,000 annually. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the machinery necessary for the collection of the levy imposed by the Oilseeds Levy Bill 1977 and to establish an Oilseeds Research Trust Account to fund an oilseeds research scheme. This Bill should be read as one with the Oilseeds Levy Bill 1977 which I have just introduced. The Bill provides for the Act to become operative on the same date on which the Oilseeds Levy Act 1977 comes into operation.
The levy is imposed on the production of oilseeds and growers are liable to pay the levy. However, for practical and administrative reasons, the levy will be collected by the Commonwealth from the crusher, or other person, to whom the grower delivers his oilseeds. There is, of course, provision for the crusher, or other person, who pays the levy on behalf of the grower to deduct the amount of the levy from the purchase price of the oilseeds or otherwise recover from the grower an amount of levy paid on his behalf to the Commonwealth.
The Bill provides for the establishment and operation of a joint Commonwealth industry research scheme for the oilseeds industry. The funds raised by means of the levy will be paid into the Oilseeds Research Trust Account and the Government will provide a matching contribution on a dollar-for-dollar basis to meet expenditure from the Trust Account on approved research projects.
It is the established policy of the Government to foster schemes of this nature to undertake research into the problems that exist in our rural industries. The oilseeds industry will become one of the many primary industries where this joint approach to research between the industry and government is undertaken. Similar schemes are already operating most successfully in respect of the wool, meat, wheat, dairy, pig and chicken meat and other rural industries.
The oilseeds industry in Australia is in a relatively early stage of development. Small quantities of linseed and safflower have been grown for many years but over the past decade an expansion of output particularly in sunflowerseed, rapeseed and soybeans has occurred. Even though the industry is relatively new its value of production is already over $40m annually. About half of Australia’s vegetable oil requirements are imported and it therefore has significant import saving potential. Moreover oilseed growing represents an important alternative to the more traditional grain crops.
The industry is thus one of great potential. There is scope for expansion in oilseeds production but, if this potential is to be realised, the industry must develop on a sound basis with an increased research effort to improve yields, combat pests and diseases and, in particular, as you, Mr Deputy Speaker, would know so well as Chairman of our Government Rural Committee, it is very necessary to develop varieties that are suitable to the Australian environment.
This scheme will contribute to a proper ordering of priorities in oilseeds research. At the same time it will ensure that the funds from the Trust Account are expended on research projects that are additional to and do not merely replace the existing research effort. The proposal for an oilseeds research scheme was initiated by the oilsee ds committee of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation. The Government has expressed its willingness to participate with the oilseeds industry in a jointly financed research scheme. The Australian Agricultural Council has also endorsed the proposed scheme.
The Bill establishes an oilseeds research committee which will make recommendations concerning expenditure from the Trust Account. The research committee will comprise five members, one from each producing State, representing the oilseed” growing industry and one member each representing the Australian Agricultural Council, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australian universities and the Department of Primary Industry. The main function of the committee will be to consider research proposals and formulate recommendations on a program of research and on expenditure for the oilseeds industry for approval by the Minister for Primary Industry. Purposes for which moneys from the Account may be expended broadly follow the precedent established for other joint Commonwealth industry research schemes and will be used for scientific, economic or technical research into the oilseeds industry.
With the expected commencement of the legislation on 1 November and given the seasonal pattern of production involving peak deliveries in summer and autumn, the bulk of the first season’s levy money will become available late in the current financial year. Accordingly, the program of research will not become fully operational until the 1978-79 financial year. The proposed research scheme is a logical extension of the schemes already operating successfully for other rural industries. In the oilseeds industry there are important problems to be overcome. The industry is fully aware of the problems that exist and recognises that a planned research program would assist in determining solutions to these problems. I commend the industry for having initiated this proposal which the Government is very pleased to support.
I consider that the industry has shown a responsible attitude in taking the initiative to bring forward the proposals that are now incorporated in the legislation before the House. The Government has conferred with all sections of the oilseeds industry concerning these proposals. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to extend the operation of the nitrogenous fertilizers subsidy scheme for a further year until 3 1 December 1978 at the present rate of $60 per tonne of nitrogen content. Honourable members will recall that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), in outlining in the Budget Speech a wide range of rural industry support initiatives of the Government, mentioned the provision of an amount of $12m for continuation of the subsidy for a further year.
Although the Government in 1976 indicated agreement in principle with a recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission that the subsidy be phased out, it has decided that, in view of the difficulties at present being experienced by the rural sector, no reduction in the rate of subsidy should be made at this time. Clause 6 of the Bill continues the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decision which affect rights or entitlements of persons under Commonwealth legislation. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr Scholes) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from IS September, on motion by Mr Malcolm Fraser:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Office of National Assessments Bill constitutes a first and important step towards implementing the recommendations of the royal commission into the intelligence and security services of the Australian Government. The Labor Government in August 1974 appointed Mr Justice Hope of the Supreme Court of New South Wales as the royal commissioner to conduct this inquiry. The inquiry was intended to cover the whole range of Australia’s intelligence and security services. It constituted the first comprehensive review of those services undertaken since the relevant organisations were established during the 1940s. Naturally, a good portion of the report and findings of the Hope Commission is classified. However, the abridged findings and recommendations which were tabled in the House demonstrate that Mr Justice Hope has fulfilled his terms of reference thoroughly and imaginatively. All members of the House are grateful to His Honour for his efforts and those of his staff.
This Bill establishes the Office of National Assessments as a separate statutory authority. In conformity with the recommendations of the
Hope Commission, the Office will be independent of any government department or authority and will be free of any external direction or control with respect to the substance of its reports and assessments. It is of critical importance to recognise that the Office will not be involved in the collection of intelligence by overt or covert means and that its assessments will relate to international not domestic questions. It is axiomatic that the formulation of government policy in areas of international, political and economic relations will be only as good as the data on which it is based. It became clear to the Labor Government that the gradual proliferation of departments and organisations with interests in vital fields of international relations had given rise to duplication of effort and, at times, unproductive competition for influence. This view was broadly supported by the Hope Commission. As a consequence, its basic recommendation was for the consolidation of Australian intelligence assessments into the Office to be established by this Bill.
The Commission recommended that the efficient and objective performance by the Office of its functions required that it be established under what the Commission called a charter of independence. The key elements of that charter are set forth in the present Bill. These are that the Office is to prepare reports and assessments on matters of current political, strategic or economic significance to Australia and that it should bring these reports and assessments to the attention of Ministers and all other departments and authorities. Above all, the Director-General of the Office is to have the sole statutory right to direct its work. The Bill states specifically that the Director-General is not subject to direction in respect of the content of or any conclusions to be reached in any report or assessment under the Act. Naturally, the Director-General and the Office will be subject to normal administrative and accounting procedures so as to ensure that his and the Office’s use of public funds is monitored; but such oversight is absolutely distinguished from any external direction or control over the substantive work and assessments of the Office. These arrangements are consistent with the recommendations of the royal commission. They are welcomed because they provide a structure within which objective assessments on important issues can be made available to the Australian Government and thus can strengthen its ability to formulate policy.
The Bill is largely silent on the day to day working relationship between the Office and policy departments. It is important, therefore, that it be read in conjunction with the findings of the Hope Commission and the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). In both cases it has been asserted without qualification that it is not the function of the Office to comment or to give advice on policy. Its function is to provide the vital support to policy making and policy consideration which flow from the provision of objective assessments of relevant data and situations. This is the correct relationship. It should serve to put an end to the past ambiguity and dissipation of effort which sometimes characterised the relationship between the assessment and policy-making organs of the bureaucracy.
Given the importance of this new Office and of the functions it will perform, the staffing of the Office becomes a matter of fundamental importance. The Bill provides a sound structure for the recruitment of competent staff to the Office. It is also of particular importance that the staffing provisions of the Bill are consistent with the need for the Office to be independent. The Bill assigns to the Director-General exclusive control over the recruitment and instruction of his staff. It also assigns to the Director-General a status and tenure consistent with his responsibilities. The Australian Labor Party supports this Bill. The simplicity of its provisions should not be allowed to detract in any way from its important effects. Its purpose is to establish an office which will provide the essential and objective national assessments required by any Australian government. It also should serve to clear up a situation within the bureaucracy which had become confused and increasingly inefficient.
When the appointment of Mr Furlonger to the director-generalship of the Office was announced in May I stated that his appointment was in every respect a proper one. I repeat that assessment. Needless to say, my assessment has been arrived at independently, free of external direction and without the benefit of covert intelligence. I hope that I use the correct terminology and phraseology in such matters. I am confident that Mr Furlonger will carry out his duties objectively, diligently and thoroughly. I am certain, too, that he is aware of the essential need for the recruitment to the Office of talented and dedicated staff.
The establishment of the Office of National Assessments will constitute a first step towards implementing the recommendations of the royal commission. The Prime Minister has undertaken already that further steps to implement those recommendations will be taken during the current session of the Parliament. I take this opportunity to urge him to adhere to that undertaking and to press on with it. The work of the Hope Commission was important. It affects not only Australia’s national interests but also the interests of all individual Australians. In particular, the Government should lose no further time in moving to implement the findings and recommendations of the Commission with respect to methods of reviewing decisions adversely affecting citizens or migrants.
– I certainly support the Bill and welcome it. To the extent that honourable members are allowed to know about any of these matters, I understand that the Government has had a comprehensive report. No doubt Mr Justice Hope went into the matter with his usual diligence. There are only two matters at which I wish to look in particular. The first one is the composition of the Board of National Assessments. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) has some specific views on that matter. I agree in substance with much of what he will be proposing in the near future. Under clause 6 of the Bill the composition of the Board has to include an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs, an officer of the Department of Defence, a member of the Defence Force and an officer of the Australian Public Service not being an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs. (Quorum formed). It is particularly interesting to note that members of the Labor Party seek to take up the time of the Parliament when it is dealing with a Bill drawn up on the initiative of the Labor Party. That initiative was taken by the Labor Party some time ago. This matter is dear to the heart of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and he made an important speech on it only a few moments ago. I suppose that this is another indication of the lack of confidence that members of the Labor Party have in their Leader. They are prepared to spurn an important matter originally proposed by him, a matter on which he has just made a contribution to this debate.
I draw the attention of the House to clause 6 of the Bill. The nature of the National Assessment Board, if properly assessed, would be likely to include a preponderance of public servants, those on the civilian side of matters who are not necessarily fully familiar with the military side of things. The officer on the board from the Department of Defence might be a public servant. Indeed he would be. Of course there would be one member of the defence force. However, one would have thought that an officer such as the
Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation might best be the person named in clause 6 (2) (b) in heu of an officer of the Department of Defence
Another matter I want to draw to the attention of the House is a statement on page 2 of the printed second reading speech on this Bill. It states:
The Office will be concerned with assessing intelligence about international developments and not with domestic situations.
That is reasonable. That is the particular purpose of this BUI. However, I hope that in the future we will turn our attention to the domestic situation because obviously that was the subject of some investigation by the royal commissioner. Further on in the second reading speech these words appear:
The Office will not be organised to collect intelligence by clandestine or other means.
That sentence is a little hard to follow. The word other’ could include any means whatsoever. Presumably that sentence means by some other means similar to what are understood ordinarily to be clandestine means. If this Office is merely to collate and assess reports from the various other agencies, this point needs to be clarified because one would imagine that in some cases the other agencies would use what hitherto have been considered to be legitimate aspects of covert action that ordinarily apply. I do not refer to anything that could be considered improper. But what happens in a case where one of the agencies collects some information that becomes part of a report and subsequently the National Assessments Board has to consider it? Does it reject the information because it may have been collected by covert means or does the BUI relate only to the Board itself? The BUI appears to be silent on this point. Authority for the statement that there wil be no organisation to collect information by clandestine or other means is in the second reading speech. In my view this point should be clarified.
I want to refer the House to what is probably the latest situation in the United States of America on this question of covert action by agencies acting outside their own country. It is to be remembered that the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States was set up in President Truman’s time in office because so many reports were coming in from so many different agencies that the American Government was suffering from confusion. The President was faced with a huge number of reports daily. Obviously it was necessary and desirable to have some collation of them so that as simple a set of conclusions as possible could be put before the
President each day. So the CIA was developed. I remember a recent controversy. I do not want to re-open it but I think some members of the Labor Party, including the Leader of the Opposition, did the country no good by saying some of the things that they said at that time. (Quorum formed).
Again it is unusual to find when we are dealing with such an important matter, especially one dear to the heart of the Leader of the Opposition, that there are only five Labor members in the House, or is it unusual? Indeed, hardly any members of the Opposition were here to listen to their Leader when he made a speech on a most important matter affecting the security of the nation. They do not support him at all. They walked out and left him in the lurch. They are not even prepared to be present during the remainder of the debate. I think there are only about half a dozen members of the Opposition present now and they are disruptionists. The honourable member who has caused some of these disruptions is wel known for this kind of behaviour.
– I take a point of order. For the last three or four minutes the House has been harangued by the honourable member for St George. What he has been saying does not appear to have any relevance to the legislation before the House. I am sure if he was an Opposition member you would be reminding him of the situation. I ask if the honourable member is in order in continuing this irrelevancy?
-I would suggest to the honourable member for St George that he return to the subject matter of the debate. I would suggest to the honourable member for Hughes that if he looks at Hansard he will find that on many occasions irrelevancies have come from the left of the Chair. The Chair has been as tolerant of honourable members on the left of the Chair as it has been of those on the right of the Chair.
-I noticed that the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) was not present in the House when I was speaking before the last quorum was formed. I was dealing with a matter mentioned in the second reading speech, the question of whether the Office is to be organised to collect intelligence by clandestine or other means. It is not to be so organised. In America the Murphy Commission, authorised by statute in 1972, discussed the whole question of covert action in its report ‘The Organisation of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy’. One of the conclusions it reached was this:
Coven action should not be abandoned but should be employed only where such action is clearly essential to vital US purposes and then only after careful high level review.
The history of covert action is as old as warfare itself. It has been said by some people to be a legitimate part of foreign policy. It has been said by some people that secrecy itself is not sinister or incompatible with democratic government providing the aim is to ensure that the security of the nation is maintained. However, the matter needs clarification because I think that many people object to the use of covert action on the ground of morality. They think that it is immoral and beneath the dignity of any nation. On the other hand, we have to recognise that friendly countries often use legitimate forms of covert action to find out trade secrets or to obtain information on economic and other matters. This action is not illegal even though they do not disclose what they are doing. Diplomats often use covert action in a proper and legitimate way.
I suggest that we must look again at some of the words of the Murphy Commission. It said:
Many dangers are associated with convert action. But we must live in the world we find, not the world we might wish. Our adversaries deny themselves no form of action which might advance their interest or undercut ours. In many parts of the world a prohibition on our use of covert action would put the US and those who rely on it at a dangerous disadvantage.
I suggest that we should obtain a clarification of the relationship between the office and the other agencies which it is drawing together. In other words, although the office itself will not collect intelligence by clandestine means, what is the situation if another agency obtains information by covert means? I assume that those covert means would be legitimate and legal. Is the information then obtained by that agency not to be used by the Office of National Assessments when it comes to review, assess or tie together the proceedings of that agency in the whole intelligence assessment that it will provide from time to time? Those are the two matters I wished to raise- the question of the clandestine action and the question of the constitution of the National Assessments Board. I suggest that the Director of Joint Intelligence be substituted for the member from the Department of Defence.
– I support the Bill but I want to pick up the comments made by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil). His suggestion means that if we are to obtain intelligence assessments of the highest quality- the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) says ‘that Australia needs intelligence of quality, timeliness and relevance’ -we need to look at what is envisaged in the Bill.
It is perhaps worthy of note that the Prime Minister is not present in the chamber for the debate. I guess that he has other commitments. But there could be no more important matter from Australia’s point of view than that we have the type of intelligence assessment that Mr Justice Hope envisaged, for the elementary reason that if this country is to survive in the present day climate it has to make efficient and effective use of its resources, and it is in the interests of the Australian people that they be so utilised.
If one looks at the abridged version of the Hope report, which is the only form in which it is available- quite understandably, the report itself is still on the secret list-one sees that intelligence is really the assessing of information or the processing of information and there should not e clandestine operations. One would have thought that in the Bill there should perhaps have been some limitation on what the intelligence groups cannot do. In this legislation we are dealing with a function which has not only a strategic significance but also political and economic significance. As has been said, we are creating a group that is to assess and advise Ministers who have the responsibility at the executive level to act in the best interests of this country. For some time now there have been groups throughout the world assessing intelligence. One must say that on occasions in many cases they are an embarrassment to the governments on whose behalf they are allegedly working. Dr Kissinger made the point that anybody interested in intelligence must be concerned with a national policy and must also be able to guide but not necessarily follow national policy. That is not really the issue concerning us here. We would not be anxious to have intelligence guiding national policy. We ought to have national policy assessed as a result of the intelligence available, because personalities intrude into the way in which policy should be guided.
If we look at our own assessment of intelligence and address it particularly to clause 6 of the Bill we see that the group comprises an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs, an officer of the Department of Defence, a member of the Defence Force and officers of the Australian Public Service. One wonders whether such a group embraces all intelligence areas and can assess them properly. I draw the attention of the House to some of the findings of the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration, with particular reference to what is called the career service. Honourable members will recall that the Prime Minister himself is placing very great emphasis, as he should, on a career service. But a lot of emphasis must also be placed on the intelligence available to the nation. If one looks at the report of the Royal Commission one sees the following finding:
The present characteristics of the ‘career service’ enable the administration to function to some degree as a selfcontained elite group exercising significant power generally in the interests of the status quo but without effectively being accountable for its exercise.
This is the worry that I personally have about the type of group that is being created as the supreme body, known as the National Assessments Board. One would think that when dealing with an assessment of intelligence we would also look at other intelligent Australians who are in the competitive world, bearing in mind that this is an assessment on an international basis and not on a domestic basis. We need to have Australians who are well versed in what is happening overseasvirtually exclusively in what is happening overseas. I think that we need people actively associated with foreign trade, actively interested in foreign exchange activities and certainly interested in the political affairs of other countries.
Let us look back at some of our assessments of international political matters. For a number of years some of those assessments were quite outrageously wrong, not the least of which was our political assessment of the People’s Republic of China. If one looks at the problems of that great community one sees that there was a need for the Chinese to own their land and to exercise political control over it. That could not really have been deemed a threat to this nation but we based the whole of our defence structure on the assessment that there would be a downward thrust by China.
– That was not our intelligence.
-It was virtually the intelligence of John Foster Dulles. The point I am making is that this led to the Vietnam situation as it was thought that China must be contained through Vietnam. If one looks at the situation in Vietnam one realises that a lot of the political activities there were based on the fact that the people wanted to exercise control over their own country. They had been subservient to French domination for years and one could see a national spirit awakening. The peasants had no land ownership at all, and one could see that if there was to be any stability in Vietnam it would have to be related to the fact that the people who worked the land should own it. That was far from the situation. One notices also that the American intervention in Vietnam did not take place until the battle had been virtually lost. The
French had been ousted. It was only then that the Americans were involved. One did not see any involvement by Canada, Great Britain, Japan or any other country. We see that the assessment of intelligence in that area was fallacious. The honourable member for St George should not shake his head. He knows that we were wiped out in the arms struggle in Vietnam and there was no political assessment of the situation.
The peace accords of January 1976 had no chance of success, as one realises if one looks at the way in which they were drawn up. The peace accords were drawn up on the basis that there would be full, free, democratic and independent elections in Vietnam. The problem was that Australia was not even represented in the group which was discussing these matters in Paris. I should have thought that, applying this sort of intelligence, we would have been advised of the particular limitations that were then in force. Then when we went to Vietnam in that false peace situation we could not see a political solution on the basis that had been agreed upon in Paris. Why? It was because President Thieu was not prepared to agree to hold an election which did not provide for a president and which did not allow for him to remain. So what were we doing in this country from the point of view of assessing that intelligence?
If one looks at clause 6 of the Bill one sees that the sort of personnel mentioned there would not dare to mention matters which I have mentioned. If they were to have done that their actions would have been deemed to be against the political interests of this country; certainly they would have been deemed to be against the interests of the United States. But the inevitable happened. The intelligence services of Japan, Great Britain and Canada were not involved in this. Of course, Canada was one of the trustees obliged to maintain the then Truce in Vietnam. One can envisage that our political assessment of the present situation in South Korea, where we have lost a number of men, would be that there is going to be rapid improvement and peace and democracy there. However, I doubt that that will be the situation. But if we were to rely upon our Department of Foreign Affairs we would be told: ‘Yes, things are improving in that area’. Every honourable member knows that the political opponents of the present incumbent in South Korea have been incarcerated; in fact, they have been kidnapped from another country. We can see that there could be further troubles there. We should understand this situation from the point of view of Australia’s intelligence.
I have dealt with the political assessment Now we have to look at the strategic assessment. We are telling the Australian people that they have to spend a lot of money on resources which will protect them. We are telling them that that has to be the situation. But they certainly have some doubts about this position when they see Taiwanese fishing boats able to come across to our fishing waters at any time. We do not seem to have an intelligence complement to deal with these problems. In the hearings of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence we do not hear anybody saying that there is something wrong with that approach. This is because a person who appeared at the hearings would be thinking that it might bring upon him the ire of his Minister if he were to do so.
What we need in a strategic assessments board is independent advice as to what is happening in the international arena and not to be married to a situation which will exist in the proposed composition of the National Assessments Board. One of the weaknesses of the Coombs report, if I may mention it in this way and not as a personal criticism, is that in the hearings which led up to the preparation of that report no evidence was taken from any Minister to ascertain how he thought he would be able to assess the intelligence offered to him. If one looks at the hierarchical structure of the Public Service one sees very clearly that it is too inbred to be able to give an impartial assessment of a situation.
I had some involvement with government factories which support our defence forces. We found that these factories could not get sufficient work to enable them to produce reasonable weapons effectively on a marketable basis. For example, the Lithgow Small Arms Factory produced a very effective small automatic weapon. But it was promptly swamped by American intelligence indicating that that weapon was not to be produced anywhere else. So we are not able to function on an intelligence basis to determine how our government factories can support our defence forces.
How ridiculous it is, from an intelligence assessment point of view, for us to have bought Leopard tanks. We bought them because they were deemed to be the best tanks. There was no facility in this country to manufacture the ammunition. When one looks at this from the point of view of an intelligence assessment on a strategic basis one has great fears that there is too much foreign intelligence in this case. Any normal person in this Parliament would immediately ask: How in the name of fortune were you going to provide the ammunition if you were not designing the capacity to produce it here?’ This was not done. It harks back to the time when we bought Centurion tanks which could not even cross the bridge at Wyong.
We see in Australia this failure to grapple with the problems which can bring down governments. Unless a government is efficient and intelligent and able to assess the needs of a nation the nation will vote against it. But the distinguished gentlemen who will comprise the Assessment Board provided for under clause 6 will not change with governments. They will have continuity of employment because of the promotion situation which exists within the Public Service structure. Any Minister who has looked at the structure of the Public Service will have seen in many cases that the people very close to the top feel that they ought to be at the top. They have all the inhibitions and the normal frailties of any member of parliament but they have the cloak and cover of respectability because they have been in the Service for a long while. That is not good enough in the competitive stakes.
We come then to the economic significance of intelligence. I think it is imperative that we have people in the private enterprise sector, who are closely associated with effective competitive trade, to advise how we ought to look at the economics of a situation. For example, it is quite clear that an intelligent assessment of Japan’s economics would show that there is no hope of our penetrating its beef market and that its sugar market has a very limited potential indeed for Australia. So, from our economic point of view, we ought to be talking about whether we should not change our structure or look for new markets. We should consider whether Australia has a motor vehicle base which will last only for a short time because the Americans, who own the motor vehicle industry, are prepared to move their technology to where there would be a lower labour cost component.
We have all these problems in Australia at the present time. We are fast reaching a crisis situation. If we talk to any Australian we are told that what is wrong with the country is that we have a crisis on our hands. We have this not only because of bad economic management by the present Government but because world forces are using their intelligence to talk about thenmarkets and where they can get outlets and to stifle Australian inventiveness and production. What we want in boards which are dealing with national assessments or economic assessments are not only well meaning, devoted, intelligent public servants, but also people from the community. It would be very helpful indeed to use the expertise of such people and to obtain a second opinion. This is not provided for within this legislation. That is the limitation I find in this Bill.
If we have this career structure of the Public Service whereby perhaps the ultimate for the public servant is to retire at 60 years of age on superannuation and to have no obligations as far as decision making is concerned, we have opted out of a very essential aspect of intelligence. We should be asking: ‘How did you fare in competitive area, whether it be political, strategic or economic? How did you fare in the international stakes? What is your track record?’ The best people to consider are the successful Australiansthe leaders in those areas- and to see whether they would not assess the situation differently. If this were done we might not have been involved in a number of the disasters in which we have been involved.
The future is not so clear either. We have the situation in Papua New Guinea and the problems there have to be intelligently assessed. The situation in Indonesia has to be intelligently assessed. This is important not only in the strategic sense but also the political and economic sense. The situation in America has to be intelligently assessed, particularly in relation to South America. We have to make our own way in the world as Australians. The big crisis in this country has occurred because we do not yet have a national identity. We are all deemed to be somebody else’s preserve, whether it be Great Britain or America. Intelligence comes into this problem.
It would follow in certain cases that if we did not let some of the foreign interests own part of our resources those foreign interests would indicate clearly that there would be no market for our resources because those foreign interests control the international market. We ought to have an intelligent assessment of these problems. We could help our nation by making an intelligent assessment when we talk about commodity control in respect of Third World countries. But we are up against other forces in the world which would find it not at all difficult to confuse the distinguished gentlemen who are provided for in clauses 6 and 7 of the Bill from the point of view of practical expertise, inasmuch as these appointees nominated in the Bill would not have had the same opportunities. We do not see leaders in other nations being confined to a career intelligence service. Of course, the danger is that, although we do not want to say that there will be another strategic holocaust, there could be one and we will not be able to prevent it. The intelligent assessment would be that we could not prevent it but we should be alerted to it. In the political context we ought to be able to understand some of the problems, particularly to our near north where there is autocratic control and where there are not necessarily continuing leaders. It is in that area that there could well be political instability. We can see that happening in countries which I have mentioned. I include among them South Korea.
We then have to consider the economic significance to Australia. Monetary control, exchange rates, trading capacity and export markets all are associated with the difficulties which we have debated here at length for weeks on end. Unless we get an intelligent assessment of what is happening in the world we again will find ourselves being deemed to be a very inferior power. Australia is well endowed with two magnificent resources, natural and human, and it is about time we co-ordinated them in the interests of Australia. It is well known that we can do a lot more towards obtaining an intelligent assessment of where we ought to be heading not only from the nation’s point of view- we have to do that politically- but also from the point of view of international strategy. We have to do that with policies such as those which have been announced against apartheid and other discriminatory measures. The Opposition gives praise for those policies, but there is a lot more to be done. It is at the economic level that we really have to be well informed, because if we fail at that level the other two levels do not count at all. If we lose our economic capacity and work force, we really do not have any political or strategic capacity any more and we are no influence in the world. We want a guarantee that the Australian intelligence is accurately assessed.
It is for those reasons that I would like to see in the clauses which establish the assessment boards provision for the appointment of additional personnel of the type I have mentioned. I think it is mandatory that they be there. We just cannot accept that the Bill is good enough to be left the way it is. I would like to think that the Government and the Prime Minister would have another look at the Bill, not from the point of view of its basic structure but from the point of view of its internal structure and the type of people most needed in Australia to advise on the best use of intelligence.
– I find the speech by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) almost undiscussible because it is quite obvious that he has not the faintest idea what intelligence is all about. He has his own definition of ‘intelligence’ which has the merit of originality but no other merit because his definition is completely divorced from reality. What he has done is to confuse intelligence with the policy which should stem from that intelligence. In so doing, in the confusion of mind which that reveals, he is indicating very clearly to us why the Whitlam Ministry of which he was a member was such an administrative shambles. I can calm him a little on one point he raised. His suggestion of additional people being appointed to the National Assessments Board is covered by clause 6 ( 1 ) of the Bill. The Minister can appoint additional members if he so wishes.
