30th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Lucock) took the chair at 2. 15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from Federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly, Mr Dobie and Mr Antony Whitlam.
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 Dobie and Mr Macphee. Petitions received.
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 Scandinavian 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. by Mr Jull. Petition received.
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,
Petition received. by Mr MacKellar. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Cabinet’s decision to reject the Council of the Australian National Gallery’s proposal to purchase the Georges Braque painting. Grand Nu, ignores the knowledge and experience of the Council’s members.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Council of the Australian National Gallery be granted the right to purchase major works of art within the Gallery’s budget without Cabinet intervention and that Cabinet revoke its decision to reject the Council’s recommendation to purchase the Grand Nu.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Morris. Petition received.
-I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
Having in mind the stated desire for cheaper air fares to operate to and from Australia and the review of Australia’s international civil aviation policy, and that this can only be accomplished with airports able to facilitate the economic and adequate running of international carriers, this House asserts that Brisbane’s so-called international airport be upgraded in terms of its runway facilities so that it does not remain the most inadequate and worst of any capital city on the Australian mainland and possibly the worst runway of any international airport in a tropical or semi-tropical climate in the world.
-I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House:
Condemns as crimes of the most heinous kind acts of terrorism and hijacking of civil aircraft;
Calls upon the governments of all nations to support efforts in the United Nations to draw up an effective convention to protect the lives of innocent third parties and to ensure that hijackers have no haven and urges governments to introduce domestic laws providing for life imprisonment and, if appropriate in cases where an act of murder has occurred, the capital punishment of all persons responsible for the aforementioned crimes; and
Commends the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Israel for their principled and necessary actions in rescuing innocent passengers and crew in recent aircraft hijacking and urges all governments to give full support to efforts to protect the lives of hostages and to bring hijackers to justice.
– Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware that the Honourable Franco Foschi, on behalf of the Italian Government, requested the Australian Charge d ‘Affaires in Rome, or another senior officer, to call on him in order to discuss the deportation of Ignazio Salemi? Was a request made that in the interest of Italian-Australian friendship the deportation order be withdrawn and the case reexamined in the light of the fact that the action taken is regarded as offensive to the Italian community in Australia and having regard to the value of Mr Salemi ‘s work in the Italian community on behalf of the Federation of Italian Labourers, Emigrants and Families?
– I did receive a letter from Dr Foschi. It was delivered to me by the Italian representatives in Australia. It was of a personal nature and I do not propose to make the contents of the letter public. I have received representations from a number of sources which have drawn attention to the circumstances surrounding the decision by the Government to deport Mr Salemi. I have explained in each case the reasons for that decision. The reasons are still valid. The deportation order stands.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Construction. Has he seen recent reports in the Tasmanian Press that the State Government and the Federal Government are withholding work from the building and construction industry? This has, of course, created untold uncertainty and unnecessary concern. Does the Minister recall my representation, as well as those of my colleagues, for increased Commonwealth activity in Tasmania to assist in alleviating unemployment, particularly among young people? In view of the statements in the Press and others on television, where does the truth lie?
– I certainly acknowledge the work of the honourable member for Franklin, and the other members from Tasmania in this House on behalf of their constituents. I saw the matter to which the honourable member has referred I think the weekend before last. One of the leading contractors in Tasmania made certain statements attacking the Federal and State governments and accusing both of them of withholding work from Tasmania. The contractor subsequently retracted his statement in respect of the State Government as a result of a Press conference called by the Minister for Housing and Construction in Tasmania. The Minister then took up the same sort of argument. I happen to have a copy of a Press report of last week where the Minister in Tasmania- an angered Minister according to the Press report- stated: . . . the Federal cutback in funds for projects this year means that in real terms we will have the leanest year for a decade.
That simply not true. Regrettably that statement, I believe, was repeated today by the Premierelect of Tasmania, Mr Lowe. The true position is that Commonwealth commencements this year in Tasmania- I make the point that Commonwealth work in Tasmania is not the overwhelming majority of public works- will amount to more than $8m. Last year Commonwealth work amounted to $2.1m or $2.2m. So there has been a very substantial increase in Commonwealth work alone. Those figures do not include the work done on the Reserve Bank or the Antarctic Division project, which will be going forward, I think, fairly soon. The Minister made no reference to the additional amount of untied grants which will be going to Tasmania. They have been increased by 1 5 per cent from last year to$250m.
– I wish they would tell the truth.
-The State Government in Tasmania can spend that money wherever it likes. I hope it will spend some in the building and construction industry. Right around Australia all State Governments have received increased untied grants totalling more than $4,000m. We should look to the States to increase this activity. Finally, the State Minister talked about this year being a lean year. One should look at the approval rates for building and construction for this year, because commencements and work follow approvals. In Tasmania the total number of building approvals is up by 2 1 per cent; dwellings are up by 4 per cent; more importantly, nonresidential buildings are up by 57 per cent when compared with the figure for last year. So it is absurd, stupid and untrue for any Tasmanian Minister to make those sorts of statements.
– I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer him to the proposed uranium mining venture at Ranger. Can he indicate whether, under section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953, he has, by writing under his own hand, given the authority for carrying on, on behalf of the Commonwealth, all operations in relation to the Ranger venture? I further ask: If no authority has been given, on what legal basis can he justify the present activities of the Ranger joint venturers?
-At the moment a series of consultations is taking place between the Ranger joint venturers, the Northern Land Council which is looking after Aboriginal interests, the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development and the special advisory scientist regarding the standards of any mine that might be developed in the area. Until these arrangements have been satisfactorily concluded no approval will be given for commencement of the project. It is of interest that the honourable member should be so concerned about the development of this project, because it is absolutely vital if we are to meet our contractual commitments that this mine commence and that it be in production in the early 1 980s. To meet those commitments is in line with undertakings that the Leader of the Opposition gave in Mary Kathleen recently that the Australian Labor Party was fully committed to honouring contracts which had been undertaken prior to 1972. Those commitments can be honoured only by a continuation of the Mary Kathleen mine, plus additional mines in the Northern Territory of which Ranger will definitely have to be one.
– Does the Minister for Post and Telecommunications share the concern of millions of Australians at the continuing level of industrial disputation within Australia Post and Telecom? What action is being taken to ensure that postal and telecommunication services to all Australians are restored and maintained?
– The Government is concerned, as both the Australian Postal Commission and the Australian Telecommunications Commission are concerned- particularly the Postal Commission- at the disruption to mail and telephone services throughout Australia. The problem with the Postal Commission centres largely upon the Redfern Exchange which, as everybody in this House will be well aware, has been a source of irritation and difficulty for many years. The problem has spread to Newcastle because Newcastle is the first centre in the decentralisation program upon which the Commission has embarked. The decentralisation program will extend not only right throughout New South Wales but within Sydney. We are not going to have a continuation of the sorts of problems that we have had at Redfern. The disruption is designed to ensure that an essential service, the delivery of the mail, is not carried out effectively. Last week the Australian Postal Commission was granted stand-down orders for two classes of people- sorters who refuse to sort mail and others who cannot be gainfully employed. Today in Newcastle employees of the Postal Commission are being stood down. The Government and the Commission are quite determined that this sort of disruption is not going to continue.
As for the Australian Telecommunications Commission, the problem there is that because of technology we will be able to provide a better service to Australians at a lower cost. Some employees of Telecom are being disruptive because they are not prepared to accept all the advantages that come from the use of technology. Today the Telecommunications Commission is applying for stand-down orders against those employees who will not discharge their proper responsibilities. In the case of the Postal Commission, in which there has been a continuing, unacceptable story, and, regrettably, now in the case of the Telecommunications Commission, the Government, in co-operation and coordination with the respective commissions, is determined to see that these practices are not going to be successful.
-Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether his Government has exciting new legislation that will reduce or eliminate industrial disputes? If it has, will he explain how the Government suddenly discovered a formula that has eluded successive parliaments in Australia for more than 100 years? Will he explain whether these new revolutionary ideas require the endorsement of the Australian people?
– I think that the term used by the honourable gentleman- legislation which will virtually prevent industrial disputes occurring- certainly is shooting for the ideal.
– I said ‘reduce or eliminate ‘.
-The legislative proposals that have been introduced over a period and those which are foreshadowed are establishing a better total framework. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has sought, most scrupulously, to consult with the trade union movement and with employer organisations. After about 1 8 months of the term of office of this Government the trade union movement accepted the National Labour Consultative Council. It could have, and should have, accepted it on day one as a proper means of communication and consultation on a regular basis. I believe that that means of communication and consultation is working very well indeed. The Minister and the Government as a whole have shown a real degree of patience in relation to industrial relations matters because they are, above all else, a problem of human relationships. It is necessary for each side to understand the point of view of the other. The Government was enormously disappointed with the Australian Council of Trade Unions when it stood out of that tripartite consultative mechanism for 18 months.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations will be introducing into the Parliament- I hope it will be ready this weekthe culmination of efforts that have gone on over a considerable period. This legislation will cover matters that have been discussed again in the NLCC and have been examined by the Minister and the Government over a long period. I believe that the changes foreshadowed will materially improve the legislative framework. I believe that the Government’s record in this regard is a very good one.
Since the honourable member asked me a question on industrial relations may I say that in Australia at the moment, in Victoria, we are facing what may be the most serious industrial dispute in the memory of honourable members now present in this chamber. It is an enormously serious circumstance. A dispute has gone on for several weeks. That dispute concerns people who virtually are outside the control of the officials of their own unions. It is well known that this dispute is run by the shop stewards and is not fully supported by the Victorian branches or the federal branches of the unions. The matter was always capable of going to arbitration. But, as we know, from the outset the dispute was an attempt to by-pass the proper processes of arbitration. The dispute ended for a short time last week. Following a Full Bench hearing, a judgment was given this morning. As a result of that judgment, the dispute is once again in place. There will obviously be enormously important consequences for Victoria and for the Commonwealth if the dispute continues.
I would hope that this is a time when leaders of the trade unions directly involved and the Australian Council of Trade Unions would use their own best judgment to protect the arbitration procedures of this country; to protect the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission which does stand as the third and impartial umpire in relation to these matters and which is capable of making a judgment between employers and employees in a way that is fair and protects justice and the national interest- the public interest.
If we are to establish the circumstances in this country in which a few people can hold that Commission and the Australian public to ransom we will have entered into a very serious situation indeed.
– I rise to take a point of order. This is a very interesting discourse from the Prime
Minister but it has no relation to the question that I asked. This sort of practice goes on day after day. The Prime Minister ignores the substance of questions. This is a very vital question for the people of Australia. He has totally ignored the question in the answer that he is giving.
-Order! The honourable member will resume his seat. It has been the practice that Ministers can answer questons in the manner in which they desire. Despite that practice and any other factors relating to the answer, I feel that the answer being given by the Prime Minister is one that is important not only to the Parliament but also to the nation. For that reason, the Prime Minister is answering the question.
– I had answered the honourable gentleman’s question and indicated that the legislation my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has foreshadowed will improve the legislative framework in Australia. But I had gone on to refer to a matter which I would have thought was of consequence to all honourable gentlemen in this House. In a quiet way I wanted to say something about one of the most important disputes that have ever occurred in the industrial history of this country and one that has already had enormous consequences for tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of Australians. It has resulted in the loss of enormous sums of wages not paid and in production lost. I am saying that because of the potential seriousness of the strike, because of the potential damage over the coming days or even over longer periods, it is time that those in charge of the trade union movement and those also responsible for the operations of government need to do everything that they possibly can to see that there is a proper resolution of this matter.
The Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission delivered a judgment this morning. As a result of that judgment, an immediate decision was taken to renew a damaging and devastating strike. I hope that the Trades Hall Council in Victoria and the Australian Council of Trade Unions will exert the great influence that they undoubtedly can have for the proper order and good government of the State of Victoria and the Commonwealth. Honourable members can be quite sure of one thing: The Victorian Government’s position has been clear for a long while and my own Government’s position is one of standing completely and utterly with the Victorian Government in getting to a proper and sensible resolution of these matters.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware that an Australian citizen, Mary Ellen Eather, has been imprisoned in India for approximately 18 months? Is the Minister further aware that Miss Eather has been charged with attempted suicide and has appeared in court on numerous occasions? Further, has Miss Eather been charged with any other offences? If not, when is she likely to be released from prison? Have Australian officials in New Delhi been assisting her to the best of their ability?
– Having had discussions on more than one occasion with the honourable member, I am aware of the background to this matter. It is true that Miss Eather, an Australian citizen, was arrested in India in July 1976 with a group of people in connection with the alleged robbery and murder of several people in Thailand and Nepal. Miss Eather has now turned a police witness, and because of this it is possible that she will not have to face charges. As long as she is a police witness and no charges are made against her, legal representation for her is not required. She has been advised by the Indian authorities that she will be able to obtain legal representation in the event that charges are made. As a police witness, she has been detained throughout the trial to give evidence and also for her own protection. As I recall, Miss Eather has appeared in court on a number of occasions since 4 July this year, when the trial commenced, and the court proceedings are still in progress. It is not known when the case will be concluded, as it has been complicated by the need to bring witnesses from abroad.
In connection with the second question asked by the honourable member, Miss Eather appeared in court on 6 October on a separate charge of attempted suicide in May this year. After a brief hearing the case was postponed until today, 18 October, when Miss Eather will be required to appear in court in India for the purpose of remand. I understand that a further hearing is scheduled for 4 November. So far as the latter part of the question is concerned, officers of the High Commission attend most court hearings and visit Miss Eather in prison as often as possible. Her next of kin in Australia have been kept informed on her welfare. During the last visit, which was on 14 October, it was learned that Miss Eather was to be transferred back to the general prison ward that day from the isolated ward where she was being detained for her own safety. As I understand it, the transfer was in accordance with her own wishes. I will keep in touch with the honourable member, knowing his deep interest in the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Capital Territory. He will be aware that the three-year term of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly expired recently and that members of the old Assembly consider that they no longer have a mandate to speak on behalf of the people of Canberra, their election having been for three years and that term having expired. Why has the Minister not ordered another election? Is he concerned that an election for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly would produce a result unpalatable to the Government?
-An election for the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly will be held by the end of 1978. The previous Labor Party Minister for the Capital Territory was responsible for extending the life of the Legislative Assembly by a year in his time- the same sort of thing I have done. On this occasion there is a very good reason for taking this action. That reason is that the Government has put forward proposals for the consideration of the Assembly which relate to the granting of delegated authority to it. These proposals are very important and very intricate, and they will involve a great deal of discussion between the Government and members of the Legislative Assembly. It is widely believed by members of the Assembly that this is a proper course of action. As for a precise election date, it is not the practice of those responsible for making these decisions to announce dates before the time. So I simply say that there certainly will be an election before the end of 1 978.
-Is the Minister for National Resources aware that Australia, despite its long coastline and notwithstanding the recent launching of the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Cook, which has some oceanographic research capacity, still does not have a properly equipped seismological survey ship and that Australian scientists virtually have to hitch rides on ships of other countries to undertake research. In the light of this inadequacy, is the Government concerned about Australia’s ability to build up its knowledge of the resources of the sea, particularly with the proposed extension of the coastal economic zone to 200 miles? Will the Government allocate the relatively small funds required to purchase a seismological survey ship?
– I think all honourable members would like to see more oceanographic work being undertaken around Australia so that we shall have a better understanding of the resources available. I am afraid that instead of a relatively small amount of money it can require a substantial amount of money to purchase the sort of vessel that we require. Whilst I am very keen that Australia should have such equipment, I am afraid that with the constraints applying to government expenditure at the moment it is not possible to do so. Government policy in earlier years had been to charter vessels to do this seismographic and oceanographic work. That was found to be rather expensive and Australia entered into joint arrangements with other international institutions whereby we could share the facilities. I think it is rather derogatory to suggest that we are just hitching rides with other institutions. What we are really doing is co-operating with other institutions and making the most of facilities available to provide that information. The Government certainly will be taking a continuing interest in this area and I hope the day will arrive when we can have the sort of vessel the honourable member has mentioned.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. I should mention that during his absence I asked the Acting Treasurer, as I have several times asked the Treasurer himself since March last year, about proclaiming Part IV of the Financial Corporations Act in order that nationwide regulations can be made specifying the asset ratios, lending policies and interest rates of permanent building societies. The Acting Treasurer told me, as the Treasurer himself always has, that the Government has decided not to proclaim it. I now ask whether in the supervening circumstances the Government has reconsidered the matter since permanent building societies in Queensland, while undoubtedly able to fulfil their obligations to their depositors, have since had to suspend further loans to home builders.
– The honourable gentleman is aware of the very effective action which was taken by the Federal Government, in consultation with the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the Queensland Government, on, I think, Thursday to stop the difficulties which were emerging at that time. So that it is a matter of parliamentary record, I ask the honourable gentleman whether he would have any objection to my tabling in the House the statement that was issued on Friday. What the honourable gentleman has outlined is the position of all building societies.
Beyond that the honourable gentleman is correct in saying that he has questioned me on several occasions about the proclamation of Part IV of the Financial Corporations Act. I have seen some comment recently as to what may be in the Government’s mind in relation to that Act. I want to put on record that that comment, which was, I think, reported in the Melbourne Age a day or so ago was, in fact, not well founded. I remind the honourable gentleman that basically what I have said in the House in response to his earlier questions is that the Act itself was designed for purposes of general economic management and not the financial stability of particular institutions. If the honourable gentleman reads the second reading speech which was brought down at the time by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports he will find that the intent of the legislation is perfectly clear. He ought to recall it because after all it was the honourable gentleman’s Government that brought that particular Act into being.
Under Part IV of the Act, which has not been proclaimed and is not now being proclaimed, the Government can, as I understand it, impose controls in relation to asset ratios, lending policies and interest rates receivable or payable by financial corporations, including building societies. The problem to which the honourable gentleman draws attention is that these controls, as presently couched in Pan IV, would not, I am informed, enable the Government to control the balance sheet structures of individual societies or, in fact, to ensure their financial stability. The Government therefore must be wary of using powers which are available to it under the Act for a purpose for which, according to the honourable member for Melbourne Ports as the then Treasurer, they are not designed and which are to that extent inadequate and inappropriate.
That is the response which I have given previously. Perhaps the response I have given today to the honourable gentleman is in a little more detail. I shall take the question on board, as I have done previously. The honourable gentleman can be well assured by me that, as a matter of absolute responsibility, the issue which he has drawn to my attention is very much under consideration. I assure him that this general matter is very much under consideration.
– I wish to inquire of the Treasurer whether, when he was speaking of tabling the paper, he wanted to table it or to incorporate it in Hansard.
– I wish to incorporate it in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
STATEMENT BY THE TREASURER, THE RT HON. PHILLIP LYNCH, M.P.
QUEENSLAND BUILDING SOCIETIES
The Treasurer, Mr Phillip Lynch, said today there was absolutely no basis Tor uncertainty among depositors in operating building societies.
Mr Lynch drew attention to the announcement today by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, which had been made after close consultation with the- Government, that a very substantial line of credit had been made available by the Commonwealth Trading Bank to back up the liquidity of the Metropolitan Permanent Building Society.
The Treasurer stressed that the ‘run’ which had occurred earlier was completely unjustified given the responsible management and strong asset and liquidity backing of building societies generally.
He reiterated that in these circumstances there is a continuing arrangement whereby banks stand behind building societies and other financial institutions.
The Reserve Bank, in turn, as always stands behind banks in regard to their liquidity needs.
However, the action by the Reserve Bank would dispel uncertainty among depositors. It represents clear evidence of the importance the Government attached to the building society movement as a major source of housing finance in Australia. 13 October 1977 Canberra, A.C.T.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Transport. By way of preface I point out that both students and pensioners are given concessional fares on most forms of transport, except air travel. I ask the Minister Is it not true these days that air travel is frequently the most suitable for long distance travel by elderly people? Is there any reason why pensioners should not receive concessions on air travel equivalent to those given to students? Will the Minister approach the airlines to see whether something can be done about this problem?
– The most common practice adopted in relation to a group of people seeking concessional air fares is, of course, for them to apply to be recognised as an affinity group. Students are recognised in that way. The Australian Union of Students is recognised as an affinity group and its members can obtain cheaper international air fares as a result. It is true that the domestic airlines in Australia give students the benefit of a discounted air fare. I think that is something that is welcomed by many parents throughout Australia whose children are being educated in a part of the country away from where they live. The granting of individual concessions involves a commercial decision which the airlines have to take. I think it important therefore that if a pensioner group were seeking from the domestic airlines that sort of discount, as distinct from the affinity group arrangement that can be obtained, it might be in the interests of such a pensioner group to approach the airlines and to put its case to them.
As I have said, it is a matter for commercial decision. The Government does not subsidise the major domestic airlines. I do not know that we would want to get into the business of subsidising the major airlines. A distinction can be drawn between the operations of the major airlines and the operations of perhaps the public transport services within a State, because it is true to say that, I think without exception, within every State the railway services, the bus services and the like are subsidised heavily by that State. Therefore a social input can be made by the State governments. It is a complex question and one which cannot be easily answered. I do not see the Commonwealth as being able to provide funds for this purpose. I recommend to the honourable member that he suggests to his pensioner groups that they take up the matter with the airlines.
– Has the Prime Minister received the final report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships? If so, when will it be tabled? If not, when does he expect to receive it?
– I shall see what information I can get for the honourable gentleman and let him know as soon as possible.
-I direct my question to the Treasurer. I refer him to the revolutionary changes to Australia’s system of income tax announced in the Budget to apply from 1 February 1978. As these historic changes provide very substantial benefits to taxpayers at all income levels, I ask: Why was 1 February 1 978 chosen as the date of implementation? Will the Treasurer give consideration to bringing this date forward so that taxpayers may receive early Christmas presents from the Government?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for raising the question of Australia’s taxation reforms. The first answer that I provide to him is that the date of application, 1 February, 1978, was chosen by the Government in the Cabinet Budget context against the whole framework of the Budget itself and the need for a measure of restraint which has clearly been reflected in the decisions taken then. Therefore, the decision was taken by the Government on budgetary grounds. The Government would have wished, as I think the Prime Minister and I have made clear on a number of earlier occasions, to have brought forward these reforms for application at an earlier date. To do so now would add significantly to the Budget deficit.
I am informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that if the starting point were 1 December the additional cost would be in excess of $200m. Some quite significant administrative problems are involved in bringing forward the application of the new taxation reforms. I should point out that bringing forward the date of introduction would be difficult, on administrative bases alone. It was a budgetary decision taken in the context of the need for restraint and the need to keep the Budget deficit down. Notwithstanding the calls that have been made in one major Australian newspaper and by some industry groups, I regret that I cannot offer the honourable gentleman any hope that those reforms can be brought forward, because of their cost and because of the administrative problems which bringing the reforms forward would impose upon the Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister for National Resources. In view of the national importance of the vast energy reserves locked into the North West Shelf and adjacent areas, will the Minister table the heads of agreement and other relevant documents giving the North West Shelf consortium the right to export natural gas and condensate subject to the results of a feasibility study? Has the Government the right to alter any forms of agreement if it can be demonstrated that the markets for the gas can be better supplied through export from Sydney? Finally, will the Government agree to a select committee conducting a parallel study on marketing the gas through Sydney to determine whether Australian development needs can be better served by a trans-continental pipeline?
-When final agreement is reached between the Joint Venturers of the North West Shelf, the Commonwealth and the
State governments I will be only too happy to table such documents as are relevant to such agreement. The honourable gentleman canvassed the question of a trans-continental gas pipeline. This matter had been under discussion with the Joint Venturers, who discounted it as being an unsatisfactory way of handling the development of the project. They thought that it would delay the project and would add very significantly to costs. They were not interested in developing the project under those conditions. I think it is in the interests of Australia that this enormous project proceed as quickly as possible. What we know is that under the three years of the Labor regime there was no possible chance of these huge fields being developed because of Labor’s foreign investment policies and because of its general opposition to the export of natural gas from Australia.
– Not so.
– The honourable gentleman says: ‘Not so’. He is only partially correct. It was in the dying days of the Whitlam regime that honourable members opposite had to amend their policy decision in this direction because they realised that no development was taking place in Australia and that there was no way in which they would be able to get overseas and Australian interests concerned in the development of this huge field. I think we all should be pleased that we have been able to come to an agreement with the Joint Venturers, which are both Australian and overseas interests, to develop this field which at the moment is only marginally profitable. It is hoped, of course, that in the exploration of this area they will find additional fields of gas and that they will find oil. If they do either of these things to improve the profitability of the project it will be in the best interests of Australia as a whole.
– I address to the Minister for National Resources a question that is of extreme importance to this nation and to the future of its people. The Minister will be aware of concern as to whether existing uranium export contracts will be honoured. Can the Minister see any obstacles in the way of their being honoured?
– It is absolutely vital that the contracts entered into be honoured. A commitment has been given by the previous Government and by this Government that these contracts will be fulfilled. If, through any set of circumstances, they are not fulfilled, it will do immense harm to Australia’s reputation as a trading nation. Companies in West Germany,
Japan and North America have been waiting for a number of years to see whether these contracts will be honoured. We as a government intend to see that they are honoured.
It is very interesting to note, as I mentioned earlier in Question Time today, that when the Leader of the Opposition was on his whistle-stop tour through Queensland and visited Mary Kathleen he gave a firm commitment to the miners there that the Labor Party when in government would see those commitments honoured and that they need have no fear whatsoever that their mine would not continue to produce. If that is the point of view of the Leader of the Opposition, he will also have to give a commitment to see that Ranger and Narbalek are developed, as well as the Queensland mines, because it is only by the development of these mines that we will have any chance at all of meeting our contractual commitments.
If he does think that way- and I am quite sure he is supported by all the members of his party- he should tell the president of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Hawke, just what is the policy of the parliamentary Labor Party because Mr Hawke has issued an ultimatum to the Commonwealth Government that unless a referendum is held within 2 months there will be no exports of uranium from this country and there will be no mining of uranium in this country. In other words, all of those miners at Mary Kathleen in front of whom the Leader of the Opposition preened himself and said that the Labor Government was responsible for the development of the mine and that Labor would ensure that the mine would continue operating will not have a job. It is about time that the Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, made up its mind as to whether it is going to hold Australia’s name high as an international trading nation or is going to default on the undertakings it gave when in government.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to newspaper reports of further allegations regarding massive donations to the Liberal Party from oil companies, uranium mining companies and land agents. In view of these allegations, will the Prime Minister assure the House that prior to the holding of the election in December the necessary laws will be altered so that donations to all political parties -
- Mr Acting Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member for Port Adelaide is referring to donations to a political organisation. As the Prime Minister is not responsible for political parties, this question is out of order, in accord with all previous rulings on this subject.
