30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable 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 Dr Klugman and Mr Newman.
To the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-state Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Neil and Mr E. G. Whitlam.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition from the citizens of the City of Bathurst showeth:
Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable house will undertake immediate action to remedy the matters referred to and that will result in greater acceptance and support from the above citizens and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray that your government may serve with God’s Grace. byMrGillard.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the cost of airfares between Australia and Scandinavian countries is excessive when compared to the fares charged to other points in Europe.
We express a desire for negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the Scandanavian countries to negotiate an excursion fare for all points in Europe at a level that is currently being charged to Great Britain and more than twenty other major cities in Europe.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
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 MacKellar.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Did the Government promise, in seeking power 2 years ago, to lower interest rates? Have the State Premiers, led by the Labor Premiers, indicated to the Australian Government their unanimous view that interest rates must be reduced by at least 0.5 per cent? When is the Government going to lower interest rates meaningfully, particularly for the home owners and prospective owners of this country? In view of the fact that the public sector borrowing requirement is larger this financial year than last, how is the Government going to achieve a meaningful lowering of interest rates while seeking to maintain its money supply growth targets at about 5 per cent below expected nominal income growth?
-The honourable gentleman has a remarkable capacity to forget what he and his own party achieved. He forgets the moves towards very high interest rates which, of course, resulted from the policies of the previous Administration. It is very plain that, on the road to getting interest rates down, it was necessary to contain government expenditure and at the same time to get the rate of inflation down. The rate of inflation, as I have already indicated, has come down over the past year in Australia more than in any other advanced member country of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. With a possible exception of Canada, there has been a larger percentage reduction in the rate of inflation in Australia as a result of our policies than in any other OECD country.
The policies of the Government are establishing the circumstances in which it is possible to begin to look forward to a reduction in interest rates. But at the same time this action needs to be undertaken cautiously. It needs to be undertaken in a manner that can be sustained, and in a manner that will aid and encourage business because it knows that action will be sustained. I think it is worth noting that commentaries in the media in recent times have been pointed in that direction. As a result of the policies we have introduced, monetary authorities have moved on the markets for the first time in, I think, about four years to a lower regime of interest rates in relation to government paper. That is a significant change from the circumstance which the honourable gentleman and his Party were able to establish. In these matters the Government’s policies are beginning to provide the benefits which everyone knows can come only after a considerable period of time.
– In view of the fact that the Prime Minister was in the Kalgoorlie electorate in Western Australia over the weekend, I ask him: Can he inform the House the relative financial position of State and Federal governments?
-One thing about which I can inform the House is that the electorate of Kalgoorlie is in very good hands and certainly will stay in very good hands for as long as the honourable gentleman is prepared to stand for that seat. Whether it is in Kalgoorlie itself or in the country areas, the honourable gentleman certainly will be assured of support for a long while to come. I was delighted to be able to indicate that the Western Australian State Government was able to introduce a very nearly balanced Budget- there was a small deficit of about $600,000; the Queensland Government had a deficit of about $ 1 m- again very close to a balanced Budget- while the Victorian Government had a surplus of $6.5m. The Tasmanian Government had a small and modest deficit. Most of those States have additional resources from accumulated funds of one kind or another. It is worth noting that nearly all States in recent times have been able to introduce additional tax concessions of one kind or another and a number have been able to move much further than the Federal Government has been able to do in areas such as probate. As I have said on more than one occasion, if the Commonwealth were as wealthy as the States we might be able to take further decisions which would please many people but we have to overcome deficiencies before that can be done. Newspaper reports today indicate that the New South Wales Budget will include no tax increases and is expected to be, in a sense, a popular Budget.
It is very plain that the States have been able to undertake budgets of this kind for one reason and one reason alone, that is, the Federal Government’s policy of making much greater funds available to the States to enable them to make their own decisions about the way in which they spend their funds and use their own resources. For example, this year in financial reimbursement grants about $630m extra goes to the States and it is for them to decide how it should be spent. This is much more than enough to cover any increased costs due to inflation. The fact that the States are able to bring down budgets of this kind and contain taxes, which I am delighted to see, especially indirect taxes which put up the consumer price index, is a direct result of the Federal Government’s policy of cooperation with the States.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Did he some time ago give a background briefing to selected journalists conveying the Government’s intention to reduce interest rates? At the time did the leak allow money market dealers to make speculative gains in anticipation of increased bond prices? Did this not break a long-standing convention that Government leaders do not forecast interest rate changes in this way which allows speculative profits to be made? Did not the leak also infringe Loan Council arrangements to the effect that such Loan Council matters are not to be the subject of public comment?
– Honourable gentlemen opposite seem at one point to want low interest rates and at another point to oppose them. Many people on the Government benches have indicated that it is the Government’s intention to establish the circumstances in which interest rates can and will come down. That is known and stated policy. The more people from one source or another write about it, the more that will please the Government. It is known and stated policy that interest rates should come down once we establish the circumstances which make that possible. Honourable gentlemen know, or ought to know, of the action that the Reserve Bank has taken in relation to rates in the market. That is responsible and sensible action. As I said earlier, this is about the first time in four years that the monetary authorities have had enough confidence in the total economic scene to move in that direction. That should give businesses and individuals confidence in the present situation and confidence that the
Government’s policies are moving in the right direction. I am delighted that the honourable gentleman should draw attention to that once again.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Prime Minister was asked a specific question about the leaking of information which allowed speculative gains to be made, and he has not answered the question.
-Order! The honourable member for Chifley knows that no point of order is involved.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to recent suggestions that the Government should resurrect some of Labor’s discarded programs? What effect would such action have on the Government’s success in combating inflation?
– If we did what was suggested we would demolish the success that the Government has had already in reducing inflation. I think it ought to be understood that the Labor Government’s appalling record was such that in the second half of 1 974 inflation was running at over 19 per cent. Now it is down to about half that figure. We all know that a major cause of inflation in the Labor Government’s period in office was massive government expenditure. It increased by 46 per cent in one year. On Monday Conference on 19 September the Leader of the Opposition indicated in the plainest terms that he would resurrect old programs or increase spending on present programs, such as hospital development, sewerage, growth centres, area improvement plans, the Australian Assistance Plan, tourist development and leisure facilities. To get back to the sort of thing that Labor was doing would cost about an extra $250m.
In addition to that, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would bring in a national compensation scheme, at a cost of something over $500m, and a scheme similar to the discredited Regional Employment Development scheme, but instead of spending $250m on it he would be spending $800m on it. He indicated that there would be a reversal to the old Hayden Medibank scheme, which would cost another $670m. These proposals, together, would add a minimum of $2,254m to the deficit. He would do it all again. He would take Australia to the brink again in relation to inflation and increasing unemployment. The honourable gentleman has shown very plainly that he has learnt nothing, and Australians will well remember that.
-I ask the Prime Minister a question that is supplementary to that just asked of him and also supplementary to the question asked of him earlier by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. What answer did the Prime Minister give the Mayor of Kalgoorlie when he asked that the Government continue the assistance to the city of Kalgoorlie which the Labor Government had given under the sewerage program and under the leisure facilities program?
– The Mayor was told very plainly that the Commonwealth had no programs for additional funds for the specific measures he had put to me. As a measure of assistance to, I think, the situation at Kambalda, the State Government had provided some additional funds to Kalgoorlie. I think the funds were going quite specifically to the payment of wages for specific programs and we were asked whether we could match those funds. The Mayor, when he was welcoming me, asked what the Commonwealth would do, and in my reply I indicated that in those particular respects the Commonwealth had no programs; that there are 900 local governing authorities around Australia which would have a right to expect support if there was support for one such body in that particular area; and that in the present circumstances, when we are maintaining a totally responsible financial policy, it was not possible to do it. That was made very plain indeed.
It also was pointed out that the general funds that we have given to local government increased by 75 per cent in our first year, to $ 140m, and increased by a further 20 per cent in our second year. I think local government around Australia welcomes those funds greatly because there are no strings attached and local government can use those funds as it wishes. In relation to category B of those funds which are allocated through State grants commissions, it is perfectly proper and appropriate for local government authorities to make approaches for a greater share of the category B funds to meet any of the purposes which the Mayor of Kalgoorlie might have indicated. I hope that the State grants commissions will be responsive to special needs which arise in particular circumstances where there might be a problem in relation to employment or in relation to some other matter which arises at a particular time.
– The Prime Minister will be aware of widespread devastation by storm and hail to the Sunraysia district of the Mallee electorate. Inspection shows that about 600 horticulturists have been seriously affected and the majority of these suffered a 100 per cent loss. The gravity of the disaster can be gauged by estimated losses of from $20m to $22m. This is a national disaster with serious financial and social implications for producers, home owners, business people and municipalities and upon the general stability of the region. I ask: What are the arrangements for joint State-Commonwealth assistance for a disaster of this magnitude? Will the Government respond to requests for financial assistance?
– There has been a request from the Victorian Government in relation to this matter.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. This matter has already been dealt with by the honourable member -
– Order! The honourable member for Banks will resume his seat.
-The Victorian Premier has written to me in relation to this matter. It is a most serious situation and one which greatly affects the district and people concerned, as the honourable gentleman indicated in his question. It is my advice that the primary phase concerning the immediate relief of personal hardship is basically over but that the secondary phase of reconstruction is now to be commenced. In that area the Commonwealth Government will be seeking to co-operate very fully with the Victorian Government by the provision of relief. As the honourable gentleman will know, there are presently agreed arrangements with the States which cover financing of this kind. On a dollar for dollar basis expenditures are shared for the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress.
The arrangements, of course, require Victoria to spend $3.5m on agreed national disaster relief measures in a year. Beyond that the Commonwealth meets all additional costs. The request which was received on 10 October from the Victorian Premier sought immediate relief for personal hardship and distress, again on a dollar for dollar basis, for the restoration of State, local government semi-governmental authority assets, concessional loans in specific circumstances up to $15,000 to rebuild homes where the gap between replacement cost and insurance cover is significant and loans in specific circumstances to small businesses, with concessional carry-on and restocking loans of up to $50,000 in each case for primary producers. I point out that one or two of the matters which the Premier has mentioned go beyond presently agreed provisions but they will still be examined very sympathetically from the point of view of the Commonwealth. I will be seeking to reply to the Premier as soon as is practicable. The honourable gentleman has been seeking to get an early decision on these matters and I shall make sure that that decision is made.
-Is the Treasurer aware that last Thursday, during a reply to a question asked by my colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said that the velocity of circulation of money was a material factor in the analysis of targets of monetary policy? Is it a fact that the income velocity of money at the end of the June quarter was higher than it has been in recent times? Does the Government expect a further increase in the velocity of circulation to allow a sustainable drop in interest rates within the Government’s stated monetary target?
– It is a matter of some irony that the Opposition in this Parliament should on this occasion, as it has before, be seeking to raise the matter of interest rates. As the honourable gentleman would be very much aware, particularly as a former Minister Assisting the Treasurer, the velocity of the circulation of money is a very critical element in the Government’s monetary policy. As far as the year in question is concerned, I invite the honourable gentleman to look at page 35 of Statement No. 2 of the Budget Papers, where he will find an indication in quite clear terms that an increase in the velocity of the circulation of money is expected.
Aside from that- not that the honourable gentleman has raised this point- I take the opportunity to indicate once again that the constant cries from the Opposition about the problems of reducing interest rates and the constant assertion by the Opposition about a credit squeeze are utterly without foundation. As the Prime Minister made clear in response to a question asked earlier today, the Government is utterly determined to seek to reduce interest rates during the course of this year. As the rate of inflation falls and as the Government has a capacity to sell sufficient paper to the non-bank public- the honourable gentleman certainly would be aware of the success which the Government has had in this field during recent months- we can look to a fall in interest rates during the period ahead as a central point of government economic policy.
-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs noticed the recent and increasing interest in matters relating to the Antarctic territory, particularly as far as Australian jurisdiction and conservation matters are concerned? Was Australia ‘s position on these or any other matters related to the Antarctic recently clarified at the meeting of parties to the Antarctic Treaty in London?
-Yes, I have noticed the increasing attention being given to the Antarctic and have referred to it in the chamber on previous occasions. The Ninth Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, which was held in London, ended on 7 October. I think it is fair to say that the meeting was unique among consultative meetings inasmuch as the discussions centred largely on issues relating to Antarctic resources. A major outcome of the meeting was the adoption of a recommendation that a regime for the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources should be concluded before the end of 1 978. This recommendation reflected the unanimous view of the Treaty partners that this is an issue on which concerted and urgent action is required.
Having said that the partners in the Treaty reached that conclusion, it might be well to advise the House that Australia will act as host to a special consultative meeting of Antarctic Treaty partners from 27 February to 17 March next year to prepare a draft regime which can then be adopted at a subsequent decisive meeting. Australia has taken a leading role in preparing for such a regime by submitting to this recent meeting a draft conservation convention on Antarctic marine living resources. The draft will be one of the basic documents to be considered at the Canberra meeting next year.
The Treaty partners at the meeting referred to also made provision for further meetings and studies on legal, scientific, and ecological aspects of minerals exploration as necessary steps prior to the commencement of any moves to exploit the Antarctic’s mineral resources. In conclusion, I think it can be said that the meeting was quite satisfactory from Australia’s point of view, especially since the concept of a living resources regime has begun to emerge along the lines advocated by Australia. Progress has been made in the consideration of the technological and environmental aspects of future minerals exploration.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, by stating that the Prime Minister, in his electorate talk on 9 October, said:
In the first quarter of 1977 Australian consumers were saving 12.S per cent of their pay cheque, while in the last quarter of 1974, they were saving more than 19 per cent of their money.
I ask the Prime Minister how he reconciles the figure of 12.5 per cent with the figure of 14.1 per cent given in the Budget Papers for the first quarter of 1977. Further, does not this run down in the proportion of income being saved reflect the fact that under this Government after-tax income for an average family fell by 3.3 per cent in real terms in 1976-77 and that people were forced to draw on their savings to maintain their standard of living?
-There has been a traditional savings ratio which is still a good deal lower than the 12.5 per cent which the honourable member mentioned in his question and which is very much lower, of course, than the 19 per cent that occurred during the period of the Labor Administration. It has been found in many countries, I think, that there is a relationship between the economic health of a country and the savings ratio- in other words, the use to which people put their own incomes. If, out of concern for unemployment or fear of inflation, people save too large a share of their income, that is one of the symptoms, one of the indicators, of an economy that is in disarray.
There has been a steady move down to better circumstances during the period of the present Administration. There is one indicator, and one indicator alone, which could reflect a modest drop in total disposable family income over the course of the last year. That indicator was the consumer price index with the Medibank element included. Quite plainly, because of the way in which the Medibank element had been put back into the consumer price index, it was very inappropriate to use that index for that purpose. If the Medibank element were excluded and any other indicators were used- there are four or five of them available and they could be made known to the honourable member if he wanted them- they would show that disposable family income had increased to a certain extent during the last year as a result of the totality of our taxation policies, our policies in relation to family allowances, and all the rest. Those things therefore would not lend support to the assumption which the honourable member wants to make.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Transport concerns the level of financial assistance to be made available by Victoria for expenditure on rural local roads this financial year. Has the Minister yet undertaken the discussions with the Victorian Minister of Transport, Mr Rafferty, since announcing he was withholding approval for all Victorian road funding programs because the level of funding proposed by Victoria for rural local roads represented a six per cent decrease in funds compared with those of the previous year? Is the Minister yet in a position to approve the programs submitted by the Victorian Minister? Will Victorian local government receive a better deal as a result of the Commonwealth’s determination to ensure that more funds go to local roads?
– I am happy to inform the honourable member that I have been able to have some friendly discussions with the Victorian Minister of Transport about this matter. I shall remind the House of the facts. In 1976-77 the Victorian rural shires were to get $3 1.24m for road making; in 1977-78 the amount was to be reduced under the Victorian proposals to $29.8m. Of course, that was to be done in the face of representations that we had received and, indeed, complaints from both the State Government and local government authorities over the preceding months about the level of funds made available for local shires. I am pleased to be able to inform the honourable member that as a result of the discussions the Victorian Government has agreed to lift the level of funds made available to rural local shires to $33.02m. I think that is a clear recognition by Victoria, and certainly by this Government, of the high place, the high standing and the high regard in which we hold local government in the affairs of government as a whole.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security tell the House whether the Minister for Social Security has directed the Director of the Department of Social Security in Victoria not to make special benefit or unemployment benefit payments to people who have been refused work by employers because of electricity restrictions? If so, is this a departure from past practice? In what way are these people ineligible under the Social Services Act?
-The Minister for Social Security will be making a statement on this matter, probably tomorrow. In the meantime the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be speaking to the National Labour Consultative Council.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Overseas Trade. In view of the Industries Assistance Commission report tabled in this House last Thursday which states, inter alia, that one-twelfth of our inflation is due to rises in the price of motor vehicles, and in view of Mr Okawara’s statement of the same day to the effect that Japanese beef quotas were maintaining Japan’s local industry irrespective of the fact that lower priced imports were available to the Japanese consumers, will the Minister investigate the opportunities that may exist to reduce the rate of inflation in both countries by trading more beef against more cars?
-The Government has been very concerned about the limitations placed on beef imports to Japan. We have constantly had discussions at ministerial level and at official level to try to gain further access to that market. We will continue to do everything possible to see that there is an extension of the quotas already existing. However, one must remember that during 1974 and part of 1975 Japan had a complete prohibition on the entry of Australian meat to that country. Fortunately that has been eased. We would like to see it eased further.
The honourable member referred to our domestic motor vehicle industry. I think it has been a long accepted practice that we give a degree of protection to Australian industries upon which so much employment is dependent. The motor vehicle industry needs a fairly high degree of throughput. Therefore it is important that we give a relatively high degree of protection to it. If we did not do so, the alternative would be merely to go back to an assembly industry rather than a manufacturing industry. During the years in which Australia has had a policy of encouraging the manufacture of Australian vehicles we have benefited enormously not only in the saving of foreign exchange but also in the investment in Australia to build these plants and the tremendous employment opportunities that it has given right along the line, in the production not only of cars but also of all the ancillary equipment that has gone into them.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. It is about the Karen Green situation about which I have previously asked him questions. Has his Government made a decision on whether young men and women who leave school this year and who genuinely seek work and cannot find it but who are not going on to higher education next year will be granted unemployment benefit during the period before schools resume next year?
-As has already been indicated, the Minister for Social Security will be making a statement at the appropriate time. Before that happens the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be having some discussions with the National Labour Consultative Council.
-My question is directed to the Prime Minister. What action is the Government taking to support the Victorian State Government and the State Electricity Commission in the Latrobe Valley strike?
-After discussions between the Treasurer, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and me yesterday evening I had discussions with the Premier of Victoria. It was agreed that if this matter is not resolved today the Victorian Government will be instructing the State Electricity Commission to move for deregistration of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, the Australasian Society of Engineers, the Federated Ironworkers Association and the Electrical Trades Union. In addition to that, an application by the State Electricity Commission under section 33 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be proceeded with. So action will take place before the Commission on two counts on two fronts. It was agreed that it would be the State Electricity Commission as the employer that would be the primary mover in this matter, but obviously supported by its own, the Victorian Government. The Commonwealth Government will also be represented by counsel before the Commission supporting the actions of the State Electricity Commission and the Victorian Government.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the constitutional provisions which require Cabinet solidarity and unity of purpose. In that context I refer to the resignation of Mr Leslie Bury -
-That did not apply to the Labor Government.
-The honourable member should be patient. It applies to his Government. I refer to the resignation of Mr Leslie Bury in 1962 and the resignation of Mr John Gorton in 1971 on the basis that they had criticised their Cabinet colleagues. Has the Prime Minister seen the weekend statements of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry criticising the Cabinet for its decisions in respect of electoral matters and suggesting that they will push hard to have the laws altered? Does this not conflict with constitutional propriety? What action does the Prime Minister propose to take in this case?
-The honourable gentleman is envious of the solidarity of this Government. It is something which the Labor Government never knew. When the honourable member for Hindmarsh was rolled in Cabinet he took the matter to the Caucus. The honourable gentleman is envious of the situation in this Government. Time after time in the Labor days we saw Ministers being rolled in Cabinet and appealing to Caucus. In Caucus they would probably roll the present Leader of the Opposition. This went on time after time after time. There were reports of it day after day after day. The Leader of the Opposition had to sack one Minister for dishonesty. He said that he had done so.
– You sacked one for dishonesty and you have sacked three for no reason.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will come to order. The Prime Minister has been asked a question. I suggest that honourable members remain silent while he answers it.
– I take a point of order.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio was talking to me earlier today about points of order.
- Mr Acting Speaker, is it in order for the Prime Minister to remain on his feet while you are addressing the House and while he is being briefed by the Minister for Primary Industry?
-There is no point of order.
-Only a few days ago the honourable gentleman had to complain to the Press Council, or at least to a newspaper, to get a report corrected because he wished to disassociate himself from something that the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party had said in relation to Timor. We know what happened then. He was told to report to his own foreign affairs committee and defend the policy next time instead of pursuing his own policy as he did on Monday Conference.
– Answer the question.
-Order! I warn the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith has asked a question. He will now remain silent.
– Honourable gentlemen opposite have demonstrated at question time this afternoon by interjecting one above the other that they are trying to hide the disunity on their own benches. The Leader of the Opposition has clearly made his ultimate confession in foreign policy. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is now dictating to him what he will say and do. He used to stand for a while and we could praise him while he did but now we know that he has abdicated and we can bless him for it.
-The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Overseas Trade will be aware of the great concern and apprehension felt by sugar producers and supporting communities at recent threatening trends in market prospects. Will he inform the House whether the International Sugar Agreement decisions will have the effect of bringing security and prosperity to the Australian sugar industry?
– I am very pleased to be able to report to the honourable member for Wide Bay, who represents a very large sugar producing electorate, that accord has been reached between all the sugar producing countries of the world, whether they be cane or beet sugar producers, and the major importing countries on a new International Sugar Agreement, a commodity agreement the like of which we have never seen before. The International Sugar Agreement has a new added feature, largely being a mechanism by which stocks are released as prices increase to maintain a degree of stability in prices for the importing countries.
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. Obviously the Government is using a device to have its supporters from the remotest back benches ask questions of the Ministry concerning government policy and public announcements that should be the subject -
-Order! The honourable member knows that there is no point of order.
– Hear me out, Mr Acting Speaker. These matters should be the subject of a special statement in the House. This is an important trade matter and that is how it should be properly announced- not at Question Time. On that basis I submit that the Minister’s lengthy reply is out of order.
-The point that the honourable member for Blaxland has raised has been raised in this House on many occasions by each Party when in Opposition. The honourable member knows that the Chair has no control and can make no decision in regard to that matter.
-Obviously the honourable member who raised the point of order has no feeling for the very serious concern that existed within the sugar industry. I can understand that such a person who has not had any association with the industry might be a bit unaware of the very serious consequences.
– There have been ships up there for two months and you have done nothing about it. You are a disaster.
-When the honourable member says ‘disaster’ that only brings a great smile to my face because I come back here with a great deal of pride in what the Australian delegation did in achieving a worldwide agreement. It was universally accepted at that conference that Australia played the principal role. Whatever an ignorant member of the Opposition might say just washes off me because it is absolutely ignorant. The international sugar situation is such that enormous stocks are moving around the world. I think it is fair to say that the world is awash with sugar at the moment and, with the very large production within the European Economic Community, there are possibilities of about one million tonnes extra coming on -
-It is afloat at Yokohama.
– It is quite obvious that honourable members opposite who are making such a lot of noise do not want to hear. They seem to want to discredit and knock this country all the time when there are successes. We have seen the efforts of certain members of the Opposition in the last few weeks in trying to create instability with our exchange rate by casting gloom and uncertainty. There almost seems to be a campaign now to break an international sugar agreement which will give a degree of security and stability to a very important industry in
Queensland. Is it because of an inherent dislike of Queensland that the Opposition is going on like this?
– I take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. The Minister ought to make a statement after Question Time.
-The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat for a moment. I have warned the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. I would be reluctant while Mr Speaker is away to name a member of this House. I suggest that honourable members on my right might assist the Chair also. In the circumstances I suggest to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, who has been interjecting constantly on my left during the last three replies, that he cease interjecting.
– I rise to take a point of order. The Minister is misrepresenting what the honourable member for Blaxland said in taking his original point of order. The Opposition asked that the Minister make a considered statement to the House. That cannot be considered to be anything else than asking the Minister to do what he would properly do if he adhered to the forms of the House. He is misusing Question Time by making a statement which has now taken up nearly 10 minutes of Question Time.
-No point of order arises.
– My intention is to answer the question asked of me by the honourable member for Wide Bay, not to answer senseless interjections made by members of the Opposition. In answering the honourable member for Wide Bay, I was making the point that 1978, and a number of years beyond that looked very gloomy for sugar producers around the world because of almost one million tons of additional export coming from the European Economic Community, plus a very sizeable crop coming from Brazil after that country had experienced two years of drought and frost, and increased production in a number of other countries. One could only say that this would lead to ruinously low prices. Some people have predicted that the price could be between 3c and 5c a lb. At the moment the world price is down to about 7c a lb which is well below the levels of viability for any country.
– I rise to take a point of order. My point of order is that the Speaker has ruled in this House that Ministers’ replies should be brief. He has made an exception m the case of the Prime Minister. But an exception has not been made in the case of the Deputy Prime Minister or any other Minister. I am asking you, as the Acting Speaker, to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to make his reply brief.
– I would suggest that the Speaker has not ruled that the replies of Ministers be brief. He has suggested that they be brief. That is all I can ask at present.
-In view of that pending situation, we can understand the tremendous relief felt around the world that there is to be a mechanism whereby a price defence arrangement will be achieved by quotas being placed on production as well as stocks held. I am pleased to say that, although sacrifices will have to be made by all sugar producing countries as well as by Australian sugar producers, the net result will be very beneficial. For the benefit of honourable members, who obviously want more information on this subject -
– I rise to take a further point of order. I am asking you, Mr Acting Speaker, in the absence of Mr Speaker, to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to make his reply brief.
– I have already pointed out-
– I am seeking-
-Order! I have already pointed out to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the suggestion has been made that Ministers make their replies brief. I also point out that at times the reply of a Minister has been longer because of interjections from members of the Opposition.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I am trying to conclude what I want to say. However, now that members of the Opposition have asked me to make a statement in the House, I will oblige them and do so. I have been answering a question without notice but as this is a matter of extreme importance involving probably the most significant commodity agreement that has ever been reached and as it is the first of the integrated programs of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, I think it is important that everyone understands what is involved. I shall therefore make a statement in the House.
-Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act 1963, I present the annual report and accounts of the Australian Canned Fruits Board for 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the annual report and financial statements of the Australian Film Commission for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on selfpropelled harvesters (by-law).
-I ask for leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted?
– I ask that the honourable member state clearly what the purpose of the statement is.
– I ask for leave to make a statement regarding my formal resignation from the Liberal Party of Australia.
-There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have come to the conclusion that my proper course is now to tender my formal resignation from the Liberal Party. The House will, I think, appreciate the reluctance with which, after some 28 years, I do this. I do not in any sense abandon those principles on which I think true liberalism is founded- principles which distinguish it from the present Australian Labor Party and which make it, with all its faults, so superior to the present Australian Labor Party. Socialism, in the final analysis, is only creeping communism, and it is not my intention to give any support to that doctrine.
But neither can I continue to support the economic doctrine of salvation through stagnationthe doctrine which the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) seems to have espoused. It is a doctrine which, so he tells us, he has learned overseas; but it is none the better for that. In fact none of its devotees has applied the doctrine as rigorously as has their Australian convert, and most of them are now quietly adjuring it.
Indeed, unless this doctrine is rejected, the socialists will win, not just electorally- though in all conscience that is important enough- but by moulding public opinion with the acceptance of their basic idea. Lenin predicted that socialism and communism would be made acceptable by the failure of free enterprise to present a workable alternative. I would not willingly, by my silence, play even the smallest part in making that Leninist prophecy come true, either here in Australia or on the larger world scene.