I turn now to more serious matters. I welcome this Bill to establish an Office of National Assessments. It is a step forward in our intelligence arrangements. Mr Justice Hope, in the brief extracts which we have seen from his no doubt voluminous report, correctly divided the intelligence cycle into four sections- direction, collection, processing and dissemination- and I hope that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has noted that definition of intelligence ‘. In my view, probably the only area in which our existing arrangements have been working reasonably well has been in dissemination. This Bill tackles part of the problem of processing. In a speech last May the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced arrangements to improve our organisation in terms of the direction of intelligence by setting up a committee of seven Cabinet Ministers assisted by seven permanent heads of departments. That is a way of improving our direction, but I must say frankly that I find it fairly cumbersome. It could be effective if they are prepared to meet often enough to achieve some expertise, but if they meet infrequently they will not improve the direction of our intelligence services.
In the field of processing, which is what this Bill is all about, there is no doubt that reform was needed because our national assessments were particularly weak in the economic field. Mr Justice Hope undoubtedly was correct when he criticised our past assessment arrangements as being too much under the influence of the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs. I assume that the Joint Intelligence Organisation will continue to be responsible for scientific intelligence and geographic intelligence- geographic, in its widest sense- as well as its purely military functions.
This is not quite in accordance with the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope. He recommended that most of the Joint Intelligence Organisation be transferred to this new Office of National Assessments. In his speech last May the Prime Minister said:
Consequently, the Joint Intelligence Organisation will continue under its present title and with its existing functions, except those in the area of national assessments and current intelligence which will be transferred to the new Office.
I do not disagree with that, but I draw attention to this as an area where the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope have not been followed. Although I approve of the establishment of the Office of National Assessments, I have some concern about its membership. I have a great admiration for our officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, most of whom are people of considerable ability. However, skill m intelligence processing is not conspicuous amongst their abilities. Processing- the third link in the chain of direction, collection, processing and disseminationrequires a special type of brain because it is properly defined as the process by which information becomes intelligence through evaluation, analysis, integration and interpretation. As Mr Justice Hope put it, ‘assessment calls for a quality of refined judgment on a mass of material about international matters very little of which is clear fact’.
I have not been able to put my finger on why officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs generally are not very good at this. It must stem from their training and departmental approach. I think it comes partly from their habit of trying to back every horse in the race so that no matter what happens they can say they predicted it. Anyone who has had the task of reading the voluminous and extraordinarily verbose reports which come from our overseas embassies will know exactly what I mean. Winston Churchill once said that the only way to read a Foreign Office document was to omit every second paragraph because those paragraphs always started with ‘On the other hand’. I do not know whether that is fair, but our Department of Foreign Affairs certainly is modelled very closely on the British Foreign Office. Anyone who doubts the limitations of the intelligence processing ability of the British Foreign Office should study the history of its intelligence assessments over the interwar and Second World War years. The records are becoming available now. Over those years its track record was markedly worse than that of the armed Services on political and strategic matters.
I should like to make it quite clear that I am not criticising the incumbents of the positions of
Director-General of the Office of National Assessments and Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, both of whom are former Foreign Affairs officers. They are distinguished officers and appear to be exceptions to the general rule that Foreign Affairs officers do not make good intelligence officers. However, the rule remains true. What concerns me is that, under the Bill before us, of the five people who will comprise the National Assessments Board three will be from the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have been assured by the Prime Minister that the posts of Director-General of the Office of National Assessments and Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation will be filled by the best qualified persons available and that those posts will in no way be a preserve of the Department of Foreign Aif airs. This is in accordance with the recommendation of Mr Justice Hope who said in his report:
No department should have a right to appoint its nominee as Director-General.
It is important to draw that to the attention of this House, because when the old Joint Intelligence Committee was formed the Department of Foreign Affairs agreed to co-operate only on the basis that it provided the chairman of the Committee and, most regrettably, it was allowed to get away with it. The chairmen it provided were sometimes good and sometimes not so good, but seldom did they have any intelligence experience. The post became merely one of the routine, rotating Foreign Affairs jobs.
Our intelligence suffered seriously as a result. If the key jobs in the intelligence community are open to all departments, of course Department of Foreign Affairs officers will sometimes be the most suitable, but for the reasons I have advanced I believe this will be the exception rather than the rule.
In relation to the appointment of a distinguished individual as Director-General of the Office of National Assessments the Government and the Prime Minister, must beware of using him as an instant adviser on every intelligence matter. The Director-General is only as well informed as the staff which supports him. He is no instant genius in intelligence matters. Using him for snap judgments on intelligence matters would be a very dangerous misuse of his position. When we look at intelligence I think we have to accept the explanation given by Professor Trevor Roper, who stated:
Intelligence, in fact, is indivisible. The greater part of it must always be acquired by open or official methods. Only a relatively small area requires secret penetration, or espionage. Nevertheless that small area may be vital … it must always be continuous with ‘open ‘ intelligence.
This, of course, is the area in which the Department of Foreign Affairs has an important input role, not an assessing role. It should also play a key role in the direction of intelligence, and a significant role through its post reports in intelligence collection. Although it is true that these post reports are probably less important in the secret area than other methods of intelligence such as electronic intercepts, code breaking, clandestine agents and satellite observations, nevertheless they have a part to play.
I make one other point about the Office of National Assessments. Mr Justice Hope in his report stated:
Australia cannot hope to know everything that is going on in every part of the world. But we can try to keep informed about what people are doing and planning in areas of special significance to us. That requires us to be discriminating in choosing subjects for intelligence, collection and assessment.
I add a point to that. We rely heavily on the interchange of intelligence, both raw and processed, with friendly allies. We have a lot to offer to allies in the form of raw intelligence. Our expertise in some fields is such that we have something to offer in the form of processed intelligence. However, the quality of our processed intelligence will be good only if our allies provide us with their relevant raw intelligence, Further it would be very uneconomic for us to try to produce processed intelligence on the full range of our interests. For these reasons our relations with our allies are of key importance to the efficiency of our intelligence. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) did a great disservice to our continuing relations in this field with the United States by his unjustified slur on United States intelligence officials in Australianot all of them from the Central Intelligence Agency by the way- for the Leader of the Opposition well knows that these officials are here with the knowledge and approval of the Australian Government for the valuable and appropriate role of the exchange of information.
Of course, no one in the Parliament is in a position to deny absolutely that the CIA had any hand in the downfall of the Whitlam Government. The record of the way in which the CIA for some years was virtually out of control is well known. But it is a wildly improbable hypothesis. The Whitlam Government needed no external assistance to destroy itself. It was doing a very good job on its own from sheer muddle and incompetence. It is typical of the Whitlam paranoia to blame someone else, anyone else, for his faults. What is regrettable is the way in which, seeking to absolve himself, the Leader of the Opposition does not mind how much he damages important relations with our allies. As usual, he talks first and thinks second. That is enough about the Leader of the Opposition who is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
I support the Bill because it provides a valuable step forward in our intelligence organisation, although I shall move a small amendment at the Committee stage which I think will give better effect to the intentions of the Government, or what I believe should be the purpose of the Government.
– A debate about security is traditionally a fairly bipartisan debate in the House but, Mr Acting Speaker, you will pardon me if I feel freed of any of those constraints after the contributions of both Government supporters. We are considering four basic materials in this debate. First, and by far the most helpful, are the abridged findings and recommendations of Mr Justice Hope as part of his third report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. Along with that we have the tabling statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of 5 May, his second reading speech on the Office of National Assessments Bill, and the Bill. I draw attention to elements involved in all four and inconsistencies between them. Another matter which attracted my attention was the question of the participants in the debate.
Like the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen) I am rather staggered that the Prime Minister did not think this was an important enough matter to involve himself in the debate on the second reading and at the Committee stage. In saying that I in no way reflect on the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Garland) who is at the table. I would have thought that this is an important subject. I thought the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) leant over backwards to be far too fair in his assessment of the Government’s response to Mr Justice Hope’s findings and recommendations. Nonetheless, this is one of the debates at which we look with more than usual interest at the advisers’ benches in order to see some of our intelligence community unmasked. We look too at some of the participants in the debate. We see two Government members blowing their cover. They are two members with defence backgrounds and I assume, therefore, that they have some kind of intelligence background.
I deal firstly with a couple of the points made by both Government supporters who have participated in the debate. Not unusually, the one who was least able to comprehend what the Bill purported to do was the honourable member for t George (Mr Neil) who, when I heard him, talked about his concern that there seemed to be some sort of abandonment of covert action in the collection of intelligence. Concern about those matters misses the whole point of this assessment agency whose purpose is merely to assess intelligence collected by other Government security bodies. The collection of intelligence is no part of the charter of the Office of National Assessments. He then went on to talk in the simplistic terms of the 1950s and the worst part of the 1960s in which he played no small part. He talked about our overseas adversaries. Our best starting point in relation to the security interest in this country is one of the statements made by Mr Justice Hope in which he talked about Australia’s national security interests. In Part C of his findings and in paragraph 45 he stated:
Australia’s intelligence interests do not, and cannot, coincide with those of any other country.
That cannot bear repeating too often because in the Parliament and outside it members of the Australian Labor Party have constantly asserted the need for an independent Australian assessment of world situations and have been condemned as unpatriotic and traitors. Yet here is a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, a man commissioned by the Australian Labor Party Government, whose commission has been continued by the Fraser Government, making that assessment as one of his key findings and as one of the assumptions upon which he goes on to make every other finding in his abridged report. He has said that Australia’s intelligence interests can never of their essence coincide with those of any other country. I commend to honourable members the statement which appears in paragraph 40 of Mr Justice Hope ‘s abridged report which we have before us. He stated: it would be naive to imagine that overseas governments will always tell us everything they know about a particular matter.
That has to be our starting point in relation to the way in which we structure not simply the intelligence collection functions of the Australian Government, but more importantly, also the matter we are discussing here today which is the assessment of that intelligence.
The honourable member for Isaacs quoted from the report of Mr Justice Hope, without attribution, the words of Professor Trevor Roper. He went on to draw the distinction between open and covert intelligence, the usefulness of both and their distinct inter-relationship. No one disputes that for a moment. But we are dealing in this debate with the assessment agency which has been established.
The honourable member for Isaacs was at pains to criticise the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith for his constant references to the word ‘intelligence’ but we are talking about intelligence in this debate. In the Bill which establishes the Office of National Assessments the word ‘intelligence’ is used in sub-clause ( 1 ) (d) of clause 5. That sub-clause deals with international intelligence. But at every other level it talks about information.
While the Bill attracts no opposition from the Labor Party in this House, to my mind it is somewhat less than adequate in giving effect to Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations. One of Mr Jusdee Hope’s specific findings- it is a specific finding which the Government felt it ought to make public- is to be found in paragraph 48 of his report. It reads:
At present, the intelligence assessment process suffers from too great control by the Defence Department and Defence Committee on the one hand, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, on the other.
That was his finding. Mr Justice Hope made no recommendation for the establishment of an agency which had to report to two boards. It is on that point that the Prime Minister once again has been far too coy with the Parliament. In the statement that he made on S May he said that there were variations in the decisions reached by the Government and the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope. It would be much more, useful to legislators if the Government went on from that to show us in what respect the decisions varied from those recommendations. But in fact the Government has left it to us all to do it.
But one does not have to look too far to see that Mr Justice Hope’s report is a very strong critique of the role played in the intelligence community in Australia over the last couple of decades by the Joint Intelligence Organisation. He went on to suggest the establishment of a new intelligence assessments agency because of the deficiencies that have been shown up in the performance of the JIO. What is the Government’s response to that? Is the Government’s response to ensure, since it insists on setting out the functions of the Office, that it concerns itself with political, strategic and economic matters of significance to Australia? I think all honourable members would agree that those three matters are inter-related. No, the Government proceeded to constitute quite artificially two boards- the National Assessments Board and the Economic Assessments Board. It proceeded quite artificially to draw a distinction between the kinds of assessments that can be made in the present world situation for Australia.
Proposed section 6 of the Bill establishes a National Assessments Board. It will be seen that that Board, which is to be dominated by the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs, has to concern itself with matters not primarily involving economic considerations. I suppose, by a process of elimination, that means that it has to concern itself with political and strategic matters. Political and strategic matters go to the essence of economic matters, but now they will be considered by the Economic Assessments Board. An examination of the Bill reveals that the Economic Assessments Board is to be composed of members of the Australian Public Service and an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Prime Minister in his second reading speech went on to refer to the sorts of departments that he felt would contribute to the personnel on each of those boards. That seems to me to overlook completely the conclusion reached by Mr Justice Hope, namely, that there must be an integrated approach to the intelligence assessment function. That cannot be achieved while it is insisted that there be established two boards whose interests are artificially seen to be quite separate. The Prime Minister was at great pains in both of his statements- that of 5 May which was made when he tabled Mr Justice Hope’s abridged report, and his second reading speech when introducing this Bill- to talk about the independence of the Office of National Assessments. The Bill provides that the reports of that Office are not to be subject to any direction in relation to their contents or their conclusions. That is very carefully set out in the Bill, and I think it is to be commended. I do not argue, naturally, with that provision.
But if one looks at the way in which the Office is supposed to work, one sees that the functioning of it will be much more complicated than that. The matters to be assessed by the DirectorGeneral are ones on which he must report to each of the boards after he has made his assessment. Also the Director-General must consult with each board in relation to each assessment. What that means is that each of those boards is to be given two bites of the cherry. The DirectorGeneral of the Office of National Assessments is told that when he makes an assessment he must consult with the appropriate assessments board in relation to that assessment. That puts the Director-General in a somewhat invidious position. Let us face it; it is the Parliament which is laying down that direction. The Government is not doing so, but the Parliament is saying to the Director-General: ‘You must consult with the appropriate board’. But how is he to make that assessment? How is he to say that it is a matter which concerns the Economic Assessments Board and not the so-called National Assessments Board? What nonsense! What an absurd duplication of bureaucracy to inflict upon this new Office and the head of this new Office !
We lay down in the Bill which is before us that, having consulted with those boards, the Director-General is not to be subject to any direction in relation to the contents or conclusions in a report that he makes. But we then say that he must submit that report to the appropriate board once again. It is of no use our saying that we are establishing this Office of National Assessments as an independent assessment agency while at the same time we hamstring it in this way by writing into the legislation directions to the Director-General which are so vague that he will be cautious in going about his duties. The effect of that will be nothing less than to imperil the security of this country, if we hamstring him in that way.
Honourable members on both sides are agreed that if the Joint Intelligence Organisation is not functioning correctly and if we are to establish a new intelligence assessment agency which is to command the respect and support desired by both major political parties in this country, it must attract first class personnel. The Leader of the Opposition has said that we for our part applaud the choice and character of the person appointed as Director-General. Equally important, of course, is the quality of the men and women appointed to the Office. Proposed section 17 of the Bill deals with the staff of the Office. I think the honourable member for St George had some reservations which I would share about the fact that the Director-General may appoint, with the approval of the Public Service Board, persons from outside the Public Service. If we are serious about intelligence and security in this country, we ought to insist- the appropriation for that Office is voted by this Parliament- that the Director-General not be subject to any scrutiny by the Public Service Board. I agree that to an extent he should be subject to the scrutiny of the Auditor-General.
Hopefully one day the Parliament, by means of a parliamentary committee, will be taken into the confidence of the security services in this country, in the same way as the United States Congress is taken into the confidence of the security services in that country by means of its Congressional committees. I believe that it is quite unreasonable that the Director-General should be hamstrung by being subject to the veto of the Public Service Board in relation to the qualifications and the numbers of people he appoints to the Office.
I come back to a very alarming statement in the second reading speech of the Prime Minister. It is one with which the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith took issue. The statement was:
The Office will avoid comment or advice regarding policy, although its assessments should obviously have relevance to, and assist in, policy formation. The Office will be subject to policy control and managerial oversight through the Committee of Ministers on Intelligence and Security . . .
We do not see that mechanism set out in the Bill. With the greatest respect to the honourable member for Isaacs, whose bona fides in this issue I do not dispute for a moment, that is standing the issue on its head. Assessments of intelligence ought to have regard to policy but ought not to be dictated by policy considerations. Policy is formulated as a result of those assessments. This is the point that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith was making. In relation to the collection of intelligence, of course, all security services in Australia will need to have regard to policy directions given by the government of Australia. In relation to the assessment of information received by the Office of National Assessments, the Office and its Director-General must not feel constrained by the prejudices of the government of the day. They must offer their advice fearlessly so that the best policy can be developed as a result of that assessment. I think the honourable member for Isaacs, to the extent that he was critical of the intelligence of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith on this issue, did the Parliament something of a disservice.
I refer now to some of the meaningless jargon which is incorporated in this Bill. It should have no place in a legislative measure considered by the Parliament. Clause S sets out the functions of the Office and refers to the furnishing of reports to appropriate Ministers and other appropriate persons’. I have had occasion previously to refer to the constant use of the word ‘appropriate’ in the rhetoric of the Prime Minister. In that context it might be forgiven as being a loaded subjective judgment that conservatives can use when it suits them; but to put it in an Act of Parliament such as this is absolutely meaningless. If it means ‘to persons as directed by Ministers’, let it say so. To say ‘appropriate’, and to insist that we have in our bureaucracy persons who somehow, by an objective standard can be determined as being appropriate to receive intelligence assessments and reports from the Office of National Assessments, is, of course, a nonsense, and we ought to have nothing of it.
I conclude by paying respect to Mr Justice Hope for his very worthwhile report. The report has exposed to me, as I think it has to most other members, the workings of the intelligence agencies in a very clear fashion, in a way which sets out what ought to be a clear view of the national interest. It is something which has been neglected for too long in Australia. The Prime Minister, in his 5 May tabling statement, skated over the question of the briefing of Leaders of the Opposition on security matters. Honourable members opposite may not be aware that for many years that had not been a standard practice in Australia, contrary to the practice pursued in other countries in the Western world, particularly the United Kingdom. We ought to hope that this tradition continues. To the extent that Mr Justice Hope was able to bring fresh light to bear on an area that has remained too grey, an area about which too many members of this Parliament have had to learn from informed leaks in newspapers, he is to be commended. However, I feel it is regrettable that the Government has felt that it has had to buckle under to the foreign affairs-defence establishment and to establish quite unnecessarily two boards to assist, supposedly, this Office of National Assessments.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– Before I deal directly with this Office of National Assessments Bill, I wish to say a few words about what has been said by previous speakers. I notice that several Opposition speakers criticised the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for not taking part in this debate. I know that the Leader of the Opposition took part. He spoke for some six minutes. What he said was pertinent and what he indicated with regard to this Bill was very relevant. I will go so far as to quote what he said on 5 May. He said:
I believe that nothing but benefit to the nation can come from having governments fully and responsibly apprised of matters of such great national concern.
He adopted a thoroughly bipartisan attitude towards this Bill which, I am afraid Opposition speakers who followed did not do. I think that is a pity, although I am sure that in principle the Australian Labor Party would support this Bill, as I am sure everyone in this House would. It is quite obvious that in the past Australia has not been well served by its intelligence services. I think Mr Justice Hope summed it up very well and somewhat brutally when he said:
The Australian intelligence community is fragmented, poorly co-ordinated and organised. The agencies lack proper guidance, direction and control. They do sot have good or close relations with the system of government they should serve.
That is a very bad state of affairs for any government to face. I hope that our intelligence services, other than the Office of National Assessments which is to be formed, have learnt from that. I imagine that they have, and that they are doing their homework much better now than they did when Mr Justice Hope wrote those remarks.
I also take to task the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) for taunting honourable members on this side- particularly the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil)- for continually parroting the phrase the downward thrust of China’. That is completely wrong. It is a misquotation. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith might be concerned about the downward thrust of China, but what everyone should be worried about is the downward thrust of communism. I ask him to look at the present situation in Vietnam. I also ask him to consider the number of refugees who have been streaming out of that country and going to other countries and the great number of refugees who probably have failed to reach the haven of a country that will look after them. Why are they leaving? The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith criticises members on this side of the House for even expressing the opinion that they could be endeavouring to escape from the communist oppression. I also ask him: What is happening in Cambodia now? He shrugs all this off, and takes not the slightest notice of it. In fact, he could well be on the side of those people who are oppressing the unfortunate natives of Vietnam and Cambodia. I ask him: What is happening in Thailand? He is criticising us, and he has misnamed it. I am criticising the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith for naming the Chinese in this respect. Obviously he and not us is against the Chinese. But we are against the general downward thrust of communism.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) again criticised the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
– He criticises everyone.
-That could well be so. But the honourable member criticised the Prime Minister for not being in the chamber and for not playing a part in the debate. It appears from his remarks that he is not at one with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) who, as I said, supports this Bill in a bipartisan manner and made the remarks about which I spoke on 5 May.
The Office of National Assessments will be concerned with assessing intelligence about international developments but not the domestic situations. It will make assessments on international matters which are of national importance. We have to realise that there are many matters of international importance which coincide and interlock with matters of national importance. I hope to be able to mention some of them later in my speech. Mr Justice Hope said that it would be naive to imagine that overseas governments, no matter whether they are our close allies or represent governments with which we deal either in the trade area or diplomatically, will tell us all the information. I understand that the Office of National Assessments will not gather information in an underhand manner. But I wonder whether it can operate in this way when people in the trade area, ibr instance, are always endeavouring to find out how the other side is doing and what their marketing or technical plans are.
There are two forms of functioning. The first is the gathering of information in a clandestine manner and the second is the gathering and assessment of information for the benefit of whichever government is in power. That is what the real role of the Office is supposed to be. Mr Justice Hope, in the report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security, said:
The intelligence function is relevant to the formulation of national policies in a number of areas outside the area of defence and politics.
Therefore that function can include the trade and culture situation. The Office could assess information in respect of these areas in other countries and collate it to the benefit of Australia.
I believe that the establishment of the Office of National Assessments is a tremendous step forward. In the past we appear to have been found lacking to a great extent in the approach of our intelligence services to gathering information that should have been obtained. As an outsider one does not really know what information is at this nation’s fingertips. But one wonders whether Australia was in possession of the information that we should have had. No benefit seemed to be derived from any assessment of such information which we should have.
The emphasis in this Bill is on a bipartisan approach. As I pointed out earlier, the Prime Minister joined in this bipartisan approach and briefed the Leader of the Opposition on the legislation. The Leader of the Opposition responded by supporting the Bill. The Office is to be non-political. I hope that it will be. I am certain that Mr Justice Hope’s recommendations are aimed at attaining the introduction of a non-political approach in respect of the assessment of intelligence material.
Let me mention some of the areas in which we should be assessing intelligence. One such area is commercial intelligence. We do not seem to have made much impression in this area. We do not seem to have any sort of policy in respect of information concerning the export of cattle. This is something at which the proposed Office should look. There are markets for our cattle throughout the world. I know that one can say: ‘Oh yes, but that is a trade matter.’ Should not all areas of government activity work closely together to obtain and to assess information on overseas markets? We should be assessing the attitudes of our near neighbours, the Timorese or the Indonesians, and monitoring any movements in their trading needs. We should be obtaining normal intelligence and service intelligence information. I believe that the Office of National Assessments could render great assistance to Australia by assessing information and giving advice to the Government in respect of countries to our north. Benefits could accrue to those nations and to us. A 200-mile offshore territorial zone around Australia has been established. The zone extends to Ashmore Reef and Cartier Island off our north-west coast. We should be in possession of information regarding what Indonesia and various other nations are thinking and doing and what sorts of actions we should take. We need more than just defence information. At the moment our Defence Forces are very thinly spread. But we should be assessing these attitudes, especially with regard to the 200-mile fishing zone.
It is regrettable that a special branch involved in intelligence gathering was done away with during the period of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975. I know that it was only a small branch but it supplied a great deal of most vital information and played a very important role. Yet, virtually at the drop of a hat, it was completely wiped out. I think that any Australian government of any political colour should welcome any intelligence information, whether that information relates to drugs, people coming to Australia, birds being exported from Australia and so on. Therefore, I suggest that the gathering and assessment of military, civil and cultural intelligence should be inter-related. Before resuming my seat, I commend Mr Justice Hope on his able effort in producing the report which is the basis of this Bill, which I support.
-Today I represent the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who has carriage of this Bill. He apologises for his inability to be here as it was important for him to attend certain meetings. However, I make a point which may have been overlooked by one speaker in the debate. The Prime Minister delivered the second reading speech on this Bill. On behalf of the Government I thank the Opposition for its general support of the Bill. I acknowledge and thank the Opposition for many of the remarks that were made. I shall bring to the attention of the Prime Minister the major arguments put forward by speakers in the debate. But I want to say that I know the Government has given most careful consideration to the reports of the Hope Royal Commission in coming to its conclusions which are embodied in this Bill. While the Government did not take up all the recommendations made in the Hope reports it considered the matters, and it received advice from its advisers. Nevertheless, the Bill certainly embodies the three major principles of creating independence, centralising the role of the National Assessments Office and giving it a wider role, particularly in the economic held.
The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) made a number of comments to which I will respond briefly. He was particularly concerned about clandestine intelligence. I am advised that the Office of National Assessments is not authorised to collect intelligence by clandestine means. I make that clear. The Prime Minister foreshadowed this in his statement on intelligence and security arrangements on 5 May and reaffirmed it in his second reading speech on 15 September. The Office will, of course, use information obtained by others, sometimes by clandestine means.
I emphasis that this Bill must be read in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s two statements of 5 May and 15 September. This was acknowledged by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitiam). The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) spent a good deal of his speech referring to the composition of the National Assessments Board. He said he believed that others should also be on it. In another part of his speech he referred to the limitations he found in this Bill. I draw his attention to the provisions in clause 6(1) which states:
Sub-clause (2) mentions specific people who must be on the National Assessments Board. I make it clear that there is provision for the Government- I am not foreshadowing what its action may be- to make such appointments as it sees fit but it is bound to appoint at least those persons who are specifically referred to in subclause (2).
-I made the point that they were all public servants.
– I understand that. I repeat what I said a moment ago. I will communicate to the Prime Minister the major arguments put forward in the debate. In particular, the force of argument of the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith will come under his notice. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Hamer) foreshadowed that he will move an amendment to this Bill in respect of the appointment to the Board referred to in clause 6 (2) (b). In order to save a little time I must indicate at this stage that the Government is not prepared to accept that amendment. The Joint Intelligence Organisation is not a statutory body. The Government does not believe that it ought to be mentioned specifically in a Bill. It would need to be mentioned if the Director was in every case to be a member of the Board. However, it is the Government’s intention to appoint the most senior civilian in the Joint Intelligence Organisation. As long as the Joint Intelligence Organisation remains a section of the Department of Defence as it is at present it would be expected that the Director would fill the position referred to in clause 6 (2) (b).
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam)- I thank him for his kindness to me- seemed to find considerable faults with the Bill. He offered considerable criticism of it. I was left wondering whether he proposed to vote against it because his criticisms were farreaching. But I understand that that is not his intention. To some extent he seemed to be at cross purposes with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Perhaps that is commendable independence but not, therefore, Labor policy. Anyway, I shall leave that for others to consider. The Government commends this Bill to the House. I should mention that not long ago I learnt that the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) also proposes to move an amendment. For the record I should say that I learnt of that at 3.27 p.m. Because the Government regards this as a most serious Bill and has given it very lengthy consideration I could not accept such an amendment. For that reason the Government shall oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together.
– At the Committee stage I direct attention to a small piece of pretentiousness which is not essential to the Bill or the office it creates but is characteristic of Liberal legislation and bureaucracy. The Bill creates the post of Director-General of the Office of National Assessments. The Billprovides no directors. Mr Justice Hope’s Royal Commission report and the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did not envisage any such posts of director. I had something to say on this matter when I moved the second reading of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill 1975 on 8 October 1975.I said:
The Bill provides for the official title of the head of ASIO to be changed from ‘Director-General’ to ‘Director’. In November last year, the Government agreed that, in Australian Government organisations, the title ‘Director’ should ordinarily be used in preference to ‘Director-General ‘except in the case of organisations with significant State offices headed by ‘Directors’.
I interpolate that these are organisations such as the Department of Social Security. I went on:
Expression has been given to this policy in other legislationfor example in the course of the passage of the Australian Development Assistance Agency Bill through this House in December 1974 the title ‘Director-General wherever appearing was changed to ‘Director’. This was agreed to without division.