– I suggest to the honourable member for Griffith that questions such as this have been asked previously and answered previously.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Has his attention been drawn to newspaper reports of further allegations regarding massive donations to the Liberal Party from oil companies, uranium mining companies and land agents? In view of these allegations, will the Prime Minister assure the House that, prior to the holding of the December election, laws will be altered so that all donations to political parties will be made public?
– I have seen one allegation in relation to a land agent which was made, as I understand it, by an agent for the Australian Labor Party. I have been advised by those who know that no such donation ever came to the Federal Liberal Party secretariat. I am unaware at this stage of any other allegations that have been made.
-The Minister for Transport will be aware of the preparation of a detailed and exciting report by Boeing Marine Systems on the feasibility of a daily passenger jetfoil service across Bass Strait by 1979 with the possibility of services being operated by the Australian National Line, P. and O. and IPEC. With the likelihood of a five hour crossing bringing an extra 60,000 people to Tasmania each year, will the Federal Government do everything in its power to support the establishment of such a service?
– I must say that the honourable member for Denison is an indefatigable fighter for his electorate.
– He is completely tireless- I thank the honourable member for Port Adelaide for his assistance- in his representations on behalf of the electorate of Denison and Tasmania. The Federal Government is taking an interest in the proposition of a jetfoil service from the mainland to Tasmania. It certainly would be an exciting proposition if it is possible and if it proves to be economic and viable. A number of companies have shown a great interest in the matter. My own Department is keeping abreast of it. The honourable member can rest assured that the Federal Government will continue to take a keen interest in this proposal and pursue it to its finality.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Honey Industry Act 1962 I present the annual report of the Australian Honey Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 19181 present a copy of the report with a map by the Distribution Commissioners for Queensland showing the boundaries of each proposed division together with copies of the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners.
Ordered that the report and map be printed.
– Pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 19181 present a copy of the report with a map by the Distribution Commissioners for South Australia showing the boundaries of each proposed division together with copies of the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners.
Ordered that the report and map be printed.
– Pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 19181 present a copy of the report with a map by the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia showing the boundaries of each proposed division together with copies of the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners. I anticipate that bulk supplies of the report will be available in time for the report to be distributed to members and senators tomorrow, Wednesday 19 October. In the meantime copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library for members perusal. However, I can say that the Distribution Commissioners have made no changes to their preliminary proposals which were made public on15 August 1977.
Ordered that the report and map be printed.
– Pursuant to section 39 of the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1956 I present the annual report of the Australian Shipping Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on rubber tyres and tyre cases.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1977.
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1977.
– I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Fraser Government’s threats to the independence of the Schools Commission.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
- Mr Acting Speaker, education has joined the long list of broken promises by the Fraser Government, but unlike the broken pledges about employment, Medibank, hospitals, wage indexation, growth centres, water projects, Aborigines, legal aid, migrant welfare, urban transport, which were given under the pressures of the last election campaign, education has suffered a double breach of undertaking. Certainly the Government has broken clear election commitments. That is par for the course. But in this case there has been a further breach- a breach of a solemn undertaking given by the responsible Minister to Parliament itself. In his ministerial statement on programs of the education commissions for the 1977-79 triennium, Senator Carrick stated on 4 November last:
For the second and third years of the triennium . . .
That is, 1978 and 1979- . . . the commissions were asked to proceed with plans based on minimum growth rates of two per cent per annum in real terms for universities, colleges of advanced education and schools.
On 3 June last, the senator said:
The guidelines for 1978 . . . will establish base levels of expenditure for 1978 at the same real level as for 1977 in the case of universities, colleges of advanced education . . . and schools.
Thus, instead of a promised two per cent real increase there was to be no increase at all, and if the Government continues to fail to curb inflation there will, in fact, be a further real reduction; and this is only part of the story. The guidelines imposed on the Schools Commission mean that there will be a reallocation of resources away from government schools towards a handful of top, private schools. The Commission’s report of 30 August, chapter 2, headed ‘Financial Implications of the Guidelines ‘, states:
Within the same total of $571 m (December 1976 prices) for next year, the guidelines involve additional grants to nongovernment schools in 1 978 of approximately$ 1 3.8m.
The Commission has been ordered to allocate $2m of this to levels 1 and 2 of the nongovernment schools- the very top private schools. Yet, the most serious aspect is not the cuts in funds. If these were being made simply as part of the general strategy of the Budget, inept and misguided as that is, they could be explained if not excused. What is happening goes far deeper; it is far more serious and indeed sinister.
Two things are happening: The independence of the Schools Commission is being undermined, and the personal prejudices of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), against the whole concept of the Schools Commission and its basic approach to Australian educational needs, are being imposed on Australian society. Under this Government, the general guidelines, which a responsible government should properly give to the Commission, are being transformed into explicit directions. These guidelines go far beyond the general financial framework within which the Commission had necessarily to operate and beyond proper requests to the Commission to inquire into and recommend upon particular programs where the Government itself perceives a need or an inadequacy. In June 1977, for the first time, the Government imposed upon the Commission specific directions. The Commission report for 1 978 states:
The guidelines which had financial effects were:
the total of $571 m for 1978 represented the same amount for 1978 in real terms as was estimated to be spent in 1977- that is, the 2 per cent real growth in funds previously announced for 1978 would not be available;
in the case of recurrent funds to non-Government schools the Government wishes the Commission to include in its recommendations provision for the additional cost of the announced policy of automatically linking grants to non-Government schools to per pupil expenditure in Government schools;
the Government also wishes the Commission to make recommendations as a first step towards the implementation of the Government’s policy of providing a basic per pupil grant to non-Government schools equal to 20 per cent of running costs per pupil in Government schools . . .;
the Government wishes the Commission to increase the capital program for non-government schools by $3m, specifically to assist building programs in newly expanding areas of population;
. . . the Government suggests that the Commission seeks to achieve savings of the order of $4m on the joint programs for Services and Development and for Special Projects;
The Report of the Commission then correctly asserts:
The Commission believes it can only interpret (the last four) guidelines as directions.
The Report goes on to say:
The Commission views very seriously the implications of such prescriptive guidelines. In its July 1976 Report (para 1.4) the Commission noted a distinction between reporting on needs without financial restrictions and the task of advising the Government on the pattern and priorities for expenditure within given levels of funding. Either of those circumstances would allow the Commission to give useful advice on the priorities which ought to be given to various needs. The 1 977 situation is different in principle because most of the internal priorities have already been established by direction making it difficult for the Commission to fully exercise its responsibilities under the Act.
The Act requires the Commission when writing reports to undertake consultation with all interested parties. Prescriptive guidelines not only pre-empt the nature of the Commission’s advice but threaten the consultation and decisionmaking process by which competing needs and priorities, within and between the government and non-government sectors, can be reconciled.
That is the end of my quotations from the report of the Schools Commission for 1978 which it signed at the end of August. The real seriousness of this threat to the independence of the Commission becomes apparent when we consider the present Prime Minister’s long record of unrelenting hostility to the very concept of the Schools Commission. One need not go back far to the time when he was Minister for Education and Science and when the Australian Labor Party first proposed the Commission and the needs concept for our schools. As late as November 1973 he led the fight against the Commission in this Parliament. He was not even the official Opposition spokesman on education at that time. In pursuit of his personal obsession he overrode the official spokesman, Senator Rae, and whatever the reservations of the then Leader of the Opposition, he made all the running in the debate. He urged the Opposition to use its numbers in the Senate to reject the monumental series of education Bills, all of which had a clear mandate from the people and which transformed the prospects for education in this nation.
It was only the political nous of the Country Party, which saw that the private obsessions and personal prejudices of the present Prime Minister were a recipe for political disaster, which prevented him from having his destructive way. Does anyone believe that the Prime Minister has changed or repented?
It is plain that what he could not prevent in 1973 he still is determined to undermine now that he is Prime Minister. And clearly, the first step is to undermine the independence of the Schools Commission; destroy that and then it is only another short step to destroying the Commission itself and to destroying the concept of national responsibility for the needs of all our schools, government and non-government alike, on which the Commission is based and on which it acts. That is why the Commission itself is so concerned in its report to point out the very serious implications of the new guidelines- not enormously significant in terms of expenditure, but profoundly significant, deeply sinister in terms of their social, political and educational implications.
For more than a century the education debate in Australia was poisoned by sectarian bitterness for which the term ‘state aid’ became the code name. The real debate on education- the nature, needs and purpose of a proper educational systemwas destroyed and debauched by it. The real debate never got off the ground; the spurious debate divided the community and retarded the cause of education. Every Australian school child for generations suffered because of it. By 1972 the debate had at last been laid to rest. The Australian people were entitled to think that at last we had established a common education policy which recognised the needs of all schools and which recognised above all the responsibility of the national government for meeting those needs. At last the Australian people believed that the real debate about the nature and purpose of education in a modern society could begin unimpeded, undistorted, by prejudice and by social and sectarian division. The Schools Commission was not only the agency for recommending the spending of vastly expanded funds, but the expert agency through which all interested partiesteachers, parents, school organisations, education departments- could participate in and contribute to the genuine debate on education.
All this is again to be thrown into the melting pot if the present Prime Minister is permitted to pursue his prejudices. There can be no doubt about the ultimate aim of the present Prime Minister- to throw back on to the States the full responsibility for the state school system and to reserve to the national government responsibility for the non-government schools, in particular the top private schools. And under his program such funding as the national government provides for non-government schools shall not be on any basis of need, but on the basis of his old obsessionper capita grants. It is a system designed to entrench inequality and to extend privilege. It is clear that the independence of the Schools Commission stands in the way; therefore its independence must be destroyed. Clearly, the independence of the Schools Commission stands in the Prime Minister’s way; therefore he seeks to undermine the Commission’s independence.
In education, as with the so-called new federalism, the present Prime Minister wants to turn the clock back. He seeks a return not just to things as they were before the 1972 election but as they were before the war- before uniform taxation and before successive governments, Liberal and Labor, accepted some measure of responsibility for education. His whole approach is based on elitism. It is aimed against equality of opportunity. The schools of the ‘deserving’ rich are to be supported by the Australian government, with all its overwhelming control over the important sources of revenue. The schools attended by the vast majority of Australian children are to be shoved back on to the States, whose revenue resources are unequal as between the States and unfair and regressive within each State.
Should this be permitted to happen- should the present Prime Minister ever achieve his real intentions- the gap in standards between the handful of top, private schools and the other schools, government and non-government, attended by 95 per cent of Australian children will continue to widen. And most government schools and most Catholic schools will again return to the poor conditions which prevailed generally before the Schools Commission began to transform the school standards of this nation. The division between wealthy schools and needy schools is only pan of the process of division which the present Prime Minister seeks to impose. Just as serious in terms of the wellbeing and unity of the Australian community is the revival of the old disputes, the old bitterness, the old division, which the Schools Commission laid to rest. By undermining the independence of the Schools Commission the present Prime Minister is acting true to form as the most divisive Prime Minister in modern times- the divider of his party, the divider of his country.
– I suggest that the Opposition, in bringing this discussion of a matter of public importance before the House, might be displaying even more than its usual degree of cynicism. If in fact the independence of the Schools Commission was under some threat a case for bringing forward a matter of public importance could be made and would be a suitable subject for debate. But this independence clearly is not under any threat. I suspect that the sole reason for the debate is to seek a platform from which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) might pretend to the public at large that it was possible to provide all things from a public budget, to satisfy every demand that might be made, merely by labelling it a ‘need’, a word which unless related to some objective criterion has no meaning whatsoever.
The cynicism of the Opposition’s proposal is underlined by the fact that the Labor Party in 1975 undertook almost identical actions to the action which it now criticises. In 1975, the Labor Party put down guidelines for the Schools Commission. At the same time it suspended triennial funding and increased funds to private schools. At that time, I was a member of the then Opposition and I am on record as supporting the Government of the day in the action that it took. That is still my view. But the present Opposition has changed its view- or has it? Is it merely throwing cynical and unfounded verbiage at this House in the hope that someone will believe that the Opposition is some magic fairy who will provide all for the asking? This cannot be done. The Labor Government pretended that it could be done for 3 years but it failed most dismally.
I will read two paragraphs from the report of the Schools Commission recently tabled in this House. Paragraph 1.3 states: 1 .3 The Labor Government decided on a ‘pause in the triennial progression and authorised a one year program for 1976 which confined recurrent expenditure to an amount which would maintain existing standards in real terms, deferred new initiatives and reduced capital expenditure. The Government asked the Commission to submit a further report within those guidelines -
Note the term- . . . recommending how the total of $465 m to be available in 1976 should be spent. The Commission did this in a short report issued in October 1975 which the Government of the day accepted. This decision was endorsed by the subsequent Liberal-National Country Party Government.
Paragraph 1.4 states: 1.4 Apart from the Labor Government deciding on a one year program for 1976, it set in train another development. Formal financial guidelines were to be developed and communicated to the various education commissions each year. The assumption was that the guidelines would define the general financial limits within which the commissions would prepare reports and the Schools Commission would receive its guidelines before it undertook the consultative process with systems, schools and organisations. This proposal was endorsed by the new Liberal-National Country Party Government which also introduced the concept of a ‘rolling triennium’ within which the Commission would report . . .
That is what the Schools Commission said about the actions of the previous Labor Government. Those actions were correct actions and, as I have already stated, I supported them at the time. The independence of the Schools Commission was not in any way affected by those guidelines. The independence of the Schools Commission depends on its ability to report on those aspects that it sees fit to report on irrespective of whatever other parameters it must take into account in any report that it makes. Its independence also depends on its ability to put down its version of the best breakups of education funding. That is the guarantee of its independence. The guarantee is its right to make its own report and it has that right. Its guarantee also is the right and the obligation to have that report made public and tabled in this Parliament. Those are the tests and guarantees of the independence of the Schools Commission, or for that matter of any other advisory commission of this Government. Its test is the public nature of its report and the scope of that report.
That it should be required to make a report within the range that a government feels it can finance, within the range that a government feels is appropriate for reasons of social management or community standards, is irrelevant to that right and that obligation to make its own judgment and that judgment has been made by the Schools Commission. It has made a report recommending a different breakup of funds from the one that the Government has said it would adopt. It has put down its best set of proposals, as it sees them, and as it is perfectly entitled to do. It has demonstrated its independence. I assure honourable members that it has not altered the Government’s proposal to a great extent. The Commission has recommended an increase in the Commonwealth contribution in respect of recurrent funding by a mere 1.1 per cent of the Commonwealth funding. That is a mere 0.077 per cent of all funding or $77 in $100,000. Its independent report differed- but, oh, by so little. In the capital area it has recommended an increase in the Commonwealth share of the funding by 2.4 per cent of Commonwealth funds or by 0.72 per cent or $72 in $ 10,000 of all the funds that are available. The Schools Commission has demonstrated its independence. It has recommended differently, however marginally different that recommendation was. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table that I have just described to the House.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the House. I think it might be proper now to consider the appropriateness of the Government’s guidelines. The Government clearly had the responsibility to put down guidelines and it clearly did not derogate from the Schools Commission’s independence. But we may consider whether those guidelines themselves were appropriate. Parental income might be regarded as a relevant consideration when deciding whether a child’s education ought to be funded by the state. However, it is not the case that the children of rich parents attend independent schools and the children of poor parents attend government schools. On the contrary, it is remarkably difficult to see to just where rich and poor families send their children. For instance, I know of a fireman, who is not an officer, whose two children attend a level 2 private school. This man makes a real and serious sacrifice to send his children to this school. Is he not entitled to the same public contribution for the education of his children as is made to the education of a lawyer’s children who might attend a government school? It is an obligation of government to ensure that every child has access to education. It is not an obligation of government to provide that education. In fact, it is clearly in the interests of the community that that education be as diverse as possible. We do not want our children turned out all in the one mould. We want a society that has richness of variety.
Perhaps the House should note that when a committee of this House inquiring into learning difficulties commissioned a report from the Australian Council of Educational Research that report made some very interesting findings. One of them was that learning difficulty in areas of reading, writing and numeracy, admittedly at a fairly basic and elementary level, was lower in the Catholic, systemic schools than it was in the government schools. One might ask why. Those schools had fewer resources. They were poorer schools. If we are to differentiate on the basis of richness and poorness, whatever that means, these schools with fewer resources would probably be judged to be poorer. Yet they were managing to impart basic skills to pupils at a level at which the pupils achieved somewhat more than did pupils in the better endowed government funded school system.
So we need to ask ourselves why. We do not know why. There might be many reasons. Maybe the government schools were not doing some other things as well. That is quite possible. That is an argument that is put to me almost ad nauseam by teachers in the government school system. The difference might be due to the tender loving care of the type of teacher- many of them were attached to religious orders- who were attracted to those schools. We do not know what the reason was. The important thing in this debate is that we know that those schools were achieving different and better results and that if we do not have an education system that is varied we will never have the opportunity to identify the different and the better.
Yet in recent years the gap in funding and resources between the private sector and the entirely government funded sector has been getting wider. Is that a good thing? Are the parents of those children who attend private schools not entitled to a contribution from the public purse similar to that received by the parents of children attending government schools? After all they are taxed on the same basis, their children have the same needs and some of those private and independent schools are showing us things that we need to learn that will benefit all children, including those in the government schools. The guidelines that the Government put down were in line with its long announced policy that at least 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child in any school system should be provided from the public purse. We requested that the State governments match that with a further 20 per cent- a mere 40 per cent in all. Some children have the cost of their entire education met from the taxpayers’ dollar. I submit that the guidelines were singularly appropriate.
– The Opposition makes the point that the independence of the Schools Commission has been affected in all aspects of education but most importantly in what is called financial resource allocation. The honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) seemed to be putting that every child should have an equal opportunity and that we should not interfere with the existing system. It should be borne in mind that the Labor Government established the Schools Commission to look at whether there should be equal opportunity in resource allocation. The Commission clearly established that children in Australia now have nothing like an equal opportunity. The resources that parents want to devote to the education of their child could be as high as $ 1 ,400 a year. It is no good talking about that being the norm for every child in Australia, because the same resource allocation is not available to all in the competitive education system. Therefore Karmel quite properly said: ‘We will establish a schools commission to assess the needs of the staff, the pupils, the school and the amenities’. That assessment clearly established that a number of schools are operating at a mere 40 per cent of the resource allocation of others.
Most of the debates on this matter centre on the problems of the parents and whether they should be getting a refund of money expended. Let us get down to the real problem. It is the problem of the pupils. Nobody denies the sort of tax reimbursement that might have to be given to parents. That is a matter for them and a matter of government policy. But surely everybody would agree that if the resource allocation norm is $1,400 every child ought to have $1,400 available. That is the issue. But look at what the Government’s guidelines have done. They have drawn a division between government and nongovernment ranks, which is most unfortunate. It gets back to the old sectarian issues from the point of view of looking after the interests of children. Nobody wants to get back to those issues. That is more a problem for parents than for children. Look at what we tried to do with the Schools Commission as clearly announced. An assessment of the present guidelines, dealing with the past, states:
A feature of the Commission’s work since its inception has been its success in drawing together the diverse interests in government and non-government sectors. Traditional barriers between these sectors have been substantially reduced and individuals and groups within them have been encouraged to work together in the common interests of educating all Australian school children to the best possible standards. The operation of the Commission’s joint programs and the development of formal and informal planning relationships between government and non-government schools and systems are significant examples of the evolution of this consensus. This is a major outcome of the Commission’s work over the past four years and indeed may be one of the major achievements of the Commonwealth in its role in Australian education. The Commission views with great concern the implications of the guidelines for the maintenance of the situation.
There could be no greater indictment of a government than that. This is the issue. The guidelines pre-empt the Commission’s discretion. For example, they say that no more money will be available this year than there was last year. We are well aware of the fact that last year there was to be a 2 per cent growth. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has said, that is another broken promise. There is no growth at all this year. That automatically affected all the guideline structures. There is to be a revised supplementation arrangement. That is the most devastating direction to be given to the Commission. The idea was that the cost supplementation would cover the normal costs of running a school, that is salaries and wages, and that the capital supplementation would cover inflation in capital works. If the capital supplementation is taken away or in any way reduced no new project can be commenced. Recurrent expenditure cannot be maintained. The guidelines clearly show that there is to be no cost supplementation in capital expenditure after 1977. That means a reduction in the resource allocation for all capital projects after 1977. Recurrent costs are to be limited to salaries and wages only. There are other costs, as you would know, Mr Deputy Speaker. So immediately there is a reduction of a very sizeable amount indeed.
An analysis of the difference in monetary terms between the 1977 guidelines and the 1976 guidelines, which were bad enough, shows a reduction of $33m in the allocation for education in Australia. Of that $33m, there is a reduction of $llm in the Schools Commission. Is it any wonder that the Commission stated that it viewed the guidelines as directions? It stated:
The Commission views very seriously the implications of such prescriptive guidelines. In its July 1976 Report . . . the Commission noted a distinction between reporting on needs without financial restrictions and the task of advising the Government on the pattern and priorities for expenditure within given levels of funding.
If the Commission is to remain independent it ought to be able to report on needs because that is its charter under the Act. The Commission went on to say:
The Commission acknowledges that under its Act it is obliged to carry out tasks . . .
One of those tasks is to report on needs. Having reported on needs, it was then given further guidelines to reduce the amount by $33m. Then we come to the fundamental issue in the guidelines. As directed by the Government, $2m is to be allocated to the schools in levels 1 and 2. That is the most divisive thing that could be done from the point of view of education. While funds are being restricted the Government says that it is going to give additional funds of $2m to a certain group- a mere 70 or 80 non-government schools out of the thousands. Those schools at the present time have an enrolment of about 25,000 pupils and we are virtually talking about an additional subsidy of about $ 1 80 to each of those pupils. Who else will suffer in the nongovernment sector? Level 6 will suffer because the resource allocation cannot be applied there. It is to be removed from level 6 to levels 1 and 2. There are 305,000 pupils in level 6. That is where Professor Karmel identified the need in the nonGovernment area.
The Government is anxious to maintain 20 per cent. Does it not realise that in levels 5 and 6 at the present time it is obliged to maintain a subsidy of over 32 per cent? There is now a subsidy of 32 per cent for more than 300,000 children, but the Government says that it does not matter, that levels 1 and 2 will be increased to 20 per cent and will receive $2m. That means the others must drop. Over 300,000 children in need now have to compete on an equal basis. How can a child compete if his parents happen to have a very miserly income? How can he compete if his parents are poor? The child of the deserted wife and the orphaned child have no chance, and Professor Karmel identified that. We, as Australians, have a responsibility when we collect taxes all over the country to guarantee those children the same resource allocation. For the Government to say that it will give only 20 per cent when a child needs 35 per cent is an indictment of its policy. If it wants to give subsidies to the wealthy it should not do it at the expense of the poor, whether they are in the non-government or government sector. The position is that because of this direction of reallocation in the schools sector as much as $ 13.8m in capital and recurrent funds will be diverted. The diversion amounts to $9.8m in recurrent funds and $4m in capital funds. So, there is this basic problem of the Schools Commission losing its independence and virtually fighting for its life because it says -
– What a lot of nonsense.
-I cannot understand the honourable member who interjects. He comes from Victoria. If he talks to his Liberal friends in Victoria he will see that they have had to cut the money they thought they had to expend from the point of view of recurrent and capital costs. How silly can the honourable member be. The Government promised a 2 per cent growth and it has now denied it. It has now said that there will be a growth of one per cent next year. The honourable member says that it is a lot of nonsense. I invite him to deny it. How can he deny that there are 305,000 children in the level 6 area?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-It is somewhat ironic that the terms of this discussion of matter of public importance refer to the Government ‘s threats to the independence of the Schools Commission. Honourable members should recall very clearly that the previous Government did not threaten; it actually attacked the independence of the Schools Commission without consultation. I refer the House to the fact that guidelines are not new. The Whitlam Government first issued them in 1975 when it set aside, completely out of hand, the reports of all the education commissions for the 1976-78 triennium. It suspended the whole principle of triennial funding and directed the commissions to present recommendations for 1976 within clearly stipulated financial limits. It went further than that, as all honourable members will recall. In the 1975 Budget the Federal Labor Government cut spending for the four education commissions by a total of $105m. Funds for universities were cut by $2 1 m; for colleges of advanced education by $45m; for colleges of technical and further education by $9m -
– Those figures have never been published. They are estimates only.
– They are published here. Funds for schools were cut by $43m. The impact of these major cuts was tremendously savage within the schools area. Following such a period of rapid growth funds for capital building alone were cut by $85m, leaving many projects and programs completely up in the air. As a result of and in response to the rigid guidelines which the Schools Commission had to abide by, the amount of money for government schools was cut by $65m. The amount of money for nongovernment schools was increased by $14m. What a peculiar thing for a Labor government to do. It increased funds for non-government schools and now complains about the fact that this Government has not increased funds for government schools but has tried to maintain funding for non-government schools. Furthermore, not only were guidelines set and principles undertaken which were completely without precedent, but further the previous Government amalgamated, virtually without consultation or warning, the Australian Universities Commission and the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. It froze student allowances at 1974 levels and, in abandoning the triennial principle, imposed extremely difficult operating conditions for tertiary institutions in having to operate on one year programs.
I think it is relevant to look at the 1976 report of the Commission. The report drew a distinction in respect of the guidelines imposed on it by the previous Government. It drew a distinction between the statutory obligation of the Commission under section 32 (2) of the Schools Commission Act to report to the Minister on needs- a wide variety of needs as all honourable members know- and its function to report to the Government on the best use of how predetermined levels of financial resources can be allocated. Now we are told that this Government has abandoned the principle of the independence of the Schools Commission and has imposed guidelines which we can now see were already imposed by the previous Government and accepted by the Schools Commission. This Administration’s guidelines, on coming to government, have guaranteed growth in all areas of education particularly the technical and further education area. Some areas were not able to be sustained at the same level as in previous years. This is as a result of the very difficult circumstances in which this Government came to office and the fact that there are many areas of public expenditure, including education, which must be and should be restrained to some extent in order to ensure that inflation and the growth of government expenditure can be controlled.
Let us look at the supposedly horrific guidelines that were established. The first one was to ensure that special purpose programs, such as those for handicapped children, migrants, disadvantaged schools and country schools, many of which are extremely disadvantaged, were maintained. Another guideline was as follows: That automatic linking of nongovernment school grants to per pupil expenditure in State schools be continued- that is the largest increase in allocation to non government schools in the program- and that $3m be earmarked to assist non-government school building programs in newly expanding areas of population.