For a long time now I have been critical of the economic policies of the Treasurer, both openly here in this House and even more trenchantly in the privacy of party discussion. I have made no secret of my views, and it should come as no surprise that I really believe what I have said. I know that, in the jargon of the Press, this will be characterised as ‘unpredictable’ or ‘erratic’, but I invite the House to look back and to ask whether these are epithets which I have properly earned in these 28 years. Of course, like any sensible man, I have modified my views and adapted them to the course of changing events; but, on the whole, I think I can claim a consistency and coherence better than that of the Party itself. Even when members of the Party were all out of step but me, they have changed step more often than I have. But, on this occasion, they still show no signs of doing so.
For nearly two years now I have opposed the economic policies of the Government. From the outset, I predicted that they would lead to a long term low grade depression, from which there would be no escape unless those policies were radically changed. These predictions were met in the Party- and elsewhere- with howls of derision. Business, we were told, would start to pick up by June of 1976; unemployment, we were told, would not go overnight, but would soon start to recede, and would go on receding. But, in the event, I was right and the Party was wrong. If this earned me the adjective of ‘erratic’, I am content to wear it. I had hoped that as these events unfolded the Treasurer would see the error of his ways, retreat from his doctrine of salvation through stagnation and, unostentatiously perhaps, set the economy on a new course. If this had happened, I would have been content to remain within the Party, contributing my small quota to the forces of policy change. But it now seems that even this would be too much to hope for.
The Budget now before the House shows no sign of real change. Even the tax reforms are largely illusory and may not be as well directed as they could be. I do not speak of minor matters -counterproductive cheeseparing, which loses more than it gains; such things as failure to correct social security anomalies- I do not even speak of our refusal to face up to the corrosive effect of our system of unemployment benefits, but rather of the general policy of restriction where expansion is called for, and of the pathetic reliance upon monetary measures taken mechanically and uncomprehendingly.
The Government’s plans have not worked out as they were expected to, and there is no reason to expect any recovery until these plans are changed. But instead of honestly acknowledging his errors, the Treasurer pushes forward recklessly and relentlessly upon the same path.
Acceptance of stagnation is appalling. Our factories are working only at three-quarters capacity; primary producers and small businesses are finding it difficult to carry on; and month by month the total of unemployed is greater than for the corresponding month of 1976. Youth unemployment- with its effect upon the industrial morale of a generation- continues to climb, with the coming exodus of school leavers the occasion for apprehension rather than hope. It is not good enough.
Meanwhile our financial position deteriorates internationally as a consequence of the low levels of local production. On our current account- visibles and invisibles together- we went into the red some $1.9 billion last financial year. This year we will be lucky, under our present policies, to keep the deficit below $3.5 billion. This, too, is not good enough.
The Treasurer has announced that he plans to stave off the consequences of this deficit by borrowing some $2 billion as a starter, with more to come if necessary. I do not object to such overseas borrowing in the present emergency- it is probably the only way out. What I object to is the policy which has rendered this emergency action necessary, and which, if continued, will call for more of the same. I object, in point of fact, to the continuance of our present policy of economic stagnation. To my mind, the borrowing of this $2 billion, without any corrective measures to cure the conditions which made that borrowing necessary, is reckless and irresponsible. I cannot in all honesty support an economic policy so based.
I cannot ask the House to bear with me while I put forward a positive economic alternative. I have been positive in the past- even in the current Budget debate- and I shall look for other opportunities to press these positive alternatives. For the present, I can only set down in outline some of the reasons for my formal resignation.
Apart from the economy, there are other matters in which I find myself unable to accept Government policy unreservedly. For example, I do no believe that its handling of industrial relations had been altogether wise. Acceptance of economic stagnation as a policy has made it difficult to deal with industrial disruption, and has given a golden opportunity to union extremists. But beyond this, the Government has failed to give to the trade union rank and file protection against victimisation by the thugs within their own unions. I do not believe that there is any general support for senseless political strikes, but I know very well that there is fear and intimidationthose who do not support a policy they disapprove of are frightened of the consequences of opposing it.
Extremist leaders are anxious to convert any confrontation with themselves into confrontation with trade union rank and file. That is the name of the game-their plan to use the masses to destroy themselves by their own weight. Their plan cannot be countered by confrontation alone, though there may well be circumstances in which confrontation is inevitable. We need to give to the rank and file the means to protect themselves against their leaders. The Australian Labor Party obviously will not even attempt this task, and the Liberal Party has so far shirked it. I hope that, sometime, the Parliament will face up to it.
We have been too weak with communism both domestically and internationally. On the domestic front our industrial troubles stem largely from communist activities: On the international front the communist menace is now nearer, clearer and more deadly than ever before. We would like to put these things out of our minds, but we cannot put them out of our lives.
It is easy to say that this is mere ‘red-baiting’ and ‘kicking the communist can’- they are catchwords which I, perhaps more than anyone in the House, have heard over the past 28 years. The interesting thing is that each one of these colourful phrases was originated by the Communist Party and has been promoted by the Communist Party in a deliberate plan to discredit any of its critics or opponents. Too many people have become unwitting accomplices in this plan, not realising that their unthinking laughter provides the communists with a potent weapon. If I be criticised for maintaining my anti-communist stand, at least I hope I shall get the credit of consistency.
My differences with the Liberal Party on these issues of trade unions and communism, important though they may be, are differences of emphasis rather than principle. On the economic issue, however, my differences are deeper. The nature of the Budget and the raising of overseas loans, without any corrective action to cure the need for further oveseas borrowing, remove my last hope of policy change.
In the circumstances, it would not be proper, I believe, for me to put myself forward for preselection, or to retain the Liberal label while I remain in this chamber. I have it in mind, however, to stand as a candidate in New South Wales at the next half Senate election, whenever that may occur. In making this decision it seemed to me that there were many people who usually voted Liberal or Country Party, but who were disenchanted with the policies of the present Government and that there were many people who usually voted Labor, but who were unable to accept the Whitlam excesses or the left-wing of the Australian Labor Party. Such people, from both sides, might well prefer an alternative to both.
It does not seem to me that the Australian Democrats present any such viable alternative. To date they have no policy- unless they accept the mantle of an anti-uranium lobby- and seem bent on acquiring a trendy image. This, in my view, is not what the middle ground of politics requires. I would judge that most of those who have hitherto leaned towards the Australian Democrats have done so in desperation, not supporting them in reality, but simply because there was no other way of expressing their dissatisfaction with both the main Parties.
The Senate was conceived as a House where men of experience could contribute to the national welfare without too rigid adherence to 1>arty lines. It has not worked out that way, but at east the electoral system has precluded overwhelming party majorities. It may well be that a voice in the Senate might carry more weight than in this House, where party lines are tighter and party numbers somewhat different. For one like myself, whose interest is and always has been in policies rather than personalities, there may well opportunities for useful work in the Senate.
Naturally, from my personal viewpoint, I would have preferred to have retired from politics, so as to devote myself to travel and private interests. In the circumstances, feeling that I have still something to offer, I do not believe that I should take this course. I am still capable of holding my own in this House and I see no reason why I should not be capable of doing so in another place.
Finally, may I repeat, whatever imperfections I may see in present policy, I consider the present Government far preferable to the present Australian Labor Party. I remain a convinced adherent to the system of free enterprise, and believe that the present Liberal policy is letting free enterprise down. Perhaps a true Liberal can do better.
I thank the House for the opportunity to speak which it has accorded me and hope I have not detained it too long. I trust that before we are dissolvedwhenever that may be- I shall have a chance to put some of my positive views at greater length.
-Mr Acting Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the Australian of last Friday a report appeared stating that the Director of the National Gallery, Mr Mollison, had said that paintings in the Parliament House corridors were in bad repair and that they were in the charge of the Australian War Memorial Trust. As a trustee of the War Memorial I claim to have been misrepresented by that statement. The paintings in Parliament House belong to the Commonwealth art collection and are under the control of the Historic Memorials Committee of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Maintenance which is required is drawn to the attention of the Historic Memorials Committee by the Joint House Department.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. I would have thought that the point is clear. The honourable member has not been personally misrepresented. He is making a statement to obtain headlines in the electorate of St George.
– In regard to the point of order raised by the honourable member for Blaxland, I point out that the honourable member for St George spoke to me previously. Remarks and comments have been attributed to the honourable member as a member of a committee of which he is not a member. I believe the comments sufficiently cover the honourable member for St George to enable him to make a personal explanation in the House.
-Mr Acting Speaker, the precedent of the House in relation to personal explanations is that an honourable member is entitled to make a personal explanation in relation to a matter where he has been personally misrepresented. That requires that he be named in the article and that he be misrepresented in relation to something he has on the record. If personal explanations are extended to cover organisations of which an honourable member is a member, or a member of a committee and is therefore misrepresented indirectly, then we will have personal explanations going on into the night with no other activity in the House at all. I think the honourable member could seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the committee but at this stage he has not indicated any personal misrepresentation. He has indicated a misrepresentation of a committee of which he is a member. That is quite different.
-The honourable member for St George mentioned to me that his name had appeared in the report Is the honourable member s name in the report?
– If the honourable member’s name does not appear in the report then the honourable member cannot claim to have been misrepresented in the report. The honourable member can claim to have been misrepresented only if his name is mentioned. When the honourable member mentioned the subject matter to me in the first place I thought he said his name had been mentioned in the report.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. It is not the case of a committee but of a trust and the property which is vested in the trustees.
– No. I point out to the honourable member for St George that the point raised by the honourable member for Corio is correct. Unless an honourable member’s name has been specifically mentioned or there is specific reference to him, there is no personal misrepresentation. I uphold the point of order raised by the honourable member for Corio that we could have a thousand and one personal explanations being made. I am afraid I must rule that the honourable member for St George has not been personally misrepresented.
– I claim to have been misrepresented. I seek to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable member for St George cannot claim to have been misrepresented unless his name has been mentioned in the report to which he refers.
– My name was just mentioned by the honourable member for Blaxland, and I seek leave to make a personal explanation about what he has said.
-The honourable member is out of order.
- Mr Acting Speaker, may I make a submission to you in relation to the point of order. The honourable member for St George is well known to be a member of the Australian War Memorial Trust. The War Memorial Trust is a very limited body of people. It is well known throughout the country and to members of the Australian Labor Party.
-There is no substance in the matter raised by the honourable member. I can remember on one occasion an honourable member took a point that he had been misrepresented by inference. If we start that, we will spend all our time on points of order and on matters of personal misrepresentation. I say to the honourable member for St George that I misunderstood him. I thought his name had been mentioned.
– I have received letters from the honourable members for Higgins (Mr Shipton), Melbourne (Mr Innes) and St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107 I have selected one matter and that is that proposed by the honourable member for Higgins, namely:
The current wave of strikes and abuse of union power throughout Australia.
I therefore 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 stands condemned and the Australian Labor Party stands indicted for failing to tell the nation, and the House, its attitude towards the current wave of strikes and abuse of union power throughout Australia. Australia abounds with strikes. There are strikes all over the land. The Victorian power strike is crippling industry and hurting people. There is a Seamens Union strike in Queensland which has stopped a major investment project and is causing people to lose jobs. In Western Australia there is a transport workers’ hauliers strike that is affecting the ability of people in that State to get supplies. There is an Australian Postal and Telecommunications Union dispute in which bans are stopping the delivery of mail in New South Wales.
There are building disputes in Victoria. The Collins Place project has virtually stopped and there are guerrilla tactics at the State Bank site in Elizabeth Street. There is a series of rolling strikes in the meat industry, putting up costs to the consumer. There are bans by the union movement on the export of products to Chile and Indonesia. There are bans on the export of livestock when those exports would help save the beef industry. In Victoria there is a plumbers strike which is crippling many building projects. The Knox Shopping Centre would directly employ 525 people but those people are being denied jobs.
There is a strike in Bass Strait that shortly could threaten the supplies of oil to the nation. One day a few weeks ago six different building disputes were before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. People in this nation are out of work. More people are out of work through the activity of a small band of union officials than are unemployed. The Opposition is constantly raising the matter of the number of unemployed in this country, but it constantly fails to tell us about the number of people who are out of work and unemployed because of the activities of a small band of union officials.
I challenge the Opposition- I challenge the Labor Party- to tell us where it stands in relation to those people who have been stood down, those families which are suffering, because of the activities of a few union officials. We want to know; the nation demands that we be told. People are out of work. Small businesses are affected; large businesses are affected. An employer in a small business in my electorate said yesterday that he put off 35 people. I am not engaging in a union bashing exercise.
Opposition members- Oh!
-There they go, putting up the normal smokescreen that is put up on these occasions. It is a smokescreen which the Opposition puts up to hide the real truth. The real truth is that the Labor Party cannot tell us where it stands on these issues. It is remarkably silent and throws out the smokescreen of union bashing to divert the attention of the people from the truth. The vast majority of responsible unionists, like the vast majority of Australians, need to know where the Labor Party stands.
I am not attacking the 95 per cent of unionists who are responsible and decent people. I am attacking some 1,200 communist and left wing officials who are threatening the very security of this nation. The union movement is a proper part of the capitalist system. In fact, as a matter of history, it arose out of abuses of the capitalist system. It was proper that it did so. It has a proper function to negotiate and to talk with employers concerning hours, terms, wages and conditions of employment. But the trouble with the union movement now is that it has outlived its original function. We in this society are engaged in a battle for the supremacy of the rights of the people and for the supremacy of the rights of the Parliament over the abuses of power by a few officials in the union movement.
The battle which we are fighting is no less a battle than that fought to curb the power of the divine right of kings, to curb the power of the barons, to capture the spirit of the Magna Carta; the battle that was fought against the evils of fascism; and the battle against the industrial barons of the past century. When the history of the times we are now in is written it will tell us whether the battle against the abuses of union power was won or lost. It is in fact a fight for the supremacy of Parliament and for the supremacy of the rights of the people.
The Australian Labor Party is not concerned that people are out of work. I was talking this morning to the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and he told me of an incident he witnessed last week when he was in a Commonwealth Employment Service office. A man who had been stood down because of the current power dispute in Victoria asked: ‘What am I going to do? I have a wife and a young child. Where can I get a job?’ That man and 500,000 others in Victoria and perhaps 600,000 or 700,000 people throughout Australia are out of work because of the excesses of union power. It is time that the public interest was taken into account so that people such as that man in Greensborough, that man in Diamond Valley, can get a job. He has the right to work and he must not be denied that right.
The honourable member for Diamond Valley told me that until the power dispute the figures for registered unemployed in that CES office showed a slowing down in unemployment, but because of this abuse of union power unemployment is rising again. Small businesses are being smashed. The harvest of wheat for the nation’s farmers is being threatened because 220-odd harvesters are on a production line and production cannot continue because of the power strike.
I have referred to the denial by the unions of the ability of Australian livestock producers to export cattle. I believe that the export of live cattle could solve the problems of the beef industry. I should like to know what the Cattlemen’s Union thinks about that. Let us look at where the Opposition stands on these matters. Let us look at what it has to say. The honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the Leader of the Opposition, when asked about unions last Monday on a PM program said:
I believe that the people to settle this are the Arbitration Commission.
I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the plain fact is that the arbitration system is breaking down because of the excesses of union power and because of the activities of left wing unionists. For him to say that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the proper place to settle the Victorian power dispute is to deny the facts. Arbitration has failed. That is why the Victorian Government has had to act. So much for the Leader of the Opposition!
Last Friday we had a visit from the Acting, shall I say, Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He was asked on a PM program whether he supported the workers’ claims. He said: . . . I believe something has got to be done . . . but I don’t know enough about the details to be able to give any definitive statement or any firm commitment.
-Who said that?
-That was what the honourable member for Oxley said about the Victorian power dispute. I repeat what he said: . . . I don’t know enough about the details to be able to give any definitive statement or any firm commitment.
We welcomed him to the Greensborough byelection in Victoria for telling us where the Australian Labor Party- the Opposition- does not stand. I am pleased that he came because he will win votes for the candidate Bill Foster at that byelection. I challenge him to get up in this House and tell us where he stands on these issues.
I also challenge the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young), who I know will speak later in this debate, to tell us where he stands. Last week the honourable member for Port Adelaide wrote in a political column about the stability of government and talked about political brinkmanship. But he ignored the headne ‘Hamer Poised to End Strike’ which appeared on the front page of the Australian newspaper on the very day that he talked about these things. I believe that the honourable member for Port Adelaide and others like him in this House are in a unique position to offer solutions. He has been a successful manager in the union movement and he is a prominent politician. But so far we have not heard anything from him on this issue. Perhaps this afternoon we will get an indication as to where he stands. We have not heard anything from the Leader of the Opposition in Victoria. There is a strange silence amongst the Opposition.
I should like to know also, and I think the people of Australia are entitled to know, where the Australian Democrats stand on this issue. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has talked of engineered confrontation and bickering, but he has not given us any answer. The Parliament and the public need to know where people in this Parliament stand on this issue. I have no doubt where I and my colleagues stand. Let us have some solutions. I support the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the answer which he gave to a question today on this issue and I support the Victorian Government in moves to de-register these unions in the La Trobe Valley.
Let us look at where some other politicians stand on this issue. Let us look at what Mr Wran, the Premier of New South Wales, said. There is a glimmer of hope for the Opposition. During an interview on the radio program AM on 10 October Mr Wran, who I think is the only Labor politician to acknowledge that strikes are occurringhe has his head out of the sand, even though he accused the Prime Minister of other things- said:
It is a long term battle and we’re not being assisted at the moment either by too many strikes . . .
I congratulate the Premier of New South Wales on his realisation that there are too many strikes. I criticise him for attacking the Prime Minister on other issues on that occasion. That might be the beginning of a consensus in this country, if other people in the Labor movement were to acknowledge that in fact strikes are occurring. That very day the Premier of South Australia, when asked about the problems of the nation, did not even refer to strikes.
Let us look at this brilliant advertisement which appeared in this morning’s Melbourne Age. It was placed by the Australian Labor Party. It displays 24 headlines from newspapers in Australia. Not one of those headlines m that advertisement to the people of Australia today mentions strikes or the abuse of union power. If the Opposition would like that tabled, it can have it tabled. That is an Australian Labor Party advertisement. It says that the headlines tell the story. They tell the story all right; the story is told by what has not been included in the advertisement in the Age. It is a fraudulent advertisement. It talks about unemployment. I would say that the words that should appear in that advertisement are: ‘Unemployment through union strikes is the worst that it has been’. It is the worst ever. More people are out of work now because of the abuses of union power.
– But they get money from the unions.
-I thank the honourable member for Barton for his interjection. The Labor Party is in a dilemma because, on the one hand, its organisational strength comes from the union movement and, on the other hand, its essential weakness, its democratic weakness, is that it is linked with the union movement. The people of Australia know that whoever controls the union movement- that is, the left wing- controls the Labor Party. The Labor Party was born out of the union movement; the Labor Party is a party formed to represent unionists in parliament. The people of Australia need to be reminded of that. That is the plain truth.
Last century the miners of Eureka fought for their rights on the goldfields of Ballarat. Now the community of Australia is fighting an historic battle for its right to exert the supremacy of the Parliament, the supremacy of the elected representatives of the people. These disputes throughout the nation involve the will of the people. It is clear to me that the will of the people of Australia must prevail through the ability to govern of the duly elected government. Parliament must prevail; the will of the people must prevail. I am confident that when the history books are written it will be shown that the good sense of the Australian people prevailed. I can assure the House that this Government is on the side of the people.
-We have just listened to another appalling speech from the representative of the silvertails in this House, the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton). He was pursuing the same line as other honourable members on the Government side have pursued in speech after speech made both inside and outside this House, but principally outside it. An array of totally irresponsible speeches has come from Government Ministers.
They have sought to do their very best to exacerbate industrial disputation in this country in an endeavour to find one platform by which they can retain power. The fact is that we have a destructive and divisive government- a government which is indulging in policies which are socially, economically and industrially divisive of our society and destructive of the Australian way of Life. The Government is using this issue of industrial disputes as a whipping boy for its own political purposes. Its own wages policy is the principal element in the fact that in the last few weeks there has been an exacerbation of industrial disputation.
From listening to the remarks of the honourable member for Higgins one would never understand that in fact there has been a very substantial decline in industrial disputation in the last two or three years. Just let me quote some figures.
Government supporters interjecting-
-I know that honourable members opposite do not like to hear the figures, but if they just open their ears long enough to hear them they might learn what the figures are. The number of working days lost declined by 55 per cent in the first six months of 1975, compared with the first six months of 1974. In 1976 it fell by a further 27 per cent during the first six months compared with the same period of the previous year. This year the figure fell by a further 47.7 per cent. So, there has been a dramatic decline in the level of industrial disputation.
At the initial stage at least, this had much to do with the fact that wage indexation was introduced as a result of the policies of the Whitlam Government. That system of wage indexation has been altered by the fact that this Government breached the fundamental promise which it made to the people of Australia in late 1975. It promised that it would abide by wage indexation. It did no such thing. Two months after it was elected it went before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and broke its promise to the Australian people completely. It said that the Commission should award only half of the increase that was then to be awarded on the basis of the consumer price index figure. It told the Commission that the increase should be 3.2 per cent instead of 6.4 per cent. From that point on the wage indexation system has inexorably reduced the wage levels of Australian workers. In quarter after quarter the real wage level of Australian workers has been reduced. The Government is destroying the living standards of the people of Australia.
– Half a million out of work -
– If the honourable member looks at the figures he will understand what is happening in this country. The living standards of workers are being reduced by the continual reduction in the real level of wages because of the non-application of full wage indexation. It is remarkable in that situation that the industrial disputes situation has not been exacerbated before this time. Over a period of one and threequarter years the trade union movement has recorded a very substantial decline in the level of industrial disputation, despite the fact that this Government has been slashing away at the living standards of its members. It is remarkable that the workers have not before this time started to take some action to try to restore the situation. It is inevitable, given the Government’s wages policy, that eventually people will start to take that kind of action. It would not have happened had a Labor government been in office, because we would have maintained full wage indexation.
Government supporters interjecting-
-Order! The honourable member for Gellibrand will resume his seat.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order -
-Order! I am not accepting a point of order at this stage; I am simply pointing out that there are far too many comments and far too many interjections. One side has been entitled to put its view and the other side is entitled to do so also. I call the honourable member for Gellibrand.
– Full wage indexation maintains the living standards of the workers; it does no more. If less is given, the living standards of the workers are reduced. That is what the Government is doing. In addition, its taxation policies have increased the tax burden on workers and made them worse off in after-tax terms. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in Question Time today lied when he said -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw the word ‘lied’.
-The Prime Minister told an untruth in Question Time today when he said that during 1976-77 there had been no reduction in the living standards of workers. The Budget Papers snow that real household disposable income of the people of Australia is less now than it was in September 1974. So, living standards have been reduced, compared with what they were three years ago. Real household disposable income increased by 10.3 per cent in the September quarter of last year; the increase has been reduced to 6.2 per cent compared with the situation at the beginning of 1974. So, the real household disposable income of workers is falling as a result of this Government’s wages and taxation policies. The Government’s own figures in the Budget Papers show that to be the case, despite what the Prime Minister said. Can the Government expect people to continue to accept that their living standards must decline if that situation continues?
The Government’s rationale for this continual reduction in the living standards of the Australian people- the wage and salary earners- is that there has to be a transfer of real income from wage earners to profits. It says that the profits share is too low and that it has to be increased in order to get a return of investment in this country. That is absolute nonsense. The fact is that we are in the middle of a very severe recession, and we cannot expect the profits share to be at its average level. In fact, it is at about 90 per cent of its average level. It has recovered substantially, despite the fact that we are still in a very severe recession. As the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has shown, given the state of the trade cycle, the share of profits is above average. Yet the Government is still trying to transfer income from wage earners to profits, to increase the profit share, for totally false economic reasons. The fact is that the Government is destroying the possibility of economic recovery and is making the recession comfortable for business, and no more. The Government must expect that eventually somewhere some people will take action. This is particularly the case when one looks at the major industrial disputes. Those issues have as their basis the fact that the Government has destroyed the system of wage indexation as it operated when the Government took office.
The biggest dispute in the Pilbara, which is one of the areas of dispute which has been mentioned, occurred when employees of Mount Newman Mining Co. Pty Ltd went on strike for 37 days. The basis of that dispute was the nonapplication of full wage indexation under the system applied by the Western Australian Industrial Commission. The objective of the dispute was to get the iron ore companies to apply full wage indexation so that there would be a maintenance of living standards for workers in the Pilbara. It was settled in the case of the other companies, apart from Mount Newman, by the fact that they paid the difference between what the Commission was awarding and full indexation into a superannuation fund. Mount Newman would not agree to that so there was a strike in that instance. The cause of it was the nonapplication of full wage indexation. So honourable members should not come in here blustering and carrying on about unions being in contact with Moscow and all this absolute nonsense about which Charlie Court talked. The fact is that all that was at the base of that dispute was the non-application of a system which was necessary to maintain living standards at a time of substantial inflation.
In the case of Utah, which has been mentioned by many Government spokesmen, what is the cause of the dispute? It is about the employment of Australian workers. We know that honourable members opposite are not interested in unemployment and the fact that we need jobs for Australian workers. That is what that dispute is about. Australian seamen are saying that Utah, which made only $ 1 3 7m last year and which will make over $160m this year, might be able to afford to employ Australian seamen instead of Spanish seamen. That is what that dispute is about. Joh Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, is stopping any negotiations occurring in that dispute by telling Utah that if it negotiates with the union in relation to this matter he will move to increase freight rates paid by Utah. The National Times of 1 8 July made this point:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen has threatened that if Utah and its construction sub-contractor Fluor of America make concessions to the unions, he will take it as an indication that Utah is not paying sufficient in State levies and royalties. He warned that these payments might be increased as a result.
There we have it. The Premier of Queensland is directly interfering in that dispute, preventing any negotiation of the issue, ensuring that a very severe dispute continues and making as much political capital out of it as he can. The Australian Financial Review in an article on 12 July stated:
The Queensland Government is strongly backing Utah, seemingly to promote an election issue over militant unions.
Of course it is. So is this Government. This Government is deliberately trying to provoke industrial action wherever it can and whip the cat for as much as it can, because that is all it has going for it. This Government has made an abysmal mess of the economy. All it can do is talk about industrial disputation. It produces nothing constructive. What has the Government said of the State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria? What has it said about any dispute to indicate that it had any positive ideas about how to resolve disputes? All it does is deplore the actions of trade unions. It is totally destructive. It has no constructive thoughts whatever.
– Tell us about the power dispute.
-I am coming to that. In the SEC dispute there is a claim which is based on the non-application of full wage indexation both in respect of the award rate and particularly in respect of over-award payments. Since this Government came to office and pressured the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission into giving less than full wage indexation the Commission has said that it does not expect its indexation decisions to apply to over-award payments. It has said that in case after case. So the Victorian Government is not increasing payments to employees of State instrumentalities or the over-award payments for government workers in Victoria m line with indexation, which is something that the Victorian Government was doing under the system which operated before this Government took office. The workers are getting less than full wage indexation on their award rate and no indexation, no movement at all for inflation, on their over-award rates. So their living standards are being considerably reduced.
Prices have gone up by 16 per cent or 17 per cent since this Government came into office. Payments to employees of Victorian instrumentalities have not moved one iota in line with that movement in the rate of inflation. So they are getting anxious about their declining living standards. That explains why there is so much unanimity of purpose in the Latrobe Valley. It is not a matter of John Halfpenny or other people taking action to destroy the economy, which is what Commonwealth Ministers and the Premier of Victoria have been saying. John Halfpenny was booed in the Latrobe Valley when he suggested some measure which might lead to a return to work. So there is a unanimity of purpose among the people. They feel that a grave injustice is being done to them because there has been no movement in their State incremental payments and also because there are nine awards applying in the Latrobe Valley. A system of anomalies has grown up there which has added to their sense of grievance. Has the Government said anything about that? Has it made any attempt to resolve that difficult issue? No. It does absolutely nothing except capitalise on it for all it is worth, to get the most political gain out of it.