On 25 February last year, in speaking to the same Bill when it was introduced by the present Government, I expanded my comments thus:
My attention was first directed to it-
That is the use of the term Director-General- when I looked at the draft of the Australian National Gallery Bill. The post provided for in that Bill was Director-General of the national gallery. I thought this was a bit pretentious because the head of the National Gallery in London has never been more than a director, the head of the National Gallery in Washington has never been more than a director.
I might interpolate to say that both collections are quite good and a mere director is able to supervise them and augment them. I went on to say:
I thought we were promoting ourselves a bit excessively by saying that the head of the Australian National Gallery should be a director-general. I notice, of course, at the same time that the head of the Australian National Library is a director-general. There were no other persons employed in the Gallery or the Library who had the title of director.
I thought I would direct attention to this matter once again. I do not believe that Mr Furlonger or any of his successors, equally distinguished as they may be, would be one bit less effective or impressive if they were to be given the title of director. I do not see what we gain by making people directors-general when in fact there are no directors under them. I do not propose to move an amendment.
Clauses agreed to.
1 ) The functions of the Office are- (a)
– I move:
In sub-clause ( 1) (b), after ‘persons’ add- ‘and, where appropriate and subject to the concurrence of the Minister, to arrange for the publication of such reports or assessments. ‘
I think this matter is vital in this context. It is important that some things be public although nobody suggests that everything should be public. The information collected is not to be clandestine so that the matter of secrecy does not arise and the Minister, if he thinks that something should not be public, should have a right to stop it being public.
But I want to point out what is happening. Our enemies, particularly our communist enemies, are moving in the domain of public opinion. It is no good having namby pamby reports put out to Ministers that do not reach the public because all over the world the communists are taking our people away from us gradually by means of propaganda and our Department of Foreign Affairs will not oppose it.
The Department will not even let us know what is happening in Russia. Time and time again I have asked Ministers to give us factual reports of what is happening in Russia and have been told that this would not be done because it would offend the Soviet authorities. This is absolutely ridiculous. It is in the domain of public opinion that the damage is being done. This snide propaganda war is going on all the time and we do not retaliate because we have no access to the Soviet people. We cannot tell the Soviet people what is happening here, and the Soviet Union continues to tell uslies. The Soviet is lying continuously about conditions in its own country behind the Iron Curtain. We hear all this nonsense about their adopting freedoms and so on and we are falling for it. Here in Australia and in England and America- in fact all over the world- we are falling for this nonsense.
We need publication of the facts. We are talking about a proposal to set up a ‘think tank’, if you like to call it that. We are discussing the setting up of an apparatus which is eminently suitable for letting our people know the real facts and to correct at least to some extent the continuous dereliction of duty on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs, under Labor and Liberal-Country Party governments alike, in trying to cover up the sins of the Soviet and to allow the Soviet to mislead our people by a campaign of lies
I recall the 1930s in the days of Intourist. Everybody was going to Russia and upon their return they were saying how lovely everything was there. That was the time of the Stalinist purges and the murder of millions. All that was going on and it was all covered up. We are covering up now and it is damn well time that this stopped. It is time that the Government got off its tail and did something about it. Unfortunately I have to say that this Government as well as past governments has been sitting on its tail in this regard. For heavens sake, stop it.
Clause agreed to.
The National Assessments Board shall include-
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Garland) has answered the point of this amendment to some extent, but if he has given us the brief as supplied by the Government I think the Government has misunderstood the value and the purpose of my amendment. Therefore I would like to explain it again. According to the second reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Bill itself, membership of the National Assessments Board is evidently to consist of the Director-General of the Board, with members from the Defence Force the Department of Foreign Affairs and an officer with expertise in economics. That leaves uncovered the areas of scientific intelligence, geographic intelligence and industrial intelligence. These are part of the functions of the Intelligence Organisation. Evidently that gap is to be filled by the person referred to in clause 6(2) (b), as an officer of the Department of Defence. Normally it would be the Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation who at the moment is a Foreign Affairs officer.
I do not want to re-open my remarks on the intelligence role of officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs; I merely want to make the point that the Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation should be on the Board. I believe that more often than not that officer will be a member of the armed forces. Therefore we should not constrain the members of the National Assessments Board. It is constrained at the moment because it excludes the Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation from being a member of the National Assessments Board if he is a service officer. Therefore I have moved the amendment so that that position is to be held by the Director of the Joint Intelligence Organisation instead of a member of the Department of Defence.
I do not accept as valid the reason given by the Minister- that to put the Joint Intelligence Organisation into an Act is bad. I regard it as good because if and when the Government wishes to change the structure of the Joint Intelligence Organisation it would have to bring an amending Bill into the Parliament and this House could discuss the new organisation. I regard the argument advanced by the Minister not as being an argument against my proposal but rather as an argument in favour of it. In view of the fact that the Government is not prepared to accept this amendment, although I think it is important I would be prepared to accept an assurance by the Minister that this matter will be considered by the Government and, if necessary, I will endeavour to have it raised in the Senate.
– The Government when it received notice of this amendment only a few hours ago had an opportunity to consider it briefly. The Government came to the conclusion that it should not be agreed to for the reasons I mentioned in replying to the second reading debate. If the honourable member is asking me to ask the Government to have another look at it, I certainly am prepared to do that; but I would not like turn to think that I was holding out any hope that the Government is likely to agree with it.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 5 October.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $241,1 18,000.
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $23,592,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $1 18,000,000.
-In speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Treasury I want in particular to devote some attention to the Australian Taxation Office. It is now eight years since I was elected to the House of Representatives and therefore it is eight years since I earned a living as a taxation consultant. I retain from those days an admiration for what seems to me to be a well run taxation department operating in a very difficult and sensitive field. When I was a taxation practitioner I never ceased to marvel at the helpfulness of officers of the Taxation Office. They often were put under great provocation by dissatisfied clients- this applied in particular to members of the assessments and investigations branches of the Office- yet they seemed to go about their tasks with courtesy, and they retained a politeness and good manners which so often are missing in the modern world, even in less difficult circumstances and in much less sensitive departments than the Taxation Office. I know that my views were shared by many colleagues in the profession with whom I was in contact in those days, and I have no reason to believe that that does not apply today.
With a twinkle in my eye, I own up to that being a bit of honest softening up for what I am about to say. As good and as efficient as the Taxation Office is and as polite and as courteous as its officers are, it is not nearly good enough that virtually all the research and policy formation in this intricate and difficult field is going on in that Office. I use the word ‘virtually’ because I realise that policy formation is supplemented by the thinking of a few officers in the Department of the Treasury and also in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The point is that it is not good enough, in my opinion, to allow taxation policy formulation to go on virtually solely in the Public Service. There must be much more input at an earlier stage from outside the public sector.
At the present time I know of only two people from outside the public sector who are making any substantial contribution to the taxation debate in our community. I refer to Mr Eric Risstrom of the Taxpayers Association based in Victoria and Associate Professor Peter Groenewegen of the University of Sydney. They would be the first to agree with me that it is not good enough that they would be the only ones who are making any substantial contribution. With their limited resources, I am sure that they also would agree with me and would be the first to admit that they are mainly reacting to what has been done- seeking changes, sometimes successfullyrather than having an input into promoting changes in advance of those coming forward to this Parliament.
On 7 October 1971, six years ago tomorrow, I spoke on this subject in this same Treasury estimates debate, and I am proud to say that I do not withdraw one bit of what I said then. I am glad to notice that the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) is quickly turning to his Hansard to check what I said on that occasion. One of my main points on that occasion was to advocate the establishment of an Australian taxation foundation. It should and must, for success, be financed by both the public sector and the private sector. This foundation should be charged with the task of commissioning research into taxation and the economic and social implications of taxation policy. My concept and the concept of those who support the establishment of such a body is for a small secretariat to be commissioning research in very many different areas and by different people, such as scholars from the universities, appropriately qualified public servants, tax practitioners, and lawyers and accountants who are in tax practice. These are the sorts of people outside the Taxation Office who should be commissioned to carry out various tax research projects. There should be an interesting and valuable public debate arising out of their findings, which should be published regularly.
This advocacy of mine, now spanning six years in this Parliament alone- although I remember that I had something to say about these matters long before coming into this Parliament-is nothing very revolutionary. There has been a Canadian Taxation Foundation, which provides a model for what I want, which has existed since 1945. There is the Institute of Fiscal Studies in the United Kingdom which has existed since 1971. We have here in our own country the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economics and Social Research operating in a similar format to the one I envisage but of course hardly touching the important subject of taxation because, as its name denotes, it is commissioning independent research into applied economic subjects other than taxation and social research.
-It receives $2,900 in these estimates.
-As the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has said, it receives $2,900 in the very estimates that we are debating. I know that the honourable member will be entering into this debate later. He will understand that, much as I would like to discuss the Melbourne Institute and the valuable work it has done, in the short time available to me I intend to concentrate on the setting up of a similar body in the taxation field. We also have some encouraging developments in the private sector towards the type of taxation foundation envisaged. I refer to the fact that three taxation practitioners in Sydney have set up a body called the Australian Tax Research Foundation. However, as I understand the position, it is lying dormant while they view the fortunes of a project recently established by the Taxation Institute of Australia. I believe that the Institute has appointed a research officer and that some work is under way.
I make the bold assertion that relatively little will be done until government takes an interest and carries some of the financial burden, as it does in the case of the Melbourne Institute. This will encourage corporations and individuals in the private sector to back the foundation- firstly, because they will realise that the Government is interested in its findings and, secondly, because they will be aware that it is a body of substance with a continuing existence.
To me the registered organisation of the three Sydney practitioners will be a satisfactory starting point. I have not viewed its constitution, but from the report that has been conveyed to me by one of its founders it would seem that the three practitioners have the same ideas as the ones I have expressed. I hope that with the Government’s imprimatur or backing the Taxation Institute will come in behind this particular foundation with the resources of that worthwhile organisation. It would have to be a separate foundation with its own constitution and with adequate government representation. It would not be possible, in my view, for the Government to subsidise a separate research section of an independent body like the Taxation Institute.
It is so much clearer to us after the recent Budget announcements that there is a desperate need for such a taxation research body. Bills which still have to be introduced and which are part and parcel of the Budget will give legislative backing to some extraordinarily unwise tax changes contained in this Budget. I refer in particular to the changes in the tax scales. Let me read out what the 8 September 1977 edition of Church Scene, a Victorian Anglican newspaper, had to say in its editorial about the new tax scales: a community which passively allows a maximum benefit to the very rich is being callous not tough.
Widening the gap between rich and poor may be an incentive for the rich, but it reveals a complete lack of interest in the problems of the poor amongst us.
I cannot believe that, if there were a proper research foundation in the community, such slovenly tax changes would have been introduced. I am not putting this blame in any way at the feet of the public servants who have had to come up with the details. The blame must be laid at the feet of the Government, which had the political will to make these extraordinary changes.
Surely most of us can agree that, apart from the growing number of unemployed who are also harshly treated in this Budget, those amongst taxpayers who need most help are lower income group citizens who are bringing up families. Yet this Fraser Government has substituted family allowances for the old tax rebate for dependantsquite rightly and with our support- and did not then index family allowances. Even after the changes to the tax scales on 1 February families are going to be worse off.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to follow the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) in this debate. I was pleased to hear of the twinkle in his eye. I must confess I did not notice it. He will accept my apology when I say that the details of his speech in 1971 have not come readily to mind. I basically agree with what he said in his speech, but do not agree with the details. One of the tragedies of tax examination in this country is that we are falling into the trap of believing that only the legal profession can give a true interpretation to the tax law. I believe that the accounting profession, of which the previous speaker was an honoured member in Adelaide, has to be much more prepared to be part of the public debate on taxation than it has in the past.
If any profession is expert in the ramifications of the tax law and tax practice it is the accounting profession. I think it is a disgrace- if I may use as strong a word as that- that over the years the accounting profession has not been part of the public debate. This is not to say that people such as Mr Risstrom, to whom reference was made previously in this debate, are not most eminent accountants. Indeed, Mr Risstrom is an eminent man in this field. But in basic terms I believe that this is something to which the accounting profession has to direct its mind. I think also that the accounting profession tended to allow the legal profession to take over action before the Prices Justification Tribunal in the same way. I think there are some areas in which the accounting profession must look at itself very closely. As you know, Mr Deputy Chairman, I had some association with the profession in the three years during which I was not in this House.
I should like to remind the honourable member for Adelaide that I too spoke on this section of the Estimates last year. I know that he will recall with a twinkle in his eye what I said then. He will recall that among other things I advocated that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) should consider changing the interest rate imposed on statutory reserve deposits held on behalf of the trading banks. I recall having said then that the operating rate of 0.75 per cent, which had applied since 1941, appeared to have been enshrined in some archaic attitude held by the Reserve Bank and that the Treasurer should have talks about achieving a more viable rate of interest to be paid on funds held on statutory reserve deposit.
Unlike the previous speaker, it gives me great delight to know that my speech last year had effect and that the Treasurer did move in this matter and the interest rate paid on statutory reserves was increased upwards to 2xh per cent as from 10 November last. Admittedly, this was not cause for great celebration, but it was a step forward. After all, it had seemed as though the Reserve Bank had been ‘asleep in the lap of legends old’.
The action taken last November was only a step forward. I believe the rate of interest is still not adequate. I make another request of the Treasurer, namely, that he consider making the rate closer to the market rates. I hope that the 2Vi per cent will not stand for as long as that which previously applied. However, it would seem that the Reserve Bank has not moved away from its equally ancient rite that 3 per cent of bank deposits should be permanently locked up in a statutory reserve deposit. From my knowledge it would seem that whenever SRD levels fall below 3 per cent the banks are required to borrow their own deposits back, at penal rates of interests, to meet liquidity crises.
I see no value whatsoever in this convention. If it is possible for the Reserve Bank to vary the SRD level from, say, 5 per cent to 10 per cent of total deposits held- I believe it is about 6V2 per cent at present- I see no reason why statutory reserve deposits should not be allowed to run down to zero when occasion demands. If it is to be a tool of liquidity control there is no sanity in the convention of a 3 per cent lock-up, even with the newly increased but still not satisfactory level of interest paid to trading banks.
I do not agree with members in my Party organisation in New South Wales who, in a report, advocated the removal of the SRD as a factor in liquidity control. I believe it is a vital aspect of Reserve Bank management of those credit facilities which it is constitutionally able to control. But I believe it must be looked at closely for it would be a brave man who forecast with any degree of confidence that our banking system deposits are going to see any large replenishment from external account during the current financial year. I do not believe this debate is meant for discussion fully of this important topic. Though I do not wish to appear to be pessimistic, I believe that an intelligent and vital reassessment of the management of statutory reserve deposits should be a vital part of this Government’s monetary policy in the months ahead.
I repeat: I beg the Treasurer to reconsider liquidity forecasts arising out of a lack of large replenishments from external account, the constant pressure that will follow the quarterly payment of company tax and the residual effect of the size of the Budget deficit as predicted, and relate these factors to a new approach to the management of statutory reserve deposits. I ask him to move away from the unnecessary convention that SRDs should never fall below 3 per cent of deposits without banks incurring penal rates when they borrow back their funds. I put this very serious suggestion not so that it might be seen as a means of helping the trading banks plan their budgets more effectively, although this would follow, but rather so that such a new approach will help to even out some of the liquidity hiccups which I suspect will be our lot during the rest of this financial year.
This is not a politically popular subject, but I believe it should be raised in this House at this time. I hope that the Treasury officials will take this matter very seriously and that the Government will view the problem of ironing out liquidity movements in this coming financial year and will look at it in a new light. I put it to them that the reassessment of managing statutory reserve deposits and their bottom rate of 3 per cent should be re-examined.
In the short time remaining at my disposal and not having spoken on the Budget I make a few comments on the economic scene as I see it. Though there may seem to be evidence that certain sectors of the economy are still drifting, looking for a stimulus to help them along, I believe that there are signs of a gradual improvement all over. I take some comfort from the continuing downward trend of the savings ratio, that is, the rate of savings compared with total disposable income. Honourable members will be aware that the figure went to an astronomical 18 per cent in 1974-75, 15.1 per cent in 1975-76, while it dropped to 14.1 per cent in 1976-77. I have reason to believe that the figure is continuing to drop. If we as a government continue this downward trend in the next 6 months and providing we see a continuing contribution to stability by maintaining the Government’s successful anti-inflation policies, we should see a consumer-based recovery during the course of the rest of the financial year, and certainly the time covered by the Budget under review.
With little comfort coming from overseas sources as a stimulus, with scant hope of much stimulation coming from the Federal Government if we are to maintain our goal of a continuing drop in the rate of inflation, we shall have to continue to rely on consumer spending to lead our recovery. Despite the protestations of the economic gurus who sit opposite in lefty fantasyland, the name of the play is building confidence. Devaluation speculation by responsible members of this House, election speculation by those folk who operate above us in the Press Gallery, industrial anarchy and speculation as practised by the left wingers in the trade union movement, all contribute to the feeling of uncertainty which must be overcome if we are to see a healthy consumer-based recovery in the Australian economy. As Plato, in relation to the role of a government, once wrote:
Our object in the construction of the State is the greatest happiness of the whole and not that of any one class.
I believe that that is what our current Budget is all about.
-I would like to follow my friend the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) down the path of statutory reserve deposits but I am afraid that I take quite a different view. I believe, candidly, that trading banks ought not get any interest at all on statutory reserve deposits, let alone the rate being increased as it was recently from three-quarters of a percent to 2.5 per cent. I suggest that what that has been done is found in the item which appears on page 22 of the document Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure for the Year Ending 30 June 1978’ where, under the heading of Department of the Treasury, some $2 16m will be paid into the Treasury from the Reserve Bank of Australia. That sum may well have been greater and therefore the deficit less had this Government not been so generous to the trading banks in upping the interest on the statutory reserve deposits. But that is not what I want to talk about.
I draw attention again to the document ‘Estimates of Receipts and Summary of Estimated Expenditure’. On page 159 details are given of the various sections in the Treasury. I have had and still have a very high regard for the quality of the work which is done in Treasury. It is my opinion that it was silly to divide the Department of” Finance from the Department of the Treasury, but I suppose that is a technical matter about which opinions can well differ. One of the sections contained within Treasury is described as General Financial and Economic Policy Division. To begin with I say that Treasury should not and cannot be the maker of economic policy. Economic policy, as far as it is controllable at parliamentary level, is a matter for the Government. I think too much is expected of what governments can do in the totality of economic policy. Certainly Treasury ought not be responsible for the totality of economic policy. I take this opportunity to at least amplify, as I said yesterday, what seems to be the only statement attributed to me while I was Treasurer. I said that one man’s wage increase can cost another man’s employment. I did not say that every man’s wage increase could be responsible for all the unemployment. I am afraid that that is the great folly into which the present Government has fallen. The disposition is to blame the totality of unemployment on what is called high wages. I think it is sometimes interesting to get an opinion which is different from one’s own. I shall read from what I regard as not a highly radical journal and that is the Quarterly Review of the National Westminster Bank, which is an English bank, for February 1977. In an article entitled ‘A Monetary Model of the British Economy 1880-1975’ the author speaks about the British economy. I believe that to a great extent this is also relevant to Australia. The article states:
In particular, the nation -
That is the United Kingdom- is currently being asked to accept a series of major infringements on traditional personal freedoms largely on the basis of an unproved economic hypothesis- that the main cause of inflation is trade union cost push. However the results suggest that, on the contrary, for most of the past 95 years it is possible to explain movements in the price level quite satisfactorily in terms of the money supply. Despite our efforts it was not possible to give the concept of labour militancy any significant operational meaning, while the costpush variable finally constructed made no significant contribution to explaining the rate of wage increase. On the basis of these results, it can be argued that both the inflation and the chronic balance-of-payments difficulties of the 1970s have been the quite predictable result of excessive monetary creation.
I suggest there is too much of a disposition in Australia to evade rational economic thinking by slinking behind slogans. A Swedish journal states:
In an economy as open as Sweden’s, the country’s exchange rate is, in some ways, just as ‘important’ as the wage rate or the consumer price level.
I submit that those things have to be looked at in concert rather than looked at separately. I have said here, two or three times recently, that the present unemployment problem in Australia is not being reduced in any way by any of the measures which have been taken by this Government. I heard my friend this morning saying- I do not basically disagree with him- that a lot of the unemployed in Australia are unemployable. That is a very hard thing to have to say. I think he went on to say that they are unemployable because they have no talents that anybody wants at this time. I do not know whether the fault is theirs, whether the fault is that of the education system or whether the fault is that of the industrial system. I remind the people in the community that the situation in 1977 is far different from the situation which existed in 1927 or 1937. Lord Beveridge described unemployment as ‘a problem of industry’. I am not so sure that that is any longer the case. When he referred to industry he meant manufacturing industry basically. I think the situation is different in Australia in 1977. Employment opportunities are not available in Australia at the moment for those who are currently unemployed. The numbers of unemployed are being added to both by immigrants and by school leavers. I think it was said this morning that we have to create more opportunities in tertiary occupations or that we have to create more quaternary- that is the term I heard used the other day- employment opportunities. The old pattern has changed. So far we have not in any sense adapted our thinking to meet those changed circumstances.
That is why I believe that the Parliament should put pressure on the Government to change its attitude, to seek the sort of inquiry that has been hinted at, namely, a close examination of the situation in Australia in 1977 so that a decision can be made in relation to the cause of the unemployment that exists. Surely it exists in numbers far larger than any of us would like. At least there is a social cost. There is an economic cost. No longer do we allow people to starve. We transfer funds from those who work to those who do not work via our social service system. Those people have to be paid something anyway. I said the other day that at the moment we pay them two-thirds of a wage for doing nothing. Would it not be more sensible to pay them an adequate wage for doing something? However, we have not yet found what that ‘something’ is. The opportunities for employment do not exist. Maybe there has to be an investment led recovery but that has not happened yet. I suggest with all respect that there has been little but scratching to ascertain just in what areas that investment should be made and from where the lead should come.
– I can agree with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) when he says that there is a limit to what governments can do in the totality of economic policy. But just what that limit is and how far we ought to go and how we ought to define it is the matter I wish most to discuss. However, before I do so I shall take up something said I think by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. He seemed to resile from his statement that one man’s pay rise is another man’s job. I am not certain whether he meant by that statement that marginal wage rates did not affect marginal employment. The honourable member shakes his head; I am glad of that. Surely there is an interaction- it is probably not a one for one interaction- between wage rates and employment.
– It is by no means the whole explanation for current unemployment.
– I took up that point because, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports expressed it, it was not clear to me whether he intended that it should be the whole explanation. I for one would not suggest that it was. Any government faced with managing the present economic situation would have difficulty in drafting a budget. The deficit would of necessity be a problem; levels of taxation, because of the disincentive effect, would also necessarily be a problem. A government of any colour would face that problem, although different governments might see the problem at a different level.
I suggest that part of the problem stems from the nature of the process of government and the tendency for politicians to pretend that they can offer a free lunch. That they cannot do. In fact, this tendency of politicians to compete for power by trying to be nice to everybody is the cause of much of the economic problem that we have and much of the budgetary problem that we have. There is much argument about the level of government intervention and what that level ought to be. I agree with the Opposition to the extent that what is important is not merely the
Quantum of government intervention but also le nature of it. However, when I drew my line as to what would be the appropriate nature of it, I think I would part company markedly with my socialist colleagues opposite. The type of intervention that has been occurring, for instance, has been costing the wheat industry a great deal. Maybe there are some unmeasured amounts, but a calculation is $ 1,250m since 1950. The quantum of government activity did not increase.
Nonetheless, government intervention in the market place and government intervention in the processes of the economy are the sorts of government intervention that I would sooner not see. I would sooner see the market forces determine the flow of resources in the community. I believe that those market forces are likely to do it more accurately and with less serious side effects.
I return to the estimates under consideration. If we are to reduce public expenditure and if we are to reduce taxation- those two things go together since ultimately governments can spend only what they collect by borrowing or by taxationwe have to look at the major areas of public expenditure. We cannot pretend that that exercise is taboo, that those major areas are not areas for consideration when contemplating a reduction in government expenditure. The major areas of government expenditure are as follows: Defence, 8.7 per cent; education, 8.8 per cent; health, 10.5 per cent; social security and welfare, 27.2 per cent; and States and local government, transfer of payments, 21.8 per cent. Collectively expenditure in those areas add up to 77 per cent of the total. Those areas, with the possible exception of defence are what have been termed the motherhood areas. I am not suggesting that there ought to be cuts in expenditure on defence. I suggest, however, that we ought to be looking very hard at the other four areas.
If we are not to reduce expenditure in those other four areas which provide benefits that people need- I refer to education, health, social security; and much of the money provided by way of States grants goes into those areas- we have to be prepared to take away benefits from those who are not in need. There is no option but to do that, otherwise public expenditure will not be reduced. We have to distinguish between the needy and the greedy, and that is a distinction which governments have not been prepared to make. We have to stop spending money on those people who could do things for themselves. We have to stop pretending that we are in some way conferring a favour upon them, because all we are doing is taking funds from them and giving them back to them. We should direct funds to the needy in the public expenditure areas of health, education and welfare.
In the area of medical care, might it not be possible to provide the sort of insurance system that picks up the major expenses but which does not pick up the minor ones in such a way that we do not require an enormous and costly administrative machinery? Might it not be possible to have a system which does not provide the same temptation for the hypochondriac to use up the system? Doctors would not have the same temptation to extract more than their just due. One of my objections to the system is that it is impossible to measure their just due. Might it not be possible to provide education in such a way that people are assisted with education if they need financial assistance, but not assisted otherwise? Might it not in the long run be possible to provide a voucher to poor people? Initially, in the shorter term might it not be possible to look at tertiary education, which is available to an elite few, and recognise that this is provided by the majority of people in the community, who do not have access to it; that it is paid for by the truck driver and the shearer? Might not those people owe in some way at least a proportion of that cost of education to the truck driver and the shearer? Might not tertiary education allowances be a loan and not a grant?
Might we not look at pensions? A wealthy lady whom I know lives in a penthouse but is at the age at which she receives a non-means tested pension. Is it sensible that we tax her and then pay it back to her? It is not sensible. There is no point in handing out government welfare benefits to those who do not need them. If we do so, and continue to do so, two things will happen: We will never provide sufficient assistance to those who genuinely are needy and we will destroy the spine of the whole community. We will tax the pants off them, and the incentive to do more will thus at least be lessened. Further than that, there is no penalty for people not doing what they can for themselves. If the government will carry one’s burdens, what then is the incentive to pick up those burdens? In controlling this government activity on behalf of people we will meddle in everybody’s life, laying down common rules until we produce that brave new world in which all people are the same.
-In recent dmes there has been quite a deal of discussion about the exchange rate of the Australian dollar. It is unfortunate that not a small part of the Government comment in that discussion has been intemperate, and a considerable part of it has been personally abusive. That is no substitute for reasoned consideration of the issue, and it would be a shame if the intensity of some of the personal abuse should muzzle further constructive discussion on this matter.
I propose that we now should be considering a managed floating exchange rate and that we also should be considering the introduction of an open forward exchange market. In doing that it is germane for me to point out that since May, excluding overseas borrowings, Australia lost nearly $ 1,500m from its overseas reserves. Whatever measure one uses, the effect of that is quite dramatic. What is equally significant is that that is evidence that the Government sat rigid with perplexity and indecision while this was going on. It is evidence, when one notes that the weighted exchange rate index was fixed from February of this year to August this year, at 92.5, that the weighted exchange rate which was to be, according to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), administered flexibly, in fact got iced over, it did not budge. Last year, after the devaluation in November, the Treasurer’s words were stated in a Press release in the following terms:
The pegging of the rate for lengthy periods was now discontinued; the level of the exchange rate in relation to the basket’ of currencies would be kept under review, and the Government would, in effect, be adopting a flexibly administered rate, somewhat along the lines of a managed float.
That was in Press release No. 217, of 28 November 1976. On Tuesday, 30 November, in a parliamentary statement on the economy, the Treasurer said:
The new pattern of management of the exchange rate wilt enable more frequent, more timely and smaller adjustments to be made to the rate; … is designed to avoid the build-up of an expectation of major changes at long intervals in the future . . .