I assure the House that the difficulties in relation to capital programs in non-government schools are not confined only to newly established areas and areas of rapidly increasing population. One has only to look at the state of some of our non-government schools around Australia to realise that. Let us not forget that 60 non-government schools closed in 1974 alone. Let us not forget that in many of them, particularly catholic schools, conditions are abominable. If honourable members opposite do not believe me I suggest that they look at the conditions in some of the catholic boarding schools in country areas and they will see what sorts of facilities are provided in those boarding schools.
– What about A class schools?
– We are coming to that. It is a principle with which I thought you agreed. I hear a deafening silence. Another guideline is that as a first step $2m be allocated towards implementing the basic 20 per cent per pupil grant to all non-government schools. If you disagree with it now, can you explain to me why Mr Wran in New South Wales agrees with it? Can you explain to me why Mr Dunstan has a scheme under which the South Australian Government effectively contributes 20 per cent of its expenditure -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable gentleman will address the Chair; and interjections are out of order.
– I was addressing the Chair over the interjections. This principle has been well established; it is not something that has suddenly come to light. We happen to believe in supporting government schools, as a general principle, to at least the level of a 20 per cent per pupil grant. The 20 per cent basic per pupil grant was introduced a long time ago by a previous Federal coalition government. Its stated aim was to achieve a parallel 20 per cent matching grant from all six States, and that has been achieved in Labor and non-Labor States alike. All States now provide a 20 per cent grant. Five of the States do so without any needs determination and one of them does so with a needs determination. But, overall, that State still provides an equivalent of a 20 per cent grant.
The 20 per cent grant without means test was the sustained policy of the Whitlam Labor Government in relation to the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Is it all right to have such a policy for the territories but not all right for the States, as far as the Labor Party is concerned? In its 1976-78 report the Schools Commission recommended a minimum 30 per cent per capita grant of a standard running cost, including 20 per cent from the State governments, with the Commonwealth making up any shortfall in the contribution of a particular State.
I think we should look at the situation that occurred in the 1975 Budget and the effect it had on schools’ expenditures in 1976. Let us not forget that the real reduction in school funding came in 1975. In that year total expenditure from the Commonwealth on government schools was reduced by $56.2m. We are implementing a reduction of $9m between 1977 and 1978. The only thing on which we seem to be able to agree- honourable members opposite will not admit to this- is that while government school funds were cut back, the previous Government saw fit, as we saw fit, to maintain funds to nongovernment schools at almost exactly the same level. That demonstrates recognition by successive Commonwealth governments of the adverse resource balance in the non-government area. That recognition has also been shown by the Schools Commission. The Schools Commission in July 1976 noted that there is a marked gap between the resources available to government schools and non-government schools. It went on to say:
When in addition it is noted that in 1977 there can be no significant increase in the Commonwealth contribution and that government schools resource levels are continuing to rise it is obvious that the gap between government and most non-government schools is likely to increase.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion has concluded.
Debate resumed from 6 October, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate on this Bill is resumed I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Bill 1977 as they are related measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr
Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Oilseeds Levy Bill 1977 and the Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Bill 1977 are designed to establish a fund for research in the oilseeds area by imposing on oilseed producers a levy which will be matched on a $ 1 for $ 1 basis from a government grant. The amount of funding involved is of the order of $200,000 a year from each source and therefore does not constitute a substantial research fund in an area which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) indicated was one of the potentially significant growth areas in primary industry. I am not sure that I can agree with the Minister’s summation of the situation. I think that the research would have to be extremely successful before that was likely to occur. I am not sure that this is not another case of giving encouragement to an industry before it has been proved that investment in it is soundly based. I think in the past there have been too many occasions on which encouragement to expand production has been offered quite often as a political ploy to draw attention away from other areas. In a number of cases that has ended tragically for those who have accepted that advice. I draw attention to the advice in about 1964 that pear production should be expanded and to the advice in early 1970 that beef production should be expanded. Neither of those two pieces of advice was found to be good. In both instances the growers who took the advice and the government which gave it suffered significant financial loss because of it.
The Opposition generally supports the principle of industry funding, with matching government contributions, for research into rural industries. That same sort of principle has been adopted in relation to the wheat, wool and meat industries. Unfortunately in the area of oilseeds there is no single organisation which covers oilseeds producers, although in the legislation the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation is written in as a representative and an organisation with apparent veto powers over government actions in this field. I think it is fair to say that the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation does not represent the majority of oilseed growers. A number of other organisations would claim to have some right to a say in the operation of the levy and future changes in the Acts concerned.
One concern which the Opposition has to express is that there is no suggestion that the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation Oilseeds Committee should be expanded to include representatives of oilseed growers who belong to other organisations which are not now covered and which in some instances have been refused access to the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation. I do not wish to judge the viability or otherwise of primary producer organisations, their effectiveness or their professional competence, but it has been suggested by at least one academic that the influence of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation over the present Government is such that it has acted to the detriment of the industry in the wheat area. If that is the case -
– That is absolute nonsense.
-That may or may not be true. I am only quoting someone else. If that is the case it is unfortunate that in this legislation the Government has chosen to exclude other organisations such as the Graziers Association of Victoria, the Stockowners Association of South Australia and the Tasmanian Orchardists and Producers Ltd which have significant memberships among oilseed growers. The application of this Bill to actual research is in line with the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission on rural research and it indicates that the Government has at least moved to commence consideration of those recommendations. We await with some interest the Government’s recommendations on the remainder of that report. Oilseeds have not, as the Minister for Primary Industry has indicated, shown a massive increase or potential for a massive increase in the last few years. There was a significant increase in 1969 following the imposition of quotas on wheat production, when oilseeds were chosen as an alternative source of production. There have been major fluctuations- by as much as 50 per cent- in the crop sizes over recent years.
Oilseed oils are the major product and they are obtainable outside Australia in fairly substantial quantities. In fact in some areas we have considerable restrictions on their entry. I suggest that any useful research which is authorised from these funds- as I say, the funds are limited, and that seems to be the norm- in areas of primary production may well fall short of gaining the sorts of results which would be of tremendous value merely because of the methods by which research funds are allocated. By that I mean that it may well be that beef growers, wheat growers or some other section of primary industry may stand to gain more from some alternative means of utilising their properties and competence. But because of the manner in which the research is controlled and conducted, in that it is limited largely to the existing amount of revenue from those sources and also to revenue derived from a particular source, research in a new area could be severely or dangerously limited, to the disadvantage of all concerned.
The Opposition does not oppose these Bills but draws attention to what appears to be an unsatisfactory position in the total allocation and operation of research funds. In this instance the Opposition wants to point out that it feels that those oilseed growers who have a responsibility to pay the levy should have access to the decisionmaking and recommending process which is set out in the Bill and should not be excluded by the terms of the Bill. One of the sentences in the Minister’s second reading speech states that cooperation of all sections of the industry has been achieved. If that is so, it should not be necessary to allocate the advice and consultative sections of the Bill to one organisation of a number of organisations which have oilseed growers representative in them. I am informed that at least one of those organisations has been denied access to the oil growers committee of the Australian Wheatgrowers ‘ Federation.
If, as the Minister claims, this industry is one of the potential growth industries within the primary industry field, it may well be questionable whether the allocations of funds involved are realistic. If it is an area in which primary producers can look forward to rapid growth, in which a national benefit would be derived from that rapid growth and in which markets are available- all things which, I have to say, are doubtful- if that is the view of the Government I would have to question the Government’s position on the matter because it is quite obvious that one or two of the areas into which research is urgently required are levels of production and varieties which will suit Australian conditions best, which will suit regional conditions best and which will bring about the best returns. This research is certainly required into production of oilseeds of a low fibrous nature, because it is the oil which is the substantial product as far as the market place is concerned, and this is the area into which Australian production can make its best contribution. At the moment we are large importers of vegetable oils.
Finally I make the point that it is not necessarily true to say that at the moment oilseeds are a primary crop other than in one or two instances. In some areas there have been significant drops in the area of production while in others there have been changes in the level of production, usually associated with seasons, the price of wheat and availability of wheat lands for use in the oilseed area. I repeat what I said before: If the Government believes, as the Minister has said, that this is an area in which significant advantage can be derived from investment in research, this Bill does not seek to take advantage of those significant advances and, I think, reflects the Government’s position on this matter in that it is introducing a research fund on the same basis as for other industries but not really believing the words that have been mouthed by the Minister in this House as to the future of the industry. It is an industry which obviously has potential but there is also significant progress to be made in production, types, varieties and other areas of research which will not be made with the types of money which will be derived from this legislation.
-The purpose of these Bills is to provide for the imposition of a levy on the Australian production of sunflower, soy bean, safflower seed, rapeseed and linseed. This levy, together with a matching Commonwealth contribution, will be used to provide for the establishment and the implementation of an expanded oilseed research scheme. In other words, the money raised by the levy is an investment in the future of the oilseed industry. Before detailing the history and purposes of the Bill I think it would be useful if I were briefly to give details of the industry. Vegetable oils are obtained from the crushing of the oilseeds and are used principally in the production of cooking oils, salad dressing and margarines. The oils are also used for non-food industrial purposes such as lubricants, inks, paints, linoleums, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Oilseed crops- this is a relatively new industry in Australia- are grown in the higher rainfall parts of the wheat belts, the slopes and tablelands of New South Wales and Queensland, and inland irrigation areas. Whilst New South Wales and Queensland are the principal oilseed producing States, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia now produce significant quantities of sunflower, rape seed and linseed. My own electorate of Barker in the south-east of South Australia has a significant population of oilseed growers. Production of oilseed was not significant until the mid-1960s. Following the implementation of wheat delivery quotas in 1 969 and in response to favourable oilseed prices on world markets, domestic output expanded rapidly until 1971-72 when production was a record 340,349 tonnes.
Since 1971-72 production has fluctuated at lower levels owing to relaxation of wheat quotas and poor seasonal conditions and disease, although there was a sharp recovery in sowings in 1974-75 resulting from a temporary period of higher prices. Production in 1976-77 was estimated at 210,900 tonnes and the winter oilseed sowings for this year, according to Department of Primary Industry estimates, are expected to have increased significantly in response to higher prices at the time of sowing. In fact by April of this year oilseed prices were at the highest level since the record prices of October 1 974. However, since then, prices have fallen in response to such market factors as an overreaction by consumers to the higher prices, an ample world supply of grains and good prospects for the next United States soya bean crops. The value of production of the industry is now over $40m annually.
In the longer term demand for oilseed products should increase with the growth of the world economy. But world supplies are also expected to increase, mainly from Malaysian palm oil and South American soya bean. Domestic demand for oil is presently strong, especially for margarine production, which has risen rapidly with the effective abolition of margarine production quotas. Very good prices have been received for locally produced soya bean and sunflower seed. With the exception of 1971-72, Australia has been a net importer of oilseeds and products. Therefore, it is clear that this industry can be a significant import substitution industry, although it should be remembered that the oils which have been the largest components of imports in recent years have mainly been soya, coconut and palm oil. Oilseeds are grown mainly under a system of contracts which normally incorporate minimum price guarantees but allow for escalation to reflect price levels at the time of delivery. As with other primary products, domestic market prices for oilseeds are largely determined by world prices. However, it is interesting to note that there has been no major assistance to this industry other than the tariff on certain vegetable oils and, of course, that assistance which applies to the rural sector generally.
These Bills come from a proposal for an expanded oilseed research scheme which was put forward in June 1975 by the oilseeds committee of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. It was after consultations between the appropriate industry organisations and the State and Commonwealth governments that a scheme along the lines of the existing statutory rural research schemes was developed for the oilseed industry. The fundamental provisions of the scheme were endorsed by the State Ministers at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in February 1 977. At this stage I should like to congratulate the members of the oilseed industry for the hard work and thought which has gone into these proposals which will assist the future prospects of the industry. Certainly in my area, both the lower and upper south-east protein and oilseeds committees are an extremely active and forward thinking group of people. I have no hesitation in supporting these Bills which will allow the Government to provide, on a matching dollar for dollar basis, expenditure on approved research projects. This is a recognition by the Government of the initiative shown by the industry, and I welcome it.
Of course it is the established policy of the Government to foster schemes such as this to undertake research into the problems that exist in rural industry. This is not the first such joint approach that has been undertaken by the Government with industry. Primary producers will be well aware of similar schemes which are already operating successfully. This is certainly the case in respect of the wool, meat, wheat, dairy, pig and chicken meat industries, to mention a few. The initial rate of the levy has been set at $ 1 per tonne with provision for it to be varied by regulation up to a maximum of $2 per tonne. The levy is payable by the grower of leviable oilseeds delivered to another person or processed by or on behalf of the grower. In order to obviate the administrative costs associated with the collection of small amounts of levy moneys, provision has been made for exemption of levy payments if the weight of the leviable oilseeds delivered to a person during a levy year is less than IS tonnes. To facilitate the collection of the levy, provision has been made for firms or organisations or persons to whom oilseed is delivered to be liable to pay the Commonwealth an amount equal to the levy payable by the grower. This of course will be recoverable from the grower and can be deducted from payments due to the grower.
The Oilseeds Research Committee which the Bill establishes will make recommendations concerning the expenditure of the funds raised by the levy and the matching Commonwealth contributions. It is thought that the Government’s contribution might approach $200,000 in an average year which, together with the levy, will mean some $400,000 may be available for oilseed research under the scheme. The research committee will consist of nine members. Five members, one from each of the producing States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, will represent the oilseed growers. The remaining four members will represent the Australian Agricultural Council, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australian universities and the Department of Primary Industry. The members of the Committee will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry for a three year term. The main functions of the Research Committee will be to make recommendations to the Minister regarding the allocation of funds for research purposes. It is envisaged that the Research Committee will meet twice a year to co-ordinate the national research program. The funds will be used for scientific, economic or technical research relating to the oilseed industry. It is in this area that I think the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) is wrong. It seems to me that this research will be just what the oilseed growers want.
There are important problems to be overcome in this industry. As I have already suggested, it is a great compliment to the industry that being aware of these problems and recognising the need for a planned research program, they have been responsible for taking the initiative in submitting their proposals to the Government which are now the subject of these Bills. This is a significant step which will be of great benefit to the oilseed industry. I welcome the Government’s initiative.
-I am pleased to support my colleague in lending the Opposition’s support to the Oilseeds Levy Bill and the Oilseeds Levy Collection and Research Bill. I must say how pleasing it is to see the Government taking a positive initiative in the rural areas for a change. Rather than talking about getting people out of agriculture and subsidising and retraining them, here we have a positive approach to one of the very few growth sectors left in the rural industry. I have said many times that we need a much more positive approach to our rural problems and that we should not always be talking about cutting down and getting people out of the rural industry: We should be looking for alternatives, and this is one of them.
Looking back over the last 20 years of Australian agriculture, there have been several examples of newly emerging growth sectors which we did not anticipate, but which came about through changing technology or changing demands in people’s eating habits. I cite the chicken industry, the fruit juice industry, the mushroom industry, the pet food industry and all those industries which hardly existed 20 years ago but which now make a positive contribution to the Australian rural sector. Here is another industry- the oilseed industry- which has definite growth prospects. It has these growth prospects in two very important areas. One relates to the terms of import replacement in that we still import substantial quantities of vegetable oil, particularly soya bean. We import about 8 1 ,000 tonnes a year, about 30 per cent of which, I understand, is soya bean. We also import about 10,000 tonnes of oil seeds for birdseed and various other uses and about 15,000 tonnes of oil meals and cakes for stock food. These are substantial figures. There is considerable scope for import replacement in these areas.
We also export some particular crops. There is scope for improvement here. It seems that world demand for vegetable oil and vegetable oil products is increasing at about 4 per cent a year. I have no doubt that when some of the underdeveloped countries are able to raise even marginally their living standards they will benefit not only by consuming more vegetable oil products but also by exporting vegetable oil products. This is a very favourable area in which we should be investing. The only sad thing is that the scheme has taken so long to be introduced. I remember going to an agricultural college in the 1930s. The story was told that all we had to do in Australia to establish a soya bean industry was to breed varieties that were adaptable to Australian conditions. That was 40 years ago. No direct funds have been made available for that purpose. We have only nibbled at the problem. Now we have a fund directed specifically towards these ends. It is peculiar to crops such as soya bean that the technology or the seed cannot just be imported. The crops do not grow in the same way under our conditions.
One of the great problems for this fund is that not only will it need to be proliferated over a wide geographic area in order to represent State interests but also it will have to cover quite a wide range of crops. The main crops in this field are soya bean, sunflower, rapeseed, linseed and, to a lesser extent, safflower and lupins. These substantial areas have completely different terms of adaptability and environment which have to be catered for in any breeding program. It will not be easy to decide priorities on where the money should be spent, to which State it should go or on which crop it should be spent. A great problem of the fund will be seeing that interstate or inter-crop or inter-industry rivalries do not proliferate the fund to such an extent that it has no real effect on the industry itself.
We have been pursuing this problem for many years particularly in relation to soya bean. Even last year we had people overseas looking for crops which may be adaptable to Australian conditions. We have started 40 years behind. We should have undertaken this scheme years ago. At least now we are on the right track. There is a need to cover a wide range of crops and conditions. A variety which may be bred for Queensland may not be suitable for Victoria, or vice versa. I think there would have been great merit in this scheme if in fact in the early years of the levy the Government had contributed $2 for $ 1 instead of on a dollar for dollar basis. This would have got some volume into the industry so that it would have reached the stage fairly quickly where it would have been contributing more to its own fund. I think the amount made available is rather parsimonious. It will be very difficult for the people. charged with determining priorities to see where the money goes and just how it is spent.
One of the most pleasing prospects is that through genetic breeding we will be able to increase yields. We will be able to increase drought resistance and resistance to disease and things like that which overall reduce the cost to the farmer. This is another positive approach. Farmers will not have to scream to the Government about subsidising costs. We will effectively and positively reduce costs. We can produce more with the same amount of money. It is the positive approach to our rural problems that I applaud rather than the negative approach.
I think it is a very fine move. I think many scientists in Australia are capable of applying this research. We have some of the outstanding plant breeders in Australia in our State agricultural departments and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. They know what the problem is. They know how to overcome it. They have never had the funds to do so. One of the great tragedies of this country is that our priorities are such that we have virtually wasted potential resources by not devoting small amounts of money initially to this type of project. Therefore I commend the scheme most widely. I feel that it will pay off. We should look at how the scheme is paying off. It should be reviewed in terms of how it is working. Possibly, if it seems to be a good investment, we should increase the levy in the early stages so that this industry can gather momentum much more quickly than it would if the present subsidy of a dollar for dollar were to apply.
There will be problems of responsibility for determining priorities, but I am sure that they will be overcome. The proposal to set up an agricultural research committee is an admirable one. There is a further proposal that there should be a bureau of rural research to co-ordinate all these projects and to establish priorities to see that scientific and technical considerations are not over-ridden by State jealousies or conflict between various sectors of the industry. I commend the Government on its positive action. I hope the scheme will be kept under close supervision. If it is found to be paying off some consideration should be given to actually increasing the rate of the levy.
-This legislation was introduced following a request from the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation through its oilseeds committee. I was rather disappointed when the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) made some criticism of that organisation. If he did not do so directly he did so by quoting criticism of it. I feel that the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation through its oilseeds committee deserves great credit for bringing this proposal forward. The Federation did not ask for Government assistance. It did want to see that a research scheme was established. I am sure that that organisation and all growers and producers of oilseeds welcome the Government’s interest in concern for and appreciation of the value of such a scheme by introducing a matching of funding with the industry to finance it. I refute any criticism of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. I believe that great credit is due to the industry for the very responsible approach to this proposal. It will be of great value to the industry and consequently to the gross domestic product of this country which in turn of course will reflect in value to the whole of the community. So the contribution made by the Government in this area, although it directly affects the oilseed producers, will, through the producers and through their increase in production, advantage the whole community.
I understand that the moneys will be distributed where the problem is considered to be the greatest and not necessarily on a State basis. This is one thing that I appreciate. Sometimes we are a bit parochial in these things and it is good to be able to see that we can spread the moneys around and use them where they will do the most good for the industry and for the country. There are many areas in which this research could be well applied. I will refer to only a couple of them. For instance, disease of rapeseed in Western Australia and of safflower in Queensland is one aspect that needs attention. Research into such things could be part of the scheme. There are many areas in which this research work could be undertaken. Already some of the areas have been mentioned by previous speakers.
There is a great need for this proposal. I listened with some dissatisfaction when the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) said that this scheme should have been introduced earlier and more money should have been provided. At least this Government has taken the initiative. It has decided to assist in the undertaking of this work and to promote it at this stage. Therefore this Government deserves credit for what it has done in this direction. If previous governments saw a need for such a scheme but did not take the initiative that is on their heads. The industry and the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation deserve credit for making the approach in the first place.
Two areas of research which I hope will be looked into very carefully in the course of the operation of this scheme are hybrid seed production and disease eradication. The value of hybrids has been accepted. Research to obtain the best plant populations is also under way, but this should be expanded- for example, the distance between rows and the space between plants in each row. This research has been undertaken on a number of properties already. I would not know how many. Good results have been achieved and some information obtained. I think it should certainly be expanded. Research on crop rotation is also desirable. Again such research has been undertaken in individual cases, and results have been obtained, but I believe that an overall look at the results that have been obtained and further investigation could lead to greater production in the industry.
Another matter for researchers to study which could be of real advantage is the rotation of crops and the benefit which applies. Farmers have used rotation in crop growing for quite a long time. To get the full facts of such land use under a research scheme would be very beneficial. For example, a study should be made of whether wheat should follow soya bean, because soya bean is not a user of nitrogen. Another matter for researchers to study would be what crops should follow sunflower, which is one of the major oil producing seeds. Sunflowers have a root system which is an improver of soil structure. These things must be done in a proper research undertaking so that they can be looked at and people can profit from them, apart from what has been done in what might be called a spasmodic sort of way. We could look at the best time to plant soya bean This is because that plant is so sensitive to light and heat. It is an exciting time for researchers and scientists, with the money that has been made available to them by the Government and the industry. I believe- I agree with the honourable member for Fraser on this point- that we have the men capable of fully utilising these funds. I certainly welcome with great enthusiasm the funds.
I believe that the eradication of disease is one of the areas in which these funds will be most effectively spent. I am taking, for example, rust in sunflower. That can be devastating. Crops can be almost destroyed overnight. That might be overstating the position a little, but rust has a very drastic effect on sunflower. There are problems with white blister, rust and alternaria. There is hope, provided additional research work can be done, that these diseases can be overcome. Alternaria is a very serious disease in safflower. Unless control measures are found safflower could be a crop of historical interest only. The disease is disastrous in its effect. It can be carried on seed, resulting in poor seedling establishment. It can affect the crop during its growing cycle and reduce yield or can affect the crop at maturity and cause oil quality defects. As it is a seed borne disease, control can be achieved by injection of funds into research or with the introduction of plant variety rights legislation. I understand this legislation is the responsibility of the Minister for Productivity. Perhaps this matter could be finalised so that, in addition to the funds made available under this legislation, the problem could be overcome quicker with the co-operation of private industry, perhaps by the introduction of a reward for the development of control measures.
Praise must be given to our researchersdedicated men and women. The industry has faith in the ability of these people. It is a two-way partnership- industry and scientific people. There is a very definite need to have a viable oilseeds industry. If wheat quotas are introduced, oilseeds would fill the gap in growers’ income. There is a need for this seed to be produced in Australia and exported as we need assistance in our balance of payments. The current build-up of wheat stocks in the United States of America makes it essential that we have a viable oilseeds industry. The position in respect of exports is not the most important one; the position in respect of our own production is. We already import these oils and oilseeds.
These seeds will be grown in Australia only if there is an ability in the market to give the grower an attractive price for his product. This price must remain stable. That is a very important factor. There is no prospect at this stage of a price stabilisation scheme at home, as far as I can see. As we import supplies it is necessary to ensure that these supplies do not disrupt the home market. It must be insulated against severe disruptions caused by huge supplies of overseas oil being dumped on our shores in periods of glut overseas. These overseas gluts may be of short duration, but they can have long term disastrous effects for the Australian growers. I submit that there should be a sliding scale of duties on imports to prevent sales of overseas oil to Australia at prices quite unrelated to accepted world prices. A set tariff per tonne does not take due cognisance of the disruption that can occur.
The vegetable oil industry in Australia is made up of a rural oilseeds growing industry and a manufacturing crushing industry. The oilseeds growing industry is geared to Australian requirements, although it occasionally exports, and is not export oriented. There is a necessity to ensure that duties are paid to save the Australian industry. There is also competition from substitute oils such as palm and coconut. One realises that these come, in the main, from our developing near neighbours. So we must look at that angle. It is interesting to note the amount of imports. In 1973-74, 81,227 tonnes of oilseeds was imported. The amount of imports dropped quite substantially during the next three years to 14,203 tonnes in 1975-76, but lifted to 24,916 tonnes in 1976-77. Supplies of vegetable oils from Australian grown oilseeds are insufficient to meet domestic requirements. So if we can build up production through this research scheme we will be saving the Australian community the cost of importing these oilseeds.
The growing and processing sectors of the Australian oilseeds industry are concerned at the intensifying competition from imported oils, particularly palm and coconut oils, which enter free of duty. So there is a need to protect our industry. There is a need for research to continue, which would enable the industry to have a higher rate of production and which would be more economic to the grower and, of course, beneficial to the country as a whole. We must look at the threat of imports to our industry. They are of great significance.
Chemists have made advances in technology which would allow greater redistribution of palm oil and, to a lesser extent, coconut oil. In oils traditionally there have been two broad categories. One category includes peanuts, safflower, sunflower, maize, soya bean, cottonseed, rapeseed and linseed. The second category includes coconut, palm and palm kernel. Originally there was no interchangeability- now there is- in many table margarines marketed in Australia that are not polyunsaturated margarines. Some polyunsaturated margarines may have a palm oil content up to 40 per cent as a replacement for soya bean oil. It is anticipated that unless something is done to protect the local oilseeds industry importation of coconut oil could have very serious effects. Imports of palm oil have increased from 5,21 1 tonnes in 1971-72 to 18,000 tonnes in 1975-76; of coconut oil from 7,718 tonnes in 1971-72 to 17,000 tonnes in 1 975-76. 1 do not wish to see tariffs imposed that would seriously disadvantage the traditional trade interests of suppliers such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Papua New Guinea. Let us have a balance so that we will have minimum disruption to our industry and to their industry.
Another aspect which is applicable to the promotion of a viable oilseeds industry is the avenue which it gives for diversity of production. One of the greatest protections that a farmer has is the ability to diversify in his production program and the wider the range of diversification the more effectively he can cope with fluctuating markets. The fact that changes can be made in crops to counter over-supply in some areas helps not only those best able to diversify but also those who may not have the same choice at the time when that particular crop is in over-supply. That is an angle we should not lose sight of when considering the research program that has been instituted by the Government. I commend the Government very warmly for it.