Compare that with what is happening today. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is desperately trying to resolve this issue. It has the unions before it today. Hopefully we will hear of some resolution of the issue some time this afternoon. If that is reached it will not be because of any actions of this Government. All it has done is bluster and threaten- to threaten deregistration and penal clauses. It is totally destructive. It has absolutely nothing positive to offer. The same is true in relation to all the other disputes which have been mentioned in this debate. The fact is that if this Government adopts a wages policy which has at its base the destruction of living standards of workers it cannot expect them to cop that for ever. That is what the Government has done.
So we totally reject the subject of this matter of public importance- the abuse of union power throughout Australia. There is no union plot to destroy wage indexation. The unions support wage indexation, but they say that this Government has breached its promise to the Australian people about the way wage indexation should apply. In fact, most of the disputes which are occurring have occurred because of the actions of workers on the job, as is the case in the Latrobe Valley. They feel that a grave injustice is being done. They know the living standards are going down. They can see no alternative to taking some direct action to deal with that matter. That is not a situation which pleases the Opposition at all. We do not support a policy of reducing living standards of Australian workers. We support a system which will maintain a fair and equitable wages level in this country, and that must be a system based on full wage indexation. It need not be inflationary.
Indeed, under the Labor Government the level of inflation came down while wage indexation applied. It could have come down much further, using wage indexation and not reducing the living standards of workers, if actions had been taken by this Government to reduce the movement in the consumer price index. Cuts in indirect taxes or government charges would have reduced the size of the index and the pay claims of workers through indexation. There would have been a rapid winding down of the rate of inflation but no winding down of the living standards of Australian people. We know the Government does not care about the fact that their living standards have gone down, but we deplore that it is trying to make so much political capital out of that fact and that it has nothing constructive to say to the Australian people about the level of industrial disputation, how to resolve it and how to prevent it occurring in future.
– I support strongly, as a matter of public importance, the issues raised by my colleague the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), namely, the current wave of strikes and abuse of union power. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), in his response to my colleague, condemned the Fraser Government as being divisive and destructive of the Australian way of life. Nonsense. The major group that is destroying the Australian way of life is the extremist unions which my colleague the honourable member for Higgins mentioned in his address this afternoon. The honourable member for Gellibrand also talked about the Government’s policy on wage indexation and suggested that in that area our policy was outside the guidelines. To the contrary, the Government is within the guidelines in the principles which it espouses on this matter. I refer the honourable member to the fourth principle of those indexation guidelines for his own edification. He also claimed that wage restraint was detrimental to the standard of living of workers. Without wage restraint unemployment would be even worse than it is at the moment and, therefore, far more destructive of the standards of workers.
The honourable member for Gellibrand also claimed that the share of profits was now adequate to encourage investment. Once again he is completely wrong. The share of profits is still below the long run norm required to encourage investment and expansion of economic activity by industry. He also talked about this Government’s poor economic management. Once again he is wrong. This Government’s approach to economic management compares more than favourably with that of the Whitlam era. The abysmal low of the speech of the honourable member for Gellibrand was his support of the Victorian power strike. This is a strike which has been condemned by all throughout Australia. I am sure that the constituents of the State electorate of Greensborough in Victoria would be interested to hear the honourable member’s remarks this afternoon. I believe that as a result of those remarks the honourable member for Gellibrand should resign from this Parliament. As at 3 o’clock this afternoon, some 350 people were registered for unemployment benefit as a result of the power dispute. They are coming in at the rate of 80 people per day. At Preston in Victoria some 1,000 people per day are registering for unemployment benefit as a result of the power strike.
The honourable member for Gellibrand also said that there has been a decline in industrial disputation. Certainly there has been a general improvement in industrial relations. This is revealed by the available statistics. This improvement is a result of the Fraser Government’s sound economic management and its willingness to consult with the trade union movement. However, this overall improvement hides a real and continuing problem, that is, unjustified strikes initiated by left wing union leaders and, as we have seen this afternoon condoned by the Labor Party, involving key workers in key industries. These strikes detrimentally affect not only the immediate industry involved but also many other industries dependent on the key industry concerned in the particular dispute. The deliberate aim of these strikes is to sabotage economic recovery in Australia, destroy wage indexation and thereby further the political aims of both the left wing extremists and the Labor Party which they influence.
The current power strike in Victoria is a prime example of this kind of industrial disruption. It is monstrous that half a million fellow wage earners, not to mention the providers of employment and the rest of the community, should suffer grievously to satisfy the selfish demands and bloody-minded stubbornness of a comparatively well paid group of key workers in an essential industry. It is absurd that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Victorian Trades Hall Council should have allowed a committee of militant shop stewards to incite direct action in support of a log of claims contrary to the trade union movement’s own rules and best interests. The militant shop stewards whose belligerence and intransigence have prolonged this strike and worsened its impact beyond tolerable bounds deserve the angry condemnation of this House and of the people of Australia. Equally to be condemned is the attitude of the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) as expressed in his article in this morning’s Australian. Both the Hamer Government in victoria and the Fraser Federal Government have done all possible to avoid confrontation on this issue. They should be congratulated. But the militants will have none of it. Through his comments the honourable member for Port Adelaide stands aligned with them. I shall be interested to hear his comments in a moment
I am especially concerned about the impact of this disrup tion on the regional economy of South Australia. South Australia is very dependent on manufacturing industry which draws its raw materials from Victoria. By the end of this week 30,000 jobs in South Australia may be destroyed as a direct result of the Victorian power workers intransigence. I particularly draw the attention of honourable members to the disastrous effects the Victorian bullies are having on their fellow workers employed in motor vehicle manufacturing in South Australia, and more particularly those employed at Chrysler Australia Ltd at Tonsley Park and Lonsdale, many of whom live within my electorate of Kingston.
– It has a good member.
– I thank the honourable member for St George for that comment. Motor vehicle manufacturing in South Australia is fighting for survival. Hit by tremendous wage cost increases during the Whitlam Labor era and additional State Government charges and workers compensation costs caused by the Dunstan Government, this industry is no longer competitive with imported vehicles.
– And payroll tax in South Australia.
-That also contributes to the problem. It is only the restraint on further cost increases resulting from the sound economic policies of the Fraser Government and that Government’s generous protection provided for the industry in the form of high tariffs and quotas on imports that is keeping the industry viable.
The current power strike in Victoria is highly detrimental to continued recovery in the motor vehicle industry. Victoria is the most important State for the manufacture of motor vehicle components used by Chrysler. As a direct result of the unjustified action by key workers in the Victoria power industry and for no other reason, Chrysler is currently unable to obtain supplies of 22 major components to build its motor cars. These are key components in manufacturing, not items which may be added later such as tail lights. These 22 components are required by Chrysler to maintain continued production of its vehicles. The severe disruption of the strike is bringing production to a halt. The jobs of 2,300 employees of Chrysler have already been destroyed despite the best endeavours of Chrysler to maintain employment. A further 1,000 employees at the General Motors-Holden’s plant at Elizabeth have been affected. The jobs of a further 1,500 employees of Chrysler are now threatened as more components become unavailable. Many of Chrysler’s employees are being deployed in maintenance work. This work is now reaching completion and there are no more tasks available on which Chrysler can use such employees. Some employees have been sent to training courses to maintain their employment, at great cost to Chrysler. Hence the company has gone further than anyone could imagine or think possible to keep as many employees as possible on the payroll for as long as possible. That company is to be commended for its meritorious action.
The situation gets worse day by day as the abuse of union power in Victoria continues to deprive Chrysler of its components. As each day goes by and strikers refuse to return to their jobs, 1,500 more workers at Chrysler come closer to losing their jobs. A return to work by the power strikers is urgent. Even if they return today it will take at least three to five days to obtain supplies of components to restore production.
This highlights another factor- the long-term consequences of the disruption as well as the immediate loss of jobs. Manufacturers only gradually get back into full swing after such a severe disruption detrimentally affects them. Even if the power workers return to work today, the detrimental effects on their fellow employees in South Australia will continue at least until Christmas.
South Australia’s regional economy is being greatly affected to its detriment by the power strike in Victoria. That is why this issue is a matter of such great public importance. The people of Australia are entitled to know the way in which the abuse of union power, condoned by honourable members opposite as we heard a few moments ago from the honourable member for Gellibrand, is sabotaging economic recovery and adding to unemployment in Australia, despite the sound economic management of the Fraser Government.
– This might be a suitable opportunity for the Chair to explain once again that when Mr Speaker Snedden is overseas, Mr Lucock is Mr Acting Speaker in his place. I and my colleagues in the chair remain as Ir Deputy Speaker.
-I do not think that there should be any confusion about a debate of this nature. Firstly, everybody on this side of the House believes in the right to strike. It is a very important ingredient in our way of life. Not only do I believe m it but during my working life I also practised it. It is a very serious decision for people to make up their minds to go on strike. From the way Government supporters speak, one would think that a person on strike receives more pay than he does when he is at work. In fact, a person going on strike makes a great sacrifice for himself and his family because he believes an injustice is being done to him and his fellow workers. It is a very important aspect that we in Australia believe in the right to strike. The Liberal and National Country parties in this Parliament are now bordering on a philosophy that would outlaw altogether the right to strike and take us back to the feudal or slave days when the basic rights of man were taken away from him.
– What about the right to work?
-Everybody should have the right to work, and the 400,000 people who are out of work are out of work because of the Government’s policies. The trade union movement does not hire or fire; that is done by the government and by employers in the private sector. It is a very important judgment that a person makes when he decides to go on strike. Many of the people who formed the trade unions in this country were sent here, exiled from their country because they went on strike in their own country. The Labor movement in this country was founded on people who were sent here because they exercised a civil liberty in going on strike in then* own country. No one is going to deny the right of working people in this country to go on strike.
Let us look at the way in which the Government is trying to exploit the situation. The honourable member for Chrysler makes only two speeches a year, and always about Chrysler Australia Ltd. Let me say this about Chrysler’s decision last Thursday in relation to the State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria: There ought to be a thorough investigation of Chrysler’s closing of its plant on Thursday, because it is well known that the car industry has 140,000 passenger cars in paddocks in this country. It suits the industry fine to close down so that it can sell some of the surplus stock it has in hand, which situation has been caused by some of the stupid decisions the industry made last year. So, the honourable member for Kingston (Mr Chapman) should not get up here and defend the decisions of Chrysler and of the person who has been sent out here in the last month or so to run the company because the Australian who was in charge supposedly was not good enough. There ought to be a thorough investigation of Chrysler’s closing down of its plant last Thursday. It might just show that there was absolutely no need for the company to do so. The honourable member should not get up and defend Chrysler.
The Government is hell bent on dividing the community. What the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) said is absolutely true.
This is not a terribly complex question; it is very simple. If the Government had not interfered with wage indexation and if the Government had adhered to its election policy -
-Tell us about the strikes.
-I will get to that in a minute. If the Government had adhered to indexation, as it said it would do prior to December 1975, these disputes would not have arisen. They have arisen because the working people- the trade unionists- have decided not to let the Government lower their living standards. Why do honourable members opposite think unions are formed? Why do they think people who go to work in any establishment decide to join a union or an association? They do it to defend their standard of living. When a reactionary government such as the present Government decides to embark on a policy of lowering the living standards of those people, it has a fight on its hands. Not everybody who works for the SEC in the Latrobe Valley, not every seaman who works on boats around the coast of this country, receives the $30,000 a year that we receive. Honourable members opposite should try to keep a family on some of the wages that are being paid in the Latrobe Valley. They should investigate how people can live on a take home pay of $120 or 1 30 a week. That is what the fight is about.
When the Government said that it would abide by the policy of wage indexation the trade union movement accepted it, but the Government’s word was not worth a butt. In January 1976 the Government broke its word straight away, when it went into the national wage hearing and said that there should not be a 6.4 per cent increase but there should be a 3.2 per cent increase. In one year the living standards of all working people in this country were reduced by 7 per cent- and the Government wants to know why it has a fight on its hands. How pitiful it is. The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), who raised this matter of public importance, has never been a member of a trade union. He does not have a clue what it is all about. He was a solicitor working for ICI Australia Ltd. Naturally his approach to industrial disputations is well known. It has been bred into his heart and soul. He talked about newspaper advertisements. I have here an advertisement which is a big lie. Honourable members opposite want to know why we say that the Government will not talk about the real issues in this country. They should have a look at this situations vacant advertisement and they should tell the true position to the kids in the gallery and the 100,000 of them who, when they leave school at the end of this year, will not find jobs. The advertisement shows vacancies for apprentices, process workers and sales girls. Does the honourable member for Kingston have in his electorate a Commonwealth Employment Service office that has all these vacancies? Of course he does not, and neither do any of the other members on the Government side. This is a $lm he. No CES office in Australia has those vacancies, and the Government ought to be condemned for trying to convince the people of Australia that these sorts of vacancies exist, because they do not.
The Government will not break the back of the trade union movement by its daily exercise in abuse, by its use of the Parliament in attempting to divide the community. All it will do is to heighten the confrontation between the Labor movement and the Government because no one puts up any solution. If the Government came in here and said, as the honourable member for Higgins might have said, that the arbitration system is now finished and perhaps we should replace the arbitration system with collective bargaining, that might be a legitimate proposal to put forward. The Government might say: ‘Let the unions with the most muscle go out and get what they can, but those workers who are not organised into trade unions or who are poorly organised perhaps will not do nearly as well’. Indexation, when it existed under the Whitlam Administration- the indexation that this Government promised to abide by- provided justice for all wage and salary earners. Only this Government can be blamed for destroying it.
If honourable members opposite want to replace the arbitration system and the national wage hearings with collective bargaining, why do they not do it? They make all sorts of abuse about left wing unions. They would not know a union if they came across one. Today the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spoke about deregistering left wing unions. One of those terrible militants who will be brought before the court is Laurie Short, the Federal Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. I know that honourable members opposite have never heard about him because in this area they are babes in the wood. The cub from Chrysler has never heard of Laurie Short, but he is one of the people whom the Government intends to take to court and whose union the Government intends to deregister. We have reached a new height in union abuse. We have gone from Carmichael, Halfpenny, Hawke and all the rest of them and now it is Laurie Short. Who will be next?
– The Australian Broadcasting Commission.
-The Australian Broadcasting Commission employees, the insurance staff association and the Bank Officials Association- the Government will have a crack at them all. The fact is that members of the Government parties, whether they be from the back benches or the front bench, do not have a clue what they are talking about. The Government will not defeat the trade unions by daily abuse in the Parliament where they cannot reply. All it will do is lose the support of the community, as is being shown in every poll that is being taken throughout Australia. The honourable member for Kingston, who has highlighted his career by spending one term in this House, told us that the Dunstan policies are not working. Fifty-four per cent of the people in the Kingston electorate voted for Dunstan. Fifty-four per cent of the people will vote Labor at the next Federal election. Do honourable members know what the honourable member for Kingston is doing? He is securing his future with Chrysler. He intends to get a job as a research officer with Chrysler. I hope that his record at Chrysler will be a lot better than his record here, because it is really a burnt offering when he starts telling us how badly Chrysler is affected.
Let me conclude on this point: When a person decides to go on strike he has thought about it very deeply; he is making a great sacrifice; he believes that an injustice is being done to him. The right to strike will be defended in this Parliament and in every other parliament by the Australian Labor Party.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
-I seek leave to make a personal explanation following those remarks by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young).
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I certainly do. I claim to have been most grievously misrepresented by certain remarks made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide in his address this afternoon. Towards the end of his speech he claimed that I was seeking to obtain a job as a research officer, or some such thing, at Chrysler Australia Ltd following the next election. Of course, that is a gross misrepresentation. I am not attempting to do any such thing. I will be continuing as the very active member for Kingston after the next election and I will be circulatingMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member has made his point.
Debate resumed from 22 September, on motion by Mr Street:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Bill, the essential purpose of which is to remove the anomaly in the present legislation. The Bill will allow the Government to acquire property in external territories on the same basis as it acquires property in domestic territories. The Opposition accepts the principle that wherever possible and where necessary the Commonwealth Government should acquire land which it uses for its own purposes.
The Government wants to establish an animal quarantine station in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. We know there are problems with regard to land ownership in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. This amendment will allow the Government to acquire the land that it wants without impairing the rights of appeal of the Clunies Ross family. The Opposition supports the Bill without proposing any amendment.
– I am glad that the Opposition does not oppose this Bill. However, the Bill does hold several worries for me. I will get on to that aspect later. The Bill seeks to extend the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-73 to the external territories of Australia. I think that we should realise just what those territories are. The Bill refers specifically to the acquisition of a certain area of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands on which to erect an animal quarantine station. Other territories which come under the Lands Acquisition Act include Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, the Coral Sea islands, Heard Island, Macquarie Island, Ashmore Reef, Cartier Island and the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The Bill seeks to give the Commonwealth power by agreement or by compulsory means to acquire land for public purposes. The second reading speech of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) appears to have been directed towards the acquisition of land on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the establishment of an animal quarantine station. It is stated that discussions relating to the purchase of the land, which covers about 50 acres or 21.5 hectares, are continuing at this time. One does not know what the result of those discussions will be. I think the matter is in the hands of the legal advisers of the Clunies Ross estate who are dealing with the Government.
I trust that the Bill is aimed only at the acquisition of land for the erection of an animal quarantine station on Cocos (Keeling) Islands specifically. The Bill can have far-reaching effects. The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has made a number of statements on this matter. I hope I will have time to refer to them later. Reference is made in clause 3 of the Bill to section 5 of the original Act. The clause seeks to extend the powers of the Act to every external territory. At present the Commonwealth has power in regard to mainland territories only.
The Bill gives the right to the Clunies Ross estate to seek recourse to the courts in respect of fair and just compensation if discussions break down. Of course, this right does exist in the Principal Act. Under the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-73, property owners have the right to take the matter to court if agreement is not reached. The Act also provides that, if a finding is in favour of the Commonwealth, the agreement shall be made on fair terms. This is one of the advantages that will be gained by people not only of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands but also of all other external territories.
Another advantage will accrue under section 12 of the Act. Section 12(1) states:
The Minister shall cause a copy of every notice published under sub-section (3) of section ten of this Act to be laid before each House of the Parliament within fourteen sitting days of that House after the date of publication.
This will be done in the Gazette. Section 12 (2) states:
Either House of the Parliament may, within thirty days after a copy of a notice has been laid before it in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, pass a resolution that the notice shall be void and of no effect, and thereupon the notice shall be void and to no effect, and the land shall be deemed not to have been vested in the Commonwealth.
This is the section by which people in the Northern Territory sought to deter Mr Enderby, the then Minister for the Northern Territory, from the infamous acquisition of 32 square miles of land just south of Darwin. One could say that this land was just in the Darwin area. We failed. I will not go into the reasons for our failure to stop the acquisition except to say that there was a lack of solidarity in the other place. As a result the then Government compulsorily acquired that 32 square miles of land. The Clunies Ross estate would have the same right to launch an objection under that section, as did the Territorians. However, as I said, the then Government succeeded in acquiring 32 square miles of land south of Darwin.
Concern was expressed when the the land was acquired in the time of the Labor Government. This decision resulted from the confusion felt by people who were having their land acquired. In addition, the land did not turn out to be what the then Government thought it was going to be in respect of suitability for closer settlement. I think that the lands authority in the Northern Territory is still wrestling with this matter even now.
As I have said, land owners such as the Clunies Ross estate can use this section of the Act. However, in view of the battle that was put up to prevent the acquisition of the 32 square miles south of Darwin, it would be a very long shot for the Clunies Ross estate to bring off a stay in the proceedings and to prove that the land could not be deemed to be vested in the Commonwealth. As I say, the Territorians made a tremendous effort in this Parliament to stop the acquisition of land in the Northern Territory. But we were pipped on the post.
I support the extending of the advantages contained m the Act to the people in these territories but wonder whether the Minister for Administrative Services will use the machinery provided in this amending legislation to bring about either the acquisition of all Cocos (Keeling) Islands land, and not specifically the Clunies Ross estate, or the vesting of that land in the Commonwealth. The Government has said that if the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are under the control of the Australian Government it will, amongst other things, give the islanders land rights. We have heard in this place a tremendous lot about land rights. It is also said that we will do away with token currency and give islanders many other rights. But I wonder whether the islanders have been consulted or whether they relish being members of the Australian society. Already we have foisted land rights legislation upon various people dwelling within Australia but are now finding that the land rights which were demanded ostensibly by the people concerned were not in fact demanded by them but by the organisations which were supposedly representing them. Those of us who live in the areas affected find that as time goes on it is becoming obvious that the people for whom the land rights legislation was passed are not being advantaged to the degree that many people in the south and elsewhere would have wished. So I caution the Minister in this regard.
I noticed in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 June it was said that Australia will control the Cocos (Keeling) Islands within the year and there is mention of the islanders having land rights and so on. There are many advantages which will accrue to the Cocos islanders. Nevertheless, I would like to see this Government not rush headlong into it in the way in which the Labor Government, and also the LiberalNational Country Party Government when it came to power, did with the Aboriginal land rights legislation without getting to the grass roots and taking notice of the opinions of those people whom that legislation is supposed to benefit, the Aborigines in the spinifex and in the bough shade miles away in the sticks. It is a long way to Cocos. I have not been there but I gather that various Ministers and Opposition members have. I would like to know-
– But you have been to lots of other places.
– I did not hear that highly intelligent interjection.
– But you have been to lots of other places.
-And with the honourable member, too. I caution the Government against rushing into doing something in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands without proper consultations. My colleagues and I and others have spent a lot of time since legislation was introduced trying to determine what the Aboriginal people really want so I ask the Government to find out what it is that the Cocos islanders and Norfolk islanders want. The Norfolk islanders have been here and no doubt are concerned about the Commonwealth Government’s attitude to Norfolk Island and what will happen to them, whether they will finish up being a suburb of, say, West Sydney as did Lord Howe Island. A lot can be gained by sitting down and listening to what these people have to say instead of deciding that this Parliament is the ultimate place for all decision making regardless of the opinion of the locals.
-This Bill provides for the extension of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 to the external territories for purposes connected therewith and, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) has said, the Australian Labor Party supports the Bill. The way in which federal money is used in the acquisition of land should be the concern and deep interest of every member of this House. There have been disputes over land in almost every country and, near to us, great disputes and tribal wars in Papua New Guinea. There were the disputes on Norfolk Island which were referred to by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). There are disputes in Australia now over the Aborigines’ claim on their original land, in the Northern Territory particularly, which was taken over by large property owners, in the main from Great Britain.
The purpose of the Bill is to extend the Lands Acquisition Act to the external territories and, as has already been pointed out by honourable members in this debate, to acquire land to set up a quarantine station in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands which was obtained, if my reading is correct, for virtually nothing by the Clunies Ross family before the turn of the century. It should be the concern of every member of this Parliament what federal money is used for because it is taxpayers’ money. I am reminded by the daily Press of how federal money has been squandered in the acquisition of Housing Commission land in Victoria. In today’s Melbourne Sun there is the heading ‘Land valued “by directive’”. The article stated:
A valuer said yesterday he valued land at Sunbury above the market value because of a ministerial directive.
– I rise to order. Mr Deputy Speaker, I do not know whether you were listening then but the honourable member for Hunter is wandering far and wide from the Bill when he starts talking about land in Victoria. That has absolutely nothing to do with the Bill. I ask that you listen carefully to what he is saying.
-I will do so.
-I think that is an insult to the Chair. You, Mr Deputy Speaker, always listen carefully, answer wisely and, above all, act impartially. I do not think that you will be swayed by the objection of the Government’s Deputy Whip. I was pointing out in general terms that it should be the concern of every member of this House when we find that in Victoria land which was valued a few years ago at $500 to $700 -
– I rise to order! This Bill has a very narrow application. It relates to the acquisition of land in Australia’s external territories. I submit that the points raised now by the honourable member for Hunter have nothing whatever to do with the legislation.
– I uphold the point of order raised by the Minister. The Bill provides for the extension of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955 to the external territories and for purposes connected therewith. I do not think that the honourable member’s remarks are relevant to ‘purposes connected therewith’, the legislation applies only to Commonwealth Territories so either the honourable member directs his remarks to the legislation or we can look forward to other points of order.
– I will conform with your ruling in every way. I have the highest respect for your judicial application of the Standing Orders. I will not breach your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker. In general terms I was endeavouring to express my concern, and that of other members of the Federal Parliament, about the way federal money has been spent, and to see that it is properly spent in the interests of the taxpayer. I was trying to relate this Bill to what has happened in Victoria but I will not go any further on that point. If land in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands is purchased I hope that a true and proper value, not an excessive value, will be placed on it and paid for it. It is alleged in the case that I referred to that excessive values were placed on land. Apparently that is a very sensitive area for honourable members on the Government side of the chamber. I conclude by saying that we on the Opposition side support this Bill. I hope that no scandal emanates from the proposed land purchase, as has happened in Victoria.
– I think that the hope expressed by the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is met in this amending Bill. This amendment will provide the necessary machinery for compulsory acquisition of land should a negotiated settlement not be possible. In such circumstances the amendment will allow the owner of the land recourse to the courts for fair and just compensation. I congratulate the Government on its recent decision to establish the quarantine station in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. People who have studied the recent announcement and have looked a little further into the matter would realise that this station is being established so that Australia can import stock for breeding purposes. I believe it was the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) who made the initial announcement and said that this project would cost about $6. lm.
-It will cost $6.7m.
-Thank you. It is planned to spend $6.7m on this quarantine station. This Bill to amend the Act will make that possible. This is not a subject that should be canvassed at great length but I want to take this opportunity to suggest to the Parliament that it is high time that the Lands Acquisition Act was amended further. Under the present Act it seems that the Federal Government is loath to acquire land compulsorily throughout the various States. In my electorate of Griffith in Queensland we have seen the creation of a monstrosity, the Telecom Australia building, on the south side of the Brisbane River in the suburb of Woolloongabba. If the Act had been framed in a better way the Commonwealth Government could have stepped in in 1972 and acquired all the land on the corner of Vulture and Main Streets, Woolloongabba.
-Order! I ruled that the previous speaker was out of order and I will have to rule that the honourable member for Griffith is also out of order because he is not talking about land in Commonwealth Territories.
-With due respect, sir, I am talking about the Act which is being amended by this Bill. I am referring to the limitations of the Act because the Commonwealth Government seems to lack the ability to acquire land compulsorily. I am taking this opportunity to highlight that fact. This Act does not come before the Parliament very often. Indeed in the ten or eleven years that I have been a member of this Parliament I have not seen this Act before us before. I was not referring to a scandal or an alleged scandal, as did the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James), but to a situation that exists in Queensland. I appreciate your guidance and I will curtail my remarks and relate them to the context of this Bill. This land in Brisbane is one example of where the peopleMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! In accordance with the previous ruling I gave, the honourable member for Griffith is out of order.
– In what way?
– I refused the previous speaker leave to continue his remarks because he was referring to land that, on the interpretation of the honourable member for Griffith, did not come within the ambit of the Act which is being amended by the Bill before the House. This Bill refers to Commonwealth territories and the power to acquire lands within those territories.
– All right. I will accept the wisdom which you possess, sir.
– I hope the honourable member is not being facetious.
-Sir, you know the wisdom you possess; I was not being facetious. Forgetting all about Woolloongabba and the monstrosity created in that suburb by Telecom, the Act should also be amended for another reason. We are amending the Act to accommodate the acquisition of lands in the territories. In the overall interest of the public, the Government needs a little bit of strength on its side so that it can step in and say that it will acquire particular land. The present situation is that if a person puts an excessive price on his land the Commonwealth turns its back. I am not suggesting that the Commonwealth Government should pay an unreasonably high price for land because it is the taxpayers money.