I thought then that that was a desirable innovation. I have noted since that the promise was never fulfilled. The Government has proved itself to be quite unskilful in the administration of our exchange rate. Do not take my considered opinion on that, but refer to the Economist- a rather conservative economic journal- which in its issue of 24 September 1977 stated:
Capital is pouring out of Australia in anticipation of devaluation. Meanwhile, the three wise men who watch over the nation’s currency (the chief civil servant at the Treasury, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, and the head of the Prime Minister’s Department) are looking foolish as they make tiny upward and downward adjustments to the exchange rate . . .
Currency speculators are encouraged both by the Fraser Government’s consistently poor timing on exchange rate changes and its impressive record for caving in under pressure.
When one reads a comment such as that- that sort of comment has been replicated in recent months in several overseas finance journals- and when people overseas are writing in that way it is quite obvious that they do not have any respect or or confidence in the way in which the exchange rate system is administered in this country. Because of the rigidities which the Government has allowed to seep into the weighted exchange rate system which was supposed to be flexible and, to use the Treasurer’s words, ‘somewhat along the lines of a managed float’, somewhere along the Une it managed to sink. A system such as that is prone to large adjustments. Large adjustments inject severe shocks into the domestic economy. That is recognised in the comments which I quoted and in other comments in the same article.
First of all, we have to get the economy in some sort of decent order. There is no evidence that that is being achieved with the present Government’s economic policies. We have persistent stagnation, and we have persistent inflation. The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) kindly drew my attention to the comment in the report on the 1977 inquiry into medical fees for medical benefit purposes, which was tabled in this Parliament yesterday. In that report Mr Justice Ludeke referred to a September quarter projected consumer price index increase of 3.25 per cent. He said in the report that the projection was supplied to him by the
Department of Health. I know from my experience in government, from being involved directly in this area, that those projections which come from the Department of Health are provided on the basis of advice from other government instrumentalities such as the Department of the Treasury. So, it appears that the Government is expecting a substantial increase in inflation in the September quarter. I must say that that is contrary to what I would have reasonably expected in September. I would have expected a more moderated rate of increase in inflation because of the restraint, short term though it was, from the abortive wages-prices freeze of earlier this year.
What does this mean? It means very simply that inflation will increase for the 12 months to the September quarter by about 14.6 per cent, as against 1 3.9 per cent in the same period last year. Inflation will be worse. Inflation for the year to the June quarter of this year, at 1 3.4 per cent, was worse than it was in the previous year, at 12.3 per cent. For the March quarter this year, on an annual basis, at 13.6 per cent, inflation was somewhat worse than it was for the same period in the preceding year, at 13.4 per cent. The trend is obvious. There is an escalation in the rate of inflation. I wonder what we will hear about the underlying rate of inflation. Increasingly I am suspecting that there is only a lying rate of inflation when the subject is referred to by some Government spokesmen.
Putting that to one side, what we need at the moment is capital inflow and some sort of confidence in the domestic economic management which will stem the outflow of capital from the country, which will modify the leads and lags manipulation which is going on at the present time by people who I think quite reasonably from their point of view are delaying the return of money earned overseas and hastening payments overseas. In short, what I am saying is that there needs to be confidence in government. There cannot be any confidence in government and in its administration when we nave a situation where money should be coming into this country because interest rates are higher here. For instance, the rate on short term government securities in the United States of America is 6.62 per cent and in Canada about 7.64 per cent. In Australia it is in excess of 10 per cent. Money is not coming in. Foreign investment is not coming in. Money is in fact going out or that which should be coming in is being delayed overseas. The upshot is that we are facing a $ 1,000m balance of payments deficit this year. If we had money coming in we could at least alleviate many of the problems which are going to arise from the size of the deficit. That is why I am suggesting that we need a managed float so that moderate adjustments can be made regularly in our exchange rate. Accordingly, we would not suffer the destabilising shocks from substantial adjustments as we have seen in the past. I trust we can avoid them in the future.
I believe we need an open forward exchange market because by providing insurance for people who want to bring their money here or who have it here we can minimise the cost of risk and therefore modify the sorts of flows we have been seeing at the present time. There are many benefits I believe to be obtained from an open forward exchange market- a more competitive and more efficient banking system and cheaper foreign currency. Unfortunately I do not have enough time to indicate the large difference in the spread between buying and selling rates quoted in Australia as against those rates quoted overseas. But they are substantial- about 5 points difference between an exchange rate transaction quoted in United States dollars and Deutsche marks as against a 48 point spread in Australian dollars and United States dollars. Clearly there is some cosseting and some protection in the Australian banking system which allows that very broad spread to exist to the disadvantage of people who want to exercise the holding of Australian money from overseas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has done so much recently by irresponsible, not to say subversive, statements to undermine the Australian dollar. He is at it again today in the guise of making a suggestion about a forward exchange market. I will not raise again the issue of whether I might call him an economic traitor but the sort of talk we have heard comes close to it. I will come back to the honourable member for Oxley but in the few minutes available to me I would like to underline in the context of the estimates of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance that the overall increase in government spending in 1977-78 shown in the Budget has been contained to 10.5 per cent. This is virtually the same as it was last year; so that for the second year in succession this Government has effected stringent restraint of its spending. Of course, in areas of greatest need the increase in spending has been higher than that. For instance, the provision for assistance to the handicapped is increased by 33 per cent on the figure for last year. The provision of funds for aged persons homes and hostels is up nearly 18 per cent. The provisions for overseas aid is up by 12 per cent. But overall the increase has been held to 10.5 per cent giving the second successive year of stringent, more stringent perhaps than anywhere else in the world, expenditure restraint. This has restored the position after the Labor years of unexampled profligacy, abandon in government spending. In 1974-75 we saw the level of government spending increase by 46 per cent. Let me draw this picture for honourable members. In the 74 yean from Federation to 1974 government spending built up to a certain level; then in one year it was increased nearly 50 per cent on top of that. Now this Government, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) recently stressed, has re-established a sound fiscal base. What that will enable is a sustainable reduction in interest rates and progressively greater financial ease and that is the stimulus, above all other sorts of stimulus, which this economy needs.
I think it needs to be very clearly understood that reduced interest rates will be of very great benefit to just about every section of the economy. For instance, take house mortgage interest rates. Every one per cent of interest rate charged for a housing loan adds $4 to $5 a week to the repayment of that loan. So getting interest rates down will help more than anything else to bring home buying back within the capacity of the average wage earner. It will do more than anything else to stimulate home building and all the industries dependent on it. I stress that point because the honourable member for Oxley- that prophet of gloom and despair, that false prophet- came here yesterday and again today and spread talk of a credit squeeze and higher interest rates. That is simply not correct. There will not be a credit squeeze- interest rates are to be reduced- not, of course -
– They have started.
-They have started to fall already. But they will not be reduced in one fell swoop. That, of course, cannot responsibly be done but they will gradually be worked down.
The honourable member for Oxley disclaims that the gloom he spreads stems not from him but from a Reserve Bank prediction. Again, characteristically he misquotes or selectively quotes. The now famous leaked Reserve Bank report published in the National Times, when it turned to what it termed ‘financial forecasts’ states: the development of a set of financial forecasts for 1 977-78 tends towards a leap into a void.
In short, the Reserve Bank felt at that time it was impossible to say anything very specific. If only the honourable member for Oxley would leap into the void and take his whining voice with him, then the future of this country can be what sound policy and confident achieving as Australians make it. That can be a pretty healthy Australian economy indeed. It is worth stressing that in the same issue of the National Times which reprinted the report of the Reserve Bank the noted economic commentator Mr P. P. McGuinness stated:
In the longer term- that is, for the remainder of this financial year and for next financial year- the prospects indicated by the Reserve Bank document are if anything relatively optimistic.
That was written by Mr P. P. McGuinness, a one time speech writer for the honourable member for Oxley.
I think it is worth reflecting for a moment on how interest rates first got to their present high levels. Of course the initial upward boost came in September 1973 with the Labor Government’s rapid acceleration of spending, when it hoisted interest rates and squeezed credit to pull back private sector activity to make room for bigger and fatter government. When the spending went to the extent of a massive deficit in the context of higher and higher inflation, interest rates got a further shove upwards as the Government came into competition to borrow funds. Now just as interest rates were hoisted because of excessive government spending and inflation, so the restraint of spending by this Government over two successive years and the lowering of inflation has set the stage for lower interest rates. The honourable member for Oxley had something to say a while ago about the level of inflation. But I point out that the consumer price index for the March quarter was 2.3 per cent and for the June quarter it was 2.4 per cent. In either case this meant an annual inflation rate of the order of 10 per cent whereas the inflation rate under the honourable member’s Administration was 1 7 per cent.
As I have said, the spending restraint of this Government over two years and the lowering of the rate of inflation to its present level have set the stage for reducing interest rates to sensible levels. Again I say that that cannot be done in one fell swoop. The workdown must necessarily be gradual. Of course it must dovetail with other features of the economic scene. In particular, the balance of payments and the Australian dollar must be sound; and the wages-prices merrygoround must be contained. All these features of economic policy fit together. When one appreciates that, one can see why the deliberate undermining of one area of policy- the exchange rate- by the honourable member for Oxley could prejudice all the others.
The honourable member understands that. That is why I said on Tuesday-I repeat it today-that what he is doing is deliberately subversive of the Government’s economic strategy and to the extent that he should succeed-he will not- of the whole Australian economy. If confidence in the exchange rate is undermined, the technical job of reducing interest rates is made so much harder. That is a process I should like to explain but time does not permit. All the undermining by the honourable member for Oxley will not succeed. The Government has made it clear that it will defend the Australian dollar which is not weak. Until that sinks in, the first steps in the reduction in interest rates can be small only. Nevertheless they will be real.
The other important factor is to contain wageprice inflation. What the Budget contributes here is the tax cuts it provides for. Two tax cuts are provided this financial year. The indexation cut from 1 July was equivalent to an increase in gross pay of 2.7 per cent. A further tax cut will take place on 1 February next with the introduction of the new standard rate scale. It is imperative that in the context of the wage indexation policy implemented by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission those cuts be taken into account as representing increases in actual incomes. In that way we will get on top of the futility of the wage-price merry-go-round and set Australia back on the road to prosperity, renewed growth and full employment.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I want to make my position quite plain. I am not vastly interested in what other deputy chairmen or deputy speakers have done. I do not intend to allow in future references to demographic traitors, economic traitors or any other such remarks. With regard to the lesser remarks which are made from time to time, I think it is fair that the Chair can expect some appeal for help if an honourable member takes exception to any such lesser remark. On two occasions I can think of that has not transpired.
-When the honourable member for Berowra (Dr Edwards) speaks as a politician, he sounds like a bad economist. When he speaks as an economist, he sounds like a poor politician. He stumbles over his words almost as often as he stumbles over his fundamental understanding of basic economic principles. It is a shame that the honourable member for Berowra sought to inject personal abuse into his references to observations I have made. I should have thought that it would have been a welcome opportunity to have encouraged constructive alternative views being put forward on this fairly difficult matter. The views I put forward were personal. For instance, my colleague, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean), certainly would not share some of the views I put forward. I would have expected, however, that this was the most appropriate time to encourage people to discuss this complex but important area.
I move back to the point I was seeking to develop a little earlier, namely, that I happen to believe, on the basis of the evidence I have seen at least to this point, that we would be better served, first, with a managed exchange rate- that is not so terribly contentious- and, secondly- this probably is contentious- with an open forward exchange market. At present because of the rigidities of the present system associated with the exchange rate, the inefficient way in which the exchange rate has been administered and the crisis of confidence in the Government- that has been manifested by the behaviour of so many people- we are experiencing problems. However, I believe that with a managed exchange rate we could have avoided a great deal of the nature of those problems. The availability of forward exchange cover could have minimised the destabilisation flows we are seeing.
A balance of payments deficit of the order of $ 1,000m which is what the Reserve Bank projects for this financial year is a particularly worrying prospect. The Reserve Bank analysis points out that we have a healthy balance of trade but because of the outflow of payments on invisibles we will have a substantial deficit on our current account balance. There will be negligible foreign capital investment in the country. What there will be will be largely provided from retained profits earned in this country. The overall effect will be that the balance of trade surplus will be overwhelmed by the other negative movements so that we will end up with a balance of payments deficit. A balance of payments deficit of that order implies tight domestic economic conditions. Substantial borrowings overseas do not change that proposition.
When a government borrows overseas it does not necessarily follow that it has to release an equivalent volume of money within the domestic money supply of this country. For this Government to do so would be inconsistent with the monetary targets it has set itself. Government spokesmen have indicated that they have no intention of changing those monetary targets by allowing the money borrowed from overseas to be released domestically to increase the money supply. If we are to have a situation in which payments on invisibles lead to a substantial deficit in our current account, an absence of sufficient offsetting surplus on our balance of trade and sufficient capital account surplus, the Government will be faced with the predicament of maintaining fairly tight conditions in the domestic economy so that the balance of payments situation will not be aggravated further. I think that is obvious.
Because we do not have the sort of capital inflow we need, because of the leads and lags problem being manipulated at present with people taking out money where they can and as a result of the absence of a managed exchange rate and a forward open exchange market, the country will have a particularly tough year. That is a simple proposition which flows from the information which has been provided in the Reserve Bank report. The situation should not be like that. I have indicated, for instance, that interest rates on short term government securities in this country are much more attractive than they are in other countries. But people are not bringing money to this country to invest and to earn more generous interest rates. They do not have confidence in the state of the economy.
As evidence of the problems arising from our balance of payments situation in the course of this year, I am reliably informed that the Government has already frozen all overseas procurement for government. It has made no public statement on this. What it is seeking to do, obviously, is to artificially restrain the balance of payments deficits problem to present, I expect, some monthly figures which it can release publicly, should there be an early election, and then claim that there has been a substantial turnaround in the situation, that it is bringing it back under control, and that it is only a matter of time before it is corrected.
We have been hearing that it will be merely a matter of time before many things are remedied. For instance, unemployment, which is worse now than it has been in half a century, will be much worse next year. Another is inflation and, on the basis of the figures I quoted from official Government sources, it is getting worse rather than better. The economy is on the edge of stagnation, as indicated by the Reserve Bank of Australia report which showed that the economy has fallen considerably below the level projected by the Government for this year in its Treasury documents, and much below the level achieved last year, uninspiring as that was.
So I come to this proposition of a managed float in the open forward exchange market. I mentioned that it would tend to minimise the cost of risk and therefore modify the sorts of flows which we have seen in recent times. The managed float would be helpful in avoiding large disturbing destabilising adjustments in that exchange rate. There are benefits which flow from this proposal, such as a more competitive and more efficient banking system and, I repeat, cheaper foreign currency, a point I wanted to develop earlier. If we take, for example, a $3m United States foreign exchange transaction in United States dollars and Deutsche marks we find that the spread quoted on the London Foreign Exchange currently between buying and selling is 2.3230 as to 2.3235. That is a spread of five points. The Financial Review today, quoting the spread between the Australian dollar and the United States dollar on spot rates, related that the spread was 1.1082 to 1.1130. That is a 48 point spread. It is true that with larger transactions better rates can be negotiated with the trading banks but not much better than a 24 point spread. If we had the same percentage spread as applies between the United States dollar and the Deutsche mark then the selling rate in a deal involving Australian dollars and United States dollars would be 1.1084 and not 1.1130 as is presently quoted. That represents substantial savings on big transactions, savings of tens of thousands of dollars. That alone suggests that the banking system is not as efficient and as finely tuned as it ought to be in responding to the needs of the capital market in this country.
I believe that what I am proposing would result in an inflow of capital to this country once the economy started to get into better shape, a reduction in short term interest rates and a much healthier balance of payments situation. To my mind that is a not unimportant result. Accordingly I recommend the proposition to honourable members for at least some reasoned consideration free of the personal abuse in which the honourable member for Berowra and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) engaged on earlier occasions.
– Unlike the Opposition, and particularly the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden), the Fraser-Anthony Government is committed to the future of Australia. Our commitment is not a warty old approach of socialism by destroying the will of the people to work, but a ceaseless, earnest desire to provide an economic and social climate where every Australian can achieve work which is satisfying and which expands his or her own self-respect and dignity. We aim to achieve our objective with goodwill and a real consensus. We want to conserve the character, tenacity and common sense of the people. We want all Australians to be able to plan, secure in the knowledge that if they apply themselves diligently they will be able to do a little better this year compared with last year.
The estimates for the Treasury allow one to comment on certain persuasive arguments advanced by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, a grant for which is provided by the allocation of $2,900,000 in division 670.3.05 of the Estimates. The amount is the same as for the previous year. The Institute this year advances the argument- I submit that it is accurate in substance and in fact- that a program to slash sales tax, excise duty and payroll tax, linked with a policy of wage indexation, will not only contain inflation but will also control it. Its plan calls for cuts in the excise duty on petrol and other goods such as beer- the excise on beer is already far too high compared with that on wine- and cuts in the sales tax on motor vehicles and consumer durables. Cuts in these items will act as a spirit level which will even out fluctuations in the consumer price index. In some CPI quarters it would not be too optimistic to anticipate that the CPI would approximate zero growth if one applied these proposals.
It is appropriate in this debate while we are dealing with these estimates to emphasise and reiterate that the Budget brought down in August by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) contained the greatest personal taxation reform in the lifetime of Federation. Tax indexation, plus the new rates of personal taxation, will result in a total of $l,371m in revenue being forgone by the Government this year and there will be substantial additional amounts in a full year. Personal income taxation is now at a reasonable level. However no Government can stand still. Non est progredi est regredi- you either go forwards or backwards.
We have to plan for the future. The suggestion of reduced sales taxes and excise duties by the Commonwealth and payroll tax by the States must be the next hurdle to be overcome. Inflation occupies the front Une in the measures we must attack to control our way of life. Sales tax contributes to inflation. This tax revenue is estimated in the Budget to increase by 13 per cent in 1977-78 to $ 1,865m. Sales tax revenue is dependent on the price and volume of taxable goods sold. This year sales tax revenue will approximate 4 per cent of total consumption expenditure.
For the sake of argument, if sales tax were abolished it should theoretically reduce the consumer price index by about 3 per cent- the difference being due to the fact that sales tax is not applicable to the fixed retail margin. If the States abolished payroll tax, and every State usually is able to balance its budget because of the generosity of the Commonwealth, the CPI would be reduced approximately Vh per cent. The revenue forgone by the States would be of the order of $ 1,500m as payroll tax is levied at 5 per cent of the total wages bill
These statements raise some interesting observations. We often hear of the States blaming the Commonwealth for not giving them sufficient tax reimbursement. One can quite easily be popular by representing everyone’s pet prejudice and pandering to insatiable demands but the fact remains that if we are to control inflation we have to have the co-operation of the States, the Commonwealth and the individual. It is a joint exercise and responsibility.
On the personal side, and as a matter of my own political philosophy and conviction, I fully support the proposition that all of us should pay less taxes and, conversely, demand less services from the various tiers of government. I note that the National Country Party members for Riverina (Mr Sullivan), Dawson (Mr Braithwaite), Capricornia (Mr Carige) and Mallee (Mr Fisher) endorse that proposition. If we reduced government expenditure and paid our own way with our own real money we could expect massive reductions in government taxation and control of our way of life Parallel with this, the problem of inflation would be minimised.
The Treasury traditionally develops a stonewall defence mechanism to any suggestion of reduction in sales tax and excise duties. On behalf of the Australian people, particularly those in the Darling Downs electorate, I reject this approach. There is nothing wrong with Australia that work will not correct. The work ethic can be encouraged only if the worker and the entrepreneur have real wages to spend as they, not the Government, see fit. Sales tax and payroll tax have to be reduced and I suggest to the Treasurer that he investigate how this can be done in the next Budget. Reduction in these spheres wold trigger off real growth for all Australians. Our economy would be based on confidencethe greatest foundation of aU. Sales tax and payroll tax add to the unemployment queues, and these queues are already far too long.
Under subdivision 2, administrative expenses, certain sums are allocated for the payment of expenses associated with Department of the Treasury officials connected with the technical committee established to work on detailed aspects of the proposal to set up a national disaster scheme. One cannot but be extremely disappointed that, although the Government announced in March 1976 that it had agreed in principle to introduce a national disaster scheme in association with the insurance industry, nothing has really materialised. There are no bricks and mortar Are we going to wait for another Darwin or Townsville cyclone, Toowoomba hail storm disaster, Tasmanian bush fire disaster, or the greatest of all disasters- drought- before we trigger off the establishment of a scheme? I also include the recent disaster in the Sunraysia area in the electorate represented by my colleague the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher).
The time for an ad hoc approach is surely passed. What confidence can we inspire in rural Australia where many areas are in the vice-like grip of drought? Are we ready to give help nownot when it is too late- to drought-stricken grain growers? We have no immediate plans or coordinated system of action. We appear to be always in the rearguard, never the vanguard. Legislation to introduce a national disaster scheme has to be implemented with the States. What has been done? Almost nothing. Plans have to be evolved to meet likely disaster situations. There is a need for the control and coordination of rescue and rehabilitation operations for the outset.
But I do not want to dwell on all facets in this debate. I want to concentrate on financial aspects- to get the scheme off the ground. Droughts, cyclones, fires and floods constitute by far the largest risk in Australia. Between 1975 and 1976 the total Commonwealth payments to the States for natural disasters were $224m, of which $110m, or 49 per cent, was drought related. Drought and cyclone losses are larger risks than floods, bush fires and storm damage. Our history indicates that there is a need for national disaster insurance. We have not been keen about this. I submit that we need to consider two schemes to compensate for damage caused by natural disasters: Firstly, a scheme to cover capital losses; and, secondly, a program to compensate for income losses.
There are certain conditions necessary to support insurability of risk, such as demand for the coverage so that a premium on a large number of risks can contribute to the individual claim; a spread of risks as to their nature and location; the events covered must be fortuitous in nature; losses must occur neither too often nor too seldom; the frequency and magnitude of losses must be assessable; the circumstances of the occurrence must be capable of definition; the amount of premium must be acceptable to the insured from the point of view of his capacity to pay; and statistical data covering sufficiently long periods must be available. People need to be educated that they cannot opt in and out of a national disaster scheme if they desire premiums to remain at a reasonable level. Additionally, insurance companies cannot be expected to meet a total payout for a mammoth disaster. It is reasonable, therefore, to suggest that in a national disaster scheme the Government acts as a lender of last resort to the underwriting reserve. This should allow the scheme to get off the ground. It would avoid the possibility of private insurance having the very serious problem-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise in this debate on the estimates for the Department of the Treasury to raise a number of issues concerned with -the question of communication. In particular I refer to the appropriation for printing, binding and distribution of papers, which appears on page 7 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) under subdivision 2 item 03, for both this House and the Senate. The range of communications that has suffered as a result of this Government’s Budget strategy goes to the very areas of my responsibility as spokeman for the Oppositionsuch areas as bilingual education, the education of migrant women, the Public Service and migrant services generally. There is one other point which I would like to put to the Government and which I think is of major concern. For some time I have been concerned as to the means whereby my researches into the various problems facing a member may be facilitated. Looking at the estimates and comparing them with the situation which arose last year, one realises that there is obviously something wrong with a system which makes economies in the very areas where priority should be given- that is, the right of members to have information available to them. If a member is to deal with the problems of his own electorate, and more particularly those problems which are near and dear to his heart, the facilities ought to be made available to him.
Looking further into the estimates I see that the same thing has happened in relation to the printing of Acts of the Parliament.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! I wonder whether the honourable member would mind telling me what estimates he is talking about.
-I am talking about the Treasury estimates.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- On the cost of publications?
-The costs of publications and the general costs of communication.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is the honourable member sure that he is not talking about the estimates for the Parliament?
– No; I am referring to the general question of costs. I raised this matter with one of the senior officers of the House and he directed me along the lines on which I am speaking. I am talking in terms of general costs. I want to make it clear that, in what I am about to say, I make no reflection on the officers of the Table Office. In fact this afternoon I received from them some very sound advice for which I am very grateful. They are ever helpful. I am sure that all honourable members will agree with that. If an honourable member wants a paper it is produced as quickly as possible. But we are not always near the Table Office. When we are in our electorates we are supported by researchers who are not in the Parliament, and we need the information.
Let me quote some figures. I am referring again to the question of costs. Last year $500,000 was allocated for the printing, binding and distribution of Senate papers. I am referring to specific areas of costs which may not appear here, but once again this goes to the point that I am making. Last year only about $276,000 was expended. For this House last year $1,001,000 was allocated, but only $654,000 was expended. This year the estimate is $1,006,200. For the printing of Acts and regulations- a matter to which this House will shortly be turning its attentionlast year $1,088,000 was allocated. I am not dealing specifically with that allocation here, but I want to get to a point that ought to concern the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) who shakes his head and looks rather concerned that I might be talking about the wrong appropriation. The fact is that this goes to the question of human civil liberties, which ought to be very much his concern.
When we look at page 14 of the Appropriation Bill we find that the amounts for the Gazette and other publications, which show what this Government has done, were all spent last year and that greater amounts are to be spent this year. I do not think it is necessary to remind honourable members of the flow of paper which crosses their desks, but one of the prime concerns is that we should have available the information as to what the Parliament has done and what the Parliament is doing. That situation is not coming about.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! I am sorry to interrupt the honourable gentlemen, but page 7 relates to the estimates for the Parliament and page 14 relates to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. They are the precise items that the honourable member is debating. As he knows, we are not dealing with those estimates now. He is running a little late. If he could tie in his remarks with the estimates with which we are dealing, which are the estimates for the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Finance and the Advance to the Treasurer, he would make life a little easier for me in ruling him in order.
– I certainly crave your indulgence, Mr Deputy Chairman, and I am sure that you have been more than tolerant. The very issue is this: One Bill, the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Bill, passed through both Houses during the previous session, in about June this year. This Act has not yet been proclaimed. This might well be due to restrictions and lower staff levels which flow from the allocations by the Treasurer. But I point to that as an example of what occurs when there are restrictions within these areas. Restrictions of that nature affect issues such as civil liberties and deportation. One case in particular which has been debated in this House time and time again is the famous Salemi case. If that Act, which passed through both Houses of Parliament in June this year, had been proclaimed an appeal would have been made under the provisions of that Act. Had that Act been proclaimed and had the restrictions not occurred, under normal circumstances we as individuals- I make no secret of the fact that I was involved- who have taken steps to protect the interests of a citizen, whether he is an Italian citizen -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! With regret I shall have to warn the honourable member that if he does not return to the estimates under discussion I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– I have made my point, Mr Deputy Chairman. Thank you for your indulgence. The real issue of restrictions, as the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) has pointed out- I adopt his submission on this occasion -
-Little Sir Echo.
-I might well be Little Sir Echo, but the honourable member would not even be capable of carrying out that exercise. He has had too many games of rugby without any headgear. The point I wish to make is that we believe that the allocation has been underestimated. It goes to the point of the general policy of the Government, which is to restrict public expenditure to the detriment of the individuals concerned.
-In speaking to these Estimates for the 1977-78 Budget, I think the Government is to be congratulated on the way in which it has been able to contain expenditure in those departments which we are discussing at the moment. When one looks in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) at the expenditure allocated to the Department of Finance, the Advances to the Treasurer and the expenditure associated with the Department of the Treasury, one finds that the cost increases have been well contained and are extremely marginal. This is one of the reasons that this Government is containing costs at the level at which it has in these Budget Papers. This is why it has been able to hand so much back to the people.
A lot of this money has been handed back to the people in the form of tremendous tax reforms undertaken by this Government last year and this year. In two years of personal tax indexation and reform over $2 billion has gone back to the people. As I said, this has been achieved because the Government has been able to contain costs and to cut out waste. I know that there is some confusion about the explanation to the Australian people of the tax reforms in particular. Some people have been incorrectly stating that the benefits which are rightfully to go to individuals are not forthcoming.
I can assure honourable members that tax indexation and the new flat rate tax scale which will be brought in will benefit all people in Australia. Once again, this has been made possible by the containing of costs. As was outlined in the Budget, people in Australia will benefit also from the indexation of dependent allowances, which is also very generous and will go a long way to help Australian families. I stress that it will help families because we need to help those people with young children. We need to give them more money in their pockets to spend on their families- on education, food and clothing.