I have briefly mentioned research into crop rotation. I would like to emphasise the great importance of this aspect not only because of increased yield but also for the maintenance of soil structure. The Bill before us is of great importance to the industry. I believe that the funds being made available will enable researchers to provide to the industry the assistance that it certainly deserves. It certainly will be of great advantage. In reply to a comment that more money should be provided I would say: Let us see how this work is being undertaken. When there is need for more funds for research to benefit this industry and this country there is no question in my mind that this Government, having now accepted that responsibility, will continue to meet it in the years ahead.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 6 October, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Hunt) read a third time.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1977-78 (Quorum formed).
Consideration resumed from 13 October.
Department of National Resources
Proposed expenditure, $52,0 1 1 , 000.
Department of Overseas Trade
Proposed expenditure, $63,60 1 , 000.
Department of the Special Trade Negotiator
Proposed expenditure, $ 100,000.
-Before I speak, Mr Deputy Chairman, I would be grateful if the Committee observed some courtesy particularly in view of the myriad of conversations taking place.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! I would ask all honourable members to resume their seats.
– What is evident in the discussion on the estimates for the Department of National Resources, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator is that there is a clear absence of any discernible trade policy for Australia, particularly in respect of mineral exports. There is absolutely no policy of orderly marketing. The only intervention by the Government in recent times in terms of trade policy has been the appointment of the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations for the European Economic Community, the honourable member for Bennelong, the Honourable John Howard. He has been to the EEC and, predictably, has come home empty handed. That is mainly because the Government is operating on the foolish premise that it can go to the EEC and talk trade negotiations, the trade-off being uranium exports from Australia. I suppose it has now been clearly realised by the Government that there is no early market for uranium in Western Europe, particularly in the EEC. There is no card to play in terms of any resources diplomacy or trade-off, call it what you like, against uranium exports from Australia.
This Government has the simple view that the common agricultural policy of the EEC will be watered down by the member countries of the EEC because of international pressure from trading countries like Australia, particularly those selling agricultural commodities. The common agricultural policy of the EEC is the result of the very complex political relationships that have developed within the Community. The common agricultural policy has been an instrument for the steady adjustment of rural industries in the EEC and it is as clear as day to most of us that this will not change in a short period and it may not change over an extended period. The notion of Australia marching into this area, with a special trade negotiator talking about a trade-off with uranium to get concessions on agricultural imports from Australia, is a fairly foolish notion. It flies in the face of all the things that the Government should have learned in the past.
I can remember not so many years ago when the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), then Minister for Primary Industry, went to Britain at the time of its entry into the EEC and had the door slammed firmly in his face. It has been slammed in our faces ever since. The accumulation of surpluses, particularly agricultural surpluses, within that group of countries has played havoc with international commodity prices and some of the commodities we produce. That is the point.
The Government should be concentrating upon South East Asia and Japan. That is where there are trade opportunities for Australia. That is where Australia’s future is. We are a European enclave in the south end of the Asian region and our future, both politically and economically, is tied up with that region. It is particularly tied up with Japan; but there is a huge emerging market in South East Asia to which we must relate.
Australia should have the complexion of an Asian country and not a European country. This harking back to the past, flying over Asia to Europe to try to sell our agricultural commodities in what is already an area already stuffed withstuffed full of agricultural surpluses -
– Well, stuffed with agricultural surpluses, if you like. There is absolutely no opportunity for sales there. There should be a concentration on South East Asia.
One has to wonder what kind of machinations are going on within the Government? Why has the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations been appointed at all? What is wrong with the Department of Overseas Trade? Does the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) believe that the Deputy Prime Minister is incompetent as Minister for Overseas Trade? Does he believe the Department of Overseas Trade lacks competence? Why has the Special Trade Negotiator been appointed for the European Economic Community? Perhaps one could understand if a special trade negotiator had been appointed to Japan because there is absolutely no coordination in trade policy between Australia and Japan. That is clearly in evidence by the kinds of things that have happened in recent weeks. I refer to ships laden with sugar standing off the Japanese coast for a couple of months with the huge demurrage costs being borne by Australia and to the coal prices and the tonnages now being forced back because of no clear policy of the Government in terms of representation of a single trade interest with Japan. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) talks about beef sales to Japan. The Deputy Prime Minister talks about sugar. But nobody talks about coal or iron ore. In the manufacturing area the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) talks about the export to Australia of Japanese manufactured motor vehicles and other secondary products. There are half a dozen voices talking to Japan about trade when there should be one, when there should be one clear trade approach between Australia and Japan.
One really wonders what the Minister for National Resources who is also the Minister for Overseas Trade is ever doing because it just seems to me to be a misnomer to call him the Minister for Overseas Trade at all. In terms of this important relationship that Australia has with other countries, he seems to carry out no single function in the exercise of the responsibilities given to him by the Governor-General.
I mentioned the subject of coal earlier and I said that there is no orderly marketing in the coal industry. We have a weak market in coal and yet there is no trading response from the Government to it. The Deputy Prime Minister chided the Opposition in the House today about the honouring of existing uranium contracts with
Japan. But we very rarely hear him talk about Japan honouring existing coal contracts with Australia. We do not see much activity from him when we talk about Japan honouring existing sugar contracts with Australia. Oh yes, this matter is haggled about in discussions on the International Sugar Agreement but there was no way in which the Deputy Prime Minister was able to exercise any pressure upon Japan in terms of sugar agreements. There has been no way up until now that he has ever exercised any pressure on Japan in respect of coal. The Opposition has to honour to the letter and to the last definable ounce its contractual agreements. But Japan can take 60 per cent or 70 per cent of uplift of contracts whenever it likes and the Government is silent. Of course, the Government has let the side down. This is no more so than in the case of coal.
International prices in the coal industry are on the slide. Yet, the Minister has made no attempt to co-ordinate sales of coal to Japan. The Minister should call in companies such as Clutha Development Pty Ltd, Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd, Utah Development Company and Kembla Coal and Coke Pty Ltd to talk about a general trade approach. Instead of that, we see this despicable situation where the Utah company in Queensland is threatening the whole pricing future of the Australian coal industry by selling at outrageous prices for spot sales under contract prices. I have obtained some statistics from the Bureau of Statistics which I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– The present long term price for sales of coking coal to Mexico is around $A47 a ton. Yet some of the sales by Utah to Greece are as low as $32.40 a ton which is $ 1 5 a ton less than the ruling contract prices. Other prices are $33.41 a ton to Greece, $34.55 a ton to the Netherlands, $34.33 a ton to the Netherlands, $34.20 a ton to Belgium and $52.31 a ton to Taiwan. The same coal is ranging from $52 a ton to $32 a ton and this $20 a ton disparity is threatening the whole pricing structure of Australian coal. Yet the Government lets it go on because Utah will do anything for tonnage. If it means running out and ratting on the other producers in Australia it will do so. Although the Government has the power to check Utah it lacks the gumption to pull this company into line.
There is no orderly marketing in the industry. All of the south coast producers have high stocks of coal and, therefore, they must compete in the spot market to be rid of it. If we start competing hard in the spot market and reduce the across the board prices in respect of spot sales there will be a crack in our facade. Once that happens Japan will be in like a shot and it will argue down our long term price. Every dollar lost on 35 million tons or 40 million tons of coal a year means a loss of $30m in export income. Yet there is no attempt by the Government to put any sanity back into the industry or into pricing.
The Government says in its private negotiations that Canada cuts price. Canada does not cut price. Canada only cuts prices when it believes Australia will not hold its prices. It has never shown any inkling to cut prices when Australia is prepared to hold its prices. The United States of America has just bought 700,000 tons of coal so no one could say, as this country is now a net importer, that it is a price competitor. The wild joker in the pack is Utah and it is prepared to debase and to destroy the Australian coal export industry by its compulsion to put tonnage through its plants at any price it can get. In recent times we have seen this militate against south coast producers in New South Wales.
There is no consistent trade approach to Japan. The people of Australia are not getting value for money in terms of their trade policy and the Government ought to be ashamed of its initiatives or lack of initiatives in this area of Australian commerce.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I will take a moment to reply to something that the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) had to say in his speech in which he made predictions of gloom and disaster. The honourable member likes idly to throw about words such as ‘incompetence’. Honourable members will be aware of the dispute between Japanese refineries and Australian sugar producers in respect of Australia and Japan sugar contracts. This dispute has been of some concern to the industry and the nation over the last three months.
The honourable member for Blaxland seemed to take great joy in thinking that this was a simple issue that could be resolved by thumping on the table, jumping up and down and by all sorts of threats being made between our two countries. I am very pleased to say that a commercial settlement has been reached this afternoon between the refiners and the Japanese producers regarding the shipments of cargo on the water of which there are 213,000 tons worth $80m. Agreement has been reached in terms of price so that the cargo can be moved as soon as possible. Now that this matter has been resolved between the commercial interests, I am greatly encouraged to believe that it will be a matter of time only before the dispute regarding contracts can be settled. But it is an enormous relief to know that this commercial problem- and it is a commercial issue- has been resolved in a sensible way without having implications for other areas of trade between our two countries.
It would be so easy for a government to be unnecessarily provocative and to make the whole position much more complex and complicated by getting involved when really the dispute is between two contracting partners with which the governments have not been involved. I know that everybody will share my relief that the shipments will now be unloaded. I hope that the long term contract will be renegotiated satisfactorily and will continue. We have valued these long term contracts as a major advance in relations between our two countries. Japan is a country which needs assured supplies of raw materials. We believe that we have a reputation for being a dependable and reliable supplier, and we want to maintain that position. But if we find that contracts will not stand up to commercial pressures, the whole validity of such action is thrown into doubt.
I must say that I believe resolution of this question and resolution of the contracts has been made much easier because we have been able to achieve an International Sugar Agreement which now assures Japanese refiners that the world price of sugar in the next few years will be in the range for which the contracts were signed. So they are now looking to the world price being in the vicinity of the contract prices. The absence of an International Sugar Agreement would have meant ruinously low prices and would have produced enormous complications for them in importing high price sugar at contract price as against market price, which is many times lower. It is with a great deal of pleasure that I am able to mention to the Parliament these facts and point out how groundless and weak were the remarks of the honourable member for Blaxland in criticising the Government for its approach to what was a most delicate question.
– I am glad to hear the news that the Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr Anthony) has given to the Parliament and to learn that there is a commercial settlement concerning sugar prices. I hope that as Minister he may come into the debate a little later and tell us on what price the commercial settlement has been reached. In fact, I give him the opportunity to interject.
-I am told that it is $386. 1 have not got the final figure.
-From the $386 we can work out what the drop has been for the commercial producer in Australia. We must also seriously take into account the fact that a contract between ourselves and the Japanese is not now sacrosanct, which has long term implications for us. I do not want to create difficulties in this area, but I point out that a National Country Party State Premier in Mr Bjelke-Petersen had quite a lot to say in this whole matter that did not make negotiations at all easy for the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. Indeed, I am also bound to say that he moved around the Australian banks within the last couple of weeks seeking $ 160m to bail ov his building societies. Ke could not find it. I now understand that he used the CSR company to go to Japan to seek to borrow $50m from the Japanese banking system, which itself would not have helped the negotiations between the CSR company and commercial interests in Japan to reach a solution in this very sensitive area to which the Minister for Overseas Trade has just alluded. Let us hope, as the Minister has said, that an arrangement relating to the 213,000 tonnes on the water now will lead to a longer term arrangement and to even better negotiating formulae between ourselves and the Japanese so that in future contractural arrangements are sacrosanct and are not quitted at the stroke of a pen or at a decision on the spur of the moment, as seems to have been done in this case.
I might say that to me there may be a quid pro quo in the new, more flexible arrangement between ourselves and the Japanese. I am very well aware that when there was an up valuation of our currency at the end of 1972 the Japanese interests importing our iron ore took into account the fact that the Australian companies were hard hit by this up valuation of currency. That displayed a more flexible attitude in that area of trading negotiations. I am surprised that that element has not entered into the debate relating to CSR. It just means that to a far greater extent there has to be government involvement in this. Our relationship with the Japanese is allimportant and certainly we do not want intervention such as that by the bungling Premier of Queensland in this matter and in the raising of loans through one of the companies involved in this sensitive sugar arrangement.
I believe, as the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) has said, that overseas trade has been relatively neglected by the Fraser Government. I have not got together with the honourable member for Blaxland on this. I make that point to show just how genuinely we on this side of the Parliament feel about this matter. The very fact that this important department, the Department of Overseas Trade, shares a Minister with the Department of National Resources is indicative of the neglect. Further, the Minister, the Leader of the National Country Party, being forced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to carve off part of his power base when the Prime Minister appointed the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, is another indication of what we have said. It is interesting to note that the Special Trade Negotiator no longer adds to his official title the words ‘with the EEC. This suggests that he might not feel himself confined to Europe. I hope for his sake and for other reasons that this is so. Trade needs boosting, and this fragmented set-up will not result in the boost. Nor will the honourable member for Bennelong have much success if he thinks he can break through the European Economic Community’s common agricultural policy. The CAP egg is scrambled and we are not going to unscramble the egg, however hard we try. The time for hope in not misscrambling the egg was when the egg was being scrambled at the time the negotiations were taking place and the common agricultural policy was being negotiated. The Government at that time, the same conservative type of government as we have now, was relatively silent on the issue. The chickens are now coming home to roost because of the Government’s neglect at that time.
The Special Trade Negotiator has been given an impossible task. I hope he is being given a hole into which he can crawl, other than Europe, in order to try to gain some success for his efforts. We have had some pathetic Press releases from him. My imagination tells me that they are the sound of a man being raped by experts. He writes that it has become increasingly clear to him that many Europeans apply a highly selective approach to the principles of freer trade. I could have told him that before he left Australia. Had it stopped him from going, thousands of dollars of taxpayers funds would have been saved on his present round of talks in Europe. Incidentally, I agree with his sentiments. The European Economic Community’s agricultural protectionism is appalling, but we are too late to do anything worth while about it. Let us set out to see what we can get from that monster in the way of further trade in the manufactured products, because we will not get that customs union to change its attitude when it comes to the votes of the farmers having their sway. Too many EEC nations have their own equivalent of our own National Country Party barring the way to progress. I notice the smiles on the faces of some of my Liberal opponents. I sympathise with them in the difficulties they have with their country cousins as well. Precisely the same thing goes on in Europe at present with the country tail wagging the dog.
For progress to come from increased trade we must have these negotiations and we must have a Minister devoting himself to just this. The world’s hope for increasing its standard of living is an increase in trade. In so many sectors we need economies of scale and specialisation in order to achieve the greater productivity which is the necessary ingredient for improved standards of living. In too many cases our home market is too small for those economies of scale. So we must integrate with others, by trade, to get the larger markets for those economies. Perhaps our misfortune in being so isolated by distance from those large customs unions of Europe on one side of the world and the Americas on the other side of the world can be to our good fortune for we are relatively closer to the awakening Asia, particularly the ASEAN countries. It is with them that we must work out complementation and it is with them that we must now concentrate more trade. This will not be at the expense of our Japanese partners who remain our greatest trading partner. We do not want to put all our eggs into the Japanese basket any more than the Japanese want to put their eggs into our basket.
It is my belief that another hope for boosting our exports, particularly primary industry exports, is to concentrate on increasing trade with countries on the other side of the iron and bamboo curtains. Only 9 per cent of world trade at the present time is with those countries on the other side of those curtains and this proportion has scarcely changed in the past 15 years. This is a bad record. Those who turn their backs on eastern Europe and on the Chinese do so out of sheer ignorance. In recent months there has been more effort with the Chinese but, I believe, quite insufficient effort with Europe. We in the Labor Party believe that this will come about only if we build up an overseas trading corporation. Because I have had so much to say about the sugar agreement with Japan I am afraid I will have to cut short my remarks about the overseas trading corporation. The Canadians have one and New Zealand has one. The present system in Australia is that we do not have one and there are many private organisations which want one. I congratulate the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) for seeking to have one and I hope that soon we will have one with increased trade with eastern Europe.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr MartinOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– There is no doubt about the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). In this particular matter they both seem to be quite convinced pessimists. They seem convinced even at this stage that the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations (Mr Howard) will be unsuccessful in his mission. With respect, I should have thought that what the Opposition should be doing is to give credit to the Government on this particular matter because credit is certainly due. The Opposition asks why a special Minister has been appointed. I should have thought it was clear that the appointment of a special Minister to deal with this matter of trade negotiations with Europe is a recognition of the overwhelming importance that the Government places on achieving a more rational and sensible trade relationship with Europe. At the same time, of course, the previous two Opposition speakers certainly are quite right when they say that there are enormous trade opportunities for us in Asia. That is certainly the other important area at which we should be looking to expand our trade. I return to the first point to remind the honourable member for Adelaide again that he should not be too pessimistic about the Minister’s exercise in Europe. The Government believes he will be successful and certainly if it does nothing more, his trip to Europe will show the Europeans that we are serious in the dealings that we are having with them on their trade barriers.
I want to address some brief remarks on the estimates for the Department of Overseas Trade. It is in this particular area that there are two transactions to which I think attention should be given which would probably be described in the popular Press these days as rip-offs. Before I give the Committee an outline of both these transactions I should say that they both have three deleterious consequences. In the first place they will result in importers of goods into Australia paying out far more than they need, which undoubtedly increases the cost to importers of the goods that they import. What flows from that, of course, is that they naturally charge more on the resale of their goods if they are importers engaging in the resale of goods. The second unfortunate consequence of both these transactions that I intend to outline is that they both increase the quantity of money flowing out of the country and, hence, our invisibles, which I gather now are at about $3 billion a year. The third consequenceI suppose this is really why I raise the matter- is the fact that importers of goods into Australia are paying more than they need on the transactions in which they are engaged, which is, of course, wrong. It is wrong that they should be doing that without being aware of it.
What are these two transactions? The first comes from a situation where an overseas forwarding agent is responsible for several shipments of goods from overseas to Australia, all of which are conveyed in one container. This matter is concerned solely with container shipping. On the carriage of these goods charges are levied by the shipping company. The forwarding agent pays those charges in advance. He pays for freight and he pays the wharfage dues that are charged in Australia but which, are in fact, paid overseas. Both of those amounts eventually are paid by the Australian importer. The forwarding agent also pays charges for stacking and unpacking the container once it arrives in Australia. Likewise, that charge also is paid in Australia and is borne by the importer of the goods. They are three areas of payment that are borne by the importer in this particular transaction and which are paid by the overseas forwarding agent.
The goods arrive in Australia and the forwarding agent’s own representative in Australia, after the container is broken up, makes out a separate account which is sent to each of the individual consignees who own parts of the cargo. The individual consignee is not given a detailed composite account of the total amount of charges associated with that container and which are paid out by the forwarding agent for the whole container load. The importer is given only those charges which are said to apply to his own consignment. He is not given the cost of the entire container load. He is merely given a bill relating to his own customs clearing charges and freight. No doubt the forwarding agent’s justification for this is that he is not obliged to reveal to the consignee the details of the charges for the whole of the container when the consignee is importing only part of the contents of that container. That may be the justification but it is also the avenue for the forwarding agent to make his illicit gainbecause that is what it is- in this transaction.
For example, the total charges for a particular container may be $1,000. The contents of the container are in five separate parcels for five individual consignees. One would expect that each of the consignees would pay $200 towards the total charges for the container. But, they are each charged $1,000. The overseas forwarding agent, having paid out a disbursement of $1,000 is reimbursed $5,000 and makes a profit of $4,000 under the guise of merely being reimbursed what he has paid out. Of course, none of the five individual consignees know the total charges on the whole container. All the individual consignee knows is that he has a bill from the forwarding agent for $ 1 ,000 and that if he does not pay he will not be able to take delivery of his goods. Naturally he must pass this charge on and this increases the price of the goods. It should be said clearly that this is the doing of the overseas forwarding agent and its branch in Australia or its Australian agent. It is not the doing or the responsibility of the shipping line itself.
The second device to which I want to refer relates particularly to the conference shipping line. The procedure starts again with the foreign forwarding agent shipping the goods to Australia either in a container or as loose cargo carried on a ship owned by a company which is a member of the conference line. The shipping lines in the conference charge basic freight rates, bunkering charges, currency adjustments and other charges, including, most importantly, because this is where the whole problem springs from, a 10 per cent extra surcharge called a primage surcharge. That is calculated at 10 per cent of the freight charge. The majority of importers buy freight on board conditions, and all of the charges that I have mentioned, including the 10 per cent primage surcharge, are paid from Australia by the importer. The charges are collected by the agent of the shipping lines in Australia. After the goods have arrived an account for the charges is sent by the agent to the consignee or the agent of the importer, and that includes the 10 per cent additional freight charge which has been imposed.
The vice arises in these circumstances in that six months after the goods arrive in Australia the overseas forwarding agent is entitled to ask for a rebate of that 10 per cent primage charge from the shipping line. He will be entitled to that rebate, which is called at that stage a loyalty rebate, if in fact the ship that has been used for the conveyance of the goods is owned by a shipping line which is a member of the conference line. Of course, when that happens, the refund is paid to the forwarding agent and not to the importer of the goods. One would have thought, of course, that once that transaction was completed the 10 per cent additional charge which has been paid would be repaid to the importer because it came from his pocket in the first place. But again, surprise, surprise! No, the 10 per cent is not refunded; the 10 per cent remains in the pocket of the overseas forwarding agent who receives, as well as his normal commission and his normal profit, what amounts in fact to an additional 10 per cent illegal profit.
That is a situation which I can summarise briefly by saying that it is outrageous. If the facts which I have recounted to the Committee this afternoon are facts which are denied by those involved in this matter, no doubt they will come forward and deny them. They are facts that have been brought to my notice, and I think they deserve an airing. As far as I am concerned, they are factual matters which will remain factual matters until they are denied.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-First of all, I would like to comment on an announcement made earlier by the Minister for Overseas Trade and Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) relating to a partial agreement reached with the Japanese in relation to sugar contracts. If I heard the Minister correctly, he indicated that it was his understanding- my understanding is that this is not factual- that the price agreed upon for the 200,000-odd tonnes of sugar which is currently on the water or in Japanese ports is $386 a tonne. That price represents a drop of approximately $20 a tonne on the original contract price. The question to be asked is this: Who is to pay the costs incurred by some of the ships which have been waiting around for some considerable time and which were in fact under contract to CSR Ltd. The actual agreement represents a loss on the contract price at its initial negotiated rate of some $4m. The remainder of the contract has still to be negotiated.
When speaking last Thursday on the statement made in relation to the sugar agreement I indicated that I felt that the speech made by the Minister for Overseas Trade was at least better than the approach adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in this particular area. I think I should say also that the problem of negotiating the sugar contract in Japan has always been one that should be dealt with on a government to government basis. If I may say so, any negotiations which have taken place between the Queensland Government and its agent, CSR as negotiators, with the trading companies in Japan, Mitsui and Mitsubishi, in fact were nothing more than shadow sparring operations until such time as the Japanese Government was persuaded to intervene as it did in the initial stages. It fixed a price at that time because of the shock of the oil crisis. The Japanese Government was insisting on fixed commodity price agreements, a number of which it is now trying to renegotiate. Until the intervention of the Japanese Government there was no prospect whatsoever of a settlement to the dispute. It could not be settled between the trading companies who had the carriage of the contracts in Japan and the Australian sugar industry. The problem was one of market shares in Australian sugar in Japan, an over capacity in Japan for refined sugar, and the fact that the trading companies in Japan allocated the Australian sugar contracts which at the time were at a price lower than the world price and which were based on other than market shares applying to sugar refineries in that country.
Only by redefinition of that allocation, which would be done only at a government level, could the situation be overcome. The independent companies were not likely, nor could they be expected, to give up the advantage that they had gained because of the drop in world prices in order to satisfy the needs of Mitsui and Mitsubishi and the trading offshoots of those companies, when in fact those companies had acted to disadvantage the independent operators in the first instance.
One of the obvious problems in this instance was that a sharp commercial practice had backfired because the price drop was substantial. About two weeks ago it was indicated that the Japanese Government had in fact introduced legislation to re-organise on a temporary basis the Japanese sugar industry and to reallocate the Australian contract on a market share type arrangement. When that legislation is passed it will put the Japanese companies in such a position that their trading situation is on a relatively equal basis in that they will be paying the same price for imported sugar as they do for locally produced sugar.
The point I am making and the point I think ought to be made to the Committee is that these circumstances should have been quite well known to the Government. If they were not well known to the Government three months ago Government members had only to read the Far Eastern Review of about 8 August to get an assessment of the internal situation in the Japanese sugar market place. I have no doubt that the Government was fully aware of the situation; CSR certainly was. A government to government position and a Minister to Minister position was absolutely necessary in the early stages of this dispute, before it blew up into a confrontation situation about the middle of the year. I think that the Government was tardy in that regard. I believe that the Minister for Overseas Trade should have been in Japan negotiating with the Japanese authorities in July and at the latest, in August. He visited Japan for one day at that point. When I was in Japan in August reports were circulating that he would be visiting Japan some time later in the fall to conclude the negotiations. The Minister subsequently said that he had not made that statement but that he had made a statement which had been misconstrued in the Japanese Press but which did have an effect on the negotiations, as did the discussions on and the delays in dealing with the uncertainty surrounding the Australian currency. The problem was that it had to be negotiated on a political level. I believe that settlement to date has been delayed because those political negotiations have not been carried through sufficiently to press the Japanese Government to take the action which ultimately it has taken. I think it is also important that we should understand that the Japanese were extremely offended at the manner in which their Prime Minister was confronted by our Prime Minister. Rather than discuss the matter on an equal basis with the Prime Minister of one of the four or five major trading nations of the world, he sought to give a principal’s lecture to one of his students. That did not help the matter, and that is what I was referring to when I spoke in the debate last Thursday. At least the Minister for Overseas Trade dealt with it as though we were negotiating a problem.
I think it is also important that the Committee understands that contracts for Australian goods are only as strong as the manner in which agreement is reached and the manner in which they are supported in Australia. Unfortunately we as a trading nation are in the position where we do not seek to sell our goods to a buyer. We seek to let the buyer purchase our goods. The weakness of our position is shown by recent undercutting by mineral companies in seeking orders with Japan, to the detriment of Australia as a whole, and by the fact that we send multiple sellers into markets to sell our primary products in many areas, beef being one. Rather than maximising the price being received by the Australian grower, we trade on the basis of minimising the price for our goods sold on the international market places.