-Order! I think I have given the honourable member long enough on this line of thought. I have told him already that he is out of order.
-Sir, I would not suggest that you are being officiousMr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. I have explained already that the honourable member is out of order unless he speaks within the narrow confines of this Bill which relates to the acquisition of land in external territories. If he has no intention of sticking to the Bill I will ask him to resume his seat.
– I do not wish to continue for a great length of time because I would not like to incur your wrath. I simply repeat that this Bill provides machinery for the compulsory acquisition of land should a negotiated settlement not be possible. I hope the Government notes the fact that an amending Bill such as this is needed so that it can acquire land on the mainland, as well as the territories, on the basis of the same happy settlement that this amendment seeks to ensure.
– in reply- I was pleased to hear from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) that the Opposition supports the Government in respect of this measure. The honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) is not in the House at the moment but I think I should reply to a point he raised in his speech. He referred to the application of this Lands Acquisition Act to some of Australia’s island territories. I think he referred to Christmas Island and some of the Coral Sea islands. I would em- phasise that at present the only privately owned and in the external territories is in Norfolk Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. All the land in the other territories to which the honourable member referred is Crown land anyway.
There is no private land on them so this legislation has no application to them.
The honourable member for the Northern Territory referred also to the question of land rights and the possible extension of the process of the acquisition of land in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands beyond the land required for the immediate purpose of building a quarantine station. I am told that the only other areas envisaged for acquisition, if negotiations should fail-of course we must not forget that negotiation is the first step in the process- is land for the Home Island village and land for two extensions to the transmitter site. Again I would remind the honourable member that if negotiations should break down the land has to be acquired on just terms.
– I agree with the honourable member for Hunter that the Parliament should keep a close eye on the taxpayers money and the way it is used. I would remind him that there is a constitutional obligation on the Commonwealth, when it does step in and acquire land, that it do so on just terms not merely for the taxpayer but also for the owner of the property concerned. I do not think he would quarrel with that principle. The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) made the point that the Government needs the capacity in certain circumstances to acquire land for public purposes, whether on the mainland or on the external territories. I believe that this is a sound extension of a principle which has been adopted since Federation. As we know, the obligation for just terms compensation is written into our Constitution, and that principle likewise should apply in Australia’s external Territories.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Street) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 October. Second Schedule.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $1,790,410,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $256,034,000.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $328,830,000.
– It is absurd that only six members from each side of the House are permitted to speak on the expenditure of thousands of millions of dollars by three departments which, I am sure, are of the greatest concern to all honourable members in the pursuit of their constituency responsibilities. The matter about which I speak this afternoon concerns the appropriation for the Office of Child Care and the payments to the States for which that Office has responsibility. I am surprised that no other member, particularly on the Government side, has yet addressed his mind to this question. I know that this must be a matter about which honourable members are receiving a great many representations from concerned constituents. In this area the Government has effected a complete change of policy in a covert fashion. Many honourable members, perhaps even some on the Australian Labor Party side of this chamber, have thought that occasionally some of us in the Labor Party attach too much importance to the institutions we establish to offer advice. I think that, if we look at the lamentable record of the Fraser Government in the field of children’s services since it decided not to proceed with the establishment of a children’s commission and decided instead to establish a mere division within the Department of Social Security, we will see just how important institutions occasionally can be in flagging changes in government policies.
The lengths to which the Government has gone to conceal the change in policy and of heart which it has had about the support it is prepared to offer to child care throughout Australia are extraordinary. The first thing I point out is how oddly the estimates for child care are constructed. It is difficult to track payments to preschools, to family day care centres, to full day care centres and to other child care projects such as pre-school centres, after-school centres and holiday school programs. When the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and her officers were taxed with this matter before the Senate Estimates Committee, neither the Minister nor the officers were able to produce meaningful figures for these expenditures. So, let me tell honourable members what has happened.
The Government has backed away from the commitment of the previous Government to provide 75 per cent of the cost of salaries of teachers in pre-schools. The Government has done this in the most snide and underhand fashion. It insists that it has merely moved to block grants for the States in these matters. But, in fact, if we look at the dollars appropriated we see that there has been a massive reduction. One has to be something of a Sherlock Holmes to track how this has happened.
Of course, one does not have to be a genius to work out the impact. Every organisation in every State concerned with the administration of preschools knows the impact this is having on the level of fees. Fees have more than doubled- certainly in New South Wales- in pre-schools which are run by the Kindergarten Union and by local government councils. This is having a very bad effect on the priorities which the Government insists it wants to establish. No one could quarrel with the priorities the Government set for itself or at least announced in relation to family day care and for all its child care projects. The Government announced that it would give priority of access to single parent children, migrant children and children with special needs. I happen to represent an electorate which has a disproportionate number in every one of those categories. I assure honourable members that every pre-school facility in my electorate in the present situation is having to more than double its fees. The consequence is that children within those categories are now no longer able to attend pre-school as their parents cannot afford it. Places in those schools, in many cases, will not be left vacant. They will be filled by children from more affluent families who live in areas which may be more remote from these areas. Children will come the extra miles to get a place in a preschool because of the shortage in their own areas.
The fact is that the Government has frozen the assistance which it is giving to the States for preschools at the level it was providing in November last year. If it were to do nothing more than that it would be apparent to anybody who is aware of the impact of inflation on all costs in Australia that the real level of commitment would be reduced. The Government’s answer, of course, is the answer which it gives in every field of government expenditure where cuts have been made, and that is to say that the States can meet the shortfall from the extra general purpose revenue funds now made available to the States. If those limited funds were to meet every one of the objectives for which this Government claims those funds ought to be adequate, they would need to be more than doubled, trebled and quadrupled. Even then they still would not meet the deficiency. But the situation is much worse than that.
If we look at New South Wales we see that the Government, in freezing the level of assistance at that which obtained in November last year, has had regard simply to the dollar figure and not to the breakup of capital and recurrent costs. The Director of the Office of Child Care conceded in testimony before the Senate Estimates committee dealing with this matter that in the last financial year in New South Wales there was still $6.8m worth of capital approvals outstanding for pre-school projects. The effect of that, roughly, as I understand it, is that in this financial year and in the next financial year we will be looking at the completion in New South Wales alone of about an extra 80 pre-school projects. This is an extra 80 pre-school project for which no recurrent funds are being made available by the Government at even November 1976 levels. This means that the limited amount of money that was made available in this Budget by reference to those levels will be less again.
In New South Wales the practical effect of this has been that pre-school institutions are receiving, instead of 75 per cent of the cost of teachers’ salaries, about 50 per cent of that cost. This situation will get worse as more pre-schools are completed and the amount of funds available for teachers’ salaries at those institutions is therefore spread over a greater number of institutions. This is an extraordinary deception. It is one that flies in the face of the Minister’s professed policies when the change to a system of block grant funding for pre-schools was announced last year. At that time the Minister said quite unequivocally in a Press statement:
The amount to be paid to each State . . . will approximate the amount the States would have received under the former percentage base agreement.
That can mean nothing more than the Government undertook at least to meet the dollar figure which would pay 75 per cent of teachers ‘ salaries in pre-schools. But as I have explained, the Government now concedes that in several States, especially in New South Wales and to a lesser extent in Victoria where there is still a backlog of projects for completion, it had no indication of just what will be the precise impact of this dollar sum on the level of subsidy for teachers’ salaries. The effect of this will be to drive out of these institutions children who are in the category that the Government has singled out as being most deserving or, in many cases, to close the institutions or to leave them empty.
The honourable member for Sydney (Mr Les McMahon) has instanced in this place on several occasions recently the absurd position which has arisen in his electorate in the inner city part of Sydney around the Glebe area, where a brand new institution has been completed and children of residents in that district in a low income area of Sydney will not be able to afford to send their children to that pre-school. It will be used by the more affluent commuters to jobs in the city as a child-minding centre. That surely cannot be what the Government intended in relation to children’s services, but it is unmistakably the indirect result of the new directions of policy being set discreetly by this Government.
-We have just heard the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) talking about the provision for pre-school education and child care centres. What he failed to do was to indicate to the House his attitudes to the overall matter of the care and education of young children. What this country needs above all things is a philosophy for the family. It needs to examine decisions that are taken for the allocation of funds, whether they be in welfare payments, in tax rebate systems or in the provision of capital grants. These provisions need to be assessed with regard to their impact upon the family.
It is all very well for the honourable member for Grayndler to say that all things will be resolved by the provision of greater amounts of money to the States. I am always amazed to hear State governments and Ministers raise to the highest priority matters for which they do not have to pay- matters for which they are seeking resources from another government. It is time that the State governments fulfilled their responsibilities by getting their own priorities right. I come from a State where pre-school education is free and where there is provision for pre-school education for in excess of 80 per cent of the children in the four to five year age group. If South Australia can do it it is doing so because it has had a succession of governments which have sought to recognise the need to advance policy development across a range of areas.
There are States other than South Australia in which many important areas have been neglected by State governments and all that they have done in their neglect has been to endeavour to place the responsibility on the Commonwealth Government The States have been given greater resources under the Government’s federalism policy . It is time that the States exercised their responsibility and allocated greater proportions of funds into the area of childhood services, not merely into child care or pre-school education but into services to support the family in order that children can be brought up by their families and given appropriate care and education so that when they do start school they can begin their formal education without disadvantage.
I had intended to touch on the matter of the
E revision made for families in the social security budget. Before coming back to that I turn to the provision made for the aged. This year’s estimates for the Department of Social Security must be assessed in the light of the major reforms achieved since the present Government was elected to office in 1975. Since then pensions have been indexed so that each six months- in May and November- they are automatically adjusted to take into account increases in the cost of Living. A far more equitable income test has replaced the means test formerly used to determine pension eligibility. Assets are no longer brought into account in determining a person’s entitlement to a pension- which itself is income. Only income is brought into account.
Substantial programs for the provision of a range of accommodation for the aged are being implemented. Deficit funding of charity-run nursing homes has been continued and nursing home benefits payable to patients in other nursing homes have been indexed. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), who is sitting at the table, should be congratulated for removing from so many hundreds and thousands of patients accommodated in nursing homes the fear that they would within too short a time find themselves unable to pay for the accommodation and care they need. That this imaginative and much needed reform has been introduced is in large measure due to the diligence of the Minister for Health and the work that he has put into achieving a situation whereby at least 70 per cent of the beds in privately operated nursing homes will be available at a fee which the pensioner can afford.
Furthermore, the tax system has been reformed so that pensioners with small incomes will no longer be subject to tax liability. The Hayden Budget introduced tax liability for pensioners. Pensions were made taxable. The threshold level- the level at which that tax was first imposed- was far too low. Many hundreds and thousands of pensioners who had not paid tax for years suddenly found that they were Liable to pay tax. This Government in this Budget’s tax reform has so lifted the tax threshold that pensioners now in receipt of the exempt income, for means test purposes, of $20 a week are no longer liable to pay any tax if their income is below that level. Furthermore, a new scheme of family allowance has replaced the old child endowment and tax concession rebate arrangements.
At the time the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty reported it considered that the existing means test could be improved in several ways. The report pointed out that a means test which included a treatment of assets was a relic of the past, and that it stood in the way of: . . . the rational integration of the pension means test with other income tested benefits and with the income tax.
The relic has been removed. The income means test has been introduced. By this action, a major advance towards this rational integration has been achieved. Income from assets is now treated in the same way as other income. The value of assets no longer affects pension eligibility, but full integration of the pension income test with what must be described as the income tax test has not yet been achieved. In fact, little progress has been made towards this objective.
The new social security income test imposes a SOc in the dollar rate by which pension payments are reduced as non-pension income rises. It is essentially similar to an income tax, with a marginal rate of SOc in the dollar. The main difference between the pension income test and the income tax test is that one reduces a liability of the Government to the citizen and the other increases a liability of the citizen to the Government. Each involves the assessment of a person’s income, yet the Commissioner of Taxation and the Director of Social Services each require pensioners to lodge separate returns, detailing the income they have received over a specified period.
It is my view that one return should suffice. Today it is not even possible to send a duplicate copy of the same return to the two departments. Each has its own form. Their layouts are different; different definitions are used; some items are deductible from income in one case and not in the other. Though eligibility to pay tax and eligibility for pension are both defined on an annual basis, the Department of Social Security makes its assessment for the year in prospect, whereas the Taxation Office is concerned about the year past.
Those who resist suggestions that there should be a rational integration of Social Security’s income test and the test used by the Taxation Office will endeavour to make the differences sound so impressive that they seem insurmountable. I contend that the similarity between income for tax purposes and income for social security purposes is so strong that ways and means must be found to overcome the differences and the difficulties. Pensioners should be required to complete one return only. An assessment should then be made of the net liability of the Government to the pensioner or the pensioner to the Government.
Without an effective co-ordination between the income test used by the Department of Social Security and that used by the Taxation Office, the total tax effect of the rate at which pension is withdrawn and tax liability imposed will deprive those who seek to improve their position of so much of the increase in their non-pension income that incentive to self reliance will be destroyed. Pensioners are in fact being taxed at a marginal rate of 66c in the dollar. This double taxation must be removed and the marginal rate of tax must be substantially reduced.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to follow up the point raised by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) when he spoke. The three departments with which we are dealing- the Department of Health, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs- make up quite a significant portion of the Budget allocation. In fact, the Department of Social Security alone accounts for $256m of the Budget allocation this year. It seems to me that the amounts of money appropriated to those three important departments certainly warrant greater scrutiny and investigation than can be accomplished under the Government’s restriction of allowing only six honourable members from each side of the chamber to speak on these matters.
Putting that aside, I wish to raise one matter in particular, and that concerns quarantine in Australia as it relates to animals, plants and humans. Quarantine is something which has concerned me and people who are more knowledgeable in that area than I. We in Australia have been very proud, and rightly so, of the way in which Australia has been disease free, in terms of both its human population and its animal population. However, there are things which are occurring regularly and which are cause for concern for the average citizen. Since the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) who is sitting at the table at the present time is also responsible for quarantine matters, I trust that the matters I raise will become of concern to him also.
I mention animal quarantine in this country first of all. Earlier today we had some discussion on the Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill which is concerned with the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The debate on that Bill somehow or other gravitated around the off-shore high security animal quarantine station. That has been a matter of some concern for almost four years now. I would have thought that the National Country Party members in the Government and the graziers who sit in the Cabinet would have shown greater concern about this matter than they have done. Quite recently it became apparent from speaking to beef producers during a meeting in Rockhampton of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works- the Committee was there to investigate the establishment of a beef research station for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisationthat there is a need to introduce new strains of cattle into Australia in order to build up the herds so that the beef producers could then take onto their land an animal which would be far more efficient in the production of beef. I do not want to get into an argument about the sale of beef, but it is clear that there is a need for new genetic stock. The scientists have said it; everybody has said it.
However, we cannot do that until we have a high security animal quarantine station which must be situated at least 400 miles off-shore. I notice that moves are afoot in that regard, but it will still be some time before that quarantine station is established. I refer also to the national animal health laboratory in Geelong which is to produce animal vaccines. The estimates for the Department of Construction show that no work is going to be done on that project this year. The Minister conceded that point when answering a question asked by me. that also is part and parcel of this whole problem. That animal health laboratory is to do research into animal diseases in Australia and to produce animal vaccines. Only quite recently there was an outbreak of Newcastles disease amongst poultry in Australia. That outbreak had a detrimental effect on the poultry industry and was apparently traced to the smuggling of some birds from overseas which carried the disease and infected our flocks.
– Shame on them.
-I agree, shame on them. The point is that we cannot stop people from trying things; we can stop them only at the point of entry. Obviously some person smuggled in a bird which was rotten with the disease, and it got loose and infected our flocks, according to the allegation. Where does the fault lie in that case? As I say- the Minister concedes this- we cannot stop people from trying but we can stop them at the point of entry if the job is done properly and we have proper quarantine procedures. We have got to take notice of the fact that people move very rapidly from one country to another. We have to acknowledge that people are not spending at sea the six months incubation period required in respect of viruses. We have to acknowledge that within hours people can travel from one country which is endemic to disease into Australia and can bring with them live viruses. If the Minister wants to know how that can be done I shall explain it to him privately. The situation is that work on the animal health laboratory is not proceeding. No funds have been allocated to it this year. I think something like a miserable $ 1 5,000-
– Is it in the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry?
-No, this is in the estimates of the Department of Construction. The Minister has conceded in an answer to a question that no work has been done on that project this year. The research into animal diseases and the preparation of vaccines is important. These are matters that come within the Minister’s portfolio. Because of the importance to the export markets of clean livestock in Australia I think that greater work should be done in this area.
Let me turn to the quarantine of people. We find from reading the daily Press that 40 ships are sailing from South East Asia or from IndoChina or from somewhere to Australia; ten of them have already arrived. We read stories of people leaving those ships. One group of people was found by a fellow driving a grader; another lot was seen by a policeman scaling a cliff. It raises a doubt in people’s minds. I am hopeful that when the Minister replies he can dispel this doubt as to whether these people are properly examined; whether they are sent home again if they are found to have diseases. I have a large migrant population in my electorate, and I have difficulties trying to explain to people, who want to bring out relatives who, for some reason or other, are not allowed to come, why these people without any examination, prior knowledge or anything else are allowed to sail their ships across the sea and land in Australia without the usual health precautions. I do not mind making that sort of explanation to them if I know the answer. It seems to me that the people of Australia are entitled to an answer. They are rightly proud of our history of being disease free in this area. They do not want to find these sorts of things are occurring.
There is a story, whether it is true or not, of a ship in the port of Sydney being given a health clearance by the New South Wales Director of Health. The ship left Sydney, went to Melbourne and was found to be in a sub-standard condition when examined by the people in Melbourne. As I understand the situation, they outlawed the ship because of various things. These stories are around. People are entitled to answers to them. I am forced to leave aside the quarantine area because I have only 10 minutes in which to make my points, and that is not very long.
I move to one of the other areas that we are debating- Veterans’ Affairs. I do not know how miserable this Government can get. It has done some very mean and miserable things during the time that it has been in office. Its penny-pinching, austere way of going about things is indicative of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) except when the matters affect his own comfort and welfare. One of the most miserable things that this or any government did was to stop making payments to ex-servicemen who contract tuberculosis. As I understand it, there are only 7,500 of these people throughout Australia. In the past it has been understood that an ex-serviceman who contracted TB would be paid a pension. Now he must prove that it is war-related. How the devil can a man who at 18, 19 or 20 years of age, went off to war full of patriotic fervour, and in his later years contracts tuberculosis prove that his tuberculosis is war-related? It would seem to me a most reasonable thing to allow the previous system to continue. Not this miserable Government. It promptly knocked off that one. It is saving itself a few dollars by not paying that pension to servicemen.
Another benefit which this Government has knocked off is the sustenance payment to exservicemen. That was paid in the past. Now they must show a genuine loss of income. The Government just does not understand what is happening in industry generally. People who work in industry are entitled to sick leave. It is one of the award provisions that are given to them. The Government is saying that if somebody suffers an illness and needs hospitalisation because of a war-caused injury and cannot show loss of income, they must use up their sick pay. If a man uses up all of his sick pay- he does not get his sustenance payment- comes out of hospital, falls down the back steps at home and breaks his leg, he has no sick pay entitlements. That is a completely dishonest attitude, and it is pennypinching.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Firstly I congratulate the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), the Ministers in charge of the portfolios to which I wish to refer, for the responsible, constructive, compassionate and successful way in which they have administered their portfolios. I refer, first of all, to the Department of Social Security- the responsibility of Senator Guilfoyle. It has an outlay of $7,247.9m, an increase of 12.7 per cent on the last Budget, and 27 per cent of total Budget expenditure- a very responsible ministerial position. Because of this, I am pleased to hear that the Minister has instituted an overall review of the Department of Social Security to implement improvements in it. No criticism of the Department is intended by having such a review. Surely efficiencies and savings can be made in a department of that size and with an expenditure of that nature.
I compliment the Minister on the maintenance of many worthwhile programs and the ability to increase significantly assistance to several categories of handicapped people. The total expenditure this Budget year for the handicapped will be $99m, a 33 per cent increase on last year. Until now the criteria for the handicapped child’s allowance have been that a severely handicapped child receives $15 a week if that child is looked after by parents. The criteria have been eased significantly, and now refer to a substantially handicapped child, particularly relating to low income families or families in necessitous financial circumstances because of the additional cost of looking after that child. That will significantly increase expenditure in that area from about $1 lm to $18m this year. The criteria for rehabilitation services have been expanded. Until now they have been on the basis that a person must have a reasonable prospect of employment after rehabilitation. The criteria now will be that the former role of that person has a reasonable chance of being maintained or retained. For the first time housewives and mothers, amongst others, will be included. I am glad that this discrimination against women and that most essential role of the housewife and mother have been recognised by the Government. Discrimination against women in the assessment of the sickness benefit has also been removed.
The Budget referred to migrant information and resource centres in Melbourne and Sydney. The allocation has been increased from $2 .2m to $2.6m. No mention is made of the extension of this service to country and provincial areas. This was commenced late last year so that communications and an information service could be established. I know that preliminary work was done at least in the electorates of Mallee, Murray and Corio. I am concerned for the future of this information service in these country areas. I wrote to the regional director in Victoria sometime ago trying to obtain information on the position at the moment, and I am awaiting his reply.
One of the recommendations of the Myers* inquiry into unemployment benefits is that the payment of unemployment benefit to farmers be terminated. I oppose strongly any government action to terminate the payment of that benefit to farmers. If any legislation to that effect were introduced I could not support it because the criteria for payments for the benefit to these people should be similar to the criteria for anybody else. Farmers must be available for work, and the income test imposed on them is far more severe than the income test for other people. The benefit is provided for farmers in desperate circumstances with short term liquidity problems who make themselves available for work. The household support scheme has been introduced for long term problems of adjustment. In the winter of 1 976 some 700 farmers in my electorate found that they had to apply for this. Because of improved support arrangements from this Government that number has been reduced to 200 this year.
The single parent benefit is the greatest gap in our social security system. The gap is caused by the lack of a supporting father or lone male parent benefit. These people suffer other disadvantages. I just refer to the cash disadvantage within the social security system. I know that the special benefit is available, but I do not think that it is an adequate or a fair test. As a first step, there should be a supporting parents benefit similar to the supporting mothers benefit so there is no discrimination because of sex. I have spoken on this matter on a number of occasions, and I know that others have. I know that the Minister is personally in favour of its introduction. I hope that she can be successful the next time around in plugging what, as I said, is the biggest gap in our social security system.
I note also that other reviews within the Department of Social Security are under way on the whole income security system and, in relation to the Department of Health, the Bailey task force has possibly reported to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) by now. It is tremendously significant to improve the flexibility, the reduction in overlap or duplication and the position generally in a whole range of health and welfare services of a federalist nature, as I believe some of these recommendations are, which may be implemented by the Government.
The Department of Health has been allocated $2,8 13m in this Budget, a 10.7 per cent increase over last year. That amount is 10.6 per cent of the total Budget allocation. Once again it is a very significant area of government expenditure. I congratulate the Minister on his successful introduction of the modified Medibank system during the last 12 months. This has encouraged the private sector. It has guaranteed a freedom of choice for the majority of Australian people and this, together with the new nursing home benefit arrangements, the payment for services from government pathology laboratories and the payments for overseas trips vaccinations, adds up to a very good implementation of the Government’s philosophy that those people who can pay should pay, and support of the private sector.
I also commend the Minister on the progress he has made with accountability and flexibility arrangements in our health delivery system. The accreditation scheme of the Hospitals Association and the Australian Medical Association is proceeding. The Minister has made arrangements with the AMA for peer review. I understand that the Department is looking at a whole range of new ideas, such as pre-paid health plans or health maintenance organisation arrangements, and catastrophic insurance arrangements, all of which, if implemented, will add to the efficiency, accountability and flexibility of the system. If one adds to that the increased allocation for the Community Health Program, with the variety of more flexible services that this offers, one can say ‘Well done’ to the Minister.
The previous speaker, the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson), referred to quarantine. I commend the Minister on the allocation for Cocos Island and other quarantine facilities. However, I question two aspects of quarantine generally: Firstly, if the quarantine station on Cocos Island is to be constructed, does this mean that all the other expenditure on animal quarantine facilities now going on will be completely necessary or will some of it be duplication? I refer in particular to Torrens Island. The other matter is the overall priority for expenditure in the animal health and quarantine areas. The point has been made that the National Animal Health Laboratory at Geelong has received no Budget allocation this year. I know that this is not in the Minister’s area. But, if we have an overall priority for expenditure on animal quarantine and animal health generally, perhaps some money should have been allocated for Geelong out of the total amount.
I refer now to the 50-50 cost-sharing arrangement with the States in respect of hospital operating costs. There is concern in Victoria and the other States at the restrictions they claim are being applied. From what I can understand- this depends on the time of acceptance last year by the States of the new Medibank arrangementsthe increase in Victoria this year will be at least 12 per cent. That compares with an annual average increase of perhaps 16 per cent to 17 per cent. Victoria claims that it is receiving $ 10m less than it requested. The Commonwealth’s total share is $224m. I hope that the State governments and the Commonwealth watch the hospital situation and that the States, as the administrators of the hospital cost-sharing arrangements, are flexible in their administration and do not apply across the board reductions or expenditure holding arrangements. In many cases these arrangements do not take into account the need for better services in certain areas.
To conclude, I refer to something the Minister spoke about on Sunday in Canberra; that is, the need to provide equality of health services for country people. This is perhaps the greatest gap in our health policy at present. Country people must have the ability to see specialists at no great cost. Parents must have the ability to cover their transport and accommodation cost when they have to accompany their child to a far-away metropolitan hospital. The Government must introduce measures to assist people in country areas so that they have equality of health services with city people.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Like previous speakers in this debate, I can only regret that we have 10 minutes in which to deal with three departments which cover a whole range of human needs. I suppose that this is almost a universal debate in a sense. Medibank, repatriation, which is now termed veterans’ affairs, and the social security system are matters with which everyone is involved. The time has come to bring the whole social security system into parity and equity. That will be a complicated and difficult task. The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson) mentioned some of the problems associated with taxation. We have to decide what we mean by family support systems. It is time we had an adequate family support system. It is time we gave more thought to a minimum income system and the way we should go about implementing it. These suggestions have been in the pipeline for many years. It is time the Parliament itself applied its wisdom to them.
I take issue with those people who have been busy congratulating their Ministers. The Ministers’ record over the last 18 months or so is a sorry one indeed. We have seen the dismantling of the Australian Assistance Plan, for instance, and the confusion over the national health service. Who would say in public that the present Medibank is a better system than the one that was operating when this Government came to office? We have seen the freezing of pre-school funds and the illegality of some decisions in relation to unemployment benefit. What are Ministers in this Government to be congratulated about?
I want to refer to what is now called veterans’ affairs. Whoever thought of that name? As far as I can tell, it is something picked up from Washington by the kind of people who always want to change things in some odd and corny way. ‘Repatriation’ was and is a part of the language. I notice that the Government still refers to ‘repatriation institutions’. The Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) obviously supports the idea. I can see that he is the sort of person who would change Yarralumla to Lake View and who would call Kirribilli, Buena Vista. It is just another piece of governmental and administrative nonsense, confusing the people who are now the object of what one might call the community’s and the Government’s fading vision. It is 30 years since the Second World War. It is 60 years since the First World War. No one can blame the rising generation for forgetting what they were all about. I take this opportunity to place on record the necessity to maintain a consistent policy of adequate service to former servicemen.