The Government will continue to watch expenditure. It will continue to do so because the money belongs to the people. Too often the people form the opinion that it is all right to rip off the Government. Often people do not realise that the money which the Government has is their money; they have contributed to it. I think it is about time that a lot of responsibility came back to the people and that sense returned. I return to the matter of the generosity of the tax system introduced by this Government. As has been mentioned previously, under the new flat rate tax scale of 32c in the dollar and also with the exemption of an income of up to $3,750 a year, 225,000 people who formerly had to furnish tax returns and pay some tax no longer will have to do so. Much has been written about these figures. People have tried their hardest with figures to suggest that there are some flaws in this system. But there are no flaws; everyone will be better off. There are many figures to prove that this will be so. On the figures I have before me, every one will benefit regardless of his income. This is a tremendously generous move by the Government.
Through tight budgetary controls by this Government much achievement has been gained over the past two years in getting the Australian economy to a base stage where further action can shortly be taken to stimulate the economy a little more. Inflation is now under control. Through the Government’s tight monetary controls inflation is down to a level which is running at a little over 9 per cent. Also through its tight controls we have stabilised what was an increasing rate of unemployment. The Government has brought the economy back to a base where it can now move ahead with more stimulus. I think that in the months to come we shall see the Government moving to assist further people in small businesses and the man on the land. This stimulation will do a lot to bring down the high rate of unemployment and at the same time make allowance for the just over 100,000 school leavers who will come onto the market in December.
To those people, including members of the Opposition who claim that the Government has achieved nothing in the time it has been in office, I say that the Government has achieved a tremendous amount and the people of Australia will benefit -
– Give us one concrete example of progress in Australia since this Government came to office.
– What about over $2 billion going back to the people through personal tax reforms? That is one example. If the honourable member wants me to keep going I shall give him many more. The economy of Australia is now in a sound position. The people of Australia-business people and individualscan look forward to a greater and expanding economy. People can look forward to the lowering of interest rates. This is already indicated in the market by the fact that the long term bond rates have come down. There are indications that interest rates are coming down, inflation is under control and unemployment is being stabilised. It is correct that the level of unemployment is high but it has to stabilise before we can get it down. Unemployment will come down. Honourable members on the other side are talking about elections and alterations in the exchange rate. All they are trying to do is to upset the economy and to destroy people’s confidence. There is no figure which would warrant people’s confidence being destroyed.
Interest rates will be coming down. People in Australia who want to invest will be able to invest. People who want to go out and buy homes will be able to buy homes. To enable them to do so is the job of the Government, through its Budget and through the tight monetary controls which are shown all the way through Appropriation Bill (No. 1). This is what the Government will achieve for the Australian people.
Before I sit down I shall talk about unemployment and the need to get it down. Of course, the answer is in the stimulation of the economy. The best way to get people back to work is to provide for them through the economy. The present unemployment level of about 360,000 is roughly made up of three groups of people. It includes the very young and unfortunately some people who, not necessarily through any fault of thenown, are unemployable. I wish to speak particularly about the third group, that is, older persons of perhaps SO to 65 years of age who unfortunately are out of a job. I appeal to employers to give greater consideration to seeking these people for employment. They give stability. They value their jobs. I would like to see more people in my area and throughout Australia take note of this age group and offer them jobs.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $463,874,000.
-In speaking about the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs I shall concentrate my remarks upon East Timor. East Timor is a great human tragedy. We Australians owe much to the gallant people of East Timor but we have given little. All Australians have guilt on their hands through the lack of moral commitment by governments and by the Australian people. The Toss of life of the East Timorese people in support of freedom and in the support of our servicemen in the Second World War was enormous. We in the Australian Labor Party have examined our position. We have a solidarity with the East Timorese people in their struggle for freedom against the oppressive Indonesian forces. In particular we nave noted the establishment of the democratic republic of East Timor. We have called for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from that country and for the free act of self-determination by the East Timorese people. We have made it clear that the next Australian Labor Party Government will discontinue all military aid to Indonesia until all its military forces are withdrawn from East Timor. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the Labor Party’s national conference policy on East Timor which was determined in Perth in July of this year.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Conference condemns the Indonesian invasion of East Timor which was in direct violation of the assurances given to the Labor Government that force would not be used; and
A future Labor Government will:
-I thank the House. The Fraser Government is playing a devious role in its approach to the Indonesian military invasion of East Timor. In saying that I stress that I am aware that there are honourable members who support the Government and who also are gravely concerned about aspects of Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor. The Fraser Government has opposed the proposal that there should be a Senate select committee of inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the invasion of East Timor and of the atrocities which were committed during the invasion of that country. The Government has given and still continues to give military aid to Indonesia. It has gone along with Indonesia’s refusal to allow the International Red Cross into East Timor. It has supported Indonesia’s decision to channel aid through the Indonesian Red Cross which is a notoriously partisan body. This means that the Government has violated one of the four policies laid down by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock.
The Government has abstained from the United Nations resolution condemning the Indonesian invasion of East Timor which was passed at the last United Nations General Assembly in 1976. As well the Government has acted in an extremely harsh way to harass the East Timorese independence movement in this country. Fretilin bank accounts in Australia have been frozen. Its supporters in Australia have been subjected to indignities. Strenuous efforts have been made to close the radio link between the patriots in East Timor and those in Australia who are giving them support. I recall how at a vital stage in his efforts at mediation Winspeare Guicciardi, the United Nations’ envoy, was denied radio contact with the East Timorese people when this Government closed the radio link near Darwin. The Government frustrated legitimate United Nations attempts to intervene in the Timorese question. It is no fault of this Government that the East Timorese people have not been cut off completely from outside support.
In total, the Australian Government has built up a sorry record of complicity with the extremist elements of the Jakarta Government which are trying to suppress the right of the people of East Timor to determine their own affairs. I stress that these are the extremist elements in the Jakarta Government. This complicity shows up most clearly in our record at the United Nations. In 1974 in the General Assembly a resolution was carried which welcomed Portugal’s acceptance of the principle of self-determination and independence for its colonial territories. The same text was put to the General Assembly in 1975. After the Indonesian invasion a stronger resolution was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly condemning the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. It called on Indonesia to withdraw its armed forces from East Timor to enable the people of the Territory freely to exercise their right to self-determination and independence. At that time Australia supported the resolution.
On 1 December 1976 Australia abstained from a similar resolution which censured Indonesia for not observing the previous United Nations resolution. This act represented the final betrayal. I stress that is as the final betrayal. The East Timor question should not be settled by force of arms. Our act at the United Nations was a collaboration- I stress the word- with the Indonesians. It was a betrayal of our ability to influence other nations which looked to Australia as a country which could be depended upon for a reliable lead in matters in our region. It created a powerful impetus which influenced Singapore and Papua New Guinea also to ignore Indonesian aggression in that small country. Another vote will be taken in the General Assembly of the United Nations during this present session. The question is: What will be the Australian Government’s attitude to the General Assembly’s resolution on this occasion? Will it be a further betrayal of the people of East Timor? The question of complicity with Indonesia emerges also in the cover up of the facts behind the murder of the Australian journalists in Balibo in 1975. The 1976 annual report of the Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
Throughout 1976, the Government took all possible steps to pursue its inquiries into the deaths of the five Australian newsmen in 1975 at Balibo in East Timor. It proved impossible, however, to draw, from the mass of evidence collected, any reliable conclusions about how the newsmen had met their deaths.
I stress that that is false; it is not true. I must say that I have been concerned for some time about the role of the Foreign Affairs Department in this whole business of East Timor and the role that it played in the Indonesia-Timor conflict. Reliable conclusions can be drawn about how the newsmen met their deaths. A Government back bencher has named the leader of the Indonesian killers. An officer of this Parliament, Mr James Dunn, has prepared a comprehensive account of the whole history of the Timor situation. That account contains a detailed and dispassionate description of what happened to the journalists. We must conclude that the Australian Government has a callous disregard for how those Australians died. The view it takes is that it does not want to hurt our ‘good relations’- I use inverted commas- with Indonesia. It does not want to take the responsibility for the cold-blooded slaughter of Australian citizens. It has made no protest at Indonesia’s refusal to let Australian parliamentarians into East Timor, even though the move came from its own ranks, its own supporters. That in itself was plain recognition by the Fraser Government of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. It also showed that the Government was bent on concealing the facts about East Timor from the Australian people.
I stress that we are not opposed to the Indonesian people; we have warm feelings of freindship towards them. The Australian Labor Government and the Labor movement backed to the hilt the struggle of the Indonesian people for freedom from colonialism. In the same way we now support the struggle of the East Timorese to establish their independence as a nation. To summarise, the Labor Party and the Labor movement generally have a firm policy on East Timor, and they will be applied strictly by the next Labor Government. The road to independence for the democratic Republic of East Timor will be long and hard. There will be setbacks. There will be reports of betrayals and defections. There is no doubt in my mind that the cause of the East Timorese is just. I believe that the people in this Parliament, the people of Australia and the Government should really support the commitment to self determination by the people of East Timor.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
-On the last occasion on which I spoke in this chamber about foreign policy, I referred to the global situation as it affected Australians in particular the situation in the Middle East. The situation there is the major threat to world peace, and that could affect Australia in some way. I referred to the refugee problem faced by Australia and caused by events in the Middle East. Tonight I want to deal with our region. In particular I will deal with three matters.
The first matter is a short one. It arises out of the report in the Daily Mirror on 5 October dealing with the United Nations fund for drug abuse control. A project is being conducted in the Goldern Triangle area of Asia from which comes a huge amount of opium derivative drugs each year. Part of it comes to Australia; the remainder goes throughout the rest of the world. The United Nations backed project is teaching hill tribesmen to grow crops other than opium. It is teaching then that more money can be made from crops such as vegetables, coffee and flowers. Apparently, villagers in the inaccessible areas have been persuaded to replace the opium poppy with other crops. The newspaper reports this, but then criticises the Australian Government on the basis that it does not contribute to this fund though it is said, other countries do so.
I have had the benefit of advice from the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) on this matter, and it appears that the report is grossly erroneous and does not represent the situation at all. Australia values highly the work that is carried out by the United Nations fund for drug abuse control and has been a regular contributor to the fund since 1973. Our contribution since then has been $100,000 a year. A most important part of the estimates obviously is devoted to this fund. Australia is the seventh highest contributor in total terms. In addition to this financial contribution, Australia has provided practical assistance to special projects under United Nations aegis in Thailand, including the services of an Australian agricultural expert. [Quorum formed).
The second matter with which I wish to deal is Australia’s relations with Indonesia. I wish to make it clear that my position is simple- that Australia must have a strong and developing relationship with Indonesia. However, the question of East Timor is a specific matter, and I do not believe that Australia’s differences with Indonesia, if there are any, or the statements made by individual members on the question of East Timor, will prejudice our relationship with Indonesia. I believe that the relationship is strong and viable and will continue, but there is no point in the perilous principles of appeasement. This country has not recognised the Indonesian takeover of East Timor, and I do not believe that we should recognise it. It was an invasion by one State of another. Such activities are wrong. The Australian Government has the task of balancing at all times between morality and reality, our attitude to foreign policy. Indeed, on balance we need to move slightly more towards morality in our working out of foreign policy. This would be in accordance with President Carter’s attitude on this matter.
- Mr Chairman, I rise on a point of order. Is it not a breach of Standing Orders for an honourable member to read his speech?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that the honourable member for St George is reading from copious notes.
– One of the things that have characterised the Indonesian debate in this country during the last few months has been the nauseating hypocrisy coming from members of the Australian Labor Party in respect of the matter. No doubt some of those members are sincere, but the plain fact is that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) knew what was occurring in or about the late part of 1975 and acquiesced in the invasion of East Timor. It is all right for Labor members to talk about the position. To all intents and purposes, the takeover was completed when this Government came to power. The deed had been done and had been occasioned through the policy of the former Prime Minister. The shame that hangs over him is clear and apparent. It is quite obvious from the way in which his Caucus has treated him over the matter that it holds him accountable also.
It is most important that Australia makes sure that Indonesia understands our position. It is most important that neither side gets any wrong ideas about our attitude, one to the other. If we maintain our position with the Indonesians we can, I am sure, obtain their respect, and we can in the future continue to develop a strong and proper relationship with them. I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to make a goodwill visit to Indonesia and a goodwill visit to East Timor. We do not recognise the takeover of East Timor, but they say that it is part of Indonesia. I am quite sure that if we invited Indonesian parliamentarians to Australia we would not say: You can go to Sydney and Melbourne, but you cannot go to Hobart . So, if members made a goodwill visit to Indonesia, one would expect that they would go to the whole of Indonesia as the Indonesians see it.
The third matter to which I wish to refer is the implications for this country of the fall to communism of Vietnam. It is a very important topic and a vital one. I have very little time in which to discuss it. There is a Russian oriented, repressive regime in Vietnam at present. There is a Chinese oriented, horrendously repressive regime in Cambodia that is engaging in mass slaughter. I believe that this Government should take a stronger stand of condemnation of what is occurring in Cambodia. We are continually tending to turn the other cheek in regard to these repressions and this slaughter. A relatively minor problem, but still an important one, is related to the Bishop of Saigon, whose position is most unenviable. Yet we are still sending aid to Vietnam.
What I want to put to the House in the time available to me is that it is most important we learn military and political lessons from the fall of Vietnam. We do not want to see those lessons having to be learned again in the region. The Americans learned serious military and political lessons. We also learned of the problems of the leadership in South Vietnam which simply was not good enough. However, it was not given the right sort of military backing by the Americans. The backing was enough to hold the day at the time and enough to keep the communists somewhat at bay for a period. But we must learn carefully the lessons from that loss.
-During the taking of evidence by the sub-committee on the Middle East of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of which I was a member, I pressed the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), because of the huge military arsenals in some Middle East countries, for an answer as to why we had not one military attache assigned to any Australian embassy throughout the Middle East. On 7 September I put the very same matter to the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) and the reply I received from both Ministers was that the matter was being considered. The subcommittee received extremely important evidence in relation both to weaponry and its strategic and technical applications. Let me quote from the sub-committee’s evaluation. The subcommittee in its report stated:
The committee commenced in some detail on the immense arsenals of modern weapons in the Middle East. The truth is that there are as many combat aircraft and tanks in the troubled region as there are in the possession of NATO forces. Furthermore, the fact is that the weapons are periodically tested in short but fierce Middle East wars . . . Australia must comprehend the military facts of the region and this calls for the presence of Armed Services Attaches in Israel and some of the Arab countries- preferably Egypt and Syria-
These countries are the largest recipients of Soviet military assistance outside of the communist bloc- in order to assess not only equipment and tactical doctrine at first hand, but the strategic realities.
While acknowledging that the region is an important source of military information, the Committee received counter-arguments that such information has been obtained from the regular exchange of information with friendly countries, from which Australian ambassadors have compiled reports. Furthermore, it was argued that the appointment of Australian Armed Services Attaches could arouse suspicions about our interests in the area and would perhaps provide false hopes for Australian assistance in military training and supplies, without providing compensation benefits.
The report went on to state:
Dependence on derived military information or misinformation, however, can be disastrous.
To appreciate the urgent need for Australia to be self sufficient in the evaluation of the most rapid modern advances in military hardware and its implications and why the Middle East is so important in the evaluation, let me briefly draw the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the problem currently facing the United States of America. The United States Administration has blocked plans to sell FI 8 fighters to Iran on the grounds that the plane had not been deployed by United States forces, but seeks to sell the airborne warning system which is not under deployment either. It is seeking to sell FISs-the most advanced fighter in the United States inventory-to Saudi Arabia which has also bought Sidewinder missiles. The planes and missiles are capable of destroying planes the United States has sold to Israel and Iran, a rival of Saudi Arabia. I state that only to indicate the type of weaponry being injected into the Middle East area.
Let me give just a few examples of the information it might be possible for Australian military attaches to acquire were they situated on the ground in the confrontation states of the Middle East. First, in the area, of equipment and technologies, all branches of Australia’s defence forces could learn much from the deployment and use in the Middle East of conventional weapons which are not only the most sophisticated now in existence but which are also directly related to Australia’s defence. For example, in 1973 when Australia was deliberating on a choice between the American M60 and German Leopard tanks, an Australian military attache could have gained first hand information about the operational problems and design advantages, or faults, of the M60 which was used by the Israelis during the Yom Kippur war. We could hardly expect the Americans to pass on information to us about the M60 which might have helped us to decide on the German tank.
However, the Israelis are now deploying a revolutionary tank known as the ‘Chariot’, which incorporates the valuable, if unfortunate, combat experiences of the most recent war. Among its interesting features, the ‘Chariot’ has shell-resistant armour and an infantry carrying capacity. We need to be able to talk first hand to the people involved in designing the tank. We need actually to see it in operation and we need to absorb the ideas incorporated in the tank which are relevant to Australian conditions.
The Israelis also deploy the American Ml 13 armoured personnel carrier. Australia has over 700 of them. They have modified their Ml 13s according to the lessons learned from combat experience. They discovered that by seating the troops in the centre of the vehicle rather than on the sides, as we do, they were better protected from land mines. This is a simple modification, but one which could save Australian lives should we ever have to fight again. Surely we have a responsibility to acquire and evaluate this type of assessment.
On the other side of the conflict, Syria and Egypt deploy Soviet tanks which could quite conceivably be supplied, even if it is in the far distant future, to countries hostile to this country. An Australian military attache in these countries could acquire important information about the capabilities and problems of these tanks and about Soviet methods of deployment. I might suggest to the Minister that one could imagine that the Egyptians would be more willing to discuss the problems associated with Soviet equipment now that there is a rift between this protege and its former patron. The same arguments apply to aircraft and naval vessels. The Israelis now have deployed the FIS Eagle together with the E2c Hawkeye early warning and control system. They are negotiating to acquire the F 16 and to produce some of its components. The Saudi Arabians are purchasing FISs and the Omanis are purchasing the British Jaguar. Australia is in the process, as I understand it, of taking a costly decision as to the most appropriate replacement aircraft for the Mirage. We could clearly acquire important information from independent sources which do not have a vested interest in our decision if we had military attaches on the ground in the Middle East. This information could extend beyond the operational capabilities of the aircraft and early warning systems to the important issue of co-production arrangements. I would like to conclude my remarks by quoting again from the sub-committee’s assessment. The sub-committee stated:
Further, the Committee feels that objections to appointing Australian Armed Services Attaches in the Middle East are outweighed by the fact that it would be unlikely that our allies would be assessing the military situation in Israel and the Arab countries in terms of the lessons that need to be drawn from an Australian perspective- the perspective of a comparatively small power with a potential military manpower shortage as is the case with Israel. In conflict, or in a precarious military balance in peace, the valid assessment of strategic and military factors is one key to understanding the politics, the policies and the potential dangers in a region.
During the Yom Kippur war in 1973, for instance, Australia would have had an excellent opportunity to obtain independently up to date information on some of the world ‘s most sophisticated weapons and their tactical employment, including information on Western equipment which might be under consideration for Australian purchase. The only persons who can perform a thorough evaluation are those who possess the relevant expertise; Australia would be unwise to rely completely on the assessment of our potential arms donors as it would be unrealistic to expect them to stress the shortcomings of any of their equipment that Australia may wish to purchase.
I inform the Minister that it seems quite odd to me that although one of the biggest arsenals and weaponry in the world is established in the Middle East we as a nation have to rely on foreign embassies with military attaches to give us advice. To say the least, I think that is a ludicrous situation.
To sum up: There were very good reasons for the sub-committee of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence to recommend that Australian ambassadors in Israel, Egypt and Syria should have available to them Australian armed services attaches. Those reasons remain valid today. I trust they will not only be taken into consideration by the Department of Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs but also will lead to action in conformity with the considered opinions of the Committee.
– by leave- I wish to inform the House that the Government has decided to appoint Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador-at-Large for a period of 12 months. Mr Justice Fox’s primary role will be to represent Australia overseas in international endeavours to secure a strengthened nuclear non-proliferation regime. He will represent the Government at international forums and in other initiatives dealing with nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear safeguards.
Mr Justice Fox was the Presiding Commissioner of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry established by the previous Administration. After the Inquiry completed its final report in May 1977, Mr Justice Fox, on my request, pursued inquiries overseas relating to nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards. He has recently returned from this overseas visit during which he consulted more than 200 people representing overseas agencies and individual interests in various countries, amongst others the European Economic Community, Sweden, Austria, Brazil, the United States, Canada and Japan, regarding safeguards against nuclear weapons proliferation and has reported to me on those discussions.
I regard Mr Justice Fox’s advice as important in enabling the Government to pursue the most effective policy against the spread of nuclear weapons which is a matter of great international concern and the most effective arrangements to remove the international instability associated with the spread of sensitive nuclear technology.
It is clear from what he has told me that there is developing a greater international awareness of the importance of preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons. There are many international initiatives being developed in which Australia must be prepared to play its part. One of the most important is the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation which is being undertaken on the initiative of the President of the United States. It will evaluate all parts of the present nuclear fuel cycle with the aim of strengthening technology against diversion of nuclear materials to weapons use. It will also examine how the nuclear power industry might best be structured to procure this result and to operate in the safest possible manner.
Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador At Large will be leading the Australian delegation to the opening meeting in Washington on 1 9 and 20 October of the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation. Mr Justice Fox’s leadership will ensure that Australia will contribute to the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation to the maximum extent that its international position and technical expertise in nuclear matters will permit. He will also give policy advice to the Government respecting bilateral safeguards agreements and on the non-proliferation aspects of commercial contracts for the sale of uranium.
Mr Justice Fox, with his background and experience in this field- so well demonstrated by the breadth and quality of the reports of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry- has indicated that he is prepared to accept this task, a task which is most important for Australia and I venture to say for the wider international community. The appointment demonstrates the tremendous concern which the Government has for problems relating to nuclear weapons proliferation and its determination which I hope will be shared by all honourable gentlemen in this House to do everything possible to ensure the safest possible safeguards arrangements around the world. The Government greatly appreciates the Judge being able to make himself available for this most important international endeavour and is grateful to His Honour for accepting this appointment.
In accordance with past practice where members of the judiciary have been appointed to executive office, for example, the appointment of Mr Justice A. E. Woodward when a Judge of the
Australian Industrial Court to be DirectorGeneral of Security; Sir Owen Dixon, then a Justice of the High Court, to be Australian Minister to the United States, and Sir John Latham while Chief Justice of the High Court, to be Australian Minister to Japan, the Government proposes to introduce legislation similar to that introduced on those other occasions to enable Mr Justice Fox to retain his judicial status and the rights which attach to that status while AmbassadoratLarge.
The Government also proposes to introduce legislation to increase the number of Judges of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court from three to four to allow the Court to operate as necessary at its present strength during the period of Mr Justice Fox’s appointment as Ambassador-at-Large. His Honour has advised me that particularly having regard to the administrative nature of his duties as Chief Judge and indeed the doubt that this assignment will be completed within a year he proposes to resign as Chief Judge. I believe that that is consistent with the high moral stance which His Honour has taken over a long period in many aspects of his public duty. I believe that the Government and Australia are well served by His Honour being prepared to take this most important and high national and international obligation.
– by leave- It is important that Australia should be represented at the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation which is having its opening meeting later this month. It is important that Australia should be represented at and should participate in all international conferences and efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. There could be no Australian with a greater capacity, and now experience, to represent Australia and put Australia’s case at such international conferences than Mr Justice Fox. I know that His Honour would not undertake a mission such as this lightly or inadvisedly. I remember that when I approached him in July 1975 to be the Presiding Commissioner of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and urged upon him how seminal and crucial it was that such an inquiry should be for all environmental issues, particularly one which had such great national and international importance, he gave very careful consideration before accepting the Labor Government’s commission to conduct the Inquiry.
I believe it is proper that these arrangements should have been made, now that that Inquiry has concluded, to make his position both public and regular. Last November and again last
August I sought to have published letters and cables which His Honour had sent to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) and to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). On 1 8 August the Prime Minister said that His Honour had requested that these documents be kept confidential. I would imagine that the request was no more than an indication on the correspondence that it was confidential, using only that single word. However, I had misgivings when the Prime Minister said in his written reply to me on 18 August that it would be unusual for the Government to make public the advice that it receives from its confidential advisers. Recently I raised with the Prime Minister the situation as I saw it- that it would be compromising and damaging to a judge and his court to refer to him as one of the Government’s confidential advisers.
I put the point of view that judges can properly advise on public issues if they hold statutory appointments, for example, under the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act or the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, or if they hold royal commissions. We are now informed that appropriate statutory arrangements will be made- as were made for Chief Justice Latham and Mr Justice Dixon, and which are still being made for Mr Justice Woodward. One might draw something of a comparison with Mr Justice Else-Mitchell.
It is regrettable that his Honour Mr Justice Fox is to resign as Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. It is a position he has held with great distinction. He came to it with great experience at the Bar and great eminence as an academic lawyer. For many years he was editor of the Australian Law Journal. The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court is possibly the busiest Supreme Court in Australia. The small number of judges who man it have an exceptionally wide variety of matters coming before each of them. I believe that at the moment there is only one resident judge who can devote his full time to the proceedings of the Court. It is therefore to be applauded that steps are being taken I understand, to appoint four resident judges to that Court. A fortnight ago I mentioned the difficulty facing the Court. The appointment of Mr Justice Fox is now public and regular. Australia could not be better represented at these important international meetings than by Mr Justice Fox, who, I believe, already has secured the respect, indeed the admiration, of all sections of the Australian community and of many people overseas for the way that he conducted the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon-Prime Minister)- by leave- I am very glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), as I understand him supports the appointment, because I think it is an important one not only from a governmental point of view but from Australia’s point of view at large. I know that Mr Justice Fox will serve Australia truly and honestly, as he always has, and I believe that he will make a significant contribution in this area.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted.
-Leave is not granted.
Report on Passenger Motor Vehicles
– For the information of honourable members I table a report of the Industries Assistance Commission, dated 12 September 1977, on passenger motor vehicles. I apologise for the non-availability of sufficient copies of the report to distribute to all honourable members. However, I am tabling the report at this time because of its importance to the industry involved. Copies of the report are being printed as a matter of urgency and as soon as sufficient copies become available they will be made available to honourable members and to the public.
– Would the Minister move that the House take note of the paper?
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I do not want to delay the House, but I ask whether the Government could issue a statement, possibly next week, setting out the relevant points in the report and indicating to us when it is likely that final decisions will be made in respect of it. I note from a cursory glance at the report that it is indicated that existing arrangement should remain in operation for the remainder of this year. I understand that the report will not be made available to honourable members and to the public until the middle of next week. I think that some indication of the Government’s attitude to the report ought to be given as soon as possible because its consequences, especially because of the doubtful situation of the Australian car market, could be very serious. If the position is not clarified fairly quickly there could be a disruptive effect in the industry because of uncertainty even over a period of a couple of months.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I might indicate that the Government has come to a decision and a statement will be released later this evening.
– I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without requests:
Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1977.
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1977.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $463,874,000.
-In a period of 10 minutes it is extremely difficult to deal with any one aspect of our foreign affairs commitment and all that it entails. It is interesting to note that nearly $464m has been allocated for our role in international affairs. I would like to refer to one or two points that the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) made in relation to the subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. That sub-committee did a rather splendid job and produced a very balanced and very valuable report. It would be obvious to that sub-committee, I think, that the only reason why military attaches were not appointed to Middle East countries prior to the reasonably new and rather refreshing era which seems to have opened up in that area was the extra sensitivity that existed in that area. I think that would be one reason which would have prevented what is a fairly obvious requirement from being met. What the future holds remains to be seen.
I would like to make some comment on one or two aspects of the United Nations and what it has to offer. That organisation has been something of a disappointment to many people who, I think, do not really understand its role. I had the opportunity of being at the United Nations General Assembly for three and a half months. I attended the commemorative session when it was claimed that things were done in a bigger and better way. The interesting thing about that session was that an appeal went out for it to achieve the great objective of the United
Nations- that is, greater understanding and a genuine and profound approach to world peace, eople said that it was the 25th anniversary and that it should provide an example to the world. It was interesting to note that two of the countries which showed complete lack of co-operation were Iraq and Albania. Surprise, surprise! They did not toe the line. So, that session was not what it was meant to be.
In retrospect, I would think that one of the most valuable things that a delegate to the United Nations can do is to try to encourage his colleagues in the Parliament to get to that forum of international politics and international affairs generally. The Canadians have a splendid system which I suppose at first glance would not appear possible for us because of the great distances and the expense involved. They rotate their delegates. Every fortnight they send two new delegates and bring two home. I imagine that the system could work with the travelling allowances available to members of this Parliament and that we could send delegates, say, for one month of the three months and give them that tremendous experience.