Certainly in the case of primary products sold in Japan there is no evidence that the Japanese purchased other than on a single buyer basis and we are sending two and three companies into the area to sell the same beef. That is virtually what it amounts to. It may be that the price we get could not be altered greatly but certainly we are going to get the worst possible price if we have three people bidding against one another for a sale, knowing full well that there is only one buyer and that the buyer will accept the lowest price offered to him. Recently we have had cuts in the price of raw materials provided to Japan because the capital investment in some of our mineral companies is such that they cannot afford not to have a continued cash flow, and they cannot have a continued cash flow if orders and contracts are held up. Hence we have the situation where most likely we have already an over-capitalisation and over-capacity to supply. Therefore we are forcing ourselves into a market place situation where we are bidding to be the lowest price provider in the market place rather than maximising the price which is available. I think it is fair to suggest that much more consideration ought to be given to obtaining the best price for commodities as well as the quantity of those commodities which are sold.
The Minister for Overseas Trade mentioned an international sugar agreement. The whole basis of that agreement is that there will be virtually one export price for sugar on a world-wide basis. Yet in the market place in too many commodities in which we trade overseas and which we are able to sell we are advantaging the buyer by competing against ourselves for orders which should be sought and obtained on a national basis.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson) Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I must say that this afternoon we have been treated to a very interesting speech from the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). It is fascinating indeed to watch the representatives of the Australian Labor Party posing in Opposition as businessmen with the interests of Australia and our trading partners at heart, demonstrating to us that they are people concerned less with their socialism than they are with the vagaries of international trade. I must say that it was a remarkable speech. When I heard the honourable member for Corio being critical of the Australian Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who recently engaged in discussions with the Prime Minister of Japan, I could not help feeling that I had to remember those days when the honourable member for Corio was Chairman of Committees in this chamber and when the late Minister for Minerals and Energy was laying down the law to people in this chamber about the way in which trade should be conducted with Japan. I remembered the charm and the savoir faire with which he referred to Australian businessmen. I remember such delicate expressions as ‘hillbillies’ and ‘hicks’. I can well recall that those comments were typical of the attitude of the Labor Government towards overseas trade in every area of the world.
I can well remember that those people did enormous harm to Australia with their attitude towards the contracts that has been arranged by the businessmen of Australia, with the approval of the McMahon Government, right up until 1972. I point out that those criticisms that were made this afternoon by the honourable member for Corio were largely a matter of selection. They were a matter of choice as far as he is concerned in Opposition- a little bit like the wolf trying to get into the sheep’s coat. Those of us who were here before the honourable gentleman who sits alone on the Opposition front bench can tell him that the Labor Party in opposition is an entirely different kettle of fish from the Labor Party in government. I can well remember the way in which those comments were made by the Prime Minister of that day, right down to most of his Ministers, perhaps with the exception of my old friend the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean).
Having said that, I would like to make a few comments about these three departments. I lament the fact that we have only ten minutes in which to deal with the Department of National Resources, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator. I want to ask the Government, as I have been asking it for a long time and as I will continue to do so long as I am in this place, to reconsider its attitude towards the exploration for oil and mineral resources within this country. I would have thought that because of my personal association I would be able at least to render some advice that was worthy of consideration. I believe that the history of Australia from 1957-58 through until 1968-69 demonstrated the wisdom of having encouragement for small Australian companies to go out into this country and search for minerals and petroleum so that they would be able to create a background upon which farmouts could be built and wealthy companies from overseas could be encouraged to come to Australia to help in development. This is an attitude of mind which is utterly foreign to my friends on the other side of the chamber. They believe in government ownership, direction and control of all of these assets. They believe that foreign companies ought to be kept out of Australia. Their lunacy was manifested in their conduct during the years from 1972 to 1975.
For my part I believe that encouragement with tax deductions should be given to Australian companies to encourage the small investor in this community to spend his money on companies that are prepared to carry out appropriate programs and to seek the relevant licences and leases to do that. The Government through its Bureau of Mineral Resources and through its Department of National Development in the past, was able to be fairly sure that programs that were adopted and did attract financial assistance from the Government were programs that were worth while and had the technical approval of the Government’s own experts.
I turn now to the references that have been made to the United Kingdom and to the
European Economic Community. Some of the comments that were made by my friend the honourable member for Corio and previous speakers are very difficult to understand in view of the traditional antipathy that the Labor Party has had to our international associates in the years from 1955 to 1972. I compliment the Government on having the wisdom to have one of our younger Ministers- an experienced negotiator, and experienced barrister- in Europe as Special Trade Negotiator. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) made some extraordinary references to Western Europe and Eastern Europe. I know, as he and I both representing this country at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1975, that his experience, like mine, has been that the protectionism within the European Economic Community in relation to agriculture and other forms of industry has to be seen to be believed. If he genuinely thinks that we can make penetration into Eastern Europe without running into conflict with Western Europe he should have another think because the facts are that Western Europe will act in the interests of Western Europe first, second and third. Those people in the United Kingdom who have been in conflict with the people within the European Economic Community for so many years will well know the truth of what I have just said.
I believe that we should proceed as much as possible to establish bilateral arrangements with various countries in the American continent and in the continent of Europe. But I point out that in Western Europe in particular we will run into the protectionism which is so important to the Common Market, as it is called. If the countries comprising the Common Market have learned anything from their association over recent years it has been that success comes to those who stick together. As we all know, over the previous 250 years European nations spent most of their time tearing one another to pieces. They have found it eminently profitable to learn that success comes to those who stand together. I regret to say that in my opinion it will take a long time for Australians to be able to compensate for that matter of reality.
I hope, as I have said before, that the Government will lend maximum support to the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations. I hope that the people of Australia will recognise that this is a unique appointment. I believe that the Government should go to great lengths to give the Minister all the support he needs. I believe that in matters of staff and expense it ought to be remembered that a great deal of the future for
Australia will result from the success of the Minister in the next decade acting on behalf of our country overseas.
-The Parliament is debating the estimates for the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator, the Department of Overseas Trade and the Department of National Resources. In my opening remarks I wish to make some reference to remarks just passed by the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham). True to his tradition as a tory, he advocated that small private companies should be allowed to go out and explore -
– They should be encouraged.
-Indeed they should be encouraged to search, for our minerals. There may be a bit of merit in that but the honourable member for North Sydney did not tell the nation and this Parliament that our Federal Bureau of Mineral Resources carries out such activities. This is not done to the extent that it actually drills to find the quantity and the quality of the minerals, but it can virtually guide private companies to the location of Australian minerals wanted by the nation and the rest of the world.
What has upset me in the last few days- I am talking now of national resources- is the criticism that has been levelled at the New South Wales Labor Government led by Mr Wran, who has indicated that he will not allocate the lease for the rich Warkworth coal deposits in the Hunter Valley to private enterprise. State parliaments have a right to allocate leases to different companies if they so wish; but the New South Wales Labor Government acts in a true Labor tradition. It is totally different from the Country Party dominated Queensland Government. We know that in Queensland Utah is making fabulous profits and is repatriating them overseas to its investors who would not know what a coal mine is or where in Australia it is located. This is the great conflict between members on the Government side of the chamber and members of the Labor Party Opposition on this side of the chamber.
We believe in more public ownership of our God-given natural resources. I have believed in it since I learned to walk. I was raised in the northern coal fields of New South Wales where I saw the shocking exploitation of God-given coal resources by private enterprise. The companies concerned gouged the coal out of the ground by the quickest possible method for the highest possible price. Private enterprise was responsible for our losing millions of tons of high quality rich coal because of the rip-out, profit-motive dominated methods which they employed in olden times. I am going back just prior to the 1960s. This is why I could never agree with the thinking of members on the Government side that our natural resources should be allowed to be mined, developed, sold and exploited by private enterprise when one knows what private enterprise has done to our coal deposits. I applaud Mr Wran for his intention to allocate the rich Warkworth coal deposits in the Hunter Valley to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales which is a public owned and controlled instrumentality. Fifty-one per cent of the shares are to be allocated to the Electricity Commission. Private enterprise will be allocated 49 per cent.
I imagine that the whole of the Australian people will applaud the principle involved in curbing the exploitation of God-given natural resources by private enterprise, whether those resources be coal, uranium, iron ore, zinc, lead, tin, silver copper or whatever. Those minerals were not invented by man. They were not created by man’s creative and developed mind. If there is an Almighty, mythical or otherwiseand I believe there is- then those minerals have been created by Him. They were not put there for exploitation by private enterprise, whether it be Utah, Clutha or Coal and Allied or whoever to enrich the few against the many. Those rich minerals were put in the ground for the community to use, for the development of our nation and to improve the standard of living of the community in general. But what do we see? We see the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), like the honourable member for North Sydney who is always advocating a greater slice of the cake for private enterprise, criticising Mr Wran in connection with the Warkworth coal deposit. An article in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald states:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, led an attack on the NSW Government yesterday for what he said was ‘an outrageous decision’ to allow the State Electricity Commission to develop the rich Warkworth coal deposits near Newcastle.
They are in the Hunter Valley, which is outside my electorate of Hunter. The article goes on to say that poor old Coal and Allied had spent $5m in exploring the area. I learned years ago just after I came into this Parliament, from a man now dead and gone but who was employed by the New South Wales Coal Board, that there were vast coal resources in the Hunter Valley. The point I am making is that whilst Coal and Allied might have spent $5m- I believe that would be an inflated figure- the innocent minded public are given the impression that
Coal and Allied searched for and found these rich coal resources in the Hunter Valley in recent times at the expense of their shareholders. This is not the case. The Coal Board, which is a government instrumentality paid for by the New South Wales Parliament and this Parliament out of taxpayers ‘ money, had done extensive research in the Hunter Valley in connection with the coal resources there. The Coal Board found there were colossal, rich deposits of coal there. So Coal and Allied were not responsible for finding the coal deposits. Admittedly that company carried out further research to find out the extensiveness of the coal seams. But what Coal and Allied would have its eye on would be how much money could be made out of it. When Coal and Allied proved the extensiveness of the deposits beyond doubt and discovered how much money could be made, it would go on the world market and would be bought out by a multinational consortium. But the great Mr Wran, true to Labor’s traditions said: ‘Hands off. The people of New South Wales, the people of Australia will control 5 1 per cent of the rich Warkworth coal deposits. There is not going to be a repetition in New South Wales while I am the Premier, of what happened in Queensland under the peanut cowboy Bjelke jokey Petersen who has sold out the rich coal deposits to multi-nationals’. Mr Wran has, by his own actions, said no. I applaud him for it.
On this matter of private enterprise development, it is worth placing one thing on the record of this Parliament. The honourable member for North Sydney will be aware of what I am about to say. I suppose he would have the traditional Tory view. When I was in New Guinea at one time in a mixed delegation I was reading the English Economist. A Tory said to me: ‘What are you reading, Bert?’. I said: ‘I am reading about this crowd that built the Hawker Siddeley plane that we came over in having to pay back to the British Government £5m in excess profits’. This is private enterprise- £5m in profits over and above a company’s normal profits in fulfilling a defence contract to the British Government. The Tory senator said: ‘I cannot understand you Labor fellows. That is not exploitation of the British taxpayer. That is business acumen’. God bless me. The Hawker Siddley company had a rip-off in excess of normal profits of £5m. Another, the Ferranti Co. in Great Britain in fulfilling a defence contract in making the bloodhound missile some years ago similarly ripped off £6m, I think it was, in excess profit over and above their normal profits. That company committed a similar sin. The British Government found out and asked the company to hand back its excess profits. This Tory senator who was in the other place but is no longer in the Parliament holds the view that this is business acumen. How to God can anyone ever convince- I hope it never happens- my electors in Hunter that this is business acumen. It is shocking exploitation of man by man which if allowed to continue brings down people ‘s democracy.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Minister for the Northern Territory and Minister Assisting the Minister for National Resources) (5.57)- It is no wonder, of course, that we got no investment in this country under the term of the Labor Government. I believe we have heard in the last few minutes me way not to get any investment at all in this country. Nothing will cause greater uncertainty to investors, Australian and foreign alike, than that decision that was made by the New South Wales Government. I believe it is not in the national interest. I believe it is absolutely counter to the national interest. It is all very well for the honourable member for Hunter (Mr James) to talk the way he did. The inconsistency of the New South Wales Government is pretty well highlighted. Recently, with a great fanfare of trumpets, the Premier of New South Wales announced that a substantial portion- 49 per cent- of a steaming coal deposit had been sold to Japanese interests. It is no wonder that we did not get investment under a Labor government.
I know that this debate is shortly to conclude. I want to take up one other point. The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) referred to prices that had been paid to Utah Development Co. which he alleged were supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I question that. My understanding is that the Australian Bureau of Statistics does not provide information relating to individual companies. I would like to have taken that matter a little further. I thank members who have taken part in the debate for their contributions. The matters will be referred to the various Ministers who will respond at a suitable time.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
Department of Industry and Commerce
Proposed expenditure, $23,944,000.
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $9 1 ,747,000.
Department of Productivity
Proposed expenditure, $105,278,000.
-The discussion on the estimates for these departments takes on a new dimension in view of the speculation which exists throughout the national capital of an early election, because it would seem that in making our comments on the estimates and the running of the departments it is far more important on this occasion, seeing that the holding of an election is almost certain, that members of the Public Service are cognisant of the comments of members of the Opposition because it is highly likely that we will be their Ministers in a few weeks’ time. We do not want to go to the trouble of telling them to read the documents about implementing Australian Labor Party policy when that occasion arises.
There has always been a spectacle of some illusion as far as business in this country is concerned. The Liberal and National Country Parties have always put forward the view that they are the only ones that can represent business, that they are the only ones that can legislate to assist business and that they are the only ones, when they are in government, that can perhaps provide the confidence that is required by business to be successful and to be profitable. For almost two years we have seen that theory smashed because we have seen not only thousands of small businesses go out of existence altogether but also a decline by some of our major manufacturers and a lot of them going overseas. The theory that the Liberal-Country Party put forward during the campaign in December 1975 has been smashed. The ideas that have been put forward by members on this side of the House now present themselves not only as an alternative but also as a much better way in which the relationship between government and business ought to be conducted in this country.
I suspect that one of the things that ought to be said in relation to the estimates of these departments relates to the decision during the year to close the shipbuilding industry. There was quite a considerable estimate in previous years for the industry, but it was this year that the decision was made to close down almost completely that industry. It is one of the most noticeable features of the estimates. One should reiterate in relation to the mixture of departments which are under discussion the view of the Labor Party in relation to the makeup of them. Firstly it has been proved to be absolutely ridiculous to have created a further ministry of Productivity. The matters that are dealt with by the Minister for Productivity are of course extremely important, but one can see how ridiculous the makeup of the departments is when a Department of Productivity is established and the Department of Consumer Affairs is put in with Business so that the importance of it is completely submerged. The Labor Party obviously would put Productivity back with Industry, where it belongs. There is no need to add to the bureaucracy in Australia by this very irrational decision to have a separate department. The same thing applies, as my colleagues said this afternoon, with the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator. Those departments are unnecessary and should be put back into the one department.
Consumer Affairs, which is such a very important subject to the Australian electorate, would be brought out of the doom in which it has been placed in business and would be given a far greater priority by the Labor Party. It seems to be ignored by this Government that consumer bureaus throughout Australia dealt with almost 300,000 complaints and inquiries during the last financial year. Obviously it is a matter which is growing in importance in Australia. We would see that that importance was reflected in the way in which the bureaucracy was made up. Let me say in relation to Consumer Affairs that a future Labor government would have not only a Minister for Consumer Affairs but also a very comprehensive policy in relation to it. That policy was adopted at our Perth conference. People interested in the various attitudes of the Government and the Labor Party ought to read that, particularly the public servants, so they would know that we would be giving a greater priority to this very important subject.
The overall increase in expenditure for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs is approximately 5 per cent in the 1 977-78 Budget. The Trade Practices Commission will receive the impact of the full inflationary effects since its funding is virtually constant. The Prices Justification Tribunal will receive an impact even greater than just the inflationary impact since its finances are marginally reduced. The Industries Assistance Commission will offset a little under half of the inflationary impact through a four per cent increase in funding. An analysis of the Trade Practices Commission salaries reveals the squeezing of this agency by reducing staff levels from 213 to 204. Travelling expenses have been decreased by four per cent, when the Government has increased the need for travelling by amending the Act to allow for authorisation conferences at the request of applicants. Legal expenses are very small compared with the rapidly developing litigation role of the Commission. Enforcement of the Act has been restricted to flagrant breaches only.
The Prices Justification Tribunal staff is estimated to decline from 1 19 to 111. The legal expenses connected with public hearings are forecast to decline by a further 52 per cent in 1977-78. Again in the comments that I make or the emphasis that I place on the decline in the expenditure made available to these agencies, the deep rooted philosophy of this Government in trying not to interfere with business, in the way in which the Trade Practices Commission and the prices justification Tribunal were set up to do, can be seen. The public hearings, which have enormous impact in regulating proper conduct within the business world, have again been slashed.
The Department of Industry and Commerce has forecast an increase in staff from 373 to 403 during 1977-78 and a slight increase in expenditure. The staff increase appears to be spread across each division. One could reasonably ask: What do these highly paid people do? Apart from the production of some small publications on industry trends and the policy administration of grants associated with structural adjustment and industrial research, this Department’s output appears to be related to the development of policy advice to the Minister and the administration of the shipping division which arranges for the allocation of shipbuilding subsidies. It will not have much to do in relation to that area any more. Compare its staffing level with the staffing of the Industries Assistance Commission of 472. Comparing the output of the Commission with the output of the Department gives one the impression that perhaps the IAC is far more maligned than it ought to be.
The other comment I make in relation to the Department of Industry and Commerceperhaps the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) could take some note of this- is that it appears that the Department intends to establish its own library in the same building in which the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs also has a library. No doubt the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which is about to transfer to the same building, will also have its own library. There seems to be some great waste in each of these departments having these sorts of facilities in the same building. The budget for the Bureau of Industry Economics appears pitifully small. The Bureau will consist of only nine people during 1977-78; meanwhile the
Government proposes to spend $40,000 on consultants during 1977-78 working on projects which could well be done by the Bureau.
I mentioned the Department of Productivity earlier in my remarks but I will refer to it again now that the Minister for Productivity is at the table. We do not agree with the separation of the Ministry of Productivity from the Ministry dealing with industry. These two activities are not incompatible. We think that the setting up of the Department of Productivity represents a futile extension of the bureaucracy. We do not denigrate in any way the work which has been passed over to the new Department of Productivity. It covers extremely important areas and we will be giving a great deal of attention to them.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-In respect of the- (Quorum formed). I thank the honourable member for Hunter for his kindness in making sure that there is a suitable audience to hear the speech that I am going to make. I assure the honourable member that the compliment will be returned to him in due course. I particularly wish to refer to the estimates for the Department of Productivity. Firstly, I would like to congratulate the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) and his Department for producing this booklet entitled The Productivity Connection. I think it is worth while quoting from the foreword of this booklet because it says:
There has long been a need for a textbook which examines the influence of productivity on economic well-being. In this book, Dr Norman demonstrates that making better use of our resources of men, machines, material and money is the best and perhaps the only way to improvement of overall living standards.
Our Minister has been endeavouring to do this and I am sure he will achieve it. I understand also that this textbook will be used in the training of apprentices. It will be used in their training program. Mr Deputy Chairman, could you call a halt to the other conversations that are taking place?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! There is too much audible conversation in the chamber. I cannot hear what the honourable member for Bendigo is saying.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy Chairman. We have very important matters before us. I was referring to this textbook entitled The Productivity Connection. It is a vital piece of literature and it will be used to great benefit in apprenticeship training in the future. The area within the estimates of the Department of Productivity which concerns me most is the work undertaken by the ordnance factories, particularly the ordnance factory in my electorate of Bendigo. One of the things that has greatly troubled us over the last few months has been the future of apprentices employed by the ordnance factory in Bendigo. In the past it has been the practice at the factory to employ perhaps a few more apprentices than was normally required but the standard of training has been such that people trained there have been quickly snapped up for employment by other organisations.
– By private enterprise which will not train them.
-Of course. The honourable member for Hunter is quite right. We recognise the high standard of training at the ordnance factory at Bendigo. We have always supported it and I thank the honourable member for Hunter for his interjection. The Minister has given me an assurance that the ordnance factory at Bendigo will continue to employ the same number of apprentices that it has in the past and that they will be trained to the utmost of the expertise available there.
The future of the ordnance factory itself is of vital importance, particularly following three years of Labor Government. During that time the employees there were suffering as a result of the amount of work available. During the time of the Labor Government we had a Minister who brought tanks overseas and who was not a bit interested in getting any of that equipment manufactured here. As distinct from that attitude, the present Government is prepared to look at the possibility of manufacturing items at our own ordnance factories, using the expertise we have and ensuring that this expertise will continue. In co-operation with the Food Machinery Corporation of the United States of America, we have the opportunity of providing the 5 inch/54 gun mounts for the Navy. These will be installed on HMAS Swan and HMAS Torrens when they are refitted. Even though these gun mounts will be manufactured in the United States they will provide 58,000 hours of work for the Bendigo ordnance factory. I believe that this is a tremendous opportunity. It shows what this Government is prepared to do in the way of production. It is one way of making sure that our ordnance factories continue to operate.
During the war years ordnance factories throughout Australia reached a very high level of expertise but our high quality tradesmen have gradually slipped away, through age and other reasons. When the Labor Party was in government we lost contracts and therefore we had no opportunity of providing younger people with the training that they needed. Under the present government I hope and believe that every reasonable opportunity will be granted to the ordnance factory to join with the Food Machinery Corporation in manufacturing these gun mounts. The initial work, that magnificent 58,000 hours of work, is not the major factor to be considered; we have to consider the long term program. Associated with the future manufacture of these mark 45 guns for the Navy is a proposal that work loads of approximately 70,000 hours per mount would be provided, equivalent to 35,000 hours per year, from about 1985 onwards. This would guarantee the future of ordnance factories, particularly the factory in the Bendigo electorate.
– That is a great tribute to the local member.
-Of course it is. The overhaul of the 5 inch gun mounts for the Navy is being proposed and this would provide a further 35,000 hours per mount every two years from 1985 onwards. We will find that we will be starting to increase opportunities for employment at the Bendigo ordnance factory because of the positive attitude taken by this Government towards the ordnance factories in this country. In the future we cannot allow ourselves to be placed in the position where we are not manufacturing. All honourable members are aware that the Leopard tanks purchased by the previous Government were purchased on the basis that they would be manufactured in West Germany. The gun mounts are to come from England and some other parts are to come from France. Nothing is coming from within this country. At that time the Australian Government had no backbone, no gumption. It did nothing to make sure that we had at least the opportunity to learn and to study so that we would be able to produce the gun turrets. At least we could have done that. We can produce all the gun barrels that the Navy requires. We can produce the turrets. We overhaul most of them now.
There is no way known that we do not have the facilities. All we need is the authority from the Government, and this Government will give every opportunity to the ordnance factory either to take on the contract as the initial contractor or to work in conjunction with the Food Machinery Corporation of America. If the ordnance factory gains the contract it will not only provide the 5-inch gun mounts for our own Navy but also have the opportunity to carry out contracts in conjunction with FMC, which is the biggest supplier to the United States Navy, and to supply material and carry out work for the United States Navy. This would be a breakthrough. It is something that we need in Australia to make sure that our expertise in providing defence force mechanisms and defence force supplies does not slip. This is something that the previous Government failed to do.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Committee debate on the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity gives me an opportunity to draw attention to the need for a focusing in this country on medium and long term planning. We have, of course, a major economic department in the Department of the Treasury which focuses on the short term but unfortunately the sort of philosophy that has permeated governments of this country has been that the medium term and long term are just a series of short terms. It is my conviction that in particular parts of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity could be amalgamated into a major economic department that has the task of developing a long term strategy for our country.
We find that so many of the problems that our country faces today just cannot be cured by pulling a macro economic lever here or pushing another one there. The world has changed. Our economy has changed from the conditions that prevailed, for instance, in the 1950s and 1960s. We have to take into account, for instance, that commodities will never again be available at such a relatively low price. I am speaking not only of the oil price hike of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries but also of the developing nations which quite rightly will not allow developed nations to live off them to the extent that they have. But that is only one of the changes that has taken place which must lead thinking people to the conclusion that we require a second major economic department to focus on these medium and long term problems.
Professor Borrie in his report predicts population levels. But have we properly taken hold of what Professor Borrie has said and worked out just what population we expect to have in Australia at the turn of the century? Do we know what this will mean in terms of the number of jobs that we will require over the years to the . turn of the century and beyond in order to employ fully the expected population in Australia? What will it mean in terms of the number of industries, for instance, that we should have in order to create those jobs and to see that we have full employment in this country? What will that mean in terms of education requirements, the retraining requirements and even the training requirements for industry?
I assert that there just is not the medium and long term thinking going on in our community which focuses on these great problems. The nearest we come to this function is the work performed by the new Department of Productivity and by some sections of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, particularly where that Department has authority over such organisations as the Industries Assistance Commission, the Trades Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal. Certainly these bodies should be answerable to a major economic department that might be established with responsibilities in this area of longer term planning. They should be very well integrated with that department because the work they do is so vital for the answering of the sorts of questions I have raised. They are questions that need to be answered by such a department.
For convenience I would call the new departmentand I do not want to suggest that the Australian Labor Party has determined a name for it- a department of economic development. I point out also that the Labor Party platform takes care of the establishment of an economic council to service that department. The department itself would be a secretariat for the council. The Council would be made up of people from the business community, from the world of trade unions, both employers and employees, as well as from government, State as well as Federal, and also from scholars from universities. If we are to answer those hard questions, some of which I have raised already in the few minutes I have been on my feet, we need to have a consensus approach. Once we have determined the national objectives, there is no way that we will be able to achieve them unless there is consensus between, for instance, State governments and the Federal government. The State governments, for example, have an enormous responsibility in the area of education. We would not be able to achieve those objectives in a mixed economy such as this one unless there was a general consensus view on these objectives and unless the business community agreed with the objectives. So the business community must have a hand in establishing the objectives.
There are many detractors from the idea that such a consensus can be arrived at in this country. I recognise the difficulty of doing so. But I think it ought to be tried. I think we ought to seek that consensus and those national objectives. I draw attention to the way in which a wide group of people come in such a consensus in the Vernon Committee report. Heaven forbid that ever again such a fine work should be thrown aside in the way that this committee’s work was thrown aside. Also, consensus was reached in respect of the report of the Jackson Committee which applied itself to the grave problems of manufacturing industry. I am still hopeful that there will be a bi-partisan approach on trying to achieve the objectives set out in that report.