When people put on the uniform to serve the country, no matter whether their service is of a high order or is ordinary, they have accepted a responsibility and the possibility of a sacrifice that no other form of employment involves. Therefore, there must be no interference with the general principles upon which health services, general care, and levels of pensions and benefits for dependants and housing system have been developed over 60 years. My friend the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) mentioned the decision-making process. It is almost impossible, particularly for people who served in the First World War, to prove that a disability was war caused. I have never been able to work out how people in the First World War survived in the trenches at all. There should never have been any argument. The statistics show that, over the years between the wars and until 1950 or perhaps later, the First World War returned servicemen received less consideration than those of us who served in the Second World War. Statistics on the numbers who served, wounds and other casualties and deaths in action in the two world wars- Vietnam exemplifies this even further-related to the actual pensions paid will show that the people who served in the First World War had a very hard row to hoe.
My own view, which I have held for a long while, is that particularly people who served in the First World War but anybody who went through active combatant service ought to have whatever disease from which they suffer accepted as being war caused. How do they prove that? We have asked this question so often. What research have we done? Let us take people who were in infantry battalions in 1945. 1 served in a unit through which some 4,000 men passed in the six years of the Second World War. They served all over the world in very rigorous circumstances. Many of them were casualties, both from disease and from wounds. In 1943, 1944 and 1945 they were the fittest people in the business anywhere, as were probably most people who were considered Al in the Services. I speak now of infantry men and associated branches of the Services, the people I know something about. They were the fittest people in the country. They were probably as fit as anybody on this planet. It is reasonable to assume that they still ought to be the fittest people in their age group 30 years later. If they are not, it is almost surely the result of their service. I am convinced that they are not the fittest people in their age group any more. But what research have we done on it?
We should have taken groups of these people and, as far as we could, examined their actual medical condition when they were serving and their medical condition now. If it did not do anything in the way of providing benefits at least it might supply some information about the rigours of war service and its impact upon human beings. So I appeal to the Parliament to maintain constant vigilance in this place. The servicemen will constantly be chiselled out of their benefits if we are not careful. I know that the war service homes system is under continual assault. Those people who consider it now too late to be giving any sorts of benefits are always trying to put up the interest rates. We must resist that. The benefit was earned for all sorts of reasons. It was not a payment by way of reward. It was a benefit given as a result of service.
I want to pay some attention to another area that was raised by my friend the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitiam). I refer to the question of the pre-schools system in Victoria. In my electorate advice has just been received that funds for the Moreland pre-school, which was guaranteed support last year by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) upon whom so much praise has been heaped here this afternoon, have now been frozen. The Victorian Government has written to the Coburg City Council and has told it not to proceed any further until clarification is received from Canberraas if it is ever likely to be received. As I understand it, there was an agreement made some time last year between the Assistant Minister of Health in Victoria, Mr Jona, and the Minister for Social Security on this basis. Some 11 projects in Victoria are frozen at the moment. In the Moreland case they were given to understand on 27 October last year that they would receive $90,000 and that they would receive $20,000 this year. They are not receiving the $90,000, they are not receiving the $20,000 and the whole system has been brought into disarray. Strangely enough, most of these projects seem to be in Labor areas.
I put in a special appeal on behalf of the people in the Moreland area. It is a migrant area, a low income area, a place where there are single parent families. I believe that this represents a reach of trust. Surely to goodness we can develop a governmental system which proceeds along a path which has already been guaranteed and promised. We all seem to be victims of the stop and go system which is inflicting on the Australian Government whole areas of insecurity. I appeal to the Minister for Health who is at the table to raise this matter on my behalf and on behalf of my constituents with the Minister concerned. There is not an enormous sum involved. I do not think that very large sums are involved at all in Victoria.
There are lots of other matters which I would like to raise at this time. This year I was the beneficiary of the health services in Canberra. I can only say that they are first class as indeed also are the repatriation hospital services, of which I have been a beneficiary. I can never understand how anybody can oppose the establishment of a national health service which supplies the same quality of service at the same price and under the same administrative system to every Australian, as we have been providing for the best part of 60 years to most of the people in the repatriation system. Anybody in this country is happy to front up for repatriation health services, to use salaried services from doctors and all the rest of it without complaint I do not know why there should be any argument about supplying it to everybody in the community.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I feel it necessary at this stage in the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to reply to some of the comments made by the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) and my friend, the honourable and gallant member for Wills (Mr Bryant). It seems to me extraordinary that the honourable member for Wills, particularly as he was a Minister in the last Government, should make the comments that he has made about the repatriation system which is run by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in this country. The fact is that, compared with all other countries apart from that with the wealthiest and most powerful economy in the world- the United States of America- the Australian record in these matters is better than that of any other country and certainly compares very favourably with that of countries like Canada. In my judgment- I could talk at length about this subject- it is superior to the record in the United Kingdom and anywhere on the continent of Europe.
The honourable member for Wills talked about people who had served in the war 30 years ago and who had served in the First World War 60 years ago. He talked about the difficulty in establishing an identification between a condition of health and their service. The truth is that for years people who served have had their records available for any subsequent illness to be studied in relation to those records. When they left the Services in 1945 and 1919 all of these people were examined. They were asked whether they were suffering from any illnesses, they were promised treatment and, to the best of my knowledge, were given treatment until they were well enough to return to civil life. The statistics of servicemen who over the years have been involved in applications will demonstrate that they have had a proper analysis through a system which has been fostered in Australia and which is about the fairest system one could conceive.
Honourable members will realise that there is a Repatriation Board in every State. If the doctors and members of that Board in a quasi- judicial position are unable to identify the claim with an acceptance of the claim they are bound by the law, which is the law fostered by the Labor governments of 1941 to 1948 and of 1972 to 1975. Then if the applicant is not satisfied with the rejection there is a right of appeal to the Repatriation Commission, and a different set of doctors and a different set of people in the Commission will consider all the facts and either disagree or concur with the judgment of the Board. There are many instances that can be cited where the Commission has decided in favour of the applicant and has not concurred with the first judgment of the State Board.
Subsequent to that, if the applicant is still convinced that he has not had a fair and reasonable assessment of his claim he has been able for years to appeal to a War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal, which is independent of the Department. The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal carries out a thorough analysis of all the facts. I have never heard of any situation in which anyone has seriously charged that with some malice aforethought one of these tribunals was trying to deny to ex-servicemen or to the widows of ex-servicemen their proper entitlement. The fact is that they look into all aspects of the case and endeavour to establish beyond all reasonable doubt that there is a case for granting a serviceman’s claim.
A study of the statistics will show that it is reasonable for me to say that the system has worked extremely well over the years and greatly to the advantage of the ex-servicemen and women and their dependants in this country. Had it been on a more legalistic basis, in my judgment quite a number of people who managed to secure claims would in all probability have been rejected. We were asked how these things are proved. They can be only a matter of medical opinion. It is a matter of judgment. Medical practitioners are quite likely in some circumstancesrare indeed- to find themselves opposed to one another in medical judgments. In that type of situation, it is up to the State repatriation boards, the entitlement appeals tribunals or the Repatriation Commission to arrive at a judgment.
The honourable member for Burke referred to people suffering from tuberculosis. He seemed to e under the impression that people suffering from tuberculosis would not receive entitlements. The fact of the matter is that nobody suffering from tuberculosis will be disadvantaged under the new arrangements that have been announced. Enormous advances have been made in medicine since 1943. In 1977 tuberculosis no longer has the horrific connotations that attached to it in the past. If someone who is deemed to be totally recovered from this terrible disease becomes ill again, the system provides that he can appeal to an assessment appeals tribunal in order to be returned to the full entitlement applicable to that degree of incapacity as determined by the Tribunal. Anyone suffering from an active tuberculosis condition would be in hospital and would be on the equivalent of the totally and permanently incapacitated rate of pension. Therefore, it is utter nonsense to say that our repatriation system is designed to deny sick people their proper entitlement.
For many years members of the Federated TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia had advantages that were greater than those accorded to their fellow ex-servicemen. Under the circumstances this was a fair and reasonable thing in the judgment of the various governments. Today tuberculosis has almost been eliminated from Australia as a matter of great concern. The Government has made a decision which, as far as I can make out, has not led to the executive of the Returned Services League, the main body representing the welfare of ex-servicemen and women in Australia, appearing to complain to the Parliament. If the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) would like to test that proposition, I recommend that he approaches the national executive of the Returned Services League and ask it to give him a written opinion on these decisions.
– I wish to deal with the subject of nursing home benefits. I point out, first, that approximately 70 per cent of people who are inmates of nursing homes are pensioners. Secondly, I refer to the decision of the Government, as announced by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt), that private hospital and medical funds and not the Government will pay benefits to nursing homes in respect of patients who are insured by them. The Minister, of course, uses the argument that this will shift some of the responsibility to what he calls the private sector. He also uses the argument that this decision will help to utilise some of the large reserves held by some of the funds. However, I would submit very firmly that this is actually an excuse and that in reality the private funds will increase the fees paid by their members. In other words, far from charging the extra cost of the subscriptions to nursing homes to their own reserves they will simply increase their fees. Accordingly it will not be the private sector- in other words the private hospital and medical funds- that will bear the costs; it will be the public itself. The Minister has used an around-about method to shift some of the responsibility for financing private nursing homes from the Federal Government on to members of the public. This responsibility has been shifted onto members of the private funds.
Much more important is the campaign being carried out by the private funds and the nursing homes themselves- unfortunately, according to reports, these actions have been aided and abetted by the Federal Government- to try to entice pensioners to join private funds in the belief that they will get some advantage from doing so. In fact, they would not receive any advantage. Far to the contrary, they would be greatly advantaged if they were to join private funds.
On 20 September, I asked the Minister for Health this question without notice:
Is the Minister aware of reports that the Federal Government and private health funds are endeavouring to encourage private nursing home patients to join private health funds? Would he agree that pensioner patients in such nursing homes-
And I repeat that 70 per cent of patients in such nursing homes are pensioners- . . . would not only have nothing to gain by joining a private fund but would actually lose because they would have to pay the necessary contributions to these funds? As there is so much confusion on this matter, particularly among pensioner patients in nursing homes, will he take action to repudiate reports that the Government is trying to encourage nursing home patients, particularly pensioners, to join public funds? Will he give publicity to the fact that it would be a disadvantage to pensioner patients in such homes if they joined those funds?
I do not want to be rude, but to be frank the Minister gave a rather confused reply in which he kept on referring to the choice of a doctor. In fact pensioner patients in private nursing homes are visited by their own doctors. They do not have to join a fund to obtain that privilege. Also, at this stage all pensioner patient contributions are paid by the Federal Government. Therefore they would not receive any further benefits if they joined a private fund. Far to the contrary, they would be very greatly disadvantaged by having to pay subscriptions to the funds. In other words, they would pay subscriptions to the funds and receive nothing whatsoever in return.
The Minister for Health said in reply to my question- and I fully agree with him on this point- that he was aware of a great deal of confusion among nursing home patients because of a campaign that was launched by some private health funds. But I do not think the Minister realises that the nursing homes themselves joined in that campaign or that the funds have used the name of this Government and the Minister for Health as being party to the campaign. I make quite clear that I do not think the Minister was a party to it. Nevertheless, this was done. As a result I received phone calls in my office and visits from pensioners and the relatives of pensioners in nursing homes who expressed their deep concern about what was happening. I think it is still a matter of some confusion. I have issued Press statements in my own area which clearly establish that there is no advantage whatsoever to be gained by a pensioner patient who is in a nursing home joining a private fund. To the contrary, it is a disadvantage to them because they will not receive any more financial assistance and in fact will have to pay subscriptions to the private fund. I ask the Minister to issue a Press statement clearly establishing that the Federal Government is not encouraging pensioner patients to join private funds in order to obtain coverage for nursing home treatment. It should also clearly establish that pensioner patients are fully protected now by the funds paid by the Federal Government to nursing homes. The Minister would have a right to put in that statement that he has recently appreciably increased the subscriptions paid by the Federal Government to nursing homes. He should also make the point that the nursing homes should reduce their fees to pensioners. Most nursing homes take the whole pension and in addition ask relativessometimes it is the patient’s wife, who is also a pensioner- to pay $6 or $8 per week extra out of a very small pension.
Now that there has been this appreciable increase in benefits paid to nursing homes it is time for nursing homes to cut out that nefarious practice of charging pensioners, even a woman who has her husband in a nursing home, up to $ 10 per week to cover various necessities such as laundry costs and this type of thing. The Minister should make it clear in such a statement that the Government is not a party to this fraudulent campaign which has been conducted by the private funds to entice pensioners to join the funds when it would be of no benefit but rather a distinct disadvantage to them if they did so.
Finally, I deal with the question of funds for the community health program. Last year, if I recollect the figure correctly, a polyclinic at Mount Druitt had its funds for operating expenses reduced by some $100,000. The clinic had three speech therapists who were a great necessity in Mount Druitt. As one retired or resigned the clinic was not able to replace that therapist without special approval from the Department. The polyclinic at Mount Druitt is the biggest and one of the finest community health centres in the country and one of the best examples of preventive medicine in the true sense of the word, particularly in respect of paediatric services. It is unfortunate that the block funds which were distributed to the States last year for the maintenance of necessary standards were not indexed against inflation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
The Deputy Clerk- Notice has been received from the Minister for Construction of his intention at the next sitting to move a motion seeking approval of the following work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works:
Construction of an analytical laboratory at Pymble, New South Wales.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
– I move:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs J. R. Lennard, C. C. A. Butler and J. M. Windsor, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on 2 1 September 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
The Government has now considered the report of the distribution commissioners for Tasmania. It is the view of the Government that the report should be adopted and we therefore recommend to the Parliament that the report be approved. This is the first report presented since the current redistribution process began earlier this year. The distribution commissioners for all States have faced a difficult and complex task. I hope that the House will join with me in expressing appreciation of the manner in which they have carried out their duties.
-The Opposition does not oppose the adoption of the report by the distribution commissioners. I think I should say to the House that it might be worth while for this Government, or a future government, to consider whether reports by distribution commissioners should be accepted without approval by the Parliament. I think there is a danger, especially following recent High Court decisions, in the Parliament having to give final approval of any redistribution and not approving it unless there is a majority in favour m both Houses. This is a serious question. I think the current practice lends itself to attempts to influence commissioners by means of statements by members of Parliament. We have seen that happen in the last two or three days outside the Parliament. Some honourable members have made statements intended to indicate to the distribution commissioners that their reports may not be adopted unless they met certain criteria even through those criteria are not set out in the Electoral Act. That is a dangerous precedent. Electoral boundaries are so vital to the operation of the Parliament and to the fair representation of the community that there should be procedures in the Electoral Act whereby the reports of the distribution commissioners become final, possibly with provision for reference back by the Parliament on one occasion. I think the Parliament has sufficient authority in that it appoints at least one of the commissioners, with the appointment of the other two commissioners being practically automatic. The Parliament has a vested interest in this matter and is not necessarily capable of making an objective judgment- certainly not a judgment that is necessarily in the best interests of the community in general or the proper operation of electoral representation under the system by which we operate. The Opposition does not oppose the motion.
– I agree with the sentiments expressed by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), namely, that it should not be the role of government to interfere with the findings of independently appointed distribution commissioners setting electoral boundaries for Federal divisions. As the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said, the report by the distribution commissioners for Tasmania is the first of the redistribution proposals to come before the Parliament. There is no doubt that on balance, based on the results of the 1975 election, the redistribution favours the Labor Party. Be that as it may, I adopt the view that it should not be the role of government to exert its power or influence through the Parliament in order to instruct the distribution commissioners on what they should recommend. If that were to happen, no doubt there would be a gerrymander of the electorate Australia-wide in favour of the government of the day. I do not think democracy in Australia would be served if that were to be the case.
Whilst we from Tasmania accept that the distribution commissioners’ report favours the Labor Party, we do not adopt the view that it makes it impossible for the Liberal Party to win seats. In fact we hold the opposite view. Despite the way that the boundaries are drawn the five Liberal Party members of this chamber from Tasmania will have an extremely good chance of retaining their seats at the next election. Although the redistribution favours the Labor Party, we believe that the performance put up by the five Liberal members of this chamber from Tasmania has appealed to the electorate in Tasmania and that our efforts, as a team acting on behalf of the people of Tasmania, have been such as to ensure that the five Tasmanian House of Representatives seats will be retained by the Liberal Party.
I must return to the principle which I mentioned when I began my speech and on which I said that I agreed with the honourable member for Corio. I do not believe that governments which override the recommendations of independently elected commissioners for the drawing of electoral boundaries play any role in furthering or maintaining democracy. It is on that principle that I wholeheartedly accept the recommendations of the distribution commissioners and I am proud to add my name in support of the recommendations and m passing them through this chamber.
– I want to say, in support of the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), that the Opposition does not oppose this redistribution in any way. As shadow spokesman for the Opposition on electoral matters I should have been present at 8 o’clock to say that to the House. I am indebted to my colleague, the honourable member for Corio, for saying it for me. We all agree that this redistribution is fair and reasonable. I do not know that it favours the Labor Party. I might say that, based on my own statistics, if we poll as badly at the next election as we did in 1975 on the distributions that have been made we will win only 33 seats. I would like honourable members to bear in mind the fact that unless enough votes are cast in the ballot boxes we will not win seats. The distribution commissioners should not be blamed if people do not win seats.
I am aware that the distribution commissioners also did a very good job in analysing objections to this redistribution. The honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) would be aware of that also if he has looked at their report. One of the objections to which the commissioners did not agree, was to the effect that the redistribution favoured the sitting member- not in the honourable member’s electorate, but in another electorate. I did not want to refer to this objection, but it is dealt with in the report on the objections presented by the commissioners. It is not wise to talk about what favours one party and what favours another party. Australians are entitled to vote as they think fit. The important thing is that there be equality of suffrage.
-Order! I point out to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith that we are not having a general debate on electoral matters. I allowed the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) to make one or two comments because I thought he was filling in until the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith or somebody else arrived on behalf of the Opposition. The question before the House is:
That the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into Electoral Divisions as proposed by Messrs J. R, Lennard, C. C. A. Butler, and J. M. Windsor, the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the said State into Divisions, in their Report laid before the House of Representatives on 2 1 September 1977, and that the names of the Divisions suggested in the Report, and indicated in the map referred to therein, be adopted.
We are not having a general debate on redistribution and the theories and principles of redistribution. This debate is limited to the one report that is before the House.
-I am not going to disagree with you, Mr Acting Speaker, but there are two reports before the House. There is the report of the distribution commissioners on the redistribution and there is the report relating to the objections to the redistribution. I was referring to the report on the objections. It also has been tabled. It deals with the decisions of the commissioners in respect of those objections. Under the Electoral Act commissioners are obliged to table the objections and their comments thereon. I am addressing my remarks to the observations of the commissioners in respect of objections and their comments which will be found in the second report which has been tabled as an ancillary to the first report. The point I am making is that if we look at the situation in the way in which the commissioners looked at those objections we will find that they said: “There were objections in Tasmania that if we were to do this it would favour the sitting member. We did not do anything like that.’ That is the point they are making. We accept that from the Opposition’s point of view. If we apply the mathematics of the present distribution which, as has been alleged- I think unfairly- favours the Opposition, we find that we will lose another three seats. That does not help the Opposition. But the Opposition will help itself by trying to get more support.
The point I am making was raised today. It is unfair to cast aspersions on electoral justice or decisions made as to what ought to be the tolerances. That has the effect of trying to influence the commissioners. Mr Acting Speaker, as you would know, at the conference of the National Country Party of Australia at the weekend speeches were made against the Government by Ministers pointing out that what had been done was wrong, that there should have been greater tolerances. I think that is unfair because it is as though the commissioners ought to be giving weight to issues which were raised at that conference. Parliament has determined that the tolerances should be as they are. The issue is one of equal suffrage. I think the principle has been applied very well in Tasmania. If we look at the division on a population basis we will see that the commissioners have done the best they can to be uniform. All electorates are in the 50,000 voting group. That is a fair and reasonable assessment by the commissioners. We want to congratulate all the other commissioners.
Of course, Parliament has the right to make its comments in relation to the resolution. Here we are making a favourable comment. The point I am drawing to the attention of the House is that it does not help democracy in this country to have speeches made by Ministers saying that the electoral divisions are wrong and unfair, that they should be challenged and altered. That affects democracy as people might think they are suffering an injustice. The Constitution of which this resolution forms part provides that every State is entitled only to the representation which its population gives it. There are some special tolerances for Tasmania. In fairness to Tasmania I point out that its population has increased to such an extent that it is getting near the quotas of the other States. It is really not getting any special privileges. If we accept a constitution on the basis that States are to have representation in accordance with population it should follow, should it not, that the electoral boundaries within a State should, as far as practical, be equal? The 10 per cent tolerance was a very effective way of doing that. The complaint I raised in the House this morning was that if Ministers-
-I point out to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith again that he is now going into a general debate on the matter and principle of the redistribution. He is not directing his remarks to a particular and specific redistribution which is contained in the report before the House. I point out to the honourable member that I do not want the debate this evening to develop into a general and broad debate upon the matter of a redistribution.
-Because, in answer to the honourable member for Wills, that would transgress the Standing Orders.
-Could I address my mind to the report of the distribution commissioners?
-I point out to the honourable member that he has spoken twice about that report. In general terms he has also spoken about the number of seats, the situation relating to States and to the general principles of redistribution. I point out that this is not a debate, at this moment, on the general principles of redistribution, the Constitution and other matters relating to a redistribution and the Parliament.
-I accept that position. I again remind you, Mr Acting Speaker, that there are two reports. I am addressing my mind to the second report.
-I have accepted that.
-I want you to listen, if you will be patient and bear with me, to the report of the suggestions, comments or objections. Mr Acting Speaker, you will also understand that the previous speaker made the comment, as he was entitled to do, that he thought this distribution favoured the Australian Labor Party. I answered that, distasteful though it may be from the point of view of people having to listen. But I said that it does not favour the Labor Party. I draw your attention specifically to page 38 of the second report of the suggestions, comments or objections lodged with the distribution commissioners. You will see there a suggestion that the distribution favours the Liberal Party. That is printed in the report. I do not want to waste time reading it out. The commissioners said they did not think there was any validity in that objection.
– Nor does anyone else.
-I am making the point, though, that this suggestion is contained in the report which has been tabled in the Parliament.
-That is referring to a particular State.
-That is referring to Tasmania.
– If the honourable member recalls the comments he made on a number of occasions, he will understand that he referred to general principles. If my memory serves me correctly, he spoke about the number of seats which could or could not be won, in general terms, in the Commonwealth. I am suggesting to the honourable member, as I have said, that this debate purely and simply covers Tasmania. While some general comment and a slight passing reference may be allowable, I suggest that the honourable member should not broaden the debate covering the principles and basic factors of a general redistribution.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. In view of your ruling and in view of the fact that the redistribution for each State will be brought down State by State, I ask whether that means that when we come to each State over the next few days you will rule as you have just ruled? Will honourable members on both sides of the House be precluded from discussing the overall principles of redistribution because they will be confined to discussing the redistribution State by State?
-I point out that the matter of a redistribution and the report from a State do not open the way for a general debate upon the principles and factors relating to a redistribution. If honourable members were to broaden the debate into a discussion on redistribution as such, that would mean that we would have a repetitive debate on each report which is presented. I suggest that honourable members read the motion again which is that the House of Representatives approves of the redistribution of the State of Tasmania into electoral divisions as proposed, et cetera. I appreciate the fact that in a discussion on a State redistribution general comments must be made. But I have said that the discussion should not develop into a general debate on the principles and factors of a redistribution as such.
-In the report of the distribution commissioners we find at page 8 that they set out the number of electors in Tasmania for each division. I was saying that I thought that was a very fair and equal distribution on the basis of one vote one value.
– You said that once.
-Yes, I said that once. Because of the number of objections which have been taken I felt that I needed to repeat that statement. I did not know I was getting support from the Liberal Party to the extent I did. We also need to look at the types of objections which were raised. One of the objections, as it turns out, was made by a geographer named Mr Cotgrove in relation to a seat in Tasmania. His objection is mentioned especially and the Commissioners state that it was a very well researched objection. We accept the position taken by the commissioners because the objection by Cotgrove was on the basis that it favoured the sitting member. The commissioners do not uphold that objection and give very good reasons why. I am making the point that, on looking at these objections, I did not see the decision as one which favoured the Opposition. That is the point which, wisely or not, was raised by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr). He raised the question as to whether this decision was favourable to one party or another. In that context I made a mathematical calculation and made the assertion, to which I stick, that no matter which State one picks the decision does not favour us. Winding up my comments on this issueMr Newman- Thank God.
-I know the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development would not be happy to hear me continue because the point I am making is that it is improper for Ministers of the Government to continue to attack the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the tolerances provided for in that Act. As was suggested this morning, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) ought to be dealing with that aspect because future discussions in this House could be affected by the question as to whether distribution reports which have been submitted to us have been dealt with on a proper basis or whether some undue influence has been given to some commissioners.
Cotgrove stated that he felt that the commissioners made the decision they did because of the location of the residence of a sitting member. The public impression is that something improper was done. I am sure that nothing improper happened. I applaud the decision of the commissioners. But the point I am making is that Ministers of the Crown have a duty to their Cabinet not to detract from a situation. They should not be allowed to remain in Cabinet if they do so. That was the matter raised this morning. I have nothing further to add.
– A couple of impressions which have been created by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen)-
– You are not from Tasmania.
– I could be from anywhere after what they have done to my seat. A couple of impressions have been created by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. He said that the quota for Tasmania, because of the population growth in that State, was almost like that for the other States, if my understanding is correct.
– Coming up to that.
– Well, for the benefit of the honourable member, the quota for Tasmania is 52,000, for Western Australia it is 69,000, for South Australia it is 74,000, for Victoria it is 69,000, for New South Wales it is 71,000 and for Queensland it is 65,000. With respect, I suggest that 52,000 is well below those figures. In defence of the Ministers who the previous speaker suggested should resign from the Cabinet, I point out that when one examines the way in which the distribution commissioners have utilised this new 10 per cent tolerance rule throughout Australia one finds that in Tasmania the division that has the highest margin above the quota is Denison. Honourable members should remember that the number of electors in each division can go 10 per cent above or 10 per cent below the quota. Denison is 4.14 per cent above the quota and Braddon, a large rural area, is only 2.76 per cent below. In Western Australia the commissioners have used almost the largest tolerance in Curtin, which is 4.56 per cent above the quota, while Kalgoorlie is 6.30 per cent below. In South Australia, the division of Adelaide is 4.2 per cent above and Barker is 3.67 per cent below. In Victoria, Chisholm is 6.37 per cent above and Mallee 6.85 per cent below. In New South Wales, Phillip is 3.77 per cent above the quota and Paterson 4.48 per cent below. In Queensland, Brisbane is 3.80 per cent above and Dawson 4.04 per cent below the quota.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. I do not really wish to intervene in the speech by the honourable member for Griffith, but I think, in fairness to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith, the honourable member for Griffith is now making comments which range widely over the whole redistribution. I personally disagreed with your earlier ruling. I think that this debate has to be fairly wide, but if you are going to be consistent I think the honourable member for Griffith should be pulled into line.
– I promise I will not repeat all those figures.
– I point out to the honourable member for Griffith and the honourable member for Robertson that the honourable member for Griffith is transgressing in the very way in which the previous speaker was transgressing, when I reminded him that the House has before it the matter of the redistribution in Tasmania. I do not know anything about the redistribution in other States. The tables and papers in respect of the other States are not before this House at this moment. As I have said almost a million times, the House is in charge of its own business.
-The honourable member for Wills ought to know that. The House is in charge of its own business. If the House wants to have six debates -
-No, we do not.
-The House can decide. It can move dissent from my ruling at any time that it likes; whether it will be successful is another matter. What I am trying to convey to the House is that the honourable member for Griffith is talking about matters which are not even before this House. As I have said, at the moment the only motion before the House and the only motion which I understand the House is endeavouring to discuss relates to the report by the distribution commissioners in Tasmania. Even though, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith pointed out, there are two reports, the subject matter before the House merely deals with Tasmania. That is my comment to the House at the moment. The business will proceed far more satisfactorily if honourable members abide by that.