The accent in this nation at the moment, perhaps somewhat overdue, is on drug trafficking, on the searching out of those who are responsible for the distribution of drugs and generally contributing to the appalling situation which exists in this country and in other countries. I remember that about 20 to 25 years ago a raid was made on the communist cells in most of the major countries of the world. The person who educated me in this particular matter was a man named Clarrie Fallon.
– Clarrie Fallon? A good man, an old trade unionist.
– He was a man who was dedicated completely to finding out just where the communist activities began and how to deal with them. The raid was made in most of the major cities of the world, according to Clarrie Fallon, a man of profound knowledge who was actively engaged in projecting what was happening throughout the world. One of the edicts that went out in this great secret document was that there should be an attempt to stimulate the trafficking of drugs and to do everything possible to disseminate drugs in a number of countries.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member for Dawson and the honourable member for Hunter will remain quiet. The honourable member for Kennedy is doing very well without their help.
– The World Health Organisation is a body of the United Nations Organisation, and this is essentially a part of our consideration of foreign affairs.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Chairman. Is it in order for an honourable gentleman continually to interject that a speaker who is on his feet was once an undercover member of the Communist Party, without proof?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Leaving aside the last part of the honourable member’s point of order, the first part is entirely correct.
– It is a good thing that I am not sensitive or I might ask for withdrawals and all sorts of things. But one has to respect age. About 18 months ago the World Health Organisation sent out a little circular. By the way, I am on its mailing list as I happen to be the chairman of my party’s drugs committee. The circular describes a two-year investigation into marihuana and the effects of the continuous smoking of marihuana. The investigation was conducted throughout the world and the evidence collected was not from one particular country but an aggregate of what had happened in most countries which were members of the United Nations. I ask anyone who contemplates the promulgation or the decriminalisation of the distribution and smoking of marihuana to note this well: It was proved conclusively that the habitual smoking of marihuana produced deformity in reproduction and sterility in young men. The side effect was conclusively proved -
– It is just as well for you -
– It may have been of advantage to this nation if that sterility had occurred amongst the honourable member’s forebears, but I do not want to reflect upon the honourable member. The side effect was the production of cancer cells. So it becomes extremely important -
– What has this to do with foreign affairs?
– It is very much a part of foreign affairs. We are part of an organisation and if we are to remain a part of the international family we should be just as much interested in the projected findings of the World Health Organisation of the United Nations as in anything else. I ask the honourable member to try to understand that. I have a few minutes left and I would like to enlarge a little on what has already been said by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and one or two previous speakers. I refer to the rather extraordinary attitude of the Australian Labor Party. I think that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) sent a telegram once when he was overseas but otherwise the Labor Party has turned a blind eye to the slaughter and carnage that is going on in Cambodia. Honourable members opposite are constantly worried- particularly the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) on my right- about Fretilin forces and about the great injustices of East Timor.
It is interesting to note that one of the countries they support, without any apology-we know their alignment and their sympathies- is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. According to this report, and it is an excellent authority, the USSR has been milder in its criticism of Jakarta ‘s East Timor venture. It goes on to explain that Soviet Russia is not really interested but China and Hanoi have constantly been barraging the world with the great injustices being perpetrated by the Indonesians. Indonesia is our bulwark and buffer against any threat that might be offering. Last night someone talked about traitors. I would not like to use that expression but one could be forgiven if one interpreted such an attitude as being reasonably traitorous.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The careful and thoughtful management of foreign relations has rarely been more important to Australia’s future than it is today. The Fraser Government’s answer to this challenge has been growing confusion, ineptitude and dishonesty. It is sad and a cause for deep concern to participate in a debate on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs under circumstances where the Australian Government has no coherent foreign policy and the Department itself is being turned into everyone’s worst dream of an impotent paper pushing bureaucracy. Ever since the formation of the Department it has pursued policies of recruiting officers to the highest standard available in Australia and the development of the expertise essential to the conduct of a modern foreign policy.
In December 1975 it fell on exceedingly hard times. Since then the Fraser Government has waged a systematic attack upon its role and its authority. It has cut down drastically the Department ‘s access to the essential tools of diplomacy- staff, facilities and communication. In place of the Department of Foreign Affairs the Fraser Government has sought increasingly to concentrate the power to advise on foreign policy and to influence decisions in the hands of the Prime Minister’s own Department. The result of this tragic and obsessional attack upon the Department of Foreign Affairs has been significant losses for Australia in terms of her international interests. The bureaucracy is only a part of the story and compared with the real political sources of this current phenomenon it is only a minor part. The losses, the confusion and the incoherence in Australia’s foreign policy under the Fraser Government are the direct product of personal and political dispute between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock).
The tragic history of the first year of Fraser diplomacy has reached new heights in the last few months. I shall cite the Fraser Government’s relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations, Japan, the United States of America and southern Africa. In August the Prime Minister finally got to a meeting of ASEAN. It was abundantly clear, as it has been for a number of years, that the one sign of Australia’s genuine commitment to the welfare and stability of the ASEAN countries would be a liberalisation of Australia’s trade with them. This change in policy was categorically rejected by the Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur. Moreover it has been widely reported that ASEAN leaders found him and his team brutal, offensive and unsympathetic.
Where is the Foreign Minister today with respect to the vital set of questions posed to Austrafia by the ASEAN countries? He has been hard at work at his desk writing voluminous letters to the Secretary of State of the United States, to ‘Dear Cy He has urged upon Mr Vance the importance of maintaining stability in the South East Asian region and the critical role that trade relationships play in shoring up that stability. The Foreign Minister has thus urged upon the United States the very policy which the Prime Minister himself went out of his way to reject categorically when face to face with the ASEAN leaders.
The Foreign Minister believes that he has discovered the key to South East Asian stability. Nine months ago he made a simple announcement in Singapore. He said that he had discovered that the economic relationship between countries in the region was a fundamental one. He had discovered this at least five years after the countries concerned had been saying so and three years after the United Nations had identified the need to develop a new international economic order as one of the fundamental priorities in international relations. The full profundity of his discovery was subsequently reflected in his obtaining the Prime Minister’s agreement to establish a new interdepartmental committee on relations with ASEAN. When in doubt form a committee! The Foreign Minster has his committee but he has been able to do nothing with it. Any shift in attitude he might have sought was squashed by his Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur. It is the elephant and the mouse- or, as the Australian Financial Review has so aptly characterised the Prime Minister, the rogue elephant.
The bridges we have been trying to build and strengthen with Japan, our major trading partnerthe bridges set by the Labor Governmenthave now been torn down by the Prime Minister. Last week for no better reason than that he was faced by hostile cattlemen, the Prime Minister fired off a letter to the Prime Minister of Japan in which he stated that unless Japan bought more of our beef he would call into question the whole fabric of Australian-Japan relations. So the Prime Minister would have us become hostile towards Japan for the sake of his Queensland electoral strategy.
He released the text of his letter to Prime Minister Fukuda before the latter could have read it. Insult was added to injury by his calling in the Japanese Ambassador to dress him down but, before doing so, telling his Press staff in advance what he would be saying to the Ambassador. The Prime Minister’s notion of resources diplomacy is as thick and muscle bound as his own thinking about our neighbors and indeed about the nature of international relations themselves.
Nothing has been more sacrosanct in conservative foreign policy than the concept of Australia’s relationship with the United States. The Prime Minister has now turned his attention to this biggest of all foreign prizes. While the Foreign Minister was lecturing the United States Government about its responsibilities in South East Asia, while he was telling it that it should pursue the trading policies with ASEAN which we ourselves have rejected, the Prime Minister has been writing letters to the President, ‘My Dear Jimmy’, in an abject attempt to gain for himself recognition and importance in Washington. His letters have been going to President Carter more quickly than the President can answer them. But, more to the point, they have been at complete cross-purposes with the essential foreign policy concerns that the President and his Secretary of State have enunciated repeatedly and clearly. It is little wonder that the
President has felt compelled to reply to ‘My Dear John’ with characteristic elegance but a touch of bewilderment.
Any consideration of the Fraser Government’s foreign policy would be incomplete without reference to the situation in southern Africa. The Australian conservatives have approached Australia’s obligations to the United Nations and the world community on southern Africa with manifest reluctance. The Prime Minister faces grave political risks within his own Party on the question of apartheid. Australia is obliged by a Security Council resolution of 27 May last to close down the Rhodesia Information Centre in Australia. On 2 June, the last day of our Parliament’s autumn session, we gave the SecretaryGeneral an undertaking to comply with this resolution and to introduce the necessary legislation in the session commencing in August.
From the safe distance of New York the Foreign Minister has spoken sanctimoniously about Australia’s unbending commitment to justice in southern Africa. But these words and the Prime Minister’s words on apartheid have not been matched by action. No action has been taken to close the Rhodesia Information Centre. The deadline is the 1 1th of next month when the Security Council is to review such sanctions.
The reason for this hypocrisy is clear. The coalition parties do not believe in the words of the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. They are torn apart on this issue and they are in this condition because a majority of them are covertly, and in many cases overtly, white supremacists. Only this week we saw Senator Sheil on television advocating apartheid for Australia. Last year the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) was the guest of the Rhodesian regime. This year the honourable members for Deakin (Mr Jarman) and North Sydney (Mr Graham) have followed suit. Their attitudes are as damaging to Australia -
– They must have been offered free drinks.
-They have never had to go that far. Their attitudes are as damaging to Australia as they are in violation of universally accepted standards of justice and human dignity.
It is truly sad to consider the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs, but it is even sadder to consider the state of Australia’s foreign policy. That policy will continue to be misdirected and incoherent as long as the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister remain in a state of mutual suspicion. It will continue as long as they fail to communicate with each other, let alone with other countries. It will continue as long as these coalition parties remain in office.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has made his usual barrage of criticism. He contributed nothing positive to this very important debate which is taking place tonight. I should like to say something about a comment which he continually made tonight. There is no conflict between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). We work as a government of unity not a government of disunity, as we saw between the years 1972 and 1975.
– You were not here.
-No, but that is okay because I could still read the papers and see what was going on. One of the reasons why I was elected was what you mugs did. I believe the Department of Foreign Affairs is a very important department. The allocation of $464m to that Department shows that this Government is deeply concerned about the important areas which that Department covers. Few people realise exactly how important the Department of Foreign Affairs is. It is Australia’s front Une throughout the world. Australia as a nation- unlike some of the honourable members in opposition- is no longer insulated from the rest of the world. We have instant communications. Today we have jet travel whereby one can reach anywhere in the world within 24 hours. Australia relies very much upon overseas investments.
Australia’s present way of life differs greatly from that of the way of life of the pre-Second World War days or even of 20 years ago. Today Australia is intimately linked with the rest of the world. Trade alone is responsible for over 26 per cent of our gross domestic product, compared with 13 per cent in the United States of America. Australia ‘s economy relies heavily on overseas investments. Its labour force needs migrant skills and its industries need imported technology. Tourism and advances in communications have also played a considerable part in bringing Australia and individual Australians in closer touch with the rest of the world and the world’s events.
Not only have Australia’s overseas economic links strengthened and diversified but also its political ties. Before 1945 a handful of European powers dominated and set the agenda of world and even regional events. Now there are over 140 members of the United Nations. Some 16 independent States and several dependent countries lie within a 3,000 mile radius of our country.
Australia has contact with most of these countries, to a greater or lesser extent, in a bilateral and a multilateral context. The marked increase in multilateral diplomacy in particular and in the institutions serving it has played an important part in Australia becoming a fully participating member of the world community. Today there is scarcely an Australian whose life is not affected by Australia’s foreign relations in one way or another. In turn, this has prompted a much wider public interest in foreign affairs.
The Department of Foreign Affairs is served by a group of 1,345 very dedicated men and women drawn from many departments. The Department employs 2,200 locally engaged people in over 100 countries outside Australia
It services, looks after and controls 63 embassies and high commissions throughout the world. I am very pleased to belong to a Government which has a very dedicated Minister and which has a group of people in the Department who have ensured that Australia is becoming better known. The trade links we have forged in many areas are significant to the future of this country. Some of the decisions which are being made for Australia are no longer simple. Of importance are communications, trade and tourism with the developing nations of South East Asia, the Pacific, our old friends with whom we have links in Europe, the Commonwealth, Japan and North America. In a number of areas Australia necessarily, therefore, has had to think very carefully before it has made decisions which would affect the lives of Australians not only now but also in the future. Australia’s embassies make many and varied decisions in relation to various aspects of economic and financial trade matters, trade aid, human rights, international law and nuclear safeguards.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on his decision which was announced tonight to appoint His Honour Mr Justice Fox to be the AmbassadoratLarge. I wish our new Ambassador all the best in the very difficult task of ensuring that when we sell our uranium to the world which desperately needs it that we, as a nation, will be part of the worldwide scene. This will ensure that countries which do not have the degree of energy resources which we have will be assisted. Recently I saw a report in Italy that if that country had a stoppage of supply of energy for only three weeks, some 10 million people would be out of a job. That country Supplies from its own resources only 12 per cent of its energy needs. This is one area in which we, as a nation with 20 per cent of the world’s uranium resources, Will be able to assist. The people who have forged links with the people who work in Italy and with its Government are members of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
There are many other areas which officers of the Department look after. These include civil aviation, cultural affairs, refugee problems, immigration, health, drug problems, travellers in distress, disaster relief, information services and numerous other responsibilities of government. Some embassies may also be engaged almost permanently in the greatly expanding network of multilateral conferences and international issues. A great deal of extra work has been placed on our embassies and high commissions in the last few years because of the dramatic increase in the number of Australians who are going overseas and realising what a truly wonderful country we have now that a Liberal-National Country Party Coalition Government is back in power. I am pleased to note that the figures have increased and that now one million Australians travel overseas. Out of that number 10 per cent or some 100,000 people seek help. Unfortunately, in a lot of countries, there are some people who are stealing Australian passports.
I think more warning should be given to Australians as they go overseas so that they realise that the laws of other countries are not the same as our laws. In the last year the 100,000 people who have sought help have turned to the Australian embassies or high commissions and to the officers in those embassies to assist them out of the problems which they have faced. We also find that the amount of traffic in telegrams and communications has increased dramatically in the last five years. Five years ago some 350,000 telegrams were received by the Department in Australia. Complex and difficult individual communications go through every day. That number increased to some 500,000 cables last year.
The Department in Australia and overseas looks after Australians and their interests. I am particularly pleased at the amount of dedication which is shown by members of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The misconception which some Australians have that members of the foreign service spend their time going from one cocktail party to another is something which I believe is very far from the truth. Australian officials from a wide variety of government departments and instrumentalities are desperately needed at posts abroad, not only to protect Australia’s bilateral interests and the rights of Australian citizens but also to ensure that Australia’s views are represented fully, and occasionally even forcefully, at the ever-growing range of international conferences which take decisions affecting so many aspects of Australia’s prosperity and way of life. Todays interdependent world requires practical international contracts at various levels. Australian officials serving overseas, together with their Australian based counterparts, remain ready to play a role in the future of Australia. Those people work in the Department of Foreign Affairs. I am pleased that in the Estimates we have allocated the huge sum of just under $464m to assist those people to carry on with this marvellous work.
– I enter this debate mainly to discuss the foreign affairs implications and activities of the Government in the Asian area, especially as that affects Australia’s standing in that area. But firstly I respond to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) who made a point of the fact that Australian Labor Party members were not particularly interested in the fate of people in other countries. I suggest that the honourable member was at one stage a Minister in a government which was not very interested in the local people of a certain Asian country. In fact, the Government was involved in disrupting their way of life and destroying their national interest over a considerable period. I speak of Vietnam. I also point out that I have heard less than enough from Government members about the current situation in Thailand where a right wing military dictatorship has overthrown the elected government and placed in jeopardy the future freedom of all Thai people. Unless that dictatorship changes its ways and acts in a proper and democratic way,’ the result will be that a communist regime will take over in that country because that will be the alternative to the oppression which is taking place now of a people who have enjoyed freedom possibly for longer than any country in Asia.
– What is happening on the Thai borders?
– The Thai borders are an area of concern. Part of that concern has to do with the fact that the Army which is prepared to fight bitterly in the streets of Bangkok has not been prepared to go to those border areas and carry out its proper functions as a policing force. That has been the case for a lot of years. The Army is more important in politics than it is in defence in that country. My concern relates to the growing tendency of the Government to over-react and overstate its position in respect of our relations, with Japan especially, and with members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Japan is Australia’s most important trading partner. In a number of trading areas there are extreme difficulties at the moment. I mention our mineral exports to Japan, their carriage and price; currently negotiations on sugar and beef; negotiations which will shortly take place relating to the 200-mile fishing zone around Australia and, in all probability on the terms under which Austrafia will make uranium available to that country.
There are two methods of approach which can be adopted. The first is that a country can negotiate responsibly but firmly on behalf of its national interests, and the second is that it can act Uke a spoiled schoolboy who expects a trading partner to react to petty threats in the manner desired. Anyone who acts in that way in the field of foreign affairs or in trade relations can only expect to be rebuked.
As has been stated already by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the present Government has brought our relationship with Japan to a very low ebb at the present dme because it is not prepared to accept, firstly, the fact that, it is the responsibility of the Japanese negotiators and the Japanese diplomats to look to the interests of Japan- Japan is not a benevolent society; it is a major and extremely tough trading nation by any standards at any time- and, secondly, the fact that it is the responsibility of Australian Ministers and Australian officials to look after the interests of Australia and to negotiate on behalf of Australia. One of the problems which have developed over the last 12 months or so is that a number of Ministers who have travelled overseas- I speak especially of those who have visited Japan but also of those who have visited other countries- have used those visits as sounding boards in making statements about the domestic political scene in Australia. That has been to the disadvantage of Australia as a nation and it has been to the disadvantage of the Ministers concerned in the long term.
I think we are about to send the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to Japan to mislead the Japanese further about the real state of industrial relations in Australia. It might be a good idea if at some time some effort were made to explain to the Japanese the differences between industrial relations and practices in Australia and those which have existed for many years in Japan. They are quite different. From the limited number of discussions in which I have had the opportunity to engage with Japanese businessmen I have found that their level of understanding of our system of arbitration and wage settlement is quite low. That is not the situation in the case of people who operate within Australia and within Australian industry. This is a serious matter. As I have indicated already, at the moment we have a number of important negotiations in train, including those concerned with the sugar agreement, access for beef, fishing zones, nuclear pokey and other trade areas.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) visited Kuala Lumpur and gave a prefect’s lecture to the Prime Minister of Japan. I am certain that that has damaged our relations with Japan substantially. Certainly it was not received well by the Japanese and has not assisted in the sugar negotiations in any way. The only other part which the Australian Government appears to have played in the negotiations, which have been going on for more than two months now, has been to send the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) on a cursory visit to Japan to talk to the negotiators. I think it ought to be understood and accepted by both nations that it is a matter of government negotiation because the original letters were exchanged at that level. The negotiations should have taken place at that level right from the start. They should have been under the direct control of an Australian Minister. It need not necessarily be the responsibility of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) or officials from his Department.
Certainly our international relations with Japan in this field have been damaged by the clumsy, inept and, I suggest, half-hearted manner in which the Australian Government has dealt with the matter. I suggest that in the international area it is bad policy for any Australian government to abdicate its responsibilities to a tate government at the negotiating table and to allow that State government to represent itself in another country as a government of Australia or as a representative of the Government of Australia. Already we have too much of an international problem in differentiating between Australians who go abroad, who purport to represent minor city nations, and who deny their Australian citizenship when they are abroad. At least two States in Australia do that sort of thing frequently. If the reports which the Department of Foreign Affairs has of the negotiations which were conducted were made ,public in some instances people would be seeking to have the leaders of the governments involved severely reprimanded.
I wish to deal with one other area which is equally as serious. Australia at present is coming, and in the future will continue to come, under increasing pressure in international forums from the member countries of the Association of
South East Asian Nations and other near neighbours in Asia. At a parliamentary conference which I attended recently Australia was attacked by a succession of speakers from the Malaysian area and even by a speaker from Papua New Guinea for its attitude to foreign aid. I found the criticism from the latter country extremely hard to understand or to justify. But the fact is that those criticisms were made. One can only assume that in the latter case the criticism was made because of a lack of understanding of the role being played by Australia or the manner in which that role currently is being handled. In our dealings with the ASEAN countries I think clumsiness is almost at the extreme, and that clumsiness is the greatest at the very head of government. The visit of the Prime Minister to the ASEAN countries did more than anything else to exacerbate the problems. It is necessary that understanding be achieved and that rational debate take place. There are Australian interests to protect, and it is the responsibility of Australian Ministers to do that. I think that can be achieved without the necessity to make threats and wild statements which have no real relevance to the problem and which certainly do not assist in finding solutions to the problems.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have conducted a sort of debate here this evening while considering the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam), however, took no part in that debate; he brought in a written speech which was carefully typed and which he read to the Committee in his customary style. Subsequently I shall make one or two comments about the speech he made. I wish to refer to the tendency that has developed in the House of Representatives over recent years to postpone debate on many of these very important matters. Too few papers on foreign affairs have been introduced into this chamber in recent years and we have been given too few opportunities to discuss in detail the many ramifications of foreign policy. Such discussions would give honourable members an opportunity to know what other people in the House are thinking. If we had a general debate some attempt could be made to obtain a consensus within this House on these very important matters. There is a very real need to have more debates on these matters, particularly when it is realised that these days defence and trade have become so interwoven with foreign affairs. It has been necessary for officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs to take part in many of the discussions which in fact are related to overseas trade.
The honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) who preceded me in the debate tonight referred to resources diplomacy. He spoke about Japan; he spoke about the Association of South East Asian Nations. I can understand some of his lament. However, in my judgment, he would do well to remember that the orientals were very sophisticated and were trading with one another at a time in history when his ancestors were covered in paint and baying at the moon at Stonehenge. In those circumstances he would be well advised to consider the facts and to stop his lament.
The references that were made to the position in Indo-China were very interesting indeed and ought to be studied very carefully by honourable members. It is easy enough to be critical of the people in Thailand; it is easy enough to be critical of the people in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. But the fact remains that any Australian with any sense of responsibility, with any sense of good fortune, is very grateful that we do not share a border with those countries and that there are many thousands of miles of water and many islands between this country and those countries in Indo-China.
I was not at all surprised to hear the comments made by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) when referring to the Indonesian situation. Anybody who has known the honourable member for as long as I have known him and anybody who knows that he experienced the great misery of being a prisoner of war and a guest of His Imperial Japanese Majesty from 1942 to 1945 will understand with great clarity that his judgment on many of these matters has been affected considerably by the charm and savoir faire with which he was treated during that time. I can well understand the deep concern and compassion that has been revealed in the Parliament in the last week by my friend, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). This was expressed side by side, I really think, with the basic attitude of the honourable member for Reid in the form of this deep concern and an anxiety that there should be an armistice, a ceasefire, in that unfortunate island so that peace may be brought to the country and people who have had their way of living destroyed by war would have presumably some opportunity of putting the broken pieces of their lives together again. I can well understand such sentiments. I hope and pray, as we all must, that this will be the trend in the development of events in the next 12 months or so.
However, when one looks again at the history of 1965, when one remembers the stories that were told by the fourth estate, when one hears in this Parliament of the reports that were made and when one understands what happened during the PKI- the Indonesian Communist Partyrevolt in 1965 I have no difficulty at aU in understanding the position of the Government in Jakarta- none at all. I would venture the view that if some of us had the personal experiences that some of the people went through at that time in that city their views would be substantially different from those that we hear expressed in this House from time to time.
I turn very briefly now to the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition. He made reference to Queensland electoral strategy. I have the feeling that he was referring to the Cattlemen’s Union which is better known to my friends in the National Country Party but I would imagine that he was referring to the interest of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in trying to help people who are in that organisation. I see nothing peculiar about that. I believe that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition himself- in fact all members of the Senate and of the House of Representativesought to be profoundly affected by the appalling circumstances that exist in the rural community today and ought to be prepared to have a policy which is bipartisan, a policy which will lead to the rehabilitation and the re-establishment of the rural economy of Australia. If this does not occur within the next two years, the resultant misery for people living in the electorates of honourable gentlemen on both sides of this House will be greatly increased indeed. The likelihood is that, as our ability to earn income overseas diminishes, we will find that we will have more and more economic problems manifesting themselves in unemployment in this country. I believe that, when the Leader of the Opposition was referring to the Prime Minister as rather thick and muscle-bound, he was being unnecessarily personal. Take the view that if that is his judgment of the Prime Minister he himself must qualify as a leading illustration of malnutrition. In those circumstances, the Leader of the Opposition was ill-advised in making that criticism.
However, what he said is that we have attempted to put a point of view in international forums on international matters. The great difference that I see between the policy of the Prime Minister, the Liberal Party and the National Country Party and the policies of the
Labor Party as represented by the Leader of the Opposition can be reasonably expressed. The people on this side of the Parliament will stand up and be counted somewhere and at least they will be on some side. The people on the other side of the Parliament in particular represented by the honourable member for Werriwa, bereft of integrity, will stand up and, hang it all, they will be counted on both sides because they will genuflect to anything around the world that represents to them some sort of ideological advantage when surrounded in the United Nations by a whole mass of people who are motivated by self-interest. We all know perfectly well that this attitude is in fact an absolute illustration of total lack of integrity. We in this country ought to remember our debt to the United States of America first expressed by the late Rt Hon. John Curtin. It was explained by him to the Australian people in words that they would well understand. When the historic appeal was made by John Curtin to the United States of America, he was speaking with fear in his heart for the welfare of his country. The truth of the matter is that the Australian debt to the United States cannot be expressed in the type of miserable criticism that is made by people on the other side of the Parliament. In my judgment, the Labor Party lacks integrity in international foreign policy. It will, on the one hand, be evenhanded in the Middle East and on the other hand it will be uneven-handed in the southern parts of Africa. It will genuflect to Moscow. It will genuflect to Peking without any difficulty.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The development of foreign POliCY under conservative coalition governments is constantly plagued by ideological blockages which they prefer to have masqueraded as realistic approaches to foreign policy making. Furthermore, the problem with foreign POliCY development in this country under conservative coalition governments has been that they seem to exaggerate the significance of this country in international relations and to respond to false images of the international situation. We have seen this on a number of occasions over the years but more especially since the advent of the present Government. For instance, last year we noted an illustration of the way in which the importance of this country can be exaggerated by the Government when it considers foreign policy. We then observed the Government hectoring and lecturing the major super powers of the world about the need for a greater display of moral fibre and determination on the part of the West and for better conduct on the part of the communist bloc countries. There was a great deal of exaggeration put forth at that stage as to the relative force deployments of both the member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the Warsaw Pact countries. What is significant is that in each case a distorted image of the world situation was presented to the Australian community as a realistic presentation of what international relations were supposed to be.
It is unfortunate when a country responds to a distorted image of international relations because, when that happens, the sorts of responses which are forthcoming can often be misleading and totally wrong. Louis Halle, a former United States State Department planner, in his book on American foreign policy illustrates this by pointing out the extent to which a government addresses itself to a false image of the external world in making foreign policy then ‘in the degree that the image is false, actually and philosophically false, no technicians, however proficient, can make policy based on it sound’. It was a tactic of the Government to seek to inject into this country a degree of fear and even insecurity arising from a false image of international distribution of power between the two super powers. More engagingly, the image was one some thousands of miles removed from this part of the world.
I do not want to go into details, exploding the misleading statements that were made by the Government. I have done that elsewhere- for instance, in the Milne Memorial Lecture on Foreign Policy this year which I would recommend to honourable members. I have to do that because I find it very hard to find others to do it for me. But what I do point out to make succinctly the point that I want to make so that I can move on to more important points is to quote what the United States Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, said earlier this year on this very important point which the Government has sought to exaggerate and continues to seek to exaggerate- especially the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser)- for political reasons which are rigidly ideologically motivated. Mr Brown said:
The Soviets are bound to draw level with us in certain mature technologies. They could probably concentrate research and development resources in a few technologies and draw ahead of us in them. To do so, however, they would have to pay a severe penalty in other areas. I say this because, on balance, despite the strides they have made, our technological base for future weapons remains broader and deeper than theirs.