I draw attention to the fact that it is not just a government of the sort of philosophy of a Labor government that has come to the conclusions that we have come to of the need for planning in our community. Even countries such as France and Japan, which have not had democratic socialist governments for many, many years, have planning agencies such as the ones which we envisage. I refer, of course, in the French case to the Commissariat Du Plan and in the Japanese case to that country’s economic planning agency. These relatively free enterprise nations concede the great value that there is in getting together and seeking national objectives so that the nation itself can work towards them. Therefore, it is with a great deal of cynicism that one has to draw attention to the fact that a Minister of the present Fraser Government- the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon)- as recently as 8 October in an address to the Federal Council of the National Country Party of Australia stupidly said certain things about such a concept. He said:
In fact one only has to look at the published platform of the Labor Party to see that the real power lies in endorsing a centrally planned economy with strong government intervention at all levels.
We have not talked about that sort of concept. There is agreement in the business community of the need for the kind of concept that we are talking about, namely, the need for the establishment of these national objectives. He went on suggesting that our ideas endorse the use of such instruments as government regulation, public private sector ownership, government procurement and nationalisation to achieve an economic system as practised by eastern European and communist bloc countries. That is utter drivel. It is an utterly misleading and deceptive description of the sorts of things we are setting out.
As I have just told the Committee, the French and the Japanese in particular, and many other nations running mixed economies have seen the virtue of having a major economic department focusing on the medium and long term. Until we have a government in this country which recognises that to a large extent our problems are structural and require agreement between the various sectors of our economy and between the various parts of the government, State as well as Federal, we will go on bumping along the bottom of the recessionary trough as we are now, with unprecedented unemployment and everybody agreeing that that unemployment will rise even further in the new year. I hope that these ideas about the medium and long term will be adopted.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I move:
The Customs Tariff Proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. Proposals Nos 29 and 30 formally place before Parliament, as required by law, tariff changes introduced by Gazette notices during the last recess. On 23 September 1977 the Government, following its consideration of a report by the Temporary Assistance Authority on brandy, whisky, gin and vodka, gazetted temporary duties and tariff quotas to apply to brandy and whisky. Proposals No. 29 ratify the Government’s decision to impose tariff quotas and temporary duties on imports of brandy. Imports of brandy within quota entitlements now attract duty at the rate of $12.50 per litre of alcohol. Imports outside quota arrangements attract an additional duty of $20 per litre of alcohol. Details of those arrangements have already been announced.
The Government has re-examined the situation in respect of whisky in the light of developments subsequent to the report by the Temporary Assistance Authority. It has now decided not to proceed to implement the increased duties on whisky which were gazetted on 23 September. This will mean that the duty on imported whisky will remain at the level applying prior to the tariff change gazetted on 23 September. In not proceeding to continue the temporary duties on whisky the quota arrangements which were also notified will not now apply. The Industries Assistance Commission is currently inquiring into the protective needs of the brandy and whisky producing industries and will be submitting a report to the Government by 30 November 1977.
Proposals No. 30 defer the phase down of duties on imported sleeping bags from 25 per cent to 15 per cent, which was due to take effect from 24 September 1977. The Industries Assistance Commission’sreport on ‘Certain Spun Yarns and Wool Textiles and Other Goods’ is presently under consideration by the Government and, as sleeping bags are covered by the report, it was considered inappropriate to proceed with the duty reduction in advance of any decision on theIAC report. Proposals No. 31 have the effect of making brandy and certain textiles of New Zealand origin subject to tariff quotas. This action is in line with the Government’s decision to place goods of New Zealand origin on the same footing as imports from other sources. However goods subject to the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement are not affected. I have had prepared a comprehensive summary setting out the nature of the changes in duty rates covered by Proposals Nos 29 and 30. This summary is now being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
-The Customs Tariff Proposals moved by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) are extraordinary. Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the changes that are to take place, I have to point out how ridiculous was the decision made in the first place. One can only assume that those who made the decision in the first place were perhaps subjected to an overdose of the commodities under discussion. Of course, the brandy industry has to be taken completely separately from the problems arising in the whisky industry. We would support that because of the massive problems of the wine grape industry in Australia. But it is extraordinary that a decision of the Government on whisky which put up the price 7c a nip can be changed so quickly. One can only suggest and conclude that the Melbourne Club, the Adelaide Club and the various other clubs where the Ministers and their supporters meet must have a massive influence in how rapid the Government can make or unmake a decision when they are affected.
I just wish that some of the greater problems that affect the Australian economy could be dealt with as quickly . as was the decision on whisky. I just wish that the Government would look a little more seriously at the massive unemployment in Australia. It is a far more important subject than the subject of how much is to be paid for imported whisky. As I say, one can only conclude from the way in which the Government has dealt with this matter that the voice of government supporters around the various empires in Australia must have hit home when the Government has changed its decision so rapidly. I just wish that the Government and the bureaucracy would move as quickly on the far more important subjects which affect the everyday lives of the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr Bourchier) adjourned.
– I ask for leave of the House to move a motion to discharge certain Tariff Proposals which were moved earlier this year and which constitute part of Order of the Day No. 28. These proposals were incorporated in the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1977 and the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1977 which have now been assented to.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Notice of Presentation
– Notice has been received from the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs that on the next day of sitting he will present an Industries Assistance Commission Amendment Bill.
Department of Industry and Commerce
Proposed expenditure, $23,944,000.
Department of Business and Consumer Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $9 1 , 747,000.
Department of Productivity
Proposed expenditure, $105,278,000.
– I am pleased to enter the debate. My remarks will be confined to the report by Sir Bede Callaghan into the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. The report was tabled by Senator Robert Cotton, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, on 22 September 1977. The inquiry was instituted in December 1976 by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) following an approach from the Premier of Tasmania in October 1976 for assistance to combat unemployment in Tasmania. The inquiry included a program of public hearings in all major Tasmanian centres. Submissions were received from a wide range of interested individuals, companies organisations and government agencies. The report, which is of wide ranging interest, has particular importance to the Government and the people of Tasmania. Apart from its general findings and many particular recommendations, the report has drawn together much useful information about the Tasmanian economy, including information on unemployment in the State and the out migration of young people, a particular problem in Tasmania where unfortunately the young people, including brilliant young students, find it necessary sometimes to leave the State to find worthwhile and meaningful employment. The report also deals with the structure of industry and the State’s transport requirements and services.
The report provides an overview of the Tasmanian economy which has not previously been enunciated and which has important long-term policy implications. The report contains many specific recommendations and suggestions which are directed by Sir Bede at the Commonwealth Government, the Tasmanian Government and the private sector, either separately or jointly. Action has already been taken in respect of some of the specific recommendations which fall within the ambit of the Commonwealth Government. Firstly, details have now been announced of the south bound component of the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme which complements the assistance already provided under the north bound component. The scheme is designed to remove freight disadvantages suffered by important sections of the Tasmanian industry. An amount of $23m has been budgeted for the scheme in 1977-78, including an amount of $6m for the south bound component. Both the north bound and south bound components apply to shipments from 1 July 1976. The freight equalisation plans have created a unique opportunity for Tasmania to build a base for future industries and also for present industries to be able to compete favourably with industries on the mainland.
The unemployment problem in Tasmania is, of course, of great concern. I have mentioned already that we have a tragic brain drain from Tasmania. We need to be able to encourage .industries to come to Tasmania. The way of life there is pleasant. There is an abundance of relatively cheap hydro-electric power. Governments, both State and Federal, need to plan carefully for the future to attract industries that will make the State self-sufficient in being able to employ its own people and to enable it to become economically viable once again. Some of Sir Bede Callaghan ‘s recommendations have been queried. Some have been criticised by various members of the State Government and also the Federal Opposition but I believe and my colleagues believe that Sir Bede Callaghan has told the truth about the problems associated with Tasmania. It is up to the Government to instigate recommendations that will overcome what is evident to many people who live in Tasmania and on the mainland. He said that there is room for improvement in the efficiency of Tasmanian industries. This is an area where both the Commonwealth and State Governments can play a functional role.
Emphasis on increased production of goods and services is called for rather than unrealistic population and job creation targets. The development of efficient secondary and tertiary industry sectors will create further employment opportunities in the long term. Creation of less efficient, more labour intensive industries will most likely create further problems. As well as the need for increased efficient use of resources, there is a need to create a business climate conducive to the introduction of new technologies. Stability and development of viable Tasmanian economic activity should be regarded as the most relevant objectives for the future as opposed to forced growth based on unrealistic targets. At the same time it is accepted that Tasmania is an unusual area endowed with certain natural advantages which provide a special life style appealing to a significant number of people. No doubt most residents would wish to see these attributes maintained.
– It is the best place in the world.
-I agree with the honourable member for Denison. It is the best place in the world. Many industries in Tasmania over the last five years have experienced great difficulty in maintaining their present level of employment opportunities and their ability to compete on overseas markets and local markets. Many theorists have put forward recommendations and ideas on how they should be restructured. I refer, for example, to the Mount Lyell copper mine. My colleague the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom) is beside me. If perchance the Mount Lyell mine should close down it would create a situation in Tasmania whereby the town of Queenstown would virtually close down.
– We will not let that happen.
-The honourable member says he will not let that happen. He will fight all the way and I agree with him. That is what we should be fighting for. One must always consider the social implications. If industries in Tasmania are not assisted, unfortunately men and women will be put out of work and will find it necessary to leave their homes. This, of course, creates difficulties in other areas. Some of the manufacturers in Tasmania have been criticised but I do not believe they should be criticised. Most of them are efficient and have been trying to do their best, not only for the State and their companies but also for the people who are employed there. I only wish that critics of industry and free enterprise would realise that the job of running industry is a ferociously difficult one. It is full of snares and pitfalls. The penalties of failure are high and real success comes only after years of unremitting hard work and effort, shrewd judgment and ingenuity and years of leaping boldly into the unknown and being able to overcome the problems when they occur. It is time it was said plainly and openly that the swings and vacillations and frequent anti-industrial bias of governments and their advisers have done no more than possibly create an element of uncertainty in industry. Many times companies try to plan their finances years ahead. The whole structure of industry is thrown out with an air of uncertainty because of the ceaseless meddling of people supposedly knowledgeable of the industry and the running of companies.
Industries find the cash to pay the wages, the pensions and the taxes. They do not ask for financial assistance for that. One can compare it with the Public Service. What they do ask for is protection, no more and no less. I believe it is the responsibility of government to protect people who work within our own Australian industries. I say that, of course, particularly pertaining to the industries in Tasmania. The Tasmanian State Government has a responsibility. The honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) says that there is a very good Labor Government in
Tasmania. It is quick to tell everybody in Tasmania that it has been in power for 43 years, but for one brief period. Now, when the chips are down, I believe it should stop criticising the Federal Government and get on with the job of reorganising the fruit industry, particularly the apple industry. The Tasmanian apple industry is in a great situation at the moment- it is in complete chaos. Nobody knows what is going to happen tomorrow. So I believe that the governments should get their heads together and should start realising that it is an important industry to Tasmania and that it requires the help of both governments to overcome the problems.
– The State Government is incompetent.
-Yes, I agree with what the honourable member for Wilmot says. Tasmania is still known as the apple isle but in fact that industry is in a complete state of chaos. Twothirds of the total number of trees have been pulled out. Many growers have found it necessaryI have said this many times before- to seek employment elsewhere. It is a tragedy.
I turn now to the tourist industry. I know that many people are involved in that industry and are doing their utmost to promote Tasmania to give it the impetus that is required to make it a tourist attraction comparable with some that one could name on the mainland. Of course, they could be critical of the cost of air fares in and out of Tasmania but they have to show the initiative, they have to show the marketing ability to create further that industry. The attraction to Tasmania of industries which can employ the young people is a grave responsibility of the State Government. If it co-operates with the Federal Government in a far better manner than it has done in the last couple of years I believe that will greatly enhance its opportunity to attract those industries.
I make special mention of the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee). He came down to Tasmania, met the people on the factory floor, went through Universal Textiles Australia Ltd and talked about productivity, went to the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and travelled all over Tasmania. I think it is most significant that a Minister is prepared to go to Tasmania.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am delighted to join in this consideration of the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of
Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity and particularly to follow in the consideration of those estimates my colleagues, the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I am delighted also to see at the table the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee). I hope that he will respond to some of the points raised by both the previous speakers from this side of the chamber. He certainly is one of the more thoughtful Ministers and he is one who shows more courtesy in his responses to suggestions from this side of the chamber.
In talking to the estimates for these three departments, firstly, I have to echo what the honourable member for Port Adelaide said, namely, that no one on this side concedes the appropriateness of having a Minister for Productivity. We feel that if the Government were honest it would not need to enlist the undoubted talents of the Minister by the creation of a totally unnecessary department- a department indeed whose role ought more properly to be fulfilled within the Department of Industry and Commerce, as was suggested by the honourable member for Port Adelaide. In addition, of course, the honourable member for Adelaide has canvassed very large questions concerning economic planning in Australia, the institutions which we use to do it and how they might be improved.
In talking to these estimates I want to concentrate particularly on those for the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, which is the Department under which the appropriation for the Industries Assistance Commission is made. The LAC is a body which is everybody’s favourite whipping boy when it suits. But it is a body of professional men of integrity who I believe are not commended enough in this chamber. The way in which the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) frequently, before select audiences, bashes the IAC for the decisions that his Government has to make is disgraceful. It bears repeating, and it cannot be said too often, that the Industries Assistance Commission merely makes recommendations on protection and that it is for the Government to make decisions on those recommendations. When honourable members opposite seek to talk about the employment consequences of the Government’s decisions on tariffs, they ought to bear in mind that the Government has to assume responsibility and that the Industries Assistance Commission merely sets out recommendations. If honourable members opposite have any doubts about those recommendations, the Parliament is the place to raise them.
The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs was headed until recently by a Minister who has now been dispatched from Australia to perform tasks which are rather indefinitely set out. The portfolio of business and consumer affairs has fallen to a new Minister. But I think it is interesting to examine the relationship which exists between the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in relation to these protection issues. It is about time the Government identified one Minister or the other as having responsibility for carrying the can for the Government on its decisions on these questions. It is apparent to us on this side of the chamber that the Prime Minister influences the decisions on the big protection issues in this country. But it is totally unsatisfactory for business that it must make submissions to two Ministers, neither one of whom by himself seems to have the proper ministerial authority for those decisions. The joint statements that are always issued by those two Ministers give no indication of the ministry in which different types of decisions are made. In this chamber the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs always leads in a debate. But it is completely unsatisfactory for business outside, which after all has to put its views to the Government on the basis of the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission, that it has two Ministers and two bureaucracies with which to deal.
The Department of Business and Consumer Affairs is responsible for what might broadly be described as the trade regulatory authorities in Australia and is responsible particularly for the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal. I want to say something about the responsibilities of both of those bodies. The Trade Practices Commission administers an Act which has been very largely gutted in the past year by amendments introduced by the Government which have meant that large areas of economic activity which formerly came under examination to determine whether they offended the public interests are no longer so examined. I refer particularly to merger activity. Again ad hoc decisions are being reached in secret by the Government, particularly in cases where a foreign investment element is involved, according to no discernible criteria; and that is a backward step.
During the election campaign two years ago, and indeed since, Government supporters were always anxious to set out before select audiences the tremendous cost of these bureaucracies. If one examines the precise estimates with which we are dealing at the moment one sees that the appropriations for the statutory authorities- that is, the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Justification Tribunal- are considerably less than the appropriation for the Department itself. For example, legal expenses for the Trade Practices Commission in this financial year amount to no more than $75,000, which I suggest is a relatively modest expenditure for outside legal expenses for a Commission which is charged with such an important task.
More worrying is the appropriation for the Department for legal fees. It will be seen that the appropriation has been reduced by a massive 3 1 per cent. People may say: ‘What is the significance of that?’ The Department is charged with the implementation of consumer protection prosecutions under the Trade Practices Act. It seems to me that the Government’s activities in this area have been modest enough to date in any event. When one considers that those activities are now to contract by possibly a much greater extent than 3 1 per cent, when one has regard to inflation and that kind of thing, one realises that we are watching a diminution in government effort in this important area.
The amount of the grant being made available by the Government to the Australian Federation of Consumer Organisations is to remain virtually static at the sum of $85,000, which is particularly modest. When one estimates the amounts that are being arranged against the public interest in this important area of consumer protection one sees that the commitment of the Government is extremely modest, that it is getting smaller, and that it is getting much too small indeed.
The same kinds of considerations arise in relation to the Prices Justification Tribunal. Speculation in the Press recently talks about getting lawyers out of the Prices Justification Tribunal area. I welcome that. The reason that lawyers are in there is that companies have chosen to take them in there. It was never any part of the Government’s intention or any part of the Tribunal’s intention to make it an overly legalistic body. These are important areas. There are whole areas of economic life of this country which would never have come under examination had we not had the Prices Justification Tribunal. In an era when we talk about wage relativities, the massive sums earned by the executive directors of James Patrick and Co. Pty Ltd, the stevedoring company, would never have come to light had it not been for a Prices Justification Tribunal public inquiry. Because those figures were paid in respect of directors of an exempt proprietary company they were not available in the Companies Offices, they were not available at the stock exchanges, but they came out in public as a result of the activities of the Prices Justification Tribunal. It is a worthwhile body. It opens up to public examination and scrutiny areas of our economic life which ought to be opened up. They were not opened up before. The level of assistance and commitment of this Government to all these areas of trade regulation is much too slight. That can be seen against the background of a legislative framework which has now been weakened considerably in both those areas. I ask the Government to reconsider the level of assistance it gives in these areas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member for Mackellar and another honourable member are standing. The honourable member for Mackellar is no longer a supporter of the Government. He has resigned from the Liberal Party. In this case therefore the call should go to the Government side. I insist that it go to the Government benches.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! It is not for the Whip from either side of the chamber to insist that the Chair carry out any ruling. The Standing Orders provide a procedure for the way in which honourable members are called to speak. They provide that the honourable member first rising to speak should be called. By custom the Chair has exercised a discretion in calling members from each side of the chamber alternately- in this case from the Government and Opposition sides. In this instance we have rising an honourable member who is not a member of the Government parties. He was the first to rise in his place so I gave him the call. The Government Whip has the chance to take appropriate action.
– On the point of order, I make the point that the call should be to the Government side and then to a member on the Opposition side irrespective of which party he represents. The honourable member for Mackellar does not represent the parliamentary Liberal Party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! I have already answered that point of order taken by the Government Whip. The Chair is allowed a discretion. I call the honourable member for Mackellar.
-I want to direct my remarks to the Industries Assistance Commission, which is covered by the estimates before us now. I believe that there are serious intellectual deficiencies in the presentation of its last annual report and I am sorry that it has been commended by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam) who I believe in this case is enunciating a quite fallacious policy which the Australian Labor Party has adopted and which I think is inimical to the interests of Australia. It is noteworthy when looking at the annual report of the Industries Assistance Commission that not one reference is made to the difficulties which are occurring by reason of the adverse balance on current account of the Australian economy overseas. This is a most crucial matter which deserves the full attention of the Government.
As honourable members will know, our accounts overseas consist of a number of items. The exports are credited- we receive money for them- and the imports are debited. We pay money for our imports. In addition there is a large amount for what is known as ‘invisibles’ which are both debits and credits for things like freight, remittances, interest and profits earned by overseas companies, travel and all those kinds of things. I want the Committee to look at the position which has arisen. Last financial year the debit on current account was $ 1,900m and that had to be made good either by foreign investment or by government borrowing. This year, unless corrective action is taken, the debit on current account will exceed $3,000m. Some of this has already been made good by the borrowing by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) of $2,000m overseas but not only has that borrowing to be repaid but in addition the interest on it has to be paid. That interest will add to the debit on current account for succeeding years. In other words, I do not think that we can go on as we are going. I seek leave to have included in Hansard a small table which shows the ‘visibles’ and ‘invisibles’ in the last four or five years. I have already received permission to do so from the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) who is at the table and from the Opposition.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Is leave granted for the inclusion of the table? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– Honourable members will see that whilst the visibles fluctuate the invisibles have risen fairly regularly as the interest on foreign borrowing and the profits on new private investment from abroad add to our overseas obligations. There is thus a feedback effect as the negative balance on current account spirals upwards. This is a matter which deserves the utmost attention from the Industries Assistance Commission because it underlies any approach to the problems with which it is dealing. I believe that to try to ignore it is incomprehensible and I cannot understand how this can have been done by the Industries Assistance Commission. I will say the the members of the Industries Assistance Commission have been guilty of a serious dereliction of duty in failing to draw attention to this because, by reason of it, the recommendations that the Commission has put forward make long term nonsense.
Let me look over the short term and the long term. Over the short term or the medium term, for the next four or five years, there is not any possibility of our making good the deficit by an increase of exports, for the very good reason that there is no market overseas for an increase in exports. Does the Industries Assistance Commission want us to export more beef? We are finding it difficult to sell our beef now. Does it want us to increase our exports of sugar? We have just cut back our sugar production by 15 per cent, by an agreement signed only a few days ago. Does it want us to export more metals, such as copper? There is a glut on the world market at the moment but perhaps we can do so later. Lead and zinc are subject to quotas. We cannot sell any more iron over the short term, and over the long term there is no chance of finding any new export which can go anywhere near meeting this gap-
This is something which, to its shame, the Industries Assistance Commission has blithely disregarded and, by blithely disregarding it, it has set Australia on a disaster course. If those men have looked at the figures and have not put them forward, it is a matter of shame to them and a matter showing intellectual incompetence. This is a charge which stands on the figures and which I make without reservation. The Industries Assistance Commission should be well and truly ashamed of the intellectual inadequacies in the report which is brought before us for this coming year. I am sorry that with filial piety the honourable member for Grayndler has followed his father, the Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam), who is responsible in large part for the adultation which is being paid to the Industries Assistance Commission and its inadequate treatment of this whole situation.
I have spoken about the short term or the medium term- the next four or five years- but I also want to say something of the long term because over the long term the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission will mean disaster for Australia if they are implemented. It is of no good thinking that, for those mass produced items which can be easily transported, we can compete on our home market with foreign industries where the wage is perhaps a quarter or a fifth of our wage. It cannot be done, however efficient our industries become. Until fairly recently there was some kind of remedy because in these mass producing industries superior skill did mean something, but progressively it has meant less because companies, not only Australian companies, have learned the trick of going offshore, of using a core of skilled workers and mobilising the unskilled workers, with 95 per cent of their work force on low wages. We cannot compete and the home market must be protected. Over the short term, like it or not, there has to be a considerable substantial diminution of our imports because we cannot afford either to pay for our imports or to pay the additional invisibles which will be charged against us for interest and profits if we try to correct our foreign balance on current account by bringing in foreign capital or by borrowing overseas. I do not critise the present borrowing; I do criticise the failure to correct the situation which made that borrowing necessary.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, this statement might surprise you: I have always liked the honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Wentworth). Since I came to this Parliament in 1953 he has reminded me of a joyful, exuberant youth with his first degree behind him. Ever since then he has been studying for a doctorate and writing a thesis every five weeks.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -Order! I invite the honourable member for Lang to return to the discussion on the estimates for the Department of Productivity, the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs.
-The honourable member for Mackellar has just espoused his latest thesis about industries in Australia. Since 1 949, except for a break of three years, he has been a member of a government that built up inefficient industries in Australia, the like of which have never been seen before in any other country. The speech we have just heard from the honourable member for Mackellar is another death bed confession. Of course our industries are inefficient. Of course they need protection. But from 1949 to 1975 it was the honourable member for Mackellar and people of his ilk who pandered to management, who allowed them to bring in funds from overseas without any restrictions, any controls, any guidance, or any planning. Now at 70 years of age the honourable member for Mackellar is telling my party, the Australian Labor Party, the unions, and the industrial movement, where they are wrong. Of course we want employment. Of course we want industries. But the Liberal-National Country Party Government during its 23 years in office, allowed our structure, our foundations, our whole country to fall by the wayside.
I did rise to talk about division 382- Australian Tourist Commission, subdivision 1- For expenditure under the Australian Tourist Commission Act. This year the Australian Tourist Commission is being granted by this Government the magnanimous sum of $2. 8m. I was the first Minister for Tourism in this country. My title was Minister for Tourism and Recreation. I selected the portfolio because I had always been interested in sport and recreation. At that stage I did not think much of tourism, but I have changed my mind since 19 December 1972. 1 am now convinced that tourism is not froth and bubble, fun and frivolity: Tourism is an industry, perhaps an indefinable industry, that does a lot for Australia domestically and for our balance of overseas payments. Since this Government has come to office it has tried to whittle away the amount of money that has been offered to the Australian Tourist Commission for overseas promotion. Unless we get international visitors coming to Australia, what is called the travel deficit or the travel gap will increase even further. Certainly the figures vary, but last year Australians spent more overseas than international visitors spent in Australia. This meant in round figures a travel deficit of about $250m. There we have the deficit and yet in division 382- Australian Tourist Commission, all this Government gives for overseas promotion of tourism is $2. 8m. Out of that $2. 8m the Australian Tourist Commission has to run its own administration and it has now been told to pay its own superannuation payments. Yet 40,000 international tourists coming to Australia mean about 1,400 jobs to Australia.
With due respect to the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), his State is going to rely more and more on tourism, whether it involves mainlanders going down to the south island or whether it involves international visitors coming to Australia and going to Tasmania. This Government must recognise- my Government failed to do so in the three years for which I was the Minister for Tourism and Recreationthat this is a tertiary industry that is well worth encouraging and protecting because it has a lot to do with hamlets and villages throughout Australia that rely either on the day tripper or the person who stays for two or three weeks over school holidays or at Christmas time.
I mentioned that 40,000 international tourists mean an increase of 1,400 jobs. We are talking about unemployment. We get into these academic arguments about free trade, protection, or the amount of protection. It is time that Australia started to look at some of the factors involved. It is said that because some other countries have no unions and they can get people to work for nothing in darkness, in slime and in filth we have to pass all our manufacturing industry to them. I say: No, we certainly should not. We need more efficiency in management than we have ever had in this country’s history. We need as well a sensible trade union movement that will not allow itself to be provoked by people who represent the manufacturers and the entrepreneurs. To preserve our 14 million people in Australia and to reduce the number of unemployed, we need a balanced plan for development. Whilst we have in Australia now this desperate, deliberate confrontation- one side against the other- we will not be the nation that I thought we would be.
When the honourable member for Mackellar starts talking about what is happening to our manufacturing industries I ask him and you, Mr Deputy Chairman, to look at who committed the sins of omission and commission. There has been something like 23 years of Labor Party rule in the Australian Parliament since 1901. Between 1972 and 1975 we changed the face of Australia. We changed the opinion of many people who had never voted Labor before. Until such time as people recognise that we are not different whether we come from Tasmania, Victoria or New South Wales -
– Or Adelaide.