-I am sorry to take a point of order, Mr Acting Speaker. But I do not believe that an issue like this can be debated in isolation. What happened in respect of Tasmania and in respect of other States is related. I do not know whether you can get some agreement from both sides of the House whereby we can have a sensible debate and not be confined strictly to what is happening in one State. Otherwise, it seems to me that points of order will be raised throughout the six different debates on this issue.
-Anyhow, I will not do anything which will rouse honourable members or your good self, Mr Acting Speaker. I shall stick within the confines of Tasmania. Having established those figures I am able to talk about Tasmania. I hope honourable members will remember those figures clearly. The guidelines for the commissioners indicate that the Parliament believes that the tolerance should be 10 per cent either way. Every honourable member, including the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), agrees that country electorates need a little extra support because of their huge size. Yet here in Tasmania in the seat of Braddon we have the biggest percentage below the quota- only 2.76 per cent below.
No wonder the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony), a man who is intensely interested in many rural electorates, is really stirred up about the way the distribution commissioners have treated country people. Rural people, whether they be in Tasmania or in your State of New South Wales, Mr Acting Speaker- I believe your electorate has been greatly increased- have not been given a fair go. This Parliament set about to correct an imbalance; it certainly did not set about to deprive rural electors of some advantage. There is not a country in the world in which rural electorates are not loaded to a degree. We pulled the tolerance back from 20 per cent to 10 per cent either way. Even the most staunch Labor men said that that was in order. Yet these distribution commissioners, who set themselves up as gods, completely disregarded the guidelines set by this Parliament. Honourable members should wait until the debate on the Queensland distribution comes before the House, because I shall have a few remarks to make about my electorate when that opportunity arises.
-Mr Acting Speaker-
Motion (by Mr Donald Cameron) proposed: That the question be now put.
That the question be now put.
– I want a division or at least to have my dissent recorded. If there is one subject we can debate in this House which is more important than this I will be surprised.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed. Second Schedule.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, S 1 ,790,4 10,000.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $256,034,000.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $328,850,000.
– I intend tonight to talk mainly on the estimates for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Initially I congratulate the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) on the particularly good speech he made on this subject prior to the suspension of the sitting. I support much of the substance of his speech. I think it is proper that we should congratulate the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on having digestible up-to-date information readily available to the Committee for consideration of its estimates. I refer particularly to the Repatriation Commission for having produced so promptly its useful annual report for 1976-77-1 stress the year- and making it available for honourable members to consult and to form their views. I think that other departments and commissions could well take note of its promptness.
I deal firstly with the subject of repatriation. I think it is important that we all recognise the task faced by the Department and the Repatriation Commission. To give some idea of that task, I point out that there are almost half a million recipients of the disability pension and about 164,000 recipients of the service pension. The meaning of the term ‘disability pension’ is I believe self evident. Perhaps I should explain that a service pension is not to be confused with a Defence Force Retirement Benefit Fund pension for regular servicemen at the end of their service; it is some recompense for people who have suffered some of the rigours of war.
There are some important points which I wish to emphasise. Repatriation pensions are for veterans and their dependants and for dependants of deceased veterans. We should remember that these veterans still include a few from the South African War, dating back to the turn of the century; a significant but declining number from the 1914-18 War, 60 years ago; the bulk from the 1939-45 War, 30 years ago; and a number from operations of our armed Services since then. I think the Committee should realise that the problem is not only a big one but also one which will be a continuing social problem for some years to come. The Government, with the active co-operation of the Returned Services League and other ex-service organisations, has made many significant improvements to pension eligibility and payments since it came to office less than two years ago. I think it is important that the Committee recognise, as we are looking at the estimates for this year, some of the important reforms that this Government has made.
First of all, I refer to the transfer of the functions of the Repatriation Appeals Tribunal to the newly established Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The new Tribunal will retain informality of approach towards repatriation appeal hearings while ensuring consistency of interpretation and application of the law. Ex-service organisations will still be represented and retained on the panels dealing with repatriation matters. In accordance with the Toose report, the right of legal representation has been looked at by the Government. The Government has accepted exservice organisations’ views that this would reduce the informality that I have mentioned, and increased costs would be a factor. Such representation is to be limited to hearings chaired by a presidential member of the Tribunal, and then is to be only with his consent.
There are instances in which I believe this facility of legal representation should be applied for by applicants and that the applications should be looked at leniently by the President of the Tribunal. I make that remark in passing because honourable members who have looked at this matter over a period of years would know that some of the issues are extremely complex. I believe that it is an unfair onus on individual applicants who may not have a very good quasilegal brain with which to handle their case to have those sorts of restraints imposed. (Quorum formed). The matter to which I was referring was that this Government, with the active cooperation of the RSL, has made many significant improvements to pension eligibility and payments since it came to office less than two years ago.
The second point that I wish to make relates to the contentious onus of proof section, section 47. The Government has simplified and clarified this. In essence, pension determining authorities do not emphasise formality or technicalities in their hearings. Further, recognition is given to the difficulty of producing records of or witnesses to an event which occurred in the heat of battle maybe, frequently, many years before. In general terms, the benefit of the doubt is given to the applicant. The structure of the repatriation boards hearing claims and appeals is more flexible and permits board chairmen and members to operate in more than one State, which achieves greater uniformity of decision. As part of the continuing consideration of the report on repatriation by Mr Justice Toose, I believe that it is necessary to consider the introduction of new legislation to review the appeals system at present in use. For an indication of other areas which may require government attention in future, I refer honourable members to recommendations in the Toose report and to page 1 8 of the RSL’s sixty-first annual report, the report for 1976.
I refer now to defence service homes. Again for details I refer the Committee to the RSL’s 1976 report, at page 25, and to the statements of the previous Minister, Senator Durack, on 5 September this year. Naturally, more funds would help, but I think all ex-servicemen, above all other people, accept the need for budgetary restraints in view of the in-built problems produced some years back by the Whitlam Government. It will take time for the lag to find its way through the economy and for the economy to become functional and vital again. Nevertheless, there are three parts of that policy statement which I hope the new Minister for Veterans Affairs (Mr Garland) will review- not in the sense of being a new broom but to see whether better use can be made of funds available, taking into account the RSL’s views and the views of currently serving members of the armed forces. The new Minister is in a very fortunate situation as a result of his previous chairmanship of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I raise very briefly one matter under the Department of Social Security estimates. The Department operates substantially under the Social Services Act which lays down certain criteria for the payment or otherwise of benefits. This year on one occasion, despite court decisions, the Government acted in order to deny benefits to persons entitled to them under that Act. In fact, the most ridiculous and extreme lengths were gone to in order to prevent school leavers last year, whom the court ruled were entitled to benefits, from obtaining those benefits. To all intents and purposes, the Government acted outside the law. Because it was the Government it was able to do so.
On one occasion to my knowledge it notified a school leaver who had fulfilled all criteria that he was rejected on the ground that he had made insufficient efforts to obtain employment. That statement from the Department was a complete fabrication and was in a standard letter that had been sent to all school leavers in that area. It was withdrawn and changed, after objection by bis parents. It would have stood against his record as a rejection because he had made insufficient efforts. In fact, he had applied for 57 jobs. The Department said that this was an insufficient effort. I suggest that if the person who wrote the letter had looked at the record he could not possibly have written such a letter. He would not have written it except for a ministerial direction carried through by the Director-General of the Department, for political purposes, to deny to people their entitlements under the law. That in my opinion is an act for which no government should be responsible. People should not be denied what they are entitled to under the law.
We now have another situation. In Victoria there is an industrial dispute out of which the Government is seeking to make political capital. It feels that there are votes to be gained by being tough. It does not know how to be tough or how to go about the problem, so it is posturing. That is not unusual. As part of its posturing it is threatening and possibly tomorrow it will even be proposing that the Act under which people’s eligibility for unemployment benefit is tested will be altered in this Parliament in order to deny people retrospectively the benefits to which they are entitled. It is not unusual for the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to wish to punish those people who work for their living and who therefore disrupt his idea of the ideal society whereby those who have should have and be able to spend and those who have not should not scourge the earth by continuing to exist. That seems to be the policy which back bench supporters of this Government are also supporting.
If the Cabinet makes that decision tomorrow I am sure that those people will be in this House supporting a proposition whereby persons, through not fault of their own other than that they work for wages in industry, will not receive what the Social Security Act says they are entitled to receive. I suggest that some honourable members might read that Act. People will be denied retrospectively those benefits by changes in the legislation. It is quite clear that the Government is at least considering this proposition. The fact that it is considering it is evidence beyond doubt that it believes that spite is better than responsibility and that confrontation is better than harmony. It is proposing to put to this Parliament and certainly it has discussed at Cabinet level a proposition whereby persons who like the school leavers earlier this year, are entitled to benefits under the law established by this Parliament and standing for many years will be denied their entitlements. That is an act which no government should be supporting in this Parliament but I am certain that every honourable member on the
Government back bench will support legislation to that effect tomorrow.
In one plant in my electorate, the Ford Motor Company, 2,700 employees have been stood down. They would be eligible for unemployment benefit tomorrow if other criteria did not prevent their eligibility. They are not involved in the strike. They are not party to the strike. They certainly cannot by any imagination meet the criteria in the Act for direct involvement in an industrial dispute. But the Government is quite prepared to deny those people unemployment benefit which is the wherewithal to live in order to show just how tough and important some of the Ministers are. They cannot think of anything constructive to do about the economy.
– You are only guessing.
– I may be guessing but the matter is being seriously considered. It is certainly being put forward by your Government. If you are prepared to deny it I shall be very happy to hear your denial.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)The honourable member for Corio will direct his remarks through the Chair.
– I am not prepared to speculate on your assumptions.
– You are not speculating because you know the result.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Corio will direct his remarks through the Chair.
– You might take the trouble, Mr Chairman, to speak to the interjector.
-The same rule applies to him.
– I am actually speaking.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- You will direct your remarks through the Chair.
-I shall speak to you, Mr Chairman. I think that is a good idea. Tomorrow you will probably be one of those called on to make a decision on this matter. I hope you are. I hope that the Government will consult the Party on the matter.
– Speculation; that is all it is.
-It may be speculation but one of the things I have found in this place is that a lot of speculation, especially the worst type, has real foundation. It is no good speculating about the matter if honourable members opposite have forced the legislation through the Parliament without even showing it to the Opposition as they did a few months ago. I do not want to pursue the matter further. There is a responsibility on Government supporters and this Parliament to uphold the law as it exists, until it is changed. I do not believe that the law should be changed retrospectively in order to deny people payments to which they are now entitled. If it is the Government’s intention to take away from people, as it did last Christmas, benefits to which they are entitled, under the flimsiest pretext which private enterprise would not get away with and which the High Court indicated clearly was a pretext I suggest that the only aim this Government has is to cause deep divisions and resentment within the community in the hope that it can trade on them for electoral success. If that is the way in which it intends to solve the problems of the nation I can only say God help the nation.
-In speaking on the Estimates for the Department of Health this evening I raise the question of the link between child neglect and drug taking. This is a serious problem worthy of attention in Australia today. I hope that the proposed Commonwealth inquiry into drugs will cover the links between child abuse and drug taking. I have talked to experts in the field and have gathered information which I believe will be of interest to the House. It is not only drugs like morphine, heroin, marihuana and hash which are involved but also some standard tranquilliser prescription items commonly prescribed by medical practitioners. These include drugs such as Valium. Often women under stress have Valium prescribed for their condition. If a child is annoying a mother by crying or playing up in some other way she may well be tempted to give the child a dose of the sedative she herself is taking. I know of one reported case where a mother under some stress was prescribed this drug. Her child looked normal. She was under the care of a foster mother who was distressed when she found blood on the pillow. It was found that the child’s throat had virtually been burnt out because she had had a near lethal dose of the sedative.
The danger of drugging children with drugs such as this is that they are quietened down during the day time, their normal time of activity which is part of the growing up process. They receive no normal stimulation. They cannot play. They cannot walk. There is a great risk that they will become mentally backward. Their brain is not allowed to develop. It is also fairly common for drugs like Valium, Phenergan and Benadryl to be prescribed for children themselves. Another drug is Mandrax, a sleeping tablet which is reasonably freely available under prescription and is addictive. One mother is reported to have stated that she can build up a tolerance and get a kick out of Mandrax. I know of a case where a mother on this drug bruised her leg from falling downstairs, burnt her arm in a fire and had a black eye from falling over all in the space of a few days. She was an ex-morphine addict and had switched to pot and Mandrax. Many of the drugs frequently prescribed for children can cause problems. Parents may be tempted to give higher doses of tranquilisers to quieten down their naughty children who are upsetting them. I referred earlier to the drug Phenergan which is freely available under prescription as a drug for children. It can cause the problems I have mentioned.
We all realise that screaming and naughty children can irritate parents. But we must remember that children can build up a tolerance to drugs and can start on the road to drug taking by parents giving them overdoses of these prescriptions or giving them when not prescribed. The question of hard drugs is even more serious. I know of a case where the mother of a young child was a heroin addict. She attempted to commit suicide by taking caustic soda on one occasion and swallowing razor blades. In the opinion of some experts in the child welfare field this mother had little chance of leading a normal life. The child was subsequently made a ward of the State. This raises the issue of children’s rights and whether these rights are different from the rights of the parents. It is common in the treatment of addicts with young children that the child is taken to the hospital with the mother. This raises a conflict between the natural right of the parent to bring up a child and the child’s rights. A child who is with his mother in the hospital will often be locked in a room with his mother, have no other children to play with and be a virtual prisoner of the institution in which the mother is placed. I think that emphasis needs to be put on the treatment of the family rather than on the treatment of the patient.
The risk of physical danger to children of drug takers is high. I know of a case in which a child of 20 months drowned in the bath because the mother was so ‘zonked’ out she did not know the child was drowning. My fear, and the evidence, is that in cases of parents taking drugs often they do not know what they are doing. They have no recollection or feeling of remorse after a trip. They cannot believe that they are cruel or bad parents and often they appear to be very respectable parents when faced by the authorities, but their behaviour is always irresponsible and un- predictable. They may be out in the cold for long ours without tending to a small child which itself may be frail because of diet in pregnancy. Medical practitioners when treating parents must consider rehabilitation of the child as well as the parent. They must consider in the case of addicts whether it is proper for the child to stay with the mother during the course of treatment.
I would like to look at another recorded case in examining this question of the child ‘s rights. The mother was shooting up, as they say, on heroin; the house in which she was living was raided by police; she was living with a prostitute and the house was frequented by addicts and dealers; the child was not changed or bathed- and she thought that she was a good mother. Was she a good mother? Is this the right and proper environment in which to bring up a child? What are the child’s rights? Need they be different from those of the parent? These are the sorts of issues in the community today to which we need to find answers. Children are being exposed to the drug scene and the drug environment. I have had reports from people involved in the welfare areas which state that apparently dogs can be affected if they are in a room where marihuana is being smoked. Presumably young children will be affected. I have heard a report that a baby was konked out- that was the term used- and its head went limp in a marihuana smoke filled room. There are also cases of children born to heroin addicts being born with withdrawal symptoms.
There is a strong case for legislators to consider the point of view that children of known addicts should be seen to be legally at risk in some form or another. As I said at the opening of my remarks, I hope that this matter can be examined by the Commonwealth inquiry into drugs. With heroin at $40 to $50 a shot and with mainliners needing four shots a day, obviously some addicts needing that $200 a day will turn to crime. Perhaps this explains many of Victoria’s bank holdups and the growth in the massage parlour business.
-Mr Deputy Chairman-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Does the honourable member for Hughes wish to raise a point of order?
-I would just like to speak briefly because I know that many of my colleagues want to say something.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I am sorry. I thought you were raising a point of order. I call the honourable member for Maribyrnong.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, one of the two gentlemen-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Is the honourable member for Griffith taking a point of order?
– No. I am just-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-The honourable member for Griffith will resume his seat.
- Sir, if I am being unjust, say so, but I think that I have to move: That the question be put.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-The honourable member for Griffith will resume his seat. I call the honourable member for Maribyrnong.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I have to move that the question be put. The time set aside for the debate has expired.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN-The honourable member for Maribyrnong has the call.
– I want to make a few comments on the overall question of the cost of health to the community. I do not want to pick a bone about any particular aspect of the estimates but I want to comment on the general problem facing the whole community in terms of the cost of health care. I remind the House that the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) mentioned that for 1975-76 we were spending 7.5 per cent of our gross domestic product on health. I shall not give the exact figure. It is the proportion that interests me. This is a phenomenal amount of money and it is comparable with the sorts of figures we find in most advanced technological societies such as ours. The problem is what we can do about it.
We hear a lot of talk about the need to contain costs, and how it is all the fault of Medibank. We are the only country that has Medibank, and the problem confronts other countries. So the fault is not with Medibank. The fault lies with the system of health insurance cover on a fee for service basis, whether it be compulsory, universal voluntary or partial. That system seems to promote and encourage medical care when it is unnecessary. That is my view anyway and I find some support for it amongst a lot of students of these sorts of problems. For example, Professor Andrew recently in a speech discussing medical problems of the day made the point that, in his view, even in the ideal situation, where there is a reward attached to providing a service there is an inclination or a tendency to over-utilisation of that service. Just in case people imagine that I am making this up I would like to quote some figures that have been produced by the Chief Health Statistician of the Western Australian Department of Public Health. In the past I have often been accused of quoting American or English figures and not Australian figures. We are led to believe that we are different from everywhere else in the world. Let me quote figures from Western Australia- unless we over here want to disown Western Australia as part of Australia. In order to get some sort of comparison I regret to say that we have to make comparisons with other places.
The Chief Health Statistician has made a comparison of the rates for a series of operations with the figures in other places. Under the fee for service system in Western Australia hernia operation rates were 22 per cent higher than the salaried England and Wales rates. The appendectomy rate in Western Australia for males was 80 per cent higher and for females 135 per cent higher than in England and Wales where doctors are paid a salary. Cholecystectomy rates were 100 per cent higher for males and 144 per cent higher for females than in England and Wales. So it goes on. I will not quote all the figures because one tends to get lost and it becomes boring. The total operation rate for males in Western Australia was 105 per cent higher, where the patients were treated on a fee for service basis, than in England and Wales where the doctors are salaried, and for females the rate was 1 12 per cent higher. I just do not believe that we as a nation are so much less healthy that we require that much more surgery.
Many other studies have come out with these sorts of figures but I will rest my case there. I have given figures before which show that in the United States of America, for example, in the same country, the same States, the same general community and with equivalent sorts of populations there is always a much higher utilisation rate of hospital services by patients treated by doctors paid by the alternative fee for service systemfor operations and so on-than by patients treated by doctors on a salaried basis. This brings me to another point- the over-emphasis on institutional care. Once upon a time, before we had the technological advances we have now, if a person was seriously ill he called in the friendly general practitioner. He could do not much more than sit by the bedside, hold the patient’s hand and console him while he quietly expired. I admit that we have advanced beyond that. We now have specific treatments for lots of diseases and so we now expect a lot from the medical profession. But the result is that we have swung right over the other way. We now admit to hospital patients who should not be there. For example, there has been some comment on the royal commission into medical services in the United Kingdom. It has been suggested that there are several studies that show that one-third of patients in hospital at any one time, including the mentally disabled, could just as well be looked after as out-patients or at home. One-third of the patients in expensive institutions need not be there. This means, in terms of the estimates that we are debating, that we should be putting more effort into some research into these sorts of factors.
There is much data all around the world that needs to be correlated. Without having the facts culled by the experts in the Department of Health, I will hazard a guess. I am incautious enough and non-politician enough to suggest what the answer will be. I have read enough to feel what we will find is confirmation of the fact that we would dramatically reduce the cost of our health services if we placed more emphasis on community health care and if, instead of worrying about constraining hospital costs, we provided an alternative system which treated people in the community out of hospital in their homes. In that way, we would reduce the call on hospital services. We would not need to impose restrictions on them because there would not be a call for these sorts of services.
To try to substantiate that point, I have some more figures. I recently received a note from someone in America giving some figures published for the American Hospital Association in August 1977. Let me make the point again that the bulk of our health costs- at least a halfare centred on institutional care. Although institutions deal only with the smallest portion of the total health problems of the community, they constitute the bulk of the health cost. The American figures compare hospitalisation rates in different metropolitan areas of the country with hospitalisation rates where there are health maintenance organisations or, in our jargon, community health centres. These are the figures: For the metropolitan area of New York, the number of patient-days per thousand of the population per year is 1,495; for Los Angeles, 1,084; for Chicago, 1,390; and, for Minneapolis, 1,391. That is good average fee for service medical practice, referring patients to the institutions because that is where one gets the best. That costs a lot of money. In this country we are talking about $100 a day to keep a patient in an expensive intensive care type institution.
What is the comparison when we look at patients cared for in hospital maintenance organisations? In Minneapolis-St Paul there were 561 patient-days per thousand of the population. Over the whole of America the figure was 450. In other words, the hospitalisation rate when patients were looked after in essence in community health centres was only about 38 per cent of the rate for patients cared for in the fee for service area, metropolitan and elsewhere. This is a fantastic reduction in a total cost to the community.
We have complaints all the time in this community that we do not have enough hospital beds. We are told that people are waiting for years to get a bed in hospital to have their surgery done. If they can wait that long the very interesting question is raised: Did they really need surgery? But the real issue is that we have 6.1 beds per thousand. The Americans have 4.5 beds per thousand and they manage very well. The Kaiser Permanente, which is a health maintenance organisation, manages to treat its patients satisfactorily with only two beds per thousand. This represents a very significant saving. That is the type of matter that I think we should be paying much more attention to rather than talking about constraining costs by imposing limits and charges on patients. We should get an alternative better health care system instead of punishing sick patients. Their sickness is punishment enough.
– I thank honourable members on both sides of the House for the contributions they have made to the debate on the estimates for the Department of Health, the Department of Social Security and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I will deal briefly with some of the points raised by honourable members. The honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) referred to his concern about the defrauding doctors in our community. The Government is well aware that this practice is happening and, under the terms of the Health Insurance Act, has moved to increase the penalties very substantially.
– What about prosecutions?
-The maximum penalty is now $10,000 and/or six months gaol. We certainly would like to see more prosecutions. Doctors who are defrauding the health insurance system will receive no mercy from either this Government or me. Currently, there are over 170 doctors under inquiry by the Health Commission. Forty-seven cases have been referred to the Commonwealth Police for investigation. There have been eight prosecutions. In its all out campaign to stamp out fraudulent practice the Government has the full support of the leaders of the Australian Medical Association who also are concerned about some of the activities of thenprofessional colleagues. Inquiries are currently being undertaken into bulk billing. We want to be sure that bulk billing is not one of the incentives to doctors to abuse the health insurance system.
I was interested in the contribution made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) and in particular what he had to say about the way in which doctors are paid. The former Government was not able to abolish the fee for service system and I doubt whether it will be abolished overnight or over a period of years. But, quite obviously, the fee for service system does encourage in some instances unscrupulous members of the profession to provide excessive services to patients. To overcome that situation the Australian Medical Association has agreed to co-operate with the Government to establish various committees of inquiry in each of the States. The thanks of the Government go to the Australian Medical Association for nominating representatives to those bodies. This arrangement should ensure that any cases referred to the Association will be examined in the light of recognised medical practice. So, there is the clear will on the part of the decent majority of members of the profession to take positive action to try to stamp out this practice.
The honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson) introduced into the debate the issue of quarantine. I am glad that he did because the public needs to be aware of the importance of well executed, well administered quarantine measures in this country. The honourable member mentioned- quite wrongly- that there had been an outbreak of Newcastle disease among our poultry flocks. I repeat: This is not true. There was no outbreak of Newcastle disease in the poultry industry. However, there was, as he suggested, an attempt by people to smuggle birds into Australia from Indonesia. One bird has been proved to suffer from Newcastle disease. I pay tribute to the officers of my Department and to officers of the various State primary industry departments and of other agencies who were involved in intercepting these birds in the various averies in Queensland and New South Wales. I hope that the swift action that was taken by quarantine officials of the Department of Health will prevent the spread of Newcastle disease, which, of course, is the worst disease known to the poultry industry.
I should mention that the Government gives a very high priority to maintaining an effective quarantine barrier against the introduction of exotic diseases of humans, animals and plants. We have, of course, set aside $ 13.5m m the Budget for a number of very important capital projects. The first of these is the establishment of a high security quarantine treatment unit- the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne. This will be a first step in the modernisation of human quarantine arrangements in this country. The unit will cost $910,000. The Government will construct also a high security off-shore animal quarantine station on Cocos (Keeling) Islands at a cost of $6.9m.
The honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) asked whether it is necessary to develop the Torrens Island quarantine facility. It is absolutely necessary to do this because the Cocos (Keeling) Islands quarantine station will be used principally for animals coming to Australia from countries where various exotic diseases are endemic. We intend to use the Torrens Island facility for horses and other animals that come direct from the United Kingdom or via New Zealand. It will be a very useful facility to back up the facility at the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. We also will be constructing a new mainland animal quarantine station at Wallgrove in Sydney at a cost of $4.6m. In addition, we will be upgrading the facilities at Torrens Island and Spotswood animal quarantine station at a cost of $995,000. Some of these projects are subject to report by the Public Works Committee and the approval of this Parliament. We also are seeking to construct or upgrade incinerators at the Rockhampton, Townsville, Tullamarine, Perth and Port Hedland airports. So, in a year when cuts are being made the Government is giving a very high priority to improving the quarantine barrier in this country.
The honourable member for Maribyrnong placed emphasis on the importance of the community health program. This program is fully supported by the Government and by the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). He has been a great supporter of the program- as, I am sure, are most members of this Parliament. There has been a grizzle from the States because they will be asked to contribute much more to the community health programs projects in their States, but I emphasise again that the States are $63 lm better off this financial year than they were last financial year- indeed, 17 per cent better off- and therefore should be putting extra money into such a worthwhile program. They cannot have it both ways, and I am sure that the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) would agree with that observation and will use his good influences on his State colleagues in New South Wales to accept that philosophy.
The honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) raised the question of nursing homes. He was very concerned about this confusion which exists in the minds of some patients in nursing homes. Apparently in his area many patients believe that they must insure with a private health insurance fund in order to get the nursing home benefit. That is not true, and I hope that tonight I have clarified this point in the minds of many nursing home patients. They do not have to insure with a private fund because they get benefits either from the Commonwealth Department of Health or the insurance funds. However, if they want to have the doctor of their choice when they go to hospital for treatment, that is their decision and they have to insure with a private fund; otherwise they would be treated by a doctor chosen by the hospital. That is the only reason why they would need to insure with a private fund. I would be pleased to help the honourable member for Chifley clarify any doubt in the minds of our nursing home patients whom we have done so much to help.
The Government was very concerned that many nursing home patients and their families throughout Australia were having great difficulty in meeting the enormous gap between the fees to be paid and the benefits payable, but under the new arrangement the Government has brought a new era of security to nursing home patients and their families. I have received a number of letters of gratitude from them and I know that they accept it as a new era of security. They can rest assured that the Government will not let them down. If it is possible to inscribe the 70 per cent rule in legislation, we certainly will do so. Time is getting on; so once again I thank all those who participated in the debate.
-In reply to the debate on the proposed expenditure for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs I would like to take up two points made by various speakers but in particular the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and the honourable member for Burke (Mr Keith Johnson). In the course of his few remarks the honourable member for Wills suggested that he did not like the name of the Department That name has existed for some time and I do not know why the honourable member has stored up this grievance for so long.
– This is the first time he has been able to speak in the place without being gagged.
– The honourable member might have to ask what are the reasons for that. For the record, the term ‘veterans’ affairs’ is also used in Canada and the United States of America; so it is by no means a novelty. Although I was not associated with the Department at the time of its change of name, I believe that the name reflects some widening in responsibilities. The functions of the Department now cover defence service homes and war graves in addition to repatriation. The major question I want to answer- (Quorum formed).