I do not want to relate all the details again, as I have done so previously in this House and elsewhere, which explode the sorts of exaggerated assertions which the Government has levelled from time to time about the international security situation, but it is relevant to start from this point and to move into our own area because the Government is constantly responding to false images which it perceives in international relations.
I am not totally sure that there is not a streak of cynicism in the way in which it presents these images. For instance, we have seen in our area in fairly recent times a display of bristling bellicosity on the part of the Government about an alleged Soviet naval build-up in the Indian Ocean. It mattered not at all that concurrent with this figment being presented for the Australian public the Australian Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) had released to the Australian Parliament in about April or May of last year details which showed beyond any doubt that not only had the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean been maintained at a consistently low level for several years but also that the number of ship days had declined in recent times.
The point I make, because it is relevant to what is happening at the moment, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) overseas, relates to some of the rather remarkable correspondence which has been reported in the daily papers and the implications of the correspondence he has been sending to the American authorities. I am quite convinced that a large degree of the explanation for that bristling bellicosity about a completely ficticious Russian build.up in the Indian Ocean was a desire by the Government to manoeuvre the Americans into a large and expensive commitment far from their shores. It mattered not at all that the implications of such a successful move would have been the transportation of the destabilisation of the international arms race to Australian shores. The Government sought this kind of commitment from the Americans. The Government was prepared to go to just about any length to achieve it. It seemed to be the conventional wisdom of the Government and some of its advisers that the most desirable thing for Australia would be to make certain arrangements with the Americans which resulted in commitments for American naval units to be deployed at Australian bases in Western Australia on a permanent basis.
The upshot, of course, was that the American Administration was too wise to be trapped into such a patently obvious device on the part of the
Australian Government. The Americans are certainly in the Indian Ocean. Their presence at Diego Garcia is low level. It is more significant for its relevance as a transit point, especially for aircraft going to the west Asian area. The American Administration has no desire to see an escalation of its commitment in that region. This has been confirmed by statements from the American Administration and the Russian Government in the past 48 hours indicating that both countries are capable, they believe, of coming to an accord to establish at a low level the military presence there and perhaps even to reduce it. The tactic was obvious. It was consistent with the sorts of tactics which have been developed by conservative coalition governments in the past. It is always cheap if the Government can get someone else to pay for our defence. It is always better if the Government can get a large American commitment. Then it can talk tough. While it is not quite a free lunch, it gets close to being relatively costless. We are in that situation at present.
The Government recognises that as things stand at the moment ANZUS is a vastly diminished guarantee. It is the only pact of any standing left. The Americans made it clear from 1969 onwards that so far as regional conflicts are concerned they would expect allies such as Australia to be capable of attending to their own security needs. It is also clear to anyone who reflects on the issue that America has many more interests in this region than Australia. It is not very difficult to conceive certain hypothetical situations in which America would be hard pressed to make a decision between Australia, on the one hand, and some other country, on the other hand, in which it had a special interest in the event of Australia and that other country coming into conflict. We may be as important to America as we were to Britain in the late 1930s.
So the Foreign Minister is in America trying to engender some sort of fearful concern by presenting a false image of the situation in the South East Asian area. For him to convey such an impression is to behave in a way quite contrary to the sort of advice which he has been receiving and the sort of advice which we received when we were in government. The Government is seeking to re-establish that sort of American commitment which previous Liberal-Country Party governments had sought in the past, by exaggerating the sort of instability, the product of false images that they said existed in our area. We would be far better off it we recognised that Australia as a small power and a wealthy power will derive its influence within its own region and largely within its own region by exploiting its role as a trading partner, as a co-operative friend and an ally which is dedicated to serving the development of other countries. This means, for instance, that we must play a much more constructive role with blocs such as the Association of South East Asian Nations trading bloc and allow greater access to Australian markets so that the sort of development which is necessary for stability there can be established.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable members time has expired.
Considering the importance of international relations to the future welfare of this country, the contributions made tonight by the leaders of the Opposition have been, to say the least, pitiful. We nave heard so much about ideological blockages, responding to false images. In fact the little which we have heard has been light on substance but heavy on style. It has been laced with vindictive comments, half truths and, of course, inevitable innuendo. The reality facing Australia of course, is what our relations should be with our neighbours and, more importantly, with the world; how we as a nation see our position in terms of our domestic relationships and their interrelationships with international situations.
Perhaps the greatest failure which we have seen in recent years in terms of Australia’s international relations rests wholly and solely on the performance of the previous Prime Minister of Australia in relation to the question of Timor. What he left to this country can be described only as a legacy of shame. During his visit to Jakarta in September 1974 and President Suharto’s visit to Australia in April 1975 that man and his Government sold the right of Australia to hold its head high and to say that we are people of principle, regardless of which party is in government, and that we know where the rights of individuals for self-determination lie. It is perhaps the most extraordinary quirk of history that the socialists in our midst- that group of people which theoretically maintains the highest standards and regards all others only as the flotsam and jetsam of society- demonstrated in that very real situation, as distinct from the morass of innuendo and half truths which we normally hear from them, how they failed utterly to face a real crisis. It is perhaps a sad thing for men like Curtin and Chifley in the Second World War, who also espoused the same philosophy and who had the courage to take the right and the difficult decisions, that their successors have so failed. They demonstrated to this nation while in government their utter and complete contempt for the truth and for the rights of peoples whether Indonesians or Timorese. I would like to quote for the benefit of the House the comment made by Dr H. V. Evatt in this chamber on 9 February 1949. I will give some historical perspective. This was at the time the Dutch and the Indonesians were fighting over the question of whether Indonesia had the right to its independence. He said:
Nobody can say that it is not our business. It is the business of the United Nations Organisation, of which we are a part, and of the people of the world because the life or death of a Dutch or Indonesian soldier is just as important as that of any man anywhere in the world . . .
What is the difference between the life or death of an Indonesian soldier killed in Timor and the rights of a citizen of Timor to fight for his independence? Yet at the time when Australia could have done something, when we could have given the moral support which I believe, on the basis of recent intelligence, President Suharto would have wished at that time, the Prime Mnister sold the rights of another people to decide their future, and left in its wake the death and destruction which has fallen upon that small nation. Regrettably the path of Timor’s history which could have been a clear road is pitted by tears and blood which have fallen upon it for so long. But I hope we have learned a lesson. Whereas people like the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F. Cairns) in his time took to the streets with demonstrations over Vietnam, what have we heard since then with regard to the genocide in Kampuchea? Silence! (Quorum formed) Members of the Opposition can try as hard as they like to stifle the freedom of speech of members of this chamber, but the people of this country are well able to differentiate between the truth and falsehood which we have heard from them so often in the past hour.
Let me now turn to some of the comments made by the ostensible acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitiam) with regard to the performance of this Government in the area of foreign policy. The honourable member complained about our handling of relations with Japan. What government would have the courage to face the Australian people if it was not prepared, as this Government has done, to stand up in every forum and to demonstrate that it believes that Australian producers of beef, of sugar and of any other commodity have a right to expect that contracts freely entered into are carried out by aU parties. If members of the Opposition regard the Prime Minister’s action with contempt, all I can say is that they are not fit to ever grace this chamber, much less the benches of government.
Certain comments were made about the Government’s attitude to apartheid and about Rhodesia. We were told that I went to Rhodesia last year. I say here in this chamber in front of my peers that I am proud that I made that trip because, as the representative of the people, it is my responsiblity to acquaint myself with the facts. I do not sit in this chamber in judgment about how other nations run their affairs without knowledge except perhaps the biased views of some doctrinaire text book. I do not support apartheid. This Government certainly does not support apartheid. But let this be understood: If this land has failed, as it has in recent history, to solve its own problems- to wit, the Aborigines- what right have we to start demanding that other peoples should agree with us. It is only by going to countries and seeing for oneself what the problems of that country are that one is able effectively to come back and to make a sound judgment on how situations can be improved.
The objective in southern Africa is clear. What we are not clear about is how to attain it. One thing is certain: The views adopted by people, such as the rabble that makes up the Opposition, have shown quite demonstrably that forcing people into a corner makes them fight and by fighting all that is achieved is bloodshed. It is said that the Labor Party stands for the eight principles of peaceful co-existance However, I ave never seen a greater demonstration of falsehood than I have seen from Opposition speakers tonight in this debate. This Government is clear on what our national responsibilities are. As the Government of Australia we will stand up in the world community. We will continue to state what Australia is prepared to do to make the world a better place for other people to live in. Above all, the Government is responsible for the future welfare of our own people and has demonstrated that at all times it is prepared to support the interests of the people of Australia.
-The House has rarely heard a greater farrago of humbug from any honourable member than it heard from the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) this night. He stood here in this House tonight -
Motion (by Mr Donald Cameron) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Deputy Chairman-Mr G.O ‘H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 , 790,4 10,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $256,034,000.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $328,850,000.
-An important point about the appropriation for the Department of Health is that the net cost of running the Department of Health in 1977-78 is proposed to be approximately $2,497m. Yet the Department is unable to produce appropriate statistics to enable it to decide how to dispense that money. That is one of the depressing things about this Department. Yesterday, when we were discussing the tabling of Mr Justice Ludeke’s report on medical fees, I said, after discussing all the difficulties involved in deciding what reasonable medical fees ought to be:
The important point in the answer is the one we find difficulty in dealing with and hopefully Mr Justice Ludeke got some information from the Commonwealth Department ofHealth.
At that time I did not know what was in the report by Mr Justice Ludeke. When I looked at the report last night I found that none of this information was available. Page 13 of the report is a terrible indictment of a government which talks about saving the taxpayers money and doing things in a rational way. In paragraph 22, in discussing the sorts of things which ought to be taken into account in deciding by what margin medical fees should be increased, Mr Justice Ludeke said, amongst other things:
Such a decision . . . should be examined by reference to changes in the Medical Benefits Scheme which have an effect on income of medical practitioners outside the area of economic adjustment of fees; an instance of change was that leading to an increase in incomes where there has been no proportionate change in workloads.
The Department also drew attention to the effects of Medibank upon incomes and referred to features such as direct billing, changes in methods of remuneration for services rendered to patients in Standard (previously Public) wards of public hospitals- previously the so-called honoraries were not paid- and the introduction of complete medical cover for pensioners . . .
Doctors now receive 85 per cent of the schedule fee, compared with 50 per cent in the case of general practitioners and nothing for specialists previously. Mr Justice Ludeke concluded:
In the event, the Department acknowledged that it did not have available any substantive information which would permit an assessment to be made for these matters; they have consequently played no pan in the determinations of the inquiry.
Yet hundreds of millions of dollars has gone to medical practitioners. The figure for specialists alone in Victoria last year was $24m. Mr Justice Ludeke had to make decisions costing the Australian public, via the funds, private contributions and Medibank taxation, $67m. Yet he was not provided with any adequate information. This is shameful. If the media were as critical of the performance of this Government as they were of the performance of the previous Government they would be tearing this Government to pieces.
Another interesting point arose from Mr Justice Ludeke ‘s statement. Page 27 shows that the Department of Health made a submission to him as to the estimated increase in the consumer price index for the September quarter. That was 3.25 per cent. This compares with an increase in the consumer price index in the September quarter last year of 2.2 per cent and an increase of only 0.8 per cent in the September quarter of 1975 when the Labor Government was in power. The consumer price index increased from 0.8 per cent to 2.2 per cent and then to an estimated 3.25 per cent in the current September quarter. What lies we are told in general discussion in this chamber when the Government says that inflation is on the way down. If the Government wants to support increases in doctors’ fees it comes out with the real estimate.
The discussions in Senate Estimates Committee D on Thursday, 8 September 1977, indicate changes in the school dental scheme. Grants for the States for capital and recurrent expenditure have been reduced from 90 per cent to 75 per cent. In the community health program grants for capital costs have been decreased from 75 per cent to 50 per cent and grants for operating costs from 90 per cent to 75 per cent. Senator Grimes asked Dr Hennessy, appearing for the Department of Health, the following question:
Are there any half-completed projects that are likely to come to a stop because of the cut in expenditure this year?
Dr Hennessy replied:
It is too early for us to assess that.
He was speaking about the school dental service. He continued:
We have to await the results of State budgets and detailed implementation of those. We are keeping a close eye on it. It seems most unlikely that any new projects will get under way. We already have information from States that planning, documentation and so on on new projects will be deferred . . .
The important point is that there was no consultation with the States before the decisions were made. I now want to quote what was said by a person whom honourable members on the Government side usually consider reliable, Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria. He was reported on 8 September as having made these remarks in respect of this very issue. He was speaking about the Budget he had introduced. This article said that Mr Hamer ‘blamed the Federal Government for a 5 per cent cut in hospital budgets approved in March’. The article went on to say:
He expressed serious concern at the arbitrary way the Commonwealth had cut draft hospital budgets without consulting the State. It was fundamental that the States should be confident the Commonwealth would adhere to its side of the contract in cost sharing arrangements. The States should not find themselves, without warning, carrying a much greater cost than expected. He said that the Federal Government had unilaterally-
He emphasised the word ‘unilaterally’- cut its share of the costs of community health centres and the school dental program.
The quotation I read was from a report which appeared in the Age and it related to Mr Hamer’s speech in the Victorian Legislative Assembly when bringing down the Victorian Budget. The major point to be made is that this is the concept of the Commonwealth Government’s new federalism. This Government said that we were going to have all this co-operation between it and the States, yet the States were not told before the Commonwealth Budget was brought down that there was going to be a sudden change in funding, from 90 per cent down to 75 per cent, from 75 per cent down to 50 per cent. All this is being left to the States.
I think it is important to emphasise what is happening with community health programs. There will be no funds for any new projects yet they are very important projects. I want to quote again from what was said by Dr Hennessy at the hearing of Senate Estimates Committee D on 8 September. Dr Hennessy, speaking for the Department of Health, said:
For instance, I refer to the Eastern Domiciliary Care Service in Adelaide. In examining a number of its patients who would otherwise have been in hospital or under nursing home care, it has been able to show that these patients have been maintained successfully and in a satisfying way in the community at a cost of $5 a week which is, of course, very much less than the cost of the alternative forms of care.
Similarly, certain calculations have been carried out in respect of a project in Fairfield in my electorate, a nome aid service. The cost benefit factor has been closely examined by the Council of Social Service of New South Wales. This was done in November 1976. It was estimated then that the provision of domestic home help with meals on wheels and a domiciliary nurse cost the taxpayer, on average, around $23 a week; that is for each patient. The alternative, nursing/convalescent home admission, brought a subsidy then of $78.40 to $99.40 a week from the taxpayer. The relevant figures now are $93 per week and $135 per week. Add to this the preference of the aged person to remain at home and we have a strong case for the expansion of domiciliary care services, particularly those which are directed to the support of the aged.
I urge the Government to look again at its failure. Even from an economic point of view it is ridiculous to cut back on those sorts of things and to rely on people going into State hospitals, into private or State nursing homes, where the cost to the taxpayer is hundreds of dollars a week. We know that the average cost of a hospital bed in Australia is in the order of $ 1 40 or $ 1 SO a day. It now costs over $ 1 ,000 a week to keep a person in hospital. In the case of major hospitals attached to universities the figure reaches $200 a day or $1,400 a week. Surely we have to do everything possible to keep people out of hospitals.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)The honourable member’s dme has expired.
– I found it rather difficult to follow the earlier remarks of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) but I gathered he was critical of the determination in respect of medical fees, as announced in this House yesterday by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). I would remind the honourable member that the increase of 8 per cent was far less than the increase of 31.9 per cent in the previous period to 30 September 1974, as was stated in the report, and the 20.S per cent that applied for the ensuing 12-months period. It is not my intention to enter in any detail into the multitude of aspects that apply in these particular areas of health and welfare.
I want to deal with one particular point because there is one facet of our health program where the Government is being defrauded of countless millions of dollars and, likewise, the public directly through the private health insurance funds. An unidentified number of medical practitioners is ripping off these millions of dollars through abuse of the position of trust in which they are placed. Much of this fraudulent practice is known to the Government and, I beeve, to the hierarchy and to the honest practitioners of the various medical associations. Let me emphasise at this point that it is not a practice that is followed by a majority of doctors but, nevertheless, it is all too widespread. I am alarmed at the increasing number of convictions of doctors for offences under the Health Insurance Act. Almost weekly doctors are being brought before the courts and successfully prosecuted. Illegal practices were highlighted recently when an Adelaide dermatologist, Dr Welch, was fined $14,200 with $47,500 costs on 71 offences relating to Medibank. It was reported that he repaid $110,000 directly relating to charges against him and a further $100,000 relating to matters not dealt with by the court.
In my estimation, medical practitioners in private practice fall broadly into four categories. Firstly, the honest practitioners. They are scrupulous, do not overvisit or overtreat patients and uphold the highest ethical standards. Indeed, they are impeccably honest. Secondly, there are the blatant cheats who quite massively indulge in a variety of practices to boost their incomes and are most likely to be caught and prosecuted. They are, no doubt, in the minority but are involved in such actions as claiming for nonexistent services, claiming for out of hours charges when in hours charges should apply and requiring pensioners to sign more than one voucher for one visit. It is my experience that pensioners are reluctant to raise the issue for fear of vindictiveness by the doctor and will not change doctors because of their medical history record being with that particular doctor or because they are satisfied with the treatment by their doctor. Then there is probably the most common abuse- that is, overconsultation of patients instigated by the doctor. This is the most difficult abuse to detect and to sustain a case about. It is not practical to set up a panel of doctors to determine whether a medical service is required. It is then left to the discretion of each individual doctor as to how many consultations he deems necessary for the well-being of his patient. This practice of overconsultation is rife with pensioners and private patients, whether they are covered under the Medibank levy system, Medibank Private or a private health insurance organisation. It applies also to repatriation patients.
The remainder of private practice doctors fall into two categories- the smart or cautious doctors and the not so cautious doctors. The more cautious doctors are indulging only slightly in all or some of the practices and will probably never be found out whilst the less cautious ones are defrauding to a greater extent and are more liable to be investigated and successfully prosecuted. What motivates a private practice doctor to be so greedy? Quite apart from the normal lust that grips some doctors, many are moved by wanting to keep up with the Joneses. It becomes a status symbol to own a large home with an expensive car, a second holiday home, a unit or a farming property. It is the possessions and affluence of their colleagues and business associates that often pushes them into fraudulent practices.
Most medical practitioners in private practice, provided they maintain a sound name and are prepared to work and show an interest, or even appear to show an interest, in their patients can determine the extent or magnitude of their incomes, certainly up to a figure of some $100,000 annually and, indeed, many up to $ 1 50,000 annually. Some quick arithmetic shows that an average private practice general practitioner who does not do surgery or assist with surgery, working eight hours a day and five days a week, can easily earn in excess of $100,000 annually. He needs to see only a modest 50 patients daily at the new fees announced yesterday by the Minister for Health as will apply from 1 January 1978- in New South Wales it will be $8.90 per consultation in hours- and work 48 weeks of the year in order to gross in excess of $100,000 annually.
To the defrauders and exploiters yesterday’s fees increase announcement by the Minister for Health will be laughable. They are grossing so much money that the eight per cent increase is really quite unimportant to them. It is rather ironic that many of the doctors who cheat and who supported funds to wage campaigns against the introduction of Medibank are now ripping off the system. Another unfortunate side to overconsultation by doctors is the fact that it is often associated with over-prescribing of drugs. Frequently, to justify the visits the doctor prescribes unnecessarily. While many patients do not question an accumulation of drugs but merely take them, some more alert ones often ask their chemist: ‘ What am I taking this for? ‘
What are the answers to the problem? How can the Government, the public, the Australian Medical Association and other medical associations involved overcome or at least lessen the problem? There are a number of ways in which the problems can be tackled. In my mind, the patient contribution or identifiable cost is far too small. At the moment for a little more than $1 a patient can consult his doctor. Because he has to ave medical insurance he can keep going back at $1 a visit. This is not a deterrent cost to the patient. If the patient contribution were, say, $4 per visit with a proportionate drop in insurance contributions he would be inclined to take more notice of frequent visits. There should be abolition of bulk billing except for pensioners. There should be more stringent policing by the Government and by medical associations of the practices of private practice doctors. The public should be made more aware of the possibility of overconsultation. Although penalities for Medibank offences were recently increased to a maximum of $10,000 or five years imprisonment they are still not adequate.
Finally, I believe that the Government should give consideration to a catastrophic insurance scheme. This sort of scheme would insure the patient against major illness or accident only and make him responsible for ordinary visits to general practitioners and specialists. Insurance premiums would be vastly reduced under this type of scheme. If a person had to pay $9 per visit out of his own pocket he would be more careful of the costs involved. I conclude by once again emphasising two things: Firstly, this matter of fraudulently ripping off the Government by private practice doctors is a serious problem costing many millions of dollars annually; and secondly, it should be clearly understood that my comments about medical practitioners are not allembracing. There are still many good, honest, decent doctors in our community.
– Name them.
– In spite of what the honourable member for Robertson says, there are a lot of medical practitioners in this nation who earn what they get, but unfortunately an increasing number today are taking down the Government and the public. I want to pay a tribute to the Director-General of Health. If honourable members have looked at the annual report of the Director-General of Health for 1976-77 they could only be impressed with the emphasis that is being placed on various matters. I know that the Director-General has given a lot of attention to such things as the drug education program and the treatment and rehabilitation facilities for alcohol and drug dependency. This is a case of prevention being better than cure. The DirectorGeneral is to be commended for pursuing these various programs.
-In past years there has been a continuing growth in Federal legislation aimed at providing an ever widening range of community facilities in health, welfare, sport, cultural and recreational areas. Tonight I want to talk about a program that the Australian Labor Party has developed, which we call our community development program, which loosely brings in a number of pieces of legislation which now cover this area. I will name just a few of them: The States Grants (Home Care) Act, the sport and recreation grants, the area improvement program, child care and preschool services, hospital and health services, community arts, the Regional Employment Development scheme and the Australian Assistance Plan. I realise that some of these are not covered specifically in the estimates we are talking about tonight. However, they are relevant because they were covered in the Bailey report, particularly under that section of the report relating to community assistance and recreation programs, or what is known as CARP.
The Bailey report has caused the Labor Party considerable concern. In fact, it has caused a number of people in the community considerable concern. In effect, what it does is suggest the withdrawal of Commonwealth involvement in most of these areas and the handing over of the responsibility to the States. We believe that that would be disastrous. With due respect to our colleagues in the States, they have a record of spending taxpayers’ money in areas where it can do them the most political good rather than in areas of the greatest need. Whilst I may be critical of things that the Commonwealth has done over the years, including past Liberal governments, I think it is fair to say that Commonwealth governments in the past have been less likely to pork barrel than State governments, who are quite unashamedly pork barrellers in the way in which they hand out funds. That situation is not restricted to Liberal governments; it happens on both sides. I think that is one of the reasons why the Labor Party will oppose quite strongly the recommendations in the Bailey report to hand these matters over to the States.
I make it clear at the outset that the program we have suggested does not attempt to prescribe specific services that should be provided through these programs. Our basic aim is to ensure that there is greater flexibility in the provision of community amenities and that maximum value is obtained for the taxpayers’ dollar. There is evidence that, due to the variety of State and Federal departments administering different legislation, the opportunity to cut costs by combining many of these facilities into one or two multipurpose centres has not been available. I am thinking now of all the funds that are made available through the various programs. For example, if a community decides that it requires a health centre, a senior citizens centre and perhaps a pre-school kindergarten, which can easily be built in the one complex, administrative problems make such a proposition difficult, if not impossible, despite the obvious advantages of having that section of the community most in need of health care within easy access of health facilities. There is obviously a limit to the number of community facilities and services that can be provided in one complex. There is also a limit to the funds governments are prepared to make available in one area of public spending. We propose that there should be more multipurpose centres which would cut costs significantly while at the same time ensuring more efficient use of the limited resources available.
It is essential that two factors be given top priority in the future provision of these facilities.
Firstly, facilities should be provided to communities in the order of greatest need. Secondly, legislation should be provided so that when the need for a range of facilities is identified there is provision for them to be included in a multipurpose centre or complex. I found when we were in government that it was impossible to get the different departments of government to combine in providing one project in which three or four things could be incorporated. They would say that it was impossible and that the easiest thing to do was to build each one separately. That might mean simpler administration for the Government. It might be easier to work it out in that way, but in terms of the taxpayers’ dollar it is clearly a waste. There is no formula in the Bailey report for assessing local needs, and if we are to avoid the trap of channelling limited funds into areas because of the ability of the people of that area to work the system, then we are going to face a considerable amount of injustice in the way in which funds are spent.
Obviously there has to be some objective assessment of the relative needs of an area to improve the social environment and the opportunities of its citizens. A similar situation arose when the assessment of needs in education expenditure was considered by the Whitlam Government. The solution was the Schools Commission, which offers a model for determining priority areas of need in a community development program. The Schools Commission set out the desirable level of educational standards and where the areas of greatest deficiencies were, and then drew up a scale of funding that would ensure maximum expenditure in the areas of greatest need. There was a right of appeal for schools which felt that they had been placed in an unjust position on that scale.
What is happening in our community is that the most articulate groups are able to find out quickly about existing legislation, take advantage of it and get in and avail themsleves of the grants. The less articulate groups miss out. That is not a criticism; it is a natural thing to happen. The Government has a responsibility to make sure that the funds which are available go first to the areas of greatest need. I think we need a “body, not necessarily a commission, to assess on a regional basis the needs of areas and to grade communities as I suggested the Schools Commission did.
I shall give an example of what I mean. There are two bases for assessing these needs. One is the straight socio-economic basis. Obviously there are poorer areas and wealthier areas. The second basis applies to new developing areas in which there is a need for funds for water, sewerage, drainage, roads- a basic infrastructure. This would apply to areas such as the outer urban areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and so on. Those areas are not able to provide such facilities as sport and recreation facilities, libraries, community arts programs and health centres because they are still building their basic infrastructure. Therefore, we have two methods of grading communities in their capacity to provide funds for new facilities.
We suggest that these areas should be graded on a one to ten basis. Instead of what we have now, which is either matching grants on a basis of two for one or three for one or a dollar for dollar basis or a per capita grant, we would provide funds for these facilities on a one to ten basis. Areas such as Redfern, Liverpool, or Coburg, or a deprived area or outer urban area such as my area in Gosford where there is a great need for an infrastructure, would fall within Category 1, Category 2 or Category 3 and would get 100 per cent or 90 per cent assistance. Other more affluent areas, such as Woollahra, Toorak and so on, would receive some funds but they would be graded at the bottom of the list in Category 9 or Category 10 and would receive 10 per cent or 20 per cent assistance. The Labor Party sees this as the only fair and just way in which to provide funds in the future. That is what we outlined in the community development program which Senator Don Grimes and I announced yesterday.
There are one or two other things which I think governments can do but which they have not done in the past. I have found that when a community wanted to build, say, a health centre, a pre-school, a kindergarten or a youth centre and went to the Government for funds usually they engaged the services of a local inexperienced architect and he designed what was probably the first building he had ever designed for that area. I believe this causes a great deal of waste of funds because often what he designs is too big or too small. I could give some horrible examples of where a sum of $100,000 was wasted because something was built 18 inches too narrow, or it was found after it had been built that it did not have the right fire excapes because the architect had never built a community hall like that before, and the whole thing had to be done again. We need panels of advisers- not people telling these communities what to do but advising them so that if they want to do something they can go to the Government and get technical advice.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-One respect of health expenditure upon which I should like to dwell tonight is the community health program. Grants for that program for 1977-78 have been increased by $l0.2m to $79.05m- an increase of 14.8 per cent over the previous year. At a time of general economic restraint it is pleasing to see the Government’s commitment to the community health program in accordance with its 1975 pre-election promises. We then stated that we believed in a concept of total health care with the responsibility essentially at the community level. Our policy further stated that we would provide a variety of accessible ways in which to meet these needs as far as possible in the community setting and that we would stress prevention, education, rehabilitation and home care in preference to institutional care.
Fifteen years ago approximately 5.2 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product was devoted to health. By the 1975-76 financial year the expenditure had risen to an estimated $5,235m, representing 7.5 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product. Honourable members will be aware that the Bailey task force found that the total expenditure in the health and welfare areas of Commonwealth government responsibility exceeded $8,800m in 1975-76, or 40 per cent of the total government outlay. Of that sum the expenditure on the community health program represented less than one per cent.