-Or South Australia. We are Australians. It is only this Australian Government that can make Australia work.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)-
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, having been misrepresented -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar)-Yes. The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) was referring to the fact that while these things which he has been describing were happening I had not previously raised my voice in this Parliament. If he will do me the honour of consulting Hansard he will find that I have continually been drawing attention to these things. He talks about a death bed confession. I hope I have a glorious resurrection in another place.
-I want to speak about two aspects of these estimates. I will refer first to the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, Division 202, which deals with the Industries Assistance Commission and, secondly, to the Department of Industry and Commerce, Division 380, which deals with structural adjustment assistance- for expenditure to assist the adjustment of industry to the effects of tariff and similar changes. Last year, 1976-77, $636,801 was spent on this item. This year, 1977-78, provision is made for $97,000-a reduction of more than half a million dollars. Both these expenditures are concerned with tariff policy. I do not want to join in a debate on free trade and protection. I think this is something we have to get in perspective. I would be delighted if later we could have a proper debate on this important subject. I commend to all members the Stan Kelly Inaugural Lecture by Sir John Crawford entitled: ‘Some Problems of Freer Trade- Australia Under Pressure’.
Tariffs are taxes on imports. They are used to protect industry. They have an interaction with all aspects of the economy. There is no argument that there must be a degree of protection to protect employment, to ensure that we maintain an industrial base and for defence purposes in particular industries. There must be a greater recognition of market forces. The real issue is how much protection is necessary in Australia. Recently we have maintained and in some cases increased tariffs and quotas in the motor industry, the textile industry and other industries. For many reasons these industries cannot compete with overseas goods. In the motor industry we have five manufacturers and far too many models. They are not good enough. Given a choice, most Australians would buy imported motor cars. The protection for each employee in the motor industry is equivalent to $4,000 a year. In the textile industry the same case generally applies. I do not have recent figures but in 1 968 there was a subsidy equivalent of $2,046 per worker when the wages were on average $1,860 per worker a year. This is just not sensible in the long term. Of course there must be short-term protection in times of high unemployment. But we cannot insulate ourselves from overseas competition. Tariffs will not guarantee survival of inefficient or uncompetitive industries. We must plan now for long-term structural change, but the reduction in expenditure of more than half a million dollars for structural change is rather difficult to explain. It is also difficult to define what is long term and short term. Perhaps a proper debate might settle this issue.
There are various estimates of the cost of tariffs. They range from $4,000m to $6,000m a year. I will settle for the centre- about $5,000m a year. Who pays for this? It is the exporter who pays. He has to compete on world markets. He cannot put up his prices every time his costs rise, but the protected industries can put up their prices whenever they wish. They add to the cost of living. They make high profits between high tariff walls. It is interesting to look at our exports for last year, 1976-77. The primary exports from the farms and mines accounted for 76. 16 per cent of all our exports. Manufacturing exports accounted for 20.78 per cent. Therefore it is the primary industries, the mines and the farms, which generally are very efficient, which pay for the less efficient manufacturing industries. Is this the best use of our great natural resources in this nation? Our primary exports last year were as follows: Unprocessed products accounted for 58.67 per cent and processed products for 17.52 per cent. Is this the best way to export our great natural resources? Surely we should spend more of our efforts in manufacturing and processing our resources. It is necessary for long term restructuring to make best use of our unique natural resources plus our skilled and intelligent work force. We are becoming an increasingly sophisticated nation. We will have less and less use in the years to come for skilled labour. We should be planning for this now. We should be designing policies for long-term restructuring.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 7 September said that rural industries should be compensated for the cost of high protection afforded to manufacturers. This is a policy which I believe should be carried out now consciously and properly. It is estimated- the figures are difficult to equate here- that tariff costs each beef producer $8 per beast. This is caused by increased costs for the producer by way of protection. Honourable members might say that we subsidise rural industry. The biggest and most efficient export industries have very small subsidies. Most rural assistance is by way of repayable loans. It is interesting that the estimate of subsidies for the beef industry last year was $ 1 10m, which is about $4 per head of cattle. The tariff cost was $23 1 m or $8 per head. Subsidies to rural industries are public knowledge. They are obvious through the Budget, but tariff protection for manufacturing industries is hidden and secretive. Most people have no idea how much protection costs them. There has been a suggestion that we should replace tariffs for manufacturing industries with subsidies. It is a nice thought, but I believe it is quite impossible. If we subsidised manufacturing industries it would cost us about 20 per cent of all government spending and would quadruple the deficit.
I spoke earlier about compensation for the exporting industries to correct the price distortions caused by tariffs and to help the efficient use of our resources. This could take many forms. In my vast electorate of Leichhardt there are many ways in which it could be done. It could be done by direct compensation in budgetary terms. There will be great cries of protest at this suggestion, but there will not be great cries of protest at the $4,000 per worker in the motor car industry.
– How much was that?
-It was $4,000. Perhaps we should do something about petrol price equalisation and the sharing of energy resources. I will speak on that matter at another time. Perhaps we should remove freight costs from sales tax calculations. Anyone in my electorate who buys any item pays sales tax on the freight. The distance might be 2,000 miles. We should spend some money on roads. Most of my electorate has very bad roads. There are very few railways. There are no shipping services for passengers. Most of the electorate does not have telephone services and cannot receive commercial radio or television. Many of the people in my electorate cannot listen to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. No one in my electorate tonight can listen to my speech.
-They are lucky.
-I sometimes think it is a very good thing that people in my electorate cannot listen to some of the inane speeches in this Parliament.
– Do not downgrade yourself to that extent.
-I said some of them. The honourable member for Lang is excepted.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member will direct his remarks to the Chair.
-Certainly, Mr Deputy Chairman. Perhaps we could have more assistance for education. The people in my electorate are disadvantaged by being, sometimes, many hundreds of miles from the nearest education establishment. We get very little recompense for that. There was a lot of discussion today about education. No one talked about isolated children, hundreds of miles from schools. No one in the Opposition talked about that. Honourable members opposite talked about the split-up between government and private schools. They did not worry about people in isolated areas.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member is getting a little away from the estimates before the Chair. I would ask him to confine his remarks to those estimates.
-I return to the recompense to rural areas for tariffs. Another point I might make is in regard to health care. Any one in the cities can get immediate health care by calling a taxi or an ambulance. In my electorate the people are often hundreds of miles from any doctors or hospitals. They should be recompensed.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I do not wish to restrain the honourable member too much, but we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity. I ask the honourable member to confine his remarks to those departments.
– I was discussing structural recompense, included in the Budget.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to see that the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) has returned to the chamber, and I am pleased to follow the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson), because each of them represents isolated areas in a national community. I hope that the honourable member for Franklin will come back for a moment because he said something earlier about what he was supposed to be fighting for. With all respect to each honourable member, I want to say something about what each of them is fighting against.
– The Labor Party.
– If the honourable member thinks it is the Labor Party, fair enough. He has an opportunity to do that continually. If I may say so, the honourable member for Franklin and the honourable member for Leichhardt are fighting against the fact that they represent isolated communities which produce products that must be sold overseas. At least I hope that they would acknowledge that. The honourable member for Leichhardt represents an electorate that sells sugar; the honourable member for Franklin represents an electorate which, if I understand him properly, sells apples. This is what the Parliament is about at times.
– I am sorry, but I have to leave.
– I had hoped my friend might have stayed for a few minutes. At least I listened to him for the whole of his journey. I would have thought that, in all courtesy, he might have remained.
– He is only going across to comfort his wife.
– Fair enough. He has a very charming wife, if I may say so. My friend the honourable member for Franklin said that he was fighting for certain things. All I am saying to him is that he ought to understand what he is fighting against. I think this applies equally to my friend the honourable member for Leichhardt. I just want to make this fundamental proposition: No country needs to export at all unless it wants to import. One of the great difficulties in Australia now is that we have to export and we have to import. There is no relationship between what we export and what we import. A couple of years ago I was in Nairobi- I say this in the presence of my friend the honourable member for Franklin- and I went out to a fruit market two or three miles from Nairobi. I saw on sale there, at about I5c each, what were called Australian apples. I bought one of those apples, and it was inedible.
– It was probably a Victorian apple.
– I am not arguing whether it was a Victorian apple. The apple that I bought was called an Australian apple. The honourable member may jest about this, but I say in all seriousness that that apple, wherever it came from in Australia, was inedible. He is from a community in which apples cannot be sold internally. They must be exported. There must be some arguments about quality. The same thing applies with regard to sugar. The same thing applies with regard to wheat. The same thing applies with regard to wool. Australia is one of the few countries capable of being an exporter of foodstuffs on a large scale. We have to decide whether we will be exporters in reasonable or viable markets or whether we will just hang around waiting for the chance of famine, flood or shortage. Today I talked to my friend the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher). If I may say so, I think he has learned a little.
– He has. He has been mixing with me for a while.
– I will give him credit for being a rapid learner rather than a slow learner, which I cannot say to all honourable members opposite. At least when he went overseas he saw certain things. The honourable member for Franklin said that we are fighting for certain things. We have to be sure what it is that we are fighting against. In some respects Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries in regard to export trade.
I am pleased to see the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) in the chamber tonight. The estimates that we are considering involve an interesting combination of departments- the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity. I know that the Minister is dedicated to this sort of sequence of productivity. Now, what is productivity? As I understand the word it means getting greater output for lesser input. Surely one of the problems in Australia, and surely a reading of the Jackson Committee report is indicative enough of it, is that Australia’s economic expansion in the future is vulnerable, whatever might be said. Maybe we have to pull our horns in, as it were, about manufacturing industry. I hope the Minister will respond to this debate later tonight and if he can refer to areas of manufacturing industry where Australia is likely to expand its exports I would be interested to hear about them. On the other hand we can increase our exports of coal and iron ore. I do not dare mention that curious mineral called uranium. However, if we sell them somehow we also have to buy other things and this seems to me to be the thing that has not been faced up to in Australia.
The other day I looked at some statistics about employment in areas like textiles, footwear and motor cars. It seemed to me that we were producing as much physically in all those areas with fewer people. I do not believe we are ever going to get back to the stage in Australia where manufacturing industry is going to be the same proportional provider of total employment as it was in the past. I was going to ask a question today about what this Government has achieved in the last two years.
-Oh, 30 different things.
-Maybe it has achieved 30 different things but I think they are 30 terminating things. Some of them cancel each other out. Has this Government reduced unemployment? Has it reduced inflation?
– Of course we have reduced inflation.
– All honourable members present are either fathers or grandfathers. Are they not disturbed about the availability of employment opportunities for their children and grandchildren? Productivity, as I understand it, is getting more from the same input. Mostly the lesser input is labour. What is this Government’s answer to people dispossessed by the machine? Are we to keep them on the unemployment benefit or do we find some alternative work for them? I hope that the Minister for Productivity will contemplate this question.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The committee is debating an interesting group of portfolios covering the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity. Those three portfolios more than any others in the Fraser Ministry relate to the activities of business and business affairs. This Government has a concern for and supports business, large or small, and seeks to bring fairness to the business world. By means of fairness and encouragement to business alone can jobs be created and, through profits, additional investment, which creates demand for goods and services, can become obvious throughout Australia.
It is often thought by our opponents that we on ‘ the Government side have no concern for the average individual who earns a wage or a salary. That is not true. Through the encouragement of private enterprise and the business world, in a sense of fairness, there can be an increased capacity for all Australians. I think our opponents found out that too much emphasis on the public sector was extremely damaging to the well being of all Australians.
There is a great similarity between small business and primary industry. The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) mentioned some of the difficulties that face primary industry in Australia today. The difficulties that he enunciated, the difficulties of making one’s way and finding markets and a living in a way that profits are sufficient to sustain the operators of those businesses, are things that most small businessmen would feel applied to them. I think the recent statement by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) indicates that small business, in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trades, encompasses about 200,000 enterprises employing more than one million people. About 165,000 firms employing about 600,000 people are engaged in the retail and wholesale trade and a further 150,000 enterprises in the building, transport, finance and other tertiary areas, make up the total of small businesses. Overall, excluding primary industry, some 350,000 enterprises are small businesses. They comprise over 90 per cent of the total of all business and employ about 30 per cent, about 2 million people, of the total work force. Small businesses, self employed people, sole traders and small private firms, contribute about 25 per cent of the gross domestic product.
The need for access to finance, the need to have the capacity to borrow, the need to be able to develop and expand and to use the skills contained in an industry, are things that are vital to both small business and to primary industry. Access to advice, the need to get sound advice from people experienced in a particular field of operation in small business, is something that many entrepreneurs seek. It is not always possible in a fairly narrow field of operation to be confident that one has all the facts in one’s possession. Therefore the establishment of small business bureaus in some States of Australia has been advantageous to the small businessman. However, I question the practice of staffing these bureaus and advice giving bodies with young accountant type skills. It would seem to me that there are many competent retired senior businessmen with all the capacity of experience and knowledge behind them who would be more fitted to provide information for small business and guidance to those commencing businesses.
The diversity of management skills and the diversity of ability within small business gives the basis of all business in Australia a great depth of imagination and a great depth- all types of thoughtfulness and imagination. The inventiveness of individuals that one can draw on from that field must be the well from which the nation can draw its future thrust and the ability to make new decisions as new problems arise. The difficulty of the business world, particularly the small business world and the primary producer, is that people in it are price-takers. They have little capacity to influence the prices they receive for their goods. Therefore their cost of production probably is the real factor that limits their operations and their activities. The ability to borrow and the ability to expand and become a big business instead of remaining a small business depends on the skill of the operator, often the dedication of that operators family and the ability to borrow money at the right terms to progress, to expand and to be successful.
It is interesting to note the former Government’s approach to small business. One’s attention is drawn to numerous Press reports during 1975 in respect of the total number of companies in the various States that wound up during the Labor Government’s term of office, as well as the number of companies that failed, the number of people who lost their jobs and the number of skills that were lost. One ‘s attention is also drawn to matters such as the increase to 18c of the standard cost of a postage stamp. All of these decisions seriously affected the small businessman. But our opponents who sit opposite seem completely unaware of the serious effects that resulted from what appeared to be rather minor decisions. Professor Geoffrey Meredith, who is Professor of Accounting and Financial Management at the University of New England, said:
During the past 1 8 months -
That is, during the period of the Labor Administration - . . . small businesses in Australia have progressively found difficulty in meeting financial commitments and maintaining profitability. Over the previous decade- within inflation at a fairly steady 3 per cent- 4 per cent a year and growth conditions in the Australian economy- small businesses could survive and even prosper while only earning what would be regarded as a marginal return on investment.
That indicates the soundness of the present Government’s thrust in attempting to bring down the cost of wages and inflation. A businessman paying wages at the average rate of $180 a week net to an employee finds that his bill is $260 if one is to take into account all the factors, including payroll tax, superannuation, long service leave and holiday pay loadings, which are of eventual benefit to the employee but which cost the employer a great deal of money. Neither of the people who are involved in the contract of providing employment or gaining employment really benefit by some of these massive governmental imposed charges. Inflation trebled, taxes doubled and unemployment trebled during the days of the Labor Administration. Notwithstanding this, tonight we heard repeated the same policies that brought about those conditions within Australia. I am reminded of Dr Johnson’s famous observation that a second marriage is a triumph of hope over experience. It seems to me that the Labor Party wishes in fact to pursue hope without learning from experience. I think it is time that members of the Labor Party stated in this House that they have an understanding of the experience that they have gained.
The Government has moved to assist small business by a readjustment of Division 7 of the tax scale. But this is not enough at this stage. The 40 per cent investment allowance was of assistance to small business. The trading stock valuation and directive to the Reserve and Development Banks about which we were informed last week are very significant advances designed to assist the small entrepreneur of Australia. I remind the Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) who is at the table that the three departments which are responsible for general policy in this area should take note particularly of the small business field, investigate further changes to Division 7, look at self-employed persons’ superannuation and also look at the possibility of creating for sole traders the capacity to be taxed as a corporation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)-I call the honourable member for Denison.
– What is going on here?
– We were told that was the end of it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I have called the honourable member for Denison.
-Like my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) who spoke earlier in this debate, I wish to direct a few remarks to the inquiry into the structure of industry and the employment situation in Tasmania. (Quorum formed). I draw to the attention to the people of Australia, particularly the people of Tasmania, that there are now six members of the Australian Labor Party in the House and the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) has successfully prevented me from speaking for three minutes on the subject of Tasmania. Of course, this is not surprising because the Labor Party has been conducting -
– I rise to take a point of order. Is the honourable member for Denison in order in deliberately misstating facts in respect of the time he has been speaking. He received the call only three minutes ago. But just two minutes ago he claimed that he was interrupted for three minutes. I think he is only trying to fool the Committee.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! No point of order arises.
-This is part of the hate Tasmania campaign that the Labor Party is running at the moment. The Labor Party never has forgiven and it will never forgive Tasmania for returning five Liberal members of the House of Representatives for Tasmania in December 1975. We will hold those five seats at the next election because we are a united team determined to do something for Tasmania and in particular to restore our State from the damage caused to it during the Whitlam years of 1972-75.
– I move:
-The Government took a very positive initiative to see what could be done about the structure of industry, and particularly the unemployment problem in Tasmania.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member for Adelaide has moved that the question be now put. I put the question: All those in favour say aye; against, no. I think the noes have it. Is a division required?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- I call the honourable member for Denison.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, four minutes of my time have been deliberately taken up by the tactics of the Labor Party and the honourable member for Adelaide. I wish to talk about Tasmania. I wish to talk also about some of the things that this Government has done for Tasmania and some of the things I believe ought to be done for Tasmania.
One of the most notable differences in the attitude of the present Government to Tasmanian industry and to the State of Tasmania in general is that for the first time this Government was prepared to bring in a new federalism policy under which our State would get a fair go. It is very relevant to note- and I believe this was referred to by Sir Bede Callaghan in his report- that this Government has given more to Tasmania and is giving more to Tasmania than any other government since Federation. I think it is a matter of record that this Government not only believes in federalism but also believes in the smallest State getting a fair go, contrary to the policies of our opponents and contrary to the treatment that they meted out to Tasmania between 1972 and 1975. 1 refer briefly to the following facts: Tasmania received per head of population from the 1976-77 Budget $1,076.82 under the Liberal federalism policy introduced by the Government, compared with, for example, the sum of $6 1 5.8 1 per head for Victoria.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! I remind the honourable member for Denison that we are discussing the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity. I suggest that he direct his remarks towards the subject of those three departments.
– I appreciate that, Mr Deputy Chairman. In fact I am commenting on the report of Sir Bede Callaghan which was prepared as a direct result of the initiatives of those three departments. I am simply referring to the fact that financially Tasmania is getting a better deal today than it has received since Federation. Let me talk in some little detail about the initiatives of this Government compared with those of the previous Government in endeavouring to assist Tasmanian industry and to assist Tasmania to stand on an equal footing with her sister States. Prior to 1975 the previous Administration had brought in a very limited, paltry, miserly freight equalisation scheme which was subject to certain conditions, namely, that the freight had to be shipped from the northern Tasmanian ports. By taking that action it virtually signed the death warrant of the port of Hobart. This Government extended the scheme to the whole of Tasmania. It is only because of that action that the port of Hobart is able to survive today. In fact it is picking up. In fact it is recovering from the almost mortal blow struck at it by the Whitlam Government. It is a matter of record that this year the sum of $23m has already been budgeted for both north-bound and south-bound freight in and out of Tasmania. That has been the greatest lift to Tasmania, Tasmanian industry and Tasmanian productivity which could have ever occurred for Tasmania. The point I emphasise and to which Sir Bede Callaghan referred is that this Government has responded to the call. This Government has provided special assistance to Tasmanian industry. According to Sir Bede Callaghan ‘s report, this Government is making a genuine attempt to assist in the development of industry in Tasmania. The new freight equalisation scheme is virtually an open cheque and at least gives Tasmania a reasonable opportunity of competing on an equal basis with its sister States. But what more should be done and could be done by this Government and by the Tasmanian Government to assist Tasmania? In the remaining two minutes that are available to me- I thank the Opposition for again stifling my endeavours to speak on Tasmania’s behalf in this Parliament- let me say that there is a very strong case -
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I rise on a point of order. The Government Whip has just come over to the Opposition side and apologised for having broken the agreement about speakers. We were opposed in no way at all to this debate continuing, but we were told to restrict our speakers. When the honourable member for Denison jumped, he was breaking the agreement that had been reached. The Government Whip has now apologised. We have accepted his apology, and the honourable member for Melbourne will be following the honourable member for Denison so that the order of speakers will be kept as the agreement was originally made. We in no way restricted the honourable member’s speech about Tasmania.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member is not raising a point of order.
-Mr Deputy Chairman, I claim to have been grossly misrepresented by the honourable member for Port Adelaide as usual. You called me, Mr Deputy Chairman. I was on the printed list to speak in this debate. I answered your call to speak, and ever since I got to my feet golliwogs like the honourable member for Port Adelaide have been trying to prevent me from putting a case on behalf of Tasmania. The fact is that members of the Opposition simply cannot take it. The people of Tasmania know that the Government does care for Tasmania, whereas the Government of which the honourable member for Port Adelaide was a supporter did nothing but bash Tasmania during the three years it was in office. Because I have less than 30 seconds left in which to speak, I might now be prevented from saying the sorts of things I wanted to say, but by heaven I will get a chance to say them in the next few weeks. I will get an opportunity to bring home some truths about what the Australian Labor Party did to Tasmania, how it brought Tasmania to its knees and how it took every conceivable opportunity to belt it into the ground. Only last week the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Uren) complained in this place that Tasmania was getting too much housing assistance from the Commonwealth. That is the attitude that is part of the hate Tasmania campaign of the Labor Party.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-We have just listened to the swan song of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). His title ‘Mike the mouth’ is so apt. I will leave it to honourable members to draw their own conclusions from that description. I move to the estimates.
– Are you reading your speech?
– The honourable member cannot read, so I am one up on him, am I not? I would like to concentrate for a moment on the estimates for the Department of Productivity. The performance of this Government in an industrial sense is lamentable. Its closure of the shipbuilding industry has left 600 tradesmen unemployed in Newcastle. There has been less money for the Prices Justification Tribunal. We hear all sorts of screams and belly-aching from the neo-fascists opposite about union bashing, but when we start talking about the involvement of the people who control them and investigating those people it is a horse of a different colour. In the present Victorian power dispute the Federal Government has stood over the Victorian Government and precluded any proper solution. The Minister for Productivity (Mr Macphee) knows as well as I do that the only way -
- Mr Deputy Chairman, I take a point of order. On several occasions tonight the Chair has brought honourable members back to the estimates being debated. The honourable member for Melbourne is discussing industrial relations in Victoria. The business before the Committee is the estimates for the Department of Industry and Commerce, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Department of Productivity.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Melbourne is very much on the ball because the question before the Chair is the estimates for the Department of Productivity, and that is what he is speaking to.
– The objection has been taken because honourable members opposite do not want to hear what I am saying. The very basis of any settlement of the Victorian dispute is conciliation, which is the prime concern of anybody who knows something about industrial relations. I concede that the Minister for Productivity does know about industrial relations. I also hope that he would concede also that the State Electricity Commission dispute has gone on periodically since 1959 under the same circumstances, reaching the same heights as at the moment. The only way it was ever resolved in the past was by conciliation. I challenge the Minister, who knows something about the matter, to deny that that is the fact. What I am saying is that honourable members opposite go to great lengths to bash unions or to attempt to bludgeon them into submission, but when it comes to the Prices Justification Tribunal putting the corporations under the hammer and putting them to the test the money is cut. They are not prepared to apply the same sort of judgment or the same sort of rule to those who run their side of the Parliament, those who run the Government.
As the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) has said, the Department of Productivity is a non-entity. It was established to appease the Minister. It is not necessary. Its functions should come under the broader concept of other departments. It has been a waste of resources. If there were a role that it should have been carrying out, the Minister would know something about the many reports of its failure in the subject of techniques and technology required for the future. I recall very vividly a seminar I attended in Canberra during the 1960s. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch), who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, also attended. We went through one week of protracted considerations of the very problems that pointed up the fact that we did not have enough tradesmen. We did not have the capacity in the public sector. The private sector did not take the responsibility of providing people with training in the techniques in industry that would be required into the 1 970s and the 1 980s. The then government over one decade did absolutely nothing about it. The loss of techniques to industry at this time is on the Government’s shoulders. The deterioration in the training capacity of individuals for industry and commerce resulted, in effect, from the failure of the then government, the very same people who are now sitting on the government benches in this chamber. They had the answer to the question in their hands but they did nothing at all about it. Therefore, the
Government is responsible for the lack of techniques and technology that we are experiencing at the moment. Then there is the contradiction of the shutting down of the shipbuilding yards. There are about 600 tradesmen out of work with no prospects for the future.
– They would not work.
– If the honourable member has enough guts he should go up there and tell them that. The very fact that they do not have work shows the incompetence of the Government and its failure to add up what is required. In other areas money is being spent to appease the individuals who are trying to buy their seats. I am afraid that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and all the oncers from Tasmania will not be here after the next election -
– I rise on a point of order. Having destroyed my opportunity to speak it is not proper for the honourable member for Melbourne to make what is basically a speech in anticipation of some hallucinatory election about which he is worried. It has nothing at all to do with the estimates before this Committee.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member for Denison will resume his seat. It is not a point of order to try to destroy the speaking time of another honourable member. It must be a valid point of order. What is your valid point of order?
– My point of order is that the honourable member for Melbourne is not speaking to the estimates before this Committee.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member for Melbourne is speaking to the estimates. He has mentioned the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Productivity. Whilst he stays within those lines he is in order.
– There is a further point of order. The honourable member for Melbourne just said that honourable members on this side of the chamber were endeavouring to buy their seats.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- That is not a point of order. It is a point for debate.
– I formally ask the honourable member, through you -
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN -The honourable member for Denison will resume his seat. It is a point for debate. It is not a point of order.
- Mr Deputy Chairman, in accordance with the procedures I formally request you to call upon the honourable member for Melbourne to withdraw that last remark. I find it offensive. It reflects on me and other honourable members.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- The honourable member has not named you, the honourable member for Denison, as attempting to buy your seat. He was speaking in general terms. I do not uphold the point of order. After the honourable member for Melbourne has spoken it is competent for the honourable member for Denison to make a personal explanation as to whether or not he is buying his seat.
– The Labor Party sees two areas where the departments would be separated. The Labor Party sees tourism and consumer affairs as separate entities, separate industries, that require specific and direct consideration. There is 4.5 per cent of the work force employed in the area of tourism and it justifies consideration. That would be a positive contribution. Instead the Government’s contribution was to find a warm seat for a person who represented employers very favourably and well. He was rewarded by being given the seat of Balaclava and then a seat on the front bench that did not exist in the first place. It will be seen from an examination of the job creation position that only 470,000 additional jobs were created in the period from 1971 to 1976. As I have indicated to the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton)- I do not know whether he has the intelligence to realise this- if one takes that to its logical conclusion it can be seen that there will be a diminution of 900,000 jobs by 1981. What is the Government going to do about it?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. Does the honourable member for Denison wish to make a personal explanation?