I was saying that the honourable member for Burke and the honourable member for Wills raised a question of principle which I think is worth answering. They asked: How do we decide, after all this time, whether a disability is service related? I point out one or two of the principles involved. There is no onus of proof on a veteran, and there never has been. Decisions are made on the available evidence and on the balance of probabilities, and that has been a principle adopted by successive governments for a long time. Veterans receive the benefit of any doubt that exists in the mind of the determining authority as to any fact The law requires a claim to be allowed unless the determining authority is satisfied that there is insufficient reason for allowing it. The absence of proof of a claimant’s assertion certainly does not mean that his claim fails. One of the factors taken into consideration is the likelihood of medical or other records having been lost or of incomplete records having been made at the time of service. I hope that those honourable members who made a number of criticisms about matters covered by those principles will take the trouble to read my explanation. The principles have existed for many years and have been accepted by successive governments.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $90,774,000.
-In December 1973 the former Attorney-General, the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott) who was then the chosen spokesman on Aboriginal affairs of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), sent a telegram to Aboriginal organisations saying that there would be ‘no cuts in the Aboriginal Affairs budget’. In August 1976 in his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) announced that only $153m would be allocated for programs of direct assistance to Aboriginals in the last financial year and added:
Although this is $33m less than expenditure in 1975-76. . . .
The Treasurer announced this gross breach of the Government’s promises to Aboriginals. By 5 October last year, the Government had been shamed into allocating an additional $25m for Aboriginal assistance programs. On 16 December and 1 February, however, the Treasurer announced that Government expenditure was to be reduced by a further $300m in the balance of the last financial year but refused to reveal what programs and services would be curtailed. His Budget papers for August this year reveal the facts. In fact only $161. 5m was spent on Aboriginal assistance programs in 1976-77, $24.3m less than in 1973-76.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) himself, in the words of Mr Chris Berry of the Australian National University, has been caught ‘fiddling the books’. On 23 August last, in a set of information papers, the Minister claimed that underexpenditure last financial year amounted to $ 11.1m. It had been, as the Treasurer had admitted, $16.5m. If we can rely on the rest of the Minister’s dubious figures, funds for housing programs have been reduced from $43.3m in 1975-76 to only $35.6m this year, a reduction of 44 per cent in real terms over the two-year period. The Minister had admitted to me on 3 1 March 1977:
Basic elements of hygiene and living conditions are a precondition of success in eradication of eye disease and other diseases which are affecting Aboriginals . . . The standard of housing is directly relevant to health conditions of that kind.
The value of education programs has been reduced by 16 per cent in real terms, health programs by 13 per cent, and legal aid by 19 per cent. It is apparent that Aboriginals have borne a grossly unjust and disproportionate share of the reductions in expenditure arising from the Government’s obsession with attacking the public sector. These cuts have not only affected the provision of basic amenities- housing, education and health services- they have also thrown thousands of Aborigines out of work. Many of these programs employed Aborigines in the construction of homes, the development of enterprises and the provision of public utilities in isolated communities. Between October 1975 and August this year the number of Aboriginals registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service has risen by 48 per cent It has risen by 2,342, or 24 per cent, in the last 12 months. The Minister admits that Aboriginal unemployment is unofficially estimated to be running at SO per cent.
The Government’s response to the problem has been to slash expenditure, to throw at least 4,000 Aborigines out of work, and then to offer employment opportunities to approximately 500 Aboriginal men and women through its inadequate community development employment program. If the problem were not so tragic in human terms, such a record could only be described as pitiful.
The Government has above all failed to pursue the interests of Aborigines in a matter they consider to be basic to their self respect, to the preservation of their cultural heritage, to their ability to cope with our society and its pressurestheir land claims. The Government’s emasculated version of Labor’s Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill 1975 is far short of what Mr Justice A. E. Woodward envisaged. It transferred legislative responsibility for many functions to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, contrary to his recommendations. The Assembly’s Aboriginal Lands and Sacred Sites Ordinance 1977 of last March was not only contrary to the Woodward report, it even contravened the guidelines set out in this Government’s legislation. The Assembly was forced to re-draft it. The previous majority leader of the Legislative Assembly, Dr Letts, personally paid the price for ignoring the legitimate aspirations of Aboriginals. He lost his seat in the Assembly election.
Aboriginals in all States have suffered from the Government’s cavalier land rights policies. The Aboriginal Land Fund Commission was established by the Labor Government in 1974 and, pending Aboriginal land rights legislation in the States, it has been a means of securing land for Aboriginal groups beyond the boundaries of the Northern Territory. Both the McMahon and Whitlam governments promised specific allocations of funds on an annual basis. Three months after this Government came to power it froze half of the Commission’s allocation for 1975-76. Not one cent was allocated for the purchase of land in 1976-77- another broken promise. The Commission’s work has also been hindered by the attitude of the Queensland Government and the Federal Government’s failure to protect the rights of Aboriginals in that State. The Land Fund Commission’s second annual report, for the year ended June 1976, tabled on the last sitting day in June 1977, states:
During the year the Commission encountered rather more difficulties than were to be expected by a purchasing agency.
Some of these arose from the reservations of Government departments in certain States . . . These attitudes have not formed a permanent hindrance, except in the State of Queensland, where the Commission had to refer the matter to the Minister for consultations with the Queensland Ministers responsible.
The Minister unfortunately was not given the opportunity to resolve this dispute. In an answer on 2 June 1977 to a question on notice from me he stated that the Queensland Minister for Lands had written to him on 10 December 1976 informing him that the Queensland Government does not view favourably the acquisition of land for development by Aborigines or by Aboriginal groups in isolation. The Minister said that he had not replied to this letter because, as he sheepishly put it, the issue was dealt with in the context of a reply to the Premier by the Prime Minister. The Minister, moreover, would not tell me the nature of the Premier’s replies to the Prime Minister on the ratification of International Labour Organisation Convention No. 107- Indigenous and Tribal Populations 1957, because such correspondence was confidential. The Prime Minister has overridden his Minister on land rights and land acquisition in order to smother those issues. The Prime Minister is intent on maintaining an unholy alliance with the Premier of Queensland, an alliance designed to divert the Premier from engaging in his favourite sport prior to a premature Federal election- Canberra bashing. The interests and rights of Queensland’s Aborigines have been sacrificed for that purpose.
There is a third matter in which the Prime Minister has ridden roughshod over his Minister during the last three weeks. It seems that Cabinet decided to oppose the land claims of Aborigines at Borroloola in the Northern Territory without consulting the Minister. Cabinet decided that written proposals for alternative uses for the land- proposals which conflict with the Aboriginal claims- should be presented to the Land Rights Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey. The Minister at the table was not consulted by his colleagues who are members of the Cabinet before they decided that the Government would oppose these claims- a decision to which he is bound but was never a party. Such is the style of Fraser Government.
The Prime Minister also demonstrated his total disinterest in the welfare of Aborigines when he announced that the Government would not insist on sequential development of uranium mines in the Northern Territory. Mr Justice Fox reported that the development of mining would have a profound impact on traditional Aboriginal societies, particularly during the construction phase. Sequential development was essential to minimise the adverse social effects of rapid mining development that have been so evident in the north-west of Western Australia.
Even the legislation which the Government has introduced has not yet benefited Aborigines. It is now some 1 1 months since the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill 1976, which was based on a Bill passed by this House in November 1975, was enacted. The Act was given royal assent on 15 December 1976 but it still has not been proclaimed. This legislation would ensure that Aboriginal organisations could seek incorporation under uniform federal legislation. The Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Whitlam governments all accepted the basic responsibility for the welfare of Aboriginals that the 1967 referendum conferred on this Parliament. Only the Fraser Government has sought to turn back the clock, to ignore the mandate it was given and the promises it offered. At the election for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly Aborigines were among the first Australians to pass judgment on the Fraser Government. They will not be the last.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-Mr Chairman, the speech we just heard from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) was most disappointing to me. I believe that in the area of Aboriginal affairs there are real problems. All Australians are aware of them and are concerned about them. Australians generally would like to see them dealt with on a nonpartisan basis. We all should be genuinely trying to deal with the problems that our Aboriginal people are experiencing. All parties should be endeavouring to bring goodwill into the discussions and to appraise genuinely and honestly the matters that are at issue. I find exceedingly disappointing the expressions we heard in the opening remarks of the Leader of the Opposition such as: ‘Slashing expenditure’, ‘an emphasis on expenditure cuts but not on expenditure increases’ and ‘not an examination of the priorities and the reason for the priorities but simply a distorted view of the expenditure reappraisal of the Government’.
Emphasis was put on the reduced expenditure in the housing area. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition, dishonestly in my view, neglected to mention the increased expenditure on health programs which rose by $5m to $23m. That is an increase of 27 per cent. Education programs are up by $6.8m, an increase of 18 per cent to $43m.
The Leader of the Opposition neglected to mention the emphasis which has been put on employment programs in the Budget as against the Government’s admitted statements- of course, if we go through the statements we will appreciate this- that in reappraising some of its expenditure items housing is not being accorded the same priority as previously. No one will deny that. But one ought to be prepared to come to grips with the question of priorities. Where should those priorities lie? Is health a problem or is it not a problem? Is employment a problem or is it not a problem? When we look at the nature of the area in which expenditure has been reduced, such as on housing, we find that the reduction has been in money given to the States. The reduction is not in those programs which have been given to Aboriginals where they build homes for themselves under the grants-in-aid program but in payments to the States. I imagine the rationale behind that is that the money spent through State housing commissions is allocated for building projects which are not being built and which do not involve Aboriginals in the construction process.
One of the important aspects of housing and housing development, where it involves Aboriginals, is that employment ought to be available for Aboriginals, through the money which is being spent in that area. If one wants to look at the distortion which has taken place when expenditure on Aboriginals is being considered, one only has to look at the question without notice which was asked by the Leader of the Opposition on 20 September of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). On that day the Leader of the Opposition alleged quite incorrectly that expenditure had been cut by 22 per cent since the 1975 Budget. Yet, as the Leader of the Opposition knows because of advice which he received from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 10 October, that figure was incorrect. There had been a variation of the order of 1 3 per cent, not 22 per cent as alleged. The Leader of the Opposition failed to go on and deal with the further fact that between the 1976-77 Budget and the 1977-78 Budget there will be an expenditure increase of about 1 5 per cent.
Tonight I shall deal with the important scheme which was announced by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on 26 May to provide employment for Aboriginals. On that date the Minister announced a national employment strategy for Aboriginals. We acknowledge there is an employment problem with Aboriginals, particularly those living in remote areas who are affected more as a result of location than are people in other parts of Australia. The Government initiated a working party report which highlighted these problems. We consciously set about to deal with the problems as a result of the information which came before us. One of the important initiatives taken to deal with those problems in the remote areas of Australia was the community development employment project. I believe it is an important project and one which all Australians welcome.
The program has made finance available to enable Aboriginal councils to pay for work performed by individual community members, preferably on a co-operative, part time or contractual basis. In determining the amount of money to be made available to an individual community, the entitlement of individual community members to unemployment benefit was to be taken into account. The important aspect of this program is that it enables or encourages Aboriginals in a community to manage their own affairs. The Aboriginal council is encouraged to determine projects which would be beneficial to the community and which would be able to deal with the allocation of labour in the community and to provide through this program work for people in those communities. That scheme was announced in May.
I think it is important to look at the progress which has been achieved by the Government in the introduction of this pilot program. The Minister indicated that at first the program would be available for eight to 10 communities but that if it worked successfully it would provide work for other communities which wished to be involved. Already the program is under way in the community of Bamyili in the Northern Territory, at Fregon and Ernabella in South Australia and at Wiluna in Western Australia. Further programs are being considered for commencement at Warburton, Wingelina, Katta-ala. Blackstone, Jamieson and Giles in Western Australia and at Hopevale in Queensland. Consultations are also taking place with Aboriginal communities to develop these programs at Elcho Island in the Northern Territory, Mowandum in Western Australia and at Palm Island in Queensland. Some 286 Aboriginals are currently being employed as a result of this program.
I think honourable members would like to know of some of the work being undertaken by Aboriginals under the programs which have been developed with emphasis on selfsufficiency. A program which has been undertaken at Bamyili produces farm products for local consumption. Also, clothing is manufactured for sale locally and a local garage is being operated by local Aboriginal people. At Wiluna, a community in Western Australia which I had the opportunity to visit and where many people were unfortunately housed until fairly recently in tents and the like in a village outside the town, Aboriginals are being trained to construct their own housing, making use of local materials. At the moment 20 Aboriginals are being employed in agricultural and horticultural projects linked up with the Desert Gold development. While I was there I had an opportunity to taste some of the products of that community.
The honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) is trying to interject. I think he is asking when I was there and why I was there. I was there as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs as we were interested in the welfare of the Aboriginal people involved. This scheme is outstanding. I believe the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ought to be congratulated on its successful introduction. It is a pilot scheme and I believe that upon evaluation it will be seen to have gone a long way to assisting Aboriginal people with the employment problems which we know exist at this time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) (9.49)-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has already pointed out the many promises made by the Fraser Government to our Aboriginal population and the number of those promises which have been broken. The honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock) has tried to make out that the Leader of the Opposition was misleading the Committee. I believe an examination of the facts which I will put before the Committee will indicate that the Leader of the Opposition was not only telling the truth but also that the appropriation of $90,774,000 clearly highlights the cynical and shameful approach which the Fraser Government has when dealing with the Aboriginal population. This group of people came to this continent at least 30,000 years before the Europeans landed here. The allocation in the 1976-77 Budget represented a 30 per cent cut in real terms on the allocation in the previous Budget. At a glance it might appear that the 1977-78 Budget has rectified this mistake because it indicates an increase from $83,923,465 to $90,774,000. If one goes back to the 1976-77 Budget Papers one sees just how paltry this amount is because that Budget saw a reduction in allocation from $100,222,075 to a mere $83,529,000.
Here we have illustrated a callous and shameful approach to a group of people who during the 19th and 20th centuries were driven off most of the fertile land which they inhabited for those 30,000 years which I have already mentioned. The only land under Aboriginal ownership and control which was left unchallenged was a part of central and north Australia which was barren desert country and of no use to the settlers in that day. Because of the new uranium discoveries the Aborigines no longer can call this barren land their own.
Whilst the rate of inflation has increased by 25 per cent in two years, assistance to Aborigines is going in the opposite direction. Surely the Aborigines had to wait long enough for this $100m which was provided in the 1975-76 Budget. Pastoral expansion in Australia brought havoc to the Aboriginal society and robbed them of their land. They were decimated by disease and were often considered vermin by the settlers of those days. The history books tell us that many of them were shot on sight by the squatters and the land owners who for some reason classed themselves as the rightful owners of this land.
We must remember that following the 1967 referendum which decided that Aborigines would be counted in a census it was considered by most Australians that Aborigines would take their place on an equal basis with the rest of the community in the social structure of our society. The Labor Government certainly set out in that direction. As I have mentioned, in the 1975-76 Budget we provided $ 100m for Aborigines. Why was it that so soon after the recognition of the Aboriginal population, after we agreed that we would count Aborigines as one of us, we have seen this downward adjustment in their living standards? Unfortunately, it has not been a single-pronged attack; it has been a doublepronged attack.
Not only has there been a savage cutback in the appropriation; there has been an upsurge of the colonialism which was suffered in the 16th and 17th centuries, but this time it is happening in respect of remote, isolated and barren land which originally was considered unfit for Europeans. Of course, uranium has been found there. This is why the barren land has been taken from Aborigines. One would expect that, with all this money flowing into the State and Federal governments, instead of funds being cut back they would be being increased. We heard tonight about federalism- about the extra money the States are getting and how much more they should spend in thus direction and that direction. What about the rip-off that the State and Federal governments are getting out of the development of all the mining ventures in this country for which the Aborigines are suffering? Surely that would warrant the Government spending more money on Aborigines.
Perhaps there would be some justification for this policy of cutting back funds for the Aboriginal population if Aborigines were to be brought up to somewhere near an equal basis with the rest of the Australian population. What do we find? The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out already that unemployment of Aborigines increased this year by 45 per cent and now embraces nearly 50 per cent of the Aboriginal population. In addition to that, about 2 per cent of Aborigines are educated above the level of half way through secondary school. The cut-back in funds for Aboriginal housing and how far it is behind the standard of housing for the rest of the population has been mentioned already. Supporters of the Government try to justify the Government’s action by claiming that the money was wasted by the Labor Government.
– Hear, hear! Some of the money was badly spent.
– We are prepared to admit that mistakes were made when we were assisting this group of people towards self-determination. This was a group of people who had been sadly neglected for 35 years by a Liberal-Country Party government. No one had fully comprehended the tragic overall picture of the health, housing and living conditions of these original Australians. Certainly mistakes are made when helping people towards selfdetermination.
Honourable members can measure the Labor Government’s treatment of our Aboriginal population by any economic theory they wish. There is enough evidence to deny that our years in government were wasted or wasteful. At long last we gave the Aboriginal population some self-esteem and pride. But as a result of the 1976-77 Budget and the 1977-78 Budget what was gained through the efforts of the Labor Government has taken a nose dive. The 1977-78 Budget has done nothing to change the direction of the 1976-77 Budget. No matter how inadequate an appropriation the Government makes, its supporters try to excuse its lack of concern by claiming that the Labor Government mismanaged its appropriations. Of course, when a member on this side of the House tries to take them up on the very point they raise we have an example of what happens in the way they treated the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden). He was branded a blackguard and a traitor.
Honourable members opposite like to refer to the economy but nothing worries them more than to have the spotlight on their economic performance. They are so scared that one of the most honest members of this Parliament, whose reputation in economic management is outstanding, is branded a blackguard. Honourable members must admit that the Government cannot stand the spotlight to be turned on its economic management. Why should honourable members opposite blame the honourable member for Oxley and why should they make this cruel cutback in funds for our Aboriginal population? Why make the Aborigines carry such a cruel, unfair penalty just because the Government refuses to take guidance on how the country should be run? The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth) showed his concern for this type of thing when he pointed out today that his heart was broken by the performance in economic management by this Government. Why is it that such honest members as the honourable member for Mackellar, the former Attorney-General, sit as far from the front bench as the walls of this chamber will allow? No wonder we have the Aboriginal population up in arms.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The previous speaker, the honourable member for Darling (Mr FitzPatrick), and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) endeavoured to make this a political debate. I see that as most tragic. Both Labor speakers referred to expenditure but the facts are that the actual expenditure in the 1976-77 financial year was $16 1.5m whereas the estimated expenditure for this coming financial year is $176m, an increase of some $15m. The Leader of the Opposition looks upon the amount of money expended as being the only gauge of the contribution that a government makes to the Aboriginal people. We cannot undo the neglect of 200 years in 200 days or 200 months and we cannot undo it by spending $200m or $2,000m. What needs to be done will take many years to do. I have grave doubts that any honourable member who presently sits in this Parliament will live to see the day when Aboriginal people are on their feet completely and are no longer in need of supportive services.
The Opposition accuses us on this side of the chamber of being uninterested in the affairs of
Aboriginal people. It was a Liberal government which proposed the alteration to the Constitution in 1967. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth)- he should be given his duewas a wonderfully thought-of Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the McMahon Government was generous in its allocations to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Even the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), whom I see seated across the chamber from me, was a very dedicated Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. He should not allow his head to become swollen too quickly. The point is that he had a big heart but little of whatever else was needed when it came to calculating properly the measures which needed to be invoked. He was ruled by his heart, f Quorum formed).
I regret that two minutes of the 10 minutes allocated to me has been wasted by the honourable member for Wills who just called for a quorum. In the time still available to me I wish to speak of an initiative which we in my Federal electorate of Griffith have undertaken in recent weeks. As the Parliament will be aware, we have had established under the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations the Community Youth Support Scheme. In my electorate we have created under an existing scheme an offshoot to cater for the needs of Aboriginal youth. That scheme was established some two or three weeks ago. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has agreed to the employment of a full-time field officer to assist in the organisation of the expansion of the existing Griffith Community Youth Support Scheme to cater for the large number of unemployed Aboriginal youth in the city of Brisbane and, in particular, in my Federal electorate of Griffith. Mr Deputy Chairman, would you mind asking members of your party to be quiet?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The Committee will come to order. There is too much audible conversation.
-They were Country Party members. I just want the record to be straight. The creation of this new aspect of the Community Youth Support Scheme for Aboriginal children will allow these young people to be kept busy during the day and to be given an opportunity to take part in job observation, to receive counselling on their own presentation when they apply for a job and, generally speaking, to involve themselves in community projects. I really believe that this scheme has tremendous potential. I would dearly like to see other members in this Parliament whose electorates contain a percentage of unemployed Aboriginal youth establish such a scheme in their electorates, because it has a lot of virtue.
Earlier this year a symposium on the problem of juvenile misbehaviour in the Aboriginal community was held in Sydney. Young Aboriginals who find themselves in trouble are not only those in the 13, 14 and IS age groups but also, in many instances, young people of 17 and 18 years of age. I believe that society has an obligation to continue with many of the programs which have been developed and to introduce new programs in the future to ensure that we continue to produce more Aboriginals who can take the part or play the part of leaders in their own community. In the last five years- due credit should be given to the Labor Government and to the present Government which is continuing many of these programs- we have seen more and more Aboriginals standing on their own feet and providing leadership within their own community. That in itself is acting as an inspiration to a group of people who have felt, and rightly so, that this country gave them hardly a chance. That inspiration is assisting more and more of them on to their feet and is ensuring that more and more of them hold their heads high.
I believe that in the long term there will be a reward for Australia in that it will have an indigenous population which will be capable of taking its place side by side with the white population where it wants to do so. Our reward also will be that we will know that, even though it took a long time for us to recognise our responsibilities, we did at one stage begin to assist the indigenous population and we too will be able to hold our heads high. Instead of having to point to our prisons with an exceptionally high rate of Aboriginal inmates and pointing to our corrective institutions with the same problem, we will be able to see the results of having given an opportunity to our Aboriginal people.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last week we read in the Press how Warri and Yatungka the last of the Mandjildjarra people of the Gibson Desert to live a truly nomadic life, were brought into Wiluna to live. That was a symbolic event. It marked the final act in the European conquest of Australia. It has been a conquest which has given nothing but agony to the native people of our continent. The benefits of civilisation for the Australian black people have been few. Their lot has been disease and degradation. They are disadvantaged today, as they have been disadvantaged since the Europeans came to Australia. Even today unemployment amongst blacks is running at 80 per cent. Less than two per cent of the blacks are educated to the senior secondary school level. Blacks suffer from the repression of our legal system even more directly than the working class people of Australia. Aboriginals comprise up to 80 per cent of all female prisoners and 30 per cent of all male prisoners in Western Australia. I am sure that the position is even worse in the Northern Territory or Queensland.
The Fraser Government shows every day that it is not really concerned about the conditions of the black people in Australia. It has reduced spending on Aboriginal affairs in real terms when compared with the last Labor Budget. More important than the lack of money is the lack of control by the Aboriginal people of their own destiny. They are denied both their dignity and their rights. We have seen evidence of this in the last few days in relation to the Ranger uranium mine at Jabiru in the Northern Territory. This has been reported very thoroughly in the Canberra Times during the last few days. We have been aware of the background to what is happening at Ranger.
I want to consider firstly the attitude of Aboriginal people at Oenpelli and Mudginberri who are directly affected by the uranium mining project. I have been to Oenpelli. I spent a week in the Alligator Rivers area recently. I have a little knowledge of what is happening there. Until recently, when I arrived there, no Minister of the Fraser Government had been to Oenpelli or to that region to talk to the Aboriginal people. It was only after I had been there that the Minister at the table, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), went there to talk to Aboriginal people about the mining in that region. The Aboriginal people will need a good deal of time to consider the question of whether mining should proceed. A decision cannot be forced on them. They must make their decision in their own time.
There is no doubt that the uranium exploration has disturbed the Aboriginal people in the Alligator Rivers area. They are frightened. The Minister knows how frightened and concerned they are. Once 54 Aboriginal people lived at Jabiru. This number declined as the Aboriginals moved away as a result of the influx of whites associated with the Ranger mine. The whole outstation movement by the Aboriginals in the area is an attempt, through decentralised communities, to control their own lives free from outside interference. The Aboriginals are reacting against the sort of contact with the whites that can be seen at the Border Store in Arnhem Land. During our visit to the Alligator Rivers area we looked at the Border Store. I must say that it was a degrading experience. Every member who goes to that area would know that the same problem would be multiplied over and over again if the Ranger proposal proceeded in the way that honourable members opposite seem to be carrying on now in their rush to get the uranium out of the ground because they think they might lose sales eventually through changing technologies in the world. The scene at the Border Store was an example of why Aboriginals oppose uranium mining.
The second Ranger report expressed its opposition in graphic terms. It stated:
The evidence before us shows that the traditional owners of the Ranger site and the Northern Land Council (as now constituted) are opposed to the mining of uranium on that site.
The Minister appeared on television and said that there were contrary quotes in the same report. No matter what he said, I am saying quite clearly -
– It was in the first report.
– It is in the second report at page nine. It states what the Aboriginals think about it, not what the great white tribunal might think are their opinions. The Aboriginals oppose uranium mining for a number of reasons. It damages the ecosystem on which they will depend if they are to stay in the outstations. It disturbs the land which is sacred to their religion and to the Aboriginal people. There is no doubt that it will damage Aboriginal sacred sites. It will produce racial tensions and conflicts. It will lay the ground for alcohol abuse, because of the increased tensions and pressures on Aboriginals. It will erode Aboriginal societies through the sexual unions of white men and Aboriginal women which mining will bring to that region. It will increase the already high incidence of venereal disease. These results are not unique nor unexpected. The Ranger inquiry concluded at page 233: … the rapid development of a European community within, or adjacent to, an Aboriginal traditional society has in the past always caused the breakdown of the traditional culture and the generation of intense social and psychological stresses . . .
The Ranger commissioners concluded that there were no grounds for hoping that mining in the Alligator Rivers area would have a different impact. This is why the developments at Ranger this week are so disturbing. The Ranger joint venturers now propose to build a ‘temporary’ town site adjacent to the present township. They have indicated a firm intention to start straight away on the major construction work, including road extensions and a new dam. This violates- I stress the word ‘violates’- the second Ranger report’s recommendation that a regional centre be built to contain all the mine workers and to minimise their impact on the environment and the Aboriginals of the area. Other recommendations of the second Ranger report are violated by the proposed action of the Ranger companies. Recommendation No. 1 of chapter 12 of the second Ranger report, at page 328, states:
That Aboriginal title should be granted, the national park established, and the necessary control mechanisms set up before-
I stress these words- any substantial amount of construction work is done on the Ranger project or substantial numbers of people are brought into the area.
That is quite clear. The work projected at the Ranger site is major work. It is not mere surveying or exploration. It is opposed in the strongest terms by the Northern Land Council. The Minister knows that. It is a clear breach of the recommendation I have quoted. The Fraser Government will violate the wishes of the Aboriginal people and transgress the recommendations of the second Ranger report if it does not prevent the preparatory work at the Ranger uranium site in the Northern Territory. It seems that the company is anxious to get this work done before the start of the impending wet season.
The Northern Land Council has protested at what it regards as a flagrant violation of the Ranger report recommendations which the Government claims to have accepted. It has telegraphed the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I ask for permission to incorporate the text of that telegram in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
We are the traditional owners of Alligator Rivers country. We have had meeting today with the Northern Land Council. We do not want any mining here. If you won’t do what we ask then make one mine first and then we will see about the others later. We want to see the National Park working first like you promised with Aboriginal rangers before any miners come and start building towns and mines.
The Northern Land Council just got this telegram about it which we now set out below: ‘Further to our discussion earlier in the week concerning advice which could be passed to traditional land owners at your meeting over the coming weekend on work to be carried out at Ranger, the following information has been provided by the joint venturers. Ranger proposes to proceed with certain preparatory works before the beginning of the 1977-78 wet season. The work planned is:
Why are miners starting when we have not made any agreement about it?