The growing cost of the provision of health services in this country ought to be of major concern to this Parliament and to those responsible for the planning and implementation of our national health program. I believe that our commitment to the preventive and educational aspects of the community health program can go a considerable way towards constraining our health expenditure. In September 1976 the Dean of the Medical School at the University of Melbourne identified part of the problem when he stated:
There have been many initiatives to improve health care in the community in the past four years, originating from various State agencies and from Canberra. This has resulted in alarming fragmentation of services and ineffective use of resources in some areas.
The recommendations of the Bailey task force are a starting point in the rationalisation of government health programs. We look forward with interest to the report which will be published shortly by the Bailey follow-up group. However, it is my view that the community health program can be the basis for a national health program with a strong bias towards the preventive and educational aspects of community well-being. Currently over 700 projects are funded under the community health progam. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table setting out in summary form the 727 projects that have been funded.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– These projects range from community health centres to day hospitals, day care centres, geriatric services, health education services, maternal and child care services, drug and rehabilitation facilities, funding for community nursing and so on. It is a wide-ranging program of considerable benefit to community well-being and in many cases it gives health services to communities that previously have been deprived in that area.
In the short time available to me I would like to refer to one particular area; that is, the role of the community nurse. I am not suggesting that the work of the community nurse is more important than that of others working in the program, but I believe that it is a good example of the development of a new category of health worker. The community nurse is a generalist. She is not limited to one special aspect of nursing service. She is oriented to health as opposed to illness; to prevention rather than cure; and to rehabilitation rather than submission to disabilities. In country areas the community nurse also provides therapeutic services. As at July 1976 over 1,100 community nurses were operating throughout Australia and being funded under the community health program.
Under the program an amount of $437,800 will be granted to the Australian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Of that sum, $223,500 will be allocated to allow the completion of the national alcoholism in industry program. The Foundation provides statistics that indicate that an estimated 150,000 male alcoholics are engaged in industry and commerce. That represents 4.5 per cent of the Australian work force. In 1974-75 an estimated $532m was lost to industry in Australia as a direct result of alcoholism. The advantages of the alcoholism in industry program will be numerous. Not the least of them will be the relief not only to the alcoholic but also to bis family. Honourable members will be aware of the excellent work being carried out at centres such as the
Salvation Army’s ‘Haven’ in Brisbane for young alcoholics and drug addicts and the New South Wales Health Commission’s main drug centre in the heart of Sydney.
There is another area that I believe should be developed within the framework of the community health program. Community recreation, fitness and use of leisure time are a vital part of any national health program. They are basic to the preventive aspect of the community’s health. A report submitted recently to the Government by its Health and Welfare Committee referred to this matter in the following terms:
The health of the community has a direct relationship to the manner in which members of the community utilise thenleisure time and perform their daily tasks. National policies on sport, recreation and fitness must be interrelated to a national health program.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977, 1 shall report progress.
The Deputy Chairman having reported accordingly-
Special Youth Employment Training Program- Industries Assistance Commission Report on Passenger Motor Vehicles- Sale of Homes to Migrants- Industrial Disputes- Trade Unions
-It being after 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the order of the House of 10 March 1977, 1 propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight I wish to speak about the Special Youth Employment Training Program or, as we know it, SYETP. Last month I issued a Press statement which I shall read. It received fairly good coverage in the Sydney metropolitan Press. It stated:
Budget Leaves 127,000 Young Jobless out in the Cold
The Government’s much publicised plan to extend the Special Youth Employment Training Program to include young people under the age of 25 will provide absolutely no consolation for the 127,000 unemployed youth who are currently outside the narrow guidelines of the program, and will in fact condemn the vast majority of the young to another year of bearing the major burden of unemployment . . . The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, takes great delight in praising the SYETP program for having assisted 15,000 young people during the last 10 months. However, the Munster cynically neglects to mention that 240,000 young people were unemployed during 1976 and that only a mere 6 per cent of these gained any benefit from the program.
Despite what the Government would have you believe, the facts are that youth unemployment has long reached the critical point and is rapidly deteriorating even further, thanks to sustained Government indifference and inaction In February 1977, about 55 per cent of the unemployed were under 24 and nearly four out of every ten of unemployed were under 20. At the same time, the unemployment rate for young people was more than four times the rate for those aged 20 and more than this, since 1961 youth unemployment has increased from 18.5 per cent to nearly 40 per cent, while over the same period, the group, as a percentage of the work force, has remained stable at 1 2 per cent. . . Like so much else that was contained in the Budget, the proposed extension of the special youth employment training program is a fraud. With youth unemployment, fuelled by the Budget, likely to be in excess of 1 70,000 by January next year, the proposed addition of 15,000 employment and training positions is scandalously inadequate. This is especially so when you take into account that funds for apprenticeship training under the ‘CRAFT’ and NAAS’ have been reduced by 9 per cent in real terms.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) and the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) have made statements in relation to the training of apprentices. I know that a non-indentured apprentice with more than a year’s service was given notice on the same day as his employer applied for a subsidy under SYETP for a replacement employee for the apprentice whose service he was terminating. But let us look at the other side of the picture. The Special Youth Employment Training Program is designed to provide employment training and work experience for young people. The Department has advertised- I refer to the information sheet ‘How to Claim’- that subsidies are paid on a monthly basis. Claim forms are supplied by the Commonwealth Employment Service and employers are requested to complete and to return the form to the Commonweatlh Employment Service at the end of each month’s training. Payments under the scheme will be made on a monthly basis by the Department. What the Department does not say is that there is a delay of two and a half months to four months in payments, because of staff shortages. One of the purposes of the scheme is to give a monetary incentive to employers to provide employment and training for young people.
If we can eliminate the cancer of unemployment, we are carrying out a service to the youth and the needy who are unemployed. Employers who are employing these Australians normally would not be in a position to afford to employ them. But the added attraction of the subsidy and the sense of employing a junior are greatly reduced. These young people are then able to obtain employment. In many cases the subsidy actually creates a position which normally does not exist. However, when taking on a person, some companies are acting in good faith in the belief that payment Will come through fairly promptly. Failing this they will have to bear the full cost of employment for several months. They expect to be reimbursed under this scheme but they have to wait two to four months for their money. The main point I am making tonight is that 18 firms in Sydney have to wait from two and a half to four months for finance. I ask the Minister tonight to make a full inquiry into the reorganisation of the SYETP as a matter of urgency and into the possibility of more staff for the Department.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Acting Speaker, earlier this evening I undertook to table in this House a copy of a Press statement issued this evening by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) and myself detailing the Government’s decisions in relation to the Industries Assistance Commission report on passenger motor vehicles. I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard,
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The statement read as follows-
(Joint statement by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Robert Cotton, and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Wal Fife).
The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Robert Cotton and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, Mr Wal Fife today announced the Government’s decision on the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on Passenger Motor Vehicles’ dated 12 September 1977.
The Ministers said that the Government had accepted the Commission’s recommendation that quantitative import restrictions on passenger motor vehicles should be continued until 31 December 1979. Senator Cotton and Mr Fife said that the Government considered that continued restrictions were necessary to prevent severe disruption in the local industry. The Ministers said that the Government believed that unless import restrictions were continued the local industry’s market share would fall below the level of 80 per cent which the Government regarded as necessary to avoid disruption. However, the Government did not accept the Commission’s recommendation that the market sharing policy be terminated on 3 1 December 1 979. Any arrangements necessary to ensure that market disruption does not take place after that date can only be determined during 1979, the Ministers said.
The Ministers stated that the level of quantitative import restrictions for the last quarter of 1977 would continue at the rate previously announced, i.e. 90,000 vehicles per annum. Thereafter, the restrictions would limit imports to 94,000 vehicles in 1978 and not less than 90,000 vehicles in 1979. The actual quota level to apply in 1979 would be determined towards the end of 1 978.
As to the principles of quota allocation in 1978 and 1979, the Ministers stated that the Government had accepted the Commission’s general approach whereby quotas would be based on market performance. However, the Government had decided to continue the existing practice of issuing licences which are not restricted to specific makes of vehicle. In addition, the Ministers said that the Government had decided that quotas will be transferable in relation to 1978 and 1979.
The Ministers pointed out that there could be some delay before the calculation of all individual importer’s quota entitlements is completed. In the meantime, importers would be advised of interim allocations if necessary. The Ministers stated that pending the determination of final allocations importers should regard the allocations set out in the Commission’s report as indicative only.
The administrative arrangements for the allocation of quotas for the remainder of 1977 and for 1978 would be announced by the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs through a Bureau of Customs Notice as soon as possible.
Senator Cotton and Mr Fife said that the present duty rate of 45 per cent which applies to imports of passenger motor vehicles will be continued until 3 1 December 1 980. The tariff trigger mechanism which is designed to operate when imports fall below 20 per cent of total registrations will be suspended until that time.
The Ministers also said that the Government had accepted the Commission’s recommendation that no additional action was necessary in respect of imports of unassembled passenger vehicles which are assembled outside the motor vehicle plan. The Ministers said however, that the Government did not favour any significant expansion of investment in assembly operations outside the plan and imports of unassembled vehicles would therefore be closely monitored.
6 October 1977
– While the Minister and the honourable member are discussing the matter, to avoid using a great deal of the adjournment debate time I call the honourable member for Evans.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I was wrong. On 28 April 1 977 1 made a speech in this House about the means by which homes were being sold in and around my electorate on terms contracts. In that speech I mentioned the case of Mrs V. Philippidou and indicated that I had other examples where it was apparent that a rip-off situation was prevailing. I quoted clauses of a contract between Mrs Philippidou and the Commercial Purchasers Group, and in particular Compur Pty Ltd, and went on to describe what I then believed was the impact of those contracts. I have more recently come across new information and have now checked and re-checked the situation and found that the maintenance of some of the properties in the lower price bracket sold by Compur had been in some areas deficient and/or inadequate. I must point out, however, that because of the kind of financing arrangements this company had offered its customers, without this finance home purchasers and especially those who were newly arrived in Australia would not have had the benefit of owning a home so quickly.
Clearly cases where Compur, its management and staff and shareholders have been aware of a customer problem or complaint, they have treated clients fairly. Compur has given me appropriate assurance that it will arrange for immediate repairs to any of its houses which I believe are in need of them. In some cases that has already been done, notwithstanding the absence of a legal responsibility so to do. As the equitable title has passed to the purchaser following exchange of contracts, this becomes a moral and/or social responsibility only. I have personally interviewed over some hours the Chairman of Compur, Mr Alexander Ure and the Managing Director, Mr T. Lynam. In that interview ana various other discussions I obtained from them the most detailed and comprehensive details of the company’s operations and financing methods- far more detail in fact than I had obtained previously. The company co-operated fully with my requests in every respect. After careful and sober thought I accepted that the company had operated and is operating on a fair basis. I found this company’s return on capital invested was a moderate return.
Previously I gave this House the impression that the integrity of these two gentlemen was in question. I now want to be specific, deliberate and concise when I say that as far as I am able to ascertain personally they, with their staff and fellow directors, did not act improperly in respect of their financing methods and, in terms of recommendations from other people who have dealt with them, they are clearly honest men. That must also be the view of the New South Wales Attorney-General because he has communicated nothing to me since 29 April 1977, which would put that assessment in doubt, notwithstanding that he had what amounted to an invitation so to do. Unfortunately, some months have now passed and these words are now being spoken at the first opportunity I have had to clarify the position and to explain to the House the circumstances in which I was wrong.
– I want to remind the House that it is time that it took a closer look at the issues surrounding the industrial disputes which are current in both Victoria and Queensland. I point out to the Househonourable members are capable of doing the arithmetic- that the influence of wages in cost structures is rather over-rated and the need for the Australian work force to obtain a fair return for its work is under-rated. No cognisance is taken of the fact that a great deal of the living standards of people in the work force is being reduced as a direct result of the policies of this Government.
I shall refer to the two issues that are current. At the present moment a dispute exists in the State Electricity Commission in Victoria. I have no doubt that many honourable members in the House noted the discussions which took place the other evening on the television program This Day Tonight between members of the trade union movement and the Minister in Victoria. I do not think anybody in this House would not say that the behaviour of the Minister in that public forum was outrageous and irresponsible. It is incredible that a man who was supposed to be solving a situation such as that could behave in that manner in public One could see that he was totally intransigent about it. That is one of the issues, of course. If the parties involved will not sit down at the table and talk they will not get anywhere.
I have here the annual report for last year of the State Electricity Commission. I find it a little hard to interpret exactly the financial situation, but I assume that the section which refers to operations and maintenance as costing $112m would have included the wages and salaries costs of the Commission. It is interesting to note that that figure represents less than 30 per cent of the total cost incurred in running the Commission. For instance, interest paid that year amounted to $75m and depreciation amounted to $S0m. Other factors are involved also. So I think it is time that the House turned its attention to the fact that in many of these operations the costs of wages and salaries are not as significant in terms of total expenditure as we make out. Therefore, regardless of what one feels about the issues in Victoria, the $3m which I suppose it would cost to meet what are probably the over-inflated claims at the present time of the SEC maintenance men would represent a very small proportion of the total cost of running the Commission. It may well be that the case they have made is justified, namely, that people in private industry being paid more than they are is an act of injustice. I believe it is and it is a situation which ought to be overcome.
But the other situation which is more dramatic, I believe, is that pertaining to the Utah coal mining company. As I read the balance sheet of that company, it made in the last financial year a profit before tax of $240m.
– When someone makes a profit you scream about it.
– Just listen to my fellow worker, the honourable member for Capricornia. Since Utah employs 3,000 or fewer employees, it means that each employee made for the company a profit of $80,000. That company has the hide to chisel people out of their tea money. It argues that it cannot afford to pay the people who work on its ships at Australian award rates. I am sympathetic to my temporary friend from Capricornia- he is not temporarily my friend, he is temporarily the honourable member for Capricornia- who has battled to get a better price for his cattle. I support him in that because I think he is entitled to a decent standard of living, even if he does not earn it.
The facts are that some of these huge companies are making enormous profits and that their wages bill is minute compared with their profits and the costs of other operations. I think that is flying in the face of the facts of life and of the social needs of the community. Why should the trade union movement of Australia be expected to put up with that? Both of those employing authorities to which I have referred in Queensland and Victoria are irresponsible; the arbitration authorities are too slow; the general structure of society is being weakened by the work force being made to take less than its fair share of the nation’s wealth.
– I draw the attention of the House to the heroic stand being made by Noel Latham at Broken Hill against all those who would seek to trample his democratic right to work into the dust of the Silver City. A halt must be called somewhere along the line, because what is happening to him could easily be the first step in the erosion of the democratic rights of all Australians, which are the same rights that thousands of Australians went away and fought for, and in support of which many were either killed or maimed.
Motion (by Mr James) put:
That the honourable member for Phillip be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker-Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Suspension of Standing and Sessional Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Phillip speaking for a period not exceeding5 minutes without interruption by motion other than as moved by me.
The call now should have been given to a member on this side of the House.
– In regard to the point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the situation in one sense was that I was waiting for a member of the Opposition to stand.
-I have only just sat down.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent. There are some honourable members who will not be in here to stand in a moment. Under the Standing Orders and a rule of this House, if a Minister stands that Minister receives the call irrespective of to which side of the House the call would normally go. The Leader of the House stood and, irrespective of whether any other member had been standing, the Leader of the House would receive the call.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order on that. That ruling is a very dangerous ruling.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio -
– I wish to move dissent -
-Order! If the House comes to order we might be able to make some progress. In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio, there is no substance in the comments that he has made. This has been a rule of the House -
– It is not a rule of the House.
– It is a rule of the House.
– It never has been a rule of the House. That is not true.
– I regret to say to the honourable member for Corio -
-He knows more about it than you do.
-The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent. If the honourable member for Corio looks back into the records of this House, he will know that what I have said is correct.
– I ask you to uphold my point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. If not, I will have to move dissent.
– It is not a matter of dissent, a point of order or anything.
– A ruling has been given that if a Minister rises he automatically gets the call irrespective of whether the previous call had gone to the Government side or the Opposition side.
– It is not a ruling given. It is a standing order.
– It is not a standing order.
– It is a standard of this House.
– I do not wish to argue this. I am taking a point of order. I think I am entitled to raise it because it is important to the future conduct of this House. I heard this ruling given earlier today over the broadcasting system and I must challenge it because it would mean that if 20 Ministers rose in succession in this House to speak in a debate, they would all be called one after the other to the exclusion of every other honourable member. That is not a standing order of this House.
-That would be correct.
– It is a ruling.
– It is not a standing order. It is a ruling that has never been given before.
-Order! At present a motion to suspend the Standing Orders has been moved by the Leader of the House.
– The point of order I raised is that the call should have been given to a member on the Opposition side of the House. You have ruled, Mr Acting Speaker-
– I have not ruled. I called-
– You have ruled that the Minister was entitled to the call because a Minister must always get the call first.
– I told the honourable member for Corio why I called the Leader of the House. I said that even if someone else had been standing the Minister would have got the call. At that point, there was no one else standing.
- Mr Acting Speaker-
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
– Then you force me to move dissent. I do not want to do that. I would ask you, Mr Acting Speaker, to take into account your ruling on this matter.
-There is no ruling. It is a practice of the House and the honourable member ought to know it.
– I am asking you-
– I second the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the House.
– You ought to learn the Standing Orders too. A motion moved by a Minister does not have to be seconded.
-I have answered the honourable member for Corio on the point of order he has raised.
-Mr Acting Speaker, if you are not prepared to take this into consideration and give a considered ruling on the next day of sitting, you will force me now to move dissent which I do not want to do. I would ask you if you would be prepared to do that. I would ask you to reply to that. I just ask you to take that ruling into consideration- its ramifications for this House are very considerable- and to give a considered ruling on the next day of sitting. It is too important to deal with in the heat of the moment.
-Order! Regarding the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio, what the honourable member for Corio has said is correct. I would expect that there would be sufficient common sense within this Parliament that the circumstances which he mentioned in relation to 20 Ministers standing simultaneously to speak would never occur. The honourable member for Corio, because of his experience, ought also to appreciate- and it does not matter which political complexion is in government- that there are occasions when a government is in charge of the business of the House.
– So the Government is in the Chair.
-Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Burke and to the honourable member for Prospect that I have been a member of this House a little longer than they have and I have a little bit of experience. Regarding the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio, certainly I will give consideration to what the honourable member has said. I would suggest to the honourable member for Corio that he might leave this matter until such time as we can have discussions when I will point out to him where these circumstances have developed.
- Mr Acting Speaker-
-Order! I am answering a point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio.
– I thought you were giving a lecture, actually.
-It might not be a bad idea sometimes to give a lecture and perhaps particularly to the honourable member for Bendigo. The Clerk has pointed out to me that these discussions have taken the House past the time of 1 1 o’clock and according to the Sessional Order if a Minister desires to continue the debate now a Minister is entitled to rise and speak.
– For how long?
-At this time any Minister can speak for a period of five minutes. I call the Leader of the House.
- Mr Acting Speaker, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) has already spoken in brief, miniscule form about the absolutely deplorable circumstances affecting a man called Mr Noel Latham at Broken Hill. It is really quite incredible in our society how individuals such as Mr Latham can be penalised in this way. Mr Noel Latham has the democratic right to work in the dust of the silver city of Broken Hill. I believe-
-Order! There is far too much noise in the chamber. The honourable member for Hunter and the honourable member for Hughes will resume their seats.
– What a farce.
-Order! The honourable member for Burke may be correct and I suggest he reminds members of the House of what he just said.
– I just said it is a farce.
-Order! The honourable member for Burke will cease interjecting.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I rise to order. My point of order is that the additional time for Ministers in the adjournment debate is to allow Ministers to answer matters which are raised in the adjournment debate and which are required to be answered by a Minister. It is not for Ministers to introduce new matters into the debate.
-In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio, I point out that the Minister is not introducing new matter. In the circumstanses the Minister is entitled to move a motion. The sessional order allows the Minister that opportunity and the Minister has the right to do so.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. I think it is most important that in circumstances in which the Labor Party demonstrably has tried to deny the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) the right to speak and the opportunity to canvass matters which are entirely within his province -
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order -
-1 am sorry; I am raising a point of order.
-I have moved that the Minister be not further heard.
-The honourable member cannot move that the Minister or any other member be not further heard when he is speaking on a point of order.
– The point of order is that in the debate prior to the normal dme of adjournment the honourable member for Phillip sought to canvass a matter of significant public importanceone which affects every citizen, every trade unionist, every worker in this country. He was denied the privilege of so speaking. I believe that the sessional orders have been so framed that matters that affect the rights of any individual may continue to be debated by a Minister speaking after 1 1 o’clock, in accordance with the sessional orders. The matters that were raised relating to Mr Noel Latham were not new. They were matters which represented a continuation of the debate. I believe it is necessary that the tactics of the Labor Party in this matter be identified. I contend that I have every right to speak accordingly at this stage of the debate.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Phillip last night deliberately prevented the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) from speaking in the adjournment debate. He is entitled to the same treatment. Five minutes is not long enough to make a speech if there are continual interruptions. Any member who deliberately prevents another member from speaking will be gagged by the Opposition in future. I think that is a reasonable proposition. The Opposition has no other defence. I move:
That the Minister be not further heard.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– The honourable gentleman is now displaying the sort of tactics that typified the Labor Party in government. I think it is very necessary that every member of the Australian community recognise the Labor Party ‘s point of view.
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat.
– I have moved that the Minister be not further heard.
– I move:
That the Minister be not further heard.
-I suggest to the honourable member for Hunter that, if there had not been quite the disturbance that there has been, he would have heard that the honourable member for Corio has already moved that motion. The question is:
That the Minister for Primary Industry and Leader of the House be not further heard.
Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary no’. I think the ‘noes’ have it. Is a division required?
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. Before you declare a division, let me say that the sessional order states that the House will adjourn at 1 1 p.m., except that at time Ministers are given a ten-minute opportunity to speak.
-There is no substance in the point of order.
– A division is required.
– The noes have it.
– A division is required.
– What about ringing the bells?
-Order! If honourable members would keep quiet and behave as members of Parliament we might be able to get around to ringing the bells. The question has been put. A request has been made for a division. The House will divide. Ring the bells.
The House divided. (Mr Acting Speaker- Mr P. E. Lucock)
Question so resolved in the negative.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
1 ) How many private and public telephones are currently in service within that part of the city of Penrith within the borders of the electoral division of Macquarie:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) Telecom Australia has advised that at 30 June 1 976
The number of telephones installed in the area during 1976-77 was:
This makes the proportions one private telephone for every 9 people and one public telephone for every 835 people (population figures- 1976 preliminary census).
Commonwealth Funding of Projects in Federal Electorates (Question No. 1089)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
I draw the honourable member’s attention to the reply to question No 1086 (Hansard, 8 September 1977, page 989).
The Schools Commission is able to provide the honourable member with expenditure in regard to non-government schools in the electorates. I shall arrange for this to be forwarded to the honourable member as soon as possible.
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
What are the words of the oaths taken or affirmations made by members of (a) the Federal Executive Council, and (b) the British Privy Council.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I,……………….. being chosen and summoned by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia as a member of the Federal Executive Council, do swear that I will to the best of my judgment at all times when thereto required freely give my counsel and advice to the Governor-General or the person Administering the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia for the time being for the good management of the public affairs of the Commonwealth of Australia and that I will not directly or indirectly reveal such matters as shall be debated in Council and committed to my secrecy, but that I will in all things be a true and faithful Councillor. So help me God!
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 17 August 1977:
What is the estimated number of school students for each year of schooling for each of the next 15 years for (a) Australia and ( b ) each State and Territory.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question.
The estimated number of school students for the next 15 years is not available in the detail requested. The following table gives projected primary and secondary school enrolments for each State, Territory and Australia for the next 10 years. The projections have been based on the assumption that present demographic and education patterns will continue in the future; any departures from current trends may cause the projections to differ significantly from actual future enrolment statistics. The projections were prepared by my Department.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 7 August 1 977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On 4 August 1977 the Director of Health, Western Australia, advised Mr Toomer that as he had been suspended from duty he was not permitted to enter any of the establishments or premises controlled by the Department of Health in Western Australia, except:
Further, as Mr Toomer was a suspended officer he was requested to forward all official identity documents with which he had been issued.
Australia’s relations with the Asian region (Question No. 1240)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 8 August 1977:
With the proposed withdrawal of United States Forces from Korea, Okinawa, Hawaii and Clark Field in the Philippines, what is Australia ‘s commitment to:
improve the condition of the Asian peoples and
the defence of those areas in regard to Australia.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet -Libraries (Question No. 1346)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 6 September 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purpose of the library is to acquire and maintain a basic collection of books, periodicals etc. of interest to the department and to provide an information service for officers. The library also purchases books etc. for the Offices of the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.
No major staffing changes have occurred during the past 3 years. The results of an establishment review are set out in (5) below.
In July 1975 a complete review of the Departmental Library was undertaken which resulted in:
The Library is not open to the public but along with other libraries it participates in the system of inter-library loan.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Both libraries hold many reference books relating to areas in which my Department is primarily concerned as well as books containing statistical and other data of interest to the Department as a whole. The libraries also arrange the circulation of periodicals which contain information on developments in these fields of interest.
(i) The Postal and Telecommunications Department, or the Postmaster-General’s Department as it was then known, was reformed on 1 July 1975 following the establishment of the Australian Telecommunications and Australian Postal Commissions. The newDepartment initially possessed no formal library and only acquired its libraries by the transfers mentioned in ( 1 ) above. It is, therefore, only appropriate to provide answers in respect to the financial years commencing 1976-77.
Records available do not permit easy separation of books and publications.
(c) Sydney- Melbourne- no new subscriptions envisaged at this stage.
The above amounts are based on 1976-77 costs and include salaries and purchases of books, periodicals, newspapers, etc but not overheads such as accommodation, light and power, etc.
Sydney-1 Librarian Class 2; Melbourne-1 Librarian Class 1; 1 Clerical Assistant Grade 2.
A position of Library Officer Grade 1, Sydney was abolished in March 1976. No further staffing changes are immediately in prospect.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 7 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
October 1976-12 30 November 1976-228 31 December 1976-382 3 1 January 1977-389 28 February 1977-421 31 March 1977-451 30 April 1977-473 31 May 1977-511 30 June 1977-529 31 July 1977-564 31 August 1977-573
There have been no poker machines ordered in July, August and September.
am asked the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, upon notice, on 13 September 1977:
– The Acting Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, on behalf of Mr Howard, has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)I have had no reason to question Federal Ministers in relation to a matter of Victorian Government administration under examination by a Victorian Board of Inquiry.
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
Has he taken any action to ensure that the failure of the Victorian Minister for Health to take firm action on the salmonella infection in Victorian milk factories does not threaten primary producers’ exports in future.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am not aware of any failure on the part of the Victorian Minister for Health in dealing with the recent salmonella outbreak.
In reply to your question to me (No. 1320, Hansard, 8 September 1977, page 1013) I outlined in some detail the measures taken by the Department of Primary Industry to safeguard the good name of Australian dairy produce in the international market following the salmonella trouble.
I also indicated that the Victorian Health Authorities were largely responsible for tracing the outbreak of gastroenteritis in Australian infants to salmonella contamination in milk powder produced in one factory. Once this fact was established, immediate steps were taken by the Victorian Authorities to safeguard the Australian public against exposure to the affected powder.
At the same time the Department of Primary Industry made sure that the powder would not be exported.
There is close and continuing liaison between the Department of Primary Industry, the Commonwealth Department of Health and the relevant Victorian State authorities to ensure that dried milk products whether sold on the domestic market or exported are wholesome and are of high quality.
Recognition of the Administration of Taiwan as the Government of China (Question No. 1481)
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
Which countries still recognise the administration in the province of Taiwan as the government of China.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following states continue to recognise the so called Government of the Republic of China’ in Taipei as the government of China:
Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Republic of Korea, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tonga, United States, Uruguay and Nauru.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
-The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
For the past three financial years the numbers of migrants showing Rhodesia as their country of last residence were:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice, on 5 October 1977:
-The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
I have not travelled overseas during the period in question.
Minister for Primary Industry: Communications with Mr Tong Sun Park (Question No. 1683)
am asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771006_reps_30_hor106/>.