– I simply want to say that the honourable member for Melbourne -
– He is out of place.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- Order! If the honourable member for Denison takes his proper place in the chamber I will then listen to his personal explanation.
– I want to confirm what I said before. I did not interrupt the honourable member for Melbourne further. He did, in fact, name me in the incredibly derogatory remarks which he made. I find them personally offensive. I call upon the honourable member, through you, to withdraw the remark.
– What was the remark? I did not hear it.
– The honourable member never hears anything.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- It would appear that the honourable member for Denison feels that the honourable member for Melbourne said that he bought his seat in this chamber. If the honourable member for Melbourne did, in fact, say that -
– It might be true but I did not say it.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN- If the honourable member for Melbourne maintains that he did not say it I am in a situation where I cannot honestly ask the honourable member to withdraw it. I call the Minister for Productivity.
– There is only a limited amount of time left in which to reply to what has been at the very least a very wide ranging debate. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes), who challenged me to make a couple of comments, certainly strayed very far from the estimates, but I am bound to agree with him that the vexed problem in the Latrobe Valley is and has been one of long standing, and has been serious many times in recent years. It has never been more serious than it is now. The honourable member knows that very well.
– It is not more serious.
– It is more serious than it has been. It has been serious on other occasions. The honourable member for Melbourne also referred to the fact that over the years too little attention has been given to the problems of training and retraining and long term manpower planning. Knowing that that has been a common Australian failing and that we are all notoriously short term thinkers, whether in management or in the unions or in different political parties, the honourable member should recall that it was the Labor Government which introduced an acrosstheboard tariff cut of 25 per cent when it knew very well that there was not available to it appropriate training and retraining programs to take up the people who would become unemployed as a result.
I do not wish to devote any more time to the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne.
– That is not fair. It is a very difficult economic situation there, and you know it.
– I will come to the comments of the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr
Hurford) shortly and take up the point that he has now raised. The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) made a commendable remark about small business. He is an example of a successful small businessman, and he has made a considerable contribution to the policy which was announced by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) last week. He was right in identifying the question of costs rather than inefficiency, a term which has been used a number of times in this debate by speakers from both sides of the chamber as being the biggest problem. The honourable member for Adelaide and the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) both spoke of the need for long term thinking. I fully agree with their remarks in that respect. I have indicated already that we have been a nation of short term thinkers. It ill becomes any speaker in this debate, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Crean) acknowledges by nodding his head, to score points from each other by our overall lack of forward thinking. It is in recognition of the fact that we have not been forward thinking that the Department of Productivity was created. We have begun long term programs. The fact that they have not received much publicity so far is again an indication of the concentration of our public debate and our media coverage on short term sensational matters which distort the picture of what is going on in the Australian community and in government programs.
The honourable member for Adelaide rightly said that many of our problems are structural and interdependent. I acknowledge that and I acknowledge that when economic mismanagement occurs domestically and unfavourable trade patterns occur, then of course the structural problems are highlighted. I do not think I need to amplify that point to put the debate in context.
Let me emphasise, however, that no glib solutions will be appropriate. One has to look, for example, at the productivity of our resources. I think this partly comes back to the remarks of my friend, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. In the area of the productivity of our resources he asks: ‘What is productivity?’ It certainly can be looked at as input and output. It is in essence the effective use of our resources, material and human. It is in that respect that the Department of Productivity was created, namely, to try to assist the Government in devising policies in respect of technology and peoplepeople at work and working with the technologyin order to try to get to a situation where in Australia we have some sensible long term discussions and long term policies which harmonise the rate of technology change with the rate of retraining of people to work with that technology and to minimise the fluctuations in the employment situation which may come from periods of economic recession.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports mentioned the footwear, clothing and textile industries. An unheralded exercise which this Government has initiated through the Department of Productivity has been to examine all aspects of the cost structures of those three industries in the long term in order to improve their productivity, in order to ensure that the level of protection which will be required to maintain those industries and to sustain jobs in those industries will be at the lowest level necessary because the productivity resulting from the technology and restructured job situations will be the highest possible.
The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) devoted quite a lot of his speech to the need for improved Australian technology. This Government has again indicated its desire to retrieve some of the mistakes of the past in that respect. Many of the Australian inventions of the past, however, have gone unheralded. We have a remarkable record, expecially in the factories administered by the Department of Productivity, for very sophisticated technology. That again is another area in relation to which we will be able to export in our manufacturing sector The Ikara, the Jindivik, the Nomad and Interscan are all great innovations which have been devised in Australia, and more particularly in the electronics industry and the aircraft industry, both in the public and private sectors. These are all important projects which the Government intends to develop further and to market further in order to encourage Australian sophisticated manufacturing and a potential export industry.
– Does the Government intend to meet the cost of the development of InterScan?
-The Government in this year’s Budget has already committed to the Department of Productivity, whose estimates we are now considering, funds for the accelerated development of InterScan. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh knows- I know he applauds it- there will be considerable spin-off to Australian industry, with the creation of new jobs in the electronics area of Australian industry. By the exporting of some of the manufactured goods and by the exporting of the expertise and the information we will make a great contribution not only to our own export earnings but also in the area of assistance to others. Now that InterScan has obtained international recognition as a microwave landing system it will eventually be marketed throughout the world.
– Is that developmental program being carried out partly with American help?
-At this stage it is being developed entirely by Australia but, of course, it will involve a lot of international assistance. It will be a co-operative venture.
Mr Deputy Chairman, I must not allow my friend the honourable member for Hindmarsh, to stray me away from considering the estimates. I undertook to answer the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Antony Whitlam). No one would deny the importance of the legislative framework for business regulation as administered by my colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). The extent and the content of that framework and the substance of the policies administered within the framework is a matter for a policy debate and not a matter for discussion during consideration of the estimates. I think all of the matters raised by the honourable member for Grayndler have been debated many times in this House. I believe he made the mistake of identifying levels of expenditure with effective policies. Merely to observe that less money was allocated for this or for that specific item is, I think, to overlook the fact that good policies are not necessarily equated with high levels of spending. I seem to remember that we have discussed that topic in this place before.
The honourable member for Lang (Mr Stewart) made the same mistake with respect to tourism. This Government has committed itself to promoting tourism and to developing tourism efficiently. To do it efficiently means that we must think before we spend. We have appointed a select committee of the House on tourism, a suggestion which came from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) on the opposite side and which was adopted by the Government. In addition to that, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) has been having detailed discussions with parties representing all sectors of the tourist industry. The Government’s policies in that area will certainly recognise the importance of that industry to Australia, both in terms of earnings and in terms of jobs.
I agree with the remarks of the honourable member for Lang regarding the need for Australians, whether they be in government, in management or in the unions, to fulfil the potential of the country by co-operation rather than by confrontation. I think most people in this Committee would certainly endorse his remarks in that regard. I disagree with the remarks he made about the inefficiency of industry. I think he showed an unfortunate unawareness of the fact that it is the cost problems rather than the efficiency of our management about which we are really concerned. In order to be competitive we have to ensure that our industry is not merely as efficient as that in other countries but that it is more efficient.
The honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) made the same error with respect to efficiency. But he rightly shunned the extremes of the debate on free trade and protection. He said that the real argument is how much protection is required in Australia. I think I have made it clear that the Australian people certainly are prepared to pay for protection but they are entitled to be satisfied that productivity is of such an order that the protection provided is at the lowest level necessary to sustain those industries and those jobs.
My time is certainly running out. I must conclude on the point of the creation of jobs, to which several honourable members have referred. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports said that we should ask ourselves not only what can we export but also how can we create jobs. We can certainly export our resources, our sophisticated technology, our information and knowledge in civil engineering and so forth, and we can certainly create more jobs not only by improving our productivity in respect of both human and material resources, but also by expanding our economy by means of growth. I believe that a better utilisation of our resources and a reduction in the rate of inflation will create for us the jobs which we require.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Commonwealth Administrative Functions in Tasmania- Quarantine Service- Coal
Motion (by Mr Macphee) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This morning I raised a question which I will continue to raise in this Parliament until some reform is brought about in this country. I refer, of course, to donations to political parties. As members of the national Parliament all of us should feel indicted by the allegations that vast sums of money have been paid to political parties to buy favours. We are one of the few remaining Western democracies in which some reform has not been brought about in this area. Not only has no reform been brought about but also this Government continually ignores the need for reform in this vitally important area to the institution of Parliament. In days past it may have been all right to allow the system of donations to go by, but we are now talking in terms of million dollar campaigns. Every honourable member in this House knows that both major political parties will be budgeting for $lm or more for the December elections.
We are talking about vast sums of money and the right of some people to make significant donations in order to buy favours. When an allegation is made against any parliamentarian in any Parliament in Australia all of us receive some of the blame because the public immediately believes that all political parties are in some way receiving moneys so that when in government they will pass legislation or make decisions which will be in the financial interests of those people.
People throughout the world are starting to clean up this area. They are placing politicians above suspicion. Political donors must have their names registered and those names must be available to the public. In the United States of America a ceiling was put on the amount that presidential candidates could spend at the election last year. All round the world things are moving in the area of donations to political parties and Australia will have to move too. The public might not be able to distinguish between allegations made against politicians in the variousState parliaments of Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania or somewhere else and the politicians who come to Canberra to serve in the national Parliament. The public will be led to believe that it is par for the course that this sort of thing operates everywhere.
Why do we hide our heads in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the moves that have been made in all the other countries? For instance, in West Germany at the moment the treasurers of the various political parties meet with the auditors of the West German Government every month. Every month they receive their allocations of money for administration and for campaigning out of the state purse, and the government is there to make the allocations and to see how the money is spent. One would hardly call West Germany any smaller or less significant a democracy than Australia. In Sweden money is being paid out of the public purse to the various political parties based on the percentage vote they received at the two previous elections, in order to put them above suspicion.
– We are.
-The smell of the National Country Party in regard to political donations is so immense that the Country Party drags us all down. We have to do something about it. I asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), a question about party donations this morning. Mr Hamer now wishes that legislation to disclose political donations had been passed a few years ago. He would be in a lot less trouble today if legislation such as that which I proposed for the national Parliament had been introduced in Victoria. I will prove to be right on this subject. Reform in this matter will be brought in in Australia. It is very important. Honourable members opposite do not see it as significant because they hold a privileged position with raising money, but they will find themselves in exactly the same position as the Victorian Premier is in if they do not bring about reform on political donations.
-In recent years the community has grown accustomed to the inconvenience caused by the breakdown of computers or by errors in computer calculations. This has taken some of the gloss from the benefits which have flowed to us from computer technology. Sadly I have to report that a computer has failed yet again. I draw the attention of the House and of the Government to a computer error which has caused 70 people named Smith to be omitted from the 1977-78 Adelaide telephone directory which has been distributed in recent days. A number of constituents have advised me of this disastrous omission after receiving their new telephone books.
With their proliferation, I know that it can be difficult to look up people named Smith, but this is certainly no valid reason for dropping at least 70 names from the directory. The missing section is between pages 507 and 508 in the new directory. Page 507 ends with G. E. Smith and page 508 begins with G. F. Smith. Last year’s directory contained almost 18 columns listed ‘Smith’. The new directory, with the omission of some 70 names, contains almost 19 columns. I have discussed these omissions with Telecom staff in Adelaide. They have advised me that a computer malfunction has caused the error. Apparently the people whose names are missing from the new directory have no redress against Telecom because directory listing is regarded as a free service. I believe that this is most unjust because undoubtedly the cost of producing the telephone directory is incorporated in overall telephone charges.
One of my constituents affected by this omission, Mr Gerald M. Smith of Young Street, Seacliff, and his family are most distressed by the situation. Mr Smith retired recently. The non listing of his name could be interpreted by some people as meaning that he no longer had the telephone connected. The community service work of Mr Smith as a justice of the peace and as a member of the Brighton Rotary Club will be detrimentally affected by this omission. The rest of his family is also extensively involved in community activities. This is just one example of the many problems which have been caused by this computer error.
– It is a bungle.
– It is a bungle, as the honourable member for St George so rightly says. Following my discussions with Telecom it has agreed to send letters of apology to those whose names have been omitted. It has also suggested that people wishing to telephone the Smiths not listed should contact Directory Assistance on telephone No. 013 in Adelaide. Although this is some consolation I believe that it is not sufficient action by Telecom to overcome the problem. The least that Telecom should do is to advertise the list of missing names in daily newspapers and suggest to business houses and the general public that they place this list in their telephone books, as well as to place the list in telephone books contained in public telephone booths.
Also I believe that Telecom should post the list to all subscribers- if not independently then at least with their next telephone account, even though through that method there may be some delay in its receipt by subscribers. I strongly urge the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) to take up these proposals with Telecom and ensure that they are implemented, because quite clearly the measures which have already been agreed to by Telecom are not sufficient to overcome these omissions. I believe that more action is required by Telecom and, if necessary, the Government should put pressure on Telecom to ensure that further action is taken so that the people who have been detrimentally affected by these omissions will at least have some redress.
– It appears that the State Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, Mr Tom Burns, has been effectively blacked out by actions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service in that State. If information that has been passed on to me by Mr Burns is correct, and I certainly accept it, it seems that a decision has been taken by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Brisbane which effectively limits the news exposure which will be extended to Mr Burns through television networks of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in that State. This is a remarkable and undesirable contrast for what should be an independent organ of government with the attitude of the commercial television stations in that State.
In all instances where Mr Burns has produced policy statements and arranged Press conferences there has been a generous representation from all the commercial television channels. The Australian Broadcasting Commission alone appears to have consistently boycotted those Press conferences. For instance, on Tuesday 1 1 October, Mr Burns released Labor’s Public Service policy statement. No ABC reporters attended the news conference. There were no ABC appearance at the news conference to release the State Australian Labor Party education policy on Wednesday, 12 October. At the news conference on Thursday, 13 October, when the remote area commission proposal was released, these news conferences were well attended by all other media, but not at all by the ABC. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has indicated to Mr Burns that it will extend cover to his policy speech, but from advice which has been conveyed to Mr Burns and which he has passed on to me it appears that that will be the limit of the sort of cover that the ABC news service will give to Mr Bums’ policies. This is most undesirable situation.
From what Mr Burns has passed on to me, it would appear that the most glaring instances of discrimination against him arise in matters concerning rural policy. Prior to Thursday, 13 October, a staff member of the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland arranged for an interview to be taped that day with Mr Burns by the ABC rural officer at Cairns. On arrival in Cairns, Mr Burns’ staff member was told that the interview could not proceed. The rural officer had received instructions from Brisbane that under no circumstances could the interview take place. Apparently the ABC has advised its rural officer- and I gather that this is a general instruction if not issued, then certainly understood by rural officers- that Mr Burns is not to be interviewed unless a comment can be arranged from a Government spokesman to be presented on the same program and for the same time period as would apply to any comment made by Mr Burns. That of course simply means that LiberalNational Country Party representatives can ensure that Mr Burns’ opportunity to comment on important rural matters is nil, by refusing to make any comments themselves. That is, they can avoid the responsibility of answering and defending justifiable criticism of their policies in rural administration. This seems to be a most undesirable situation.
It is most unwelcome that what should be an independent organisation, the ABC as a result of perhaps prejudice, perhaps feebleness, perhaps unsureness as to its own standing and independence, should take this sort of decision. I do not know what the reason is but it is undesirable and it is unjustifiable. It is in dramatic contrast with the independence which is displayed by the commercial television channels in Brisbane and the rest of the State. It is most regrettable that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should seek to hobble and muzzle itself in this way. It is a poor service to the community. It is certainly a disadvantage to a major political party. On the face of it and in the absence of a full explanation from the ABC, it smacks of political prejudice. It should not be tolerated.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to delay the House for very long. Sometimes a lot of people think that politicians are insensitive and do not really care about the ordinary things that are happening in Australia and in the rest of the world today.
– Not the honourable member for Franklin.
-No, not the honourable member for Franklin. About three or four weeks ago in this House I made a passing remark about the late Elvis Presley. I was virtually attacked by some people, but others gave me a little praise. Tonight I thought it would be wise if the House paid a mark of respect to the late Bing Crosby who brought a lot of enjoyment to a lot of very ordinary people. I think that is most important. Sometimes we become very staid, very stodgy and far removed from the ordinary things that affect our lives. So to all the people who mourn the loss of Bing Crosby, I extend my sympathy and, I am sure, the sympathy of the House.
– What about Elvis?
-You are too late for Elvis, Bert. I said something about him three weeks ago. I should also like to pay a mark of respect to Bing Crosby’s family.
-Earlier tonight when I attempted to perform my parliamentary duty to speak out on behalf of Tasmania and the electors of Denison I was deliberately prevented from doing so. In the time available to me now may I make a reference to certain recommendations in the report of Sir Bede Callaghan which I believe are of very great importance to Tasmania. As I said earlier, Tasmania is indeed fortunate. It has had a strong team working for it over the last two years. I firmly believe that some of the recommendations of Sir Bede Callaghan are worthy of very serious consideration, and I hope they will be taken forward by both the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian State Government. On page 109 of this report, Sir Bede Callaghan made this general remark which I believe is of considerable importance to our State:
In view of the relatively low level of Commonwealth employment and direct expenditure in Tasmania, there appears some scope for an examination of the Commonwealth’s administrative activities in Tasmania. Such a review should endeavour to identify those Commonwealth administrative functions which are normally located in the States but which have not been located in Tasmania. I am told the Commonwealth’s Committee on the Location of Australian Government Employment could be a suitable forum for such an examination.
On page 121 of the report, Sir Bede made this observation:
A decision to bring Commonwealth per capita employment (including defence forces) to the same per capita levels in Tasmania as the other States would involve an increase of approximately 5,000 jobs directly and would stimulate up to an equivalent amount in various other industries indirectly as a result of increased capital (construction) and consumer spending.
So we are talking about a potential 10,000 extra jobs for Tasmania. That is the message which I was prevented from giving to this House and to the people of Australia when the proceedings were being broadcast earlier today.
I am delighted that since the Callaghan report came out this Government, which does not only promise but indeed performs, has made a clear commitment that the construction of the $8. 5m Antarctic base complex at Kingston will proceed. That project on its own, with the indirect benefits which will flow from the building of houses, roads and other necessary facilities, will give employment to 300 people in the Denison electorate over the next two and a half years. When the complex is completed it will involve the employment directly of 1 50 to 200 people. My colleague the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) has secured for Tasmania the establishment of the maritime college in his electorate. I have no doubt that that also will provide a very major incentive to development and to employment in northern Tasmania.
There are two areas where I believe Tasmania should receive greater Commonwealth spending. They are in the fields of defence and training. I support very strongly the moves of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development for the establishment of a Regular Army battalion in Tasmania. I would be quite content if it went to northern Tasmania because I believe we are entitled to have that particular Army establishment. From the point of view of the south, I want to put the case as strongly as I can that we should have a naval destroyer permanently based in Tasmania and in a position to carry out necessary surveillance of the 200-mile limit which will apply not merely around the main island of Tasmania but around Macquarie Island and which will extend down to the Antarctic. We also ought to have a Royal Australian Air Force flight stationed in Tasmania or flying to Tasmania for the purposes of surveillance.
Last but not least, in the limited time available to me I want to publicly propose for the first time that the Forestry and Timber Bureau presently in Canberra and split between two departmentsthe Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Industry and Commerce- should be re-united and moved to Tasmania. No State in the Commonwealth is more competent in this respect or more bounteous in forest timber than Tasmania. I believe it is ridiculous to have the Forestry and Timber Bureau in Canberra which, with all due respect, can hardly claim to have a flourishing timber industry when a State like Tasmania would be the ideal place for this to be established. I hope the Government will seriously consider the proposition.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I think it is just as well that the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) had only five minutes or he might have shifted the Gold Coast and all to Tasmania. Seriously, I want to raise a matter which has been debated in this chamber in the past and which will be debated here in the future unless the Government decides to take some action on it. As most honourable members will be aware, a number of questions, mainly on notice, have been asked about quarantine matters. They basically surround problems concerning an individual. First of all, I hope that the quarantine service in Australia is not judged on the rights and wrongs of the Public Service administration of the Department in respect of that individual. Enough doubt has arisen about the effective administration of the quarantine service to cause considerable concern. Quarantine is of vital importance to significant industries in Australia and any outbreaks of exotic diseases could cause fairly substantial losses of export markets, especially those relating to food products. We have had a couple of scares lately which on estimate could cost up to $50m a month. That is a conservative estimate.
The point I raise is that since at least the early 1970s there have been plans of various kinds to construct an animal health research laboratory to provide the means by which serums and vaccines can be developed, animal diseases can be researched and, where necessary, proof of eradication can be established. It is the latter that is the most important single factor in this area. A decision to proceed with this project was taken in 1974. Work had commenced on the design and the preparatory work. By the end of 1975 the Joint Committee on Public Works had examined and approved the project which was to be established in Geelong. With a change of government there was a cessation of the project. It was eventually slowed down and has reached the stage where it is now virtually not proceeding. The project is back in the pre- 1972 situation where it was looked upon as a non-urgent project. Therefore it will be funded when funds happen to be available. There is a lead time of 8 years before the project would be operational, if it were commenced tomorrow. The lead time and the fact that the Government is procrastinating on the question add to the risks involved. If our quarantine services were absolutely perfect risks would still occur every day because of the number of people who walk off aeroplanes and various other means of travel. It is an important project. The problem which would arise in any outbreak of exotic disease, especially in cattle or sheep, would be in proving eradication. I would imagine that vaccines would be used only as a protective measure. Actual slaughter would be the means of eradication. Proof of eradication would have to be made after that before access to export markets would be re-opened. At the moment there is no place of easy access for live stock or carcases to be taken for examination in order to prove eradication of an exotic disease.
I repeat the point I made before: We are talking about a project which will cost less than $100m. That represents less than two months delay in the proof of eradication. The Government, I think, has to make a decision on whether this project should go ahead immediately or whether the Government is prepared to gamble with that sort of money and with the livelihoods of substantial sections of the Australian community. I think it is an important matter that should be above party lines. It is an area in which the Government’s actions in deferring the project now for two years must be seriously questioned. I suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in whose charge the primary responsibility for this matter lies, that he should be pressing for funds to be made available. It is extremely important for the industries under his charge.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last week the New South Wales Government announced that the Warkworth deposits in the Hunter Valley were to be given to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales for development. The ramifications of the decision -
– A jolly good thing.
-I hope that the honourable member will keep this in mind because it is relevant to some of his constituents. We care for them even if he does not. The ramifications of that decision will have a major impact on Australian and foreign investment in New South Wales. Those of us who represent that State, a State which at this time happens to have the highest level of unemployment in the Commonwealth and many other major social and economic problems saw what the New South Wales Government did last week as a clear demonstration of the fact that it does not really care a damn about whether Australians can get usage of their resources nor whether more Australians, especially New South Welshmen, will have access to jobs in that State.
The decision eroded confidence, and that is one thing that the investor and the people of New South Wales in particular can well do without at this time. The deposit in question was in fact explored by a totally owned Australian companyI emphasise that- Coal and Allied Industries Ltd which, I am told, spent some $1 lm on that investment. It expected, not unreasonably in a mixed economy such as Australia, that, having discovered and proven up those resources, it would be given first opportunity to utilise and to develop them. But no. Mr Hills came on the scene and said ‘I am going to take this coal over. It will be given over to the New South Wales Electricity Commission’. But the interesting thing is that coal from this deposit is soft coking coal. My understanding is that soft coking coal is too valuable for the generation of electricity. Electricity generation needs lower quality coal. What are we to conclude from that? Is the Commission now to develop into a steel manufacturer or a producer of raw materials as distinct from a user of coal for electricity generating purposes? Where will we see an end to this, or are we to conclude- certainly a lot of investors will undoubtly conclude in this case in New South Wales- that the Government is directed on a clear policy of nationalisation of the available resources of that State? That is what we are seeing. Furthermore, Mr Hills said to this company when he advised it of his decision: ‘Do not worry chaps. This is a one-off decision’. Who will be silly enough to fall for that one? Who can possibly believe that a government such as the Wran Government will initiate a one-off decision in a situation like that? The Premier recently returned from Tokyo and proudly told the people that he had sold 49 per cent of the Newnes steaming coal deposit to Japanese interests. Were Australian interests and especially New South Wales interests given any opportunity at all to involve themselves in the Newnes deposit? Not that I am aware of. Certainly not the people of New South Wales.
– The New South Wales people were given an opportunity.
-I hope that the honourable member for Hunter will appreciate this fact, because they are his constituents. They are also my constituents and the constituents of the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil); the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Ellicott), the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) and the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr Ruddock). We are all in this chamber because we are vitally concerned about the welfare of our State. What do we see on the Opposition’s side of the chamber? We see one miserable New South Wales representative. Nevertheless, Mr Hills sought to defend his decision by claiming that it was in the national interest. Is it in the national interest that a State instrumentality should be given a major interest in a project such as this? The company which went to the trouble of spending some Slim in developing the deposit was told: You can take a minority interest in the show’. Who will invest in New South Wales resources on that basis? Why is it that New South Wales is losing so much of its population to Queensland? Why is it that New South Wales is losing so much investment to Queensland? Whether we like it or not that State offers a stable governmental system where investors know where they stand and what their relations will be with the State Government. The Wran Government has failed New South Wales and has failed the people of Australia as a result.
– It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 7 August 1 977.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question concerning the $ 1,000m of Health expenditure removed from the consolidated revenue area is that the figure of $ 1,000m is an indicative figure only and covers the period since the Liberal-Country Party Government was returned.
asked the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I ) There are four libraries in the Department of National Resources. They are:
The main purposes of the BMR Library are:
To co-operate with the National Library of Australia. Australian and State departmental libraries, libraries of tertiary educational institutions, the Australian Mineral Foundation and other libraries as required.
The main purposes of the Central Office Library are:
To co-operate with the National Library, University libraries, and Government libraries in both State and Australian Government Departments.
The main purposes of the Water Library are:
To act as one of a system of regional water libraries in Australia which provides a coordinated system of library services to Australian water authorities.
The main purpose of the Hydrocarbons Library is to provide normal library services to the fuel technologists and other staff in the Coal and Petroleum Branches.
The Hydrocarbons Library will be amalgamated with the Central Office Library in the near future when the Coal and Petroleum Branches move to Canberra.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1977/19771018_reps_30_hor107/>.