-I thank the Committee. There are strong grounds for suspecting that the Government has connived at a start to mining activity, against the wishes of the traditional land owners. I stress that the Minister should look at page 325, the first recommendation in the chapter on principal recommendations, which states that no part of the proposals should be varied unless-
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In commenting on the estimates for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs I wish firstly to compliment the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) on the manner in which he has handled his portfolio. From discussions with people involved in the land rights issue and from discussions with people in the Northern Territory, when I visited there recently to look at matters concerning Aboriginal affairs, I know that he is highly regarded for his consultative approach and his sensitive appreciation of the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal communities. In my remarks I shall comment on some aspects of Aboriginal affairs and the way in which Aboriginal affairs policies have been implemented by successive governments over the years. I shall not distinguish very greatly between particular governments because I believe that there has been some confusion in many aspects of the administration of Aboriginal affairs under various governments.
Aboriginal policies in this country have gone through various stages. Many years ago we had a policy of assimilation. We rejected that because assimilation was too patronising an attitude for white people to take in Aboriginal affairs. Then integration was the thing. We were not to assimilate Aborigines into the white community; we were to integrate them. They were to keep their individuality but we were to assist then to cope in European society. Then we dropped the term ‘integration’ and adopted the term ‘selfdevelopment’. That was the thing- self-development of Aboriginal communities. Now the term is ‘….ticulturism’. That expression is used quite a lot. I wonder how long it will be before another word is used which I learned at an ethnic function in Melbourne, that is polyethnicity. I am not sure whether that word will catch on.
What I wish to point out is that in a relatively short number of years we have had changes in emphasis in our Aboriginal affairs policies which have undoubtedly led to some confusion amongst people who have to administer those policies at the ground level. Certainly I discovered that in talking to people in the Commonwealth Department of Education, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and other agencies in both Adelaide and Darwin. There are conflicting attitudes on Aboriginal affairs by well meaning people in my own area, in the southern parts of Australia. Often people will say: ‘Why do we not let the Aboriginal people live their traditional life untroubled by white people?’ Then they will go on to complain about the high rate of infant mortality amongst Aboriginal people and advocate that more trained medical personnel be sent in to improve the situation. They do not stop to appreciate that in sending in trained medical personnel, inevitably some aspects of the traditional Aboriginal society will be broken down because Aboriginals will be brought into contact with people with a different type of education and from a different type of culture.
Would we really be prepared to see some of the traditional Aboriginal customs continued? Amongst some Aboriginal groups, for example, infanticide has been practised in the past. Infanticide was one way or controlling the population and the size of families. It was brought about by the fact that an older child of, say, 15 months or 16 months who was still breast feeding had a prior claim on the mother’s breast and a younger child who came along died because it did not have a claim to the mother’s breast. I shall read from a report prepared by Annette Hamilton of the Department of Anthropology of the University of Sydney in 1971. This was given to me by the Institute of Aboriginal Development in Alice Springs when I visited there. It says:
Finally I feel it is necessary to note that there is a distinct possibility that many Aboriginal children who fail to thrive, or who die through failure to present for medical aid in time, are suffering from deliberate neglect, which is the only form of infanticide available to the people today. The children most likely to suffer from this fall into several quite simple categories- those of the unmarried girl, those who are the product of a tribally-wrong marriage, especially one that is incestuous as the people see it, and those born too close to a sibling; these almost certainly died in the past since the older child has the unquestioned right to the mother’s milk until it no longer needs it.
That was a report into health problems among the Pitjantjatjara people. That indicates that arising from traditional Aboriginal life styles which have had the impact of Western science brought upon them there are a number of health problems. We cannot simply withdraw from the situation and let Aboriginal communities live a traditional life. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) noted in his speech a little earlier, only recently the last known traditional tribal Aborigines were brought from the desert into a community which has come under the influence of Western ways.
Nonetheless, in the way in which we deliver health care to Aboriginal communities we must be sensitive to the needs of the traditional way of life. In some of our hospitals the use of traditional Western practices has often had disastrous effects on Aboriginal health. I was told in Alice Springs of examples of tribal women who were brought into hospitals for treatment. They were brought in when they had young babies still breast feeding. The women were taught how to prepare a bottle for the baby because it was inconvenient in the rigid system of the hospital to have the baby still breast feeding. Having weaned the baby and taught the mother how to prepare a bottle, the hospital then sent her back into the tribal situation after her own treatment had been finished and she was expected to maintain the feeding of her baby by the bottle method. Of course, the whole background of hygiene practices in a tribal situation did not suit that method. Naturally enough the babies developed all sorts of gastric complaints which led to their coming back into hospital only a matter of a week or two after they had been sent back into their tribal areas.
The Commonwealth Director of Health in Darwin told me that the old practice which has only recently died out in our hospitals of putting an Aboriginal baby on to a bottle was virtually signing that baby’s death warrant. It is good that we have got over that practice by and large. It is only in recent times that we have realised the problems we were creating for traditional Aboriginal communities. I am very pleased to see therefore that the Government in its Aboriginal health policies is trying to make use of traditional
Aboriginal healers who can provide the sort of psychological back up needed to make sure that modern health procedures can work and can be implemented in the tribal situation.
When we bring Aboriginal communities under the influence of a Western life style we produce a number of health problems which were not there before. Under the nomadic way of life no one stayed in one area long enough for that area to become filthy and unhygienic. The movement from camp site to camp site was in itself a hygienic procedure. When Aboriginals came under our influence and stayed in the one site or camp for years on end without having the training in modern hygiene procedures, those camps became areas where disease could fester very easily. I believe that what we have to do in our Aboriginal affairs policies is not just look at the total amount of money which is being spent. Quite often in the southern areas of Australia which do not have Aboriginal communities by and large, people look at the total amount being spent and measure Aboriginal affairs policies in those terms. We have to look at the way in which money is being spent, the way in which it is being applied and the sorts of patterns of development we are trying to encourage in Aboriginal communities.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Giles)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Tonight in speaking in the adjournment debate I want, firstly, to pay my tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) for the relief measures announced a fortnight ago for the beef industry. In two respects relief will be fairly immediate for the cattlemen in my electorate. For the ones on brigalow blocks Area 3, the moratorium on payments on Commonwealth loans to the Queensland Government will allow them time for reconstruction, particularly when the loans are extended by a further seven years. Then, of course, there is the generation of liquid funds through the speying and disease control measures. This will give cash in hand, of which they have had little over the past three years.
However, in spite of these measures, there is still another matter that really concerns and distresses me; that is, the interpretation of the guidelines under which unemployment benefits previously had been made available to these settlers who made themselves available for work and for jobs if available. The Department of Social Security recently has withdrawn these benefits from several of the graziers in this area. How many more- perhaps thousandsthroughout Australia may fall victim to this decision? A departmental technicality has been given as the reason that allows a bureaucrat to judge whether a person can or cannot work, or is available for work. Unfortunately, the system allows the judge to be also jury.
A settler came to my office with only $30 to his name and with a family to provide for. His cattle sale receipts in total were immediately being applied by his bankers against his debt. Consequently he could get nothing in his hand. Denied government relief, what are his prospects; what are the prospects of his family? It appears so easy for some person in a comfortable and highly paid position in Canberra, by the stroke of a pen, to cut off the only sustenance available- to cut off not only sustenance but also hope. These people chose to pioneer and develop the brigalow. They were prepared to do without some things but not prepared to be cut off altogether. I ask: Why should these people be treated as lesser or second class citizens and be refused the assistance available to others who are less willing, less productive and deficient of work ethic? Yet others have available a selection of relief measures that the Department denies these settlers.
I suggest that the assessors and bureaucrats get off their seats and see the poverty and despair of parents who want only to give the basic needsnothing more- to their family. Have they to starve or die before we provide for real needs? The Department of Social Security is under the pressures reflected by our changing social patterns and behaviour, but there has been no change in the outlook of these settlers. They continue to be the most industrious, the most productive and the most loyal of our citizens. I acknowledge that, with the errors recently found within the Department of Social Security, the recent appointment of Mr Lanigan as its new head probably will mean a more conservative approach still. The Myers report, particularly on self-employed benefits, will reinforce that conservatism and present attitudes. I cannot agree with the Myers report in this respect.
I urgently suggest to the Government that, if unemployment benefits are not to be paid, an alternative form of relief for household support be made available immediately. I have noted that the Minister for Primary Industry in the beef package scheme suggested that household support might be altered to make it available to low income families earning less than the unemployment benefit. I suggest that, in view of the departmental interpretation, this type of assistance be implemented immediately. For this, red tape has to be slashed so that the applications can be processed immediately and payments made. If necessary, officers of the Department should be made available to assist with applications and to make on-the-spot inspections in order to effect immediate transfer from unemployment benefits to household support so as to ensure continuity of payment and security for these people.
Whilst the value of the properties may be high, the equity frequently is not, because of the burden of loan commitments. Compared to the urban dweller who has a reasonable residence and a car and who has easier and immediate access to relief benefits, the settlers and the selfemployed are infinitely worse off. Let us not burden these people further through lack of sympathy. Let us set guidelines, beat a bureaucrat or two, cut the red tape and give recognition to the great contribution that these settlers are making to Australia’s development.
– I rise briefly to mention four events in the sporting world which I think ought to be recorded in this House. First, I compliment the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) who was able to encourage a team in New South Wales with the same name as his electorate to win the historic replay of the Rugby League grand final. It was a similar comment made in the course of a recent answer by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in relation to that other great game, Australian Rules football, which prompted me to try to educate the honourable member for St George and remind him of that great game which is played in Victoria. North Melbourne also won a replay of the grand final and that team ought to be congratulated for its achievement.
The third matter I mention concerns Rocky Mattiolli who in August this year won the world light middleweight boxing title. That gentleman is a credit to the sport he follows. He came to Australia from Italy with his family when he was 4 1/2 years of age and settled in the electorate of McMillan in the township of Morwell. He commenced training with Stan Mounsey who is also from that town, at the age of 12 years and with a great deal of perseverance and hard work he won a number of titles in Australia as an amateur. He finally went into the bigger world of international boxing and was able to win the world light middleweight title.
He returned to Australia to a thundering silence without any recognition whatsoever. It was to the credit of the Shire of Morwell that he was given a civic reception some two weeks ago. The Victorian Football League saw fit to ask him to drive around the ground before the crowd of 100,000 prior to the game between North Melbourne and Collingwood. Those people added their congratulations as I hope this House will add its congratulations to a great sportsman who has adopted this country and represented it well overseas.
The final point I mention is one which also has echoes of the Rocky Mattiolli case in that the allAustralian netball team won a world championship in 197S and similarly returned from New Zealand after winning that world championship with very little recognition by the Australian public at large. This year, August 1977 to August 1978, is the year of the all-Australian netball golden jubilee celebrations. Honourable members will be aware that hundreds of thousands of girls and women around Australia play netball. The inaugural meeting of that particular organisation, which was then called the All-Australian Women’s Basketball Association, was held in Sydney on 26 and 27 August 1927. As I have mentioned, Australia is currently the holder of the world netball title. It first won the world tournament in England in 1963. It was runner up in the second world tournament staged by the allAustralians in Perth in 1967. It regained the title in Jamaica in 1 97 1 and retained it in Auckland in 1975. The fifth world series will be staged in Trinidad in August 1979.
In this coming year, as part of the golden jubilee celebrations, Australia will be playing host to a Trinidad and Tobago national team which will be playing in all States and in the Australian Capital Territory. Four test matches will be included in the series of games. Finally, I record a wish which the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) shares with me. We attended the golden jubilee dinner in Hobart some weeks ago. We wish that a stamp could be printed to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the All-Australian Netball Association and also appropriately to commemorate the fact that that Association is the current world holder of the netball championships.
– I want briefly to raise a matter which concerns members of the Amputee Children’s Society. I think many honourable members might have been a little concerned a short time ago when the Press revealed that a deaf girl, who had been receiving the handicapped children’s allowance, was to lose that allowance because her parents were making an endeavour to normalise her attitudes as much as possible by admitting her to a state school. Although there were very great problems involved in her attending a state school, including problems of transportation and the like, and certainly problems in relating to other children and problems in hearing lessons and so on, on balance it was felt by the parents and people who were advising them that this was a beneficial thing for the child to do. However, because the child attended a state school, the allowance has been taken away.
I have in my electorate the President and the Secretary of the Amputee Children’s Society. They have indicated to me that they and other parents are gravely concerned that parents making such an effort may be deprived of this benefit. Worse still is the fact that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) apparently has indicated to one of these parents in recent times that the handicapped children’s allowance is to be subject to a means test. There is correspondence available to this effect. Parents come to me with very great concern and I, of course, have written to the Minister. The parents are now circulating a petition. If there is anything in their contention- and there certainly appears to be in terms of the documentation that is before me- and confusion about the situation the matter should be clarified as quickly as possible.
I have in front of me a copy of a letter sent to a parent of an amputee child which spells out the Government’s intention to impose this means test. The letter states:
The allowance will be paid where a child’s disabilities are adjudged on medical grounds to be marginally below what constitutes ‘severely handicapped’ as defined in the legislation and the family income does not exceed the adult minimum weekly wage (‘Six Capital Cities’), at present $1 10.60 per week, plus $6 for each child.
The letter goes on to state:
It will be paid at the rate of SIS a week or the amount of expenditure associated with the child’s disability, whichever is the lesser.
The proposed means test of $1 10.60 per week, which is the level of the minimum weekly wage, plus the allowance of $6 for each child would naturally have the effect of excluding a very large number of families who at present receive the benefit.
I concede that there might be confusion but I have quoted a paragraph from a letter which the Minister signed and sent on 21 September 1977. To my knowledge, there has been no indication in the Budget that the handicapped children’s allowance is to be subject to means test. I know that if a means test were imposed many families who now incur very considerable expenditure in terms of providing facilities in the household, transportation, obtaining extra medical care and the like, would be unable to afford to continue to do so. In view of the nature of the complaint that has come to me, I put the proposition in the most reasonable terms possible. I sincerely hope I might have a very quick response to this matter from the Minister in order to avoid anxiety among these parents who intend at great sacrifice to come to Canberra to wait on the Minister in order to put their personal case of concern.
-I refer to the Cunningham by-election for the seat made vacant when the Honourable Rex Connor died recently. Mr Connor served the people of Cunningham well. We were on opposite political sides, and we disagreed very strongly on many issues. But he was a man who, I think, would have been appalled by the remarks made publicly by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) on the television program This Day Tonight and in the Wollongong area in which he accused the former Attorney-General of being a factor in Mr Connor’s death. The Leader of the Opposition stated:
Mr and Mrs Connor died earlier than they would have because of this persecution.
He was referring to the Sankey prosecution. Relating specifically to the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), the Leader of the Opposition said:
He tried to get some victims and he did of course.
He was referring to Mr Connor. As I can hear my colleagues say, that is a shocking and shameful thing to say. But for it to be repeated in a byelection situation is, I think, a sign of utter dismal desperation by the Leader of the Opposition. I know that the response in Wollongong has been one of shock and dismay that such tactics would be used. I took part in a radio talk-back program recently in Wollongong. The telephone calls that came in on this matter were consistently critical of the behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition in this way. I would like to stress that if anyone did anything to break Mr Connor’s heart and spirit it was the Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Werriwa, to use the good old political expression, stabbed his colleague in the back. He sacked Mr Connor in what must have been the most bitter disappointment in Mr Connor’s life. I am not raising the question of whether Mr Connor was a good Minister for Minerals and Energy. The question I am raising is that for the Leader of the Opposition in such a cavalier manner to dismiss and reject his long-standing colleague in such a way and then to endeavour to drag the name of that man who has died into a by-election campaign in a situation in which he was endeavouring to attack the honourable member for Wentworth shows not only a lack of respect but also a level of political activity which I submit is far below the standards we should expect in this House. I suggest that if any single action by anyone in this place contributed to the death of the honourable member for Cunningham, it was the brutal sacking he suffered at the hands of his leader.
I hope that on reflection the Leader of the Opposition will withdraw the disgraceful and uncalled for comments that he has made publicly about the honourable member for Wentworth. I hope that if he is to continue to participate in the Cunningham by-election- for the sake of our candidate I hope that he does continue- the level of political discussion is lifted. I congratulate the Liberal candidate on the style and manner of his campaign so far. His campaign has not descended to that sort of level. In fact, when the Prime Minister spoke on a radio talk-back program in Wollongong, a caller raised this matter. Naturally enough, the Prime Minister refused to discuss such a vile accusation as that made by the Leader of the Opposition against the honourable member for Wentworth. I hope that we have a good successor to Mr Connor in this House, Mr Griffin- Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to speak tonight about a former member of this Parliament, a person held in the greatest respect in this Parliament. Very few people knew him well when he came into the Parliament. He had a tremendous industrial background. He is a former executive member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. In a very short time he became a Minister in the Whitlam Government as a result of what might be called a by-election for a Cabinet position. He is a person of whom everyone in the area in which he lives speaks with respect. He is a person of whom even those who would normally vote for the Liberal Party speak with respect.
– Who is he?
– Do not get uptight, I will tell the House in a minute. Unlike Rex Connor he did not have to wait until he died for supporters of the Liberal Party to speak well of him.
– Whom are you talking about?
– I am speaking about Joe Riordan, the former honourable member for Phillip and the next honourable member for Phillip. Without doubt Joe Riordan is a man held m the highest personal repute, a person who when he left Parliament was unable to go back to his former position. So with his great personal capacity and ability he built up an industrial consultant’s practice and today people from all walks of life consult him and ask him to represent them- the industrial movement, industry, the lot.
– He has got another 20 years at it.
– He will have another 20 years in Parliament. He will be returned at the next election as the honourable member for Phillip and I believe he will stay here for another 20 years. More than that, I am sure that the former honourable member for Phillip -
– I rise to order. Is it in order for honourable members to be paid money to come in here and make speeches on behalf of candidates?
– That is not a point of order and the honourable member for Griffith knows it.
– The honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) is a very young and immature man. He would not realise it but I have known Joe Riordan since he was 2 1 years of age and therefore have some knowledge of his abilities. He is a lot younger than the present honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney). He has a great deal more capacity than the present honourable member for Phillip who, like the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) who spoke a little while ago, is a oncer. Some say that the honourable member for Macarthur is a twicer but I do not think he will get that opportunity. Joe Riordan will return to this Parliament. He is greatly respected throughout the electorate of Phillip and those who voted against him at the last election are now sorry they did and have great sympathy for him.
They realise that he was simply a victim of the circumstances prevailing at the time and that he should never have been defeated. They realise that a man with his great ability-without doubt one of the finest Cabinet Ministers that the Australian Labor Party fielded- should never have been defeated. There is a determination today in Phillip that under any circumstances he must be returned to Parliament. Everywhere there is this atmosphere. I know that some people are a little uptight and are getting edgy because they realise that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made a decision to have an election shortly and Joe Riordan will be returned.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In reply to the remarks of the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) who has just spoken, it is true as I said at the 1975 election that Joe Riordan is a very fine fellow. I have known him for many years. His greatest drawback was that he belonged to the worst political party we have had since Federation. I draw the attention of the House tonight to the heroic stand being made by Noel Latham at Broken Hill against those who 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 rights that thousands of Australians went away, fought for and were either killed or maimed in supporting. As further evidence of the jackboot dictatorship that would smash our democratic freedom I quote to the House the contents of a document distributed in Broken Hill by militant union officials. It is entitled ‘A Memorial to Latham, the Scab’. It reads:
After God had made the rattlesnake, the toad and the vampire he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.
A Scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water-sogged brain-
Like the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage)- and a combination backbone made of jelly and glue. Where other people have their hearts he carries a tumour of rotten principle.
When a Scab comes down the street honest men turn their backs, the angels weep tears in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out
No man has a right to scab as long as there is a pool of water deep enough to drown his body or a rope long enough to hang his carcase with.
Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with a Scab for after betraying his master he had enough character to hang himself and a Scab has not.
There is no word in the English language that carries so much hatred, scorn, loathing and contempt as the term Scab.
– You are making a very good speech.
– Your colleagues put it out and you concur with it The quotation continues:
Once branded and a man is marked for life. There is no escape. It is infinitely worse than the brand that was placed upon Cain. It stays with a man everywhere, it shadows his every footstep.
It never dies and no wonder, for it is a synonym of all that is mean, contemptible, unmanly. It designates the loss of dignity, honour, principle and manhood.
It signified that it is impossible for its owner to descend lower depths.
He has tried to undermine men who are battling for the bread and butter of their wives and little ones. He is thought to defeat his fellows and rivet the chains of oppression around them. Judas Iscariot would never have sunk so low.
If this happened in Nazi Germany it would come as no surprise. But that it is happening in Australia in this day and age should sound a warning loud and clear to all Australians of what might happen to the people of this great nation unless here and now they join him in a display of intestinal fortitude, colloquilly referred to as ‘guts’, to repel those who would tear down democracy and all that it stands for.
– The honourable member is the hireling -
– Order! The honourable member for Hindmarsh knows first of all that that was not a point of order. Secondly, he knows that if he wants to take action against a member he should move a substantive motion. The honourable member for Hindmarsh cannot make a comment in general terms about a member of this House being influenced in any way by outside sources without making a substantive charge.
– I will do that. I will consider it tomorrow.
– The honourable member for Hindmarsh should know the rules of this House.
– I will consider tomorrow bringing in a substantive motion.
- Mr Acting Speaker-
– I raise a point of order.
– You are trying to stop the honourable member for Darling from speaking.
– Order! The honourable member for Chifley will remain silent.
- Mr Acting Speaker, you heard what the honourable member for Hindmarsh said. I want to make a personal explanation.
-Order! The honourable member for Phillip has no grounds for making a personal explanation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh made a veiled statement, not an accusation against a member of the House, and therefore to that degree he did not break the Standing Order.
- Mr Acting Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that it is past 1 1 p.m. and we should not be here.
– I can quite appreciate that, but there are certain standards of decency which I hope the House will exercise. It being after 1 1 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Productivity, upon notice, on 28 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
In the light of President Carter’s decision that the United States of America will halt commercial reprocessing of nuclear fuels, can he advise which countries (a) currently operate reprocessing plants, (b) have announced plans to install these plants and (c) are negotiating to purchase plants.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that:
commercial reprocessing plants are currently only in operation in the United Kingdom and France. It is believed that a reprocessing plant is m operation in the USSR. Pilot and laboratory-scale plants are in operation with irradiated fuel in the Federal Republic of Germany, India, Italy, Spain and Yugoslavia. A pilot plant has been tested in Japan, but has not yet been operated with irradiated fuel pending implementation of the agreement now reached with the USA.
plans to install new reprocessing plants, or to reactivate plants not currently in operation have been announced or are under consideration by Argentina (laboratory-scale), Belgium, Brazil, the Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden, Taiwan (laboratory-scale), Japan, France and the United Kingdom; the last is subject to a national inquiry; and
negotiations are believed to be proceeding for Pakistan to purchase the technology for a reprocessing plant from France.
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
Will he inform the House of any specific proposals the Government has to stimulate the interest of small investors in the Australian securities market, and, in particular, will it be suggesting any changes to existing companies and securities legislation for the purpose of encouraging the smaller investor to participate in the stock market.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
This Government regards investor confidence in the Australian capital markets as very important for continued economic growth. As the honourable member should be aware, our concern for adequate protection of investors is a major factor behind our efforts in seeking agreement with the States on a co-operative scheme for uniform law and administration in the fields of company law and the regulation of the securities industry.
The other major factor is, of course, the significant benefit to the business community which will result from a truly uniform system of corporate law and administration.
For further details of the scheme, I commend to the honourable member the statement made by my predecessor in this House on 17 March 1977.
The Commonwealth Government is continuing its discussions with the States on details of the scheme, including the content of the companies and securities legislation. It would be inappropriate to disclose particulars of those discussions at this stage.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 6 August 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
Mr Hunt The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I also stated in my telegram that the coincidence of the laying of charges was not the Department’s doing. Rather, from what has been outlined above the laying of charges was caused by Mr Toomer’s actions at that time. (3)Yes.See(l)and(2).
am asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 August 1 977:
Has the form of consultative arrangements on pre-school funding been finalised between the Federal and any State governments (Hansard, 2 June 1977, page 2602); if so, which State Governments and on what dates.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
From 1 January 1977 recurrent assistance to pre-schools has been paid in the form of block grants to the States. Since the introduction of the block grant system it has not been necessary to establish separate consultative mechanisms for each State on this issue.
Instead, regular meetings are now held at ministerial level and between senior officers of relevant State and Commonwealth departments to discuss all aspects of the Children’s Service Program including Pre-School Services.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 18 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Major Trading Banks Documentary Letters of Credit Established for Imports January 1970-December 1975
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 25 August 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– 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 Capital Territory: Libraries (Question No. 1369)
asked the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The purpose of the Departmental Library is to provide officers of the Department with textbooks, journals and reference services which cover all aspects of the Department ‘s administration.
No major changes have occurred within the last three years or are contemplated.
A review of library staffing and usage is currently being undertaken.
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 September 1977:
– The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
The Government has made a decision to work with both State governments and voluntary organisations in the celebrations of this Year of the Child.
An announcement will be made on the co-operative arrangements with the States following negotiations between the Prime Minister and the Premiers. I have also announced that I will make funds available for a secretariat to assist and co-ordinate the effort of voluntary organisations throughout Australia.
am asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 September 1 977:
Will he bring up to date the information on interest payments and rates which he gave in answer to Question No. 1303 (Hansard, 1 December 1976, page 3086).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The updated and revised information for estimated gross interest paid and received by Australian citizens and companies since July 1 972 is given below:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 13 September 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 13 September 1977:
How many officers in each classification were employed at the Head Office of his Department in each of the years from 1969 to 1977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The numbers and classifications of officers employed at the Central Office of the Department of Construction for the years 1 969 to 1 977 are set out in the following table.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 14 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Service Personnel in Great Britain (Question No. 1507)
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 15 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
1 ) (a) There are no Australian Service personnel based in Northern Ireland.
Australian Service personnel are sent to Great Britain for training or to gain experience in specific tasks. Generally they are sent under three separate categories:
The above arrangements would not release British Servicemen for duty in Northern Ireland.
The essential purpose of such deployments is to provide training and experience for Australian personnel in countries with which we have close and long standing arrangements. Opportunities to achieve such training are judged against the practical benefits which they confer upon the Australian Defence Force.
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 20 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I do not regard this situation as an anomaly.
am asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 20 September 1977:
When will he table the report on the Resources and Potential of the Burdekin River Basin which was made in June 1977 by the Burdekin Project Committee established by the Whitlam and Bjelke-Petersen governments in September 1973.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The report was tabled in the House on 5 October 1 977.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 21 September 1977:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
While I am not aware to which specific allegations the honourable member may be referring, I am of course aware that there have been discussions at an international level on the question of the free flow of information between and within countries, as well as on the specific issue of bias in school textbooks. This was recently the case at the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Final Act of which was signed by 35 European and North American states in Helsinki in 1 975.
The honourable member may be aware that the Final Act of Helsinki contains a section dealing with promotion of the exchange between signatory states of teaching materials, including school textbooks. The objectives of these exchanges would be to promote mutual knowledge and to facilitate the presentation of each country in such books, as well as to promote the exchange of information on technical innovations in the field of education. The subject of educational materials is likely to be discussed at the forthcoming CSCE Review Conference in Belgrade. My understanding is that various signatory states, including the Soviet Union, have indicated interest in discussing this subject in order to correct what they regard as distorted views, held in other countries, of their own countries ‘ socio-political systems.
While Australia did not attend the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe the Government does support the process of which that Conference is a pan. We will watch with interest the outcome of discussions at the Review Conference in the specific area of interest to the honourable member. In these circumstances at this stage I would not support the specific initiative suggested by the honourable member on a subject already under active consideration in an appropriate forum, the CSCE, where a large number of countries with social systems and outlooks similar to our own are represented.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771011_reps_30_hor107/>.